Smorgasbord

6 months

BKK protests

BKK protests

Grilled Cuttlefish

Grilled Cuttlefish

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Christmas Breakfast

Christmas Breakfast

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Ahh yes, the mighty durian

Ahh yes, the mighty durian

Pig intestine soup

Pig intestine soup

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Kuala Lumpur Mosque

Kuala Lumpur Mosque

Colombo, Galle Face Sunset

Colombo, Galle Face Sunset

Fresh caught fish from the reef, Weligama Sri lanka

Fresh caught fish from the reef, Weligama Sri lanka

The one and only Sonic X fishing boat

The one and only Sonic X fishing boat

Coconut fibre factory

Coconut fibre factory

The hills above Kandy

The hills above Kandy

Atop Pidurangala

Atop Pidurangala

Siguriya

Siguriya

Sunrise from Sri Pada, or Adam's Peak

Sunrise from Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak

Sinhalese girl on a train.

Sinhalese girl on a train.

Tamil tea pickers, Sri Lankan highlands

Tamil tea pickers, Sri Lankan highlands

Good 'ole Chennai

Good ‘ole Chennai

Sunset, Mamallapuram

Sunset, Mamallapuram

Temple, Mamallapuram

Temple, Mamallapuram

Most amazing tree I have ever seen, a giant Banyan in Auroville, India

Most amazing tree I have ever seen, a giant Banyan in Auroville, India

Riding trains in style, two to a bunk. Didn't think it could get much more fun than than this, but oh did it

Riding trains in style, two to a bunk. Didn’t think it could get much more fun than than this, but oh did it

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Mosque near Varkala, India

Mosque near Varkala, India

Abandoned beach, Varkala

Abandoned beach, Varkala

Alleppey Sunset

Alleppey Sunset

Alleppey

Alleppey

Church in the Kerala backwaters

Church in the Kerala backwaters

The greatest paper dosa of the trip.

The greatest paper dosa of the trip.

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Boy and his pigeons, Amber Fort

Boy and his pigeons, Amber Fort

Inside the Amber Fort

Inside the Amber Fort

Bikaner Bullock

Bikaner Bullock

Bikaner Cobblers

Bikaner Cobblers

Common transport in Bikaner

Common transport in Bikaner

 The one and only.

The one and only.

Jain building, Bikaner

Jain building, Bikaner

Sunrise of rural temple in Uttarakhand, India

Sunrise of rural temple in Uttarakhand, India

Animal Sacrifice at the temple

Animal Sacrifice at the temple

Bonfire at the farm

Bonfire at the farm

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Burning Ghat, Agra

Burning Ghat, Agra

Ah yes, the infamous horse of Khajuraho

Ah yes, the infamous horse of Khajuraho

Holi Madness

Holi Madness

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What a beautiful town. (Sunauli, India)

What a beautiful town. (Sunauli, India)

Troops in Kathmandu

Troops in Kathmandu

Bupse Gompa

Bupse Gompa

Namaste!

Namaste!

Bridge to Namche

Bridge to Namche

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On the way to Thame

On the way to Thame

First snow in almost a year.

First snow in almost a year.

Dawn in Lumde, Khumbu

Dawn in Lumde, Khumbu

Deep

Deep

Atop Renjo La.

Atop Renjo La.

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Large section of the serac on this mountain broke lose a short time later

Large section of the serac on this mountain broke lose a short time later

The best stars

The best stars

Up the Cho La

Up the Cho La

Jaw dropping

Jaw dropping

Highest chess game in the world

Highest chess game in the world

evererst

evererst

Atop Kala Pathar

Atop Kala Pathar

Dahl Baht!

Dahl Baht!

Ancient Gompa

Ancient Gompa

Phewa Tal

Phewa Tal

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Baby Yak

Baby Yak

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Thorung La

Thorung La

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Inside the clouds.

Inside the clouds.

Traditional house .

Traditional house .

Tuckchee Monastery

Tuckchee Monastery

'Yak Rainbow'

‘Yak Rainbow’

Sunset from Khopra Danda, Dhaulagiri, the eighth highest mountain in the world on the right.

Sunset from Khopra Danda, Dhaulagiri, the eighth highest mountain in the world on the right.

Tharu fisherwomen

Tharu fisherwomen

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Bardia National Park

Bardia National Park

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By Mugling, Nepal

By Mugling, Nepal

Pigeon Man, Durbar Square Kathmandu

Pigeon Man, Durbar Square Kathmandu

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Newari Men, Kathmandu

Newari Men, Kathmandu

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Swayambhunath

Swayambhunath

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Patan

Patan

The Golden Gate of Baktapur

The Golden Gate of Baktapur

I have extreme respect for the Sherpas and porters in Nepal. The amount of weight they carry is absolutely mind-boggling, usually close or more than their own body weight.

