March 17, 2018: Day 12
Bimtang to Tilche
As much as one would like to say all is well now that we’ve made it down the pass, there was some drama last night. We were heading to our little cabin to call it a night, when we heard yelling. We saw one of the guides who had gotten very drunk, harassing a woman, hitting her around her middle, as she screamed back at him, struggling. And out of no where, our guide Tek the hero steps in to help her. The other guide kicked Tek and they really got into it, the woman too – she wasn’t sitting back while this guy caused trouble at her tea house. I initially thought there was a chicken involved because there were feathers everywhere, and I thought perhaps he was stealing a chicken and they were trying to stop him? But it turns out that the one guide had grabbed Tek’s jacket and ripped it, causing the down filling to spew out everywhere, feathers filling the air. At last Tek got him down and one of the porter’s, Chen Ho Susan came out and helped to hold down the struggling drunk guide. He had to be held down for a half hour while he screamed and hollered. And then cried. And then puked. And then was finally dragged limp to his bed. Good lord! I guess he let his celebrating get out of hand and he drank too much Raksi, the local moonshine. Some people just shouldn’t drink. He was of course deeply ashamed the next day and didn’t even remember what had happened. I was just glad Tek was around to help the woman! Continue reading
March 15, 2018: Day 10
Samdo to Dharmasala
Altitude gain: 770m
We had a team discussion last night to plot our our strategy for today. We are Team Take Our Time – which means we are the last ones to leave every day. We were headed to Dharmasala, which is the last camp before the pass. The camp is comprised of two or three private rooms, one dorm room and then 12 or so tents. Accommodation was on a first come first serve basis. We knew we could never make a fast enough pace no matter how early we left to try and secure a private room, or even dorm- but also, we didn’t want to leave early because that would mean spending a very long day in a very cold tea house/room trying to keep warm. We wanted to leave as late as possible. Bhim agreed to be a hero and leave around 7am with the pack by himself. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran the whole way to be honest. Bhim was 20 years old, lithe and spry and even with a 20kg pack on him he could nimbly jump from boulder to boulder, dance across unstable landslide debris and somehow keep his balance and never be out of breath. It was incredible. He was some sort of super human! Continue reading
March 12, 2018: Day 7
Lhogaon to Samagaon
Elevation gain: 350m
Finally! I slept better last night – nearly a whole five hours! It’s freezing cold at this altitude, but once I was in my sleeping bag for an hour it was nice and toasty. I awoke at 6:20am and packed and went for breakfast. The view this morning was spectacular! We didn’t have much time to enjoy it however as the clouds rolled in fast.
We set off around 8:30am behind the rest of the trekkers – ‘Team Take our Time’ is what we should have called ourselves! Always last! But what rush are we in? The trek today was beautiful with some snowy patches and lots of ups and down. We stopped at the monastery just outside of Lhogaon which was peaceful, yet bustling with monks going about their work on the place as it was undergoing major construction. We passed a long string of monks on the steep zigzag path up through the forest, all carrying huge pieces of wood slung across their shoulders to aid in the building. Continue reading
Follow a winding road 1000 metres down into a steep valley surrounded by lush vegetation. See the turquoise blue river, steam pouring off her surface as she snakes through the valley floor. Soak yourself in a deliciously warm thermal pool, all to yourself, hanging over the edge of the cliffside while you stare off into the mountain valley. Let the warm waters pound on your back like a massage as they cascade down the mountain. And if you dare, climb into the very heart of the mountain through a black tunnel, torrid water pounding down from every crevice inside her, the hot blood of the mountain. Steam billows so thick you feel it in your lungs. Watch your step along the smooth rocks as you walk along them from ankle deep to neck deep water. At the end of the tunnel, in the mountains heart, sit and breath her in, feel her heat wrap you in a blanket. It’s impossible to tear yourself away; it’s like being back in the womb, the sounds, the comfort, the warmth, the peace you feel. But you must. The rest of the mountain is calling you. Dare to run through the blast of icy cascades pounding from the mountain top, the very mouth of the mountain. Pass through the frigid wall and reach the inside of the cavernous mouth, a warm reprieve, waste deep, with tiny smooth round tastebuds, pebbles on the floor, to massage your feet. Stare in awe at the stalactites, the strange smoothened figures on the walls and cavern ceiling, like grotesque teeth from thousands of years of dripping that warm, mineral rich water. And in the centre, a battering blast of hot water beckons you, dares you to try to withstand the power as the tongue of the mountain pounds on your back and pushes you down into the warm depths. Steamy breath gushes from her mouth out into the valley in clouds. Continue reading
With our upcoming plans of trekking the Himalaya’s in Nepal, we needed to get a trek or two under our belts. There were plenty of hikes online with pricey tour companies, but we didn’t want to have to pay someone hundreds of dollars to walk with us, we were quite capable of that, thanks! After digging around some more we found there was a company in town that helped coordinate treks through the Sierra Juarez mountains and the Pueblos Mancomunados (united villages) for a fair price. The best part was the money went directly to the guides who lived in each of the villages so your money was actually making it to the villages. What made these villages united was that they pooled resources to help each other out, and 6 of the 8 communities came together and created the ecotourism programs that helps sustain the villages today.
