Back to Kathmandu, Nepal

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Back in Kathmandu it is busier & louder than I remembered. The streets are smaller, dustier & more crowded. The beggars are closer & the sellers are louder. The narrow streets & tall buildings are not the breath of fresh air I experienced when I arrived from India. I’m relieved I only have a few days here & I hope they’ll be spent relaxing & planning my onwards trip as much as possible.

Debilitated by impatience I go ahead of my friend to the hostel, check in & lie in my bed exhausted. Exhausted from another day spent wishing my time away sitting on my arse on shitty cheap transport. I melt into the bed & my problems evaporate. My friend joins me & I pretend to be asleep, drowning her out with my wishes that she wasn’t here driving me crazy. I miss my independence & anonymity.

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Thanks Skyscanner!

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I am much better at sky scanning than soul searching. After a few nights mulling over my options on Skyscanner I have come up with an epic itinerary. I’m super excited!

I have accepted a temporary nanny position in Europe & will be beginning in 2 months. In the meantime I am taking a tour of epic proportions! Thailand, Australia (to pick up my luggage & see my friends again), Shanghai (to visit 2 friends), Japan (I can’t wait! My face lights up when I realise I’m going!), South Korea (to visit a friend) then Switzerland for work.

I am really craving western culture & lifestyle after a couple of months in India & Nepal. I want better hygiene standards & ease of life with an ache that moves me. I am begging to walk down a street that’s not covered in litter. I think this is the first time I’ve craved western life. I’m almost ashamed to admit it. I feel like I’m betraying the carefree spirit backpacker I am but my heart wants what it wants! I’m optimistic about going back to Europe again. New Zealand has made me appreciate how fortunate I am to live in Europe – as a curious traveller. The access to numerous countries, cultural differences & stunning beauty is incredible.

It has taken a couple of nights to book everything with a few price increases & hidden charges. Now I have everything booked I want to tell the world – I HAVE A PLAN! I know where I’ll be for the next 4 months! I have direction, multi-directional direction.

My exit plan from Nepal

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I’m at another crossroads of my life. It’s more of a spaghetti junction. I could go anywhere in this world – within reason…. Myanmar looks hauntingly beautiful & backpackers speak fondly of it. Bhutan would be incredible to visit. Mongolia is high on my list. Japan has been sitting on the forefront of my mind. My cousins can’t recommend Vietnam enough to me. Thailand is a country I adore. Then I have to think of my finances…. I could go back to New Zealand to work. I could nanny again. Working on super yachts is another option. Back to Ireland & spend time with my family in the homeland after all these years? Another country? Another career change? Am I getting too old for this shit??

I’m open to all suggestions. One option is to nanny in Switzerland & Spain for a few weeks for a family I worked with before. It would get me to Europe for the summer, I would be closer to my family, I could replenish my funds.

Sat in my hostel in Nepal with travel options, destinations, prices & dates scribbled on to a notepad I close my eyes & melt into my bed. My mind is a busy chattering of what I could do next. So much research into expenses, visas & possible itinerarys. I just want to choose something & throw myself into planning. I’m worried that I’m running out of money & as time ticks by, my options diminish.

Reiki course complete – what a relief….

After a week of Reiki, Shiatsu, yoga & dynamic meditation I feel…… Not any different to be honest. I was hoping to be much more centred, balanced & have a clearer head. I feel just as confused, distracted & overwhelmed as I did prior to starting the course. I don’t feel like I have gained any clarity or enhanced in any way. Was it a wasted week?? Why do I bother with this self improvement & continued professional development??

I feel like I’m striving for outward gains when what I need to do is look internally & focus on what’s inside & self discovery.

On completion of the course I am unsure how I feel about Reiki, my capabilities to facilitate it & my belief in it. I feel like I haven’t been led by optimal reiki masters. I have a belief & trust in Reiki but I think I’ve been let down. I’m disappointed by this experience & annoyed that my time & money hasn’t been channeled optimally. I feel like there’s nothing I can do about it now, but going forward I can be more selective about my teachers & be assertive enough to be able to stop a course when I feel like I’m not getting anything out of it. It’s a shame.

On my last day the people at the centre held a celebration party in my honour. I can be very shy & I was absolutely apprehensive at what this would entail. The party was a made up of my reiki instructor & a couple of people who ran the centre as well as 4 local children. I was presented with my certificates & wholly embarrassed with the fuss & being the centre of attention! After a few cringe worthy photographs we had a dance party where we threw our best moves to meditation music. I have never felt more awkward!!!! Sober dancing can be bad enough when you’re not in the mood, never mind to music you can’t dance to & an audience of people keen to see your western moves.

