Himalayan Photography Trip – Pokhara and the end of the trek

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

I was awakened around 5:30am. I guess I just got used to waking up really early. I stayed in bed and wrote in my journal and listened to music for about an hour. Once I roused from my bed I started to empty my bags with the intent of reorganizing and repacking. I attempted to get everything back into my large purple duffel but I was failing miserably at getting the zipper to close. I resigned myself to place a fair bit of clothing into my secondary duffel after which I was pretty satisfied with the distribution of my gear between the two bags. At around 8:15am I grabbed a shower and attempted to wash my hair again. I then headed down to the dining room to join my fellow trekkers for breakfast. We ate and chatted for about an hour. During the course of the conversation I mentioned that the water must be hard or something because I wasn’t feeling like my hair was getting clean. Damion then made a comment about the fact that I had conditioner. Of course I was a bit embarrassed but it provided a good chuckle for the rest of the group and I have to admit I laughed a bit myself. In my rush to buy something that looked recognizable I didn’t take the time to read the label. I had indeed purchased conditioner instead of shampoo. Oh well, you live and learn.

I excused myself as I needed to run a few errands. I was in need of a stamp for the postcard that I had purchased approximately a week prior in the middle of the trek. I walked to some nearby stores as they were opening for business and asked around. I finally found what seemed to be a book store/newsstand and the proprietor sold me a stamp that would work to send a postcard to the States. I dropped the stamped postcard off at the front office of the hotel and I returned to my room to put the finishing touches on my packing before staging my gear for the trip to the airport.

As I was sitting in my room Shaun busted into the room exclaiming that the U.S. had killed Osama bin Laden. This was approximately 10:10am local time. I was in absolute disbelief as Damion and I left our room and shuffled over to Shaun and Thilo’s room to watch the news coverage on CNN. The coverage was mostly of the crowd that was assembled in front of the White House celebrating the fact that we had killed the person responsible for the September 11th attacks. After 10 years of war in Afghanistan the for this elusive man was over. The CNN correspondents speculated on what this meant and so did the occupants of this hotel room in Western Nepal. I was still in disbelief but at the time all I could think of were thoughts like this.

After a good 15 minutes or so of watching and discussing we had to shift back to packing and leaving the hotel. I lugged my bags downstairs and stacked them with the others then I went into the hotel’s lobby/waiting area. The television was tuned to some (we assumed) Nepali soap opera with an unfortunate girl with huge ears that seemed to cry way too much. We made many jokes in bad taste at this poor girl’s expense as we killed time awaiting the arrival of the bus to take us to the airport.

Out shuttle bus arrived and we all piled in with our gear. The ride to Pokhara airport took just over five minutes and we again disembarked from the vehicle. We trundled into the airport with our bags and Karma dealt with the ticket agent. We dropped our bags and stood around twiddling our thumbs.

The gang at the airport

Karma returned to our group with another man and suggested that we adjourn to the restaurant above the terminal while we wait for our departure time. I guess at small airports like this there isn’t a really strict schedule. The departure time is more of a guideline than set in stone. Frankly, I guess that’s the way all airports are anyway.

We moved our bags over to the ticket counter and then proceeded upstairs and ordered a round of Fantas. Karma joined us and let us know that our flight was about an hour delayed. Delayed flights is the story of my life. Our flight was now scheduled to depart at 11:40am and just a few minutes before that mark a man entered the restaurant and announced that the flight would be ready for boarding soon. We gathered our “carry-on” bags and headed back downstairs and through security. Security consisted of a security guard asking if you were carrying any knives, weapons or lighters in your “hand baggage” and the proceeding to take a cursory look in the bags (well he only took a look in one of my two bags) followed by a quick pat down. We then waited in the “departure lounge” for 5-10 minutes until our plane arrived. At that time a ticket agent called for our flight and we handed over our boarding pass and walked out toward the plane. Our group sort of hung out on the tarmac for a few minutes to allow the other passengers time to get on the plane before us and then we boarded and got situated. By the time I got seated, I barely had enough time to get my seatbelt fastened before the plane lurched forward and was rolling down the runway. Within a couple of minutes we were airborne at which point the flight attendant came of the PA to let us know that we should buckle our safety belts.

