A Travellerspoint blog

This is starting to get weird.

So I think I left off after the trek in the Himilaya. Real quickly, from there:

- I went to Pokhara (still in Nepal) for a couple of days to unwind, kick back and relax.
- Got my ass back to Kathmandu, and headed out. I took a flight from Kathmandu to Bangkok, then another to Singapore, slept for two hours and then got on a train for Kuala Lumpur
- In Kuala Lumpur (KL for short) I went to the penultimate (second to the last, in case you were wondering what that meens) round of the 2008 MotoGP season at Sepang International Circuit (SIC)
- I spent a couple of days staying with this dude I met on the street, Ridz, and then hung around Chinatown, KL.
- Took the bus from KL to Palau Penang staying at this ladies house who was sitting next to me on the bus. I dont think her boyfriend likes me very much, and im pretty sure he wanted some alone time with her for a quick shag so I wrote most of this while waiting to go back.
- Partied in Penang, and then headed to Palau Langkawi
- Im heading off tomorrow for a ferry to Thailand, and then a bus up to Phuket/Ko Phi Phi

I forgot these pics last time...

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Me at the base of Kalaa Pattar.

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Me on the top of Kalaa Pattar (5,600 meters/18,600 feet). On the right is Pumo Ri. There was a Spanish couple there who were super sad, and I asked why. It turns out it was because they had 5 friends die in an avalanche there last year.

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I finally managed a mustache. I like to call this one (thanks D) terminator meets CHIPS.

Pokhara -

This sweet ass town is about an 8 hour drive to the west of Kathmandu. You can take a chicken bus (local transport) which takes like 13 hours and costs like $1.50, or cough up the wopping $5 to ride the luxury coach (one step up from the rat and roach infested busses I had in Africa, so not really so luxury - but transport nonetheless). The ride out to Pokhara, or any transport in Nepal is pretty much life threatening. As you are driving along, you are hugging the mountainside with 400 meter cliffs and no railings (not even the dangerous part - lol). The dangerous part is their driving style. When you are going along you will see wrecks, of the likes you have never seen before. Huge trucks, upside down, and twisted in half, busses with all their windows shattered out and crumpled like an accordian - its crazy.

When you get to Pokhara, the main area is Lakeside. Lakeside quite obviously hugs the lake, and is filled with restaurants, cheap hotels and guesthouses, barber shops, internet cafes, bicycle rental places, and souveneir shops.

I dont really get the barber shop thing. There has to be more barber shops in Pokhara per capita than anywhere in the world. Quite literally every third shop is a massage parlor/barber shop. I couldnt even conjure up that in the highest of high seasons that there is enough work for all those barbers. They are all men, and they stand in the opening of their shops, doing their best to get your attention, offering massages. Now I dont know what kind of readers are out there, but Im not particular on getting a massage from anyone, let alone a man, but I guess some people sign up. Pokhara is the starting point (and usually ending point) for people starting the Anapurna Trek (number two in Nepal to Everest Base Camp), and people come off the hills a bit rough - so some people just go straight for a trim and a massage, but sure as hell there cant be enough trekkers for all those barber shops.

So I hung out my first day there, just checking the place out. I went over by the lake and found these guys, who later became my good friends. The leader of their pack, who went by the name Earthquake (born during one) was a bit witty and wanted to learn from my western ways. Man, do I really hate westernizing people, so after playing along for a little time I commandeered the subject away from the ways of the west. Anyways, these guys and I stole a canoe (haha - they promised me that it was ok, but I really knew that we were stealing it; rather borrowing it) and we went out on the lake. We went to this island and walked about 1km through this leech infested water to a waterfall, and then after we went to another island that had a very famous Hindu temple.

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Reflection on Lake Fewa

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Looking out over Lake Fewa

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This is one of the boats we stole!

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Israeli hostel/bed chabad on the lake. Man, those guys really do manage pretty well. For such a small country, they are everywhere.

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Me and my new buddies at the waterfall on the island. Earthquake is the guy in the middle. Hes putting his hands together which is the custome when someone says hello in Nepal (Namaste).

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I gave him my camera, and he took this ultra cool picture of me.

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My new buds

We then went and had some drinks at some super cheap hole in the wall place and then split up. Earthquake had to go home to eat Dahl Bhat or his mom would get angry at him so I went and had dinner at his place. His dad (name is House) is a bit of a kook, so I hung out for a lil while with his mom and then boogied out.

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Me with Earthquakes mom. She was hillarious.

The next day was productive. I rented a bicycle and went all around. Highlights were the Gurkha and mountaineering museam. The Gurkhas are world renound as some of the worlds toughest soldiers. Nepali by birth and culture, they are recruited every year by the British army and form six brigades. The motivation is that back home in Nepal a soldier could expect to earn around 10 British sterling a month. In the British Army this salary jumps to nearly 1500 quid a month, so every year hundreds of young men flock from every corner of the mountains to try out for selection. Their selection process is rigorous, and just to give you an idea - the first event requires them to carry a 25kg rock in a wicker basket running uphill for 5k (and thats just the start of it). If you have heard the name Gurkha before, but are not sure where, its probably because most recently there has been a lot of controversy over them. In 1997, with the end of British ruling in Hong Kong the main base of the Gurkhas was moved out and all soldiers that served from that point on were given the same pensions as their British counterparts. Additionally, after 5 years experience they were able to move out into regular British units. Those who served prior to 1997 were given the royal shaft. For all their hard work, tenacity, and service, if they did not meet the stringent requirements they were not given a pension, and those who did not have citizenship at the time of the signing of the legislation would not be able to file or get it at all. War heroes, who fought for the UK would not even be allowed to be considered a citizen. How sad. The Gurkhas are well known for their tenacity under fire, ability to handle stress, and are extremely agressive in battle.

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Symbol of Gurkha regiment. The knives are called Kukhris and are very effective at hand to hand.

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I thought this was funny. "A gurkha using equipment that his father would not have understood"

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Pretty good moddo if I say so myself.

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This was a cool hindu temple that I went to that had and opening out that went behind a waterfall.

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The outlook through the cave into the backside of the waterfall. We all are adults. Norm, dont even think about making any wisecracks about what it looks like.

In Pokhara I also went to the mountaineering museam which highlighted the feats of all the great mountain climbers throughout the world. I was there that I realized I have to climb Mont Blanc in France, and Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina. Those are next.

I hung around Pokhara for a bit, then headed back to Kathmandu for a night, then the long haul to make my way to the MotoGP race in Sepang. I had to take a flight from Kathmandu to Bangkok, then after a layover take another flight to Singapore. I crashed for about an hour or two and then took the train in the morning to Sepang International Circuit. I hustled hard from Nepal to the race, and went straight from the train station to the race track with all my bags. I looked pretty retarted, but I was really hustling to make qualifying practice on saturday. It turns out I was like a half an hour too late but nonetheless.

Anyways, after the first day at the track I headed back to Kuala Lumpur (the city closest to Sepang circuit). Being so exhausted from traveling from Nepal I couldnt work the ticket machine for the subway, and I told this guy that I didnt understand and then he made fun of me because it was in english - there should be no reason for not understanding. We chatted for a minute and I asked to stay at his house and he agreed, but only on one condition - that we would have to cook togethere some Malaysian food (score!).

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Petronas towers are the most significant land mark of KL.

I dont think that I have properly described anything about MotoGP in any of these posts, despite ranting about the details of it week after week. MotoGP is the class of international motorcycle riders that are the best in the world. There are roughly 20 riders in the MotoGP class, and race at roughly 17 circuits that are dispersed throughout the world. Younger, and less experienced riders race in the lower classes (125 and 250cc two strokes) untill they either fail to suceed, break their bodies, or move up to MotoGP.

A MotoGP motorcycle is nothing like what you can buy off the street. They are purebreed racemachines that are one off million dollar prototypes. They weigh 326 pounds and have four stroke 800cc engines that produce something like 220 horsepower (the actual number is closely guarded by the bike manfacturers). The circuits that are raced at year after year are Qatar, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Catalunya, UK, Netherlands, Germany, USA, Czech, Misano, Japan, China, Australia, and Malaysia. The principal bike manufacturers are Honda, Ducati, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki with most manufacturers operating a factory team of two riders, and another satelite team of two riders.

The races are short, at just around 45 minutes, which is the optimum length of time which it takes to empty a fuel tank and fry the tires of the bike. Going around a circuit at a maximum speed of 335 km/hr the tires take a real beating and are specifically designed for each circuit and each rider. The rules have changed slightly most recently, but the way that they used to do it was that the rider would test drive a few sets of tires on friday, and on saturday, and then on saturday the tire manufacturers would take their data and formulate a specific compound that would be made for a few sets of tires and those would be flown directly to the racetrack for the race on sunday. In addition to this specific diagnostic data is examined to determine at any given point and time nearly every aspect what the bike is doing. In short, its an extremely competitive sport from the rider as well as bikes perspective. There are huge stakes at risk (not only the lives of the riders, but also the ensuing bike sales that fluctuate with who is winning).

In the history of the sport, interestingly enough only one rider has died. Japanese rider Daijiro Kaito died from a brain stem fracture that occured from a crash at Suzuka racetrack (his home circuit). The bikes are pushed to the absolute limit (tires are on the verge of shredding to pieces, engines scream at 20,000 rpm are ready to blow if there is any flaw in their manufacturing, and the riders are utterly exhausted at the end of the race). Why am I explaining all this - because nobody back home knows about it. You go anywhere in the world and you will see the number 46 (Valentino Rossi) plastered all over everything and anything. The Doctor is about as well known as any other international athlete superstar (schumacher, jordan, woods, etc.), but nobody knows about him or the motorcycle racing at home. Even the American riders are not all that well known. The 2006 world champion, Nicky Hayden is more well known overseas then he is back home. With the winning of the championship, Dorna (the people who put it all together) thought that the sport would gain popularity back in the states, but im not convinced that it really happened. You wont ever see ESPN to talk about it, and speedvision sometimes doesnt even air the races.

If you really want to learn more, there are two great documentaries you can get on DVD that will explain it all. "Faster", although a few years old is narrated by Ewan McGregor gives a good overview of the sport. The Doctor, Tornado, and the Kentucky Kid gives some insight into the introduction of an American race (Laguna Seca) on the calendar. You should check them out.

I am pretty ignorant on most sports, but I really have a special place in my heart for MotoGP. The reason is that for me, I find it to be the ultimate test of who is the best. It is an individual sport (usually teamates are the most vicious of enemies) which requires man and machine to be stronger and better than the competition. The engineering aspect of it is really interesting, but when you couple that with the skill that is required of the rider it becomes an interesting mix. F1 is much more imbalanced to sucess depending on the car, and isnt as physical as twisting and turning and flicking a motorcycle down the track. F1 = duck sauce compared to MotoGP.

So, on race day I was able to get some good seats that were right above the start/finish line, and had some good chats with other fanatics while I was there. On race day the front row was Dani Pedrosa (Spain), Valentino Rossi (Italy), and the rookie Jorge Lorenzo (Spain). I was probably the only American there, so I was in full force in support of the US riders. I was yelling at them, rooting for them, and trying to convince the other fans of how good they were. The Aussies and the Brits all had huge flags and banners in support. I was well out numbered.

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Aussies were out in full force.

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Layout of track. I was sitting in the grandstands on the upper part of the sideways V.

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Then there was this guy doing stunts. Kind of cool, but I have seen better.

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same guy

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125cc starting grid

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Valentino Rossi's pit.

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Marco Simoncelli on his way back into the pits after victory as the 2008 250cc world champ!

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Front row of the MotoGP grid

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Everyone around me got a kick out of this one.

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The boys laying it down on turn 17.

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The tornado, Colin Edwards (US) smokin down the front stretch

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Jeremy Burgess giving his rider a hug. Hes a very famous man in racing, and has worked with Doohan and Rossi.

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Rossi giving his fan club a big wave in thanks of their support

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Final podium

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Champagne celebration on the podium

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Fuck the police!!! Even their scooters...

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Me with Denso girls. Theres like one million girls who just stand around and look pretty. Jolly good entertainment.