When I think of it I’m transported straight back to that room & what could well be a life peak of discomfort & embarrassed artificial enjoyment.

I managed 30 minutes of stiff swaying & more fake laughter & ‘smiling through it’ that I thought I could muster. The 30 minute mark came – but we didn’t stop. Welcome to my absolute hell! I was so uncomfortable. I was working down a list through my head of sudden illnesses I could feign to get out of this. If I was back in Ireland I could just should that I left the immersion on then flee.

After 10 more long, unrelenting minutes the ceremony was finally over. We gave each other awkward hugs. I was losing the will to live. I was so happy to leave. I have never endured such prolonged embarrassing discomfort of being uncomfortable in my own skin & exposed to unwanted attention.

Reiki Level 2, Pokhara, Nepal

After 3 days I’m starting to wonder have I signed up for a Reiki course or am I paying an old man to watch me sleep??

I’m unsure whether I’ve signed up to a Reiki course or I’m just paying an old man to watch me sleep…..

I had a dismal experience in India completing Reiki Level 1 so why I proceeded with a sinister looking Reiki master in Nepal for Level 2, I’ll never know. I feel really uncomfortable with my reiki master. I find his voice grating & his attitude & teaching dull & uninspiring. During our sessions I repeat words I don’t understand while etching symbols in the air that have no meaning to me. This is not the most productive use of my time I agree. I continue anyway, hating every moment.

When the Reiki master gets bored of me he asks me to lie down while he performs Reiki on me. Or so he says. I quickly fall asleep. Every time. I wake to him informing me the session is over & I am covered in dainty little flowers. When did that happen!??

I thank him & pretend to be refreshed &, ‘like, totally attuned’…. He opens his arms to hug me & I shudder. I hold my arms open, mirroring his gesture, but holding my distance. I know this move has worked the last few days at deterring the follow through of a hug. He nods confused at his weird socially incompetent student. He presumes we don’t do hugging in Ireland. I don’t correct him.

I leave happy of my intact personal space but wondering how I always get myself into these situations & why I don’t do anything to break the habit. I turn up the next day for 3 painful hours & a creepy nap. This is my life now. I am a mere puppet to my hastened life choices.

 

Poon Hill Day 1: Pokhara – Ulleri

Day 1 Pokhara – Ulleri

We left Pokhara at 7.30am. I managed to squish everything I needed into my small backpack & tied the rest on to it. We got a bumpy taxi ride over an hour away to Nayapul & began trekking from there. We walked for about 30 minutes, wandering through a few small cute villages where cute kids would run up to us shouting ‘namaste! chocolate!’ hoping we would give them chocolate. They were obviously used to trekkers on these paths handing out treats. I had some cheap cereal bars buried at the bottom of my bag which was so full it was on the cusp of imploding, there was no chance I was going to delve in there! Sorry kids! We crossed 2 bridges then handed our TIMS in at Beripani checkpoint & continued on the meandering path towards Ulleri to Ghorepani.

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It was a hot humid day & we ploughed on until 11am for breakfast. The restaurants in the area are all priced exactly the same per village meaning no competition & there are signs up not to haggle. It was 400NPR for out set breakfast which consisted of tea/coffee muesli, toast & 2 eggs. I found a bug in my muesli, then another 2 so I left it to the side. I think I’ll leave muesli for a while. IT was filling & fuelled me up for the hills to come.

When we got back on the path it was so hot. My Irish complexion is not tolerant of the sun or heat so I struggled a lot & was so grateful of cold water, even if it was 70NPR. We were warned that as we ascend the mountain the prices would also ascend accordingly – but there is no way I’m going to pack Litres of water to lug up the mountain!

The distance from Nayapul to Ulleri is only 10.4KM although it is the terrain that is the struggle. The incline is almost 1Km in height, with many ups & downs to really draw this out. En route there is a section with 3200 haggard, jagged steps each varying in height, depth, breadth & angle. They felt never ending. We seemed to be going at an average pace catching up with the same groups of people between breaks.

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Halfway through the 3200 steps we met a 76 year old wee old American lady powering through her return journey from Poon Hill. What strength to be able to complete this trek at 76! She certainly gave us the motivation to continue & cease complaining!

