Saturday, March 24, 2007

So, I've somehow ended up in southern India in a strange town called Auroville. Nepal was a really great experience. After the trek I visited Pokhara for a few days. I explored around for a while and ended up going Paragliding. Really a great experience. It lasted around 45 minutes. I went tandem with an expert. You basically wait for a good gust of wind, get the parachute flying and then jump off of a cliff. We caught some good thermal gusts and soared high over 2000 meters. Took tons of pictures..bit trigger happy. I went back to Kathmandu to get my Indian Visa after that, then I went to the lowlands of Nepal, an area called Chitawan national park. It's a jungle reserve full of lots of wild animals. I was only there for around 2 days because I had to catch a train down through India to be able to meet up with some friends. The second day I was there, I hired two guides (because you have to) and went on a canoe trip and jungle walk. You need 2 guides and three bamboo staffs for self defence because it's quite dangerous to walk through the jungle. The guides experienced in staving off wild animals like Tigers, Rhinos, bears etc. Apparently one guide was injured by a rhino the day before I arrived and was in hospital. He's ok though. We saw around 9 wild crocodiles and a rhino on the walk/canoe ride. At one point while on foot, the guide in front spotted something and started running back to us. Instincutally we started running as well, then realizing that we weren't being followed, we stopped and started walking forward very slowly. It was a large black sloth bear...later I learned that it's one of the most vicious animals in this jungle. They don't go straight for the face apparently. We started to follow it and I took some pictures. Then my camera died. The one guide motioned for us to get ready to follow him. He lifted his staff above his head and smacked it as hard as he could against the ground which sent off a loud echo. The bear turned and looked right at us. I got chills. The guide in front then raised his staff above his head, motioned for us to follow and ran towards the bear. So naturally I followed suit and the three of us charged the bear. He turned and fled. We chased him through the jungle with our staffs above our heads for approximately 2 or 3 minutes until he escaped into a denser area. I don't think I've ever had a similar adrenaline rush. It was most certainly one of the coolest experiences of my life.
Afterwards we picked some ferns to put into curry. It was somewhat exciting as well...mainly due to the adrenaline surge which stayed with me until around 3 days afterward.
If that wasn't enough, after the walk, I was reaching shore in the canoe and an elephant was being bathed. One guide suggested that I join, so I stripped down to my boxers and hopped on the elephants back via his trunk. It would douse me with water with it's trunk, then fling me off into the water, then help me up again. This all happened in the span of around an hour and a half. It was an incredibly surreal experience. The next day I rode on an elephant through the jungle with a couple of other people. We saw some rhinos, monkeys deer etc.
Anyway, I'll tell more about Auroville a little later on...once I know more about it.
Until then...

Friday, March 09, 2007

That's Bochin and I at the hotsprings, then there's a mountains dweller cooking millet, and then some more pictures of people places and things.

Monkey Temple in Kathmandu, then Pun Hill at around 5:30 am to see the sunrise. Me in full garb and some more mountains.