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I have never seen a Kawi looking so good.

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Ducati girl on 1098. This bike is like $25,000 which is huge for a streetbike.

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Final scoreboard

About halfway through the race, Valentino Rossi made the pass on Dani Pedrosa to take the lead and never looked back. His bridgestone tires took him on for the win 4 seconds (an eternity) ahead of Pedrosa. Rookie Andre Dovizioso (Dovi for short) went on to take the third spot on the podium, but not after having to fight off Hayden (US). It was so close, and I wanted Hayden on the podium so bad I was going nuts every time he would come by. All the people around me could see that I wanted him to get on the podium, and I was so excited that they started to get excited with me. I had these Japanese guys who couldnt speak english yelling at the top of their lungs in support of him, and we were jumping around and hugging eachother when he would make a pass. It was hillarous. Anyways, he just couldnt do it which was dissapointing but showed grace and later congradulated Dovi and commented on how good the fight was.

In the lower categories, I got to see the crowning of Marco Simoncelli as the 250cc world champion which was cool. He had a lot of fans there, including this group of like 15 Korean girls who were going even crazier than I was about Hayden. There was a shitload of Italian fans that flew there, and almost an equal amount of spanish fans which I thought was cool.

After the race I stayed in KL for a couple of days. The place is really cool. Coming from Nepal, it made me feel really weird to be back in civilization. The roads were paved, the place was clean, there was transport, there was cold drinks, etc. The subway system in KL is waaaaaay better than anything back home, and way cleaner. The petronas towers are by far the centerpiece of the city, and are really cool. The humungous tower in Dubai beat it as being the worlds tallest building, but nonetheless I think the petronas towers are the aesthetic champions.

From KL I took the bus to Palau Penang, which is an island in the North of Malaysia. On the bus I met Ling, who offered for me to stay at her house (Malays are so friendly). She gave me my own room, a set of keys, and cooked for me! Im not so convinced her boyfriend liked me, because he couldnt figure out why Ling would take a stranger in, but by the time I left he was cool. She also had a kick ass pad on the 17th floor of an apartment building that had a swimming pool.

I did some exploring in Penang, and went to get a coffee and met this cool Belgian guy, Johan, who has been on the road for two years, mostly living in Australia. We rented motorbikes and went all around, especially to Penang Hill, and this cool chinese temple. Then we got absolutely pissed, and the next day I nearly missed my ferry when I headed to Langkawi where I am now. At like 3AM me and Johan went to get some late night snacks, and when we were ordering pancakes we started chatting with these two American girls. One asked me where I lived, and I told her upstate NY and that she didnt know where. She pressed me to find out the town, and when I told her Binghamton, she told me she lived in Binghamton also. She said she lived at 5 Seminary Ave, so I asked her what her name was, and she said she was Ashley Cornelius. As soon as I heard that I burst into laughter, and nearly fell to the floor. She couldnt figure out why, so I jumped up and told her that one of my best friends is Ashley, and that I knew she was lying.

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Ko Si Lok Chinese monastery in Penang

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Ouside of monastery

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These guys were cool!

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Im addicted to motorbikes in Asia!!!!

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In Penang, for some reason there were these guys weedwacking a drainage ditch, and then they took a picture of it. Id say one of the most random things I have ever seen.

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Always remember - dont turtle, monkey corn, or basketballs.

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Lousy picture, but one of the beaches in the North. My buddy Johan from Belguim in pic.

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Dude, these were the sickest 4AM pancakes I have ever had!!!! As a matter of fact they are the sickest anytime pancakes I have ever had.

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The girl on the right pretended to be Ashley. Looks nothing like her.

We eventually worked it out, but she for some reason has Ashleys ID (this girl is underage), and memorized the address in case a bouncer asked where she lives. When I told her I was from Binghamton she just pretended she was Ashley. What are the chances???

I was supposed to go to Borneo to meet a guy I knew from Nepal and then down to Indonesia but with heavy rain likely I scrapped the idea and am going to head up to Thailand.

At Langkawi I met these cool Brits, Tim and Gareth and with Johan we have just been tearing this place up at night. There are some really cool bars and clubs here. In Penang, and here there has been heaps of Americans that are doing semester at sea. There is something like 650 of them, and partying with them was cool, but weird. Thats the most I have seen or hung out with Americans in my whole travels.

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Sunset in Langkawi. The picture doesnt even do it justice.

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Another 5 minutes later. The shades were amazing.

We convinced this girl to donate her bra to Raggae Cafe. They had a bunch already on the wall, so we had to add it to the lot. In honor of the new addition, the owner gave us all free shots! We all signed it (like 10 of us from the hostel), so if you ever are in Langkawi you should check that place out. That was only the start of a crazy night out.

I went from Langkawi to Phuket where I am now. Till next time - stay classy San Diego.

Posted by bejuan99 07:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

I'd honestly have to say- that wasnt all that hard PART DEUX

Haha, I actually wrote too much so I have to split my latest entry. Sorry, but I have a lot to say and I'm sure you are interested (or at least I hope).

Ok, so after I went to Chitwan I headed out for what I thought would be an 18 day trek in the Himilaya to Everest Base Camp. You have two options when you start the trek:

1) Fly into Lukla. From Kathmandu, the 30 minute flight is hair raising at best. The Lukla airfield, at little over 1,000 feet long (10k foot altitude) is strictly STOL (short take off and landing) operations. The runway is at a 20 degree upslope, and landing is only possible into the mountain. There are few aircraft that are designed to land at this type of field, and the Twin Otter is the best. There are a few airlines that fly from Kathmandu daily, and despite all the trekkers that fly into Lukla, and the dangerous nature of the field there have been few accidents. However, that all changed when I was on my way back home. I got word in Namchee Bazaar that Yeti Airlines had a most unfortunate accident flying into Lukla the day before I was heading out. Eighteen passengers died when the Yeti flight was on final approach and encountered turbulence.

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the top of Everest in 1953 was the one who originally conceived of the Lukla airfield. Its original intent was so that supplies could be flown into the Khumbu region (Nepali Himilaya) to develop and build the utterly lacking school system. He would later go on to curse the development of the airport when in a freak accident his first wife and daughter were killed while trying to land in Lukla. He also learned later in his life to hate the field when he realized what easy access it gave to the public, and the impacts said trekkers were having on the Khumbu environment.

2) The other option is to walk in from Jiri. A short bus ride from Kathmandu, this is where the road ends, and it begins an uphill/downhill (repeat) 6 day walk to Lukla. This is not the preferred method to acess the Khumbu, but does save $$ because you dont have to buy the flight, and therefore is done mostly by independent shoestring backpackers.

Other than these two options, there are no roads. Everything has to be carried by human or yak power. Every little grain of sugar, potatoe, piece of wood, bucket, chain, nail, etc... has to be carried up the mountain by a porter.

I was terribly mistaken when I first heard of the job of porter. I associated it more with a guy in a suit waiting outside of a luxury hotel, but in mountaineering a porter is a man (99% of the time) whose sole job is to carry shit on his back. He doesnt care what it is - yak, garbage, people, a stove... it doesnt matter. He gets paid by the kilo, and the faster he moves, the more money he makes. Porters are the backbone of the tourist industry in the Khumbu region, and are more often than not poorly educated, illiterate, and have absolutely no means of accessing health care. As you go up the mountain and you see all these westerners trekking with brand new high performance breathable/warm but light/gore tex/vibram outfits, you see the porters calmly moving along in nothing more than sweatpants and slippers all while carrying 2-3 times the load of an individual trekker. They dont bathe because there is no facilities for them to do so, and whats the point anyway - they only have one pair of clothes. They dont have fancy air circulating/suspension systems for their rucksack - they have a basket with a rope that they attach to their heads to carry their loads. If you ever want to be inspired to do something with absolutely nothing then you should look no further than the Sherpa people of the Khumbu.

Ok, now that you understand a little how it works let me tell you how you can do a trek in the Khumbu. You can either:

- Start in Jiri or Lukla
- Go to Gokyo or Base Camp (or both)
- Hire a guide or porter (or both)

The majority of people on the mountain fly into Lukla, go to Base Camp, and hire a guide and porter. Me, I wanted a challenge so I flew into Lukla (didnt want to add 12 days to walk from Jiri), went to Gokyo and Base Camp, and hired nothing. I really liked being what you would say is an independent backpacker.

Pros
- I was able to create my own agenda. If I got altitude sickness I could stay at a town, or descend with no worry about what "the rest of the group was doing". Also, I was not pushed by a guide to go faster up the mountain than I would have liked because he had to get back for the next group. This fact alone made it more safe to go as a independent trekker than with a guide or with a group

- I could go at my own pace. This is not so much a problem if you hire your own guide or porter - the most impacted is groups. I found that depending on the day I would vary my speed a lot. Some days Id go slow (for my pace) and look around a lot, take side trails, etc... Other days I would be like a vicious dog attacking those hills, passing everything and anyone in front of me.

- If you hire a guide there is quite a bit of interaction between you and them and it is hit or miss whether the guide will be good. In most countries, in order to be a guide of any sort you have to have some level of qualification. That is not the case in Nepal. There could be a chance that your guide can barely speak English, or doesnt really know what he is doing. Most are not specifically trained in altitude sickness, and some even have very little experience. If you do hire a guide you are with them 24 hours a day, and if you dont get along its not so easy just to let them go (as in the case of if you were traveling/trekking with somebody you found along the way).

- Without hiring a guide I would be able to spend significantly less money, which helps with the budget and to make sure Im able to get home somehow when the world tour is over.

Cons

- I wasnt supporting the local economy. With the downturn in tourism in Nepal hitting its highest point in 2003/2004, the country could definately use the additional income.

- I could totally get lost. There is a point on the trek called the Cho La Pass at 5,330 meters (17,500 feet) where just 5 or so days before I went there an Indian fellow died. There was marginal snow cover, and him and his buddy lost the trail got lost while walking a few meters from their group. One decided to go back, looking for the lodge and the other forged on. The man that went back to the lodge lived to tell the story - the man who went on got further lost and eventually froze to death. I didn't know exactly what I was doing, but I do have an excellent innate sense of direction and am pretty good with a map. I was willing to bet I wouldn't get lost.

- With a guide arranging everything, there is no need to worry about where to sleep or any necessary arrangements because he takes care of all this. With the high season for trekking just around the corner there was a chance that by being alone if I showed up to a town that all the lodges would be sold out. This often occurs at Lobuche on the EBC trek.

- I could get sick, and there would be nobody there to help. Well, most guides only have rudimentary first aid training, so if I went with an average guide you dont get a whole lot of confidence from them. Most large groups who have booked their trips online, or in the west have adequate first aid training and equipment but they pay for it. If you book online, or in the west expect to pay 7 to 10 times what I managed to pay by doing it on my own (3-4 times what it would be cost to book a similar trek locally). I educated myself before I left regarding all health risks that I would face on the mountain, and felt that this adequately prepared me for my journey. The predominant issues that come up:
- AMS (acute mountain sickness): Comes in many forms, but is your body's natural reaction to the change in altitude. Mild symptoms include drymouth, peeing a lot, light headaches, nausea, sleeplesness, crazy dreams, and they only get worse from there.
- HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema): Basically your lungs fill with fluid, you get really sick, and die within 24-48 hours if nothing is done. Proceeded by AMS.
- HACE (high altitude cerebral edema): Basically fluid develops in your brain, and causes a stroke. Like HAPE you basically die if nothing is done. While I was there, two Aussies got HACE and had to be helo'd out. Also, it had to be no more than 20 minutes into the start of my grand expedition, and I saw a porter being carried down the mountain who was really sick. The poters dont get a helicopter rescue because they have no money, and as a result most of them die before they can get treatment.
- HAFE (high altitude flatuluence expulsion): My favorite - no shit, this isnt even an excuse for being all nasty up on the mountain. For some reason this happens, and there is only one cure - lettin er rip.
- Diarreah: Lets get serious here. With all that nasty food "that food that even the maggots wont eat - BLM" that I eat on a daily basis, my stomach has formed an iron lining that is impenetrable to bacteria, infection, electro magnetic pulses, etc...
- Sprained anke: I think above all this would be the worst. I had bought pain killers to reduce swelling in case this happened, and some weird athletic tape type stuff. In OCS I had shin splints and a sprained ankle on the same leg, earning me the knickname "hobbles" and still managed to complete the 21 mile hike and 12 mile run during SULEII. I could have pushed with the pain, but luckily nothing ever happened.
- Giving up: Actually this is the worst. Some people just straight up cracked on the trip. Being away from home, in a really dirty environment, pushing yourself everyday is not for everyone. I saw some people just turn around because they were fed up.

