Monday, June 2, 2008

Hiking in Nepal: Annapurna, Dhampus, Pothana, Deurali, Ghandruk, Kmrong Pana, Chomrong, Kulditigar (Part XI)

Thursday, March 28

We went to breakfast at the Rum Doodle and had a feast of eggs, apple pancakes, omelets, and toast. Then we met our city guide for a half day tour of the city. We visited Patan, the arts & crafts factories, the Tibetan refugee camp, and Swayambhunath - the Monkey Temple.

Patan Durbar Square
Patan is the oldest of the three city states that comprise the Kathmandu Valley, with buildings tracing back to the 3rd century. We walked along Durbar square and visited the Royal Palace, Krishna Mandir Temple, Vishawanth Temple, and the Golden Temple. Being the 3rd day of a religious festival in Nepal, many Hindus were still celebrating and providing offerings to the gods.

At the arts & crafts center we watched people create metal work, wood work, and rugs. The work is very labor intensive, with everything done by hand. There were lots of people lined up on the floors of the "factories" creating individual pieces. The women at the rug factory were delighted to see Sean and wanted him to visit their work areas. One woman gave him a piece of wool before she spun it into yarn. A salesman showed how the Nepalese rugs changed colors when you turned the rug around changing the nap. Sean was fascinated with the "magic carpets".

We also stopped at the Tibetan refugee camp to see their handi-work with carpets. The saleswoman spoke very good English and repeatedly told Sean to stop eating chocolate and candy. She felt he was too skinny and needed to bulk up on potatoes and rice, instead of food that was not good for him.

Finally we went to Swayambhunath, better known as the Monkey Temple. This temple was over 2,000 years old. A Stupa also occupied a spot at the top of this hill overlooking the city of Kathmandu. Monkeys roamed freely, pilfering the food offered to the gods.

After our tour we ate lunch at a Mexican cafe and searched for miniature wooden chess sets. We also purchased more T-shirts (a "yak yak yak" one for Sean), a hat for Sean, string bracelets for Sean and his friends, and fruit.

Balaram came to our hotel to visit Sean while he was napping. We woke him up and Sean was happy to see his friend again. After a short visit Sean fell fast asleep again. Natang took us out to dinner at a nearby hotel. I had buffalo fried rice, Sean had fish & chips, and Bill had chicken. Sean enjoyed watching the men play pool.

Bill was not feeling well - his cold got worse and his digestive system was under attack. He developed a fever and didn't sleep well. Sean had no trouble sleeping his last night in Kathmandu.

Friday, March 29

Natang told us last night that breakfast was provided by the hotel, so we decided to try it. We had eggs cooked any way we wished, potatoes, toast, cereal, and bacon. After breakfast we headed to Durbar Square for the last time. Gene opted to stay near the hotel, since he had enough of the local culture. We did not get harassed much by the street vendors wandering around. But we did get approached by several guides willing to take us back into the mountains. We returned to the hotel via rickshaw and mailed several postcards to ourselves from the photography store across the street. The postcards never arrived.

Natang picked us up at 11:30 AM for our trip to the airport. Natang will be visiting his sponsor in Portland in May. He plans to stay in the states with his wife for 6 months and wants to visit the East coast. We told him to look us up if he comes our way! He and his assistants made our trip the huge success it was, by expertly coordinating all our travel arrangements, preparing delicious and sanitary meals, explaining the history and culture of Nepal, protecting our welfare, and attending to our every need.

We boarded our flight to Bangkok and arrived in Thailand at 6:30 PM. We spent the evening in the Amari Airport Hotel, preparing for the long journey home.

Saturday, March 30

What a long day! In fact, this day was actually 2 days in one. Our flight left Bangkok at 7:45 AM and we got to the gate close to boarding time due to the inefficiency of the hotel checkout procedures. Unfortunately, the only seats left were 3 rows in front of the smoking section. Since the flight was booked, the seats couldn't be changed. Thai Airlines did manage to switch our seats for the flight to LA when we arrived in Seoul.

I was feeling very sick before we boarded the plane. My head felt like it was ready to explode and I was very nauseous. The only thing that made me feel better was sleeping, which would not help me acclimate to the east coast time zone. Bill was not feeling much better. Sean had to entertain himself for most of the flights, since neither one of us were up to the task. He got headphones and watched the movies and listened to music most of the trip.

The flight to Seoul, South Korea tool a little over 5 hours. Then we waited an hour before our connection to Los Angeles, CA boarded. That flight took 12 hours and we crossed the International Date Line, which meant that Saturday started over again! Bill witnessed the sun rising twice in the same day. We landed in LA at 1:10 PM (LA time). After going through customs and passport control we waited an hour before boarding our flight to Newark, NJ. We landed in Newark at 9:30 PM (NJ time). Sean fell asleep 20 minutes before we landed. He had a tough time waking up.

The limo driver was waiting for us and our luggage came out early. By the time we dropped Gene off at his house, Sean was ravenous and extremely tired. He calmed down when we agreed to make him macaroni & cheese (with Velveeta) when we got home.

Arriving home at 10:45 PM, our garage door wouldn't open. The key pad broke so we had to break in through a window to gain access to the house. A note from our next door neighbor, Amelia Grek, greeted us. She had purchased some basic supplies for us and wanted us to go to her house to retrieve them. It was great having milk, orange juice, bread, eggs, and salad makings without having to make a trip to the grocery store! Sean ate his macaroni & cheese at midnight and then collapsed. I was wide awake at 1:30 AM (it was the middle of the afternoon according to my internal clock), so I unpacked and started the laundry.

Going to work on Monday was the hardest, since I couldn't sleep past 3:00 AM. I was exhausted by 5:00 PM and couldn't stay awake any longer. It took a week and a half for my body to readjust to NJ time.

Our film was mailed to the developers on Monday afternoon and we received the prints and slides on Friday. The task of sorting through the thousands of pictures was daunting. Sean selected slides to present to his first grade class, the fourth grade classes, and some neighbors and friends.

While discussing his adventures in Nepal, Sean stated, "The kids in Nepal could never imagine all the things I have! They would go crazy in a Toys R Us or grocery store." He realized how fortunate he was and gained a new appreciation for things he used to take for granted. He wants to go back to Nepal again, but next time he wants to climb Everest. It will be hard to select another adventure that can top this one!

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