A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: simonstravels

2 trekking cold

On the afternoon of day 3 Naveen took us for a walk to a frozen lake.
IMG_201812..1503870_HDR.jpg
IMG_20181206_120149710.jpg
Day 4. Lily and me braved the cold and went up again for another gorgeous mountain sunrise. Well worth the effort and frozen body parts.
IMG_201812..1153700_HDR.jpg
IMG_20181207_061941812.jpg
IMG_20181207_063809979.jpg
Later we walked back down to camp 1, the path being somewhat frozen at times.
IMG_201812..0_COVER_TOP.jpg
Day 5. We walked back down to yuksom, to relative warmth and a very much needed shower. I had been wondering what the pooey smell that had been following me around up the mountain... Till I smelt my pants. The same clothes were worn for trekking and sleeping for 2/3 days running... So the shower and semi clean clothes were fantastic...so was the beer!
Day 6 wasn't needed for the trek, so Lily left for Delhi and I walked around Yuksom... Consisting of very steep up or downhill paths... So still much sweating despite the cold weather.
IMG_20181209_113444310.jpg
IMG_20181209_124350920.jpg
The Dzongri trek was an experience I will never forget. Hopefully I've not bored the shit out of you all too much.

Posted by simonstravels 14:03 Comments (4)

Yakkety Yak

Have completed the 5 day Dzongri trek - at the top there are great views of kangchengdhongza (3rd highest mountain).
I went on an organized trek with Lydia (Lily) - a wonderful trekking partner and great company. We had been promised 3 porters, 1 guide and a yak and tented accommodation. We got 1 guide (Naveen) and a heavily loaded porter (Son Samon) - carrying 88 pounds of weight in a wicker basket strapped to his forehead! Poor sod, but he had a job so was relatively fortunate. Luckily, we stayed in wooden huts (not tents) - very very basic, but when it's - 10 degrees it's way better than a tent. So cold our water bottles turned to a solid block of ice in our rooms at night.
Day 1 was walking about 10 miles to the 1st village "Tshoka" (4 almost derelict wooden huts) at an altitude of 3000m (10000feet). One of them contained a wood burning clay stove, which everyone huddles around waiting for food and bedtime. The room is full of smoke despite windows and door being open, so not roasting hot - we still needed many layers of clothes to be working. Although it was absolutely freezing Naveen provided a 2nd sleeping bag and a hot water bottle at night. With 4 layers of clothes on we weren't cold at all... Till we got up needing a pee in the night!
Day 2 we walked up hill for a few hours to the smaller village of Dzongri (2 huts) - 4000m (13000feet). Absolutely freezing! The walk was very misty through wonderful woods up a steep well marked path. We were greeted with a hot cup of tea and lunch by the fire, in a tiny room with a very smoky fire, by Didi - a lady that lives up in the but for 5 months at a time!
Despite visibility down to just a few metres, we decided to climb 200m higher to the view point. We could see nothing and were about to come down when for a few brief minutes the clouds parted and boy o boy what a view! We were so excited and so so happy.
IMG_20181205_160305648.jpg
IMG_20181205_161227677.jpg
Day 3. We got up at 4.10am to go up and see the mountains at sunrise. It was so cold up there that my fingers went numb each time I took gloves off to take a photo. The views of kachenjunga were staggering.
IMG_201812..1304706_HDR.jpg
IMG_20181206_062330394.jpg
IMG_201812..4349607_HDR.jpg
We went back for a much needed tea and hot breakfast by the fire and waited for my fingers to thaw out.
Part 2 in a second, as the WiFi here is shit and won't cope with me sending too big a blog.

Posted by simonstravels 12:55 Comments (0)

Off to see Kim

Before winter set in I thought I would visit Sikkim and investigate the possibility of fitting in a trek before the snows got too heavy in the hills. I met a young lady on the train to Darjeeling (Lydia from Austria) and she also wanted to go trekking, so we caught a shared Jeep up to gangtok (capital of Sikkim).
It's similar in layout to Darjeeling, being set on a very steep hill the streets traverse the hillside terraces. There is even a European style precinct in the centre which is spotlessly clean - remarkable for part of India.
To trek here as a foreigner we need a permit and we have to go with a guide. We have opted for a 6 day trek up into the hills to hopefully get close views of kachenjunga (3rd highest mountain). Lydia has only a few days and going any higher into the hills has been advised against as it will be too cold and windy. There are no lodges, so we will be camping. As well as the guide there are Porter's and a yak to carry the equipment/food etc.. should be interesting. The agent arranging it has actually climbed kachenjunga (though didn't get to the top for to bad weather), so I totally trust him. It is rather an expensive week by Indian standards, but this is an opportunity we both thought we shouldn't miss.
Have now arrived in yuksom. It's freezing even in our hotel! There will be no internet or probably phone signal for the next 7/8 days - so don't phone the embassy mum!
I'll be in contact when I can.... If we don't freeze to death first!
WiFi isn't strong enough to attach any photos.
Bye for now.

