Okay friends, it's been a little while since our last post, but we have finally arrived in Indonesia!, and it is perfect!!! wow, so much has happened, we really are slacking on this whole blog thing... we left off with finishing trekking in the Annapurna range, in Pokhara.
So we hung out for a while in Pokhara, got nice and fat on endless cheap food, plenty of ice cream, and a little beer. We then took a short little trip to two sizeable lakes outside of town called Bengas Tal and Rupa Tal (tal means lake). We heard they were amazing, secluded, and still local without too much tourism. Oh wait, at the place we stayed at in Pokhara had a little snag.... While Cleo was taking the first shower in the place, she gently placed her hand on the sink to get the soap, and the whole thing came crashing down and completely shattered into a million pieces on the floor. I guess the thing wasn't attached to the wall?..... the guy came and cleaned it up and said "no problem", but apparently it was a problem! We left and were taking a taxi arranged by him to the lakes and he calls up the taxi driver and demands that we pay for it, what nerve! We are forced to pay some of it, or else the driver is told to let us off in the middle of no where, what a jerk... So we got to the lakes and then didn't find exactly what we were looking for, no housing where we planned to stay. We slept at this woman's house who said it was a hotel, but in retrospect it was most definitely not a hotel, just her house - she had to clear out her son's belongings out of the room we stayed in....
We then headed far south to Lumbini on another really awful "tourist bus", well more like three local buses of varied forms where our packs were quickly thrown around and we were squeezed into several different little corners. And all this after we were directly promised that this was a direct route on a tourist only bus. We know now that "tourist bus" means exactly and only that a local bus has a big sticker that says the words "tourist bus", and that's it. So Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha, and is revered by all as a holy and important place. We struggled a lot with this town. It just doesn't seem to make sense to us that a man who taught peace, refutation of material possession and cultural acceptance is shown praise by erecting alarmingly decadent, towering monstrosities to him. These include endless gold statues of him, and countless countries have built giant monasteries and stupas in the area... Enough of that, I could go on and on.
We then took off for the famed Chitwan National Park, where Rhinos, Tigers, Elephants, Monkeys, Crocs, and many kinds of birds make their home. It has been turned into the epitome of tourism in Nepal, so we tried our best to take a less crowded approach. There were elephants walking down the roads all the time, which was cool. We took a tour into the jungle with just two guides and us. It started with a river canoe ride where we saw many giant birds, but no crocs. We then walked into the jungle for a half day and really didn't see too much, just some monkeys and deer. A little disappointing, but the unique lands of the forest were really great to walk through regardless. And when we arrived back at our hotel Cleo found that a leech had been sucking here dry! It was so full of her blood that by pulling up her shirt it fell off her stomach, unable to take any more, so gross! When I barely touched it with my foot it burst with a loud pop!, [*shutter*]
Being completely sick of "tourist buses", we paid a bunch and got a real tourist bus this time back up to Kathmandu. It was much better, as good as possible considering the terrible roads in this country. We spent only a day or two gathering ourselves and preparing for our final adventure in Nepal, to trekking once again. This time we have connected three short treks just north of Kathmandu into one three week trek. This bus ride was BY FAR the absolute worse bus ride we have taken yet, which is really saying something! It took nine hours to go less than 100 km, twisting and turning along a terrible road with a constant STEEP slope on one side. This was really quite scary, the bus was bumping and rocking along a wicked dirt road that really is more like a 4WD dirt course...., I'm really glad we didn't die (sorry mom if you read this...), but we did break down once, they fixed it pretty quick. We then were forced to get out and get our permits for the area. And apparently we took too long to do their required step, and the crazy bus driver jerk left without us, uncaring and unheeding the other people yelling at him that we were left behind. So we ran for about five minutes up to the next town where the bus already was jacked up and the wheel off for an hour repair. So we said screw it and slept there, and just started the trek from there, Dunche.
This began the most amazing part of Nepal for us, the Lang Tang trek out and back, then connected down to the Gosainkund trek, and continued south along the Helambu trek back into Kathmandu. The Lang Tang trek was a giant valley ascending through so many climates up to 3800m. The forest we walked through felt so magical, it was really unreal, indescribably amazing - it felt like the shire mixed with sunshine and all things good. We saw a bunch of monkeys, big furry white ones who loved to jump around and play with each other. Got to the end of the valley and thoroughly endulged, several times (maybe too many) at a super yummy bakery. This guy had a real German wood burning oven carried up the valley and made real cakes and coffee and sandwiches, just so good to have something different and a familiar taste of home so far away. We are so sick of Dal Bhatt!!! Cleo wasn't feeling so hot, she keeps getting a little sick - so she had to turn back while we were climbing a peak outside of Kyanjin Gumpa (the town and the end of the valley), but I made it to the top and got a stellar view of the valley and surrounding 6000+ and 7000+ m peaks, simply epic!
We made it back down the valley and then went up to the Gosain Kund lakes, holy lakes sitting in glacial basins atop the pass. They were so stunning, clear blackness with huge peaks rising straight out of them, beautiful and peaceful! We descended many very long days south, and pushed it hard to get out to Kathmandu for Thanksgiving. There was endless greatness in these days too, but many miles as they were nearly all downhill. The last day out was 8 hours of fast walking, with less than an hour break total, maybe 500m ascent or more, and 1500m descent. At the end, we had 500m of straight down via stairs to our end, so hard!!!, but we made it. And then got the joy of one final local bus that took two hours to reach Kathmandu, stuck in traffic for like an hour and a half, oh joy. We took a shower and ran off immediately back to the Italian restaurant for a bottle of wine, pizza, and dessert, it was one of best tasting meals ever!!!!
We ventured to the south of Kathmandu to the district of Patan - we made a friend while trekking who lives there and told us many good things about the place. It was definitely still Kathmandu, but there is less tourism, and tons of great foreign food set up for all the diplomats. We tried to find some turkey as it was then Thanksgiving, but had to instead get some bomb tex mex food at a place called "The Lazy Gringo". We then met up with our friend at his place, he runs a non profit that organizes multi media collaboration with the youth of Nepal, and we got to watch a great documentary on his roof, which was so nice.
Off to the airport at last! We went from Kathmandu to New Delhi, India. I must say that the New Delhi airport is by far the worst run airport I've ever experienced!!!! And.... somehow a little flight booking detail was overlooked, and we ended up spending 29 hours in the New Delhi airport.... slept on the floor, drank some beer, and read a bunch. We then took a long flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And then waited around for our connection to Jakarta, Indonesia. We tried our very best to make sure our luggage got onto our plane, we asked so many times!!! But when we arrived in the Jakarta airport our luggage didn't make it, so we had to wait another five or so hours for that to come, and then take a hour bus to the town, and finish with a motor bike ride to a hotel. Holy poop that was a long travel segment, something like 50 hours of total travel transit....
I will wait to go into Indonesia another day, but I will say this. So far this country is so amazingly awesome. Everything works, people are so kind, it's hot, food is different and great, there is ocean and beach! Always impressed by openness and welcoming of Indonesian people, I love this place so far!!!
So good to never eat Dal Bhatt again!
Okay love you all so very much, and be sure to check out all of Cleo's pics on facebook, she put a bunch of hers up. My camera seems to have broken slightly, I can't turn it off nor upload...
Peace out!, Thomas and Cleo