Monthly Archives: October 2012

Krazy ‘Bout Kyoto

We are really enjoying Japan, and Kyoto seems to be our favorite stop so far.  It is near mountains, and it seems to be surrounded by a lot of green space.  Though it is a city, it has more of a village like feel.  Also,it is densely populated by temples and shrines and rife with Japanese culture.  It feels less like a generic city and has more character than we’ve seen so far.

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Our visit to Kyoto began with an exciting trip on the Shinkansen, more commonly known to Westerners as the Bullet Train.  The train timing is impeccable in Japan.  When the ticket says the train will arrive at 1:23, it will arrive punctually at that time.  The organization of the train stations has been, almost, comforting.  You know what to expect and it is unlikely you will become lost.  The bullet train is quite luxurious. We have the reserved seat green car, with oversized chairs that recline and have a foot rest.  They bring you a towel at the beginning of your journey and the windows are nice and clean so you can see the countryside.  And, like the name suggests, we pass by the countryside at very high speeds.  Seth found an app that calculates ground speed and we clocked a fairly constant speed of 150mph, topping out at 158mph.  That’s the fastest I’ve gone on land.  It’s pretty neat.  And the train is so smooth, you barely notice you are moving.  But, the train to Kyoto is quick and it was over shortly, only about 30 minutes including stops at other stations.  Pretty impressive.

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In Kyoto, Joan had found us a traditional Japanese style apartment to stay in.  It was pretty easy to find the place, even though it was tucked in an alley with no street signs.  The choked alley is packed with narrow two and three story homes with fairly short clearance, forcing us to mind our heads at every doorway.  The alley sits along a peaceful little river and is lined with quaint little bridges and visited by ducks in the morning.  Nearby is a local market where we found interesting shops and market stalls.

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Heading into the downtown area of Kyoto it was interesting to find a mix of traditional Japanese architecture and stores alongside super modern buildings with brand names like Zara, Chanel, and the Gap on their storefronts.  One of our first stops was to the knife store Aritsugu, to check out the most famous Japanese knives.  Seth looked around, and was impressed, but decided to check the oldest known store in Japan first.  We flowed streets that snaked in all directions in order to find Shigeharu, the little shop of the knife maker.  The man spoke very little English, but was able to communicate enough for Seth to fall in love with two knives.  At Shigeharu he bought a santoku knife and a deba knife.  It was really neat to meet someone who had made the knives and came from a family who had been making knives for the past 500 years or so.  Pretty impressive.  After that we went back to Aritsugu to buy two more knives.  There he bought a sashimi knife and a Japanese paring knife.  For these you get to get whatever you want engraved on the knife in either Japanese Katakana characters or in English.  Seth got ‘Cobb’ in Katakana characters on the knives and it’s pretty cool.

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Afterwards, I was pretty excited because the plan was to have a sushi dinner.  The woman who owns the apartment recommended Musashi for good quality sushi for an affordable price.  We were surprised to see that the place was a conveyor belt sushi place.  I thought this was an American phenomena, but I guess not.  Each plate was 137 yen, which comes out to $1.72.  We ate sushi to our hearts content, or at least till our bellies were full, drinking our complimentary green tea, and it only set us back about 25 bucks.  This is really good for sushi, in the US or Japan, and it really was good quality.  Nice…


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Walking around Kyoto we came across shrines in what seemed to be unusual places.  In the big shopping arcades we would turn a corner and there would be a huge shrine.  Once again, mixing of old and new. At one corner of the giant shopping area, just behind the Aritsugu shop was the Nishi marketplace, where you could find anything from quail egg stuffed baby octopus on a stick, to seasonal dried black edamame, to exquisitely delicate, hand made and painted pottery.  It was a very delicious place to walk around.  Many vendors would gesture politely to you in order to offer you a taste of their delicacies.  Everything is so good.  We snacked and bought more for later.

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The next day we mostly walked around aimlessly shopping and trying to relax a little.  Though Japan has been a lot of fun, it’s been really fast paced and we’ve been walking a lot, so it’s been tiring.  We, also, didn’t want to do too much sight seeing of temples and shrines before Joan and Steve joined us.  

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The next day was pretty packed with transit for Seth and I.  We made our way to the train station fairly early in order to catch a train to Kobe to pick up Joan and Steve.  When we arrived at their hotel we found the gathering area for a walk a thon and spent a little bit of time watching some performers.  Eventually Joan and Steve made it back to the hotel and we found our way back to the train station to Kyoto.  Steve was feeling much better, which he was happy to show us back at Musashi.  He made a nice pile of plates to match the amount of sushi that Seth and I devoured.  We were hoping he was feeling good enough to enjoy that place, and luckily he did.  Joan was able to enjoy tempura and some veggie rolls.

