Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 6 – April 25th, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I began to rise around 5:30am as the sun was just starting to brighten the new day. I removed myself from my tent in order to stretch and use the facilities.

Fishtail

Annapurna

Chommrong Guesthouse

Volleyball court below camp

crow in flight

solo flower

Afterwards I was amazed at how nice the day and how superb the lighting was so I decided to take a few shots around camp. The assistant cooks arrived outside my tent around 6:30 with tea and washing water so I knew it was time to stop procrastinating and pack my gear before breakfast.

Fast was broken around 7:30 on the the dining table outside of the dining tent which had already been taken down. We had porridge (of some sort) with pancakes. I ate more pancakes than porridge but all of the food was welcome and delicious.

Camp was broken down for the most part around 8:30 and so we left and began our hiking for the day. Chommrong is situated at the top (or near the top) of the hill and so the first order of business of the day was a long downhill path to the river valley. We passed through quite a few smaller guest houses and villages. It took us just about an hour to get to the bottom of the gorge where the river cut through the area.

There was a really neat cable bridge crossing the river.

bridge

We took a break at the bridge as we would be climbing on the other side. There were a ton of stone steps as we had to regain the altitude that we lost on the way to the bottom of the gorge as well as a little more. We passed through some small villages and one had this cute sight that I had to capture.

cow and goat

At one point during our uphill journey we were almost run over by men carrying bundles of bamboo downhill. They were running at almost full speed with twenty foot long bundles over a shoulder. It was a bit scary as they rushed downhill. It seemed as if they weren’t in complete control.

bamboo porter

We were also passed by pony trains moving in either direction. I think I have described these pony trains before in a previous entry but I’ll do a quick summary. Basically because the locals can’t drive motorized vehicles up or down to the various villages this is the only method of getting supplies up the mountains and trash back down. There is typically a single man driving the train from the rear. He uses shouts and whistles and small rocks to direct the ponies although they seem to know where they are going. Here’s a video of one such pony train.

Here’s a neat shot of some peppers being dried.

Peppers

Rather shortly after that photo we hit the outskirts of Sinuwa. We passed through a few more guest houses before we got to Sinuwa proper, about 2320m in altitude, and then we stopped for lunch. Lunch was a cheese and carrot sandwich with beans, mac & cheese, and some corn. Just after we finished eating while we were relaxing, the weather took a turn for the worse and it started to drizzle. The rain stopped fairly quickly but then the temperature dropped and I started to get chilled.

We all noticed that there was a phone in this particular guesthouse because it kept ringing. There was a rather cute Nepali woman working the counter who would answer the phone and chat with the caller. We all guessed that the reason the phone was so busy was because she was on the receiving end. She must have been one of the most popular girls on the trail. We all had a good chuckle each time the phone rang.

We all were getting tired of chilling around Sinuwa but our sherpas were hidden from sight. After a quick reconnoiter I found Tendi watching so Nepali soap opera on a tv in another dinning area of the guest house. It was pretty funny. We got his attention and then proceeded to don our gear and strike out on the trail again.

We immediately hit another grueling uphill. There were quite a few trekkers heading in the downhill direction. Apparently after you get to the end you can basically run downhill. I, on the other hand, was sucking wind as I climbed and had to take a very slow and steady pace.

We crested a set of stairs and then we were on relatively flat land for a while. I took the opportunity of actually being able to breathe normally to also take some pictures.

bird in a tree

small red spider

trekkers

Thilo on the trail

trail and flowers

We had a long downhill trek over lots of wet and muddy rocks as the little bit of rain we had was still dribbling through the cracks and crevasses of the mountains. This made the trail a little bit more treacherous but I didn’t have any major stumbles or twisted ankles. Then came a section where a bunch of Nepali men were actually improving the trail by building a long set of stone stairs. They only had a small portion completed but the stairs were wide and well done. Some of the trekkers gave donations to the workers. I didn’t have any cash available but I figured the others gave plenty :-).

