You are probably sick of hearing about Nepal, but I want to finish writing about my time there, since it had such a large impact on me. I also wanted to take the time to write about my time in the Philippines and my last few weeks in Australia. After I finished my few days at EBC, I trekked down with Simon from Australia. We laughed a lot and we hiked really well together – he was faster on the downhills and I was faster on the uphill and the flat sections. We spent the first night on the way down in Pheriche, where we caught up with 4 other people from the climb. We gossiped, laughed, and had our first beer in nearly 3 weeks – such a nice way to relax! We also spent some time with the sherpa carrying our bags. He is a superman, because we probably had over 40 kilograms between the two of us. I had been complaining because my bag weighed around 10 kilos, but he put me to shame. Simon decided he should try to pick the bags up – he struggled to hold them for 30 seconds while our Sherpa just laughed at him! Then, just to show off, our Sherpa picked Simon up. Hilarious!
We spent the next night in Namche, the biggest town of the whole trip. You have more than 2 choices of teahouses, internet and bakeries – it’s so luxurious! We splurged and spent $25 for our accommodation that night and it was worth every penny. I hadn’t had a shower for 10 days, the longest I’ve EVER gone without one! At that point baby wipes, deodorant and hats are definitely your friend. We had a “fresh fruit salad” which consisted of apples, apples and apples – not quite what I was looking for, but after weeks of potatoes and sardines, I definitely couldn’t complain!
Our final day we trekked down to Lukla and it was sad to be done. I don’t know what the future holds, whether I will ever return to this country or not. I am so drawn to it and I would love to return tomorrow, but I don’t know if climbing is in my blood. I struggle while I am there, but the second I leave it, I feel such a strong urge to go back and do another climb. I want do more, go higher, meet more people who understand this crazy pull. No matter what happens in the future, I feel so blessed to have experienced Everest. The end of the climb was very bittersweet.
After I moved on from Nepal, I was able to continue watching my friends online to see how their climbs went. I was so proud to see that Mia, Grace and our leader Arnold successfully summited Lhotse on May 21st. On the same day the people from Summit Climb were attempting Everest, but bad weather rolled in and caused a tragedy where 6 people died. Our team assisted a few people from other teams who were in danger, but the obviously had to abort their summit attempt to do this. After they were all back to safety, they had to decide whether to try again. They were very lucky to have this option, as most of the time a missed summit attempt is the end of the season. Some people decided they were done, whether it was due to what they saw or whether they were no longer strong enough to continue climbing. However, 4 of the members decided to try again and on May 26th they successfully summited Everest. Congratulations to Sandra from Canada, Steve the Australian living in the US, Richie from the UK and Jon from lovely Colorado!
After I finished my climb in Nepal, I was completely exhausted. I loved everything about Nepal and the Himalayas, but I felt the overwhelming need to go somewhere completely different. I spent a couple days in Kathmandu researching my different options and finally booked a trip to the Philippines. I had never intended to go there, but I knew I wanted to go somewhere with beaches and good diving and this seemed to fit the bill. I really did no research other than pricing flights and bought my tickets to leave in about a week. I ended up having about a week in Kathmandu to just relax, which was way too long. Kathmandu, especially Thamel, is so crowded and intense, it’s difficult to be there for more than 2 or 3 days at a time. Luckily there are lots of really good restaurants there, so I spent my days getting massages and pedicures and the nights trying new cute restaurants. Simon was there to hang out with me for the first few days, then Rob from the UK came down from a successful climb to Camp III, and finally a couple of the guys from the Tibetan climb were there for me to hang out with. I also got to see a bit more of the local Kathmandu when Deha, who worked for the climbing company, showed me around on the back of his motorbike. The streets there are small and dangerous, but it was so much fun to zoom around them on the back of the bike! With all of the different friends rolling through, it was definitely a fun end to my second trip to Nepal.
Since I booked my flight at the last minute, the trip to the Philippines was going to be quite round about. Kathmandu à Delhi à Hong Kong à Manila. Phew! Unfortunately, I had quite a long layover in Delhi and made the ill fated decision to eat McDonalds, since I thought it would be “safe” and clean, and since I hadn’t seen a chain restaurant in more than a month. That turned out to be a horrible decision, as I ended up getting food poisoning! I don’t know it the milk in the shake had not been refrigerated properly or it was the disgusting pink slime that they use to make the chicken nuggets, but either way it made for a miserable flight. Right as we were about to take off from Delhi, I could tell that I was going to throw up. I didn’t want to scare the guy next to me, so I told him I was a nervous flyer and that I had butterflies in my stomach. Then I threw up on the poor guy. Yes, it’s true! I have never thrown up on a flight in my life and I’m certainly not a nervous flyer, but it was better than admitting I had food poisoning. I tried to throw up in a bag I had, but some of it escaped from the handles on the side and got on the guys pants. I felt soooo bad for him! There is nothing worse than that. I felt horrible for the whole flight, even throwing up again (I made it to the bathroom the next time though!). It was definitely the worst flight I have ever been on.
