Mt. Everest Base Camp Part III of III

When asked “what was the best part of the trip”, I don’t have to hesitate before answering “the people”. Our guide and porters made the trip for me. They put everything into making sure the trip was perfect for us.


Some trekkers are like us and prearrange their trip with a company who provides a guide and porters. Others trekkers arrange their guide and/or porter in Lukla upon arriving. Some trekkers do it on their own without a guide or porter. If I did it again, I would unquestionably go with a company again. To point out the obvious, I physically would struggle to carry my own bag. The trek was hard enough on its own and I am not sure I would be able to enjoy as much if I was struggling under the weight of my rucksack. Second, the amount I learned from our guide was well worth every penny we paid. Hiring guides and trekkers provides jobs to people who need jobs. We asked questions about anything we saw whether it was about the plants we saw, animals, people, religion, culture, etc. I would have missed out on a lot of details I didn’t know have our guide’s wealth of knowledge to lean on.

We loved our guide, Shyam. He was introduced as shy but we were told he would warm up with time. Continue reading

Mt. Everest Base Camp Part II of III

I must apologize in advance for the length of this blog. I typically try to keep my posts on the shorter side and didn’t realize how long this posts would be until it was done. I have tried to cut it down but just can’t. As much as I want to tell everyone all about the trip, it is impossible to do it justice.

Lukla is a large hub for the beginning of a lot of treks through the Everest Region. Lukla was lined with shops selling trekking gear and supplies. As we proceeded forward, I was amazed at the number of villages we passed through and how built up they were. They weren’t huge by NYC standards but I think Kansas might be more barren then the Himalayas. As we increased in elevation, the villages became further apart and you could tell their purpose was catering to the trekkers. Our guide informed us people in these areas move to lower elevations for the winter months.


Each morning, we trekked in the morning for 4-7 hours. The trail was busy with trekkers, porters, yak and donkeys. The porters immediately amazed me. Porters accompanying trekkers typically had two rucksacks on their back. The government limits the amount the porters can carry to 30 kg (66 lbs). However, I am not sure the limits are monitored beyond luggage restrictions on the flights. The other porters on the trail had loads of goods on their backs to take to the teahouses. I am not talking light stuff. We saw rice, bottled water, building materials, beer, lots of beer, and propane being carried up the mountains. Who would have thought beer was a necessity at 18,000 feet?


We frequently encountered small herds of yak (and cow like animals) loaded with goods on their backs headed up to the teahouses. They moved very slowly and seemed mellow tempered. Even with their mellow tempers, it didn’t take long to learn we should not stand on the edge of the mountain while letting them pass.


People from all over the world come to trek in the Everest region. Literally all over. We met Germans, Australians, New Zealanders, Israelis, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, British, and the list goes on. Along the way, we had the opportunity to chat with a lot of trekkers while trekking or in the evening at a teahouse. We would often run into the same trekkers multiple times during the trek even if our schedules were not identical.

The trekking part was tough physically (even with only a 3 kg or 6.6 lb backpack) but not impossible. Continue reading

Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek Part I of III

In January, it was brought to my attention I was going to lose a lot of my vacation time I had saved if I did not use it by the end of the year. I was not about to let that happen.  A few months earlier, my friend Micaela and Anne had invited me on a trek and I didn’t think it would be possible.  Given my new discovery of potentially losing vacation time,   I immediately contacted my friend Micaela to see if it was too late to join the trek. I didn’t ask for details about the trip or do any research.  I just blindly signed up in order to avoid losing the vacation days.  I knew we were trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp.  I had no idea I would go 14 days without showering.  I didn’t realize I would not be able to eat meat for 20 days.  I didn’t consider the fact I don’t tolerate cold weather.  I hadn’t thought about not having cell phone connection or internet connection.  I didn’t think about the physical expectations or the impact of altitude.  And most of all …. I had no idea I would fall in love with the Nepali people.