The flight in this turbo prop lasted only about 40 minutes and we landed safely at the Kathmandu airport. We exited the plane and entered a shuttle bus that moved us over to the domestic arrival area (aka an outdoor zone with a gate). We regrouped while waiting for our luggage to be delivered. Karma made a deal with a couple of guys who seemed to be very attached to their luggage carts to help us transport our bags from the arrival area to the parking lot. They attempted to get extra tips from us but Karma shooed them away as we awaited our transportation. The heat was beating down on us as we waited in the parking lot. Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. Our ride through Kathmandu was typical and our first stop was at the Manaslu Hotel (where we had stayed before the trek which seemed like eons ago) where people could pick up any items that they might have left. I had not left anything so I took the opportunity to whip out my iPhone and connect to the hotel’s free wi-fi connection and surf Facebook and check email.

Nirvana Garden Hotel

We departed from the Manaslu and headed over to our new residence at the Nirvana Garden Hotel. We got our keys and a bellman carried our bags, two huge duffels at a time, up the five floors of steep steps and delivered them outside our doors. I used the facilities in the room that I was sharing with Shaun (Damion and Thilo both got single rooms) and then I went back downstairs to where the group was gathering. Clarence had rejoined us so we all went to the garden to get something to eat.

The service in the garden was severely lacking. This was very unusual as the service in almost every other respect while being in Nepal was prompt and friendly. We ordered drinks and a bit later I was able to order some fried rice and pork spring rolls. This was around 1 or 1:30pm and we knew that we would be having an early team dinner as Clarence was going to be leaving in the evening. The food took over an hour to be served. The food was alright but we were all very hungry.

After “lunch”; Shaun, Damion and I walked around Thamel as Shaun intended to purchasing gifts for friends and family back home. Damion and I just hung around looking around the stores and getting proportioned to buy all sorts of knick knacks and “smoke”. The latter happened about five times. I guess the scruffy beard and trekking looking gear labeled me as some sort of neo-hippy and therefore I was on the lookout for some “smoke”. We walked around for about an hour and then returned to the hotel.

We had a reservation at Rum Doodle for 5pm and we left about 10 minutes before that so that we could walk there in time. As we were leaving the hotel we ran into Jill who was a member of a previous “Rest of Everest” workshop. She could definitely talk a lot. We ended up talking with her for about 15 minutes before someone realized that we were already late and that we should get a move on. Jill decided to accompany us on our walk to Rum Doodle. We made our way through the streets of Kathmandu and arrived at our destination and were immediately seated on the rooftop patio. Rum Doodle is a huge landmark for trekkers in Nepal. It’s an institution. There are painted boards in the shape of stylized footprints that trekkers that had visited this restaurant and decorated and signed and then the restaurant had plastered these all over the restaurant. During our time at the restaurant we also filled out one of the footprint boards so that it could be hung up for display somewhere in the restaurant.

Rum Doodle coaster

I ordered the steak stroganoff and garlic nan for dinner although it was alright it was not what I expected. Babu, Karma, & Depen ate with us which was nice because we hadn’t seen Babu since before we left Kathmandu. Chris gave another short speech and handed out our customized t-shirts for the workshop. After which Clarence and Karma said their goodbyes as they left to take Clarence to the airport. Shortly afterward Jill rejoined us at the restaurant and brought along a very cute German woman named Sophie that she was attempting to hook Thilo up with. I need to check with Thilo if that ever came to fruition. After another drink or two the group split up and headed back to the hotel.

I made a bee line directly for my room and prepped for bed. Sleep didn’t come immediately so Shaun and I chatted for a bit. Eventually we did go quiet and then to sleep.

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Himalayan Photography Trip – Pokhara and the trek begins

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

I awoke around 5am. Although I woke up easily I did not feel rested and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I took the opportunity as the sun was coming up to snap some pictures around the hotel. I think this first one is Annapurna South, which is one of the smaller of the Annapurna peaks.