When we reached our stop for the evening we were so relieved & felt a great sense of accomplishment that we achieved our first destination. The view was beautiful. We were high up the mountain range & had a good view of the snow capped Annapurna South. I adore being in the mountains. The mood at the teahouse was a humble pleasantness & all trekkers talked with ease to one another. We had a very late lunch & skipped dinner in favour of sleep.

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The people staying at our teahouse were lovely & funny. Everyone was tired but so happy to have accomplished thus far – I’m telling you, those steps were barely tolerable!

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Shopping for Poon Hill

I am the least prepared hiker. I have nothing. My trainers disintegrated before I left India & my flip flops are made of non resilient cardboard. I don’t have hiking poles, special hiking socks, water purifier, hiking backpack, a sleeping bag or any other necessary items required.

As well as clothing & equipments you also need a hiking pass, TIMS, &  ACAP a small fee towards the Annapurna area. You can do this yourself at the trekking permit office or your guide/agency can arrange this for you. We organised our TIMS ourselves however paid more for the unguided pass. This wouldn’t be valid as we were going to take a guide in the end. Our guide said it would be impossible to get a refund from them however we went back & tried & they gave us a full refund. They don’t explain things clearly so be sure to take your time & ask questions to ensure you’re getting the correct documents required. It saves a lot of hassle in the long run!

Nepal is home to the knock off North Face. When you go shopping you are normally faced with 3 options: the real deal (only available in main stores), Chinese fakes (normally the cheapest option) & Nepalese fakes. The sheer volume of counterfeit goods readily available in Kathmandu & Pokhara is shocking. You can get everything from bags, shoes & hats to equipment & accessories. Fortunately I’m indifferent to brands so I wasn’t sucked into the faux world. Other backpackers would be head to toe in North Face clothes with matching luggage & accessories.

My shopping aim was to find the minimal of what I really needed to get by on the mountains. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive & nothing I could survive without. It took 2 days of haggling, trying on & comparing hiking shoes. I think I got an ok deal in the end with a decent pair of fake Jack Wolfskin for 20000NPR. Of course all the shop keepers were feeling terribly hard done by & unjust when I haggled. I begrudged paying for a cap considering I have them lying at home in Ireland. I was coerced into buying extra batteries for my headlamp by a nasty shop keeper I shouldn’t have bothered getting anything from. I got a sleeping bag liner in case it got very cold & to act as a barrier to the seldom washed bedding up the mountain. Instead of walking poles we decided we would use branches we found along the way.

In the shops I would bump into other hikers shopping with their guides & buying everything without haggling. I couldn’t afford the luxury of blissful ignorance to a budget. I felt I did ok in the end. The outdoors is an expensive hobby! I’m sure I would have spent a lot more if I were to do the Everest Base Camp trek.

Even packing for our adventure was hilarious. I refused to purchase a backpack bigger than my small bag yet smaller than my big backpack. I ended up somehow fitting everything inside or tied on to my small 15L backpack. I even managed to pack my book! My friend got a brand new 35L North Face backpack in Kathmandu & her bag is absolutely stuffed as well! She is even taking luggage scales with her so she can see how heavy her bag is on a daily basis….

We have 1 good nights sleep ahead of our hike. I can’t wait! I love being in nature & basking in beautiful scenery.

Solo Traveller – Plus one

I am a seasoned solo traveller & I adore the flexibility this offers me. I am happy to travel with fellow backpackers & I meet so many people in hostels & in the streets that I rarely feel lonely. I have ended up travelling with my Brazilian friend for over 2 weeks now. Two. Long. Testing. Weeks.

I’m not adjusting well to the constant, relentless, suffocating company.

I am not used to waiting 5 plus minutes every time I leave the hostel or a restaurant. I am exceptionally impatient & expressive so it is obvious when I am unimpressed waiting for someone for the tenth time that morning. She is sucking the life out of me! 

When I met her in India I presumed she was capable & independent as a backpacker considering she was travelling alone in India. Then it became apparent she came to India on an organised group trip. She went from a company managing her bookings & itinerary to me. She has been tagging on to my plans, leaving me to do everything & only contributing to complain. I find her ungrateful, greedy nature tiresome & frustrating.

We have a laugh & get along well but I feel like I am her guide & it is hard work! To spend my days & nights intertwined with someone who I find to be so much hard work is suffocating. Even to have someone asking me about my every move is trapping when I am used to so much freedom. I miss my easy going Australian friend I stayed with in McLeod Ganj. We were the perfect travel companions, laid back, independent & happy to do things on our own. We were very low maintenance & easy going.