Good NPR article on sherpas: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4707462

All these pictures were taken along the Shivalaya-Gokyo-Gorakshep route.

Outside of Ringmu

Outside of Ringmu

Kharikola

Kharikola

Bottom of Renjo La.

Bottom of Renjo La.

sherpa (4 of 17) sherpa (5 of 17)

Out of Gorakshep

Out of Gorakshep

Heading to Everest Base Camop

Heading to Everest Base Camop

Whats crazy is that they carry all this weight with just a head strap.

Whats crazy is that they carry all this weight with just a head strap.

Outside of Periche

Outside of Periche

On the way to Tengboche.

On the way to Tengboche.

Outside of Namche. Insane.

Outside of Namche. Insane.

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Young porters for trekkers.

Young porters for trekkers.

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New steel planks for a bridge.

New steel planks for a bridge.

End of an era

After Bardia, it was back to the hills to do a  bit of whitewater kayaking. For $150 Fred and I did a four day kayaking course on the Trisuli river. It was amazing. Run by some local guys, we stayed in bamboo huts next to farms carved into the incredibly steep banks. The local transport where we were consisted of pickup trucks with benches fitted into the beds. Twice a day we would cross a rickety suspension bridge across the river, grab the kayaks and flag down a truck to load them in, Then we would all clamber in wherever there was space, often enough hanging out the back or sitting on the cab roof. A brief exhilarating ride later around tight bends and we would put in. The next few hours paddling down the river learning techniques and just shredding gnar in general.

I was successful in learning the eskimo-roll, but it requires you to ignore all your vital instincts. When you are upside down in murky cold river water stuck in a kayak you instantly go into oh shit oh shit oh shit mode.

Roadside food stall near the river.

Roadside food stall in Mugling.

Beautiful area.

Beautiful area.

From Fred's gopro

From Fred’s gopro

Manoas, Kalu, Fred, me, and Chelsea

Manoas, Kalu, Fred, me, and Chelsea

Soon I was down to a few precious days in Kathmandu before my flight home. At various times travelling I thought that I would be ready to go home, but now that that time was here I was definitely not.

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Roadside vegetable sellers

Roadside vegetable sellers

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Pigeon man at Kathmandu Durbar Square

Pigeon man at Kathmandu Durbar Square

The Kala Bhairava shrine in Durbar Square

The Kala Bhairava shrine in Durbar Square

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Auspicious to both Hindus and Buddhists, like many religious sites in Nepal

Father and son

Father and son

Flower vendors

Flower vendors

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Nice dentures here

Nice dentures here

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The old and the new. The men here are in the traditional Newari hat.

The old and the new. The men here are in the traditional Newari hat.

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Near some burning ghats. (areas where cremations are preformed)

Near some burning ghats. (areas where cremations are preformed)

Cremation Platform near the Bagmati River.

Cremation Platform near the Bagmati River.

My quest for the cheapest momo (nepali dumpling)  ended here, near the burning ghat. 40 rupees! (~40 cents)

My quest for the cheapest momo (nepali dumpling) ended here, near the burning ghat. 40 rupees! (~40 cents)

The momo maker and her daughter

The momo maker and her daughter

Slum in Kathmandu. A fact of life here.

Slum in Kathmandu. A fact of life here.

Public newspaper

Public newspaper

Below Swayambhunath

Below Swayambhunath

Swayambhunath, the "monkey temple"

Swayambhunath, the “monkey temple”

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Newari wood carvers

Newari wood carvers

Thanka (traditional tibetan painting) painters

Thanka (traditional tibetan painting) painters

The Golden Gate of Bhaktapur

The Golden Gate of Bhaktapur

nepal (50 of 65)Nowhere else have I been in the world where religion is so ingrained in daily life than Nepal. There are shrines and temples, literally everywhere, many of them quite old. Down back alleys in the middle of intersections, in national prominence like at the Kathmandu Durbar Square. Businessmen in full suit and poor beggars alike stop and pray daily. The religious tolerance here is also inspiring. Millions of HIndus and Buddhists live side by side by side without problem, without complaint.

Then it was the journey home. All 50 some hours of it.