After we got out of the construction we had another short uphill and downhill and then we hit the outskirts of the village of Bamboo, around 2300m in altitude, which was our destination. As we went through one of the guesthouses there was this cute baby goat standing on a chair near a table eating pea husks as his owner was removing the peas from the pods. I took a few pictures but this is the best one.

goat and peas

Chris and I were trailing the pack when we came across this cute goat. Anyway, we continued on to the camp and arrived just before 4pm. Around 4:30 we had tea in the dining tent. During tea Chris explained the ins and outs of tilt-shift lenses and let us play around with the one attached to his camera. Around 5pm Chris held a workshop on how to use Lightroom. I really got a lot out of this workshop but I should have taken notes as I know that I have forgotten about half of what he went through. I’m kicking myself.

I think dinner was set around 7pm but maybe it was 6:30. We had Dal Bhat with curried vegetables, green beans, mushrooms, stewed tomatoes and cabbage salad with carrots. The food was good and filling. As dinner was wrapping up we were informed that the following day we would be gaining about 900 meters in altitude in 6 to 7 hours. My legs were sore but I had no doubt that I would survive the next day. Although I also had no doubt that I would probably be hating life while climbing that altitude.

People: Ben Murray

Benicio in Nepal

[I’m “borrowing” this image from Ben’s own blog as I don’t have a good one. Thanks Ben!]

Ben comes from down under. Our only Australian on the trip was an infrastructure technician by trade and enjoys mixed martial arts when not behind a camera. I enjoyed the limited amount of time that I was able to spend with him and I felt horrible for the all of the stuff that happened to him at the beginning of this trek. I’ve explained most of what happened to him on the trip but here is a spoiler. He didn’t stick around Kathmandu therefore we didn’t get to meet up again. Instead he attempted to get an earlier flight back to Australia after hanging out in Kathmandu for a while. His trip back made a stop in Thailand at which point he was stranded for a few days. This guy just can’t get any breaks. Anyway, he did make it back home and his health is back to normal.

Ben napping at the airport in Pohkara

Ben has some absolutely gorgeous photos on his site and flickr account. Ben even blogged his Nepal experience. You can also follow him on twitter.

Gear: Pants

I bought and brought a whole bunch of different pairs of pants for the trip. I knew that I would be wearing them for multiple days and possibly getting rained or snowed on. I also knew that they would need to be comfortable for long sessions of hiking. So here is my roundup of the pants that I had.

Patagonia Duck Pants

This pants are comfortable. I actually saved these for the last day in Kathmandu and the flight home. I wanted to be comfortable as long as possible. The pants are orangish brown and I need to wear them more often but I definitely recommend them. I’m not certain how well they would deal with regular hiking wear and tear.

Gander Mountain Expedition cargo pants

Hated these. I wore these one day! Basically, they didn’t fit right, constantly fell down, and rubbed in the wrong places. Maybe I got the wrong size but I don’t recommend these. I guess you get what you pay for and these were relatively cheap.

Columbia olive convertible trekking pants

I’m not certain what the name or model of these pants but I really liked them. They are nylon and light. I wore these for multiple days and was completely comfortable in them. I did have to use a belt with them as they did not include an internal belt or any other waist cinching mechanism. My only complaint was that I bought ones that were slightly too long and the bottoms of the pant legs would sometimes get caught below my heel. I did take advantage of removing the pants legs on the second day of trekking as my legs were getting quite warm from the constant exercise. There are buttons on the belt loops that I couldn’t figure out where their purpose is. If anyone knows please let me know.

Mountain Hardware Runout pants

These slate grey pants are cotton and very hardy. I was told that I should have had only synthetic as they are lighter and dry faster if they got wet but these pants were great. I wore them for multiple days and didn’t have any major issues. They fit well although there are lots of seams and those seams could be felt when walking or bending. I wore these on my trip to Kathmandu and for a couple of days afterward. Regardless I totally recommend these.

