Oneseed picked me up on 2/15 from my hotel in Thamel (the bustling backpackers paradise in the middle of Kathmandu) and took me to the much less crowded suburb of Patan, where we would stay for 2 nights prior to our trek, at a quaint, traditional hotel called Newa Chen. After 2 days of the rat race that is Thamel it was a much needed escape. I couldn't help but spend the rest of the afternoon lounging in my room, reading my book and staring out into the lovely garden patio. This hotel is on the pricier end of the scale, but for the location right off of Patan's Dubar Square, and the amenities, including fresh fruit and bottled water in the room, hot showers and ensuite bathrooms, beautiful patio and garden with a small library and area for reading, and included large breakfasts, it is well worth the $40/night price tag in my opinion. Newa Chen has been recently renovated so everything is like new, but they have worked hard to maintain the old traditional charm so that you feel as though you are transported back in time. And to top it off, the employees are pleasant and always very helpful. If you plan on visiting Nepal and have the budget I would highly recommend Newa Chen.
Imagine a dream where you wake up every morning to the sound of birds chirping instead of the buzzing of an alarm, where you climb for miles but your muscles don't ache, and in the span of a few days you experience all 4 seasons, and landscapes ranging from quaint villages and farms to mossy forrests and serene mountain tops with views that would knock your socks off. This is exactly what I have been experiencing over the past 8 days, except it wasn't a dream, it was an amazing trek through the Annapurna range of the Himilayan Mountains in Nepal. I'll try to break up the specifics into a few different posts so I don't write a book all at once.
The trekking company I used is called OneSeed Expeditions, actually based out of Denver, Colorado, and I would recommend them highly. The people have been incredibly helpful every step of the way, the guides are knowledgable, caring, and fun, and to top it off OneSeed benefits women run businesses here in Nepal, which is great to see. They also treat their guides-in-training well from what I can tell. Other companies call their GITs porters, and do not allow them to interact with clients. They are basically just glorified mules, carrying up to 100lbs of tourists baggage so they can comfortably hike with only a light day pack. With OneSeed the GITs do carry around 50lbs of our stuff, but they are also encouraged to interact with us as they are trained and molded to become guides... and in our case especially they became like part of our family, but that is for another post.
I totally lucked out as far as my fellow Trekkers. There was a seriously cute older couple from Denver, Peggy and Grahm (the candy man), that really proved that you are only as old as you feel. They were like the mom and dad on the trail, so fun and full of life and love. There was another younger couple, Kate and Jeremy, that are nurses from Seattle. They are both so compassionate and funny and so perfect for each other. Then there was my fellow single traveler, Liz, from Lake Tahoe. She is an environmental engineer which I think is amazing, and is a total outdoors girl. We have a lot in common, def someone I could be besties with if we didn't live on opposite sides of the country. (By the way - if you guys are reading this - and I hope you are - you are all amazing and you better keep in touch!). That being said, I am going to end this post with a picture of everyone from day 1 of the hike.
After two days of very loooooong travel I am finally here in Kathmandu. Not what I was expecting or picturing at all, but really lovely in its own way. The streets are narrow and scantily paved, really more pot wholes than pavement. The people are friendly but pushy, kind of what I expected. I actually had a tiny, dirty little child follow me down the street, trying to hold my hand and touching my bag, speaking in his tongue in the most musical little voice I've ever heard. When I told him that I didn't have anything for him he clutched my leg, anchoring me in place until a man yelled at him to go away. I felt terrible that I couldn't do anything for him. It seems like there is a gorgeous stupa around every corner here. Just so much to see. I've decided that I will only spend a few days in the city, its just not for me and already wearing me down. I want to spend more of my time doing activities and hikes around greater Nepal. I met with a travel agent and set up everything, a few nights in Chitwan National Forest, in Nepal's tropical southern region, a 1/2 day rafting trip and a 3 day hike north of Kathmandu to a place where the sunrise over Mt. Everest is supposed to be absolutely stunning. This is on top of my 2 week Annapurna trek. I will definitely be keeping busy. Hopefully I will have some pics to share very soon.
My hotel, Hotel Silver Home, is definitely what you would call a budget hostel. My room does has 3 beds, but no electric...Ha! The bathroom is en suite, which is nice, but its pretty gross, and without electric I am a little scared to even go in there. There is no shower, you just bath over a drain in the floor. But there is hot water! There is also a really nice garden where the residents tend to hang out. I plan to visit tomorrow and make some friends. Already met a girl from Queens w who has been her 4 days. So taking the bad with the good, it will due for 2 days :)
So the day of the trip has arrived, and here I sit at Newark Airport, Gate 55B, waiting for my flight to start boarding. Already I've encountered my first major road block of the trip. As I was checking in for my flight that connects through Brussels and Mumbai and New Delhi before finally landing in my first destination of Kathmandu, I was politely asked, "may I see your visa for India?" ....ummmm no...I'm only connecting through India. I'm not even leaving the airport! Well little did I know, my in-country flight from Mumbai to New Delhi requires me to have a transit visa. Without it I would be sent directly back to Newark. Do not pass go and certainly do not collect $200. The man must have seen the fear in my eyes as he asked if I had used a travel agent, because your agent should have told you about the visa requirement. Uhhh...nope...booked myself online.
Long story short the airline was amazing and rebooked my flight so I would no longer fly through New Delhi, negating the need for a visa. Phew! And bonus...less stop overs! Didn't even have to pay a dime extra. So with that crisis averted..on to the next!
Yesterday I was finally able to squeeze in a hike with my pack packed. Really, it wasn't too bad. I felt a little off balance at times but the weight wasn't a problem. That was only about an hour...we'll see how I feel after 5 or 6 hours of hiking! Or after 5 or 6 months!
Here are a couple pics from my hike in the woods behind the family farm:
So here I am, a mere 4 days away from my departure and I am feeling like my world is in total chaos! The saying "So much to do and so little time" has taken on a whole new meaning. The biggest stressor is packing. I've laid out everything I think I should pack (see the image above of what used to be my parents pool table and is now my main packing head quarters), and then packed it...not even close to fitting in my 45-pack. So I unpacked and begrudgingly took away some clothes and other items. Then I repacked. Again, no good. So I unpacked. This process went on and on through the night, and continues to go on even now. The last round was much better, but I'm still not happy with the near 30 lbs I will be carrying on my back. I think it's finally time to test this thing out with a nice long hike. I will get back to you with the results.