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This next two I believe are Machapucchre (Fishtail)

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Around 7am we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant which I think consisted of eggs and toast and maybe some sausage. I don’t recall but I also don’t believe I was all that hungry. Sometime while we were in the restaurant Ben joined us and we found out that he had a crazy night. Basically his illness got to the point where Jon and Sonam took him to the hospital and the doctor their immediately put him on an IV drip. He also got a stack of prescriptions (wrapped in folded newspaper). He seemed in a little bit better spirits than the last time I saw him the day before but he definitely wasn’t 100%.

After breakfast I packed whatever I hadn’t packed earlier in the morning and brought my bags down to the lobby and waited as everyone else filtered in.

Trekkers gathering before the bus ride

Just after 8am our bus arrived and we started to migrate towards it. I saw something really neat in the garden right before hopping onto the bus so I took a quick snap. Can you see what I saw?

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It’s not the flowers, or the buildings, or even the wrought iron fence. Let’s zoom in a little.

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I have no idea how I saw this guy but he is pretty awesome. It seems to be an Oriental Garden Lizard but as I didn’t get a profile picture I can’t be sure. Anyway, I hopped on the bus and away we went.

The ride was pretty much what we had come to expect of driving in Nepal. It was rather early when we left so there wasn’t much auto or pedestrian traffic but that didn’t mean the driver hesitated to use his horn whenever he did come across another vehicle or person near our path. As we got outside of Pokhara the streets became bumpier and narrower which means that passing vehicles that are traveling in the opposite direction becomes even more perilous.

At some point early during the trip, Jon made his way to the back of the bus, re-arranged the duffels into a make-shift bed and immediately passed out. I guess he had had a long night hanging out with Ben at the hospital.

I lost track of time as we traveled to the trailhead at Naya Pool. I snapped a dozen or so pictures along the way attempting to capture something interesting but most came as a blurry mess. Here are some that survived the cut.

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The bus finally made it to what seemed to be a very popular area for trekking. There were lots of foreigners either getting into or out of vehicles. But our bus ride was not over yet. We continued down a rather narrow road crowded with people, parked vehicles, and loose animals. We made it down to a turn and the assistant driver (a.k.a. the guy banging the side of the bus) stepped out and attempted to help navigate the bus through the tight space. At some point a dog decided to duck under the bus and everything was halted until the dog ran out. We continued down a bit further and then we stopped to greet our sherpas, Tendi and Karma, and our pack of porters. We got off the bus and quickly all of our gear was unloaded and assigned out. By assigning out I mean to say that the porters discussed, argued (with smiles), and finally to what looks like compromises.

We trekkers donned our packs and situated ourselves for the hiking for the day.

getting ready for the hike

A playful dog decided to interrupt our preparations and get some attention from Jon.

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Jon had a little fun playing back with the dog.

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Shortly after this we began our walk. Here is a parting shot of what we left behind including the playful dog.

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At the beginning of the hike our elevation was approximately 1030 meters. I’ll be pretty much doing everything in metric as that is how everything there was written. This one time I’ll say that the conversion rate between meters and feet is 1m = 3.3ft. Therefore my starting elevation of 1030m was approximately 3400ft.

As we hiked a little bit I noticed one of our first views of the peaks from the ground. This is Macchapuchhare (I know I spelled it differently, welcome to the wonderful world of Nepali/English transitions) again.

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I just liked how the picture had the Fish Tail peak along with the Fish Tail restaurant.

We quickly made it to Birenthanti and crossed the river on our first bridge of the trip. Here is one of the only times I was in the front of our trekking group.

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Of course I was still behind the porters (notice the one on the right has a purple duffle, mine, as well as other bags). The porters who were all relatively small but all carried about their body weight. I have much respect for them.

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As we hiked on the first day we were typically near a river. Here are some waterfalls.

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The day was hot and we didn’t have much cover.

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Our first stop was at a guest house right around noon. It’s the place with the orange tarp in the distance. This was such a welcome sight as all of us wanted to get out of the oppressive heat. Even though most of the hike so far had been on relatively flat land, it was extremely welcome to have a goal in sight.