The North Face trekking pants

I have two pairs of these pants. One is khaki while the other is dark grey/black. I wore both of these pants for multiple days each and they were very comfortable during the hiking. As with the Columbia pants above there was no internal belt but there is a little bit of elastic. The elastic would be fine if I was wearing these casually but as I was hiking and in particular going up and down mountainsides therefore I used the belt to keep them from slipping down. Again like the Columbia pants I purchased pants that were just a tad too long and had the same issue with the pant legs catching on my heels every once in a while. I would recommend these highly.

Comments (2)

Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 5 – April 24th, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I awoke around 5:30am and the sun was already starting to rise to the point that it was already light outside. I decided that this would be a great opportunity to switch the clothes that I had been wearing for the last few days. Yes, that is correct that I had been wearing the same clothes for multiple days. That is just the way it is done when trekking or backpacking. You just don’t have space to carry a new outfit for every day.

I changed and it felt so nice to be in fresh clothes. The accumulation of sweat and dust on my previous clothes wasn’t horrible but it was definitely nice to change. They didn’t smell that bad either. Or maybe I just reeked so much that I couldn’t tell the difference. Either way no one had mentioned anything.

The assistant cooks came around to the tents at around 6:30 with morning tea and washing water. Somehow I messed up my drink request and I ended up with hot milk tea. But I drank it with the minimal of fuss. I then proceeded to pack my gear albeit slowly. I’m not certain why I was being lazy but I just didn’t rush into things this morning. While packing I found a little critter crawling around the tent.

tiny spider

I wasn’t sure what kind of spider or if it was poisonous so I just collected it on something or other and flung it outside of the tent.

Breakfast was around 7:30am. The sherpas had broken down the dining tent but set up the table for breakfast out on the lawn with a scenic view. Of course the sun was coming up from that direction so I decided to sit facing away from the view so as to not blind myself. The food served was pretty typical for the trek. We ate Spam® and potatoes with toast and curried vegetables. I ate a very decent amount. I guess all of the hiking from the previous day had increased my appetite. I had mustard on my spam and snack dressing (thin ketchup) on my potatoes.

After breakfast we milled around and chatted for a bit.

IMG 4214

[Ben, Jon, Clarence, Karma, and Chris]

Chris and Jon

[Chris showing Jon his analog camera]

Analog Camera up close

[Analog camera up close. You can see Jon’s face in the right top lens]

Chris then gathered us for the group photos since Jon and Ben had rejoined the party and we had everyone there. We took a few of all of the trekkers, the organizers and participants. Then we took a few with all of the trekkers and all of the staff; sherpas, porters, cooks, etc. Chris had us do different poses or facial expressions.

Afterward we broke apart and Ben, Jon, and Sonam said good bye as they were going to be heading back to Naya Pool in order to head back to Kathmandu. Ben’s health had deteriorated to the point where it did not make sense for him to go further. Their plan was to hang out in and around Kathmandu until we returned from the trek.

We left camp around 9:15am for what was determined to be an “easy” day.

IMG 4216

The first couple of hours were all downhill and I have a distinct feeling that the mountain was telling us something.

middle finger

The weather was nice and cool and a bit overcast. This made it really nice for hiking. Well for a little while at least. We had crossed over to the more arid side of the mountains and so we were not in the rainforest type of ecology. In fact it was mostly terraced with small villages and farms. For some reason Karma and Tendi had us break quite a bit as we were going downhill. One long break, seemed like fifteen minutes, was followed rather quickly by another long break with only about 10 minutes of walking in between. We don’t usually question the sherpas as they are the experts but this seemed excessive. I took some pictures while we were on break. There were a couple of teenagers hitting a volleyball back and forth on the lawn in front of the guesthouse that we were taking the break at. I guess you have to do something to break up the monotony during the days when there aren’t any people residing the rooms.

Fishtail

valley

landslide

[You can see the path way down below as well as the rockslide on the other side]

Bee Hive

[This is a bee hive in a hollow log]

Eagle and raven

[eagle and raven]

stupa on the path

[Buddhist stupa near our path]

The cloud cover started to become more sparse and the heat started to increase while we were on one of these breaks. And there was no real shade. We all urged the sherpas to continue and so down into the valley we went. It was really dusty as the trail going down was mostly a dirt path, in other words no stone stairs, and it was really dry. The descent into the valley didn’t take that long but the path was different than we were used to and it was the longest continuous downhill that we had happened upon. At the end my I was starting to get a slight twinge in my knee that I know from experience meant that I was not hiking downhill correctly.

