26 year old Canadian, Dutch resident travelling to every country in the world (111 so far) to become the first Canadian female to visit them all. Bestselling travel AUTHOR and founder of popular #TRLT Twitter chat.
With no heating in the room, we were freezing. The only bits of warmth we had were the cups of hot tea.
“You’ll be able to see five of the world’s highest peaks:
It was so distant on the horizon when we first saw it that it looked tiny, but I was still overwhelmed when I first glimpsed it.
The rare villages we encountered along the main highway from Lhasa to Nepal seemed to be nothing more than piled stones…
…mud brick walls, and neatly stacked cow dung.
A few chickens and the tiniest baby yak I’d ever seen were just roaming about.
The women all braided their hair, wore basic jewellery, and wrapped ornamental rope around the crowns of their heads.
I lost myself in the authenticity of one of the smaller villages as I wandered down the ragged dirt alleyways.
Children with dirty, rosy faces wore bright smiles as they ran freely about with the earth caught between their bare toes.
The same white walls, rusty red roofs, and black window frames we’d seen at the Potala Palace were evident on these homes, as well.
Behind layers of brown hills, snow-capped mountains sprang up like icy fortresses. Powerful snow giants exhaled breaths of light snow from their peaks.
Wet, succulent green jumped out at us as we quickly dropped over two thousand metres (6,561 ft) in the space of only thirty kilometres (18.5 mi).
Waterfalls poured from the cliffs onto the roads and onto some of the bridges that crossed the deep river gorges.
The bubbling white rapids splashing over the huge boulders below made me incredibly thirsty.
After half-an-hour’s walk, we reached the Tibetan border town of Zhangmu. The houses seemed to be stacked right on top of each other here, fighting to share a thin slice of the cliffside.
Chapter #32 “High Hopes”
After a four-hour drive from the border, we had arrived in busy Kathmandu late the night before.
The buzz and shake of the capital city had felt like being thrown into a blender.
It felt like a really exciting place to be, with lots of motorcycles, traffic, people…
…and animals (and their excrement, of course).
Chapter #33 “Compromises”
I left the Internet café feeling empty and somewhat betrayed.
Passing beneath bats hanging in trees and treading carefully between baskets full of cobras on the walk home, I got stuck in a crowd of backpackers who were attentively ogling a snake charmer who displayed a huge boa constrictor.
The snake charmer – with his dramatic black moustache and bright orange turban – dared me with his dark eyes as he stepped in front of me.
I’d always been enchanted by the powerful, majestic way snakes move.
I accepted the challenge, easily taking command of the snake and draping him around my neck and over my shoulders like a shawl.
“Oh freak, not again. That’s unbelievable. That’s the second time today a bird shat on me.” “Ammon, I told you the first time. It’s good luck to get pooped on,” Mom said.
In Kathmandu it wasn’t uncommon to see peculiar sights such as cows grazing on garbage on major highways…
…or monkeys stealing food from vendors and then getting away by leaping from rooftop to rooftop,
Instead we often treated ourselves to pasta in a restaurant on the second floor of a building that was tucked away in the middle of the city’s chaos. It appeared to have been decorated by gypsies; huge wagon-wheel candleholders and black lights from the 1970s hung above us, making the fairy paintings on the walls glow, and beaded curtains glittered around cushioned floor seating.
From the open-air, wall-sized window…
…loved to look down on the knitted ball of electrical wires strungup like a drunken spider’s web hanging over the bustling traffic
Pedestrians balancing giant loads on their heads.
Bicycles, taxis, motorcycles, and small three-wheeled vehicles called tuk-tuks added to the thick haze polluting the narrow, congested alleys.
The piles of garbage being eaten by what looked like entire families of pigs presented a major contrast to the clean, well-maintained streets of China.
As we walked the hectic streets, an odd mix of Buddhist chanting, Celine Dion songs, and the Eagles’ infamous hit, “Hotel California,” assaulted our ears.
English signs offering Internet cafés, guesthouses, food bazaars, money exchangers, massages, Italian cuisine, laundry services, and travel agencies flooded the crowded boulevards.
The wild atmosphere was a sensory overload, but I instantly fell in love with much of what the capital had to offer.
“The people here are super friendly, so don’t be surprised when the next thing you know you’re sipping tea with someone in their shop.”
We made our way to Durbar Square, which is the centre of the old town and the site of the old royal palace and Pashiputinath – the most important Hindu temple in Nepal and one of the most significant temples in the world honouring Shiva, a popular Hindu deity considered to be one of the primary forms taken by God.
“Nepal itself is very Hindu and very Buddhist, depending on where you are.”
“You’re in for some fascinating traditions and rituals,” Ammon explained.
Ancient, bearded holy men walked the streets of Durbar Square with painted faces and dreadlocks dragging on the road beside their twisted toes. They leaned on wooden staffs, wore bulky beads strung around their necks, and wrapped themselves in light, cotton fabrics.
Groups of school kids in smart uniforms manoeuvred effortlessly between sleeping cows that blocked traffic everywhere you looked.
Residing within is the Royal Kumari, a young girl who is literally believed to be a living goddess.
I thought a lot about those young girls as I stood in the courtyard, looking up at the dark, silent window of her room.
Chapter #34 “Through Her Eyes”
“They’ll love me for my hair,” I said, quoting Steph’s latest email.
“Savannah, you got your nose pierced?!” she gasped,…
…then turned to Mom to see if she knew, unable to believe that she would allow such a thing. “Maggie? You got one, too?”
“Poor Ammon,” Mom explained. “Not only has he had to put up with three women for months on end, he also has to deal with everyone thinking he’s my husband and they’re his twin daughters. I’m curious about where the locals are going to fit you into this picture.”
” I missed you the most.”
Oh my God! Was that a monkey?” Steph gasped
She pointed and screeched at every sight as questions poured out of her. “Is there a snake in that basket?”
Driving on the left side of the road enhanced her feeling that we were about to crash.
“Wow! You weren’t kidding when you said more than half of this is for us,” Bree said, as she reached in and found Charleston Chews, Smarties, Sour Patch Kids, Whoppers, and more. Our faces glowed as she pulled each treasure from her small red backpack.
Chapter #35 “Flying High”
We handed our two big backpacks over to be loaded in the under compartment of the small green-and-white Twin Otter and climbed up the rusty metal stairs.
I saw that its small compartment had nineteen squishy passenger seats.
We were soaring over the most breathtaking mountain range I’d ever seen, flying amongst the tropical canyons and narrow gullies on a very intimate level.
Lukla’s airport is notorious for being the world’s third most dangerous, because high winds and cloud cover significantly affects flying safety.
Luckily, we were flying on a spectacularly clear day, suspended between brilliant blues and blissful greens.
All around the town of Lukla, big blue signs, hand-painted with white script, encouraged trekkers to support the Sherpa community.
Before I could ponder further about how we should best leave the mountain, the small lodge’s wooden door creaked when Ammon returned, with two young, male Sherpas in tow– one named Dendee and one who called himself “Dalai Lama”