Friday, May 29, 2009

The Last Post

Back in Toronto and it feels like we never left. It's amazing how quickly you can slip back in to what's familiar (well sort of). It's been a wonderful welcome home from our family and friends who have been here for us throughout our adventure, and they've done their darnedest to make the transition as easy and comfortable as possible (if you're reading this, that means you're one of them ;-). We do get waves of flashbacks though, that make us smile and make us a little sad, because after 8 months away, you wonder if it will stay with you.

We met a Dutch guy in Thailand while heading to the airport for our final flights home; at first, he came on a little strong. He was a little too outgoing, heading to Australia for his 7th time to buy a camper van and work over the internet while travelling abroad at his leisure. Sounded pretty sweet; his reasons were that he loved Australia, he was sick with the boring lifestyle back home, he could avoid taxes, and he could work and play at the exact same time. Somewhere during the story Kristin and I both realized that ironically, we were starting to get excited about the exact things he was starting to detest; routine, home, friends and family, familiarity, rules and some sort of a system. We were excited about our lives getting back to NORMAL. We left him at the airport and we realized that although we were in different places in our lives, he was actually quite a swell guy. One thought stuck with me throughout the flight home however, and our time and Vancouver, and our first week back at home. At one point he said "what is NORMAL?" When he was bashing his home for the things that pushed him away, he kept mentioning "is it NORMAL to have twenty-four hour electricity, plan parties 14 days in advance, have hot water at the turn of a switch, spend $75 on a birthday present, drive everywhere we go, walk by friends' houses without stopping in, see family only twice a month, throw away a camera when a better one comes out, have 24 hour grocery stores, drive 2 hours a day to and from a job, exercise to lose weight, have a 'cereal isle' in a store, do your banking online, text someone instead of talking to them, throw out old clothes, eat fruit from the other side of the world, build houses that are way too big, or take a shower every day...?" And so I've been asking myself this question all week; is this life NORMAL? Or is where we have been for the past 8 months MORE NORMAL... places where people grow their own food, where they know everyone in their community and work together to get things done, where they walk or bus everywhere, where they don't miss good friends' birthdays because they have another commitment, where they do all their cleaning during the 4 hours of electricity in a day, where they stop what they're doing if a friend comes by, where a celebration lasts all day, where they go to a store because they like the owner, where they eat the same food everyday, where the children have as much responsibility as the adults, where refrigerators are used as shelves because there's no power, where family spends hours together just sitting and talking, where they live in rooms not houses, where business comes second and people come first...? Maybe this is actually NORMAL; maybe, after being in the places that we've been, we can try to make our NORMAL lives a little more NORMAL, by changing some of our habits to be more like the rest of the world.

And so, after being away for so long, we are very glad to be home, and are excited to get back to REGULAR LIFE, but of course, never forgetting what's NORMAL. Thank you for sharing our adventures with us. Can't wait to see you all,
Love K and C

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Get out your Parkas we're heading to the beach!!!

Well after 40 hours of flying and only about 3 of sleeping, we relived Monday May 18 for the third time and arrived in Van city to awesome welcome signs by Chrissi and Lane!!!

We got to their place and munched down on all our favorite goodies that we had been craving for the last few months before hitting the trail and doing some rollerblading. We then decided to head to the beach for a BBQ so we put on our parkas, winter hats, warm socks and headed down - This only led to confirm that yes we were back in Canada bc where else do you have to dress for winter to go to the beach!!

Anyway loving being back and heading to Alana and Michael's tonight for Killer Bunnies!!!

Love k and C

Bangkok - Seoul (Korea) - Vancouver CANADA!!!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Van City, here we come!

Ladies and gentlemen,
after a big ol' long time, we are heading home! The beaches in Thaiworld have been a wonderfully warm (ok, shit hot) way to end our journey... on this side of the world that is! We both have a feeling that meeting up with friends in Vancouver over the next week may top even the wildest India had to offer! So we say farewell to the foreign world and hello to our native soil, for which we have developed a longing over the last 2 weeks! HOWEVER; as our trip is nowhere near officially over, we can not justify saying our goodbyes to our amazing and appreciated followers just yet. So brace yourself for one more post (or maybe two), that will only be 3 hours behind instead of 12 hours ahead! So close!

Love you all,
K and C
P.S. On a side note, 8 pm tonight will hopefully mark the official end of 16 days of consecutive sweating (If it doesn't, we're joining one of those hyper-hydrosis clinics when we get back).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

No Food or Drinks Please!

After a few days in Bangkok we headed out to Koh Phi Phi, a beautiful island to celebrate the midge's big 30th birthday!!! We rented a beautiful cabin overlooking the beach, went snorkeling, swimming and visited the island they filmed the movie "The Beach" on. It was beautiful.

