Thursday, January 27, 2011

Last Day in Dhulikhel

The Himalayas put on a show for my final day in Dhulikhel - fantastic - especially considering that they have hardly shown there faces over the past two weeks. Himal ramro chha!!

Mountain Biking the Valley

NOTE: If any of the below links to GPS tracks do not load, try refreshing the page, or clicking on them anyway - it should take you to where the GPS tracks / photos are hosted.
The final adventure I've been looking forward to (aside from a final bout of food poisoning I am now experiencing in Kathmandu) was a multi-day mountain biking expedition around the valley. This country was made for mountain biking - and I need to come back and do more one day.

Day one was a nice leisurely 2 hour ride down to Kathmandu from Dhulikhel, on the back roads to avoid crazy traffic. Straight through the middle of Bhaktapur, including a cheeky dash through Durbar Square without paying the entry fee (hey I've paid it at least twice while I've been here, and I don't think the guy at the gate saw me).

Scotto and his -24 degree mountaineering gloves

I met Scotto in Kathmandu for lunch then we both tackled the 800m climb up to Kakani at around 2000m. Apparently Kakani is one of the best places to see the Himalayas from the edge of the valley, but we were treated to nothing more than mist - with the slightest hint of massifs the following morning. Oh well - we're here for the comradery and the mountain biking, not the views. Actually, that's not true... we wanted the views!!!

Liz and mountain biking MACHINE Freya met us at Kakani later that evening ready for Saturday's big ride.
This was the big one - less than 40km, but rough, overgrown single-track - with occasional snow remnants from the week before - followed by fun rough tracks that could sometimes pass for roads. The final kicker was having to descend to the valley floor 500 metres below for a final climb of 800 metres up to Chisopani. This was mostly done by us (and occasionally local kids) pushing the bikes. About 9 1/2 hours on the trail all up - tough, but a memorable day. Special accolades go to Scotto who made it through without eating due to happy fun food poisoning. It was about 7pm when we stumbled into Chisopani in the dark. Cold as it was, a beer was definitely appreciated.

Freya holding a snowball

Me, Scotto, Freya, Liz

The mountains finally showed themselves on Day 3 - waking up in Chisopani to some nice views. The trail to Nagarkot was mostly fun up and down dirt road with more views and dodging the occasional hikers (note - if you where an ipod while hiking, you may get the occasional shock - sorry!). We said goodbye to Liz and Freya halfway through as they went to Kathmandu. Scotto and I continued up to Nagarkot - a punishing climb, but after the 800 metre uphill walk from the day before, it was tolerable. The mountains were out at Nagarkot, and as it was only early afternoon we spent it relaxing. Kathryn, an EWB volunteer recently arrived in Nepal met us up there to take in the views as well.

Day 4 of 4 - Nagarkot to Dhulikhel

Woke up in Nagarkot to more fantastic views, so had to invade the roof of the nearby Fort Hotel to enjoy them. After the initial bitumen road climb (still painful!) today's ride was pretty much all downhill through pine forest and villages. It seems to be wedding season at the moment - I actually saw 4 weddings and a funeral.

Saying goodbye to Scotto once we'd descended (he was heading back to Kathmandu), it was back 'home' to Dhulikhel to clean my bike, pack up my stuff and get ready to head home to Brizzy.

A fantastic few days - I definitely could have continued on around the south of the valley for a few more. For another time I guess... for now it's goodbye to muesli bars and trail mix and back to Oz.

Some more photos...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Final Days...

So five months flies by pretty quickly. In some ways. In other ways it seems like this is just life as normal now. This morning when I came up onto the roof for breakfast, it was about half an hour before I actually looked out the window and went "Wooah...".

Di went home on Friday and had her first day back at school today, so I'm sitting here in our little Himalayan mansion sipping warm gl├╝hwein (made partly because it's so cold here and I need the warmth and partly to disguise the taste of old cardboard-box wine purchased in Kathmandu). A particularly exciting moment during it's making was when I discovered that heating it on a gas stove can cause secondary combustion as the wine boils and the alcohol vapour ignites.

It's been great to make some real progress on my project recently - lamps have been designed, prototyped, are under manufacture and a few have been pre-sold. If you want to check them out, see here. They're not perfect, but if there's one thing I've learnt over the last few months it's that you have to pick an idea and run with it - even though you know it's not perfect. It never will be. Ok, so that's not limited to Nepal - I've also learnt that over the last 9 years working in reality as opposed to what university seemed to teach about perfect solutions...
Tomorrow's my last official day at KAPEG. Then it's 4 days of mountain biking around Kathmandu Valley with a few friends (which I'm totally hanging out for), followed by a last visit to Dhulikhel to pack up. Australia Day will be an anti-climax, as the local Australian Embassy has decided not to celebrate Triple-J's countdown and the invasion of our great land. So it will be a couple of days killed in Kathmandu enjoying last cheap-eats, pollution and cold, electricity-less mornings.

See you soon wifey, Bristanbul and Australia! Nice work hanging in there through the floods. Hope there's not too much more pain this season.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Bogged in Tibet

Just a little addition to the Tibet post... here's some highlights of our experience being bogged in the ice on the way to Everest Base Camp.