Our adventure started with three girls flying from NYC to Doha Qatar to Kathmandu Nepal. Twenty-four hours of traveling later we arrived in Kathmandu.  We were told we would be picked up from the airport by a guide who would have a sign with our names and would be wearing a red polo with the company’s “Experience the Himalayas” logo on it.  Upon arriving in Kathmandu, we were picked up from the airport by a man with our names on a sign but with a navy polo and no logo.  This didn’t seem like a big deal until about 15 Nepali men swarmed us with instructions on where to go, wanting to take our bags and demanding tips.  We immediately began to freak out and turned on our crisis mode instincts.  I began interrogating the gentleman with the navy blue polo about what company he was with and where we were going.  Anne immediately pulled out her GPS to verify we were in route to the hotel address previously provided.  Micaela turned on her phone to notify her husband of what was going on.  Come to find out, this is the common deceptive practice used at the airport on tourists.  Our guide was not able to say anything to the men because it could induce a fight coming from another Nepali.

After safely arriving at our hotel in Kathmandu, we spent the following day exploring. Walking around Kathmandu was an experience of its own.  I cannot even begin to describe the chaos on the streets of Kathmandu.  Sidewalks are not existent.  You walk on the same road as the cars, motorcycles, and bicycles all while getting swarmed with Nepalis trying to sell their goods.  I am still baffled by the madness and pollution.  People wore masks while walking around because the air quality was so poor.


We visited Swayambhunath or Monkey Temple, which is a Buddhist complex with temples and shrines and real live monkeys running around everywhere.


After our day of exploring, we were taken out to eat by the trekking company and introduced to our first taste of Nepalese cuisine. The most common dish is Dal Bhat, which is staple that consists of rice, a lentil soup, pickled vegetables, and curried potatoes.  Nepalis eat this dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  A common saying is “Dal Bhat Power 24 Hour”.  I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the meal.


After dinner we returned to the hotel and prepped our bags for trekking. Each passenger’s luggage is limited to 15 kg (33 pounds) for domestic flights.  Our goal was to get our rucksacks to 12 kg and backs to 3 kg and leave the rest at the hotel in Kathmandu.  After getting our bags all prepped we weighed them on a scale right outside the hotel.  Of course, we had to make multiple trips upstairs to remove items and adjust and back down to the scale.  We had been given advice of wearing our heaviest clothes on the flight and wearing multiple pairs of pants if needed.  Luckily, we didn’t need to go to those extremes.  We did shove some small but heavy items in our pockets to shed the last couple of kgs.


The following morning we set out for our adventure. Almost all trekkers going to Everest Base Camp fly from Kathmandu to the infamous Lukla airport (it is worth a Google search).  October begins one of the two primary seasons for trekking.  However, this year the monsoon season had lasted longer than normal.  Our flight along with all others were delayed due to weather.  Our guide instructed us to sit and we did as we were told.  We had no information about which airline or flight we were on or what was happening in general.  The announcements weren’t helpful either as they were in Nepalese.  We just sat clueless and overwhelmed with anticipation while our guide stood near the various airline booths and lines.  The airport was a mad house with trekkers everywhere.   Many people had been waiting three days to get out.  Suddenly, our guide gestured to go over to him.  He was throwing our bags on a scale and handing us tickets.  He rushed us through security (if you can call it security) and the next thing you know we were waiting on the runway for our plane.  When we asked our guide if he bribed them to let us on the flight, he smiled his huge smile and said “yes”.  Luckily he did because we later learned it would be another three days before flights began routinely making it out.

The minute I stepped off of the plane in Lukla I took a deep breath of the mountain air and was in aww of the views. I walked to the baggage area where are rucksacks had been dumped in a pile and a Nepali man tried to help with my rucksack.  You can’t fool me twice!  I refused his help but he persisted and tried to get my bag off my back.  Finally, my guide came over and told me to give it to him.  Turns out he was one of our porters legitimately trying to help.  Whoops!


The only thing in between us and trekking through the Himalayas was breakfast.

Spain

In response to specific requests, I am resurrecting the blog to write about our recent trip to Spain and my upcoming trip to Nepal.

I really had no desire to visit Spain … and then I met Keith and he began talking nonstop about wanting to visit … and I gave in. After the trip, I can’t say I hate him for forcing me to go.