We then went for a romantic sunset cruise which consisted of us jumping into a old long boat that was falling apart a little, getting drenched by the salt waves for two hours and then them throwing us a Styrofoam box of fried rice to eat for dinner and pineapple off a garbage can lid. I guess we should have known:-)

After that we switched islands to Koh Lanta where because it's off season we got a sweet ass deal on a cabin and have had the beach and the resort to our selves for the past four nights (well minus Saturday). They have signs up all over the resort saying food from outside was forbidden, so we were sneakily eating our peanuts and mango - that is until the Thai's shouwed up on Saturday night and proceeded to bring in:
  • rice cookers
  • buffet meals which they somehow cooked and ate by the pool
  • sandwich makers
  • 26s of JW
  • Coolers
  • chips, pop, cookies, chocolate
  • plates, cups,
  • inflatable rafts AND a pump
  • chairs
  • and anything else they could think of
We then looked at each other and realized we had alot to learn.

Anyway today we off to a few buses and an overnight boat to Koh Toa an island on the east side to chill out some more and do some snorkeling. Miss you all!

Love k and C

Bangkok - Koh Phi Phi - Koh Lanta

Monday, May 4, 2009

Stairway to Heaven by Russ Gillman

A day after successfully completing a 15 kilometer run with Cory's aunt Judy and her running group I hopped on a plane for the 20 minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara to meet up with Kristin and Cory to begin our seven day trek. As usual, with a few days of downtime following their Annapurna Circuit trek, they had already figured out the lay of the land in Pokhara…where to stay, which was the best bakery, who had the best fruit, muesli and curd for breakfast, the best restaurant for dinner and who had the best happy hour. Happy hour? In Nepal? Who knew? They met me at the airport, took me to the hotel they had chosen and showed me to my room. It was relatively clean, comfortable bed, ceiling fan and a bathroom with shower and toilet but curiously, no sink. "We could get you a room with a sink", they told me, "but it would be more expensive". "How much is this one?" I asked. " Three hundred rupees ($5 CDN)". " It will be fine" I told them. A little weird, but fine. They then asked me to empty my backpack "to see if there is anything you could leave behind". Secretly, I think they just wanted to see if I had brought the President's Choice chocolate bars Kristin had asked for and the cans of Molson Canadian Cory had requested. In hindsight, it was a good thing they did as I ended up leaving about a third of the clothes I had brought.

The hike they had chosen is called the Poon Hill loop. They picked it because the third morning you get up at 5 a.m. and over 45 minutes you ascend 450 meters to the top of Poon Hill where, if the weather is clear, you get a spectacular view of the Annapurna range from Dhaulagiri -- the world's 7th highest mountain at an amazing 8,176 meters in the west to Manaslu, the world's 8th highest peak at 8,156 meters in the east. In between you have Annapurna 1 at 8,091 meters, Annapurna 2 at 7,937, Annapurna South at 7,220 and the fascinating Machhapuchhere at 6,993. These views assume you have good weather but as the guide book points out, when you wake up "if the sky is clear go, if it's overcast --- go back to bed!!"

Over 2 for 1 cocktails (Kristin's favourite was the "Daisy") and 650 ml. bottles of Everest beer, Cory and Kristin outlined the general nature of our hike. I think they waited until I was on my second Everest and more relaxed before they got into the specifics. "We start our hike at 1,000 meters of altitude and for the first 2 days we have to go up 1,000 meters each day so we'll be ready to make our assault on Poon Hill the third morning". "No problem" was my immediate, beer induced response. "The rest of the time we go down from where we start, then up again until the 7th day when we only go down". "Sounds easy enough", I said. They weren't providing much more detail and I wasn't looking for it. The less I knew, the better, I thought.

The morning of day 1 went well. Some steady but not severe climbing increasing our altitude by 500 meters. We stopped for lunch and then I got the news. In order to get to the village we were going to stay in that night we had a section of stairs to do. I consulted the guidebook and asked why there were two arrows on the trail we were taking. "That's the direction we're going" I was told. "But the trail this morning only has one arrow on it" I said. Then the truth. "If it's got two arrows on it, it's one bitch of an uphill" I was told. Looking at the guidebook again I read the description for this section. It consisted of 3,421 continuous stairs rising 555 meters at a starting altitude of 1,515 meters. To put this into perspective, the CN Tower sits on land that is 75 meters above sea level. To climb to the top you cover 1,776 steps and go up 346 meters. So here I was about to climb twice as many stairs, covering 50% more height at a starting altitude 20 times higher. Something told me this was not going to be a pile of fun. After a couple of hours and many, many stops to tuck my lungs back in, I finally joined K&C at the top where they were resting comfortably.