This is a friend I made in Kathmandu while climbing the 365 steps to the monkey temple.
Alright, I'm well rested and well fed for a change. So Nepal is an interesting place for a solo traveller like myself. Plenty of people see fresh meat written on my forehead. When I fist arrived it was quite the experience. First of all, as per usual the airline lost some of my luggage...nothing too important, just my sleeping bag. So I had to stick around and fill out some papers and such. A Nepali guy helped me with my bags, even though I was perfectly capable and wanted to be left alone. I asked him where the atm was cause I needed some rupees as opposed to aussie dollars, and he told me he'd show me. As soon as I stepped through the metal detectors and out the glass doors there was trouble. I was the last (of like three) tourists. There were about thirty Nepali travel agency people and taxi drivers waiting for me and they all rushed at me at once. I believe when I realized they were rushing towards me, my last words were something like "Oh shiiii-" "DO YOU NEED TAXI? WHEREYOUSTAYINGGOING TREKKINGEATHISBRAINSATM?!!!" They all grabbed me and started fighting over me, so I wrenched my arms free and backed out of the crowd. I yelled back to the guy with my bags. "where's the atm?" The hoard all answered at once and started dragging me to the atm. I didn't feel good about leaving my bags so I went and grabbed them from the guy then trudged through them again towards the atm, got in past the glass and closed it behind me. Safety in a small booth. I looked behind me and they were all waiting and watching. I turned back to the atm. The sign said "out of order". I sighed, turned around and was swallowed up by the mob. I soon found myself in a taxi hurtling down bumpy dirt roads, through narrow alleys and over suicidal chickens, and almost people. The cabbie was honking constantly. I was laughing all the way. The travel agent in the front seat introduced himself and started talking at me as I looked out onto the chaos. Too much for the eye to take in at once. The second atm at which I arrived didn't take my card, but the third worked, so cash in hand I made it to some hotel, bargained for a better rate, shut the door and took a deep breath. That was a condensed version of my arrival.
So having been there for a few days, I almost got screwed over several times by people wanting my money. The travel agent hounded me from the moment I got into town, until I told him I didn't want his damn services. The bastard tried to rip me off for over 100 dollars for my trek. Even worse than that, I almost fell for a diamond exporting scheme that would have cost me 2000 dollars. Once again, I almost fell for it, but after the third cup of tea, I got the hell out of that place...after telling the guy that I knew it was a basically I ripped them off for three cups of tea. If you want to know that story more in detail just ask me. Can't be bothered to write it all now.
So finally I met another guy who screwed me over, but showed me the town and such, so it wasn't all bad. He also got me to the travel agency where I hired my guide Bochin for my 7 day trek. We left on the second of March and got back yesterday.
It was really an amazing experience. Like taking a time machine back to the middle ages, with the occasional western slogan thrown in here and there. I'll post some pictures soon. Anyway, the first day we stopped right at the beginning of the trail because it started raining. Stayed with some locals in the mountains. I bartered some goods off of an old Tibetan refugee that night, but that's another story. The next day we had to make up for lost time, so we did the equivalent of two treks in one day. I was also suffering from dysentery at the time, and had thrown up the night before, so that and my heavy pack made trekking uphill over rugged mountain terrain a bit difficult. At lunch I was beat. My guide saw that and asked if I wanted to stay where we were for the night (which was where we were supposed to be the day before). I said I'd think about it, and after a good long think, I decided we would press on another 4 hours to Gorepani (our intended destination). I ended up living...sorry to ruin the story by skipping the tough bit, but I survived and collapsed on my bed for a good long while. Then ate hardly anything cause my stomach was being a jerk, so I decided to punish it. I got up to go to the washroom at night and found my legs could hardly move. I wondered how I was going to finish the trek...only another 5 days.
Again, I ended up surviving, and made it the whole way. There were hardly any tourists, I ate with the locals in the kitchens, drank their wine (which is quite nice and made with millet) and took lots of pictures. We saw some mountains too. The highest I climbed was around 3500 meters. Twas a nice view of the surrounding mountains. We were at that altitude at around 5:30 am, so it was really cold and snow filled...especially compared to Australia.
On day 4 we ended up at the hot springs, and that was great. I felt almost fully rejuvenated and was ready for more days of steep uphill and downhill climbing...the Nepali aren't too fond of flat ground I've found.
Well, in a nutshell that's about it besides dodging stampeding sheep and goats and my guide and I doing a lot of falling while climbing downhill on a snow covered Forest path.
On day five I couldn't even feel that I was going uphill anymore and felt like I could go on forever without taking a break. Really a change from the first day.
Anyway I've written more than enough. Hopefully I covered most of it. I'll post some pictures later.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Alright. I see I haven't written for a long while so I guess it's about time. Not much has happened since I last wrote though. That was very much a lie, I'm sorry. Well where to begin? Work as a "Milkman" was a good experience. Not only did I get enough money to fund (at least some of) the rest of my trip, but I also learned how to sell milk and bread delivery well enough that I could probably convince a lactose intolerant, wheat allergic desert nomad that he needed milk and bread delivered. And I wasn't even the best on the team! Lies again...I was the best on the team. (note: for those of you who don't know me, the previous 5 lines have been complete fabrication)
Lots of stories of strange people I met door to door, but those are getting a bit tired. Just briefly though, one man was really interesting. I had a beer with him in his living room. He was an ex dancer from the 40's and 50's, who lived alone with a dog who seemed to really like me, as it didn't stop rubbing it's groin against the ground and looking at me for the entire half hour I was at the house. Turned out the guy danced with Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and a few others. Told me a bit about them.
Anyway, I moved out of my hovel on Havelock st after several quarrels with our crazy landlord...(ending with me backing him into a corner and demanding my full bond back and him grudgingly accepting)...and then moved to Hope St. With my French Friend Elie. That was a nice place for a change, and we got along really well.
Eventually I saved up "enough" money and the first chance I got, I hopped a plane to Kathmandu (Nepal). I'm currently in a city called Pokhara and have just returned from a 7 day trek through the Himalayas with a guide I hired named Bochin. I just at a very large steak and am still hungry.
The trek was amazing and exhausting, so I don't think I can write about it tonight. Stay tuned for more.