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Preview: Sin City Hiker

Sin City Hiker

Pry yourself away from the neon and slots for a very different Las Vegas. From Red Rock to Mt. Charleston to Death Valley to Lake Mead, It’s an amazing place! Fill up the camelback and throw on the hiking boots. Now that's living! I'll take you from Veg

Updated: 2017-11-27T04:41:39.078-08:00


Moonset over Florida Lake (go west young woman)


The west is calling my name again, this time with more clarity.  Why I left that part of the United States, I don't know.  I do know that I really wanted to get a shot like this before I left Florida.  Winter is the only time of year I can see the moon over this lake I call home.  It's also the only time to not get eaten alive by biting bugs anytime I dare walk out of my home.  The winter is tolerable but the mountains are where my soul longs to live.  I am still here.  The blog lives.  Stay tuned.

Better late than never


As I prepare to embark on another journey across the Pacific Ocean, I realize how overdue I am in posting last year's trip.  Beginning this massive editing process just furthers my joy at the thought of returning to beloved Nepal.In 2010, I spent a month in Nepal and Tibet.  From Nepal, we flew to Lhasa where we spent several days touring the city.  Following Lhasa, our group traveled by trucks, while acclimating to the high Tibetan plateau. Along the way, we visited visiting many Tibetan holy sites.  Our 10-day trek took us to the Kangshung Face (East Everest Base Camp).  After the trek, we were back in trucks & headed to the North Everest Base Camp (Tibet).  We returned to Nepal via the Friendship Bridge, then traveled by van, about 8 hours back to Kathmandu.  It was an amazing trip and I hope you'll enjoy my photographs.  This is the first of many posts from the trip. The best airport food ever! Hong Kong airport.The plane to KathmanduYAY!Nirvana Gardens, our hotel in Thamel.                                               allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />A street in Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu.I love Nepali food!!Kathmandu Valley seen from Swayambhunath.Swayambhanath is a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site and also revered by Hindus. Each morning before dawn, hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims ascend the steps from the eastern side,  passing the gilded Vajra and two lions guarding the entrance, and begin a series of clockwise circumambulations of the stupa.I'm always drawn to the details within the architecture of the Nepali sites. Even the locks are interesting!Great stuff to buy!Preparing candles near the Stupa.                                                                            allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />A man prays near the Stupa.A plate used in prayer rituals.Swayambhunath is also known as the monkey temple.  The monkeys are considered holy.Fellow trekkers Geoff, Kevin & Shakeel during monkey photo session.As my friend Jon always says, kids are kids no matter where you are.  The oldest of these boys asked me to take their picture. They loved being able to see themselves on the camera display!Woman climbing the 365 stairs leading to Swayambhunath.Always watching...Please stay tuned!  Thanks for stopping by![...]

Downward Facing Dog


Just a quick note to say that I haven't disappeared. I am just beginning the editing process for my upcoming additions to the blog. Last April, I traveled back to the Himalayas on a very special trip.

During my month in mostly Tibet, with a few days in Nepal, I traveled through Tibet and again visited Mount Everest--this time the east and north basecamps.   It was an amazing journey and I promise, pictures are on the way! Stay tuned....



Debbie's Dream


As I mentioned in my last post, I'll soon be embarking on an awesome journey through Tibet.  While I'm traveling through Tibet (with an amazing group of photographers!) and trekking to the Kanjung Face of Mount Everest, my good friend and amazing Sherpa from my last trek,  Roshan (Dipen) Bhattarai will be preparing to summit the mountain.
Dipen at summit of Mount Everest
As part of my trip, I'll be visiting North Base Camp, where I hope to visit with Dipen before his summit bid.  Dipen has generously offered to carry something for me to the top of the mountain.  It's tough deciding what to give someone to take to the top of the world for you!!!  For me, it was a pretty easy decision.  If you've been following my blog from the start, you'll know that on my last trek, which I named Trekking for Debbie,  I raised $15,000 to help fight cancer.  My fundraising project was dedicated to my sister-in-law, Debbie, who is fighting stage 4 gastric cancer.  My efforts evolved into something much more than I had ever imagined.  Debbie's Dream is Debbie's foundation to raise money and awareness specifically for gastric cancer.

 Climbing to the top of the world is never predictable.  If all goes as planned, you'll see Dipen wearing these bracelets and holding this banner as he summits the mountain.   Debbie and I are very excited about this project.  If you are able, please show your support by donating to Debbie's Dream.  Thanks!

