The Great Margration

Stories of my life on the road.

Nepal! April 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 12:57 am

My inability to keep up with blogging can be mostly blamed on the long walk we did here in Nepal, half because there wasn’t internet, and half because I’m just now regaining the strength necessary to revisit the aforementioned long walk.

The total distance for our trek was about 130 miles, starting at an elevation of around 2,600 feet, and topping off at Thorung La (the pass) at around 17,800 feet. THAT’S A LOT OF FEET.

With our map and the occasional handy trail markings, we set off from Besisahar. We were so so ready to be done with crazy cities, pollution, and constant price negotiations for awhile. Here’s an example of one of the not remotely confusing trail blazes. Image

The first few days featured a lot of bridge crossing, upping and downing as we made our way up the Marshyangdi river valley. Image

We quickly got used to the fact that the menus all featured the same limited options at fixed and inflated prices. After a long day of walking, though, you find a way to get excited about whatever happens to be on the plate in front of you.

There were pretty things to look at, mostly just hills and the beautiful (never ending) river winding its way through the valley. Occasionally, a waterfall to spice things up.

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Along the way, we met many people who were using porters to help them carry their gear. We felt pretty good about ourselves for being hardcore enough to carry our own packs. Then, one day, these guys scooted by us:Image

They were djs, on their way to a gig some ways up the valley. They became our new heroes.

We spent a non-insignificant portion of our trek moving out of the way of a variety of hoofed mammals. http://youtu.be/eQ3eKvw03D8

Charles tried befriending many of them, with little success. I think they were worried we would make them carry our stuff up the hills. Can’t say I didn’t seriously consider it at times.Image

Eventually, we started getting up a bit higher, and things got prettier.

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This is probably the most beautiful tea drinking bench in the world.Image

As we got higher up, the walking got harder. I started doing this a lot:Image

At one of the villages just before the pass, we joined up with some other trekkers so that we could play card games that involved more than two people. They were really cool, so we walked with them for a few days. They made us wake up really early to go over the pass, but at least it was pretty.ImageImage

And we totally made it to the top! It was torture! By that I mean that it was the most amazing thing ever, now that it’s finished.

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Cheap beer tastes so amazing at 17,800 feet.

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Being at the top was, as you might expect, the highlight of the walk. By the next day, the surroundings had changed drastically. We unexpectedly found ourselves in a sand-colored wind tunnel. It wasn’t that cool.Image

Charles and the girls tried to make the best of it by jumping up and down on one of the bridges. Pretty sad all around. http://youtu.be/WXC63gPFVNY

After we got to the town of Jomosom, which is basically almost like being back in civilization, our group disbanded. The others wanted to get back to the real world as quickly as possible, so they suffered through some miserable hours of bussing and jeeping. Meanwhile, Charles and I were convinced that we would finish up using our own two (tired) feet.

Going down the western half, through the Kali Gandaki river valley was fine. Nothing too exciting, but warmer at least. Then it started raining. For days. We were so tired of walking and being wet all the time, that we shaved two days off the recommended time by just not stopping. Image

So it was, after 16 days of walking, we made it to the end of the trail in Nyapul. From there, we caught a bus to Nepal’s second largest city, Pokhara. The dude in charge of wrangling bus passengers took one look at our soggy, dirt encrusted bodies, then made us ride on top of the bus. Flying around blind mountain curves in the rain on top of a bus is quite an experience. I was too cold and terrified to get motion sick, at least.

To anyone who has made it to this point, thank you for reading! Tomorrow afternoon, we start our three days of flying to get back home, including a day in Shanghai along the way. I’m so excited for kale and tofu right now that I can hardly stand it.

 

 

 

Doing India an Injustice March 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 10:25 pm

When we were talking to people in Sri Lanka about where we should go in India, everyone insisted that 12 days was not long enough to see anything, and that we were crazy to try. Well, that sounded like a challenge I was willing to accept, so here we are, almost done with our whirlwind exploration of this ridiculously large, complex nation.