And so, on the first day of the new year, I awoke at 6am after not really sleeping at all (thanks anxiety!), caught a cab to the second class bus station and hopped in a collectivo van headed for the village of Cuajimaloyas, resting at a mighty 3100 meters above sea level. Continue reading
Day 19: Monday December 7, 2015
How sweet is the day when one sleeps until nearly 8am! I rejoiced when I looked at my phone to see the time. It was stifling hot when I went to bed last night and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but sleep I did! I awoke with the predawn glow at 5:30 with a full bladder, and it being semi-light out, wasn’t terrified to make the trip to the bathroom. I lazed about in the tent after Rug got up, enjoying the coolness of the day and starfishing a while. Our adventure (and what an adventure it would be!) for the day wasn’t until 4pm so I had all day to do as I pleased. I went to the lounge to do a little internetting and then Rug and I decided to order breakfast as it was only $5. After living on camp fare for so long, a little break now and then was needed. And let me tell you – the home bread was absolutely to die for! Continue reading
Day 16: Friday, December 4, 2015
Sleeping in until 7:30 was absolutely glorious and much needed after so many days of rising at dawn. Today was mostly a driving day as we had another 450km of road to cover to pass through the whole Caprivi strip to our next camp – Mazambala, near the border of Zambia and as close to Victoria falls as we would get, unfortunately. Next time… because we absolutely know there will be a next time! The rains came again and joined us for much of our drive, this time accompanied by massive rakes of lightning and rumbles of thunder.
Mazambala was situated on the Okavango river, surrounded by marshlands. The camp is actually on an island on the river, but because the rains were only just starting, it was still connected to land. The campsites were 2km away from the lodge on the ‘mainland’, but we could take a boat over to the lodge whenever we wanted. We drove over to check in and check the place out and book a game drive for the following day. This was the part of the country where we were hoping to see hippos, crocs and water buffalo. After setting up camp, as night fell, the warning from the lodge host ruminated in my head: “Don’t stray far from your camp, the hippos will be about, you’ll likely hear them.” Continue reading
Day 14: Wednesday, December 12, 2015
5:30am came in the blink of an eye. I ripped out my ear plugs, shot up in bed and smacked Rug.
“Lions”, I said.
We sat stock still for a moment and listened as their raucous roars filled the quiet morning. No other words were spoken as we grabbed our knife (the security of this water hole was questionable at best in our minds!), head lamps and cameras and marched to the waterhole. In the distance, two male lions and two females could be seen. The smaller male was off and to the left, alone, clearly not welcome to enjoy the feminine joys of the other male lions domain. The big male stretched and roared and sniffed at the females, nuzzling their heads. They each slowly rose from the ground where they lay and lethargically made their way to the waterhole. The predawn light was dull and muted so I wasn’t able to get any good pictures. Instead I just sat and watched them interact among each other and listened to those frightening roars that had kept me awake all the night before. When they all began to move off back into the bush, we set out back for our camp and packed up quickly and hit the road to see what else sunrise had brought with it as we made our way towards our next and last camp. Continue reading
Day 7: Wednesday, November 25th 2015
I had the most terrible time falling asleep last night. I just couldn’t quiet my mind. I was excited about my sudden change of plans to stay another ten days in Namibia and I was crazy excited for our sunrise adventure in just a few hours. Finally, around 1am I drifted off only to awaken an hour later needing to pee. The moon was so full and bright, I didn’t even need my head lamp as I trudged half asleep across the dirt road to the bathroom. I fell back asleep quickly, but 445am came all too soon. Up we rose and within 20 minutes we had the tent all packed up, were dressed, made bathroom stops and boom – we were on the road! I was impressed with our efficiency – we were getting damn good at packing up camp in a hurry! We were third in line to get to the gate and only had to wait for five minutes before they opened it and let us through. You could feel the excitement rippling through the line of vehicles waiting, it was like the line to get in to Disney World or something; I didn’t know people could collectively muster that much excitement at 5am! Rug and I blasted Macklemore’s Downtown to get us even more pumped up.
I would have loved to have gone a half hour earlier to get the full effect of sunrise, to be able to enjoy the vast array of colours as the sky shed her sapphire night gown and donned her flushed violet, copper and periwinkle ensemble. But alas, they don’t open the gates quite early enough so as to limit driving in the dark to protect the wildlife. The drive only took a half hour this time as we were following the other cars who were most definitely not obeying the speed limit! And so by the time we reached dune 45, most of the pre dawn stunning sunrise colours had already played out. But we could still at least catch the sun itself as it crested the dunes if we scrambled up this dune fast enough. Continue reading
Day 1: Thursday November 19th, 2015
Well, it was a blasted long 30 hour journey with another sleepless night in another airport, but I at last have touched down in the Motherland. Africa. Windhoek, Namibia to be exact. Since I was a little girl I can recall feeling the desire to one day visit Africa. I have no idea where it started or what fuelled it, but it’s only grown stronger and stronger as I grew older and older. When I decided to travel around the world, I knew without a doubt that I would find myself in Africa. Ten months into my journey and I am finally here. I don’t know what it is about Africa that has always called to me. But, being a desperate lover of nature, the vast expanse of her epic wilderness no doubt beckoned me more than anything. And the unknown, the mysterious, this land so drastically different in every way from my own. I suppose I’ve always been pulled to that which I do not know, the enigmatic and exciting. To say this is a big one on my bucket list just doesn’t do it justice. It feels like a satiating of my very soul – not just food for my soul, but life for my soul. And now at last, I am finally on those strange and extraordinary soils of Africa. Continue reading