New Adventure in the Himalayas


In about two months, I'll be embarking on another exciting journey! My destination for this trip will be Tibet. I'll be joining my friend, Jon Miller and his friends, Chris Marquardt and Monika Andrae, who are taking a group of photographers on a unique journey through Tibet. We will be trekking to the East Base Camp of Mount Everest and will also be visiting North Base Camp.

This is very exciting in so many ways! During our group's expedition in Tibet, my good friend, Roshan (Dipen) Bhattarai, (as part of another expedition), will be climbing to the summit of Mount Everest. You might remember that Dipen was my personal Sherpa on my last trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. I'm hoping to visit with him while at North Base Camp. When our group arrives there, Dipen will be into the acclimatization phase of his summit bid. Our group will spend one day there.

Dipen has generously offered to carry something to the summit for me. I've decided to use this amazing opportunity to help my sister-in-law, Debbie, who is fighting for her life with stage 4 gastric cancer. On my first trek I raised approximately $15,000 to help battle cancer with a site I created, Trekking for Debbie.  (Thanks to all of your generous donations!!)

Debbie took the idea of fundraising to fight cancer and literally ran with it. Out of Trekking for Debbie, she's created Debbie's Dream Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting and finding the cure for gastric cancer.  Her nonprofit foundation has its own bracelets and Dipen will be wearing several of them as he summits Mount Everest!!  The bracelets will be used to raise awareness and money for Debbie's Dream.  I'm very excited to be doing another project like this!

Please stay posted!
Thank you for stopping by. Namaste

End of trek party


Back in Lukla, the night before we returned to Kathmandu, we celebrated the trek with our Nepali staff who now felt like family. It was tough to get these guys to eat dinner with us! Because of their strong work ethic, they usually wait until all clients have eaten before they will eat their meal. During the trek we would beg them to sit down with us at dinner, but they insisted on serving us first.We celebrated Tracey's birthday...and presented katas to each member of the Nepali staff.These are truly amazing guys!!The day after we returned to Kathmandu, political demonstrations had shut down much of the commerce in the city. Luckily, the next day things returned to normal.Durbar Square is the religious and social heart of Kathmandu's old city. A complex of palaces, temples, shrines, statues and courtyards built between the 12th and 18th centuries, it is important to both Hindus and Buddhists. Until the 20th century Durbar Square was the King's residence.A woman in front of the Jagannath TempleJagannath Temple provides a resting place for many peopleThis guy followed me around and seemed to be fascinated by my camera.This image of Kal Bhairav on Durbar Square shows Shiva in his most fearsome aspect. The image was originally cut from a single stone and it is said that telling a lie while standing before it will bring instant death. This is the most famous Bhairav, and was used by the government as a place for people to swear the truth.Masks for sale. There are numerous market areas in in and around Durbar Square including famous Freak Street.Spices and beans for saleDurbar Square marketA boy and his father walk through one of the many courtyards in Durbar SquareNun with prayer beads in front of Shiva-Parbati TempleHindu god Mahadev and wife goddess Parvati keep watch at the Shiva-Parbati Temple in Durbar Square.End of expedition party in KathmanduIt's hard to believe that I'm done posting my 2008 expedition pictures. It's been an amazing journey and I hope you have enjoyed following along. Thank you to everyone who took the time to visit my blog. Although it's the end of this trip, I'll be posting many more pictures from hopefully, many more trips to come. Namaste[...]

Back to Lukla


During our final two days on the trail, the change in scenery was quite dramatic. This was my final, high-altitude glimpse of Everest. I really miss those views!I'm thrilled that I'll be returning to the region early next year, joining my friend Jon Miller and many others on Everest Trek 2010--can't wait!!As we entered the town of Phortse, it was great to be at tree level again!Children on their way home from school stop to take in a view. I have no idea what they were looking at.These siblings were thrilled to see their picture on my viewing screen.The next morning we walked through a huge construction site on our way out of Phortse.In the high Himalayan region, power tools are not an option. If something here is not hand-built, it must be carried in on the back of a human or yak.The man is using an adz to square up a post.Shaping stones by hand to be used on homes, stairways and walls.I was fascinated by these guys. It's unbelievable to think about all the stairs and walls and buildings made from these hand-shaped stones!!Cutting a mortise using a hand-built mallet and chisel.The carpenter's hands in the previous picture belong to the man on the left. The man on the right is his brother and was one of our expedition's yak drivers, Laurel Frame Brandt.Danika, followed by Dipendra, cross a primative bridge over a vein of the Dudh Kosi.Always a welcome site along our trek route!Only a few more suspension bridges left...Oblivious to the traffic on the road in front of his home, a young boy washes his hands.The dust kicked up by yaks and trekkers is quite remarkable.Kaia is well-equipped for dust trekking.The average weight of a sheet of plywood is 25 pounds per 1/4 inch of thickness. This plywood is at least 1/2 if not 3/4 inches and he is carrying five according to my eyes! Unbelievable!!Sign on the outskirts of LuklaFrom the high glacial peaks to low, rolling green hills in just one day!Thanks for stopping by! See you next post...[...]