Typical day starts by waking up at like 5:30, eat a hearty breakfast, and around 6:00 or so you head out. The duration of the days trek depends on the ascent profile. The number has been widely disputed but your body in general cannot acclimatize to any more than an increase of 400 or so meters per day. Any more than that, and you are putting yourself at risk of HACE, HAPE, AMS, etc. mentioned above. On the way down - its a free for all. You can walk sunrise to sunset. You can go more than the 400 meters per day, but you have to make sure your sleeping altitude is within that guidelines (ie: you can summit a 900 meter peak, but come down to a village 300 meters above the last one you slept at). By the way, all these altitude guidelines are meant for 3,500 meters to 5,500 meters. If you are climbing at anything above 5,500 meters your body fails to acclimatize and you are basically ruining your body slowly by slowly. That is the reason that nobody in the world lives above 5,500 meters.

Typically most of the treks on the way up can be completed by a group in 5 hours or less. For me, I was making it a challenge to test myself to see how fast I could go and would usually end up going faster than everone else I could see on the mountain. What was taking a group 5 hours, I could do in 2.5. This meant I had more time at the lodge for resting and sightseeing around the village where we were staying.

I suppose this is what I meant when I say that it wasnt that hard. I have done some hard things in my life, and it takes a whole hell of a lot to really get me to the point where I have to declare it hard. I would say that doing the trek was hard, but if you have an open mind about it and arent turned off by cold, bed bugs, rats, no toilets, food that looks a little funny, headaches, very little sleep, etc. then I have no doubt you will be able to do it. I am not going to sit here, and tell you how hard it is and how you cant do it just to make myself seem cool - that would be pointless. I think everyone reading this can for sure do it if you are determined.

For me, I thought it was easy. All I had to do was to remember the training I did with the Marine Corps at OCS, and everything I did in the Khumbu was a walk in the park in comparison. Your experiences will be different, but for me all I had to do was remember some of that shit I went through in the past, and it was all ok from there.

Anyways, I will say that I didnt choose the most easiest route. I will just put it this way:

- If you only have a limited holiday, or need to check it off the "to do" list then you head to Everest Base Camp
- Other option is only to go to Gokyo, up the western side
- If you have more time, and you are strong you go to Gokyo first, then over the Cho La Pass and then do the Everest Base Camp. By far the hardest thing to do in the area is the Cho La Pass, and every single guide book and lonely planet will advise against it. They all will tell you that you need crampons, an ice axe, a guide, etc... Fuck that! Warnings like that are for the people who have marginal common sense, and can easily get themselves in trouble. I would say if you think you can handle it then you can, and have a go at it on your own and make it a challenge. I remember looking at it for the first time, and just thinking that there is no way possible to go up that mountain, but when I was at the top you have no idea how good that felt.

Itinerary -

Night Town
1 Lukla (to acclimatize from coming from Chitwan)
2 Phakding
3 Namchee
4 Namchee (acclimatization day)
5 Khumjumg (saw Hillary's wife here)
6 Dole
7 Macherma
8 Gokyo
9 Thalnak (summit Gokyo Ri in the morning - 5360 meters [17,600ft])
10 Lobuche (go across Cho La Pass - 5330 meters [17,600ft])
11 Gorak Shep (visit Everest Base Camp - 5364 meters [17,600ft])
12 Pangboche (summit Kalaa Pattar in the morning - 5600 meters [18,400ft])
13 Lukla

I managed to shave a bunch of days off the trip by going super fast, or pushing beyond what a normal itinerary would include. My original three week itinerary also included a couple days buffer in case I got sick.

For example, I pushed and combined four days of walking into two on the way down, did the Cho La in one day, etc... This allowed me to get back to civilization earlier than I had expected. I didnt shower the whole time, and wore the same clothes so I was really looking forward to a shower and a real bed. I also wanted to get back so I could unwind for some time before I head off to Thailand. For the last 6 or so countries, I have been in an extreme rush to get from one end of the country to the airport to fly out, and that kind of sucks. This time I figure Id take it easy and have a nice slow exit to Nepal, as opposed to running like a crazy man to get my plane. Oh my god, if I told you about how I made the exit from Argentina, and how crazy that was Im sure you wouldnt even believe me... lol.

I told you that I was going to have a go at it alone, and for sure I like it alone but I also teamed up with these French guys, Olivier and Damien for a portion of it. We summitted Gokyo Ri, did the Cho La Pass, and went to Base Camp and Kalaa Pattar together. They had a bit of mountaineering experience in the Alps, but our skills nicely complemented each other. The only problem was that they barely spoke English. I have travelled with people, while not being able to communicate before, so I knew at the end of the day this really was insignificant. I also met two cool Americans on the trail - Chazz (in his 50s or so) from Salt Lake City, and Chris (guy in 30s from Indiana). Chazz stuck out like a sore thumb up there, with his mossy oak hat, huge beard, columbia fleece, and carhartt shorts - but man was that guy an animal. He would race up and down that mountain like a billy goat.

All while I was going about this trek I was thinking about who would ever do this madness with me. I think there really is only two people who I know who I would for sure do this again with. That would have to be Zach Robertson, and his pops - Lord Vorcon (inside joke). Zach grew up as a mountain man, and can sure beat the hell out of me running up a mountain. Z man - if you are reading we should hit up Anapurna, and some 6,000 meter peaks bud. Let me know how that sounds?

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View from airplane on the way into Lukla. If you want to check out the mountains, make sure you sit on the left side of the plane.

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Im sure on the pilots checklist, it goes something like this: item 34) Flying into the face of a mountain (check). Co-pilot, we are a go for heading directly into a mountain...

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Cool mani stones just at the beginning of the hike.

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Nice waterfall near Phakding

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There was a 8 year old kid, who was waving a kukri (curved fighting knife synonymous with the Ghurkas) at these chickens making them fight. When I came there he yelled at me "I am Rambo", and then ran off into the woods.

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The rules of the land: Dont get drunk, be jealous, angry, dont piss anybody off, dont kill anyone. Its like the 5 commandments. Imagine if the US justice system was 5 simple rules how cool that would be?

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Porters doing their thing just after the entrance to Sagmartha National Park

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Close up of the loads they carry. Check out that dudes calves. Hes probably 75 years old.

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Me just outside of Namchee

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At the lodge I stayed in Namchee, aparently Jimmy Carter stayed there in the 80s. They have a lot of pictures with him, and letters of their correspondance saying what a good time he had in the Khumbu, and while staying in Namchee.

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Reflection of mountain against the clouds, Namchee Bazaar

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More Namchee. Namchee is the biggest town in the area. Its a plane flight to Lukla, and then a 7 hour hike to bring everything there.

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Beware of exclamation points!!!!!

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View from about 350 meters above Namchee

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Good view from Everest Hotel of Lhotse and Lhotse Shar

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Me posing with statue of Ed Hillary at Khumjung, where he set up the first school under the Himilaya trust. He went on to build around 200 schools and hospitals in the Khumbu area before passing away. The Khumjung school is by far the best in the Himilaya, and has around 350 students. This is also where, Hillary's second wife, June came to give a speech about how she is now entrusted as the president of the Himilaya trust. More on this later.

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Cool stupa in Khumjung

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There is a huge problem with deforestation, and the ensuing erosion that happens in the Khumbu. Because of this, the National Park has banned the use of burning firewood so the people have turned to biofuel (capturing the methane gas from poo lying in a well), and burning of yak dung. The yak dung is mashed together into a big pile, and then formed into little chipatis which are then shoved on some rocks and dried in the sun. At night, when the sun goes down and it gets cold they go out and collct the chipatis, break them up and burn them all night long. Its efficient, saves resources, and keeps you warm! Its like a win, win, win.

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When your broke like me, there is no options - all you can do is eat onions!

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Imagine this being the view off your front porch?

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Ok, so these pictures are of June Hillary when she came to Khumjung. All the kids went nuts when her helicopter landed, and she was given so many takas (yellow ribbon around the neck) that, you could barely make out where she ended and the takas began.

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We then all gathered in the auditorium of the school, and she gave a speech about how she is entrusted with the future of the Himalaya trust (because Ed died earlier this year), and that the people shouldnt worry about it falling apart. She is a very special woman, and they all look to her like a grandmother. Ed, is looked at like a god. He is considered the godfather of all the Khumbu region, and nearly everyone knows him there. He was a hell of a guy - R.I.P.

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Haha, this Argentino was so proud of his trek, he decided to tag the wall in the lodge

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Great view from Macherma

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Memorial to Italian hiker who died on his way to Gokyo. He got sick, and when they tried to bring him down he died along the way.

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Me at the second lake on the way to Gokyo

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Walking along the second lake with Damien, and Olivier

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Me standing on the top of Gokyo Ri (17,600 ft). These Mike Pizanneli jackets keep you warm!

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Damien on his little private sanctuary. Mine was cooler, but I obviously dont have a picture of myself.

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This picture was taken on the way to get to the Cho La pass. You have to cross over this glacier, and it starts to get really weird on you. It is all ice, but then its covered in almost an inch of rubble of every sort. For some reason the little lakes that were there were every crazy color you can imagine, despite being right next to each other. There was blue, green, grey, purplish (wtf???), etc. Then there was a point where you couldnt cross the water, so we had to take our shoes and pants off, and wade through this leech infested glacial water that soooooo cold.

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And then for some reason there was almost powdery sand (???) it was nuts. It felt like the closest thing you can get to the moon.

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If you cut this picture vertically in the middle, that is where you have to go to get to the Cho La pass. It doesnt look doable at all from this perspective, and when they told me thats where you go I thought they were smoking crack. Its a real hard scrabble that takes almost four hours to work your way up the 750 or so meters to the top. Along the way, you work your way up using your hands and fee on nothing but small rocks that are covered in ice and snow. If you dont pay attention, the rocks slip out from under you (or you slip on the rocks), and you can loose your footing real easily.

An Indian guy died probably 5 days before I crossed over the pass, somehwere very close to here. His group was going along, and he got seperated. In the snow and ice, he got confused, and pressed on. He was with somebody else still at this point, and they decided to head back to the lodge. He tried to push on, got lost, and froze to death somewhere up there.

By the way, the mountain area is filled with death. I didnt talk about it much before, but its a real sober experience. Every turn you make, you see a memorial to this person, or that. Just outside of Lobuche, there has to be 100 or so memorials all in this one spot. Most are for people going to the top, but there is a portion for people who do the Base Camp Trek.

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But once you are on the top, its AWESOME!!!! You cruise on that glacier in the background of this picture for about a half hour, and then...

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You follow this path that goes on the glacier for some more time, and then you descend 500 meters into the valley.

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This picture was taken on the way to Everest Base Camp. You walk along on a small trail cut into the mountain that lies right next to the Khumbu Glacier. Its a glacier, but for some reason its covered on little rockfall that makes it grey.

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This is me at Everest Base Camp. Its strange going there, because you dont exactly get the feeling you do when you summit a peak. Its kind of like "oh, Im here", because there is nothing that definately makes it EBC (as opposed to the top of a peak). Its just a bunch of tents lying around with porters and sherpas smoking, and waiting for their bodies to acclimatize.

It was really cool, and I walked around with the two Americans that I met there (Chazz and Chris), and we talked with the different teams. At the time there was only three teams:

Korea - 10 climbers, 15 sherpas, Cook, etc. (35 or so total)
France and Mexico - 3 climbers (2 French, 1 Mexico), 3 sherpas
Italy - 10 climbers and porters

I found there was definately more teams on the way there. Right now, in the fall season it is good for climbing, but you dont have the same odds as in the spring. The sherpas told me that American teams, as well as others strictly go to the top in the spring. At that time there can be as many as 60 teams, and base camp becomes like a small city at that point.

