Day 10, 11 and 12: row row row your boat down the kaligandaki river

Long story short, the trip was amazing. Amy and I ended up having an awesome time. We loved the heat of the day and the cold of the water (except for when Amy got mildly hypothermic for like 30 minutes), the paddling and the swimming, the pranks and the games by candlelight and campfire, the camping and the conversation and the fantastic people we met. It was awesome. 
I’ve only ever done half day white water rafting trips, where you show up, ride for a day, and head on home, and Amy had never done raftinr, so We were excited (and I was a little nervous) to see what it would be like to raft and camp for several days on end. For our last few days in Nepal, we signed up for a three day, two night rafting trip. There’d be about 3 hours of rafting the first day, 5 the second and about 3 for the final day. There were going to be 3 rafts of tourists (20 of us in all), 2 support rafts, and three safety kayakers. There were three guides (one for each boat) and the kayakers and about 2-3 additional support team members to help with cooking and other things around camp. 

On tuesday, we showed up at 7am at paddle Nepal and headed out on a three hour bus ride to the rafting start. It was kinda cute on the bus ride out there, we were all pretty quiet, kinda keeping to the groups we came with, all self conscious and not sure who to hook on to yet as friends (at least that’s how I’d describe myself on the bus). By the second night, however, we were laughing hysterically with each other and playing all kinds of games. 

Instead of a play by play of th days here’s some highlights of the trip:

  • Quicksand and camping: it was really nice to be away from a city, camping on sand and grass, and enjoying being outside all day. The scenery was actually amazing but the highlight was definitely seeing Annapurna sticking up behind the raft on the second day when we all jumped in the water for the first time. It was just this great confluence of moments. The sand on the beaches was also amazing. It was like true quicksand–it was super hard when you first stepped on it but then it relaxed and started to swallow you whole. 
  • Swimming down a rapid: our guide seemed to want us out of the boat as much as possible (:)) and we were happy to oblige. We swam a lot during the day and at one point we went down a rapid (not a big one) by swimming it instead of rafting it. Minus the water in our faces, it was awesome. 
  • Getting air: several of us got a chance to sit at the front of the raft and hold on to a rope like we were on a bucking bull. Amy definitely got the most air on some big rapids. It was pretty awesome to see the rapids and waves come at you head on and only have one hand holding. It also meant you got a break from rowing, which was always nice 
  • Marcel switching rafts: a recent grad from university, and from the Netherlands, marvel had a penchant for switching rafts, swimming from one to another throughout the trip. Our favorite moment, which inspired a later prank, was when he came onboard without a paddle and started the pretend paddle when we were told to row forward. His miming was so convincing it took us way too long took figure it out. (we really cracked ourselves up on the third day when instead of paddling when our guide gave us orders, we pretended to paddle instead. It also took him a hilariously long time to figure out what we were doing.)
  • Sand pictionary by candlelight: high point of the first night, which featured amazing drawings by marcel (Jurassic park), Amy (the Martian) and everyone else (jakob, an Italian going to med school in Germany with Tom, another German; Stefan–a German who works in finance; iain, a Brit and dentist turned local politician who loved to crack us up with his best impression of an American accent; josh and Annie, management consultants from. U.K. and more.)
  • Beer, cards and a campfire: On the second night, several of us bought basically all the beer being sold by this local woman who’s family lived basically right next door (their cows were grazing in the field we camped in when we arrived) and who arrived with a woven basket of beer bottles right when we pulled in. we decided to make the most of it with a little kings cup. There was rhyming (which was hilarious to watch a Dutchman, Italian and Germans try to do in English), “little man” and singing rules and, of course, lots of drinking. 
  • games games and more games: after kings cup, we joined in by a campfire and about ten of us started playing all these games (but only after I required everyone to sing their country’s national anthem). First we played a game called psychiatrist (where everyone in the group pretends to be either another person or in another situation — like say everyone acts like they are on safari or acts like– and one person has to guess what’s going on). We also played black magic and a game kind of like taboo where you have to trade off speaking one word at a time and try to get everyone in the circle to guess the word yours trying to describe. My favorite game though was this one where two people (which ended up being marcel and I) leave the circle and those in the circle then come up with a story that we have to come back and guess. Marcel and I were only allowed to ask yes or no questions to figure out the story. And thank god for marcel because he asked such out of the box questions that turned out to be somehow spot on. He figured out we were whales, that we were famous and had our own tv show and that we’d been captured on a hook and were now being forced to be a mode of transportation, pulling people around a la horse and carriage. The best part of the game was when I told the group I thought that the story they came up with was really creative and the group looked at us and was like, yeah, there was no story. Basically everyone who answered just said yes when they liked the direction of a question and therefore marcel basically came up with the entire story himself. I laughed for probably ten minutes straight. 