After nine days of living at high altitude, it felt great to be heading down. The altitude had definitely taken a toll, in some way, on every member of our group. Although I had mixed emotions about leaving the high Himalayan mountains, it felt great to breathe easier as we descended. Fueled by thoughts of hot showers and loved ones at home, we headed back toward Lukla.No worse for the wear, our fearless guides, Heather Sullivan and Danika Gilbert (for Lotus Expeditions), take a break along the trail. They are both amazing women. I would follow either one of them on a trip anywhere. They have my complete trust and respect.One of Danika's many talents is ice climbing. Among other things, she guides for San Juan Mountain Guides. Heather founded Balanced Rock Foundation, whose mission is to offer enriching programs for the mind, body, and spirit in the serenity within and around Yosemite National Park. Thanks so much to both of these women!Prayer flags adorn trees along the trail.Our descent took us once more, through the Everest Memorial Area.A hiker from another expedition is assisted with oxygen as he descends to recover from altitude sickness.Without yaks, yak-cow hybrids, and their drivers as they are called, trekking (and living) in this region would be very difficult. Since there are no motorized vehicles, these animals are the next best thing.I can still hear the bells ringing on the path. It's quite a lovely sound, as long as it's not too close! Their horns are quite dangerous. Mostly, they are gentle, but you still want to give them a wide berth. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />This video gives a glimpse of trekking around yaks. The men guiding the yaks are known as yak drivers. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />In this video, you'll catch a glimpse of Dipendra, the world's greatest sherpa, protecting me as I film the yaks. He's using my trekking poles to help keep them on their path.Although they are carrying huge loads, they are quite nimble on their feet.Early morning in Pangboche, 13,500 feet. This was one of the few times that I actually used the gorillapod I brought along. I don't think I could have taken this shot this without it. For my photo friends out there, camera settings were: f22, 2.5 seconds, 3200 iso.Breaking down camp in Pangboche.Door to 604 year-old gompa in Pangboche.Interesting lock.Sign on door in Pangboche.A mother and her son in Pangboche.Running water.As our group headed out from Pangboche (far right), our Nepali staff finished breaking-down our camp. (bottom left)Three more trekking days left, stay tuned![...]

Trek On


Today's post will take you to my highest summit ever. Seven months after actually making it to Mount Everest South Base camp, where I'm pictured here, I'm finally posting it. Better late than never...right?Lebuche, at 16,175 feet, became our high camp for three nights. We were originally scheduled to camp at Gorak Shep for two nights, in preparation for our big climbs. Circumstance sometimes necessitates change and the decision to stay in Lebuche was very helpful to people in our group feeling the tough effects of altitude. Our leaders recognized that we would all sleep better a little lower which would increase our chances for success on our upcoming, hardest hikes. It was a great decision for the group, but did increase the level of difficulty for our hikes to Kala Pattar and Everest Base Camp. Gorak Shep, the highest camp before Everest Base Camp is next to the trail leading to Kala Pattar and is also along the way to Everest Base Camp. Coming from Lebuche adds a few hours of hiking just to reach Gorak Shep. It was daunting to think of completing both hikes, as I was also experiencing altitude-related ailments. I told myself it would all work out the way it was meant to, but in the back of my goal-oriented mind, I wouldn't take no for an answer.The long road from Lebuche to Gorak Shep.While on the way to Gorak Shep, Sherpa Dipendra and one of our guides, Danika, enjoyed an impromptu climb. In the foreground is a memorial plaque to a fallen climber. In addition to the primary monument area, there are many chortens and plaques celebrating lives of lost climbers scattered throughout the region.Heather's daypack is dwarfed by a porter's load behind her. Porters carry a type of walking stick that they use as a chair along the trail. They sometimes carry 100 kilograms or 220 pounds!Soup with a smile... In preparation for the cold, windy summit of Kala Pattar, Heather brings some delicious soup sent by our cooks. In addition to three wonderful meals a day, the kitchen staff gave each of us a snack-filled goody bag for our daily hikes.I'm not sure what type of bird this is. It was hanging out near our group in Gorak Shep, where we took a break before heading up Kala Pattar.Gorak Shep at 17,000 feet is the highest, year-round village on the Nepal side of Mount Everest. On the left is Kala Pattar, which appears to be a small hill when compared with the Himalayan peaks surrounding it. At 18,450 feet, not visible in this picture, the summit was far away from the trailhead you see here.Kala Pattar was our first hike from Lebuche and it was well worth the effort! At 18,450 feet, our highest summit on the trip, I felt overjoyed with the great views of Mount Everest and sense of accomplishing such a tough physical challenge.We had a quick celebration, enjoyed some delicious soup served by Raj (and carried up by Heather) and I shot as many pictures as I could before heading back down.The top of the world viewed from Kala Pattar. Because our trek took place in the off-climbing season, there are no climbers in the picture.Mount Everest South Base Camp and the Khumbu Icefall.I never knew how blue a glacier could be!I had planned to shoot a panoramic view from the top of Kala Pattar and hoped to weave it together into one picture. While anchored by Dipendra, my awesome Sherpa, I spun in a circle and snapped away. Upon reviewing the pictures in Katmandu, I realized that my lens hood was loose and it caused the series to be unusable due its silhouette surrounding each frame.I feel a little sad about not being able to create a 360 degree panaramic shot, but it's a fun reminder of how altitude can effect your brain function. The feeling of elation at 18,450 feet is something very hard to describe.Sunsets in the Khombu are amazing. The gorgeous bronze reflection of the setting sun on th[...]