We stopped for a break within sight of the bridge that would take us across the river at the bottom of the valley. There were stone stairs on the opposite side that meant we were going to be climbing a lot.

We got going again and we saw some porters with another group traveling in the opposite direction with colorful balloons attached to their backpacks. It took me a while to figure out what the significance of this was. Apparently it was Easter Sunday and someone had decided to decorate the porters. I’m not certain they were happy about it.

porter with balloons

Here’s the bridge that we had to cross.

IMG 4234

After the bridge we started climbing the stairs. We passed through a few clusters of homes without the obligatory guesthouses. There were women out beating some sort of grain from whatever they harvested out on the stone areas outside of their homes. This was in the path that we were walking on so we didn’t have much room between the grains and falling off the ledge going down the hill. I’m not certain what kind of grain it was as I’m not versed in what different grains grow in different regions of the world. It looked similar to wheat but was the seeds were black while the stalks were gold.

IMG 4246

IMG 4248

After seeing these women at work we came upon a really shocking surprise. A volleyball court! Granted it was just a flat dirt area but it had a large bamboo cage around the field used to keep the ball from rolling down the mountain side.

IMG 4239

This one threw me for a loop. I just never expected volleyball to be a popular sport in the mountains. I guess this explains the kids hitting the ball around earlier. They were practicing. As the trek continued up to higher altitudes we came across other volleyball courts with lot’s of off-duty Nepali playing. By the way, the trail went right through the volleyball court. I guess it’s similar to playing street hockey or stick ball in a street. It’s more about the convenience of the location than the intermittent interruption by car or in our case trekking group.

We stopped for lunch a short while after passing through the volleyball court. Lunch consisted of bow-tie pasta, rice, beans, and this canned fish in a red sauce. I ate everything but the fish. They just did not look good in the least. I’m usually a pretty adventurous foodie but I just didn’t feeling like pressing my luck while on this trek. We took a rather long break after lunch.

We struck out again on the way to Chommrong. Most of the next hour was uphill until we hit the outskirts of Chommrong. We took a nice break to allow Chris and Karma to catch up with the group before continuing on.

After the break as we were going along the path we came across a couple of water buffalos. I have no knowledge of the demeanor or temperament of these animals especially when encroaching on their personal space so I attempted to give them as wide a berth as possible. But I also decided that I needed so up close and personal photos.

Water Buffalo on the path

This buffalo decided to stand up and look agitated. Probably because he was resting on the path that we walking on.

Agitated buffalo

This buffalo didn’t mind us walking by as much.

lying buffalo

After another 30-45 minutes we were in Chommrong which is a huge collection of guest houses and supporting businesses. There were restaurants and bakeries as well as a clinic and some other government installations. This was by far the biggest village we had hit since we walked through Bharenthanti on the first day. We made our way through the myriad guest houses and to our campsite. The campsite was on a cliff ledge that overlooked a volleyball court and had Fishtail and two of the Annapurna peaks in the distance.

IMG 4256

IMG 4258

I was in such a need to drink something other than tea or water that I purchased a cold Sprite. It was so good. I didn’t care that there was a little bit of an off taste due to the Diamox. My only problem was that it was too little.

We relaxed around camp until dinner. It started to threaten to rain and even sprinkled a little. It cleared up before dinner which was pizza with cauliflower, beans, and chow mien with mozzarella. We finished up with peaches. We chilled in the dining tent while the weather outside turned to light showers again.

