Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Day of the Year

An elderly man enters the café. He wears an old fashioned hat like my father once wore. He speaks to someone in broken English with a recognizable accent. The atmosphere suddenly saddens.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ballerinas in the Snow

The Vancouver buses came to a standstill this morning amidst the snow. A walk with a swan and raven seemed like a pleasant alternative.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Soul of an Ancient City

Turning down a narrow alleyway from the crowded, hectic streets of Kathmandu's Asan Market, and I catch a glimpse of the city's ancient sacred landscape.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Manaslu Circuit

Manaslu Circuit: a 200 kilometer trek around Mount Manaslu, the world's eight highest mountain located in the Nepal Himalaya. The route takes one from hot, lowland villages to Larkya La, the dizzying high pass at 5,160 meters above sea level. 2011 was the first year that the entire circuit could be completed as a tea-house trek - meaning that one no longer is required to fuss with tents or arrange to carry food for the entire journey. I hiked the trail in the late 2013 season with my British friend Tony. Fortunately we received  excellent assistance from Buddhi, the mandatory Nepali guide and our extraordinary porter, Sahndip.

What a journey! As it turned out, November was a very fine time to trek around Manaslu. Aside from one apparent diffused bomb that I had no awareness of until miles down the road, we encountered no problems stemming from the electoral process. After the first day's drive from KTM to Arughat - from where we began the actual walking - I was informed that along the way, a bomb intended to terrorize the voting public from casting their votes was dismantled with no incident.

The daytime weather was often shorts and short-sleeves warm, while the evenings were always down jacket crisp and cold.

Along the way we encountered a few unfortunate souls who needed to turn back on account of altitude or microbe-induced illnesses. There were relatively few trekkers doing the Manaslu Circuit and after a few days of hiking, a pleasant sense of comraderie developed amongst our small intrepid community.

 While trying to remain mindfully present-focused, it was difficult not to anticipate the big challenge ahead - namely the crossing of the 5,160 metre high-altitude pass, the Larke La. There were  morale-sapping stories circulating of how the pass had been made impassible due to heavy snow fall and how the stone huts at Dharnashala were eventually overwhelmed with trekkers which in turn lead to food and fuel shortages and an eventual decision by the owner to shut the establishment down entirely. Our guide remained optimistic and shepherded us along. Indeed, the snow subsided and  the place opened up one day before we arrived! The 5 AM start in -17º C was nevertheless  magical with one zillion stars lighting the way. The problems really only began on the way down. The topography on the descent was a treacherous massive skating rink. Everyone was sliding and falling, sometimes dangerously close to the edge. I had one especially harrowing brush with what could have been an "into the void" -type encounter. Bracing myself with my trekking pole, I said a spontaneous prayer of thanks upon hauling myself up.

The Himalayan views were mind-bendingly spectacular. The people we met in the villages were consistently warm, hospitable and gracious. Looking forward to a return visit.

Happy Trails Everyone.