Thursday, September 27, 2012

Street dogs

We've left the street dogs behind.  To the hills we go on a small micro bus with 19 people. Great  music playing thru the sound system. It lulls me to sleep.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More permits!

We're happy - our Mustang and Nar-Phu permits came through tonight! We met our guide and Uttam at 5, just like we had arranged. It's a great relief to finally see the permits we've been waiting for. Now we have to pack, as we're leaving for Besi Sahar first thing tomorrow morning. I feel like a kid on Christmas eve!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We're going to be on TV!

Well, maybe. But only in France. As we were walking down the street after meeting with the manager of the trekking agency, a crew from French TV approached us and asked to interview us about the avalanche on Manaslu.

I explained that trekking was much safer than climbing 8000 metre peaks, and that the accident did not make me change my plans.

Uttam Tamang, the manager of Brilliant Treks and Adventure (who is arranging our trek) was also interviewed, and told them that the avalanche was a natural occurrence that no one could control.

The interviewer kept asking what is the impact of the increase in the number of climbers in the Himalayas on accidents like the one on Manaslu. He seemed to be leading us to say more people mean more accidents, but neither of us said that.

After our interviews, Ciel talked with the cameraman and said that mountaineers on 8000 metre peaks should know the risks involved - this led them to interview her as well.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Breakfast in New Orleans

No, we didn't fly back to the USA overnight - New Orleans is a cafe in Kathmandu. A bit pricier than other breakfasts we've had here, but they make muesli with yoghurt so pretty!


We'll be heading out on trek in a couple of days - can't wait to be out in the mountains, away from the traffic and air pollution of Kathmandu!
We're going to start the Annapurna circuit at Besi Sahar, then detour into the restricted area of the Nar-Phu valley and over the Kang La (5306m) to get back to the main circuit. Then it's over the Thorung La (5416m) to Kagbeni, where we take a detour into the restricted area of Upper Mustang. Back to Kagbeni after 10 days then the organized trek ends at Jomsom. We'll figure out how to get down to Tatopani (bus? walk?), then up to Ghorepani and Poon hill. Then maybe Annapurna base camp before heading out to Naya Pul and Pokhara.
Can't wait!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Permits, permits, permits

Today we wandered over to the tourism board office to get our permits to trek. The Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) card is new, required for all treks in Nepal now. No problem getting those, though they cost us twice as much as if we had arranged the trek through an agency. Still, it's only $20 each.

The Annapurna Conservation Area permits were 2000 rupees each, a bit more than $20. No problem getting those either.

The permits to get into some of the restricted areas we want to go were a different story. The books say you don't need to book through an agency to get the permits for Nar-Phu valley, so I asked at the tourist board office. They sent us across the hall, where we were told to go to the Immigration office, a 15 minute walk across town.

After about an hour at the immigration office, we discovered that you can't get the permit for Nar-Phu (or any of the restricted areas, now) unless you go through an agency.

Well, two out of three ain't bad, or so I've heard.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

On the air with Ncell

I have a Nepali SIM card for my mobile phone now, so I can call home. Rates are good to Canada - only 3 rupees per minute (less than 4 cents). We'll find out what coverage is like in the mountains when we head out on trek. There is supposed to be some coverage - even Everest base camp has 3G! Some of the remote valleys probably won't have any coverage though. Telecom here isn't bad, we even have free wifi at the hotel.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What did the cat man do?

We got to Kathmandu yesterday and got our visas and some rupees at the airport, then waded into the craziness of taxi drivers outside. We eventually got a taxi to the place we're staying, a guesthouse attached to a Buddhist monastery near Swoyambunath (the monkey temple). They advise guests to close all windows and doors, and not leave shoes or anything outside, or the monkeys might steal it!
Today we're going to see about trekking cards for the Annapurna circuit, and find out if we can get rupees out of one of the bank machines here. Lots to see!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


We got to Bangkok with no problems. We managed to sleep a bit on the plane, and even stretch out a bit with three seats each - the flight was pretty empty.
Now we have a long wait for a short flight to Kathmandu!


Made it through the longest flight. Next up is a flight to Bangkok!

We're taking off!

We decided to leave the computer at home as we really want to get away from wifi hotspots as they are on the tourist trails and we're hoping to get more remote.  So I'm obviously already missing it because now I am using the phone. But remember no news is good news, and if we don't update for a while we've been successful or else I really went cold turkey.  or not

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Back in the land of volcanos

We stayed at White Pass and observed a very nice dark sky despite the smoke from fires burning throughout Eastern Washington.  We were able to observe Jupiter and it's 4 moons and the Andromena Galaxy with our binoculars.  Truly spectacular to see something 2.5 billion light years away with the naked eye.  Also pondering us as we laid on the ground looking up that someday our solar system will be spared somehow when the Andromena Galaxy collides with our Milky Way Galaxy 4 billion years from now.  People get paid to figure that kinda of stuff out.
I'm going to take a copy of this picture to show people in Nepal our style of  mtns, 14,410 foot Mt Rainier.
Today's view of Mt St. Helens from a viewpoint about 8-10 miles from the volcano where the photo was taken below. 
The man who took this picture survived on May 18, 1980. He and the people he was with ran and drove like hell to survive.  57 other people perished in the eruption.  I didn't hear the eruption in Seattle, but my parents who were out on the Pacific Ocean north of Copallis heard the blast.