By and large the trip was awesome and we were so glad we did it. Making new friends is always awesome and being outdoors when you do it is basically the best way. I love the aspect of traveling in a group like that, big enough to move from group to group but small enough to bond really quickly and feel close enough to invite the people to stay at your place next time they’re in Germany or the states. Who knows whether you’ll see those people again, but I always think it’s really cool and serendipitous and random and so good to meet people from all over the world that just click and that you can talk and laugh with. It’s definitely my favorite part of traveling. 

Now, we’ve been back in Kathmandu a day, sam’s arrived, we did one last trip to the monkey temple, and I sent Amy and Sam off on their great adventure to hike the Annapurna circuit. 

For me, though, it’s time to head home. I’m happy with Amy and my’s trip — I feel like we did a lot, we traveled well together, laughed and smiled a ton, and could travel together again one day. But I’m also happy to be headed home. I know the travel bug will be back soon (so it’s good joe and I are off to Ireland in May) but right now, I’m really looking forward to seeing Joe and getting back to life in providence again. 

Thanks for reading about Nepal everyone! I really encourage you to visit, to do some day hikes at least, to walk around Kathmandu, to visit pokhara, to raft, to meet travelers, and if it’s your thing, to do a long trek. If you’re ever interested in going Nepal, message me here and let me know and I’ll share any info I can to help you out. 

<3

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Day 9 pokhara: Amy the magical haggler

I guess there’s been a lot of magic on this trip. First lasso, then today, Amy. Maybe it has something to do with all the Harry Potter I’ve been reading?
Anyway, yesterday we learned how to say numbers in Nepali and today Amy basically had them all memorized like a boss. The magical part happened a few times, mainly when I was negotiating prices. 

At least three time, I was in the midst of negotiating, which her really goes something like ‘shop owner suggests price’ then ‘Kate suggests half to two-thirds that price’ then ‘owner says oh no no, and suggests an in between price, often very close to the price they initially suggested’ and this continues until you either realize they’ve given you the actual price they’re not going to budge from, or they realize you’re not going to budge and either come to meet you closer to your price or the conversation ends and you don’t get the item in question. 

Now, when Amy’s involved it goes like this:

Kate: “how much are these scarves?”

Shop owner: 1800 rupees (about $18)

Kate: what about 3000 for three of them?

Shop owner: oh no. ::pulls out calculator to show me how much three should cost::

Kate: but what about 3000?

Shop owner: oh no. 

Amy: what! Noooo, they don’t cost that much. ::then, in Nepali:: “tin-hazar” (three thousand)

Shop owner: ::puts of flabbergasted face. Looks at Amy and me. Laughs.:: okay. 

That happened multiple times which means Amy saved me a lot of money. We assume that we didn’t screw anyone over since we’ve had many people refuse our negotiations in the past when we’ve gone to low. We assume that if we go to low they really won’t give us the item. Or at least we hope that’s the case. We think that Amy’s charm, paired with her attempt at speaking in their language is doing the trick. 

So, note to travelers, if you want to haggle costs in foreign places, and make people smile at your attempts to speak their language, learn some numbers and phrases in the local language. 

Nepali numbers (by how it sounds, not how it’s spelled)

Ik (one)

Doo-ey (two)

Tin (three)

Zsar (four)

Pohts (five)

Ta (six)

Set (seven) 

Et (eight)

Noh (nine)

Das (ten)

Bis (twenty)

Tis (thirty)

Pohts-chas (fifty)
To say “hundred” you add “say” to the number. So for example: 

Ik-say (one hundred)

Pohts-say (five hundred)
I say thousand you can add “hazar” to the number. So you’d say:

Tin hazar (three thousand)
Or, to get advanced:

Doo-ey hazar pohts-say (2500)
Other things to say in Nepali:

-Kay ta? (How are you?) (they may answer tik ta (which is like good, and you?))

-Esko kasi hoe? (How much is this?)

-Namaste (hello!)

-Subaratree (rolling the r’s — good night!)

Day 8 pokhara: resting, relaxing and rafting…

Today was a rest, relax and decision day. It started with yoga with our favorite teacher, though after last night drinking mojitos (2 for 1!) and “partying” (going from reStaurant to restaurant) until “late” (aka 1130pm), we were feeling a little less enthusiastic and it seemed maybe our teacher was too. There was still the laughing but a little less playfulness than the day before! Oh well!
After a quick and delicious breakfast at a place called the early bird, we headed for coffee at a bit of a fancy place calls Himalayan java cafe, where we planned to hunker down for a bit, read, and then get going. 

Just as we were leaving, amy ended up starting a conversation with this guy who happened to have lived in Seattle before moving to Germany and then Nepal with his wife and two kids. He and his wife chatted Amy and I up, giving us helpful (number for taxi driver they know) and not so helpful (take a domestic flight!) information. One thing they mentioned was to check out the rafting trip company on the ground floor, which did rafting trips. 

What a killer suggestion because after talking with an employee of the raft shop we decided that if there was room, we’d be interested in doing a three day raft trip. There will be three rafts and 24 people, 3 guides, 1 trip leader, 3 kayakers and 2 gear rafts. We’ll camp two nights before returning back to pokhara for one last night before heading back to Kathmandu (and then, for me, home!). 