In following with the fact that I made the I heart Telephonics Tshirts, I thought I would expand the joke to a more international scale. I first started out with just the Telephonics bit, but then decided that I had to add more.

You cant read it probably, but the sign says something along the lines of:

I heart: TC, Mom, FK, CC, MB, AC, BLM, Rolandos, La Parm, Lola, SG, LG, M"C"A, Rathskellar, LM R&M, Dick Stevens, and NCR.

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This picture is of me in front of the Khumbu icefall (on the right), which is from what I hear one of the hardest parts you have to go on to get to the summitt of Everest. Crampons, Ice Axe, rope, and some seriously technical climbing skills are required to scramble up to the top to get to Camp II at 6,500 meters. Above me is the Lho La (pronounced Lola) pass, which I thought would be fitting for wearing the shirt. Its places like that, that seperate the men from the boys. Trying to attempt the Khumbu Icefall as an amateur is like signing your own death warrant.

I was lucky because for about ten minutes, there was no wind and the sun was shining. When it reflects off the glacier it can actually get hot, and I was able to wear the shirt. Otherwise its just Mike Pizanelli jackets for the whole day.

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Picture which doesnt properly describe the violence that occurs whenever you witness an avalanche of this nature

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Khumbu glacier on the way back to Gorak Shep

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View from Kala Pattar in the morning, just before sunrise (18,300 feet). On the way to the top you run out of oxygen about every third step, and find yourself literally choking trying to get more air into your body. Its really weird. At 5,500 meters the relative amount of oxygen in the air is still the same (21%), but with the decreased pressure you are getting about 45-50% less than you would at sea level. This in turn means that your oxygen saturation in your blood will become at most 75% of that at sea level.

By the way, 5,600 meters is higher than anything you will find in the US, Africa (just above Kili), or in Europe

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Beers on safari, in the airplane, on the train, on the boat, on the road, in the street, at the bar, on the bar, under the bar, in the movie theatre, in the ocean, and now on the mountain...

What better place to have a beer than 5,600 meters.

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Shoutout to camera donors. I am trying today to add more names of those who signed up... Keep an eye out for future appearances of the shirt.

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Haha, this one needs some explaining. I was in Kathmandu, and I had to buy a hankerchief or something to wipe the sweat from my brow. I went to a store, and the guy was like - "I think this one is best, i have sold out three times", and I looked at it and knew it was the one.

I dont even smoke, but with a slogan like "God made grass..... Man made booze..... Who do you trust?" I couldnt help but laughing. This picture is from the top of Kala Pattar. In the background is Everest (just to the right of my head)

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This is the memorial for Scott Fischer. He was one of the guys that died in 96 on the Everest Expedition that went wrong, and inspired the book - Into Thin Air. He was the one that used the sat phone to talk to his wife while he was stuck up in a ravaging storm.

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Tengboche Monastery. I love the Thanka painting!

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Outside the monastery

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This is just an example of what the trail is like. If you look closely you will see a zigzagging trail. That is the 650 meter trail down from Tengboche to the river valley where you then take a suspension bridge to the other side, and then ascend another 550 meters.

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Oh yeah, this was the airplane that the Skydive Everest team was using. They had to rent this airplane from Switzerland and breitling is sponsoring it, and for $33k you can jumpat 29k feet (using bottled oxygen) and land at 13k (Syangboche airfield). Its a tricky thing to do, because a million myriad factors all have to come into play before you can actually have a go at the jump.

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Here I am posing with Tom, the leader of the Skydive Everest outfit. Tom is now famous, and while we were there he was interviewed and the clip was eventually aired by CNN, CBS, NBC, etc. You can see more in this video from USA today:

http://usatoday.feedroom.com/index.jsp?fr_story=FRdamp305947

The pictures do none of it justice. You have to see for yourself!

People in Bing - If you are going to Alumni weekend, keep the spirit alive. Dance offs at the Rat earn you double points for the night. Handjobs in the DJ booth gets you 20 points. Tommy Naps stealing the phone from the lobby of the hotel next to the rat, only to smash on the face of McGlinn gets you 10 points. Chris Russel and Alissa Kane reunion is 1,000,000 points.

Vote for the Lama, Boo for 92', and keep it real folks. Later!

B

Posted by bejuan99 05:41 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

I'd honestly have to say - that wasnt all that hard...

-17 °C

Ok, so obviously I did the Everest Base Camp trek, and came out alive. There is a lot I have to say about this, but first I have to back up to where i left off.

After bungee jumping on the Tibetan border, I headed back to Kathmandu for a pretty much uneventful day, and then headed to Chitwan National Park. Along with the Sagmartha & Anapurna National Park areas, Chitwan is the third largest draw for tourists coming to Nepal. There is a fairly straight forward program that most visitors to Chitwan follow, which includes:

- Elephant safari (not looking for elephants, but rather - the safari is done by riding on the back of an elephant)

This was pretty sweet. Its a bit uncomfortable riding on the back of an elephant for two to three hours, but once you get over this, its no worries. I was staying at a hotel where there also was a group of 15 or so Ukranians that I got grouped with for the elephant safari. I have been told by all the tour guides in the world that the worst tourists are: Pakistani, Indian, Russian, and Ukranian. Dont ask why, but these guys definately lived up to their reputation. Nonetheless, the elephant safari was cool, and we saw boars, peackocks, spotted deers, barking deers (which make noises like a dog - weird), monkeys, quite obviously other elephants, and rhinos. The rhinos were pretty special because when I was in Africa, we searched and searched with no luck for the African black rhino. That particular day, we saw about 12 of them, which is an almost unprecedented number. Most of the time you are lucky to see one or two, but not twelve.

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Look at how cute the little one is

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Boars - special from the book of the Shanameh, where my name comes from

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Now you know why they need a bath. Just look at that nasty ass river.

- Elephant bath

This was cool, and definately a new experience. The way that it works is that the elephant drivers that are in Chitwan have been with their elephants for their whole lives. Its like a mairrage of sorts, but anyways - everyday after the elephants go on the safaris they come to the river to get a bath by their drivers. Our elephant wasnt all that dirty, so it was about a 20 minute affair that mostly included the elephant picking up a shitload of water, and using his trunk to splash it on his back (just so happened to be where I was sitting). Then, you brush the elephant and any wounds are taken care of then.

The elephant that I gave the bath to (I suppose more or less it gave itself the bath), was the one owned by the hotel I was staying at (Hotel Parkside), and he had a little home in the back that the managers residence overlooked. Apparently he was the one of the lot who could suck up the most water in his trunk. Just how much, I am not sure but whenever the wave of water hit me it felt like somebody was tossing a 5 gallon bucket at my face.

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Before

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After

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Cool picture I took with a butterfly in hibiscus flower

Now, I have to explain something here. I knew that before going to Chitwan that right after I would be heading out for trekking, so I decided to bulk up. I figured two or three weeks hustling around in the mountains that I would lose a considerable amount of weight. In preparation for my travels I decided to eat Dahl Bhaat for two meals a day every day. The insane amount of starches in each meal would leave me with enough extra weight to remain healthy while in the Himalaya.

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Hence, why this buffalo cannot believe why I am so fat!

- Visit to the Tharu museum

This was pretty cool. It explained a lot about the Tharu people, and my guide Gopal knew everything about his people. The Tharu's are the people that live in the southern portion of Nepal. Nobody knows where exactly they came from, and their past is somewhat hidden. What is known is that around 150 years ago, they started to come to Chitwan and establish an agricultural society. The area around Chitwan was previously uninhabited because of the forested areas were infested with Malaria carrying mosquitoes. Well, the Tharu's had absolutely no problem coming in and using the land because they were for the most part immune to the Malaria disease. It has not been scientifically proven, but the belief is that the Tharu people carry this immunity because of their diet. Every Tharu dish is incredibly spicy, and the chili that is dumped in all their food is what is believed to have led to their success in those previously mentioned forested areas. So, if you are going to take away anything from this - just remember the next time when we go to a restaurant and I start dumping Franks Hot Sauce, or Tobasco on everything I am really looking out for mine and your well being in trying to prevent the spread of Malaria. So waiter - please pass the extra spicy hot sauce, before we all get sick and die!

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This woman is knee deep in shit! No literally, they take cow and buffalo manure, mix with dirt, throw in a dash of binding agents, and they have an unlimited supply of material to build their houses. They use the stuff as insulation to keep them cool in the summer, and warm in the winter. Whenever it gets hot, just go outside get yourself knee deep in some shit, and step it out...

- A traditional dance program

On one of the nights when you are in Chitwan you will inevitably be shuffled into the community hall to witness the stick dancing. I went with my friend Kezia, and what I witnessed was madness. The traditional Tharu stick dancing has to be the highest form of coordinated dance that I can think of. There is two guys beating on drums, while maybe 25 men of all ages dance around them with sticks. The sticks are beated rhythmically to make a sound, but the hard part is that the guys are going around in a circle, dancing around the drummers, while hitting the sticks of their neighbors. If they slip up, they break the fingers of themselves or their neighbors.

I found this video on youtube that you can check out. This was a smaller performance than the one that I saw, but it gives you a feeling of what it is all about:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nzq3W4nLGjs&NR=1

- Visit to Elephant breeding center

Im not sure really how to describe this one. Basically the Elephant breeding center is a large rectangular, fenced in area where Elephants are born. To be honest, I didnt fully understand its purpose. What I could gather from it was that the intention is to raise elephants, so that their dung can be used for fertilizer. When the elephants become of age, they are trained to be used for elephant safari, and get used to having an driver giving them commands, bathing them, etc. This sounds like a good plan in theory, but what they cant fully account for is this: male elephants are too dangerous to keep there, so the breeding center is filled with only females and young. The wild male elephants who are allowed to roam all around the national park, but quite often attack the breeding center to find a quick shag. The week before I was there, one broke in and busted loose a female - they ran off into the woods, and didnt return for two weeks (how romantic). When the mother had the baby, the father came back and tried to break in. They told us that he came back to see the kid, but the joke between me and Kezia was that he was really coming back for seconds...

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Interesting fact #346: Female elephants have a 22 month gestation (new word of the day - basically means pregnancy) period, the longest of any land animal.

- Bird watching program

Gopal was definately on the ball with this one, but I was in outer space during this early morning walk. I have never given much thought to birdwatching, as it doesnt seem all that interesting, but I did learn quite a bit. To be a real birdwatcher, you have to have a real keen eye to distinguish the subtle differences between the species. The most interesting that we saw was the hornbill, which is pretty rare to see. My pictures are ok at best, so I had to grab this one off the internet. The unique hollow bill is used to produce a mating call which is tuned to the shape of the bill.

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Elephants coming back from the fields, women going out to tend to the fields. The elephants go out with their drivers in the morning, cut a mess load of grass, and then the elephants bring it back to the breeding center so they can eat during the night.

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This place is called mirror of the forest lake.

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Horn Bill

- Canoe safari

This involved getting 15 or so of the heaviest westerners that I have ever seen squished into a .5 meter wide canoe that was hardly seaworthy. With the water line about 1 cm from the top of the canoe, and the largest couple I have ever seen in my life jumping whenever we saw any wildlife, the thought of having to swim through the crocodile infested waters to shore was one that I had rehearsed in my mind over and over. We saw the shortbill and longbill crocodiles. The longbill crocodile is very rare to see, and the Chitwan preservation society has now opened up a crocodile breeding center to bring the longbill numbers up.

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FSU

Probably one of the more significant events of Chitwan was the fact that I got to drive for the first time in four months. All I had to do was ask, and the owner of the hotel let me have free reign with his truck and motorcycle. The truck was cool, because it was this old world war II Russian troop transport which had plenty of personality, and a handcrank to boot (just in case the push start didn't work - lol).