We're back in the land of volcanos.

Friday, September 14, 2012

This week, Westbank; next week the real thing

We're driving through West Kelowna and this place was on the main road.  I asked Mark to pose in front of it so we might be able to share it with Nepali people who would be interested,

The trip across the Canada/Border was uneventful and we headed south past dry falls, a really amazing perspective on our young planet.  When the water was flowing over 10,000 years ago, the waterfall was four times larger than Niagara Falls and would have been the largest waterfall on the planet if running today.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Burning Men (and Women)

I better get this up before I forget all about Burning Man...I've been distracted by preparations for Nepal and Thailand!

We rolled slowly onto the playa after a slow trip down to the Black Rock desert (the old motorhome doesn't like to go more than 50mph, especially not when loaded with lots of food, water, and gear), and the dust kicked up almost immediately. We drove very slowly, but still managed to run over a pylon somewhere - Ciel was horrified when the gate attendant stopped us to pull it out from under the motorhome! Not too surprising, really, as there were times when we couldn't see to the end of the hood, let alone anything past it. I guess we got pretty spoiled on out trip in May, as the wind wasn't a factor then.

After sorting out the confusion about whether or not we could enter early (not, as it turned out), we waited in the staging area and met a bunch of very nice people. Marie and her parents from Creston, B.C. were in line just ahead of us; Tony from New York was parked beside us. Eventually, just as it got dark, we got to roll into the city to look for a camping spot. We picked a spot right next to the perimeter road, then the constant traffic persuaded us to move a bit farther in, so we settled on the 7:00 radial, between J&K (A was closest to the center, L was the perimeter road).

Then next morning, we found ourselves almost alone at the edge of the city, so Ciel waved down passing trucks and motorhomes to get some neighbours. Bob and Mike, two old friends from Vermont who now live in Rhode Island and Colorado, pulled in with their big motorhome and set up. I saw a party setting up across the road and offered to help, which is how I met Chris, Jenn, and Keith from Boise, Idaho. Later, Ciel and I met Cindy and Terry from Nevada, and we went for a ride to the perimeter fence and the Temple with them. Then Steve showed up in his old Vega and set his tent up downwind from our motorhome (it still got blasted a bit by the dust storms, but there was a bit of shelter). We heard that the best thing about Burning man is the people you meet, and that was certainly the case with these people (and many others we met as well).

Cruising around the city, I got a chance to see some of the cool art cars, theme camps, and art installations. I stopped when a girl with a megaphone called out "come get a heart on!", and got a couple of hearts airbrushed onto my shoulders. Ciel and I stopped at another place to get sno-cones. After sunset, we rode out to the walk-in camping area to see the art installation constructed entirely from snap-together wooden pieces and climbed up to the top of the 3-story structure. It was a little creaky, but didn't collapse into a jumble heap under our weight! That might happen if I tried to build something like it...

I went to see the Man at the center of everything, a 40-foot tall wooden man standing on top of a structure about 4 stories tall. Not as intricate as the Temple, but still an impressively large structure built just to be burned at the end. Kind of like Buddhist butter sculptures and sand paintings, they are meant to be ephemeral expressions.

There was a model of Wall Street built out on the playa not too far from the Man, with the Bank of Unamerica, Chaos Manhattan, Goldman Sucks, and Merrill Lynched represented. We cruised over to look through it before it burned, but on Friday night when it was due to burn, the high winds cancelled the plan, so it was re-scheduled for Saturday after the Man burned. Friday afternoon, I painted Ciel up for the Critical Tits parade. I think she used too much lotion, because the liquid latex bodypaint started peeling off almost immediately - she looked like a wilting flower bouquet.

The Man burned on schedule Saturday night, and we were glad we decided not to be downwind from the burn - several people got burned by wind-carried embers, according to some EMS people Ciel talked to. The fire tornadoes spiraling off the burn were quite impressive. Ciel found the constant Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa from the ring of big art cars annoying, but I wasn't expecting it to be quiet! We tried to stay up until 1:00 in the morning to see Wall street burn, but got tired and decided to head back to campfor a rest before heading out again. Once back in camp, we thought maybe if we climbed up on the back of the motorhome, we'd be able to see the burn from camp...but no luck.

The next morning, we rode back out to the playa to see the ashes (and people sleeping around the still-burning embers) of Wall Street and the Man. One guy was pulling little mementos from the ashes of the Man and giving them away - we got a pair of guy wire cable clamps.