When planning the trip, we couldn’t decide which city we wanted to visit so we narrowed it down to Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba and Madrid. Each city had unique characteristics and will be remembered for specific things but our daily routine was relatively stable.  We walked until our feet hurt (averaged over 9 miles a day).  We ate A LOT of cured meet, cheese and tapas.  Manchego cheese happens to be my favorite cheese and coincidentally it’s a Spanish cheese so I was a happy camper.  Looking back I think we ate squid or octopus at every meal.  We also drank A LOT of sangria and wine.  I slept more than I recall ever sleeping in my life.  I slept in until about 10:00 am and took a nap from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm almost every day.  I was also forced to stay up later than my normal 9:00 pm bedtime.  Dinner in Spain is typically 9:00 pm to 12:00 am and I had no option but to oblige since restaurants (and everything else) close for siesta from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Continue reading

Spontaneous Toronto Trip

Mid-afternoon on Friday, Keith and I decided to head into NYC to shop for bedroom furniture. We were on the subway somewhere under the Hudson River when Keith turned to me and asked “Want to go to Toronto?” I am sure he expected me to come up with a gazillion reasons why I couldn’t or we shouldn’t go but I surprised him and said “sure”. I have never been to Toronto but it is Keith’s favorite city. He has been trying to finagle a trip for a while now. 

We hopped off the subway at the first stop and hopped back on to head right back home. We each packed a small bag, grabbed our passports and hit the road. I booked the hotels while Keith drove. Thank gosh for our hotel point accumulating job. It sure makes trips a lot cheaper.

Our first stop Saturday morning was a Canadian furniture store we had visited in Montreal during a trip we made last year. We were more successful than planned and left the furniture store with bedroom furniture ordered. Not only did we accomplish our initial mission and reason we were heading into NYC but we also got the furniture at 50% off. Score! And if that wasn’t enough, we later realized the purchase price was in Canadian Dollars and thanks to the recent devalue of the Canadian Dollar we realized we got even more of a steal.

We then headed to downtown Toronto where we ate brunch at Momofuku Daisho.  We shared whitefish buns and hanger steak.  The hanger steak was amazing.  Typically, I like simple dishes and this was quite the opposite.  However, the number of flavors in this dish amazed me in a good way.

  
We spent the day walking around the city and popping in stores when we felt like it. It was a brisk day at 45⁰ but I managed. We found one art gallery and happened to find a piece we liked at a decent price. After debating, we decided to snap a picture and mull over the purchase while we continued to explore. On our way out of the store, we snapped a picture of another piece catching our eye.    We finished our day with dinner at DaiLo.  The restaurant puts a modern flair on “reimagined dim sum type” dishes.  I don’t think anything I write can do these creative dishes justice.

Sunday morning we explored the Ontario lakefront area of the city. Of course we had to walk by the CN tower.  I learned it is the tallest structure in the western hemisphere, which I find pretty impressive because I am continuously amazed by how massive the Freedom Tower stands.  You can’t even look up at the CN tower without getting dizzy.  Finally, we returned to the art gallery with plans to offer a lowball price for each piece in hopes they would meet in the middle. I let Keith do the negotiating while I stood back trying not to listen. I think Keith was okay with this only because he knows I am useless when it comes to decisions. I was pleased when he informed me we were purchasing both pieces at the price we planned to offer for one.

We clearly had a pretty successful trip. Without any intentions, we made a lot of progress on furnishing our home.

New England with the Family

My mom and cousin made a trip to the Northeast last weekend and we road tripped around New England.  My mom has been talking about seeing the fall foliage and Maine coast for quite some time and I am always looking for an excuse to go to Maine.  Fitting foliage and the coast into one weekend meant A LOT of quality time spent in our tiny little car but I think it was worth it.

Keith and I picked the two up from the airport Friday afternoon and we immediately hit the road.  We took the scenic route from Newark, New Jersey to Manchester, New Hampshire to see the best foliage possible.  The trees were absolutely beautiful.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get very good pictures from the car.

Saturday, we hopped back in the car to drive to Portland Maine.  On the way we made a quick stop to see the ocean.  I don’t think the car was parked before mom jumped out and darted to the beach.  She “needed” to put her toes in the sand.  She is like a little kid when it comes to the ocean.  I didn’t get this gene.  I want nothing to do with the sand.  The closest I need to get is to take a picture of her.


Keith and I can’t go to Maine without stopping at our favorite lobster truck.  We both prefer the Connecticut style lobster roll with butter as opposed the Maine style with mayonnaise.

The lobster truck just happens to be located at the beautiful Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, which is home to Portland Head Light.  This lighthouse is the oldest in Maine.


Brylee did a little off trail exploring.  If you look very very closely she is the little speck out on the edge of the rock.