Posted by simonstravels 23:12 Comments (1)

Toy train to Darjeeling

The Darjeeling Himalayan railway (DHR) has been on my bucket list for 30 years. It's very popular but I managed to book a ticket, but this meant staying 2 days in the railway junction town of new Jalpaiguri. This joins on to Siliguri to make a huge polluted, not very pleasant, hot and smelly metropolis. Many cafes don't have toilets - they show you outside to the gutter by the side of the building! God knows what ladies do?
90_1050911.jpg
There were so many desperately poor people living in tiny shacks by the railway line or by the busy roads. It was fascinating to observe but obvious very sad. Fruit and veg markets set out on the floor of the dusty polluted train station carpark, with cows and shit on the floor.
1050913.jpg
1050914.jpg
So it was a relief to board the narrow guage DHR train to Darjeeling. It left only an hour late. It travels through the populated hot plains to the hills. Darjeeling lies about 7000 feet high on the hills. The train winds up incredibly steep gradients and tight turns as it travels through the rhododendron and bamboo forests. It's absolute beautiful. It only averages about 7mph, so there is plenty of time to admire the views. The track largely followed the road, frequently crossing it, with loud hoots from the train, all traffic stops as the train crosses the road again and again. Some sections are so steep the track has been made into a Z Shape - the train drives in forwards, reverses the middle part of the Z, then of forwards, gaining 40 or 50 feet in an ingenious feat of engineering.
1050925.jpg
1050930.jpg
Being India, there was a 3 hour delay as the down train had derailed and a steam train had to come and "rescue" it. It took 12 hours to go 50 miles, but what a train ride. I believe it has the highest station in the world.
I am staying in a homestay (like Airbnb). The host knew I hadn't eaten when i arrived so cooked me dinner at 10pm - so kind. Darjeeling is wonderfully set on a steep hillside, with views across to kachenjunga (3rd highest mountain in the world) and across many amazing hills to Sikkim and Bhutan. Many of the high traversing terraces are largely traffic free and clean. It's a lovely town, of course with many tea plantations around. I've drunk some delicious tea. My favourite place has an amazing view out of the window.
1050936.jpg
I've just eaten porridge for breakfast in a very British flavored restaurant again with stunning views of the Himalayas in the distance.
IMG_20181130_103721306.jpg
I will be returning to Darjeeling, but tomorrow will try and get a shared Jeep to Sikkim to investigate the possibility of going for a trek.
I've been reading "the snow leopard" with lots of talk of enjoying the present - I feel a very lucky person for having this opportunity to explore a small piece of the world... And myself.

Posted by simonstravels 22:11 Comments (0)

Bouncy bouncy fun followed by money problems

The big green bus taking me to the Indian/Nepal Visa was indeed an "express" bus and gladly not a local bus stopping every 10 mins to pick up more chickens.
It also had A/C, but was turned off after an hour leaving me to sweat for the remaining 15 hours. It only took 2 hours to escape the Kathmandu gridlock and onto the very twisty mountain passes for the next few hours... This was when the lady behind me and several other passengers on the bus asked for "plastic" - dog poo type bags to vomit in. The lady behind me vomited the entire journey; luckily for me the bin was right by my seat, which she filled completely with vomit bags by the time we reached our destination... Luckily I had one face mask left unused.
The driver (for the entire journey!) had far greater overtaking maneuvers than Lewis Hamilton and more faith than the dalai lama. Constantly overtaking on blind corners and beeping loudly for the vehicle on the inside to brake hard and let us in. I enjoyed listening to my music in headphones (to try and ignore the mayhem outside) until the massively loud Indian music blasted out of the buses speakers. After our 1st toilet stop the masively loud videos started - firstly bolleywood music videos, followed by Indian James bond.. With bolleywood dance scenes randomly thrown in. We had our dinner stop at 10pm. It was very nice curry and rice (surprisingly), but the horn of the bus started and was leaving the car park before I'd finished my last mouthful. Obviously this gave more 'ammunition" for "madam vomit" sat behind me.
It was then that the road surface seemed to just disappear, resulting in high speed bouncing around and swerving in the dirt to overtake anything in the way. Getting some sleep wasn't particularly easy.. But I snoozed a little ... between the 2 hourly toilet breaks.
We arrived at the border town of kakarvitta by 7.45 (16 hours of fun). It was actually a better journey than I had expected.
On the bus I'd met a nice German guy who caught a taxi to my destination (New Jalpaiguri) and offered me a free lift. A bit of form filling to get across the border, but all easy.
After queueing in several different queues at the train station, I think I managed to buy a train ticket on the narrow guage railway to darjeeling... But... for 2 days time. (The 1st available ticket). I therefore have to stay in this not very pleasant railway junction town tomorrow as well. My hotel isn't great, but it's somewhere to sleep and wash (cold water only!)
My nipping to the nearest ATM to get some cash was a nightmare. Every machine I tried over several miles of walking was either not working or wouldn't accept either of my 2 credit cards. The last machine then told me my cards had been blocked! I finally got some cash by using my Santander debit card (expensive to use-but I was desperate for cash).
I then had to phone up both Santander and Halifax to unblock my cards. I used Skype, so not expensive. Santander were quick to answer my questions and tell me the card was infact ok. Halifax were shit! Asking me security questions like "did I open my current account in March or August 1993". When I didn't know I was asked for an account number on a card that's in England. When I couldn't answer that either I was told to call back later...aarrgghh! After 25 mins of a 2nd call the card is now also successfully unblocked.
So...a shit afternoon...
IMG_20181120_184638369.jpg