While I was there I also made friends with a British girl, Kezia, who was volunteering at the local school for a couple of months. I got to see her in action with the kiddies, which was cool, and her students are supercute. Her parents own a quaint little hotel in the south of England, near Devon. I found this really cool because when I was younger it always was an aspiration of mine to own a hotel. The real reason why I was so into it was because I had always dreamed about sleeping in a different room every night of the week, and having someone to clean my room for me. Those days have come and gone, but regardless - in the name of free advertising if you are ever in the Devon area and need a place to stay you should look up the Darnley Hotel.

http://www.darnleyhotel.co.uk/rest.htm

I god to honest took about 1.5 hours to write about the presidential election, and then I lost it all because the computer failed to save and did something weird so this part was lost. So, if it means anything I actually had a better section than I have now, so you will just have to bear with me.

As far as the presidential election goes - I am set to go to the American embassy and vote on Tuesday for Obama, but more important than that was what I thought about during the trek. Forget about what you traditionally know about presidential elections, throw all that out of the window, and think about this: If you had your choice of anybody from any point in time, who would you chose as the presidential candidates?

I came up with two really good ones, and before you skip this part and look at the pictures I think you should hear what I have to say.

1) Dalai Lama. As the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people I think he would be the best presidential candidate of the lot. For those who are unaware, the Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of Buddha (and therefore a living god). If that isnt a good enough reason to put him in office, then hear me out.

In my opinion he is the exact opposite of Dubya - he is caring, compassionate, and is well liked (sans Chinese Govt.). He has nothing to gain by being in power, other than the preservation and progress of society. In accordance with the Buddhist belief system he does not pursue material wealth as a means of self satisfaction. He doesnt have any coked up drinking buddies who he is best friends that benefit from him being in office. His belief system preaches that of non-violent protest. He is the winner of a nobel peace prize, and is extremely well educated. If you want to meet with him, this is fully possible as long as you have a good enough reason. Just set an appointment with his assistants and he will give you ten minutes of his time. Imagine trying that with Dubya. In my mind he is exactly what this nation needs. He is down to earth, and understands the needs of his people.

I also have a world of respect for the man because of his history and difficulties he has faced. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, the son of poor farmers is the 5th of 16 children to be born in that family. He suffered a hard life on the farm in rural Tibet untill at the tender age of 4 he was pronounced as the Dalai Lama, and would assume responsibilities of the Tibetan people. At 15 he assumed total control of his people as the political and spiritual leader of Tibet. In 1959, in fear of the Chinese Govt. taking his life he fled to Dharamsala, India where he has been living in exile ever since. I think that with all that the man has been through, and with all of his qualifications that he is the ideal candidate.

2) Hugo Chavez. Before you go ahead and tell me that I am crazy, and I have no idea what im talking about, you should hear me through. Yeah yeah, I know his agenda on the outside isnt the most democratic, I believe that as a leader he has exactly what it takes to turn this country around. His socialist agenda (take from the rich, give to the poor), and his land distribution schemes are exactly what the nation of Venezuela needs. If you took his personalities as a leader, and shifted them to US conditions I think he would be very successful.

I have to say that South America is by far the most beautiful place that I have visited (as a continent), and I really feel for their people. Long dismissed by the west, almost all nations of SA have been thoroughly abused and their potential never unlocked. Chavez is trying to change all that. Picking up where Che left off, he has inspired a continent, stood face to face with the US (and has suceeded), developed strong political ties with key (non-western) nations, has faced an attempted coup (CIA backed) sucessfully, and has brought Venezula into the forefront of world politics. Through the Bolivian revolution he has brought a philosophy of Latin American integration, and has inspired hope for millions. He has forged key non-western miltary and political ties that will ensure the sucess of his nation (namely Iran, China, Argentina, and Russia). He also comes from on impoverished childhood. I truly believe that this characteristic is critical for one to be a good leader. I have a much easier time relating to people who have had struggle in their lives, and I think if you are handed everything on a silver platter that it will be infinitely harder for you to be a successful leader. In 2007, he managed to pay off the IMF and World Bank 5 years early, and has told them never to come back. He is utilizing his nations resources successfully to ensure his nations place in the global economy of today.

Like our founding fathers, Chavez is willing to stand up for what is right. He is willing to stand face to face with the western powers (similar to how Jefferson, Washington, Adams, etc... fought against the British) and has won in most instances. He has forged alliances with key non-western nations that are willing to help his agenda rather than hinder (similar to how the US was formed with French blood during the revolution). His charismatic personality, and his agendas have won him considerable clout in the eyes of South Americans. Despite being demonized, threatened, and scorned by the west because he doesn't want to play by our rules, he has assisted the US in more ways than one would think:

- Chavez initiated a program to provide cheaper heating fuel for low-income families in several areas of the US. The program was expanded in September 2006 to include four of New York City's five boroughs, earmarking 25 million gallons of fuel for low-income New York residents at 40% off the wholesale market price. That quantity provides enough fuel to heat 70,000 apartments, covering 200,000 New Yorkers, for the entire winter.

- He has also made considerable donations to Katrina victims, with Venezuela being the first nation to offer aid to the battered gulf region.

- He has also offered to low income families in the Northeast discounted oil to heat their homes during the winter months.

Otherwise:

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- I will give you $10 if you can name me two people in this picture...

- In MotoGP news, five time world champion Valentino Rossi has taken the world by storm, and with the recent first place finish at Twin Ring Motegi he has clinched the world title for 2008. After two years of having given up the world champions position, the Doctor is back in winning form! While the governing commision was announcing the winners, Rossi in his true comical fashion managed to don a tshirt with the Italian slogan "Scusate il ritardo" (english for: sorry for the delay) with a clock pointing to the 8:00 position referring to his 8 overall world championships (6 in MotoGP, 1 in 125cc, and 1 in 250cc).

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During this past weeks race at Phillip Island (Australia), a track that I have been to during holidays in the land down under, hometrack favorite Casey Stoner went on for the win leaving Rossi and American Nicky Hayden to round out the podium. It was an interesting battle between the former world champions, with Rossi sneaking up from behind with his worst starting position of the season to snipe out Hayden on the final lap and just managing to take the second spot on the podium. Despite losing a position to the podium to the newly crowned world champ, Hayden was quite pleased with his third place finish. Danny Pedrosa crashed out on the Australian circuit, nearly leaving Casey Stoner with a second place finish to the season. This may be dissapointing for the 22 year old Spaniard, who will have to relinquish his number two plate to his former training mate.

There are two more races to go for the season, Malaysia, and Valencia. It will be an interesting finish to the 2008 season, as many teams are gearing up for the shuffling of riders, and the barrage of winter testing that is set to kick off very soon.

- Up and coming young professional, Bill Cullen is up to his usual antics again. I will quote MediaPosts "Just an Online Minute" because I like how they so eloquenly captured the exchange with another female at the MIXX afterparty at Jay-Z's 40/40 club in downtown NYC.

"The best part of the night, besides catching some advertising professionals dancing on a table, was when Bill Cullen, account executive at EyeWonder, "tricked" a female friend into thinking he was about to splash her with liquid from the glowing cocktail.

Unfortunately, there was a little left in the cup so it was less of a "trick" and more of a "hey, I poured Longtail Cocktail on your head, enjoy."

Classy Bill, Classy.

- If you go back to the entries regarding my travels in Peru, you will remember the widespread protests that were occuring throughout the country. The focus at the time was on food prices as well as complaints about the Presidents dealings with foreign investors. The people were upset, and wanted change. Well, as of this morning, President Alan Garcia's whole cabinet of ministers offered to resign upon allegations of bribery associated with oil concessions made to foreign investors.

MORE CONTINUED IN NEXT POST!!!

Posted by bejuan99 22:53 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Im about to do something crazy....

Wow, Nepal is nuts! I love this place. Before I get into everything that is going on, I would like to give a shoutout to Ray Hartmeyer, and Jeff Buttler's girlfriend. Ray - your the man; Id take you into battle any day. Nancy, I thought we were friends...

As far as Jeff Buttler's girlfriend, I don't think I have ever met you before but Matt Hwalek says your keeping up with some of the travels I have been doing. I appreciate the support, and most certainly hope you enjoy reading. I will do my best not to let you down!

Well, you didn't really think I was going to give away the crazy thing that I am about to do first thing now did you? Pfff, your going to have to wait till the end for that one.

I am going to start with the camera situation. I am planning on doing some trekking (more on this toward the end), and I have designed a shirt to thank all the folks who have donated to the camera fund to date. I have sent out some requests to the people who I think would be interested in donating, and if you choose to that's cool - I will add you to the shirt, and if not - no worries. I understand.

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Front with bracelet that was blessed by monk in monastery at Bodnath

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Back

A hell of a lot has happened since I have been here, and its hard to catch up and remember it all. I think I left off when I got to Nepal. Kathmandu is a bustling city with many boroughs to it. The main tourist area, Thamel is where I have been staying. For the past week or so I have been posted up in Kathmandu Guest House. This is a UNESCO site, and was the place in the 70s where the Beatles stayed on their tour of Nepal and India. Its pretty sick. For $25 a week you get a hotel room, and they have a large flat screen in the lobby with 130 or so channels. Catching up on news makes me so happy, you have no idea.

Nepal is great if you are on a budget. Its one of the poorest country in the world, and therefore also one of the cheapest. In a ranking I found on the internet that compares GDP, Nepal ranks 189 of 207 ranked nations in terms of national wealth.

Also on there, other countries I have visited or are going to visit:
- Uganda: 192/207
- Tanzania: 184/207
- Cambodia: 187/207
- Vietnam: 156/207
- Egypt: 123/207
- Greece: 35/207
- Argentina: 76/207

The national meals are MoMo (kind of like a wonton, but better), and Daal Bat (rice with like ten other unknown things). You can get ten MoMos for 20 rupees (like $.25 cents), which will suffice for a good meal or you can get two servings if you are really hungry. For a super size meal, you can go to a Thakali restaurant and order up some Daal Bat for 125 rupees at most ($1.60) , which comes with unlimited refills of any of the ten items that makes up Daal Bat. Souvenirs are cheap, and so is trekking gear. All the famous name brands here (North face, Marmot, even the European brands) are copied with similar materials as the originals and can be purchased for ridiculously low prices. If you have a knack for bargaining you can get a North Face shell with fleece liner (normally $300+ in the states) for about $15. Nepal is home to the worlds best trekking, and every year tons of people come here to get their ass to the top of a mountain. The two most popular treks are the Anapurna, and Everest Base Camp (or EBC), with the Anapurna drawing more visitors than EBC.

Nepal is a country that is very unknown in the western world. Situated between China (Tibet), and India it is in a constant power struggle to maintain its identity and prevent calamity between the two powerhouses of Asia. You may have heard some very negative things about Nepal as well. There is a communist party that is alive and well here. Until earlier this year there has been a constitutional monarch here with a King holding most of the power in the country. Because of widespread corruption that has occurred amongst the royal family down to friends and family this nation has never prospered. Nepal ranks 131st in the world in terms of the relative amount of corruption that occurs in the government. The people are the only ones who suffer. For two decades the Communist Maoists fought against the corruption and decided to clean up the government with widespread assassinations and guerrila style attacks on individuals and outposts known to be dealing in stealing from the people. With their communist (more like socialist) agenda, they won the hearts and minds of the poor and were provided sanctuary in the jungles of the western portion of the country.