We made a few other amazing finds today–one: a restaurant that made a delicious (read: fried) veggie burger. Two: a local aesthetician who gave me and Amy hand massages and Amy a manicure while letting us hold her 22-day old baby, telling us about her time in Amsterdam, and teaching us to count and say phrases in Nepali. Three: a cheaper, clean, awesome vibe place that has a (short) Slackline (!) and that we are planning to stay at on our last night here. If only we’d found it sooner, but at least we found it at all! 

We also did loads of shopping, buying jewelry (both of us), a tie dye dress (Amy) and eyeing all the things were going to purchase in our last few days here.

A good, quiet day filled with serendipitous encounters and great people and experiences! 

Day 7 Pokhara: Lasso the wonder dog

It rained all night and through Saturday morning but once the skies cleared enough we decided to hike up to sarangkot, which is supposed to be an amazing viewpoint from which you can see the annapurnas (if the sky isn’t completely enveloped in clouds, which it has been here since we’ve arrived). 
After walking along the lakeside road, we hopped over a stone wall and headed up the path, which was marked with red arrows. As we started up the steep climb, this dog started walking with us. While the stray dogs in Kathmandu and pokhara have been overwhelmingly kind and sweet and so so cute, we were a bit wary about this dog and whether he was rabid or territorial or prone to biting or anything. But as we walked, all our concerns were dispelled. Not only was he very friendly, but he knew the exact way up and down the path. He would sometimes hike between us, pausing to make sure I was still there, or he would run ahead, and then pause and look back at us until we caught up. He was a sweetheart and after we made it about halfway up it started to become clear that he was not only going to hike the whole way up with us, but that we’d both totally fallen for him. We decided that since he’d shown up out of nowhere like a miracle dog and was totally helping us find his way, we’d call him lasso (like lassie but he was a boy). We also may have briefly considered lassoing him and having him pull us up the never ending stairs to the top of the “hill” to sarangkot. 

We were totally over the moon over lasso. When other dogs would growl at him, we’d wave a stick in their direction. When we felt he was going the wrong way (because of new construction), we’d call him back. when he couldn’t get on the rooftop porch we decided to eat at at the top of the climb, we moved downstairs so he could curl up and take a nap next to us. When we were offered a taxi on the way down, we made it contingent on lasso being able to come and when he wouldn’t get in the taxi, we decided to continue walking down instead. When he helped lead the way down, finding the path, we considered what it might take to adopt a Nepali dog. when we got to the bottom of the hike and he ran into the yard where it seemed he belonged, we shed an internal tear or two and tried not to look back. 

And when we rated our favorite things so far about Nepal on our way down that hike, lasso made the top of the list. 

Day 5 and 6 pokhara: the bus, the yoga teacher, and the peace pagoda

The bus to pokhara was not my favorite. The map we had of the Kathmandu valley showed a pretty straight line between Kathmandu and pokhara, but it was very clear early on that that was a huge oversimplification. The road was super windy, up and down and around mountains/hills the whole way there. I had a really nauseous stomach from something is eaten and so the winding-ness did not help matters at all. We both did alright but we’re happy to land on solid ground in pokhara. 
The number of white tourists in the lakeside area of pokhara is both pleasant and strange. It means there are a lot of amenities and a plethora of western food and facility options. But it’s also awkward, like we’ve co-opted a part of their city, living a better life in our few days here than they have at all. We haven’t yet walked through the area stepped back from lakeside, but we plan to, to see what pokhara is like outside of the main strip. 

After finding a place to stay for the first night, we ate (something American and neutral for me) and pretty quickly passed out (per usual). 

The next morning we woke up early (per usual) and ate a little something before attending what would become our favorite yoga class ever. Ever. The guy who ran the yoga class had bushy black hair, with dreadlocks bunched up on either side of his face. And his face was almost always smiling, laughing or about to laugh. His whole being was radiating joyfulness and playfulness. At the end of his class he had us all laugh hysterically. Pretending at first of course but then as we all watched him laugh and we laughed, real laughter, hysterical hilarious laughter ensued. 

After yoga we relaxed and switched hotels, and then later we walked to the peace pagoda, which took us on a hike through a forest, passing by a few villages. We met up with some other hikers along the way and an hour later we were at the top. If been super excited to see the pagoda after my meditation experience with the pagoda, but while the views were awesome, the crowds around the pagoda itself were disappointing. There were tons of signs asking people to be silent, but it was like no one cared to pay attention to this. Everyone was laughing, talking, carrying on. My grand idea of meditating at the pagoda was totally squashed. 

On the way down i got a bit anxious. The sun was going down and I generally get anxious in new places at sundown, and we took o be or two wrong turns, which we recovered from but which made me a little nervous. I was glad Ames was there since she kept her wits about her and helped make sure we went the right way. 

At home we meditated and then I passed OUT and slept for twelve hours.