Very worrying if my 2 main cards don't work. I'll try again in Darjeeling. I'm not brave enough to try tomorrow.
(Sorry for the boring ramble.. It's down to sleep deprivation)

Posted by simonstravels 05:50 Comments (2)

Monkey bollocks

A brief stay in Kathmandu this time. 2 days of pollution is enough. Yesterday I walked to the "monkey temple". The place is great - lots of tourists but pleasingly lots of Nepalese praying and offering gifts to their God's - rice, fruit, marigolds - though the fruit was usually pinched in seconds by the hundreds of monkeys running around the place. I spent ages day watching the primates... and the monkeys! One monkey pinched a tourists bottle of coke, pierced a hole in the plastic and downed the whole thing. Another pinched a small kids toy, so the kids raised a fist and the monkey threw itself at the kids chest and knocked him over, like a kung fu move! A guy brought a big bag of bananas to feed to the monkeys one at a time... Obviously a bloody stupid mistake! One greedy monkey grabbed the whole bag and ripped it out of the man's hand. It then proceeded to stuff as many bananas as possible in it's gob whilst fighting off hoards of other monkeys - hilarious to watch. I felt inadequate by the 'alpha male monkeys"... Their testicles are absolutely huge - I'm surprised they could walk without bruising their knackers!
Today I bought a bus ticket for tomorrow, to the Nepalese - Indian border (kakarvitta). It's a joyous 16 hour overnight bone rattling bus ride. Supposedly it's a comfortable tourist only bus... yeh right...if you count goats and chickens as tourists. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. I've then got to get to Darjeeling. I'm hoping to go on the narrow guage railway - I couldn't book it online so fingers crossed.
I will therefore probably be out of touch for 2/3 days... Plus my sodding phone is beginning to play up again. I restarted it today and most things are currently working.. But not my 3 week old sd card...aarrgghh!
Enjoy the photos of monkeys, someone with bigger ears than me...and me!
Annoyingly, I've just discovered lots of my photos have "gone"!

IMG_20181123_120204409_2.jpg
IMG_201811..44873_HDR_2.jpg
IMG_20181124_115739893.jpg
IMG_20181124_123633656.jpg
IMG_20181124_124752838.jpg

Posted by simonstravels 05:58 Comments (4)

The hills are alive

I spent a nice day walking around bandipur to local view points in the hills.. No mountain views due to misty weather but it was good to stretch my legs and walk up steep hills again. I met a really interesting Polish lady who has travelled loads and is about to take early retirement from teaching, so much to talk about. She joined Corrine and me for beer and food in the evening - very lovely evening. The next day we all went for a 5 hour walk to a beautifully untouched Nepalese village (Ramkot). We met Dave, a Geordie, who joined our growing group. It was lovely walking and chatting and observing nature.
There are photos of red and yellow poinsettias, a grapefruit tree, a cactus tree and bushes with legs!
Unsurprisingly we all finished the day with much beer and local curry (Dal baht). A really enjoyable day.
This morning I caught several different buses back to Kathmandu. Only 6 hours and no crashes on the road - though the usual chaos of constant horn blowing, many many near misses, lots of dust and clouds of diesel fumes. The over taking maneuvers on blind bends is already entertaining - it's staggering how everyone just misses each other. Despite the constant bouncing around due tothe pot holes and lack of road surface I even managed to relax enough to snooze, but usually woke as my head clattered the window as we hit an extra large pot hole.
I checked into the same hotel as I was in 7 weeks ago and have just headed out to wander the streets and eat a snack of a chapati/omelette sandwich. I treated myself to a Hannibal lector face mask. Essential if you don't want your lungs to fill up with lumps of pollution and diesel fumes.
IMG_201811..2832173_HDR.jpg
IMG_201811..75_BURST001.jpg
IMG_20181121_133834322.jpg
IMG_20181121_114634131.jpg
IMG-20181121-WA0002.jpg
IMG_20181121_151912089.jpg
IMG_20181121_112925812.jpg
IMG_20181122_163615055.jpg