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The following day’s adventures included a ton of temples.  We visited the Nanzen-Ji temple complex.  The massive wood temples were quite a sight to see.  I really enjoyed the Japanese garden.  

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Our lunch that day was my favorite meal in Kyoto.  We found a soba place that made their own noodles.  Seth and I both asked for omakase shimas which is asking for the server to choose for you.  He pointed to a soba plate with tempura and Seth ordered his hot, while I ordered mine cold.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten cold soba, so this was something new for me.  When we got our plates I had to ask what exactly to do, because the noodles were submerged in a bowl of iced water.  I knew that I wasn’t to eat the noodles directly from the ice water, and that I shouldn’t pour the sauce into the water, and there were little veggies and toppings on my tray as well.  So, I found out that what you do is you slide all the toppings you desire into the sauce (I put all of my green onions, shallots, ginger, and bamboo shoots in, and a little bit of sesame seeds) and then you dunk your noodles into the sauce before eating them.  The noodles had the perfect consistency of being soft and firm at the same time.  The sauce was salty and the bamboo shoots and onions complimented the noodles well.  And the tempura was the best tempura I’d ever had as well.  The veggies and shrimp inside were perfectly cooked, and the tempura was crunchy, savory, and light, not greasy like in the US.  For me, it was a perfect meal.

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Nearby was the giant temple Honen-Ji.  There was a major courtyard and large temples surrounding it.  The entrance led to a large street framed with colossal orange ‘arcs’ which look like the mathematical symbol for pi.  They were setting up for the next day when the Jidari Festival parade would finish there.  The next day we were able to watch the festival.  The Jidari Festival is a parade that depicts traditional ware and costumes throughout the Edo period.  We saw some interesting costumes and some interesting looking horses with really long, skinny legs.  There were, also, geisha in the parade.  That was a highlight for me.  There are only about 1000 geisha left in Japan, and about 800 of them live in Kyoto.  So, seeing geisha in Kyoto is just something you do.  That evening we went to a street where there are many traditional geisha tea houses so we could see some geisha making their way to appointments.  Seth, Joan, and I felt kind of stalker-ish standing outside homes, alongside a group of men with fancy cameras, waiting to get a shot of a geisha.  When it came down to it, I felt awkward and embarrassed to take pictures.  The coolest sighting occurred when we were leaving.  There were two really fancy looking geisha in the back of a black limousine like taxi.  They were beautifully done up with the white makeup and hair adornments.

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The next day was cold, cloudy, and rainy.  But, that was ok, because we had to run some boring errands anyhow.  But, nothing is truly boring when you are traveling, because even the most mundane task is different than how you do it at home.  For example, we were told that the best place to buy an extra suitcase for Joan and Steve to bring back all of our collected souvenirs and all the ones they had purchased in Japan, was at a specific mall.  While searching for a suitcase we saw all different sorts of stores that were unique from those you typically find in the US.  After we found Joan a big blue suitcase, we went back to Nishi market to have some snacks and so Steve could buy some knives.  The rest of the evening was spent organizing, packing, and returning to a restaurant around the corner to pick up some of the best gyoza we’ve ever had.  It was difficult to leave Kyoto, but we were excited to head to Tokyo, and on the way we would hopefully see Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen.

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All You Need is Kobe

We hopped on a train and made our way to Kobe.  Kobe is actually quite close to Osaka, only about 20 minutes on the train and we were there.  Luckily, our hotel offered a free shuttle, that runs all day, from the train station to the hotel, so that was convenient.  The Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel is a pretty fancy place.  We booked two rooms with a water view, but didn’t realize that the hotel is on a little peninsula in the harbor, so most of the rooms face the water.  But, we were lucky enough to receive a room facing a ferris wheel that lit up at night and was a constant swirl of color throughout our stay.

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Kobe is a smaller city with tons to see.  Our first day we woke up and decided that the buffet breakfast in the hotel would be interesting.  We ate unlimited amounts of pork bao and shumai with delicious dollops of super spicy mustard.  We tried little bits of Japanese cuisine, like pickled cucumbers, miso, noodles, fried pork, steamed salmon and much more for breakfast.  Yum!  After breakfast we slowly made our way to the Ikuta shrine.  Japan is a mix of Buddhism and Shinto.  Shinto is a nature based animistic religion, but more a way of life than what Westerners call religion.  This applies to their version of Buddhism as well.  Anyhow, the Ikuta shrine is a Shinto shrine. We walked around, admired the red ‘arches’ and even got to watch the blessing of a baby.  The grounds of the shrine are beautiful and quite peaceful.