Sunset over Thailand

Sunset over Thailand

In Japan I had a nine hour layover, just enough time to get out and see a bit of the city. At one point I fell asleep on the train and would have missed my stop if a nice woman had not woken me up. It felt very clean, very sterile, not like the rest of Asia I had visited. There were actually cross walks and traffic lights.

17th century pagoda in Narita

17th century pagoda in Narita

AMAZING TOILET!!!!! AND TOILET PAPER!!!!!!

AMAZING TOILET!!!!! AND TOILET PAPER!!!!!!

Beautiful park in Narita

Beautiful park in Narita

Some street octopus

Some street octopus

Eel vendor in Narita

Eel vendor in Narita

Playing the koto in the Tokyo airport. Very cool.

Playing the koto in the Tokyo airport. Very cool.

Before I left people warned me about “culture shock”, about how it would be very hard at first in these foreign countries. Nothing I experienced was as hard as coming home. It felt a little bit like I imagine it is for tribal members that make first contact with the “outside world”.  I enjoy being home, but life here seems filtered, a bit unreal, a bit to tame.

While I was gone I’m afraid I caught a serious disease for life. The travelling disease. Someday soon it will hit and cause me to grab my backpack and go for it. Can’t wait.

 

Bardia National Park

From the roof of the world to almost to sea level. After 15 days of trekking that’s where my Quebecer friend Fred and I headed, to the streamy jungle of the terai.

I think its commonly assumed that Nepal is an icy mountain country only inhabited by sherpas and yaks. Its actually vastly diverse, far more than I would have believed.

Some mindblowing facts.

102 ethnic groups recognized by the national census (6 in the US)

123 languages

Elevations from 53m above sea level to the highest point on earth, and many different types of landscapes; tropical jungle, plains, sub-tropical forests, high pine forests, alpine meadows, desert, the list goes on.

The entire country is smaller than the US state of Nebraska.

 

Nebraska is bigger. Not sure what else it has going for it.

Nebraska is bigger. Not sure what else it has going for it.

Where we were heading, the fertile tropical plains of the Terai, comprises 17% of the land area, however over 50% of the population. Our destination was Bardia National Park. This park has similar scenery to the more popular Chitwan National Park, yet a fraction of the visitors. Like most trips in this part of the world getting here involved some…memorable… transportation, in this case a 14 hour bus ride.

The pre-monsoon weather was hotttttt (six t hot). Over 40 degrees Celsius hot. Aircon? What is that?  Everyone valiantly tried to open windows, but moving at 15 mph its hard to pick up a breeze. And the constantly shifting road surface meant that oftentimes the bus cabin would fill with dust if the windows were open.

We left Pokhara at around 2 PM. After a few unexplained multi-hour stops and nightfall we appeared to be making some progress. For a dollar I bought a bag of delicious fresh litchees from a bus vendor.

A Classic

A Nepali Classic

Around 11 we rolled into a roadside food joint. I had some truly detestable curry and peed into a nearby field. When I came back to the bus it was evident by the wheels and smoking parts strewn over the side of the road that it wouldn’t be running soon.  Fred and I managed to switch to another bus heading the same direction. We were lucky enough to get seats, but by some quirk of design the ceiling was about 6 inches from my head, so that every time we went over a bump (often) I was perilously close to being concussed.

Finally at around 4 in the morning we made it to Amballa, the dropping off point for Bardia. We had splurged and got a real nice place for $4 a night, including jeep pickup. The area here is in the remote western area of the country and very underdeveloped.

Tharu (ethnic group) fisherwomen, and buffs

Tharu (ethnic group) fisherwomen, and buffs

They catch the fish (minnows really)  in large hand nets and then put then into the baskets tied to their heads.

They catch the fish (minnows really) in large hand nets and then put then into the baskets tied to their heads.

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Nice cow

Nice cow

In Nepal the cow is the national animal, illegal to kill one.

In Nepal the cow is the national animal, its illegal to kill one and the penalties are similar to manslaughter.

For us, the name of the game was tigers. Bardia contains less than 60 tigers, but it is lauded as one of the best places in the world to see one. The local guide we hired told us he sees tigers this time of year 8 out of 10 times out in the forest. However they are not nearly as dangerous as the rhino and elephant that are also in the forest, which kill people every year. While we were staying there, a young bull elephant had been rampaging local crops, and we were warned not to go out after dark.

Our guesthouse armed us with stout sticks and off at dawn we went. All the local guides had cell phones and if one spotted something he would text the others. So we would be walking our own way looking for game when the call would go through that something was afoot. Then we (Fred, the guide, and myself) would sprint off in another direction along narrow game trails, dodging branches, jumping logs, and trying to keep up in hope of a view. There was also a lot of waiting on the side of strategic locations, mainly along water holes in rivers. I think I went through over 1000 pages of books in two days.