When I finally arrived in Manila, I went straight to my hotel and passed out for the next 2 days. I had only planned to stay for one night, but I was so sick there was no way I could move. Once I finally regained my strength and ate something besides water, I was ready to get out of the city. I took a bus and then a boat ferry to the island of Puerto Galera. It was a pretty little island that is supposed to have incredible diving. I had known for a while that I wanted to get my Advanced Open Water Certification, so I immediately went to the dive shop to get setup. The guys at the dive shop, Action Divers, were wonderful. I would highly recommend them if you ever get to Puerto Galera. They showed me a wide variety of incredible dive sites and they made me comfortable on every dive. We had a couple of interesting dives, including a deep dive where one of the guys disappeared. We were diving on a wreck at around 30 meters and this Czech guy was running out of air and decided to go back up, but he never told anyone. His buddy didn’t know where he was, neither did the instructor, so they worried that he had just disappear. They looked around for as long as they safely could, but eventually you have to go up or risk your own safety. We got lucky and he was sitting on the boat when we surfaced, but man it was scary.
We also go to dive a great site called the Canyons. It consists of three canyons or small divots in the ocean floor, but on top of them there is a ripping current. You have to be very careful and drop down into each canyon to get some refuge from the current and you have to be extremely careful to stay with the other divers or you can just get grabbed by the current and moved apart so quickly. It was fun to challenge myself and do a more difficult dive. I felt like I learned a lot during my 10 days diving, and that I saw a lot of incredible marine life I had never seen before. I got to see a cuttlefish, a seahorse, tiny nudibranches, plenty of lion fish, a few sting rays and an awesome octopus.
The only negative part of the island was all the sex tourism. Since I hadn’t done much research before going to the Philippines, I didn’t really know what to expect. Puerto Galera, or specifically Sabang Beach where I stayed, is a lovely little tourist town. It consists of mostly dive shops, restaurants and hotels and has an incredibly relaxed feel to it. Definitely much better than all of the commercialized beaches in Mexico, Thailand, Australia, etc. However, there is also the sex tourism. If you’ve never heard of it, generally it is a location that men go to where they are able to pay to have a “girlfriend” for their holiday. You see many dirty, married, old men with gorgeous 18 – 24 year old girls. You know they only reason they are together is due to the fact that they men are paying the girls. It is really sad to see, but it’s everywhere you look. Many of the people there try to justify it and say that it is an honor for the girls and that they make way more money than they would at any other job, but I don’t buy it. I know this is a very poor country, but there is no way the girls could enjoy this. Women selling their bodies to make money to support their family is just sad and wrong, no matter how people try to make themselves feel better about it. While I enjoyed the diving in the Philippines, seeing this side of it really put a bad taste in my mouth.
After diving and relaxing in the Philippines, I made my final trip to Australia. It was really emotional because it meant the trip was nearly over. However, I was determined to have a great time while I was there. The great part about Australia, other than the fact that it is a beautiful country, is that I now know so many people there. I feel like everywhere I go, I have new friends to visit. How lucky is that?
First, I took a train up to Newcastle to visit my friends Scott & Dan, who I met in Southeast Asia. They were spending the night on a houseboat and invited me to join – of course I was excited for this! I loved seeing new cities in Australia as well. We spent the next day exploring the city, seeing the beaches and relaxing. My favorite part was the delicious dinner. We went to this amazing Italian restaurant, where I ordered a salad with arugula, pears, pine nuts, parmesan and balsamic vinaigrette. This may not sound incredible to you, but I hadn’t had salad for the 2 months I was in Asia, so this was such a treat for me! I didn’t even talk to the boys while I was eating my salad, I just wanted to savor every moment of it! I know, it sounds so silly, but until you have gone months with no completely fresh veggies, you couldn’t understand. Anyhow, I had a wonderful time seeing the boys.
Next, I headed back to Sydney to spend a couple of days there. One of the girls I had worked with before I left, Jen from Seattle, happened to be in Sydney at the same time. We spent our time exploring the royal gardens, eating at a delicious tapas restaurant and catching up on work gossip. It was so nice to see a friendly face from home! I also had the opportunity to meet up with a friend from Nepal while I was in Sydney. Simon, the guy who I wandered down from EBC with, came to visit me for an afternoon. He brought his girlfriend to meet me and we had an incredible seafood brunch. Unfortunately I had to spend that afternoon in the police station because my camera had been stolen earlier that day! I had made it through an entire year with no problems and in the last week of my trip, someone stole my camera. I couldn’t believe it, but I guess it’s better that it happened at the end instead of at the beginning.
The final city of my trip was Melbourne. I had always planned to go there, at one point I even thought I might spend a few months there, but as the clock ticked down, I didn’t think I was going to make it there. I woke up on Wednesday morning and realized I would be so disappointed if I left Australia without visiting Melbourne, so I bought a last minute ticket and left the next morning! I’m sooo glad I found the time to visit, because I loved Melbourne. There are so many adorable little restaurants and cafes, everywhere you look there is something new to try. On top of that, I was lucky enough to catch up with my friend Jodie who I met in Europe about 3 years ago. We met up for lunch one day in the city and the next day we went to St. Kilda. I absolutely loved the feel of St. Kilda and it was fun to walk around and see it with a friend.
All in all, my final stop in Australia was wonderful. I love the country and wish I could live there, but it’s just so far away from all of my friends and family. This was the perfect ending for my trip. I will be doing one more blog entry, a summary of my thoughts on the trip. I can’t believe it’s over!