People: Shaun Chemplavil

Shaun

It’s a small world after all. I wonder if Disney will come and attempt to sue me for saying that. Anyway there is a reason I bring that saying up and that reason is named Shaun Chemplavil. A Las Vegas native he moved to Florida and in particular to Orlando. That’s right he lives within minutes from where I reside. I don’t know exactly how many minutes as I don’t know exactly where in Orlando he lives but having someone from the same metropolis on the trip was a big coincidence. But wait there’s more…[I think I can get sued for that too]. He is a member of a photography meetup group that I am a member of and we had actually met at one event. I know, crazy, right? He’s a great guy with a great sense of humor. And he definitely looked out for me along the trek.

Check out his flickr account to see his great photos.

Here’s Shaun prepping for a shot.

IMG 4358

Here’s Shaun at the only sign signifying the Annapurna Base Camp. He wanted proof that he was there.

IMG 4365

On our return trek Shaun was nearby with his blue trekking poles.

IMG 4442

Some days just take the smile away.

tired Shaun

But then it returns.

IMG 4496

[I had to make blurry subjects in my pictures as part of an assignment]

Gear: Various Head Coverings

I brought a wide variety of head coverings for everything from sun protection to keeping my noggin warm. I also brought items that I was going to try in order to keep the dry dusty air from bothering me too much. I’ll go through all of the items.

Baseball Cap

I had a standard baseball cap that I had bought at a UCF football game because I had forgotten to where one and the sun was killing me. This cap had served me well for a couple of years and so it deserved to be brought to the ends of the world as well. Overall it worked well protecting from the sun and helping to keep the sweat from my face. After a while the cap became saturated with sweat and stopped it’s function of keeping sweat out of my eyes. It also became hot and uncomfortable after extended use. One other negative is that the brim gets in the way when taking pictures so the hat must be turned, lifted or removed which can be annoying.

OC Goretex brimmed hat

I have had this hat for quite a few years but rarely wear it in Florida because it gets hot really quickly. It provides the most sun protection of everything I brought and folds up nicely. The lining would tend to get saturated with sweat and always stayed quite warm. I think I only wore this one day and it worked well but then I ended up shoving it into my backpack.

Buff®

This is one of those things from Survivor® that the contestants have. It’s basically a tube of cloth that can be used for many different types of clothing but mostly on the head. I initially purchased this to be one of the things that I tried for a dust guard to cover my mouth and nose while in Tibet. I ended up using it as a headband or just some sort of head covering. It did an awesome job of sopping up sweat and when one end of the tube would be saturated I could reverse it and use the other end of the tube. Now that I have written that out I have realized that it probably doesn’t make much sense. Oh well. I really like this item and when using other head covers I would sometimes switch them out for this. I usually kept it tied to my backpack in an easy to reach location so that it could dry out but be handy. One negative is that it didn’t provide any sun protection for my face.

Bandanas

I brought along two bandanas and I used them just about as much as I used the buff. I had brought these along as general purpose gear as well as having the special purpose of dust guard as I described for the buff. I never did use them for that purpose. They weren’t as versatile as the buff nor did they sop up as much sweat but they did well for a while and then were swapped out. Just like the buff these did not protect my face from the sun.

Skullcap beanie

By far my favorite cold weather headgear. This maroon beanie I always keep with my winter clothes for when I’m traveling outside of Florida. I don’t think I have had much use for it in Florida. It’s soft and comfortable and keeps my head warm. It does tend to soak up the sweat over time and definitely had that issue on this trip. I wore this anytime it was chilly enough or my ears were too cold.

Fleece headband

I brought a fleece headband that I had bought when skiing, because I had forgotten my aforementioned beanie. I wore this one time when we were on our way back from ABC and my beanie was too wet from sweat and rain. Everyone seemed to think it was funny. But it kept my ears warm and that made me happy.

Comments off

Himalayan Photography Trip – Kathmandu to Pokhara

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I awoke at around 4:30am and then again around 5:30am. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I just laid there and waited until an appropriate breakfast time. It was probably around 7am when I roused and headed downstairs for breakfast with Damion. Most of the group showed up within 30 minutes or so except for a couple that had come down with some illness.