These stone trails are everywhere in this area of Nepal. I'm not sure when they were built or who put them there but they truly are remarkable. They are sturdy and well crafted. They lead you from village to village and as I found out on the third morning, to heaven. Poon Hill sits at 3,190 meters ( 10,500 feet) a dwarf among the giants that are around it. We awoke just before 5 took a quick look outside and fortunately, saw stars. We were out the door at 5:15 and by 6:00 a.m. were standing at the top of the hill just as the sun started to illuminate the surrounding peaks. The scenery was breathtaking. We spent about an hour in awe of the huge snow covered mountains before the rising haze and clouds started to obscure them. What a wonderful morning and certainly from a scenic standpoint, the highlight of our hike.

The next few days were, as promised, a series of ups and downs but more severe than I had anticipated. We would start the day at 2,500 meters, descend to the river at 1,700 meters and then climb back to 2,000 meters all to reach our night's destination. Along the way we followed the teachings of Auntie Judy -- "Ya need salt!", "Coke will cure whatever is bothering you", "You need to eat" and " Trekking is not a race!". We found that there are only about five names for the lodges no matter what village you are in -- Grand View, Panorama, Excellent View, Super View ( all of which, by the way, weren't lying -- the views at breakfast from their patios were spectacular) and either Annapurna Lodge or New Annapurna Lodge, although we never ever did see much of a difference between these two. If one was newer it was sure hard to tell. I learned that you don't just walk into a village. You either climb up or drop down into it but you never just plain stroll into it. And having been in Nepal previously, the people were as warm and generous as I remember despite their impoverished circumstances.

I must say that Kristin, "my guide" and Cory, "the Sherpa", were perfect hosts. They are strong trekkers and work well with each other. They are easy going and we all got along well. We experienced no blowups although we came close once. After a long day Cory left us to check out a lodge high in the village. While he was gone Kristin and I had decided that no matter how nice it was, the chances of them having electricity and hence a cold beer, was slim. We felt our chances were better by heading down into the village. Cory returned and told us the inn was beautiful -- quiet, great views. We insisted that we should check out the rest of the village, though not telling him why. "Okay, then you two are going to pick the place" he rather strongly declared. I went to one place, which was a dump but fortunately Kristin found a beauty and after a warm shower and a cold beer, everyone was good.

After spending the week together there are many humorous incidents that the three of us will remember -- the mother and daughter from British Columbia who were high on life, tiger balm or something else, Kristin's long awaited but somewhat disappointing Mars roll, my own roll -- of toilet paper that never seemed to diminish, the old man on the porch -- "Where you from?", "Canada", "You want marijuana?", the hell hole we stayed in our last night, which Cory maintains is a rite of passage, the pain in the ass Slovak contingent and the three Nepali amigos -- city slickers on their first ever trek (and likely their last!!).

So, how would I sum up our seven day journey?
Room with a hot shower at the end of the day……………100 rupees ($1.65)
Lukewarm 650 ml. bottle of Everest beer………………….220 rupees ($3.50)
Unlimited dal bhat with veg curry, pickle and papad……..250 rupees ($4.20)
Spending a week hiking the Himalayas with your son and daughter-in-law……Priceless!

Friday, May 1, 2009

How to Survive a flight with Nepal Air

1. Drink 5 glasses of wine in one hour.
2. That's it!!!
Well we made it to Thailand last night after a surprisingly smooth flight with Nepal Air (the wine definitely helped 'take the edge off") and we were only two hours late - so not bad. Found a place to stay, ate some delicious food and checked out what can only be described as consumer heaven. Anything you want to buy here apparently you can - its crazy. I think Cory and I are enjoying being back in a developed country and loving the services, electricity and AC in the rooms (essential considering it is 35 degrees here and humid).
Miss you all lots and will send more once were on the beach!!!
Love k and c
Kathmandu - Bangkok (Thailand)

Monday, April 27, 2009

40 days and 40 nights!

Can you believe it? We're done trekking in Nepal! Russ Gillman herded us all down our final set of stairs (of about 20,000 this week) this morning and we are all happy but exhausted. He worked his ass off and has decided it only fitting to provide his own account of the last 7 days trekking (which is great 'cause as per the comments, apparently you've heard enough from us!). We're all heading back for a nap shortly and then off to bar hop from happy hour to happy hour (Russ says beer makes him feel better). It was a great trek, and thank god we're done!
Love K and C
P.S. We've posted the rest of the Annapurna pics.
P.P.S. For those of you following at home: Kathmandu --> Trekking --> Kathmandu --> Trekking --> Pokahara --> Trekking --> Pokahara --> Happy Hour!