The Prime Minister (currently in NY for UN general assembly) is the current representative of the communist party (also known as Maoists). On May 28, 2008 the historical first meeting of the Constitutional Assembly (CA) occured. This represented a leap forward toward democracy and the modernization of this third world country because they sure as hell need it. The electricity in the Kathmandu Valley (where the majority of the people live) is on for about 40% of the time. In other far reaching areas of the country, this value drops significantly to somewhere around 15% of the time. There is widespread pollution here, especially of the lakes and rivers. The most common form of transport here is by foot. If you took the breakdown of the different forms of available, more transportation of goods in this country is done by foot than air, rail, and ground transportation combined. The roads are poor (oh yeah, there are only like three of them), and most of the time the dirt road is washed away in landslides from heavy monsoon rains. Schools are not mandatory, and most of the time the people cannot afford to send their children to school. There is widespread drug use by the youth. If you go out late at night (midnight constitutes "late" here) then you will see the little beady eyes of children from 10 to 16 years old hiding in the cracks and crevaces of the city like cockroaches. They huff glue from a paper bag because it is the cheapest form of high they can get. They lie to the tourists and tell them that they live on the street because the foster home parents beat them, then they look for sympathy by buying them bread. They like it the bread heated up because they are so malnourished that they have little to no saliva to wash down unheated bread without water. Walking in the streets, as a tourist you are offered hashish by every second person, and it almost becomes a comedy to turn them down. Apparently cannibus grows on the side of the road here, and therefore represents a nearly free source of income. Begging is also a more prosperous outcome than trying to succeed with a job, as you could potentially earn 2 to 3 times the amount of money you would earn by begging as opposed to working. The highest earning jobs are in the tourism industry, and then even then a guide would expect to save enough to buy a small home made of straw, reeds, and cow dung walls (no bathroom or floors) in roughly a decade. Despite all this, the people are some of the happiest I have ever seen. This is probably because of their faith, but they for sure have no problems dealing with what in the west would break most people.

Nepal used to be dangerous for tourists, with Maoist abductions happening on a regular basis. More often then not the encounters with the guerillas would involve the tourists being taken hostage at machine gun point to some unknown location. From there the guerrillas would request a ransom of $10 to $50 and would give the tourists a half hour lecture on what their goals and aims are. Then the tourists would be released, but not before they were given a receipt for the ransom. That receipt could then be taken to the tourism board in Kathmandu and turned in for payment back to the tourists, no harm done. More often than not, the tourists would keep the receipt as a souvenir. Stories have been told of Israelis even bargaining with the Maoists, to knock the price of the ransom down. With the abolition of the monarch, and the addition of a Maoist Prime Minister representative there is very little violence occurring over the dispute of power. The country is in the earliest stages of the creation of a constitution, and with such little time that has passed since the first meeting of the Constitutional Assembly (CA) the people have no basis of judgment to be upset about. In one year time this country will either be on the rebound from its current state, or it will be in all out civil war. Will the new government deliver on the promises of economic growth, the introduction of hydroelectric power, and increased education? Only time will tell. This makes this current moment an excellent time to be in Nepal. The Maoists are happy, and there is little turmoil (well at least relatively little turmoil).

Oh yeah, did I ever mention that I have found the key to time travel? Well, as absurd as this sounds the year here in Nepal is 2065. With the miracles of modern technology, in one days travel I am fully capable of going many decades into the future. Marty McFly, eat your heart out - I didn't even use a Delorian or Flux capacitor! In all seriousness, the Nepali calendar is years ahead of ours, and it really is 2065 here.

There are three main areas that you have to hit up if you go to Nepal. They are 1) Kathmandu Valley, 2) Chitwaan National Park, and 3) The Himalaya of which I have done all three. Each area has its own ethnic group, the Newars, Tharu, and Sherpas according to the forementioned areas. In my first days here I spent a lot of time in the valley. Namely:

Pashupatinath - This is the largest Hindu temple in Nepal. Tourists are not allowed to go to the main temple, but there is a whole lot to see other than this. The Hindu religion is so complex, I cant even begin to get my hands around it (for example there are 33 million gods!). As far as ceremonies go - forget about it. Just about every day there is some sort of festival. The biggest, which I got here for the end of is the Indie Jatra festival in Kathmandu. There was a lot of hubub about this, and I will mention this later. So anyways, Pashaputinath isn't really a temple, but more like a series of temples (around 250) that form the center of Nepali Hinduism. I wont go into all the details, but the main area is formed around the Bagmati River. On one side, there is an area to worship the dead. There is a series of ceremonies that must be performed to a schedule by holy men in honor to worship the dead. On the other bank of the river is two separate areas for cremating remains. This is probably the most interesting thing that I have ever witnessed. In as little as two hours after death, bodies are brought to this temple and are burned, with the ashes spread into the river. The family performs the ceremony if they are capable of doing it right, and if not there is a holy man for hire. It is a complicated process, but the end effect after 2 hours for men, 3 to 5 for women (because fat burns slower) is nothing but a pile of ashes. It is somewhat morbid to watch, but is fascinating.

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Da boyz!

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Area where people perform the holy ceremonies to worship the dead

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Part of the ceremonies

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Cremation

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Towards the end

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Washing hands after

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Milk baba - this guy only drank milk for his whole life

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Overview of Pasha from the hill

Bodnath - This is the largest stupa in Nepal, and is the home away from home for all the Tibetan Buddhists living in exile in Nepal. There is a large community of the Tibetans, and this area has become a center for learning for westerners trying to learn about Tibetan Buddhism. There are many monastery's there that are available for visit, and are really special. It is there that I had a Buddhist bracelet that I bought in Kathmandu blessed by the head priest to give the wearer (me) good luck, long life, and an excellent trek. There were a lot of super stoners from the states who had their own ideas about the world that I met there.

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How 90% of the world lives

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Baktapur - This UNESCO world heritage site is amazing. Its the best kept model of Newar architecture, and for the most part the site is untouched from centuries past. Walking down the streets brings you back in time. Durbur square is absolutely amazing, but you can be much more satisfied if you just take the back alleys and learn all the ins and the outs of the place. Off the beaten path is way better than following the tourist route. It was there that I witnessed the elephant festival where these guys carried a bamboo elephant and rang a bell and chased children around. The whole city turned up for this, and it was quite amazing when the elephant would slow and then run after all the children sending them in a scurry.

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Pottery square

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The community dentist

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Basically what I look like at this point in my travels

Patan - This is a suburb of Kathmandu which holds the densest of the Durbur square architecture, as well as the most intricate. Just about every town has a Durbur Square, and Patan takes the cake. It is absolutely beautiful with such intricate wood carvings that with age look many times better than if they were new.

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This guy is like the airline for hindus

Swayambhunath - Pronounced Swayanbu, and also known as the monkey temple is a mix of Hindu and Buddhist architecture that is most well known for the stupa that overlooks the city. Here there is a large clan of monkeys that hang out all day and eat everything in sight. The temples have outstanding views of Kathmandu, and because its vicinity to the city center this is the most visited sight in Kathmandu aside from Durbur Square.

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Durbur Square, Kathmandu - There is a lot of cool buildings here, but the most interesting is the "one tree temple", which it is said that this three story pagoda style temple was built of a single tree, and the home of Kumari - the living goddess. This 11 year old girl is said to be the living goddess of Kathmandu Valley, and is worshiped justly. When she becomes 13 years of age she will get married, and another Kumari will be announced.

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Main temple durbur

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As I previously mentioned, the Indie Jatra festival is a month log festival in September. On the last day there is a large festival in Durbur square where many animals are sacrificed, and the procession of the Kumari (living godess) and her undergods (Ganesh, and I forget the other) are wheeled around in their chariots for everyone to see. Well, when I went to check this out it just so happened that the new democratic government decided to tighten its budget by not funding the festivals, or by paying for the Kumari to live. Well, the people didn't take to this too lightly, and there was widespread chaos. There was a confrontation with the police where I was the only international press on scene. There was a phalanx of riot police that were confronting youth that were upset because they felt the government was trying to do away with their traditions, and their culture. The protests were mostly peaceful, untill rocks started flying, and people were beaten. I had to go bungee jumping the next day and bailed early, but apparently it went on all night. When I was there, I was the only tourist/westerner so I made buddies with the camera crew (I never cared much for reporters - they take all the glory) of Adventure TV (local Nepali TV). They explained everything that was happening, and offered to give up their motorcycle helmets that they were wearing to protect against flying rocks. The situation got real tense as people threatened to storm the house of Kumari, and while I was standing there I noticed a two star general, with a major who was standing by with a radio to pass the order to the soldier who was standing next to him with a tear gas launcher. Well, it got the blood pumping, but I had to retire that night. I left Kathmandu for a couple of days and when I returned I went back to Durbur Square, and it was crazy. The people (not police) had quarantined the area off and were manning roadblocks and were controlling who was going in and out. When I got to the square I noticed it looked like a battleground. Rocks where everywhere, the place was a mess, and everything that could have been tore down was. The whole city basically shut down in fear of widespread looting.

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Kumari - the living godess

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Ganesh

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I love Adventure TV!

On top of all this controversy over the festival there was also protests regarding the night life. The new government, in an effort to end red light dance clubs instilled a mandatory 11:00 close time for all bars and dance clubs. The rationale is that these red light dance clubs get more and more risque as the night goes on, and eventually the women get crazy and do things that wouldn't happen if they close early. Well, these dance clubs are duck sauce - let me tell you. I saw one that was called "lucky Buddha shower dance". Now, I have been on the road for quite some time and its been a while since I have had any interaction with naked ladies, so I thought Id give it a go. Well its basically a strip club atmosphere minus the strip club. There are a bunch of horny guys sitting around paying waaay to much money for watered down drinks to watch Indian girls dance with all of their clothes on. As far as the shower dance goes - that is literally what it means. The same Indian girls, once done with their warm up routines do the same dances under a ring which forms basically a giant shower. I went in, had a look just to say I had been there and done that, and skedaddled. The problem with the early shut down is that this leaves a lot of bar owners in a tight spot. They have had to fire a significant portion of their bar staffs, and the girls and dance club owners have all protested that its ridiculous, and it is. Well anyways, there has also been widespread protest about this. The most common sight to see from the bar owners is a group of 150 to 200 of them chanting with flaming torches running about Thamel. So far 70 have been arrested and their vehicles seized???

Ok, so aside from the Kathmandu Valley I went to Chitwaan, and bungee jumping. The bungee jumping was at this place, The Last Resort on the Tibetan border. To get there you have to take a chicken bus 6 hours on this road that would make most people crap their pants. It was so bad - I think I counted 7 absolute wrecks of buses on the way (and an unknown number that are lost to the bottom of the valley). Once there, you get weighed in (the bungee they use is dependent on your weight) and then wait your turn to crap your pants. This one I went to is the second highest in the world (first in Sun City, South Africa) at 160 meters (550 feet). I tell you I have done some crazy stuff in my day, but this by far had to be the craziest. I think that this is the closest that you can come to experiencing the feeling one gets before death. When you stand out on this tiny platform its not so bad, but diving head first into this valley with nothing to hold on to it gets a little crazy. Well I did my jump and in classic cowboy style I yelled out a big ol' U.S.A. at the top of my lungs that gave everyone at the viewing platform a laugh. When I did hit the lowest point I started into a high speed spin that got my head a little loose, but I held my lunch. When you get to the bottom you have to climb back up through the jungle and it was here that I had my first experience with leeches. One of those suckers got a hold of my foot, and apparently they have some sort of a mucus or enzyme that prevents your blot from clotting. So that area where he was oozed blood for about two hours - it was a little disturbing.

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There's no highway to it, but it sure as hell is danger zone!
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Valley
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Me!

Dude, I have to be at the airport tomorrow morning at 4:00, and I still have to put the pictures to this post so you get to hear about Chitwaan when I get back.

Oh yeah, to the crazy part. Tomorrow I fly to Lukla for a 20 day trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp via Gokyo Lakes, and Kalaa Pataar. I suppose that would not be crazy under normal conditions, but the crazy part is that I am going alone without a guide. There's a lot of reasons why I am choosing this way, but I will only explain one.

Many of you who are reading this may think I am crazy. At first glance some of the things I have done may seem for sure to indicate lunacy, but actually everything I do is quite controlled. There is very little in life that will intimidate me enough that I will not try, and this is no exception.

I will attempt to prove to you that anyone out there can do the unthinkable if they set their mind to it. Ever since I was a kid and I read Into Thin Air by John Krakaur, I have always wanted to climb Everest. Well, I don't quite have the time or the money (three months, $100k), so the best I can do for now is base camp. I am attempting to prove that anybody (at least I can speak from a male perspective) can travel the world for months at a time having a blast doing some of the most ridiculous things known to man. I am of average fitness, average intelligence, and have little to no trekking experience, but by reading one book and by being determined not to fail I will be successful.