Keep on trekking


Hi everyone,Although it may seem like it, I haven't forgotten about this blog. I could give a bunch of lame excuses but why?Yesterday, I received a phone call from my friend, Jon Miller, ( who is on a trek in the Himalayas as I write this. It was so cool to hear his voice, broken from the satellite connection, coming to me from Gorak Shep, that I've spent the last several hours just daydreaming about being back there.So thanks to Jon for reminding me to post the pictures from a place that constantly tugs at my soul!Welcome to Tengboche Monestary! Magical seeming, as we walked into Tengboche at 12,887 feet, these monks greeted us with afternoon, call to prayer music. Tengboche is the largest buddhist monastery in the Khumbu region.A monk prepares to ascend the steps leading up to the monastery.I had a very rough night in Tengboche. I barely slept due to a terrible gastrointestinal bug. When the sun came up and revealed this view of Ama Dablam, it softened the blow a little.Mani stones mark the entrance to the Debotche Nunnery. Built in 1928, this convent is the sister to Tengboche Monestary. I remember this day very well. Because I was so sick, I had to walk extra slow to help cope with my bad stomach. Dipendra and I made a pitstop at this place and had a delightful visit with one of the nuns living there.Nomng Doma Tibeti, 31, prays inside the gompa. Since making the journey from Tibet, she has lived at the nunnery for 7 years.There are approximately twenty nuns living here. The residents help nuns from all over Nepal, who come to visit, stay and learn different prayers and ceremonies in a kind of religious exchange program. Several nuns from Tibet have endured brutal circumstance in their trip to Nepal. Tibetans literally run for their lives while crossing the high mountain passes, many being shot at by soldiers while fleeing.During my online research, I found a website that includes a project specifically dedicated to helping these nuns (and others across the globe). Click here for more information.Part of the alter inside the gompa.Morning chores at the Debotche gompa.I gave Nomng a LAF(Lance Armstrong Foundation) bracelet after our visit. She decided she wanted the one on my wrist, not the one I gave her from my backpack. Of course I gave her the one from my wrist! Here we are modeling our matching bracelets. Before we left Nomng said a prayer to help my ailing stomach. I started feeling better that night. (besides the prayers, I also asked several antibiotics to rid me of this plague)Danika, one of our guides on the trek, makes friends with a horse that was wandering around near our lunch break area. The horse was really interested in her grape juice and ended up drinking it. She liked the juice so much that she ended up searching for more and sort of stampeded through our group. It was one of the scariest moment of our trek!The new and the old. A modern, new bridge crosses over the old suspension bridge on the way to Dingboche.Prayer flags greet these trekkers as they descend on the new bridge.Looks a bit different from the health care facilities in the US.Service with a smile. Raj, our sirdar, helps serve our midday feast. Despite their assigned jobs, the Nepali staff helped with all tasks. I'm pretty sure you'd never hear a Nepali say: "that's not in my job description."Sharpening stone...Surrounded by magnificant scenery, one of our group members, Tracey, takes a nap before lunch. Tracey is an amazing hiker and can hike circles around me, she's very fast! I really enjoyed her company on this trip.Dorje and Dipendra help prepare our lunch. Despite the rugged conditions, each day our wonderful Nepali staff would assemble a full kitchen and prepare three delicious hot meals for the group. Despite our begg[...]

Dipen Bhai (World's Greatest Climbing Guide!)