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After the shrine we decided to visit the nearby gardens.  We were a little confused because on the map it looked like it was in a building, but we figured there was a garden in the building.  We were surprised to find that it was less of a rock or tree garden, but a bit of a food garden! It was a building with little shops that sold specialty foods, which is just as good as a garden with trees.  Since chestnuts are in season and seem to be a big deal over here, we partook in some chestnut soft serve ice cream.  It was really good.  The creamy, nutty ice cream was accentuated by little chunks of the nuts themselves.  We eventually found a little fudge shop where the owner was extremely proud to let us sample his chocolates.  We ended up leaving with a little sample box because they were so good!  On the way out we, also, found a shop with semi cured mushrooms and meats and that was fun to buy.  The two women shop keepers were very helpful and quite excited to have us.  But, then again, everyone in Japan is so nice it shouldn’t be a surprise anymore.

We thought that the best way to end our day would be to head to the sake breweries and to try some sake.  We made our way over to the sake district of Nada, only to find that sake breweries offer tours from 9am through 4:30pm and it was already 5pm.  Boo! That was a bummer.  But, we found a little sake shop, bought some local sake, and slowly made our way back to the hotel.  On the way we stopped at a little ramen shop.  Boy that was some good ramen, it was full of that yummy miso flavor and jam packed with noodles and other goodies!

That night we went back to the hotel to drink sake and play another round of Farkle.  That was fun, as always, and though Seth won, it was a pretty close game.

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In the morning, Steve wasn’t feeling too great so he decided to hang out at the hotel until evening.  So Seth, Joan, and I made our way to visit the Nunobiki Waterfalls and the Herb Garden.  To get to the top we took the super awesome gondola.  Apparently this is the norm at Colorado ski slopes so they weren’t as impressed as I was, but the view was nice.  And we went pretty high.  The herb garden was quite large and had many types of herbs and edible plants I had never tasted before.  We did a lot of rubbing leaves and sniffing.  That was pretty neat.  We then hiked all the way down to where the waterfall was.  It was a pretty impressive hike for Joan to do in her Birkenstocks.  The waterfall is said to hold some of the purest, most sacred water in Japan, and is on the top 100 waterfalls in Japan list.  It was very peaceful.


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On our way back to the hotel the most unlikely thing happened, we ran into our Osaka tour guide friend Minako! We were all shocked, but pleasantly surprised.  It was truly nice to see Minako one more time.

Back at the hotel, Steve still wasn’t feeling well, but insisted we continue our plans for dinner at a Kobe beef steak house without him.  Kobe beef comes from the black Tajima-Ushi breed of Wagyu cattle from the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan.  There is no exporting of beef from Japan so you can not obtain it in the US, despite what some vendors purport.  Kobe cattle are fed beer during the summer months to stimulate appetite when it is hot.  The cattle are given massages to relieve stress and muscle stiffness.  It is thought that the meat quality is effected by the contentment of the cows.  Similarly, some producers believe that hair coat and softness of the cattle will improve the overall product and therefore they brush sake over the cow’s coat.  At the end of the day you get a very pricey piece of extremely delicious meat.  But, be warned, this is not anything like American meat.  This meat has an extremely high fat content and some may find it too greasy.  But, we thought it was amazing.  The rich, umami flavor that i hope to experience again, nearly melted in my mouth.  Similarly, the restaurant, Miyasu, was amazing.  The rest of the meal was impeccable as well.

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The next morning we were surprised to hear that Steve was not feeling better, even after a full day’s rest.  So, Steve and Joan went to get him checked out and we wandered around Kobe.  We eventually found an underground area with tons of little restaurants.  We stopped at a place that was serving up noodles on a fry top right at the counter.  We had to order from a little machine and grab a ticket to give to the hostess when we were seated.  For this we needed assistance.  We, obviously didn’ t know all of the options, but we were able to point to some pictures on a cardboard cut out and ask the two guys in front of us which button meant those.  We ended up getting the right pictures, so we did a good job.  It was delicious.  Any place with a line is bound to be tasty.