People have died on this trek, but for me failure is not an option. I have danced with the grim reaper before, but I vow that he will not get the best of me. I cannot fail because:

1) I am going on the smallest budget possible. If anything happens I will not be able to pay any doctors that would help me out for a butload of $$. Time to suck it up.

2) My travel insurance does not cover extreme trekking, or altitudes above 3,000 meters rendering helicopter rescue out of the question if I am in trouble.

3) I paid $290 for a flight to Bangkok, and I will not lose out on this no matter what it takes!

Well, anyways I am so done with this post, so after a three week hiatus I hope to get some good stories and some good pictures back to you guys. In the meanwhile, keep reading and around September 14th I should be back, so check back around that time.

Ok, time to go on some tangents:

You know what - I really love Al Jazeera television! I actually prefer it to CNN. Despite what is portrayed in the west, the television network, run out of Doha, Qatar is actually quite moderate. They portray many more stories that effect the world rather than being "US-Euro" centric. They also try and get to the root of the issues, and dig deep to give a good understanding of the subject matter. Just because they are an Arab run television network, and are essentially the voice of the middle east they should not be portrayed as they are in the west. There is an excellent documentary "Control Room" that shows the difference in the nature of western television juxtaposed with Arab philosophies and the inner workings of the Al Jazeera central network in Doha.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_Room_(film)

I haven't been following the campaigns recently, but it sounds like a power struggle where one week the GOP is up, then the next week the Dems are down, and so forth. I did, however watch this morning the Larry King interview with former President (and currently the man) Bill Clinton. His rhetoric was for the American people to drop the controversy over who is doing what in the campaign, and to choose who they feel will do the most to restore the American economy, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and bring America back to being at the forefront of the global economic engine that will bring prosperity back to the American public. His feeling was that the Democratic ticket more adequately represents the ideas and leadership that will bring us toward the ultimate ideals of the American public.

In MotoGP news, Valentino Rossi is one race away from clinching the world title this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan. With just three races to go, and an 87 point advantage to second place in the points (Casey Stoner) Valentino Rossi, the 5 time world champion is downplaying the pressure and is playing it cool in preparation for the upcoming race. This is a very exciting time for the former world champion, as for the past two years he has seen his chances of victory slip away during the last few races of the 2006, and 2007 seasons. We dont want to jynx it though. Of Rossi's 87 MotoGP victories, he has never taken a first place on a four stroke monster at Motegi.

In the wake of American Nickey Hayden's return to the podium at Indianapolis, renewed interest in his sucess has revealed itself in a new deal with Italian manufacturer Ducati for the 2009 season. With this comes the switch from French Michelin rubber to the Japanese Bridgestone.

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Indianapolis Podium - Its great to see the rookie Lorenzo up there, as well as the Kentucky Kid. Go Yamaha!!!!

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Rossi explaining in detail to Danika Patrick how hes going to give it to her later that night

Posted by bejuan99 20:18 Archived in Nepal Comments (2)

Reflections...

Wow - it really seems that this world is getting crazier and crazier by the minute.

Lets look back and reflect on some of the events that have occurred over the past week:

- In response to the signing of a deal between Poland and the US to install (LM hahah) air defense missile interceptors, Russia has flexed its military muscle by participating in war games with the not so friendly to the US Venezuela. Normally this would not be considered a big deal, however Russia has sent Tu-160 Blackjack Strategic bombers which are capable of deep strike to the heart of the US. The blackjack is a swing wing supersonic heavy bomber which is similar in capabilities, looks, and performance to the US B-1B Lancer. It appears to me that cold war tensions are heating up - what is next???

- Three major pillars of the US financial institution have collapsed. We all very well understand the situation with AIG, Merryl Lynch, and Lehman Brothers so I will not discuss further. I cringe at the thought of looking at the status of my investments. Needless to say, this is not what the US economy needed right now. Both Obama and McCain have blamed the current administration for being "asleep at the wheel" and allowing this to happen. I listen to Allen Greenspan for about 5 minutes, and I want to shoot myself so I cant really say what he is thinking. I can say though that no matter what he says in my eyes it is about 60% his fault no matter what.

- Bolivia is close to entering a civil war. President Evo Morales, has instituted a new land distribution scheme which will benefit the rich, and like the same sad song of South America - it will take away from the poor. This is in stark contrast to the principles and actions that Evo stood for when initially running for president.

- Bombings in Delhi, India which have killed at least 21 have been accounted for by a group calling themselves the Indian Mujahadeen. Speculators believe links to Al Qaeda are possible, but have not confirmed at this point. Police throughout the nation are now in reaction mode, trying to understand how this could happen and are tightening their intelligence networks. In email messages sent to the Indian government, the purpose of the attacks was retaliation for 60 years of muslim oppression in India as well as cooperation with US foreign policy.

- In Melbourne, Australia a local Muslim leader has been arrested on charges of plotting acts of terrorism. Something on the order of 6,000 phone taps, 39,000 email interceptions, and 4,000 hours of video recording have lead to some snippets of this man saying how he had to show the world by destroying everything (buildings, infrastructure, etc.) the power of Jihad. This is a revolutionary case for Australia because they are trying to accuse this man of terrorism, when he has actually never even committed a crime. His lawyers say that the discussions that have been intercepted are merely bravado and that his client is innocent. We will see. The US just sends em straight to Getmo for the cock meat sandwich - I say hes getting off easy (dont get offended, its from a movie).

- In Peshawar, Pakistan there are reports that US forces have been operating in that area in an effort to capture terrorist cells. Also, in unconfirmed reports there is the possibility that those US forces have been fired upon by the Pakistani Military.

- US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has been involved in discussions with Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi. For those who are not aware, under Reagan F-117 stealth fighters along with a procession of electronic warfare aircraft were sent to Libya to kill Gaghafi. Laser guided bombs destroyed the targets where intelligence officials reported he would be, but quite obviously he made it out alive. His daughter died in the attacks. The current trip, which has been the first a US Secretary of State has taken in a half century has been labeled as "a good start" on the road toward establishing foreign investment as well as trade agreements.

- In MotoGP news, the first running of the Indianapolis Grand Prix ended in another victory for championship leader Valentino Rossi. He has strengthened his lead, and with four victories in a row while sporting Bridgestone rubber, he is satisfied with his performance. The Indianapolis GP was stopped with just 8 laps to go due to rain and windy conditions that were making it dangerous for the riders. In a surprising mid season shift Dany Pedrosa has also made the switch from Michelin to Bridgestone with successful results. On the home track of US rider Nicky Haden, he returned from injury that has left him out of the past two races with a vengeance. He ended the Indianapolis GP with a number two podium, which has restored his spirit after being at an all season low with his injuries.

Ok - This is all important stuff so make sure you read it all.

Next I want to talk about the election. I do not have all the insight as some of you might have because I'm not on US soil, but I think the McCain/Pallin camp have been gaining strength. Being in Africa for almost a month I got the African perspective on things. If you have done your research you know that Obama's father was from Kenya, and therefore he has very strong East African support. Well to start off, Obama's face is on everything from Taxi cabs, to buildings, to t shirts. If you are part of the in crowd you have an Obama sticker on your car. Everywhere I go when I tell them I'm from the US they ask who I'm voting for, and when I tell them Obama they get so happy. I have met with leaders of Obama support groups in the middle of nowhere. They label McCain as "just another Bush", and to a certain extent if you oversimplify things this is probably not that far from the truth. They also joke how a man who is 73 would ever want to be president. They usually go on to say something like "when I'm 73 man, I just want to smoke fat joints on the beach all day, not work". In all reality who the hell does that. Why would you ever want to be 77 and be the leader of a nation who is in such trouble as ours. My vote doesn't really matter (NY is going democratic regardless), but I will make the effort to go to the embassy and put in for an absentee ballot.

I do not feel as proud of our nation as I used to. There are many problems that we need to resolve, and I do not mind living outside of the country and supporting the economies of other nations until we proverbially "get our shit straight".

Oh yeah, I have been also called a terrorist on more than a handful of ocassions. Not because my bloodline is from Iran, rather because I am from the US. The US is causing so much pain and bloodshed in the world that most people of other nations look at America as the source of the problem, not the "terrorists". Think about that one.

Ok - enough politics and world events. Back to the travels.

I left off in Jinja, Uganda. From there I picked up a camera in Kampala (just a short distance away). It killed my budget, but thanks to the responses that I have gotten so far I think I may be able to manage it.

When I said I had to buy a camera some people by email even offerred to send me one. To ship, the only secure way to get it is through DHL, which costs $190 to send a kilo of package from the US to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and takes two to three weeks. The only real solution was to buy one in Africa.

I have been every day in discussion with Paypal to try and get my account set up so that I can email out a message that will have a link if you would like to make a donation. I cant tell you how difficult it is to take care of anything if you are outside of the US. If you email customer service of any website, its automatically answered with something that is generic and is not even close to the answer that you need. Its like when you call a company and you can never get a person on the other end and they try and answer your question through an automated voice. You have no idea how frustrating this can be.

Crazy people (not including friends) that I met this past week or so:

- Lee, the 14 year old London bloak who was at a bar in Jinja, Uganda drinking and smoking more than anyone else. I started chatting it up with him, and well I always get the comment that I have lived 8 lives of experience - well this kid really has, but only at 14. Over beers that he was buying me, he told me about girls hes slept with, all the times hes been arrested, how he likes to get loaded up on PCP and go out fighting, and about all the kids he loved at the orphanage he was working at in Uganda. This kid was nuts. Then he drank a triple of Gin and juice, and then immediately followed it up by funneling a 500 ml beer.

- Raymond, the overland truck driver from Capetown. I met him in a bar in Zanzibar, Tanzania and he told me about his travels. For those who don't know an overland truck is a huge off road beast that carries like 20 to 25 tourists across Africa (basically off road bus). Raymond has been an overlander for years now, and has been to every cool spot in Africa at least 3 times. The most important part about his story was that he had a pet parrot for two years. Ok, well that wasn't the interesting part. The interesting part was that he took it from birth, and fed it by needles for the first 6 months. Then he cared for it and washed it and it became his best friend. The bird would sit on his arm the whole time when he would be driving the truck.

- US Olympic gold athlete in womens rowing, Anna Goodale is staying in my hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal. After winning the gold in Beijing she stayed on for some time in Nepal to experience Asia.

- Usman, Waqas, Shahid, and Naveed the Pakistanis. They are leather traders who treat hides that come from Tanzanian slaughter houses. Then they send the hides off for export to larger countries to be tanned. More on this later

- Eric, the 36 year old guy from Brooklyn getting his Dive Master Certificate in Zanzibar. More crazy than him was his neighbor whose house we went to cook fish at.

- The security guard who was smoking a joint on the job at a 5 star resort in Zanzibar who was telling me that I can "escape to space by running fast", which I think he was trying to tell me that I could avoid the tide coming in by going home now - maybe???

- Ally the Tanzanian Indian who is currently the biggest fashion designer in all of Africa. He was on his way to London Fashion Week, which I guess is a big deal. THen he follows it up with Ethiopia fashion week, South Africa, and the list goes on. He was really cool, and I made jokes with these girls that I met on the plane that he had better done eyebrows than all of them combined. He was about 1/16th of a man in my opinion, but was cool nonetheless. I say this just because he was such a wus. I asked if he ever had been on safari, and he went into for ten minutes how disgusting it would be to go into a tent, and to sleep in a sleeping bag. He only rolled in AC, and soft beds - like I said 1/16th of a man.

- I met these Palestinians in the airport who were living in Jordan and China. They go to China to buy containers of empty CDs and DVDs at about 3 cents each, import to Jordan and they have a distribution of street hustlers they sell to. They make $50k a container which takes about two months to get rid of on a bad month.

- Dylan (New York) and Katie (PA) from the peace corps.

- Chado (short for something in Swahili like Kishichadomika) which means crazy dog. Hes an up and coming rapper living in the north of Zanzibar. When I was there he left for Stone Town to cut an instrumental for his up and coming album. His number one hit is called "I am strong".