Eventually we were rewarded.

Elephant patrol

Elephant patrol

Fresh tiger track

Fresh tiger track

Elephant track

Elephant track

While I was sitting a shrieking mouse ran by followed by a large black snake. All the guides had to investigate.

While I was sitting a shrieking mouse ran by followed by a large black snake. All the guides had to investigate.

Large elephant family. Amazing

Large elephant family. Amazing

Fresh tiger track, missed by about five minutes.

Fresh tiger track, missed by about five minutes.

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Shiva the tame blind rhino kept at the park headquarters. He used to walk around freely until he knocked over and killed an elderly Japanese man.

Shiva the tame blind rhino kept at the park headquarters. He used to walk around freely until he knocked over and killed an elderly Japanese man.

Mugger crocodile at the park breeding center.

Mugger crocodile at the park breeding center.

Sketchy bridge.

Sketchy bridge.

Wild rhinos!

Wild rhinos!

After two days still no tigers made an appearance. It was still amazing to see wild rhinos and elephants. We had one close pass with an elephant. We were walking to a river through thick foliage when an enormous elephant appeared right in front of us. Luckily he didn’t see us, but when even the guide runs away fast, you know it was close.

 

 

 

 

Dahl Baht Dahl Baht

I had some time on my hands so I loaded up my bag with some my other pair of underwear, some cookies, peanut butter, my jacket, and a sleeping bag and headed for the mountains again.

The first few days sucked. A massive Chinese funded hydroelectric project is turning what was once peaceful, beautiful farms into an ugly industrial complex. (When completed Nepal will likely be selling much of the energy to China as well) As I attempted to sleep in my first accommodation (free) dump trucks and other heavy equipment rumbled by at all hours of the night.

The route was supposed to be on hiking trails but 90% consisted of walking on dusty jeep roads.

Regardless the scenery was still pretty nice. Down low was almost tropical. There were banana trees.

First lunch

First lunch

Its everywhere

Its everywhere

bananas

bananas

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Changing landscapes

Changing landscapes

Incredible rock face.

Incredible rock face.

Makin' boards the old way

Makin’ boards the old way

WOW

WOW

Old local house

Old local house

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Mani Wall

Mani Wall

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View out another free room (Manang)

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High above Manang at an abandoned gompa.

High above Manang at an abandoned gompa.

Nepali people going home

Nepali people going home. I was following them so I missed the turn off to a side trail to an area called the Upper Pisang, supposed to be incredibly beautiful. Damn

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There are hundreds of people who live in the hills above Manang. They are after aphrodisiac mushrooms that live in the ground at this high elevation (4000+m). One kg will support a person for an entire year.

There are hundreds of people who live in the hills above Manang. They are after aphrodisiac mushrooms that live in the ground at this high elevation (4000+m). One kg will support a person for an entire year.

P1060397 P1060405On my map there was a suggested itinerary for the route. It recommended nine days to reach the village of Manang, and I was there in four. I was a bit worried about altitude sickness but in the end I was fine.

 

Incredible. Racing over Thorung La pass, 5,416 m

Incredible. Racing over Thorung La pass, 5,416 m

Trying to survive at High Camp

Trying to survive at High Camp

The day before we went over the pass was terrible, snowing, wet, zero visibility. But the next morning was perfect.

The day before we went over the pass was terrible, snowing, wet, zero visibility. But the next morning was perfect.

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An ocean of clouds.

An ocean of clouds.

Now in those clouds...

Now in those clouds…

After the pass the next village was Muktinath, a pilgrimage site unique in its value to both Hindus and Buddhists. There is a large temple complex and other smaller temples dot the city. After the pass and days in the cold, a yak sizzler and a beer never tasted better.

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Incredibly sadhus come to the temples here from as far away as South India.

Incredibly sadhus come to the temples here from as far away as South India.

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Your tax dollars at work.

Your tax dollars at work.

Ancient 14th century ruins outside Muktinath

Ancient 14th century ruins outside Muktinath

The area after the pass lies in the rain shadow of the Annapurna range and is dramatically drier.

The area after the pass lies in the rain shadow of the Annapurna range and is dramatically drier.

Trying to get to Kagbeni we accidentally came to Tiri, a village in the restricted Upper Mustang region that normally costs $500 to enter.

Trying to get to Kagbeni we accidentally came to Tiri, a village in the restricted Upper Mustang region that normally costs $500 to enter.