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And even better was the fact that we were going to be fed. This was our first meal on the trek.

first lunch

That’s right, Mac & Cheese. Accompanying the Mac & Cheese were chicken sausages (hot dogs), potatoes, and broccoli in some sort of dressing (I think it was mayo). The process that was typical for lunch was that we would arrive at our lunch destination and we would immediately get “juice” which was a warm to hot concoction of some sort of sugary drink mix such as lemonade, tang, mango or grape. Within a short amount of time prepared plates of food would be passed out to each of the trekkers. After finishing the meal the plates would be cleared and then various teas and other hot drinks would be available.

Now to the bad news. Ben had a difficult time with the short hike that we had so far on that day. His illness was still affecting him too much and the heat and dehydration were taking its toll. After some discussion between the trip leaders it was decided that Ben would go no further today. Ben, Jon and Sonam would stay at the guest house that we were having lunch at and determine what to do the following day. This really sucks that Ben was being told to drop out but he was not doing well and we all felt for him.

As we got ready to continue our trip we said our goodbyes to Ben and Jon and we were hoping to see them all again at some point later in the trip or in Kathmandu. We had hiked for about an hour and half before stopping for lunch and now we had about two to three hours to finish for the day. So we started hiking again.

The rest of the trip that day was grueling. At least the temperature dropped a little and it became overcast. We started to climb and mostly on stairs…

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And more stairs…

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I was so happy when I saw the following sight…

The first campsite

The porters and Dawa’s team (Dawa is the sherpa in charge of cooking and camp logistics) had arrived and set up our tents and the dining tent. I was so glad that the end of the hiking for the day was over. We stopped at Tikhedhunga which was at approximately 1480m altitude. This means that we climbed about 450m in the four to five hours of hiking.

Now for camp procedure. Typically when we arrive at camp the tents are erected and we are served tea within 30 minutes of arriving. Tea consists of a choice of hot beverages including black tea, mint tea, hot chocolate, bourn vita++, or instant coffee. Dawa provides both hot water and hot milk to create the beverages. Bourn Vita++, two flavors original and “5 Star Magic”, is a Cadbury product that is a nutrient rich drink for children.

I don’t recall what I had for tea on this day but I do recall not feeling to great because I was constipated and I went to lay down in my tent. I ended up taking a nap for about an hour with my feet hanging out of the tent door. I awoke and rejoined the group in the dining tent.

Chris decided that we would review our Patan assignments and critique each other’s photos before dinner. Just to refresh your memory the assignments were to get a picture of something with a clear subject that was not a human and to take a picture of a stranger after asking permission in some fashion. I had failed latter assignment as I never asked permission. I still provided two pictures for review and had them critiqued. The two that I choose were…

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I’ve done some post processing to these now but at the time I had not. I love the story told by the player-less chess game as well as its colors. The sleeping boy with the pink cast was interesting too although I couldn’t adjust the white balance better than what is seen here. I guess it’s ok.

Our review session continued almost up until dinner time. Just to kill some time and to explore a little of my surroundings I grabbed my camera and tried to find subjects to shoot. I guess I was too tired to explore too much.

buddhist prayer flag

Another trekker

Dinner consisted of chicken and a whole lot of mashed potatoes and gravy. There were also vegetables. Even though I wasn’t hungry I knew I had to eat because I knew we would be hiking quite a bit the next day. I ate what I could. As the meal wound down I did as well. I was having a really difficult time staying awake which was probably caused by my lack of sleep the night before. Anyway, I got up from the table, went to my tent, and promptly passed out.

In the middle of the night I got up to use the restroom and I was amazed at how bright the moon and the stars were. If it weren’t for the moon I probably would have attempted to get some night shots. Ok that was a fib, I was just too lazy and tired to get my camera out and fiddle with the settings. Back to bed I went.

People: Monika Andrae

Monika Andrae

[I didn’t have a good picture of her so I’m linking to this one.]

Monika rounds out the set of trip leaders. She brought a lot of knowledge in the creativity and composition areas of photography. She also demonstrated how to develop film at altitude. Her quick wit and humor were always welcome additions to the group’s conversations. Monika has a blog and podcast that are both in German. I confess that I have only looked at the pretty pictures on her blog without bothering to translate to English.

Monika’s twitter and flickr accounts. She mainly tweets in German.

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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…

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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.

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[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”.

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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…

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[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

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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…

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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

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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…

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[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.

 

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