The Temple burn on Sunday was much more subdued, but there were still people being obnoxious, playing Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird or yelling "Fuck you and your fucking church music!" at the choir performing before the burn.

Monday we woke up an I was preparing to take it easy for the day, maybe pick up some trash near our camp, but after Cindy and Terry left, Ciel decided she'd like to leave too, so we packed up and got ready to roll. Ciel told me there wasn't any wait to get off the playa, but shortly after we got into the long line of vehicles driving out of the city, I turned on the radio and listed to Gate information radio: 3-4 hour wait expected. Great. Some day I'll remember to always question Ciel's decisions! We got to the big line just before the pavement, and the wait wasn't too bad, just under an hour as it turned out, and we were back on the road.

We spent the next three nights at Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, but I cannot figure out why the call it a refuge when people can hunt antelope there. If someone offered me a refuge with the caveat that occasionally some people would come by to try to shoot me, I'm pretty sure I'd bugger off in a hurry! Doesn't sound like much of a refuge to me.

We cleaned dust out of the motorhome for an entire day, but a couple more days would have helped. Worse than that was the let-down that people at Burning Man must have been happy and friendly only because they were drunk or on drugs - in the line-up heading off the playa, no one would even look at us, let alone reply when we said hello. At the merge points, people cut in front of us, not willing to wait their turn. So much for the principle of Community - back in the default world, it seems you're allowed to be a dick to everyone around you. Pretty sad, really. I know a lot of people must have been hung over and hurting, but it made me decide that I never need to go back to Burning Man. Well, that and all the generators that people run to have air conditioning in the desert. I'd like to see all of Black Rock City be like the Alternative Energy Zone theme camp, where generators aren't allowed, but I know I'm dreaming.

I got some great ideas for bicycle-powered art cars though.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

If lost, we know our place is in the Milky Way

How I represent myself is interesting to me and after thinking about it for a while, I came up with something that I think is good. Below on the card I made there are several descriptions that resonated with me.  I wanted to give a starting place for introduction.

You see, Mark and I are preparing to go overseas travelling to Nepal for the next couple months, and I wanted to put together something that I'm thinking of bringing along to share with people I meet.  Then I don't need to be fumbling with pen and finding paper when I meet new friends. Connections with people create relationships and relationships help me value others and want to learn about things I lack knowledge and understanding in.  Connections make the ability to create collective action for change in each other's world. Maybe I can be of help to someone, or the other way around. Or we'll be able to come together to help someone else out that we don't even know yet.

Surprise, surprise, I'm still figuring what to do in my life and working it out as it comes. 

I know one thing, I always want to do more and I'm really much more happy when I can let go and let things unfold by relaxing and taking it easy.  Mark and I are travelling this time to higher altitudes to test ourselves and hopefully our necks won't get too stiff looking at all those 8,000 meter peaks. I know we aren't going to be climbing any of those peaks, I've come to accept that.  But I am happy to read about those that do. (I still want to climb a "trekkers peak" tho)  For instance I just finished an excellent book about polish climbers titled Freedom Climbers.  We'll have good ski legs tho come January!

I believe that the universe is just a little bit too big to have a plan for me even though I'd like to think it does, but I do need to make my actions and choices be in alignment with it as I live and breathe life..  It probably doesn't matter what I do, as long as I appreciate what I have and give what I can to the people I love and those I don't really like. I really need peace in my life and so does the planet so we can create inertia to solving the global environmental and social problem we face.  It doesn't help to be angry all the time. And it doesn't help to be depressed about it either. Collective action is going to bring all the angry, depressed and creative people together to help solve these problems eventually.  It's just gotta. Like dancing together.

Maybe we all can get outside one of the nights in this upcoming week to look at the Milky Way we live in and feel that we belong to something very big, beyond our schemes and daily dramas.  This is the great equalizer.

The Earth is a very special planet and I am very fortunate to be one of the people to live on it.
I'm really fortunate I get to travel to different parts of it.
I won't get lost again.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


burning man 2012
Retrieved from

I still can't get enough of the visual quality of the creative people and art installations now that I'm back to the default world.  So surfing pics on the web I found this great Rolling Stone photo essay.  I saw this gal on the playa walking into the temple on Thursday evening but didn't photograph her because I was eating a really good sno cone.  Sno cones were wonderful on the playa and this year I think I ate a total of three!  I'm glad I found this picture of her because she was truly stunning and very "bird-like".  I think her outfit was my most favorite of all that I saw. 

One of the least talked about parts of Burning Man is the "decompression" when "burners" return to the "default" world.  Post burn, I had one of the best times of the trip going north when we camped at Hart Mtn for several days where we were able to relax and be in solitude and quiet.  We cleaned up the motorhome and ourselves.  We didn't have access yet to the internet and to telephone our folks we had to hike up to the top of Warner Peak to gain cell phone access.

Here is our place of beauty for decompression... it was great.