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Inside a 500+ year old monastery, still functioning,  in Kagbeni

Inside a 500+ year old monastery, still functioning, in Kagbeni

Kagbeni is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been too. It is an ancient city, an oasis of rice paddies and fields in the desert and surrounded by incredible mountains. And they have YakDonalds. Yes that’s right, YakDonalds. The Big Yak was incredible.

The monastery.

The monastery.

None shall pass his mighty penis.

The defender of Kagbeni. None shall pass his mighty penis!

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No fear. Trust me, there is much to fear when you ride these buses. Especially since there seem to be no drivers over 25

No fear. Trust me, there is much to fear when you ride these buses. Especially since there seem to be no drivers over 25

Jomsom

Jomsom

A monastery.

A monastery.

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Local Defense

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One day we walked through a Tibetan refugee village. Tibetan refugees in Nepal can not work for any Nepali business, only in their refugee village. They have Tibetan passports, issued by the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamasala, India, but they are useless to travel with. Most people living in the village have never even been to Tibet. That being said, they were some of the nicest people.

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Not a bad breakfast spot.

Not a bad breakfast spot.

The Tukuche Distillery. Amazing place. Run by a spry 77 year old Nepali woman out of her 212 year old house.

The Tukuche Distillery. Amazing place. Run by a spry 77 year old Nepali woman out of her 212 year old house.

 

Apple, Cherry, Apricot, Orange, and Carrot Brandy. Free Samples!

Apple, Cherry, Apricot, Orange, and Carrot Brandy. Free Samples!

Wood fire distiller.

Wood fire distiller.

212 year old house

212 year old house

Monkey!!?!

Monkey!!?!

Right after I took this picture this dog almost took my head off.

Right after I took this picture this dog almost took my head off.

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Old bee hive.

Old bee hive.

New bee hive

New bee hive

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Cacti flora

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Tatopani, famed for its natural hotsprings. Two days here.

To get to this ridge we climbed over 2500m in one day, to a high ridge. In the end it was through pouring, driving rain.

To get to this ridge we climbed over 2500m in one day, to a high ridge. In the end it was through pouring, driving rain.

Incredible sunset

Incredible sunset

Equally incredible sunrise

Equally incredible sunrise

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Making chapati on the fire

Making chapati on the fire

Descending into the jungle. In one day from high alpine ridge to hot steamy jungle.

Descending into the jungle. In one day from high alpine ridge to hot steamy jungle.

After 18 days it was back to Pokhara. No more Dahl Baht for a a while. (The best thing to order while trekking, because even if its bad, there is free refills. I can eat a lot of Dahl Baht. )

Helicopter rescue practice in Pokhara

Helicopter rescue practice in Pokhara

 

Pokhara

Some images from Pokhara, where I have been living for the past week or so.

 

Paragliders descend from the top of a nearby hill every morning.

Paragliders descend from the top of a nearby hill every morning.

We were exploring on motorbikes one day near the end of the lake. A local guy, after first trying to sell us some hash (seems like everyone wants to) asked us if we wanted to see a baby tiger. He brought us to this enclosure in the forest where it turns out a leopard cub is being raised and studied for scientific purposes. One of the researchers talked with us for almost two hours about leopards and tigers in Nepal. They are feared by villagers and are responsible for around 25 deaths a year, mostly children and women. Some good pictures and information here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/animalography/ and http://www.wildtiger.org/jackkinross.html

Asa the Leopard

Asa the Leopard

The World Peace Stupa

The World Peace Stupa

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Sunset on Phewa Lake. A big fire burning on the hill.

Sunset on Phewa Lake. A big fire burning on the hill.

I almost died near Happy Village. I was riding on the roof of this bus and didn't notice a power line coming very close to the roof.  It took my hat off and if it was four inches lower probably would have broken my neck.

I almost died near Happy Village. I was riding on the roof of this bus and didn’t notice a power line coming very close to the roof. It took my hat off and if it was four inches lower probably would have broken my neck.

Some fiine looking buffs

Some fiine looking buffs

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Local berries, the 'Golden Rasperry'

Local berries, the ‘Golden Rasperry’

We found an awesome swimming hole, made all the sweeter by almost dying to get there.

We found an awesome swimming hole, made all the sweeter by almost dying to get there.

 

Currently I am living with a Swedish friend I met on the trek. Dane couldn’t cope with the lack of bagels and had to go back to America. In a few days I will be starting the Annapurna Circuit trek alone, should be quite an adventure.