Dipen is the world's greatest. Ok, maybe I'm a little biased. There are many great guides and Sherpa out there. Here's a story about one of them.The top of the world--May 25, 2008, 0730 am Mount Everest Summit.At the beginning of our trek to Mount Everest base camp, we had the option to hire a personal guide. It's now hard to believe I ever considered not doing this! The additional price was nominal and my gear was very heavy. Nikon does not make digital SLR's with trekking in mind! Having Dipen with me was a dream come true. Not only did he carry my pack, narrate the entire trek, answer all questions with expertise and help with anything else I needed, his company was also wonderful. Without him, I'm not sure I would have been so successful. During our two weeks together, I thanked him many times a day. I told him I wanted to thank him at least one million times.I met Dipen on a chilly morning in Lukla. It was our first trekking day and our group had just flown into town a few hours before. After the trek, I felt I had known him for a lifetime and he will always be my friend. Dipen's real name is Roshan Bhattarai and he's 24 years old. His friends call him Dipen. I call him Dipen Bhai, which is the Nepali word for younger brother. He calls me Didi, which means older sister.On May 25th, 2008, just months before I met him, Dipen summitted Mount Everest. (Southeast ridge route) He was kind enough to send me these photos and I promised to make him famous by posting them here. (at his request--sort of a joke between us) On our long days of hiking, we exchanged many stories about our lives and he was excited to hear about my websites. He told me he wanted to be famous. I don't know if this will really make him famous, but I hope you'll enjoy the photos. In addition to being my guide, Dipen worked nonstop with the rest of the Nepali staff. Their work ethic is unbelievable. A Nepali would never say: "that's not in my job description." From digging holes for the toilet tent to setting up camp to cooking and cleaning after meals, etc, everyone pitched in on every job. Yak drivers, cooks, Sherpa's, guides, they only rested after all chores were done. That's what I call teamwork!Dipen carefully makes his way through the Khumbu Ice Fall.Ropes and ladders are used to traverse the treacherous seracs, crevasses and shifting blocks of ice. This is between camp 1 and 2 at 21,325 feet.Camp 3-- 24,278 feet.Dipen summitted with a team from Canadian West Mountaineering School. He has summitted other peaks in the Himalayn region and continues to work on expeditions and train in more advanced mountaineering techniques.A million thanks Dipen Bhai!![...]

Going up... to Namche Bazaar


Destination, day 2: Namche BazaarOn our second day in the Khumbu, we trekked to Namche Bazaar, a tough hike with an altitude gain of 2600 feet. In Namche Bazaar, at 11,300 feet, breathing became much more difficult. To help our bodies acclimatize, we spent two nights there.My altimeter has almost lapped itself!One of the many bridges we crossed over the Dudh Kosi River. Bridges come in all forms in the Khumbu, from enormous and well-constructed metal suspension to primitive wooden versions. Awareness of yaks and other animals on the bridges is essential, as they require a wide berth.Yak trainOn their way to school, uniformed children pass trekkers Marie and Tom, who were on their honeymoon. The couple, who live in BC, joined us for the first few days of the trek and then traveled a different direction, toward Gokyo. I really enjoyed getting to know them.A child keeps a watchful eye on trekkers from the safety of his doorstep.Tom shares a photo with his subjects. The Nepali people I met along the way seemed to really enjoy seeing themselves on my digital camera screen.After our long day of hiking, a train of yak hybrids greets us on our way into Namche Bazaar.One of the vendors at the local market in Namche Bazaar.As camp takes shape, there's always time for play. After helping to set up our campsite, Dipen and Heather start a game of Hacky Sack.Room with a view! My home sweet home for the night.One of our guides, Heather, volunteered to help demonstrate the Gamow bag. Luckily, this is the only time we saw this device in use. The Gamow bag is used to treat serious cases of altitude sickness. It is a large, airtight bag, inflated by either foot or hand pump and can effectively reduce altitude by about 5000 feet. (Check out Heather's very cool website)I would have to be pretty sick to climb inside one of these! My claustrophobia kicked in just watching this demonstration.On our rest day in Namche Bazaar, part of our group hiked to Everest View Hotel. In addition to helping us acclimatize, we enjoyed our first great views of the giant mountains. After reading about these places all my life, it was surreal to be hiking in the shadows of Mount Everest, Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Nuptse and others. To say it was breathtaking is an understatement.A chorten dedicated to the memory of Tenzing Norgay. Norgay summitted Mount Everest in 1953 with Edmund Hillary. Mount Everest is at the top left of the frame.During our acclimitization hike to Everest View Hotel, our guide, Danika, an accomplished ice climber among other things, spots climbing guide, Dipen, as he climbs a giant boulder.A sign along the way. Notice the prices (in Nepali rupees) for food and drinks at the lodge. Currently, there are approximately 77 rupees to 1 US dollar.Diane and Tracey figure out which peak is Everest.Mount Everest, at left and Lhotse. Although Lhotse might appear taller than Everest, it is an optical illusion, due to the distance to the peak. The two mountains are connected via the South Col.The majestic Ama Dablam. Seeing this mountain in person took my breath away. Every angle gives a more interesting view. We enjoyed views of this moutain on most days of our trek. The mountain is 22,349 feet and its name means mother and pearl necklace. (The perennial hanging glacier is thought of as the pearl).Framed by prayer flags, from left: Tawotse, Nuptse, Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam. What a day!![...]