We finished the day with a brief tour of Providence, Rhode Island led by Keith.  He went to college in Providence and still gets a little excited anytime Providence is mentioned.

Sunday we headed back to Hoboken.  Along the way we stopped in Windsor, Connecticut for “Chowdafest”.

Chowdafest is a chowder and soup competition with 40 restaurants from all over New England.  Upon entrance we were give a wrist band, spoon and ballot.  We were tasked with voting on the best 1. New England Chowder, 2. Manhattan Chowder, 3. Creative Chowder and 4. Lobster Bisque.


We started strong and fast tasting each chowder.  Brylee, Keith and I didn’t hassle with voting.  All we cared about was sampling.  Mom on the other hand attempted to make notes about specific spices and unique flavors.

About 10 chowders in, we needed a break to reset our pallets.  Of course, mom found the ocean.

Keith used this opportunity to work on his photography skills.  He doesn’t quite understand the rule of thirds.

We attempted to finish the tasting but just couldn’t.  We sampled 22 chowders  before we all started to feel sick and threw in the towel.  It will be a miracle if any of us eat chowder all winter.


We ended the adventure with a tour of Hoboken.


Even if we spent most of our time in the car it doesn’t diminish the amazingness of having family visit.

Second Trip Ever to Nebraska

It is crazy that I lived in a bordering state to Nebraska almost my entire life but had never stepped foot in the cornhusker state.  This changed in May when I made my first trip to Nebraska to be in a wedding.  On this trip, I fell in love with bride’s family.  I assume I enjoyed her family because they remind me of my own family.  Specifically, I loved the four sisters.  Did I say they remind me of my own family? Each sister is fabulous on their own but observing the way they interact with each other makes them a million times better.  Being around them really makes me reflect on my sisters and I’s relationship.  Needless to say I knew the May trip would not be my last trip to Nebraska.

Over Labor Day weekend I made my second trip ever to Nebraska.  Micaela (the bride referred to above) picked me up from the airport Thursday evening and we drove to her home in Lindsay to get my country fix.

Friday morning we took Micaela’s new puppy to the vet.  I personally don’t care for dogs (don’t judge!) but how can you not laugh at the little conundrum he got himself into.

image

After the vet we spent time with Micaela’s grandma.  I love observing how invested she is in each grandkids’ life and in turn how each grandkid adores her.  Another reminder of my own family!  Of course the visit only made me miss own grandparents more.

We then headed to Omaha for a wedding.   Continue reading

Family Vacation

We just got back from a much needed trip to Southwest Kansas and Southeast Colorado.  The excitement building up to this trip was intense.  I of course always love being home and surrounded by family.  In addition, this was Mimi’s first trip to the area and first time to meet most the family.

Here is a quick recap of our experience.

My little sister graciously picked us up from the airport and hauled us to see the new nephew, Myles.  I guess I was too excited to see him and forgot to take pictures.  Whoops!

We then proceeded with the drive to southwest Kansas.  Nothing is better than 5 hours in a car to catch up with the little sister.  We broke the trip up only once to kidnap my niece whom I have been missing something crazy.  The backseat passengers were knocked by the time we arrived at my grandparent’s house in the wee hours of the morning.

IMG_2522

I on the other hand was unable to sleep due to the anticipation of seeing my grandparents.  I hopped right out of bed the moment I heard grandpa stirring in the kitchen.  Continue reading

Martha’s Vineyard

We took advantage of our traveling job again and went on a “subsidized” daytrip to Martha’s Vineyard.

It seems going to Martha’s Vineyard is a pretty common summer trip in the Northeast.  Who would have known?

We boarded a ferry in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  The ferry took about 45 minutes to get us to the island.   Upon arriving on the island we darted immediately for seafood.  Continue reading

New Orleans

Last week Keith worked in Dallas so he headed to New Orleans Thursday evening for a getaway.  Friday I arrived in New Orleans around 10:00 a.m. and found my way downtown to meet Keith via the local bus system.  It only costs $2.00!

Upon my arrival, it immediately began raining pouring.  We tried to wait it out under an awning but the anticipation of seeing New Orleans was killing me so we attempted to both fit under our umbrella but we were getting way too wet way too fast.  We gave in and purchased some oh so fashionable ponchos.  We essentially walked around with large blue trash bags over us.

Continue reading