Posted by simonstravels 04:15 Comments (3)

My arse has been shifted

After more than 2 weeks relaxing and resting in Pokhara today was the day to move on. I could have stayed sitting by the lake eating and drinking for another week but I was beginning to get slightly restless.
I caught a local bus to Dumre and then another to Bandipur. The local buses are always"an experience". They start off packed full of people and then stop every few hundred yards to cram in a few more. Bags of fruit and veg, along with boxes line the isle (no livestock on today's bus).My ruck sack was thrown onto the roof rack without any tying down. The road is so potholed and bumpy and twisty it was amazing the bag didn't fly off along the way. There was local music blasting out of a crackly speaker. The overtaking on blind corners, with the horn constantly sounding, never fails to scare the shit out of me. Sleep is not possible, but a kind of acceptance of the situation and some sort of calmness washes over after an hour or so.
Bandipur is a lovely very old small village up on a hill, part way between Pokhara and Kathmandu. I'll explore tomorrow. I met a nice Swiss lady on the second bus and have been hanging out with her this afternoon. It's nice to swap stories of travels and treks (she has just finished some of the Everest trekking I hope to do in March). It's also nice to have company whilst drinking beer in the evening, which I am about to do.
Excuse yet more selfies! Views are from my hotel.
IMG_20181119_170647724.jpg
IMG_20181119_170757162.jpg

Posted by simonstravels 04:49 Comments (4)

Beer o'clock

I thought I'd try walking up to the stupa (rather than bleedin cycle) and then walk right round the lake. Well the long sweaty walk up was fine, met a great Irish guy and we swapped travelling tales, often involving toilets. Then I walked down a massive hill to the lakeside itself, walked another hour, to then be told by a local guy that the walk right round is far too long and difficult and that I should turn back. So after 3 hours walking I turned back! It was a lovely walk though. The icing on the cake was to hear lots of rustling in the trees - then spotting loads of monkeys. One was on the ground right by me busily eating. 3 babies playing in the low branches. Wonderful - I'm glad i turned back. Obviously beer to celebrate.
Next day I decided I wouldn't be defeated by the lake. I hired a kayak and paddled right round the bloody thing! The views of the hills and the town with paragliders soaring ahead was fabulous. 4 hours sitting in a boat and I'm pleased to say my bottom was bearing up! More beer to celebrate.
Today has so far been a quiet day sitting and reading in various lakeside locations.... possibly a beer later to celebrate.
IMG_20181115_185054905_2.jpg
IMG_201811..1849841_HDR.jpg
IMG_20181115_143101653.jpg
IMG_20181114_145918120.jpg
IMG_201811..0_COVER_TOP.jpg
IMG_20181114_143033003.jpg

Posted by simonstravels 02:30 Comments (4)

Stupa d boy

I've settled into my new hotel ok and enjoyed investigating this side of town. After a yummy breakfast in a local cafe (no curry! - porridge/omelette/fried potatoes/green peppers) I rented a mountain bike. The plan was to ride up to the world heritage "stupa" and then on around the back of the lake in a circle. The track I found myself attempting to ride up was steep and then disappeared in forest. An enterprising young lad rescues all such lost idiot tourists and lead me to the "main cycle track". He obviously wanted paying - which was fine. Well...the main track was very steep, rocky, slippery and in my mind often unrideable. So I walked/rode and definitely sweated my way up the hill to the stupa. Very nice views of the lake up there, but clouds meant that an amazing mountain panarama was not visible (I'm glad I've seen it many times before). I was advised that my path down and around the lake was not suitable for a bike. I ended up riding down on even dustier steeper paths and was so relieved to be back on tarmac (so were my testicles) though then surrounded by diesel spouting buses, so my lungs started complaining. I then ride round the lake the other way, looking for quiet country lanes, and the road transformed into another dusty bumpy track. I ate lunch and cycled back to the German bakery that sells amazing Apple pie and relaxed in their garden. My perineum and I have decided that mountain biking is not for me. I'm going to stick to tarmac and croissant stops every hour in France from now on.
To aid my aching parts I'm drinking beer (I had yesterday off) hoping that a numbing feeling will soon envelope my body.
IMG_20181113_105512345.jpg
83B45771ECA34D5645DDB903D9BC692C.jpg

Posted by simonstravels 05:20 Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 10 of 54) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 »