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We hopped back on our free shuttle and made our way back to the hotel to check out the pool.  The pool pass came with a list of rules.  You must wear a swim cap in the pool.  You must shower before entering the pool.  You must wash in between sauna and pool.  No tattoos are to be exposed in the pool area (but when I asked she said it was ok).  And the list went on.  But, it was nice to soak a bit.  It was a rainy day, so looking out over the harbor was nice from the lukewarm hot tub.  And we got to check out some interesting hotel visitors, as well.  There was one guy, probably in his late 30’s to early 40’s who spent almost the entire time we were there sitting in one place, walking to another and sitting, and returning, and so on.  He happened to be wearing a tinsy tinsy, almost thong like neon color bottom.  He was scoping the scene for ladies, and I think the pool crowd was too old for him.  I made sure I stuck close to Seth. LOL

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Oh Nepal. You will be missed!  It was a very long journey to leave you, about 27 hours from hotel to hotel, and it included a five hour layover in the airport in Bangkok, Thailand, and then waiting for Joan and Steve for another ten hours or so at Osaka’s airport.  Luckily, both airports were nice and had things to walk around and look at.  

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 Like I said, we waited for Joan and Steve at Osaka Airport for quite some time.  Our flight landed at 6 am and Joan and Steve didn’t emerge from the arrivals door until about 4 pm.  Seth and I spent the day wandering through the airport, marveling at all the amazing food choices, and noting the different cultural mannerisms of the Japanese people.  So far, I like Japanese culture.  

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After settling some business at the airport, like JRail passes and money exchange, we grabbed a taxi to our hotel.  Joan found us a beautiful hotel in a very convenient location.  The Hotel Monterey Grasmere is a great choice if staying in Osaka.  It has nice clean rooms near a major train station, near great areas to explore, and the rooms are quite luxurious compared to what we’ve stayed in on our trip so far.  Something instantly noted in our room, and in other public restrooms at the airport, have been the bathrooms.  The rumors are true.  Japan has some high tech toilets with sprays, a heat seat, courtesy noises while you sit, and buttons galore.  If you’re not careful, you could push a button and you’ll be sprayed with water.  At first, flushing the toilet took some time to find the flusher.


We spent 5 days in Osaka and I loved every minute of it.  There are tons of little streets lined with interesting restaurants and shops with cute little toys and nick nacks to look at.  The Japanese really do have an infatuation with anything small and that has a large cuteness factor.  If it’s cute when it’s life sized, make it smaller and the adorable factor multiplies exponentially.  One of our days in Osaka was spent on a tour with All Star Osaka Tours.  Our guide, Minako, was amazing.  She showed us around Osaka pointing out bits and pieces of Osaka history and culture.  She had tons of great little stories to match up with every place we went.  And she’s been quite a help.  Espeically if you don’t speak Japanese, I highly recommend taking a tour or finding someone to translate, because Minako’s assistance was invaluable.

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Another landmark we visited was the Osaka Castle.  Perched upon a bit of a hill is a fortress which looks like an elegant mansion from the times of the orient.  Obviously an important castle, continuous groups of children of all ages streamed in and out of the castle doors.  Groups of elderly persons were wheeled and were ushered about, and we were right in the midst of it.  It really is amazing how few non asian people we’ve seen in Japan so far.  The castle was more interesting on the outside than the inside.  The inside had been converted into a museum, but there was a viewing deck up top that proved for spectacular panoramic views of the city.

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My favorite areas in Osaka happened to be clustered around our hotel.  First of all, there are subway stations in Osaka, and some of them have massive underground mall-like areas.  Namba Walk began just outside of our hotel’s doors.  We’d descend the flights of stairs into an underground world filled with seemingly endless shops and restaurants.  So many of them fulfilling the stereotype of needing to have an adorably cute mascot of some kind.  

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The most vibrant scene in Osaka occurred at Dotonburi Bridge area.  This area is the Times Square of Osaka, packed with huge billboards, three dimensional caricatures of people and animals and store mascots, and signs with neon lights abound.  We took the necessary photos with the Glico running man, the Kuidaore Clown, and stuck our heads in any cardboard cut out we could find.  Well, at least I did.  We walked over the ‘pick up girls’ bridge where guys hang around in the evenings to pick up on the ladies, and learned why the Honshu Tigers have had bad luck since the early 80’s.  Apparently they won the series and fans would jump off the bridge into the water screaming their favorite player’s name.  There was an American on the team so they went searching for an American to jump off the bridge.  They found an American guy and they picked him up and threw him off the bridge.  The reason the Tigers still have bad luck is because the American has not been recovered, until recently.  He was found, but his left hand and spectacles are still missing.  Minako took out a picture of the American man and we saw that they had thrown in a statue of Kernel Sanders from outside the close by KFC.  Awesome story.  It is said that when they find the hand and specs the Honshu Tigers will break the curse!  

