Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lassi me up, baby

Sunrise at Tadapani
Annapurna South

Originally uploaded by Mistress B.

We're baaack! We've had a very pleasant and not-too-strenuous five days trekking in the Annapurna region, enjoying lush greenery, mossy rhododendron forest and above it all, the spectacular snow-covered Annapurna ranges. It was a pretty cushy excursion compared to our trek in Tibet - you wouldn't walk for more than an hour without coming to a tea house selling drinks, snacks, beer and food - and we slept in our own room every night (well, accompanied by a giant Nepali spider on the last night). It was all relatively low altitude and not too cold, so still haven't achieved that lean, mean tanned look I've been aiming for. Guzzling banana lassis and big bottles of Everest beer each night might have had something to do with that.
Photos on their way once the internet connection in Pokhara achieves speeds a bit faster than carrier pigeon.
Sunrises and sunsets in the Annapurnas are pure magic, and this is a fine example. Imagine this colour tinting a mountain so majestic it takes your breath away. Unfortunately, I didn't quite catch that colour on the beautiful Machapucchare mountain (middle pic), but you get the idea. The bottom photo is of Annapurna South.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A well-earned doze under Chomolungma

Seeing Mt Everest for the first time, I got all emotional, had a few tears (which just about froze on my cheeks) and said a little prayer to the Mother Goddess of the Earth (Tibetan/Nepali name for Everest). Phil, being a more practical sort, decides the best thing for it is a nap after 4 hours slogging it to this site - Pethang Ringmo - at very high altitude.
Mt Everest/Chomolungma is the peak on the right, and just to the left of it is Lhotse and in between is the South col.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Proposal amid the dwarf rhododendrons

Engagement cake - at 4500m above sea level!

[PHIL] It's been great travelling with Bianca; she will eat any food, mime any illness at the chemist, join in with any fake tourist dancing and add to the mix her bum dance and get her hellos and thankyous mixed up in any language (e.g. "gosh this local 'mystery meat' dish looks wonderful! Hello.").
It's also been great buying things for our nest in the Blue Mountains and talking about our future together.
For these and MANY more reasons I got a rush of blood to my head (or maybe it was the lack of oxygen at 4700 meters [around 3 miles high] above sea level) and asked Bianca to marry me =)

[BIANCA] At the edge of a sacred lake, one day's walk from Everest, lying in the sun in nice-smelling dwarf rhododendrons, Phil asked me to marry him. It's hard to put into words how happy I was feeling BEFORE he popped the question, so you can imagine that my emotions got a little out of hand when he asked.
Our companions had gone for a long walk around the lake so we had a couple of blissful hours cuddling in the sun, and then huddled under wet weather gear when it snowed. Phil said he had originally intended to propose at east face Base Camp, but unforeseen factors such as landslides and yak-unfriendly scree slopes meant our trek plans had changed.
After we returned to our nearby camp and told our Tibetan and Nepali crew, our AMAZING camp cook Ngawang managed to whip up a fabulous engagement cake, complete with detailed icing writing, with only 2 hours warning. This is despite being 5 days into our trek in the wilderness, 4500m above sea level and equipped only with camping cooking equipment. Damn good cake it was, too!And they gave us a card signed by the whole group and gave us a ceremonial white silk scarf. Luckily there was one piece of cake left over which we gave to the gods at the top of Langma La pass (shortly before getting lost in waist deep snow for half a day!).We had to wait 10 days to tell family and friends because we were so far from civilisation but now the word is out. No details on dates or all that stuff - we're just enjoying being back in Kathmandu with clean clothes and hot showers. No more do we smell like yak butter and yak dung smoke. Love those yaks but gosh they're whiffy.
And so it is that the best thing to ever come into my life is going to be there for the rest of it. For once, words actually fail me in trying to describe why I love Phil so much, but being with him is like having all those pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that I didn't know were even missing suddenly fall into place.

[PHIL] She said yes ; )

Monday, October 16, 2006

Back to reality

After a stunning, challenging, exciting and just mind-blowingly spectacular (going great guns with the superlatives, I know) 10 days trekking in Tibet, we have returned to something approximating civilisation - a weirdo border town between Tibet and Nepal.
We have spent the last ten days walking a 150km circuit that took us from a tiny village called Yuba to the Kanshung (east) face of Mt Everest, accompanied by 12 yaks, four yakbas (yak wranglers), three Nepali crew, our Tibetan guide and our amazing Nepali guide Ang Tsering. We spent nine of those days above 4000m above sea level, and three of them above 5000m. Thankfully none of us suffered too badly from altitude beyond the occasional headache, major breathlessness and some very strange sleep breathing habits.
But I finally got to see Mt Everest with my own eyes, and it felt a bit like the culmination of a pilgrimage. We got close to the east face, and walked to base camp at the north face, from where Hillary and Tensing launched their historic climb.
The trek was physically very challenging, not just because of the altitude, so we're both a little leaner and a little browner. While we were very lucky with the weather and had clear skies almost the entire time (which meant getting dressed in -12C degrees INSIDE the tent). We even had an unplanned adventure when a unexpectedly heavy snow cover on Langma La pass (5300m above sea level) forced our yaks back but five of us kept going, got separated from our guide, spent a whole day floundering through waist-deep snow and weren't reunited with our guide, tents or food until after dark! All a little scary at the time but we made it OK.
The crew were amazing. We got woken up each morning with a cup of tea and a bowl of warm washing water, followed by two course breakfast. They were masters at getting our little tent city (4 sleeping tents, one mess tent, one kitchen tent and a toilet tent) set up and dismantled with lightning speed). Dinner was always three courses and the amazing cook Nawang even produced two cakes complete with detailed icing writing on two occasions!
Anyway, there is so much more to write and lots of news to tell, but I'll spare you all until we have some nice piccies to load up. We'll be in Kathmandu tomorrow night and for a few days before we head off towards the Annapurna trekking circuit for another dose of high altitude walking. Hope all's well!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bianca on Yak

Bianca on Yak
Originally uploaded by nospuds.
What can I say...Bianca on a Yak at 4900 meters at Khamba Pass.
Tomorrow we will be in a small town so probably no Internet connection and then we are camping and on the trail with yaks for 10 days. So I would guess we will be out of contact...but who knows! =)

Dzong Fort, Gyantse

dzong fort window

Dzong Fort, Gyantse

Dzong Fort, Gyantse

Dzong Fort, Gyantse
Originally uploaded by nospuds.
This morning we got up early to see Dzong Fort in Gyantse in the morning light. Officially it was not open yet but we crept in and had a good poke around. It was stunning in the morning light. Its been rebuilt twice. Once after the British got a lucky hit to the gun powder store and then again after the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

The debating monks of Sera monastery


Originally uploaded by Mistress B.
Every afternoon, the monks of Sera monastery gather in the courtyard for a debating session, but it's debating like I've never seen. The arguers (the standing monks) punctuate their arguments with regular loud slaps on his palm and the really enthusiastic ones even get a run up by lifting their front foot off the ground pre-slap. It's a great show - the courtyard resounds with slaps like gunshots, but even funnier is watching the facial expressions of the monks as they make their points. They always debate religious subjects, and it's usually a one-on-one affair. It reminded me of Matty (my brother) and his many attempts to engage the rest of the family in intellectual debate. But he usually lost out to the television (or dinner) in the end. Matty, you would have been in your element here!