Monday, April 13, 2009

All this and now Everest!

OK wow SOOO much to write about but so little time especially if i want to post pictures!

Ok so... We left Calcutta on an overnight train to Darjeeling, a nice little hill/mountain town to the north. This was a really nice place and such a great change of pace from the incessent honking and street harassment in Calcutta. Unfortunately it was raining when we arrived and didnt seem like it was going to let up anytime soon. On our way to Darjeeling, we obtained permits to enter a northern region of India called Sikkim so we decided two days of the rain was enough and kept going further north to the mountains. We also managed to organize an expedition to the base of Sikkim's highest mountain Kangchenzonga, the 3rd highest mountain in the world.

Yuksom was a 5 hour jeep ride away through some pretty awful hillside terrain. We did however manage to fill the jeep with 12 people including the driver which made for an even more enjoyable ride! :S

We spent the night in Yuksom and met with our 'crew' that was to take us up there. For two people to reach the Gochela, the base of Kangchemzonga, and return over a total of 8 days we required 1 guide, 1 cook, 1 helper guy, 1 Yak Man and 3 Yaks. Gochela is approximately 4900 meters. This whole experience was unreal and I want to go into more detail but I dont have the time so I will try and let the pictures speak for themselves. What I will say is that this was probably the best I have eaten on my entire trip and it was extremely challenging but absolutely worth ever minute (although I was seriously questioning my motivation freezing my ass off sleeping at 4000 meters).

After our trek, we were pretty burnt out and our faces were fried from the snow and sun so we decided...for some walk to a little lake town called Kachepouri. This took about 3 hours carryng all of our gear (~30-35 pounds) on our backs but again totally worth it. We settled into a little homestay at the top of this hill run by an 82 year old man who has 11 children the youngest being his 4 year old daughter. Pretty awesome guy, he cooked for the Dalai Lama in Tibet for 30 years so the food we ate, as you can imagine, was stellar.

NEXT...we jumped on a 7 hour jeep ride back to the closet border town to Nepal and crossed the border at about 9 o'clock pm, everything was closed of course, so although we could walk across the border we had no visa's to enter Nepal but had already stamped out of India...this meant getting random people to help us wake up the immigration officials! We overpaid for our visas.
Next morning, wake up, buy bus tickets to Kathmandu, 17 hours the tell us. Our bus leaves at 2pm. Now Nepal is notorious for it's bus accidents but we didn't have too many options so we decided driving overnight was what we should do. Didn't matter. Five hours into our bus ride (well we were probably stopped waiting for people to fill the bus for at least 2 of those) we reached a ferry crossing on some random backroad that was closed due to a 'strike'. It's 7pm and people on the bus are telling us it won't open again until about 6am. Pretty sweet. There were about 15 buses in front of us and it takes about 15 minutes to get one bus across the river.... see pictures. So of course Nepali's want to capitalize on these 'strikes' and our meal options were very limited so we ate some rice and dal that im sure was made with river water. I didn't get sick but I can't say the same for my travel companion...

I slept on the riverbank, and on the bus, both were god awful places to try and sleep. The next morning we got across the river by 10am...not bad. Then it was another whole day of riding the most uncomfortable bus in the entire world. We finally arrived in Kathmandu the following morning around 6am. So a 17 hour bus ride took 40. The icing on the cake was getting ripped off by some asshole taxi driver on the way to the hotel district. So not the best first impression of Nepal for me, but the people we met when were were waiting for the ferry were amazing and patient and now that we are here I am definitely stoked about this place.

Kathmandu is crazy. I love it here. There are people everywhere, and its smoggy as hell (many people on the streets wear face masks and I really don't blame them) but there is no harassment to look in shops and the Nepali's are just not as obsessed with westerners as Indians are. A shopping spree in this city would be SO awesome. There is brand name outdoor gear (fake and real) in everyshop and it's all SO cheap compared to home!

Tomorrow we leave for Lukla, the start of a 15-18 day trek in the Everest region. It should take about 8-9 days to reach base camp (~5500 meters), I'm really looking forward to the challenge. We will have to cross alot more valley's than we did to reach Gochela and this time I don't have a Yak to carry my pack...

I hope you enjoy the pictures everyone, some of them date back as far as the beginning of March and you will have to scroll from the bottom up if you want to see them in order.

Drinking Everest beer in Kathmandu after a day of planning and preparing for our asscent.

A relatively quiet street in Thamal, Kathmandu.

"You make dollars in your country, why wouldn't you just fly?" Some Nepali to me and Jess when we were waiting for the ferry crossing.

A double rainbow at Paule's place on the hill above Kachapouri Lake.

Gochela, our final destination after 6 long days of trekking. Elevation 4900 meters.

Prayer flags at Gochela. Although it looks lower, Kangchenzonga is the peak on the right, the 3rd highest mountain in the world.

There was alot of snow and we both forgot to wear suncreen...

One of the many outstanding meals we ate on the trek. They actually cooked us pizza up there...PIZZA!

A lookout about an hour away from Dzongri.

Totally worth getting up at 4am for.

Dzongri. Elevation 4200 meters. So so so beautiful.

Then we encountered snow...

And then we spent the night in a mountain village called, Tsokha, the only village on the trek. Elevation 2900 meters.

But the sun came out the next morning.

So we froze that night. The first of many cold nights.

It was a rainy start to the trek.

Sometimes, even in the streets of Calcutta, a herd of goats may come by...

Rickshaw pullers and their passengers in Calcutta.

Jess and I enjoying some chai and beedies in Calcutta.

One of the unreal sunsets on Beach #7, Havelock Island, Andman Islands, one of my favorite places in India.

The lagoon at Beach #7, Havelock Island.

Beach #5, Havelock Island, the beach where we stayed. You could walk for 500 meters and the water wouldnt get over your knees.

The aftermath of getting 'painted' at the festival of Holi, a celebration that takes place all over India (don't ask me what it's all about I just know you throw paint at EVERYONE).

Some night traffic in Chennai.