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I mentioned the Kuidaore Clown but I don’t think I explained the word kuidaore.  Kuidaore is something commonly practiced among the people of Osaka.  Osakans are foodies and kuidaore means eat until you fall over.  I love this idea.  And when you are practicing kuidaore you need to take a picture with the Kuidaore Clown.  So, we did.  How did we practice kuidaore that day? We began the day with pork bao from 551 (go go ichi in Japanese) because they are renowned for their bao.  Yum it was delicious.  Eventually we made our way to another delicious restaurant where we tried okonomiyaki.  This is a wonderful mix of tons of ingredients like eggs, onions, cheese perhaps, maybe some seafood, some rice cakes, you could really put just about anything in there, but it always tastes delicious, and you douse it heavily with mayo, okonomiyaki sauce (which is dark, sweet and savory at the same time) and sometimes hot mustard.  It is so, so good!  While we were there we, also, tried their yakisoba (noodles), and their taki yaki.  Taki yaki is a wonderful dish native to Osaka.  They are little octopus balls served molten hot and doused in mayo, some kind of dark sauce, bonito flakes, and whatever else they put on it.  This is a type of street food and it is amazing.  Though delicious, they are fiery hot inside and my mouth is paying for it.  But the taki yaki we had in the restaurant was a bit different, as it was Tokyo style.  It was milder in flavor and you dipped it in a clear broth type liquid with green onions and kind of salty water.  Not as amazing as the Osakan street version, but still pretty good.  We, also, tried something that I could compare to an omlette, but a little different.  That was delicious too.  The food was amazing and plentiful.  Surely kuidaore was achieved.  



Later, we tried some freshly made soy milk.  It tasted different than any I have ever tasted.  It was fresh like the beans themselves, and had no artificial sweetness like the ones you buy in the stores.  And the couple who ran the shop were great to talk with (with Minako’s help, of course).  They were just as curious about us as we were of them.  We learned that they were closing the shop in about a month to retire while they could still enjoy their time together.  One goal for them was to visit Honolulu for the woman to run in the Honolulu Marathon.  That’s awesome.

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There are so many things I want to share! Osaka was amazing, so I’m trying to do it justice.  


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We decided that we were going to put our lives in peril while dining in Osaka.  Fugu is a potentially lethal meal of puffer fish.  You have to be trained and certified to handle fugu, and you can, literally, die within hours of eating if improperly prepared.  Stories have been told of people who regularly eat fugu, but suffer symptoms of tingling in extremities and facial numbness. Minako had showed us a famous fugu restaurant, so we decided to live on the edge.  It was a very delicate fish, so delicate in fact that it hardly had any flavor.  Yes, we dined on fugu, but will we order it again? Probably not.

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If you don’t know already, sushi is my absolute, hands down, favorite food.  So, having a meal of sushi in Japan was a pretty big deal for me, and has definitely been on my bucket list.  Anthony Bourdain visited Osaka and dined at a tiny tiny sushi bar run by an old couple.  It took some effort, but after wandering around asking numerous people, we finally found this exact restaurant.  We told the couple that we were interested in omakase, chef’s choice.  I was in heaven.  We were in Japan, at a tinsy tiny sushi bar, eating amazingly fresh toro, blue mackerel, abalone and so much more.  Something interesting we tried was bamboo shoot sushi.  I’ve definitely never seen that on any sushi menu before.  I’d say it was all amazingly delicious, but that would be a lie.  I wasn’t a fan of the abalone.  It had the consistency of chewing on a rubber band, and the raw calamari sushi was like chewing on the sole of a shoe. I chewed it for a really long time before giving up and swallowing.  But, the experience was enough for me.  I even tried uni (sea urchin) and it wasn’t that bad.  I really hope I get more sushi experiences before we leave.

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Kathmandu Part Deux

We’re back in Kathmandu, and though it was difficult to leave the countryside, it’s nice to have the comforts of home and to be in one place for an extended amount of time.  Once again, we are staying at the Hotel Courtyard and it’s just so comfortable here.  We’ve been borrowing DVDs and spending long lazy days recuperating.  Seth’s knee is hurting a bunch so we’re trying not to walk too much.  Luckily we don’t have to do too much walking because Thamel is so convenient.  We’ve been buying souvenirs and frequenting our favorite restaurants, like New Orleans, Fire and Ice, and Green Organic Cafe.  Like I said, we’ve been enjoying having a ‘home’ for the past week.