After my last post from Kandy, we took a bus to Colombo, then a plane to Chennai, Bangalore, and finally Goa. It was a long, painful 24 hours. We ended up in a little village called Arambol, which is packed to the brim with Russian and Israeli tourists in what appears to be a market place for Burning Man fashions. Rather unsettling, really. Image

We hiked out to see a really cool, apparently sacred Banyan tree.

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After visiting the tree, we gave ourselves spa treatments with some sulfurous mud from a nearby river.

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Proof that I’m eating amazing food.

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Next up, we took a rocking and rolling night bus to a surreal landscape known to the locals as Hampi. The rocks were nuts. I took too many pictures of them. Image 

On our second morning, we paid for some under-aged Indian kids to take us by boat to a monkey temple high up on a hill for sunrise. Image

There were a bunch of mean monkeys up there. They don’t look too mean in the pictures, but don’t be fooled.

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Tiny baby monkey.Image

 

Larger, friendlier monkey.

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Charles was doing a monkey video when one of them stole his water bottle. It’s worth a watch. http://youtu.be/k5twUhpErlo

One of the Indian children who labored to paddle some overweight Americans around at the break of dawn.Image

Next, wee took a much more pleasant overnight bus ride to Mumbai, then flew to Jodhpur. Unbeknownst to us, we were attempting to travel right before a major holiday called Holi, so all the buses were booked by people going home to be with family. Jodhpur is known as the Blue City. It has an amazing, enormous fort built on a hill, which I don’t have a picture of, but here are some shots from the fort.Image

 

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Holi was COMPLETE INSANITY. It’s like a country-wide color fight. Definitely something that needs to happen in the US.

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That’s all for now. Next up, the last few days of India before we fly to Nepal on April 1st.

 

Leaving Sri Lanka March 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 1:57 am

I last wrote soon after we arrived in Arugam Bay. Somehow, almost a week later, I have little to report beyond some pretty boring accounts of major relaxation. We filled our days with playing at the beach, reading, sleeping, and cribbage. It was amazing. We moved from our tree house room to one on the beach. ImageImage

View from the bed.

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Charles did a bunch of surfing.

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Here’s videographic proof of him standing up on the board. I decided to be nice and not post any of the other ten clips I have of him just falling a lot.

http://youtu.be/3m0HTLm8BtE

There were lots of cool boats. Image

On our last full day, we rented some scooters and motored over to a place called Kudimbigala, which is an old buddhist hermitage built in 246 B.C. amongst a bunch of caves. Very cool.

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The front of me, and the back of a religiously significant statue.

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Little temple built under a rock.

 

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Piles of rocks.

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Sweaty view from the top.

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Yesterday we suffered through another long day of bus riding to get back to Kandy, where we’re completing the final step necessary to get our Indian visas.

Today is my birthday in Sri Lanka! We had a nice climb up some hills in Kandy after breakfast.

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And then had some dosai for lunch. I love the food here.

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This evening we’ll pick up our passports, then go back to Colombo. We’re pampering ourselves with a night spent half-sleeping in airport chairs before a 5am flight out of Sri Lanka.

Next up, more beach time in Arambol, Goa!

 

Long Road to the Sea March 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 6:23 am

So begins the next chapter in my book of world exploration/domination. Charles and I set off from San Francisco on the 6th of March, one day late because of a flight delay. Also, as a result of this delay, we had an unexpected day in Singapore. The airlines put us up in a decent joint and fed us, so that was nice. We did some wandering about and decided that one day was all we needed to get our fill of Singapore.

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One glass of the signature drink, the Singapore Sling, was also quite enough for my lifetime.