After breakfast we had a lot of time to kill before we had to go to the airport for our flight to Pokhara. I guess I should explain that. When the plans changed from Tibet to Annapurna it was decided that based on our schedules that we would fly to Pokhara. Then we would spend one night there and the next morning we would take a bus to the trailhead for the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek. The flight on this day was going to be around 2-2:30pm and we were going to leave for the airport around 1pm. So like I said we had some time to kill.

At some point Ben mentioned that he had to go to Thamel to get some extra trekking pants due to the fact that we were going to be spending more time trekking than originally planned. Also Jon had asked him to purchase one of the cheap knock off duffels that all of the gear dealers sold. Since I also had so business to attend to in Thamel I asked if I could join him. We grabbed a taxi and headed to Thamel.

The streets of Thamel

Once we arrived in that district we walked by a few shops but finally stopped at a little corner shop that had “North Face” gear. Although it should have really been called “North Farce”. Anyway, Ben tried on and bought some pants as well as a small duffel for Jon. I also bought a duffel as I knew my purple bag was just too difficult to pack with everything in it. So for 300 rupees (about $4.50) I had another bag to throw stuff in to. So mission one was accomplished.

My second mission was to find the Thamel TB Hotel geocache. I enjoy geocaching and I absolutely had to log at least one in Nepal. I had planned ahead and grabbed four Travel Bugs (TBs) from a geocache in Orlando. A travel bug is a special kind of item that has a unique code associated to it and it can be placed inside a geocache with the express purpose of moving from geocache to geocache and being tracked along its journey.

So I dragged Ben with me as we went on a search for a very specific trekking company that was the keeper of this special geocache. I recalled from the description that we would have to go down a dark hallway and then up some narrow, dark steps to a second floor. The description was spot on and we made it to the office of the trekking company. There were four men in the office having a discussion so I quietly made my presence known and when they acknowledged me I then asked for the geocache which they handed over to me with a smile and then continued their discussion. I quickly signed the log and traded the TBs that I had for a fresh set of TBs to take home with me. Ben dropped in a business card. I then sealed the geocache, handed it back to the men in the office and thanked them. Ben and I then exited the building and continued to walk around Thamel.

Small Hindu shrine

As we walked around I tried to find interesting things to take pictures of. The following building is an example of the architecture in Kathmandu. Basically wherever there is a space in between two buildings a third building will be built. You can see that in the building sandwich below. You can also see a rather mild example of the way they handle the power grid a.k.a. wires everywhere. I should have taken a picture of where all of the wires in one area connect. It’s such a rat’s nest that I don’t know how it would ever work.

Building sandwiched between two others

Ben mentioned that he wanted to get one last good cup of coffee before starting our trek so he suggested that we do this at the New Orleans Cafe. I guess we were becoming regulars.

New Orleans Cafe

It was starting to sprinkle when we arrived at the restaurant so we choose one of the covered booths. Ben had a coffee and a chocolate brownie. I had a banana lassi and a chocolate brownie. The lassi and brownie were ok but not great. The rain came down a bit harder but we were safe under the eaves. Our short snack lasted just long enough for the rain to come and go. We finished, paid, and re-entered Thamel in order to grab a taxi back to the hotel.

Upon returning to the hotel I packed my bags and prepared myself for the upcoming travel. By preparing myself I mean that I sat around and waited and killed time the best that I could. I recall that I was having significant trouble gaining use of the hotel’s wifi. Anyway, the time passed and the group started to congregate in the lobby. Our bags congregated too…

IMG 0038

Our bus finally arrived with Sonam Sherpa and we piled ourselves and our gear in for the trip to the airport. The ride was as uneventful as all other rides around Kathmandu. In other words you are scared to the point of being numb every time there is a need to merge or cross traffic. We survived this trip and arrived at the domestic terminal of the Kathmandu airport.

As we walked through the parking lot to the entrance of the domestic terminal I noticed that there was a tribe of monkeys sitting or running along one of the walls and the trees that crossed the wall. This was just interesting although it was probably really a nuisance but it made me smile.