One evening we had dinner at the hotel.  We noticed that the group of people we were hanging out with seemed to be pretty close.  Eventually it came out that these people were expedition groups that had just gotten back from Manaslu (the mountain that seems to be the precursor to climbing Everest).  But, they happened to be on the mountain at the base came when the recent avalanche hit at 4am one morning.  That happened just before we left on our trek.  Some of them had continued on, but for some the tragedy had been too much and they decided to come back to Kathmandu.  Either way they all had some pretty intensely horrifying stories.  Two guys told of how they were catapulted 30 feet and when the movement stopped the top of their tent had been ripped off and all they could see were the stars.  When they got up they found that they were mere feet from a huge crevasse.  Though these expeditioners made it out with scary stories to tell, many died and some are still missing.  What a difficult decision to make, to continue on or to head back.  So many factors at play.

One day we revisited Pema’s clinic where I got a massage while Seth received acupuncture on his knee.  I thoroughly enjoyed my massage and wondered how Seth was enjoying his acupuncture.  I imagine that acupuncture, though being stuck with needles, is quite relaxing as well.  Otherwise, why would people do it? It’s supposed to make you feel good.  So I got the run down from Seth afterwards.  Apparently it is not relaxing and doesn’t feel good.  He says it feels just like sticking needles into you.  He said they stuck a bunch of needles into his knee, and every once in a while they would twist them and push them in a little farther.  Then they hooked electrodes to a few of the needles and zapped him.  He said that his knee felt better for about a half an hour after that, but then it was back to hurting like normal.  But staying off of it has helped it a bit this past week.  That and Tiger Balm and some pain relieving ayurvedic oil being massaged into his knee at least two times a day.


We’re getting ready to fly to Japan tomorrow.  I’m going to be sad to leave Nepal.  It’s a beautiful country with nice people.  And, because we’ve gotten to stay in one place it’s turned into a home away from home.  This said, we are SO excited for Japan. And we are really happy that Joan and Steve are joining us.  That’s going to be so much fun.  We’re looking forward to bring in a very clean, polite, safe country.  This isn’t to say that Nepal isn’t polite or safe, or even clean.  But we’re expecting a lot from Japan.  Anyhow, we’re moving right along!

Solu Khombu Trek – Day 8 (Berkley)

I woke up feeling much better, but still quite weak.  I was really excited because, if all went according to plan, I would see seth in the late afternoon!  So, I head downstairs with my Kindle to have some breakfast.  I was absentminded and made a breakfast mistake.  Nepal doesn’t really do dairy products.  And, I”m going to go out there on a limb and say that they don’t eat yogurt.  So, when they try to serve it, it’s just not right.  Their yogurt may even be dry from a packet.  It kinda fizzes like soda and almost melts any other food item it touches.  Anyhow, I was debating between muesli and yogurt  and porridge.  I figured that the muesli and yogurt would be lighter than the porridge, and my stomach still wasn’t all the way better, so I went with that.  I should have gone with the porridge.  

As I was sitting outside at my little picnic table reading, listening to donkeys with their bells tinkle past on the mountain side, when people started coming in from the front street. About twenty Australians ascended upon me in my quiet solitude.  A nice woman named Ana sat down with me and chatted me up for the next hour.  It was nice.  Eventually they left, but soon thereafter another plane landed and another large group of people ascended upon me again.

I decided that I should try to go on a walk and check out a bit more of Phalpu.  I was still so weak that all I could muster was between five and ten minutes and I was exhausted.  Still not 100%.  At about ten o’clock I decided to head up to my room to make myself presentable for Seth when he arrived.  Though he was supposed to show up between 12 and 1pm, I got a knock at my door from Cook at about 10:30am.  Apparently Seth must have been running to get to Phalpu.  I trotted down the stairs to meet him.  It was so nice to see my sweaty, dirty husband.  Though I was happy to see him early and in one piece, I was dismayed to find that he’d slipped in yak poo and scraped his arm really good, and he was walking with a bit of a limp.  No good.  We scarfed down some noodle soup and caught up a little bit.

Pretty soon Purba came to tell us that we could get on the flight at noon to Kathmandu.  We ended up running onto the plane and were two of four passengers.  It was a bit scary getting on the plane.  I think I failed to mention in an earlier post, but during our trek there was a plane crash of a plane that followed the same flight path as ours.  So, we were nervous to fly.  But, we ended up receiving an unexpected treat on the flight.  Other than the little coconut caramel candies, we were able to catch an above the clouds view of Everest and the surrounding major peaks.  Pretty astounding.  