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Late on the night of the 8th, we flew to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Our plan here was to get the required visa to gain us entry into India, then hightail for the beach on the opposite coast. Long story short, we totally blew it by not applying for the visas while stateside, and were faced with the prospect of spending a lot more time in Sri Lanka that originally planned. Hard to complain about being “forced” to sit on the beach for a week, though, really. We had two days to check out Colombo, which is a big crazy city. Great if you’re into that sort of thing. I eased myself into the experience with some local beer.

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We took an afternoon train to the hills in the middle of the country to a town called Kandy.

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Here were able to submit our Indian visa applications, which will be available for pick up on the 20th. Kandy is a pretty town, though. Won’t mind stopping back through in a few days.

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Early on the morning of the 12th, we got on a bus going in the direction of the east coast. It was a loooong, hot, crowded journey, but we finally arrived after dark in the village of Arugam Bay. It’s finally starting to feel like vacation, although Charles found some work during a beach walk, helping some local fishermen. Some people just don’t know how to relax, I guess.

There was a beautiful sunrise this morning.

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We’re staying in a room on stilts, and our balcony is in some trees. It’s amazing.

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That’s all for now. We’ll be here in Arugam Bay for 3 more days, then back to Kandy to get our passports and make our way to India. More soon.

 

Nica November 17, 2010

Filed under: Out — margysaur @ 7:21 pm

Hey! Can anyone believe how totally November it is already? Me neither.

Here I am in Nicaragua, and it’s pretty great.  At the end of my last blog, I was getting ready to leave Granada.  I arrived safely in San Juan del Sur weekend before last, and have been enjoying this small Pacific beach town quite a lot.  From talking to people, it seems that they either hate this place or love it.  In fact, the Nicas are lovely but there’s definitely a pretty hardcore surfer/party scene here.  I can see how it could get annoying, but it´s not bad in small doses.  There are a lot of English-speaking folks who have settled here semi-permanently, which means that it´s possible to find some pretty decent hummus.  Without question, the highlight so far was leaving SJdS for Isla de Ometepe, a pair of conjoined volcanic islands: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ometepe .

On the island, I stayed at an organic coffee cooperative called Finca Magdalena, which had the most amazing coffee I have ever tasted.  The finca was located at the base of the smaller volcano – Maderas.  The two volcanoes are quite different, Conception being younger and more active, and Maderas being older and covered in cloud forest.  I decided to hike Maderas because there were promises of a lagoon in the crater to swim in after the tough hike.  Switchbacks are not a luxury afforded to hikers of this mountain, and we gained just over 4500 feet in less than 3.5 miles.  Experiences like that are always worth it, though, and this was no exception.  The next day I checked out some Mayan petroglyphs and some mineral springs before heading home with about 2000 new mosquito bites on each of my lower extremities.  I owe some deity much thanks if I don´t contract The Dengue in the next week or so.

This week, along with my Spanish classes, I´ve been amping up the physical activity with yoga classes and hiking the hills around town in preparation for climbing some Nica and Guatemalan volcanos over the next several weeks.  On the list is Tajumulco, the tallest volcano in Central America, at 13,845 ft.  Wish me luck.

Volcans Conception and Maderas as seen from San Jorge

Friendly bug

Mayan petroglyphs

Cacao – tastes nothing like chocolate, but is amazing.

Post swim in crater lake, happy to be there.

Signs posted all over Ometepe, many of them pointing, unaccountably, in opposite directions.  Point well taken.

San Juan del Sur as seen from the hills

 

Turtle Power November 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 7:39 pm

For the last three weeks I´ve  been living on Playa Camaronal, a secluded beach on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.  My days pretty much consisted of several hours of manual labor, lots of trash clean up, reading in a hammock, rice and beans, beans and rice, rice and beans, going to sleep early, and waking up in the middle of the night to walk on the beach for three hour shifts.  Working with the turtles has been a spectacular experience.  Their plight is pretty desperate, and I definitely saw why.  We were tasked with trying to save the turtle eggs from poachers and animals.  The poachers would hide in the trees lining the beach, and run out to dig up the nests before we could get to them.  They can sell the eggs for around $20 per nest of around 100 eggs.  It´s a valuable source of income for the very poor people living near the beach.  The racoons find the eggs to be quite hard to resist as well, and I can´t really fault them – circle of life and everything.  The problem is that only one hatched turtle in several thousand will reach maturity, so every little ping pong ball of turtle goo is precious.  Can´t we all just get along?

