Our title comes from a Bob Seger song. We actually had to look that up. We both knew the song but didn't know the artist. One of the comments on YouTube said "I forgot how great it rocked." We are not sure we can fully agree with that statement but it's a decent song if like listen to a man scream about Kathmandu.
We are writing what was supposed to be a quick update before we leave for our Everest Base Camp trek tomorrow morning. The trek is going to take us 14 days with a few rest days along the way. We won't have access to the internet so this will be our last post until we return to Kathmandu from Lukla. We will save the details of the trek until our next post. We have booked a porter/guide to help us along the route. Before we left we had heard of a sherpa (guide) and a porter (somebody who carries your stuff) but there are also combinations of the two. It sounds like to us that our porter/guide is trying to work his way up to being just a sherpa. Porter/guides carry a little less weight than a porter and can speak some English. They also help with finding accommodations. The three of us are flying from Kathmandu to Lukla on a 25 minute flight. This flight has been deemed one of the most dangerous flights in the world because of the grade and length of the runway. Basically, we are landing on a short, uphill runway. We have our fingers crossed that the flight will not be a big part of our next post. From Lukla, we will begin our trek. We booked our trip through a great tour company (Mountain Guide Trek & Expedition) and we'll be sure to include their information in our next post. Now onto this post!
We arrived in Kathmandu from Malaysia and the first thing we had to deal with was the sheer chaos of the airport. We had done this enough times to know how the game works. We fought through the people (a.k.a scammers) trying to take advantage of tourists and got a ride to where we'd be staying for the next few days. One of the first things we noticed in the streets were the colorful shops and products.
Another thing that really draws your attention are the electrical wires strung in all different angles. The town is like a labrynth of wires. The power goes out in Kathmandu so frequently that the locals don't even bat an eye when it happens. In the tourist areas they all have generators so it isn't too disruptive. We would be lying if we didn't say it wears on you but that's all part of the experience. At least that's what we tell ourselves!
It's not everyday you have to move out of the way of a standing cow in the sidewalk.
Our three main goals of staying in Kathmandu were:
1). Work out details on our Everest Base Camp Trek.
2). Get our Indian visa.
3). Get additional pages sewn into our U.S. Passport. (more on this later)
Getting an Indian visa is not an easy task. It requires 3 separate visits to the Indian Embassy. On day one the security guard told us we could pay him to move ahead in line. Ahhh...there's the bribing we missed. Of course, Josh's interest was peeked so he paid the guard a little money and magically we were moved from 36th to 2nd in line. That saved us at least 3 hours. We had to wait a week before we could return for our second and third visits. (more on this later)
Typical scene as we walked to and from the Indian Embassy.
As we walked back to our guesthouse, it happened...the straw that broke the camel's back finally occurred. Josh almost had a complete meltdown in the streets of Thamel. He could no longer endure the constant horn honking, hawking and spitting on the ground, almost getting run over from all directions, trash, dust, and pushy people. You name it, it happens in Kathmandu and he was fed up with it all. Leanne felt bad for him that we immediately booked a tour to Chitwan National Park for the following day. We normally don't book tours but desperate times call for desperate measures. The good thing about traveling as a couple is that we seem to take turns having mini meltdowns and luckily they always occur at different times from each other.
We took a bus to Chitwan National Park. We were told it would only be a 4 hour ride but it wound up being almost 7 hours.
Here are some scenes from our window:
Why use a landfill when there's a perfectly good street to dump your trash all over?
Dusty, dirty roads to...
We finally made it to Chitwan National Park. We will spare you too many details but the place we were staying was a complete dump and the tour was horribly unorganized but we made the best of the situation. The saving grace of the whole trip was the absolute, jaw-dropping beauty of the park and the wonderful people we met. This was more our speed.
Look at those tusks and the guy standing on the elephant! What balancing skills.
Josh found his inner peace again and spotted a gharial. Ahhh...deep breath.
Everyone enjoys a nice sunset.
The next day we went on a jungle trek. We hiked through some tall grass. Leanne might be small but she showed that grass who's boss!
At the end of the hike we were rewarded with an unbelievable prize...two wild one-horned rhinos cooling off in a lake.
After the hike we bathed an elephant. Well, it was more like the elephant bathed us.
Down for a scrub
Back up again
Thanks cute elephant. Here's some bananas on us!
Later that day we took an elephant ride through the park.
Super manly. Men in the front, ladies in the back.
We then took a stroll to watch the sunset and look what we came across. This guy was cooling off in the river waiting for us. It was about 15 yards away from us but we were up on the bank and had prepared an escape plan before we went down for a closer look. Here is our genius escape plan: when being chased by a rhino you don't have to be faster than the rhino, you have to be faster than the slowest tourist. After a quick assessment we determined that we were most likely faster than several. What an unbelievable sight!
We learned how to eat the traditional Nepali way with Maayan and Asaf, our new buds from Israel. No utensils here, just all hands in. We are heading to Israel at the end of January and hope to meet up with Maayan and Asaf when we are there.
Bird watching at 20,000 Lake. There are over 850 species of birds in Chitwan.
Here are some moments from the return bus ride to Kathmandu. Josh thought it was the best bus ride of the entire trip in because of the small towns and the landscape.
This bike was three times too big for this little fellow.
Waterfall in the background.
The Nepali people decorate their trucks for a hobby. We like the "Road King."
We waited an hour in a traffic jam up the mountain. We snapped this picture while we were waiting and it looks like the cop is about to jump off the cliff.
We arrived back in dusty Kathmandu and prepared to make our way to the Indian Embassy for the second and third times.
Now to return to the visa situation. This time we decided not to take the security guard up on his offer for a bribe. We definitely paid the price by having to wait four hours to get our passports turned in. We watched people walk in hours after us, pay the security guard and then leave. We were really sorry that we helped contribute to this behavior on our visit one week earlier. After the long wait we did get our passport turned in to be processed. We had to return later that day at 5:00 PM to pick up our passports. The wait for this was only 20 minutes. The reason why the third visit was so speedy was because there were no security guards to bribe this time.
We are now the proud owners of a four-month Indian visa. Success!
The following day we visited the U.S. Embassy. We were almost out of pages (crazy, huh?) and had 48 new pages sewn into our passports. We were also able to cast our vote for the Presidential election! Talk about hammering out some errands.
While in Chitwan we met Lucy from Brighton, England. We just so happened to bump into her again on the streets of Kathmandu. She always had a smile on her face so it was easy to spot her. This was her last night before heading home to surprise her mom for her birthday. We hope the surprise went well, Lucy!
After staying at several mediocre guesthouses we finally found a wonderful family-run cottage to spend the past three nights before head out on our trek. Ironically, we are staying in the Everest room. Hopefully, this means good luck for our impending travels. We just finished packing our bags and are anxiously awaiting our departure tomorrow morning. We have our fingers crossed that our flight will not be cancelled and that the 14-day trek will be as amazing as the pictures look.
We won't have internet access for the next two weeks so stayed tuned for a post at the end of October.
As always, thanks for following!
Leanne & Josh