Saturday, Nov. 29
Around 9am we got on the first of our buses that we would take to get back to Kathmandu. Unfortunately, we got stuck in the back seat again and bounced all around for the next 3-4 hours. By the way – there is no such thing maximum capacity on much of the transportation we have taken! I guess I was lucky in a way that I had my own seat… kind of.
Anyways, we eventually got off the bus along the way to go rafting, since we had missed it earlier in the week. We went with a British family and a guide that spoke some very hard to understand English – which made the safety briefing interesting. Basically all I learned was to not lose my paddle and something about if the raft flipped. I tightened the straps on my life vest and helmet real good before getting in!
The water was freezing!! But it wasn’t very rough at first. We would come to little rapids then it was like a lazy river, then more little rapids. It was like that for most of the time before lunch. We pulled off on the side for a bit and had lunch after about an hour and a half or so of rafting. We could hear the rapids down river from where we had lunch, but it wasn’t until we got back in the raft that we learned that the rapids would get “more bigger” we and needed to hold on “more better”.
Somehow, Kathleen and I were deemed the strongest paddlers, so we were put in the front seats – leaving very little to hold on to. The rapids definitely got “more bigger”. At one point I thought that either the raft was going to flip or someone was going out. When I opened my eyes though, everyone was somehow still in the raft – just not in the same place that they had been. Overall it was a lot of fun and I would love to go again!!
Once we changed out of our freezing wet clothes, we were told to get on this mini-bus that would bring us back to Kathmandu. Our original tour guide told us arrangements had been made for our transportation, but once again the details had been “lost in translation” – as much of any conversation does. Either way, we got on this mini-bus (death-trap on wheels) which at one point had 25 people in it (seating for 12). At first they asked Kathleen and I to ride on the roof, but we refused. It was going to be another 3-4 hours of windy roads next to the huge cliffs – NO WAY were we riding on the roof. It’s bad enough being inside any kind of vehicle the way they drive here. Passing on blind curves, flying around the turns – the horn is used to warn people that you are coming their way on the wrong side of the road. So instead of the roof, we were given little woven stools to sit on in the aisle. It was a very long and interesting ride to say the least – I think I white knuckled the seat next to me the whole way. I was relieved when it got dark so I could no longer see how steep the cliffs were next to us.
Sunday, Nov. 30
We had to wake up really early today to get to the airport for our mountain flight. It was about an hour flight that goes by all the tallest peaks and of course Mount Everest. It was crazy how high these peaks were and how the dwarfed the already high mountains below them. It was such a clear day though; it made the scenery even more beautiful.
After the mountain flight we returned to the hotel before going touring around Kathmandu for the day. Fortunately I checked my email during this time and learned that my flight that had been supposedly been booked on Friday had been cancelled for some reason. This started to worry me, considering we had met so many people that were now stuck in Nepal since all flights to Thailand weren’t going anywhere and all the trouble going on in India too. That pretty much leaves China as the main location that Nepal flies to. So I got on the phone with the travel insurance reservation people and they told me that the ticket had could not be issued as an e-ticket, but it was still being held in my name at the airport.
I went back to the airport as quickly as possible (we took the tour guide and driver too) but as usual no one at the airports can ever help you with ticketing problems. They sent me to the China Southern Airlines office somewhere in the city, but surprise – they couldn’t help me either. Finally I was able to locate a travel agent that had a United Airlines representative (which is the last leg of my flight back to Hawaii) and after about 2 hours and some tears later I had a paper ticket in my hand. I think I scared the tour guide a little bit because he kept making sure I was happy, “no cry” the rest of the day. During the time that I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, I figured that if I did get stuck in Nepal for longer I would just buy some warm gear and go on one of the longer treks through the mountains. (But since I did get my ticket, now I just have to come back instead!)
Once we got that all straightened out we went on our tour as planned. First we stopped at a place that is one of the holiest for Buddhists in the world. It was a really cool place with flags all over leading up to the top of the pyramid thing (I couldn’t really understand what it was called) but I did learn there were 13 steps to the top of it, representing the 13 steps to enlightenment! Around the shrine there were tons of restaurants, stores and a painting school. After another lunch of grilled cheese (which I learned after eating was yak cheese), the guide took us into the painting school where we got to see some of the students working on the famous Buddhist paintings. Proceeds from the paintings go to children’s charities and for illiterate women – so of course I had to buy one (just a small one though).
Next, we went to the most holy place to Hindu’s in Nepal (sorry, don’t know the name of this one either, except that it’s also known as “Monkey Temple”). There were little temples all around with all the prayer wheels and shrines. We walked around there for awhile and there were monkeys everywhere. They were climbing all over the walls and benches and would run right up beside you. I’m glad I didn’t have any food on me. I think our tour guide though we were weird, he was telling us all about the importance of different things in the Hindu culture and we kept getting all distracted and excited about the monkeys. It wasn’t until he asked us, “Don’t you have monkeys in your city?” that we realized that he didn’t know monkeys in the city is not a normal thing for us!
I knew that Hindu’s cremated the dead, but I never realized how they did it. All along the side of the river there are little platforms that have bodies just burning on them. And once they are done burning the left over parts and ashes are just pushed off into the river (where people were also bathing). While I realize that it is a part of their culture, it was really disturbing to see it happening so out in the open. Oh and the smell… I couldn’t get the smell or taste out of my mouth for awhile. And then I was scared to blow my nose once we got back… ok, enough about that!
Before heading back to the hotel we stopped one last place in the city and got to see where the “Living Goddess” lives. I guess they choose a girl every 6-8 years that is deemed the living goddess and she lives as a goddess until she is about 11 or 12. That night we ate dinner with people we met at the hotel that were among those stuck because of the airport problems and then walked around the shops by the hotel for a bit. We found a little salon that had really cheap eye brow threading and pedicures. It was a little ghetto but the lady was nice and these caterpillars had to be tamed!
Monday, Dec. 1
Today was pretty uneventful. The biggest thing is that Kathleen left for Australia and I am now on my own for the next couple days. I didn’t even leave the hotel today. I ended up reading a lot, napping, hanging out with the people I had met and watching the Discovery Channel (there was an African Safari special!)
Tuesday, Dec. 2
Today was another easy day. I walked around the shops by the hotel and got some Christmas shopping done. I find it funny that I'm buying Buddhist gift for a Catholic Christmas. I went back to salon and had a facial – might as well take advantage of the exchange rate while I can! I ate lunch and dinner with the one of the people I met (they finally got a flight to Kuala Lumpur for tomorrow) – we are going to share a taxi to the airport since our flights are around the same time. Other than that I’ve just been laying low and relaxing, which I really have done a lot of in the last few months. Tomorrow will most likely be a lot of the same as well.
David is really excited that I’m coming back earlier than expected… at least he seems that way when I have talked to him!! Just kidding – you know I can’t wait to see you I know my parents are happy too that I’ve made the decision to wait on Thailand - another time… another trip.
So I guess this is the end of my travel blog, at least the international part – maybe I will add an update while in Hawaii! See most of you soon in New York! I will be back Dec. 18th – David too!