At the end of last week, my new friend Anne (from Deutschland) decided to tag along with me to Nicaragua.  We had a pretty typically stressful experience – I kept trying to get on the wrong busses, and she got hosed by money changers at the border – but we arrived otherwise intact and have been exploring Grenada for the past several days.  Tomorrow morning we´ll go to San Juan del Sur where I´ll have more Spanish class and surfing for the next two weeks.

Some pictures:

Home in Camaronal

Perk of walking the beach from 3-6 am.

Babies!

First sunrise babies.

These things liked to divebomb us at night.

Getting ready to walk in crazy rain.  You´ve seriously never seen it rain this hard.

Daytime turtle – not a common sight.

Nest – Olive Ridley turtle

Shower iguana.

Slogging across the Nica border.

From the tallest church tower in Grenada.

On the chicken bus with Anne.

 

 

Week Two in BDT October 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 10:08 am
Hola!  Had another great week in Bocas.  As I may have mentioned, I loved the open water diving course, so I decided to go for the advanced open water  certification this past week.  Aquisition of this certification basically just involves having 5 more dives: one has to focus on navigation, and one on deep diving, but the other three you pick from a variety of options.  It turns out that navigation is not my strongest suit – we ended up surfacing quite a ways from the boat, but we could at least see that boat, so I figure that´s good enough? 

 The deep dive was interesting.  The idea is to see if you can handle the increased nitrogen situation that happens at depths of close to 30m.  At the bottom, my instructor signed me a couple of simple math equations, and I got them both correct.  Then she cracked some eggs, and we tossed them around for a bit – the increased pressure makes them cohesive and buoyant.  On the way up, we passed a juvenile manta ray. Learned that it´s hard to squeal when you have a mouth full of rubber.

The next dive I chose was one to help me improve my buoyancy control – trying to hover in place, and swim through different hoops.  Also not a strong suit of mine at the moment, but oh well.  I did a fish identification dive, which was cool as well.  Saw lots of fish, vaguely remembered my instructor telling me what kinds they were, but had no idea what anything really was at the end.

The best, though, was my night dive.  For one thing, the animals are bigger and less shy at night.  Saw countless gigantic crab and lobster.  I also saw a free swimming spotted moray eel, and the ugliest thing ever – a toad fish.  Mid-dive, we spent 5 minutes sitting on the bottom with our lights off, playing with bioluminescent plankton.  Really didn´t want to leave. 

Saturday, I tagged along with some  Dutch and Norwegian girls to an indigenous community, where they have been volunteering with the kids.  The lesson for the day involved showing them a map of the world.  None of them, aged 6ish to 13ish, had seen a map of the world before.  The had no idea where to find Panama on a map.  By the end of the lesson, they were excitedly finding such far-flung countries as Greenland and Mongolia.  It was such a cool thing to be a part of.

Sunday was traveling day.  I managed to miss my bus by about 3 hours, but very luckily tagged along with some Canadians, eh, who were also heading to San Jose.  The trip was much longer than it would otherwise have been, but I survived.  I was delivered to a host family last night, and tomorrow morning, very early, I´ll be heading to the Camoronal Refuge for three weeks of sea turtle work.  I don´t think there´s internet out there, so I may be out of touch a bit. 

Miss you all, and hope you are well!

Walking to the indigenous community.  They live behind the very small airport.
 Building a path to the village.
 Path to the village.
 Finding Panama.
 Back at the CR-Panama border.  It´s less safe than it looks.