The language barrier is a big struggle also. My Portuguese is non existent & her english isn’t great, add my accent into the mix & it makes for drawn out conversations about nothing interesting. There are only so many times you can explain a witty comment before you lose the urge to say anything remotely funny. I am losing the will to be sarcastic & humourus. These are the foundations of my very being!

I don’t know how long I can continue like this for. I don’t want to abandon her & make her feel unsafe, insecure & out of her depth in a new country. I couldn’t do that to someone. I would just adore some alone time, a bit of appreciation for ALL of the organising & a bit of consideration. But yes, I’m hoping we part ways soon. Rant over.

How are your travel relationships? Do you travel alone or with people? Do your crave your own space? I’m curious to see if I’m alone on this as none of my friends would consider solo travel.

Pokhara, Nepal

When we arrived in Pokhara we downed our bags, lay down to revive our bodies & got ready to venture out for something hearty to eat.

People had told me it was a blissful area of peace & beauty. In reality I found it to be less so this than I had hoped for. The weather was hazy so I couldn’t see the majesticity of the lake & mountains & the streets were dirty & very much aimed at tourists. It didn’t help that I seen a man taking a shit in the street when I was enjoying a cup of tea.

Pokhara caters exceptionally well to its increasing tourist population. There is a wide selection of restaurants including western cuisine. Some are quaint & tradition while others are more modern or backpacker kitsch. Pokhara has a lot of shops selling souvenirs, kit for trekking as well as numerous agencies to book trips & activities. There’s a lot of accommodation available – Pokhara has it all!

It is beautiful, I don’t know why I’m being twisted

It was less busy than Kathmandu of course but not the place I had conjured up in my head based on how people described it to me..… I hope I talk it down so if you ever visit you’ll be impressed in comparison!

Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

Boudhanath Stupa is slightly out of town so after Durbar Square my friend & I made our way to the busy bus station on the side of town. There were what seemed like hundreds of buses & little instruction as to their destination. We asked someone who seemed to hold a look of authority & he pointed us on to to a rickety bus. We perched in the front unsure of where we were going to end up. The journey was almost an hour long & god help whoever sat beside us as they were offered mints & encouraged to chat & answer our random questions. The people are good natured, smiley & helpful. We feel relaxed in their company & similar in traits. The bus abandoned us in the middle of a busy street & we looked at each other unsure of which direction to go in. Just as we were sighing at the prospect of guessing our next move & getting harassed by taxi drivers, the young boy who sitting beside us on the bus appeared & pointed us in the right direction. Thank you!

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Boudhanath Stupa dates back to the 14th Century & became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It is the biggest stupa in Nepal & one of the largest ancient stupas in the world. It is believed the stupa entombs the remains of Kassapa Buddha & it is embellished with many buddhist symbols. It is the epicentre of tibetan culture in Nepal & is an important place of pilgrimage for Tibetan Buddhists as well as Nepalis.

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The area was extremely busy. We paid our entrance fee & joined the throng of tourists & locals walking clockwise along the prayer wheels. It is believed that if you circle the stupa even once you will be granted a chance to atone for your sins. There were so many people & beggers everywhere. Bodnath Stupa was also damaged extensively by the earthquake the previous year & men & women were working non stop to reconstruct the stupa & restore it to its previous glory.

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Starving we took a break & had some average pizza in a restaurant down a side alley. By this stage the claustrophobia had gotten too much for me. I went for a walk alone but I couldn’t handle the beggars & people with puppies & the crowds so instead of continuing around the temple I told my friend I would meet her at the entrance & fled seeking peace. Sorry, I’m a terrible tourist! Can’t I just wander around somewhere peaceful chatting to locals & sampling food? That’s all I want to do!

We took a taxi back to Thamel & haggled to less than half the price of the initial rip off offer. It felt better to get back to the manageable bustle of Thamel. I don’t think tourist sights are my jam. My friends are keen to visit another temple but I doubt I will join them. I certainly won’t join them for their trip to the monkey temple either! They are also going to to Pashupatinath Temple to witness the traditional burial & cremation ceremony. I am curious about this but morally I don’t feel right about rocking up with a DSL camera & a bag of popcorn while these people are experiencing life’s worst hardships. Some things are sacred & not appropriate ‘tourist sights’.