The security at the airport was interesting. Only passengers were allowed to enter the terminal so Sonam had provided each of us with a printed out “ticket” with our names but the security guard didn’t even look at them. To pass from the ticketing area to the departure lounge required us to go through a screening area where the security guards basically asked us if we had any knives or sharp objects, any flammable liquids or lighters, or any weapons. I had two “hand luggages” and they only asked me to open one of them and they looked inside without much care.

Before we went through security Sonam had collected our paper “tickets” and talked with the ticket agent and returned with boarding passes for Agni Air [“Fly the Friendly Sky”]. He had also collected our large duffels that would be checked through to Pokhara. After we passed through security we found out that our flight was delayed and so we had more time that needed to be wasted. As with many locations, that is pretty much all locations, in the area there was no air conditioning so the room was quite warm and stifling. I proceeded over to an area where there were working overhead fans as I assumed that moving air would help the a little. A few others of the group joined me and we either talked or sat in silence while waiting for the flight. Some sat a little more silently than others.

Ben dozing

Poor Ben was starting to get sick around this time.

I was a bit bored so I attempted to take some pictures around the departure lounge with my point-and-shoot but almost nothing came out. Here are the Himalayas in the distant.

P4190013

[and this was one of my better pictures :-( ]

Jon came around at one point and handed out snickers bars as a preflight snack. I decided to save mine for a later time and I ended up carrying that candy bar with me on the whole trek and then tossing it out when we returned to civilization. I was never in a snickers mood I guess.

Eventually someone called for the Agni Air flight to Pokhara and the group collected our bags and assembled at the “gate”. After we handed our boarding pass to the gate agent we went through another security check. This time they asked the exact same questions about our carry-ons but then proceeded to give everyone a quick pat down. We walked on the tarmac to our plane and boarded. The seating was basically a free-for-all but it seemed to work. I ended up in an aisle seat next to an American who I believe was doing missionary work. He was helping to build a school in the area around Pokhara.

As soon as we were seated the flight attendant came through the plane with candies and cotton balls. The latter was useful because we were on a turbo prop plane. Even before she was finished with this pre-flight distribution we were taxiing in preparation for take-off. As we were taking off the flight attendant came over the speaker system to tell us that we should have our seat belts buckled. After we were in the air for about five minutes the flight attendant passed through the plane with a plastic bottle of Pepsi and small cups, about the volume of two shot glasses. Her second pass was with a bottle of Coke. Her final pass was with a bottle of water. And that was about the time we started to descend into Pokhara. It was a very short flight.

The plane quickly taxied to the arrival terminal and we deplaned and headed to baggage claim area. It was a little chaotic but Sonam helped us grab our bags and we lugged them outside to the awaiting van. We got onto the bus and we had a relatively quick drive to our hotel just off the lakeside tourist area. Although this area had the same sort of touristy feel as Thamel it was a lot cleaner and seemed more laid back. Our hotel was the Candle Inn, “The hotel with a heart”.

IMG 3885

It was attractive from the outside with a nice garden area. The stairs inside were kind of neat.

Stairs at Candle Inn

But the best were the views but the clouds did not want to cooperate on this day. I did see a cute little owl land into a tree on the backside of the hotel but he didn’t want to cooperate either and let me take a picture of his face. See if you can find him in this photo…

IMG 3881

[Not exactly my finest photography attempt]

We all just relaxed around the hotel for the rest of the day. Except for Ben who progressively got worse as the hours passed. A small group of us went down the street to the lakeside strip where there were places like

IMG 3886

And various interesting scenes such as a snake charmer with a cobra. Of course he wanted us to take a picture of him so that he could get a donation to feed his cobra. I passed on that opportunity and instead took a picture of a dog sleeping on a bed…

IMG 3887

Shortly after Damion and I returned to our room Ben came in to our room sweating profusely and looking weak and asked us to track down Jon. I snapped up out of bed and scurried along the hall until I came to Jon’s room and I let him know how bad Ben looked. Jon immediately walked to Ben and Thilo’s room and started to take care of Ben. There was nothing else I could do so I got out of the way. It’s always bad to see someone who is not feeling well.