Here we go... To Lukla!


Boarding pass in hand, I'm ready!Flight to LuklaFrom the plane we caught our first view of the great Himalayas.The flight to Lukla was very nice without any turbulence. Just about a month before our flight there, a plane crashed upon landing in foggy weather and unfortunately, 18 people were killed in the horrible accident. My heart goes out to all the families of the crash victims.This airport, at 9350 feet, requires expert pilots to land and take off safely. The landing strip is short and steep with a big drop-off. Weather permitting, pilots fly in and out of here several times per day. They quickly unload and reload, sometimes not even shutting off all of the engines.Knowing about the recent accident made the wonderful flight and landing even more surreal. We all clapped upon landing which really surprised our pilot.Welcome to Lukla!For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, this is a squat toilet. This is a very nice, very clean one.I can't believe we are finally here!!Here I go!A child, in her mother's arms, makes the sign for Namaste as we begin our trek.A porter makes his way past mani stones. Mani stones, varying in size are carved with Bhuddist prayers and are all over the region. Sometimes they have prayer wheels around them. It's always a good idea to go clockwise around the Mani stone and spin the prayer wheels. The good luck this will bring is always welcomed!I have no idea how these people carry such heavy loads on their heads and necks!Some porters carry as much as 100 kg or 220 pounds in one load! They carry big wooden walking sticks that double as seats to rest on.[...]

Kathmandu Temples part two


Bouddhanath StupaBouddhanath is one of Nepal's most holy sites for Buddhists.Ok, I'm on a roll as far as my posting goes so I'm going to try and continue the trend.On election day in the US, November 5th, 2008 in Kathmandu, we were scheduled to fly to Lukla to begin our trek. We got up before the sun and were at the airport by around 6am, only to hear the news that weather had delayed all flights in and out of Lukla. Of course we were extremely bummed to hear this. Our group hung out in the airport for several hours before we found out that all flights for the day were cancelled.Once we got over the bad news of the cancelled flight, we journeyed back out to Kathmandu to check out some more of our surroundings.Bouddhanath is one of the oldest stupas in the country (A stupa, often dome-shaped, is a monumental pile of earth or other materials in memory of Buddha or a Buddhist saint and commemorates an event or marks a sacred spot).With a diameter of about 100m and a height of 40m, Bouddhanath is among the largest stupas in the world. The Bouddhanath stupa covers a vast area that has a circumbulatory path at the bottom and another path made of three-tier plinth. This stupa features pinnacles as well as 108 Buddhist Gods and Goddesses. One of the most attractive parts of the Stupa is the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha painted with red, white and blue. It is believed that King Manadeva built the Bouddhanath stupa during the Lichavi period. It has been renovated time and again and the present form of stupa was renovated in the 17th century.After 1959, many Tibetans came and have settled in Bouddhanath area. The most popular festival celebrated here is the Tibetan New Year festival Lhosar that falls in February. The festival starts with prayers and worship. Thousands, of Tibetans dress traditionally and dance after lighting incense to Buddha. Lots of Tibetans come from Laddakh, Sikkim, Bhutan as well as other parts of the hills to celebrate this festival.Shortly after arriving at Bouddhanath, we heard the news that Barack Obama was declared the winner in the election. At one of the cafes surrounding Bouddhanath, Americans and Europeans along with Tibetans and Nepalis, gather to watch President Elect Obama give his acceptance speech. The experience of watching this and hearing the news from Kathmandu is one I'll never forget. It was so drastically different from sitting at home watching it all play out on CNN.(NOTE: This photo has been altered. In this frame, the image on the television was obscured, so I took another one, from the previous frame and pasted it to this one)Prayer wheels surrounding the stupa.This woman, walking near the stupa, asked our group to buy milk for her daughter. Danika, one of our guides, kindly purchased the milk. The woman seemed elated.Shops surround the stupa. Cows are everywhere in Nepal.I love this picture!Now it's time for the TREK!! Stay tuned. Jill[...]