We picked up our extra bag from Hotel Manaslu and made our way to Hotel Courtyard, where we will be staying for the rest of our time in Kathmandu.  It’s a really comfy, reasonably priced hotel.  It’s clean, has great internet, comfortable rooms, decent breakfast, and each room has a DVD player for the giant DVD library downstairs.  We both took nice, long, hot showers that were much appreciated, before resting and eating. Aahhh, Kathmandu!

Solu Khombu Trek – Day 7 (Berkley)

I felt pretty crappy last night, but woke up feeling pretty good.  I managed to keep down a bowl of porridge and we set off towards Phalpu.  At first, I was feeling pretty good, but was super down on myself for not being with Seth.  I kept wondering if we had just stayed at Sengephuk for another night, would I have been able to continue on?  Because my issue was definitely not altitude.  I felt just as horrible when at a much lower altitude as I did at the high altitude.  But, I guess there’s no real way of knowing.

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Later on our trek I began to feel progressively worse and worse.  I became so weak, my stomach was doing backflips, and I could barely lift my feet over the small rocks.  I needed a full day of rest and I wasn’t giving it to myself.  So, then I revisited my thought about how I might be trekking with Seth to Dund Kund right now if we had just stayed another night at Sengephuk, also, if we had stayed another day in Jumbese maybe the trek to Phalpu would have been easier.  I decided the pony idea was a bad one.  The trails are too perilous.  So many slippery rocks on trails that drop off the mountain.  Anyhow, after about four and a half to five hours we finally made it to Phalpu.  I feel like crap, but I’m drinking a lot of water.  I’m staying at the Hotel Everest and I get my own bathroom, not shower, but at least I don’t have to walk down the hall in the middle of the night.  And if all goes according to plan, I’ll see Seth tomorrow.  I hope all goes according to plan!

A few days with no Berkley


Since Berkley and I parted ways during the trek due to her getting sick, I’m going to fill you in on what my portion of the trek was like. On day 6 at around 13k feet Berkley and I made a decision that I should go on and she should turn around and head back to lower elevation. Turns out that might have been a good call even if she hadn’t been sick, because the next few days were challenging physically. From 13k feet we hiked up and over a pass that topped out at 15k feet then back down to around 12500 feet. It took six hours and we hiked in the clouds and rain most of the day. Along the way we encountered one of many of the Yak herders that live at high elevation during the summer months, they invited us into their house and gave us some hot yak milk tea, corn wine and dried yak cheese. The hospitality people show along the trails is amazing, it speaks to how unforgiving the landscape can be and it’s a culture that has evolved out of necessity.







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The air was nippy and I ended up wearing every bit of warm clothing I had. During lunch the Sherpa made a small smoking fire and burned a couple of branches of an incense bush that is supposed to clear up the skies and bring the sunshine. Needless to say it worked pretty well, as we arrived at Sasura Beni the skies cleared and I got my first good view of Dudh Kund and the three peaks towering over it Numbur, Khatang, and Karyolung.










The night was even colder than hiking in the rain and clouds. Good thing my sherpa offered to heat some water bottles to slip in my sleeping bag or it would have been a long cold restless night.



The next day we made a mad dash at 6 am to Dudh Kund, it looked close but with the elevation it took me around two and half hours. The porters, not burdened by their Doku (wicker backpacks) flew up the trail and had already walked around the lake by the time I made it up. Keep in mind that I grew up at around 9000 feet in the mountains of Colorado, and my lungs are nothing to scoff at, but these Nepalese guys made me look like a little old lady shuffling about. The Hindus believe that these three mountains are literally the god Shiva and thousands make a pilgrimage every year to worship and cleanse themselves in the lake at the base of the mountains.









After 30 minuets of photos and a cup of hot tea we headed back to camp for lunch and to start the trek to Taksindu. We dropped from 15k feet to 9500 feet in four hours, serious downhill. Just like the day before we hiked in rain and clouds, obscuring the views of mount Everest. Due to all the downhill, my old snowboarding knee injury started acting up, causing every step to shoot a pain up my leg.






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After a restless night, due to the huge volumes of smoke from the wood burning fire filling my room and burning my eyes, throat, and clogging my sinuses, we set off for Phaplu. This meant more rigorous downhill that caused further pain and discomfort to my knee. As a result of favoring my good leg, I slipped on a rock covered in yak doo and went down hard on my elbow. Luckily, squirreling away every free moist towelette had finally paid off. I was able to clean the scrape trail side and continue on. We made excellent time and what should have taken 4 to 5 hours took only 3. I made it back to Phaplu and back to a well rested, but still unshowered, Berkley.