Not long after this the group (minus Ben, Sonam, and Jon) convened in the hotel restaurant for dinner. I believe we had Dal Bhat which is affectionately referred to as Sherpa Fuel. I could be mistaken on what we ate that evening because I wasn’t really interested in food. I guess I wasn’t feeling 100% either. Anyway, Dal Bhat consists of a large portion of rice (bhat) with lentil soup (dal) poured over the rice. It is usually accompanied by some curried vegetables (mostly cauliflower from my experiences) and sometimes with meat such as chicken. The reason it is called Sherpa Fuel is because it is basically the main dish that is eaten by the Sherpas and porters while trekking and I assume while not trekking as well. During dinner Jon and Sonam would be in and out as they were returning to help Ben out.

The mood was somber during dinner and afterwards we all just retired to our rooms. The bathroom that Damion and I shared was relatively disgusting. Well that’s probably too strong of a word but I did not want to spend any time in there. There seemed to be a leak in the toilet tank somewhere and the water was all over the floor and was slowly dripping down a drain hole. Drip…drip…drip…The shower curtain was rolled up and the bathtub/shower did not look inviting at all. There were no towels or even working lights in the bathroom.

I did not sleep well through the night. At some point I realized that the dripping had stopped. But that is a story for the next day.

People: Chris Marquardt

IMG 4026

Chris is the second trip leader as well as the primary instructor. He is a professional photographer and photography instructor. He also has a couple of podcasts, including Tips from the Top Floor, and this is where I found out about him and about the Himalayan Workshops. Chris and I seemed to gel quite quickly on the trip. I’m not certain if it was our similar sense of humor or the fact that many times we were stuck at the back of the pack because we were “taking our time”. I learned a lot about photography from Chris in both the formal workshop sessions and random questions as we trekked. Chris’s personality and charisma really helped the journey go smoothly and added a lot of laughs. Even goats liked him…

IMG 4486

[ok, maybe not enough to eat from his hand as Chris is trying to force here]
Chris’s twitter and flickr accounts.

Gear: The North Face Base Camp Duffel – large & “Power Purple”

This bag served me very well. I was able to transport everything on my gear list except for my travel pillow, my camera and my laptop which I carried in my backpack. I was able to pack about 45lbs worth of densely packed clothing and gear. Even my trekking poles fit which I was extremely happy about. The zipper was pretty difficult to shut once I was getting the duffel to capacity but I was able to force it without the zipper breaking. This bag held up to all of the abuse from the airlines and the porters. There was only one wear mark on the bag and that was due to the trekking poles pushing on the side of the bag and then the bag being dragged on that pressure point. That was definitely my fault and I made sure it didn’t happen after I noticed it. That wear mark never spread or opened up a real hole during the rest of the trek so the material can really hold up to abuse.

After seeing the size of the over trekkers’ duffels I kind of wished I had gotten one size larger (XL) just to have a little breathing room inside the bag. I ended up having to buy a really cheap canvas duffel because trying to stuff everything back into the Purple Monster everyday would have been a pain. Having the second bag worked out nicely but would have been unnecessary if my original duffel was slightly larger.

My conclusion is that this is an awesome duffel.

 

Comments off

Himalayan Photography Trip – The Gear

As I mentioned in my previous post I am going on a trip to Asia in April. This is a photography workshop where we will be visiting many places in Nepal and Tibet in order to get immersed in different cultures as well as having great opportunities to improve our skills as photographers. Frankly, I need a lot of improvement.

Because this is a lengthy trip and there will be some trekking in the Himalayan Mountains I’ve had to accumulate both photography gear and cold weather trekking gear. I think I have most everything I’m going to need and I have listed it all on my gear listing but there are still a few odds and ends to be added.

As I continue to fill out what I’m taking on the trip I will be updating the page. I’ll also add in my thoughts about the items before, during, and after the trip for their effectiveness and usefulness. Some of the gear, a good portion actually, I’ll be able to use on future excursions but items like the -30F sleeping bag has limited use in Florida outdoor life.

Comments off