Temples of Kathmandu, part one


Hi everyone,As I continue to edit my photos, my desire to return to Nepal just grows stronger. I can't really put my finger on one reason or another. I just know that I need to go back. It's not even an option for me.Anyway, I could go on and on with abstract thoughts about Nepal, but instead, you'd probably be more interested in my photos.The day before we thought we were leaving for Lukla, the starting village for our trek, (I'll explain that later) we toured a Hindu holy site called the Pashupatinath or Pashupati Temple. This is one of the most sacred Hindu temples in Nepal.Stairs leading to the Pashupatinath Temple.Pashupatinath, located in Deopatan, a small town 3 km NW of Kathmandu, is located along the banks of the Bagmati river. The Bagmati River flows next to the temple and is considered holy because it flows into the Ganges.The importance of Bagmati also lies in the fact that Hindus are cremated on the banks of this holy river, and Kirants are buried in the hills by its side. According to the Nepalese Hindu tradition, the dead body must be dipped three times into the Bagmati river before cremation.The chief mourner (usually the first son) who lights the funeral pyre must take a holy river-water bath immediately after cremation. Many relatives who join the funeral procession also take baths in the Bagmati River or sprinkle the holy water on their bodies at the end of cremation. Bagmati River is considered to be purifying, both spiritually and physically.Preparation of cremation ghat in the area used by royalty.Pashupatinath attracts thousands of pilgrims each year and is off-limits to non-Hindus. Good views are possible from the outside of the temple and this is where we caught a glimpse of the culture there.Devout Hindus pray from a balcony overlooking the cremation areas.It is not known for certain when the temple was founded. Tradition says it was constructed by Pashupreksha of the Somadeva Dynasty in the 3rd century BC, but the first historical records date from the 13th century. The ascetic Pashupata sect was likely related to its founding. Pashupati was a tutelary deity of the ancient rulers of the Kathmandu Valley.It is believed that to die and be cremated at this site will release one from the cycle of repeated births and deaths.The cremation ground is near the temple and the ashes of persons cremated are sprinkled into the waters of the Bagmati, eventually to be carried to the Ganges. There are two burning grounds separated by a bridge. The Arya Ghat burning ground right next to the temple, just north of the bridge is only used by royalty. The Ram Ghat cremation grounds just south of the bridge is for common people. In the olden days, wives would perform sati, ritual suicide, by leaping into the flames of their husband's funeral pyre and burn themselves to death. This practice has been outlawed since the early 20th century. While touring this area, we viewed several cremations in various stages. Despite the obvious private nature of the cremation, photography is permitted.Family members prepare a body for cremation.Architectural detail on the entrance gate to Pashupatinath.Sadhu or holy man. Many look simply fearsome, but not all are genuine - some are simply imposters dressed as holy men to earn the tourist dollars.Viewed through 11 temples within the pashupatinath complex, a 'lingam' image, the male Hindu symbol worshipped as a symbol of the god Shiva, sits within a yoni, the female symbol.Outlying building have many purposes. This one serves as a home for the elderly.Residents of the home for the elderly rest in the shade.After leaving Pashupatinath, we headed for Swayambhunath, otherwise kn[...]

Finally Kathmandu!