- Pikey, the English entrepreneur who is establishing a logistics company in Uganda. He was in Mauritania earlier this year, driving through with some people. A friend of his was driving a car, and it had some problems, and had a small crash on the side of the road. Well, because of the accident some nearby bushes caught on fire, and it started to get bad. Some locals came, and after about 20 minutes they couldn't put it out so the locals told them to leave immediately or they would be killed. Well, they left and the next day a French family came along not knowing what was going on, and because the local people were so pissed about the fire they blindly murdered the French family. Because of this, there were many discussions between the French and Mauritania government, but the end result is that the 2008 Dakar Rally was canceled. In all 550 vehicles were to compete.

- So many more that I cannot remember

Ok, now the story. So from Jinja I went to Kampala and bought a camera and a bus ticket to Dar Es Salaam. The bus was supposed to be 30 hours which in Africa means 36 hours, so I bought some sleeping pills.

Before I finish talking about Jinja, I have to talk about the Rolex's outside of N.R.E (the hostel I was staying at). There is a pair of brothers (Shafi and Safa) operating The Bujagali Chapati Company, and man are they good! When I was staying at NRE all that I ate was Rolex's from them. They have a wide variety of choices, and have everything from chapati, honey, and banana for a nice breakfast, to the two egg, chapati, cabbage, avocado, pepper, and tomato for a nice dinner. All are anywhere from 500-1000 Uganda shilling, and I really have to recommend these guys. They are quite ahead of the competition, and are doing quite well for being such entrepreneurs. They have bigger and better goals that they are working toward, and I wish them the best of luck in their endeavors.

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Shafi on the cooker chefin up marvelous hits!

On the way out of Uganda it was a terrible mess. If you remember in my previous post I wrote about how Uganda has seven kingdoms. Well, when I was there probably two weeks ago the King of Busoga died. It just so happens that the main city in Busoga is Jinja, and that when we tried to leave the entire nation was in Jinja mourning in the funeral processions. Needless to say, it was a hell of a time getting out of Uganda.

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Before I left Jinja, I went to this shrine of Ghandi. If you can make out the writing, when he died he was cremated and his ashes were taken to many different locations around the globe, and spread. In this case he made it to the source of the Nile in Jinja.

The border crossings were no problems, and then about 30 hours into the trip, I knew we were relatively close to Dar Es Salaam. I knew that we went this far, and there have been no problems so something was bound to happen. Just about every day there is a bus accident killing some number (sometimes double digit) of people. So, just for precaution I buckled up. Well about 5 minutes later we pull over and the driver turns the bus off. When we are waiting, about 3 minutes after that another truck rear ends the bus from behind. We were all ok, but the two trucks were damaged and traffic was getting hectic. We went outside, and found out what happened. The truck that hit us was coming from behind was being towed by another truck, because the engine was damaged. Ironically both the truck and our bus that were involved in the accident were powered off. I think that this is the first time in history this has ever happened.

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Yeah yeah, I know - it could have been worse

Whatever, so everyone waited outside and I helped the bus assistant siphon gas from the gas tank with his mouth to clear the fuel filter. It turns out a stick was lodged in the tank, and was preventing the flow of fuel to the engine, and that is why we pulled over in the first place. This is such a common occurrence because the fuel and tanks are dirty that in like 5 minutes we had the line cleared, but then we had to wait for the police. After we cleared the line, and primed the fuel system I offered the bus assistant water to clear his mouth, but instead he refused and went on to smoke a cigarette. I was sure he was going to go up in flames.

When waiting for the police we all discussed how we were going to get back to Dar. I didnt have any money at the time so I joked how I was going to sell my watch, and kept asking "who wants to buy my watch". I then asked a man (I later learned his name - Usman) for a cigarette, and he mentioned his friends were going to pick him up. Well, about 5 minutes later he disappeared only to come back to me saying they had room for one more. I jumped at the chance, grabbed my big bag and hopped in the car. The car was full of Usman's friends (Waqas, Naveed, and Shahid) and man was their car nice. I have been traveling in chicken buses and cars held together with wire, so it was really nice to be in AC with a nice radio. The guys were all Pakistani leather traders that had moved to Tanzania because of the conditions back home. I learned a lot from them about their homeland, and about some of the impressions that Pakistanis have about US foreign policy, the wars we are waging in Afghanistan and Iraq, Mosharraf, and the current President Bhenazir Bhutto's widow (does anybody know him as anything else - haha). Well, after dropping me off at my hotel they insisted that I go out with them to dinner. Being Muslims they were really hungry (Ramadan) so we really feasted. We went to a very famous Indian spot in Dar, and after went to this nice casino for some after dinner tea.

Throughout our discussions I learned that Shahid had recently gone to Pakistan to get engaged to his wife. The next night they invited me to out with them again in celebration of the engagement. I was supposed to leave for Zanzibar the next morning, but to celebrate Shahid's engagement would be really cool so I stayed in Dar another day. The next night we went to a wonderful dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and then went to another casino on the bluffs overlooking the water.

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From left to right: Waqas, Shahid, Naveed, Usman

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For dinner at the Chinese restaurant amongst other things we had this crazy fish. Those things in its mouth arent cloves of garlic, its actually its teeth. I dont know the name of the fish, but those teeth are used to eat coral (so of course they need to be strong). Cool!

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After the large dinner we went out for pan. Pan is this leaf wrapped up with all that weirdness. You put it in the corner of your mouth and chew on it and drink the juice. Apparently if you have a large meal and dont exercize after you can chew this and it helps you digest the food a lot faster than normal.

After that I went to Zanzibar where I spent about a week. I took the ferry from Dar to Zanzibar, which wasnt too shabby at all. When you arrive, you come to Stone Town which is the biggest town in Zanzibar. Its a world heritage site, and is really cool. The sites there are a bit bland, but the whole town is a bit eclectic on its own which gives it charm. Aside from the two main roads, the town is really a labyrinth which you can never figure out. That night I went to a bar, a local dive, which was cool but I had a beer and left. On the way out I met with a guy, Jackson who I bought a bracelet from earlier in the day. He wanted to buy me a beer, so him and the guy that he sells bracelets with and me got totally wasted at this dive. These guys were hilarious, and so was the place. I was the only mzungu, and apparently if you are mzungu and you buy a beer at this place it comes with like three hookers. Man did I have to fight these girls off of me. Later in the night I met these two people from the peace corps. Dylan and Katie were really cool and we kicked it for a while. It was funny because I was a bit blind and I asked what Katie studied, and she told me Astro, and so like whatever I tried to guess what Astro was, and for some reason I came up with Astro Biology which doesn't even make sense (the correct answer would have been Astrophysics in case you were wondering). I thought it was a bit ironic because Katie was two years out of school (as I am), went to a state school, and although we went down two totally separate paths (she was helping the world in the peace corps; me building war machines) we ended up at the same place in the middle of nowhere Africa drinking the same beers.

The best thing about Stone Town I would have to say would be the night fish market they have near the old fort. You can get lobster, squid, calamari, kingfish, barracuda, snapper, octopus, and the list goes on for really cheap. Octopus is a staple of the Zanzibar diet, and is pretty good. I had it on a few occasions, and once you get over the fact that you are chewing on a suction cup the size of a bottle cap its really good.

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Fish market

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Sunset in Stone Town

The main religions in Tanzania are Christianity and Islam respectively, with the coastal areas dominated by Islam, and Christianity everywhere else. The island of Zanzibar has about a 90% Muslim population, who are all currently in the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a holy period, which is represented by the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It was during this month that the angel Gabriel delivered the word of Allah (Qur'an) to Mohammad, and essentially the religion was formed. For a whole month Muslims cannot eat, drink, or smoke from sunrise to sunset. The ritual is to wake up at 4 AM, have a small food, and then fast till dusk. At 6:30 on the dot, all the stores start selling food. The tradition is to read the whole Qur'an during the holy month, so every night people go to the mosque to pray 1/30th of the Qur'an. Being in an island that is dominated by this religion, restaurants and stores are for the most part closed during the day. You cannot even find a place to buy a water. It is a little difficult. I found that if you go to a market (which is still open) then you can buy a kilo of dates and eat this throughout the day to hold you over to night.

After Stone Town I headed to Kendwa, which is on the North coast. I stayed at this place which was kind of like a resort, but had dormitories so it was cheap, at least for Zanzibar ($11 a night). I pretty much layed around for the next three days, and chilled with the rastas and the local boys that roam up and down the beach selling things. I especially liked this one guy that I met, Abraham, who had a long talk with me and taught me about his country. He really wanted to be a tour guide, and he is almost there so I gave him my guide book so that he can learn some more about being a mzungu.

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Abraham with the book I gave him

The second day I went scuba diving off the coast of Memba Atoll. This is on the east coast of Zanzibar, and was AMAZING! The fish populations were much more concentrated than in Panama, and the team was really good. We even had the added bonus that on the way there we were lucky enough to have dolphins swimming with us alongside the boat. We did a wall dive, and a floor dive at two locations Kitchwani, and Wattabomi to about 18 meters maximum depth. My dive buddy was this crazy guy Eric from Brooklyn who came to Zanzibar to get his dive master certification. For some reason, even though he was a burnout he really liked hearing about how we made the helicopters at work. On the way out, our boat driver was trolling for fish, and caught a huge Kingfish.

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The place I was staying at for $11

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Looking out toward the beach

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Beautiful sunset!!!!

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Believe it or not, its really hard to capture good pictures of dolphins zipping through the water

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Eric trying to lure the dolphins in. He was making the noise you make when you try and call cats over. This guy was big time shot...

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More dolphins

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Memba island from where we were diving

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Quite possibly the most non-manly picture of me ever. Girls, I hope you think its at least cute.

We saw lionfish (the fish from Deuce Bigelow), Eels, Sting Rays, those fish that hide under the sand and eat unsuspecting fish that cruise by, Nemos, and tons of others that I am not familiar with. The Nemos are the favorite - they hide in the anemones and come out if you are not looking, but when you look at them they run away. Its really cute.

After, me and Eric kicked it at his house over a few beers, and then headed to his neighbors house to cook a piece of the Kingfish that we caught on the boat earlier in the day. Dude, his neighbor was mental. I cant even really describe here why, you really had to be there but he had this really cool belt on the wall and he showed me what its for. He had a really cool blanket that he wrapped around himself, and then he put the belt on which had a holster in the back. He then took out this huge knife (posing like he was going to kill someone) and told us that his grandfather once told him:

"If you want peace you have to be prepared for war"

Everybody in the village knows him as being crazy and therefore nobody messes with him. After we went to this cool bar on the beach where I met a hotel owner, and a bunch of other people. The most interesting was Raymond from Capetown described above. How cool would it be to have a parrot as your best friend? Haha, that night I spent all my money on beers and had to walk on the beach back to Kendwa from Nungwi. Its about a 4km walk, but you have to time it just right so that you don't get stuck with the tide coming in. If the tide is in you cannot walk on the beach. Not to mention its pitch black, and dangerous. Anyways, I was trodding along until I came to an area that was impassable and was about to give up. I was lucky enough to find a crazy security guard that showed me a secret way around the rocks, and eventually I got there. Take it from me, thats not a walk you want to do alone at night with a backpack on.

The next day I just hung out with my good friend Hasan from the dive shop and then boogied out of there. I took the daladala (local minivan transport), ferry, taxi, a 6 hour flight, 5 hour layover, and then another 6 hour flight to Nepal, but I am here now. On the flight from Tanzania to Qatar I met the guy who is number one in fashion in all of Africa, and then some crazy people at the airport. It was cool.

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Hasan and me at the dive center. This guy was cool!

I really like Kathmandu and am excited to do more exploring of the country. After four hours of writing I am totally finished with this post... I don't even think you guys get a spell check, that is how done I am with this one.

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Sunrise on the way to Nepal!!!!

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The plane had this feature where you can look at a 3D terrain map of where you are flying. Notice the Himalaya to the north. That shit is no joke at all.

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This is what it looks like from a window seat

Posted by bejuan99 20:02 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

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