Because I made such good time and we were desperate to sleep in a real bed and have a hot shower (10 days with out bathing made for a pretty stinky duo) we jumped on a flight back to Kathmandu, with views of Everest in the distance. We got to see Everest after all, woohoo!


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I had a pretty major equipment failure on the trek, after shooting around 2000+ photos the memory card was corrupted during import. I was able to rescue around 700 of them but only in jpeg format. Big disappointment, there were some spectacular scenes up there but I was able so salvage a few good ones.

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Solu Khombu Trek – Day 6 (Berkley)

I felt unwell all night.  I ended up waking up at midnight and was not able to fall back to sleep.  In the morning I felt horrible.  I was weak, my body was shaky and sensitive, and my stomach was feeling all kinda of nauseated.  Though I tried to continue, it was decided that it was a better, safer, choice for me to head back.  Whether I was feeling that way because I was sick or because of elevation didn’t matter, I couldn’t go on.  But, not before I got to see some yaks!  Though the people there would probably say I wasn’t excited to see yaks, I totally was.  It was on my list of Nepal things to see.  And since I won’t be seeing Everest anymore, at least I got to see some yaks.

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Peanut butter, honey, and raw garlic. Poor choice…

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Yakety yak, don’t talk back.

Through a little convincing Seth went on without me.  I took our Cook down to lower elevation.  Purba, our sherpa guide, was pretty convinced that what I was feeling was altitude sickness, but I was not completely convinced.  As we quickly descended in altitude not much changed.  It became a little easier to walk, but just a little.  Otherwise I still felt pretty crappy.  I was still weak, shaky and nauseated (especially since Purba told me to eat a giant clove of raw garlic for breakfast to combat the altitude sickness.  I accompanied it wit a spoonful of peanut butter, and I was burping up that combination all day.)  It took about four hours to reach our destination of Junbesi, and I felt like crap every grueling step of the way.  I was so careful not to trip and fall, or slip off the mountain in my weakness and sheer exhaustion.  At this point I’m back at the Apple Valley Lodge where I am resting, but still feeling horrible.  I meet with Seth in a few days back in Phaplu.  He’s going to be completing the trip at a more accelerated pace.  HIs job is to take tons of photos and to remember everything, so he can tell me all about it.  I’m glad one of us gets to complete the trek.

Solu Khombu Trek – Day 5

Our walk from the Thuptenchholing Monastery to Singephuk was beautiful.  We made our way out of one type of terrain to find ourselves in a forest.  The mulched ground and the mossy trees lent itself to such a silence.  It was a beautiful trek.  On our way we stopped at a ‘cave’ where monks used to spend time in solitude.  So, this is something interesting we’ve learned about since visiting Nepal and many monasteries.  When I picture a monk living in solitude, it is usually in a sparse room alone, maybe only a book of Buddhism to keep him company.  But apparently what solitude means is that a few monks go to a place and lock themselves away from the rest of the world, but the monks can speak with each other.  It’s just different from what I pictured.  Anyhow, we went to look at a ‘cave’ that monks use for solitary thoughts.  I use the word cave loosely, because they had fashioned an overhang of rock with bricks and a window, and called it a cave.  Once again, we had pictured something else.

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We stopped by a monastery school to look around, and they invited us in for tea.  People talk about trekking and stopping in Tea Houses along the way.  Well, I don’t think I’ve seen a tea house, or stopped in one, but we have stopped in numerous monasteries where they offer us tea galore.  It’s a nice practice.

We finally made it to Shengeephuk, and it was breathtaking.  A rounded out valley of massive proportions.  Spring fed streams twist and tangle all about the valley floor.   Set up of the left side of the valley wall sits the cave where the well respected, and recently deceased, Rimpoche spent three years in meditation.  Seth and I went for a walk trying to find the main source of the spring, but we decided that it was too high up on the wall.  By the time we decided this we were a bit of a boggy walk back to camp.  We spent a good amount of time rock hopping so as to not step in mud or fall in the water.

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A little while later we went back up to the cave house with all of our guys to pay respect to the late lama.  It was a very nice experience to be ble to share that with them.  We had a bunch of katas (prayer shawls) that we gave to all of them, and Poorba, our sherpa guide shared some of his grain with us in order to make an offering that way.  We then hung our prayer flags.  It was very nice.

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That evening is when I began to feel unwell.  But, I was determined to shake it.