Not too tired-looking considering I had been traveling over 35 hours......flight from Hong Kong to Kathmandu.After the long trip, I finally made it to Kathmandu, arriving about 1100 pm. Despite the chaos at the airport, my traveling companions and I managed to get our visas and find the right people to take us to our hotel. Before leaving the airport, I had a nice interaction with a nun who had been on our plane. I first met her while on the plane, in the bathroom line of all places. She spoke no English and possibly was from Hong Kong. While 'talking' in the line, we seemed to form a bond although no words were spoken. (I should say no words were understood by either of us) While in the customs line in Kathmandu airport, she gave me a bracelet with a really cool bead on it and a woven charm to put on my backpack. We communicated through gestures and lots of smiles. I'm guessing she was on a religious pilgrimage, as this is a popular reason for buddhists to travel to Nepal. That bracelet is now one of my most precious possessions from my trip and has remained on my wrist since that night. Despite the language barrier, our connection felt very special.I wonder what her name is...I didn't sleep much that first night in Kathmandu, with a time difference of about 14 hours from home and lots of extra energy swirling around my body in anticipation of my upcoming trek. The next morning, after meeting some of our fellow trekkers, we headed into Thamel, the major shopping district in Kathmandu. It was quite a shock to take in this part of the city after traveling for so long and being so jet-lagged. The streets of Thamel are bustling with nonstop activity, sounds, shops, hotels, pubs, restaurants in every direction, as well as jam-packed with lots of traffic. You can pretty much find anything you need there.Crazy ThamelOne of our guides, gave us a quick lesson in walking on the Thamel streets to help keep us from being hit by a car or motorcycle (no sidewalks!) Vehicles there are constantly beeping their horns for all sorts of reasons. The rules for beeping and what the beeps mean are WAY different than in the US. Simply moving the wrong direction out of the way of a horn could easily result in being hit by a car. Thanks Danika!Unlike the US and other places, where prices are set, items for sale in Thamel are always negotiable. Although I didn't feel very comfortable with the whole price bartering thing at first, by the end of my trip, I think I was doing pretty well. I even made some pretty good deals once I got into the swing of things. A word of advice: NEVER buy something for the first price they give you. It's always more than they expect to receive.Religious men wheel 'sacred cows' through the streets of Thamel. With music blaring, they requested donations in order to touch the animals and receive a blessing. One of the cows was adorned with a fake appendage, probably belonging to a chicken. They claimed it was a fifth leg.Sitting in her mother's arms, a young girl watches the traffic of Thamel from a public bus. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />A short video to give you an idea of what it's like to travel through the streets of Thamel.In my next post I'll show you some of the holy sites around Kathmandu.Thanks for stopping by![...]

First stop on my journey to Kathmandu: Hong Kong


Hello and SO sorry for the giant delay in posting pictures from my big trip. With nearly 3,000 images to edit, it's taken me awhile to get going. I'll start by saying that Nepal was the trip of a lifetime. That's actually an understatement. I can't wait to return to Nepal, hopefully in 2009. I can't put my finger on one reason that I loved it so much but here are a few: The Nepali people, the scenary, the hiking, it was all amazing!! I'm told that I said the word awesome in my audio podcasts many times and even though I haven't had the guts to listen to them since I've been home, that word makes perfect sense for the experience I had there. I highly recommend the trip to anyone who is curious about the region. It's worth it, in every way. I'm not saying it was easy or that there weren't extremely hard moments during the trip. I am saying that despite anything difficult, I'd return tomorrow and do exactly the same trip. That being said, I'll probably explore a different region the next time, but expect it to be equally as awesome.Dipen, I'll be back. : ) More about my friend Dipen later...I'm going to start my picture blog with images from Hong Kong, since that was the first stop of the journey. (Flight from LAX was about 15 hours to HK!!) During a day-long layover in the Hong Kong airport, my traveling companions and I took advantage of the time by taking a cable car to Ngong Ping, Lantau Island to see the world's tallest outdoor sitting buddha. Here are some of the sights...After a short taxi ride from the airport, you can board the Ngong Ping Cable Car for a 5.7 km gondola ride to Ngong Ping Village. During the trip, you cross Tung Chung Bay and catch your first glimpse of the worlds largest outdoor sitting bronze buddha called Tian Tan.Tian Tan, also called Big Buddha, is located near Po Lin Monastery and symbolizes the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and religion. The buddha is 34 meters tall and weighs 250 tons. It was formed out of 202 separate pieces of bronze and reportedly can be seen from as far away as Macau on a clear day. It is a major center of Buddhism in Hong Kong and also a popular tourist attraction.Surrounding the Big Buddha are eight smaller bronze statues representing gods or immortals. This site is an important religious destination.Inside the Po Lin Monastery, beautiful Chinese light globes cover much of the ceiling.Prayers and offerings at Po Lin's main alter.Detail of outside architecture at the Po Lin Monastery.The Wisdom Path, just a few minutes walk past the monastery and buddha is set within a figure eight to symbolize infinity.The Wisdom Path features large wooden inscriptions of the Heart Sutra which is one of the world’s best known Buddhist sutras or prayers. The outdoor wooden version of the 260-word prayer is on 38 wooden rectangular beams or obelisks. The beams range between eight and ten feet tall. They blend well with the beautiful mountainside.After a hectic but scenic day of sightseeing on Lantau Island, it's time to head back to the Hong Kong airport to fly to Kathmandu! The return trip gave us a great view of Tung Chung Bay and the colorful apartment buildings close to the airport. Stay tuned, the adventure is just beginning!Signs in a vegetarian restaurant on Lantau Island. Despite the sign, the food was pretty good and did not make us want to spit.Ok, now that the first post is done, I'm on a roll... Expect the next post very soon and please stay subscribed. Thanks for visiting! Namaste. Jill[...]

Nepal podcast #9


Gabcast! Nepal podcast #9

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Nepal podcast #8


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