March 19: Day 14
Chymche to Bahundanda
Yet another uneventful, dreadful day of walking on roads! Jan didn’t sleep well so we had a really slow start to our day and didn’t depart until after 9:30am. And of course, today was the earliest me and Travis were ever ready! It was just a short five hour walk, but the first three hours were awful – all on shitty Jeep trail roads. We ran into so many trekkers on the circuit (we were now at the start of the Annapurna circuit as the Manaslu circuit merges with it), and I swear 90% of them were Israeli! We were playing a game where as we walked, we would all pick a nationality of who we thought the next people we met on the trail would be -without seeing them. Our game came quickly to an end however, as pretty well everyone was Israeli! Continue reading
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
Day 12: Monday, November 30, 2015
7am saw us up and busy. I prepared a breakfast of eggs and beans while Rug pulled down the tent. We ate, washed up, packed up and were on the road by 830am. We had been looking forward to this day ever since we began our journey: today was the day we entered into Etosha National Park. While we had seen heaps of amazing wildlife already on our journey, this is what we had been waiting for, this is where the big stuff was, and in high concentrations – the lions, the elephants, the giraffe, the rhinos – none of which we had seen yet. We cruised quickly over the dirt roads, stopped too fuel up in Outjo, reloaded the cooler with ice, checked the propane and hit the black top for the next half hour until we reached Galton Gate, the westernmost gate to Etohsa. 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 4: Sunday Nov 22, 2015
I awoke at 1:15am -as usual- to the urgent call of my bladder. Damnit. The night before it was lions I had to fear and tonight it was baboons. I ran as fast and alert as I could to relieve myself, hunkered down by a tree, holding my knife brandished in one hand, my head whipping around wildly, imagining a baboon to drop down on my head from above at any second. I scrambled back up the ladder and into the safety of my roof top tent, thankful I had eluded the baboons. But hours later, in the dead of sleep, they got me. I dreamt I woke up to the tent collapsing on top of us because a herd of baboons had jumped on it and were beating on it with their balled fists, howling as the tent began to collapse and suffocate us. I was completely paralyzed (I’ve suffered from sleep paralysis since I was a young child) and felt the impending reach of death gripping me. And then I woke up and saw sunlight on the ground and felt relief wash over me. I had evaded death by baboons this time… 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
Petra was the main reason I wanted to visit Jordan, but I had met a Jose, a Puerto Rican, on my flight from South America to Europe and he highly recommended checking out Wadi Rum in the south of the country. Only having a few short days, we decided on two days with Petra, two days in Wadi Rum and our last day a stop at the Dead Sea while on our way to the airport. Jose, my friend, I cannot thank you enough for your recommendation because Wadi Rum was the absolute highlight of my short time in Jordan. There are few places in the world as breathtaking as The Valley of the Moon.
We left our Bedouin camp outside Little Petra in the early morning, a taxi arranged for us by the camp. The morning was a little frustrating as I found out later in the taxi that we had been brutally mislead about the cost of our back tour into Petra and what was supposed to be a shared taxi was now a private, much more expensive taxi. We were easily out over $100 each. The only unfortunate thing we discovered about Jordan is that sadly people will rip you off unabashedly left, right and centre. If traveling to Jordan, I can’t urge you enough to rent your own vehicle, especially if tight on time, as taxi rates are exorbitant and bus schedules intermittent and unreliable. And if you’re arranging any sort of tours or deals with local people, ensure you settle the price and pay up front so there is no confusion. It really put a sour note on my time in Jordan and made me feel quite bitter towards how the people were conniving and ripping us off so badly. But our journey into Wadi Rum all but made up for that and let me leave Jordan with warmth in my heart.
Feeling completely bagged, I touched down in Amman, Jordan, my first Middle Eastern country, with tired eyes and an excited and open mind. We decided last minute at the Dubai airport to skip spending a night in Amman and instead head straight to our Bedouin camp near Petra and stay there two nights instead. With a tight schedule, we only had about five days in Jordan, so we had to really pick and choose where to spend our time to maximize it. The last minute decision cost us a staggering 70 Dinar (that’s about $140 CAD) to get transport to our Petra camp from the airport. It was a 2.5 hours drive in a private taxi, our only option from the airport – surprisingly we weren’t even being scammed, these were set prices by the reputable taxi company at the airport, all prices were posted. Needless to say, it hurt my backpackers soul to pay that much. Continue reading