After 5 weeks of being ill, with the last two weeks showing deterioration and with some encouragement from Rachel’s mum we decided it would be best if we bailed out and found some adequate medical assistance. The next day I went out and bought some tickets to Calgary.
With a definite time limit set on our stay in Pokhara I also booked a Paragliding flight for the following morning. The rest of the day was spent orginasing a way to get ourselves to Kathmandu in time for our departure. With Rachel unable to walk around for more than a couple of hours she decided to spend a little more and take the 35 minute flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu whereas I took the cheaper option of an 8 hour bus departing at 7am in two days time. That evening Rachel made a determined effort to see the main strip of Pokhara Lakeside and we went and checked out the hundreds of fake down jackets, book shops and hat shops. It was a shock to find that the shop keepers would not haggle! Obviously the hordes of tourists with much more money than us has removed the uncertainty of income. The desperation shown by the Indian shop keepers had disappeared and a much more western approach to shop keeping had been adopted.
The next morning I got up early and jumped in a jeep which, after a few stops to pick up the guides and other clients, drove to the top of Sarangkot. As we were late the guides hardly checked the ‘chutes before clipping my harness to theirs and running full welly straight down the mountain. At the end of the field was a drop of maybe 10m and then trees. This made for the most exciting part of the flight as the trees were taller and closer than I expected. Sadly the clouds had rolled in 10 minutes before, spoiling the view of the magnificent Machhapuchhre and the Annapurnas. We followed some big birds to the thermals but for lack of pilot skill or too much weight we didn’t seem to gain as much height as the other gliders that were spiraling around. Tactic two was a little bit more exciting but no more successful, the pilot flew straight at the ridges of the mountain and as we neared each one the air rushing up the other side gave us a boost in height and silenced the constant beeping of the altimeter. The landing was pretty simple and incident free. A few of the other ‘clients’ and myself were a little disappointed that we didn’t get a full 30 min flight due to one of the pilots turning up late. Paragliding was pretty cool, the views were nice but it was far too comfortable and relaxing, maybe it would be better if I was flying myself but it didn’t create as much adrenaline as I was expecting.
I arrived back at the hotel and was surprised to find Rachel walking up the path behind me. She had taken a taxi to the landing site but the taxi driver had taken her to the wrong one, she was upset after wasting her energy and money for no reward. The good news was that her Auntie had returned from her trek and could help to look after Rachel and entertain us with stories from the hills. The trek sounded awesome and we both felt gutted that we couldn’t go on our own. As it was our last day in Pokhara I decided it was time to loose the disgusting man patches that infected my face and get a shave. After being shaved twice the barber started massaging my head and neck which was nice but it was getting dark and we wanted to go on the lake so I paid the man his massively extortionate tourist price and we pootled off to rent a boat. I was designated as the engine, to row Rachel and her Aunt around the lake. After 2 hours my shoulders were numb and Rachel was shaking with fatigue; we made one pit stop at the island temple before returning to shore. Rachel had lost all her energy and required quite a bit of help to walk the 500m to the hotel. While she rested in bed I went for a delicious meal with Auntie Rachel and Sarah; we shared three Nepali Thalis (I love how you get free refills), while I was told more stories from the hills which made me very jealous.
The next morning I got up early and plonked myself on the bus seat at 7:15am. I was quite saddened by the fact that the best view I got of the ridiculous Annapurna range was from the bus window as we drove out of the bus park. I must return and walk among those outrageous hills. I just wish I had some better pictures to show you. Only in person can the scale be truly appreciated and despite clouds and buildings getting in the way it is possible to imagine how big the mountains are but when the clouds and buildings get in the picture the size and atmosphere cannot be portrayed as well. My bus journey was okay with two stops; for breakfast and lunch, the roads were mostly good apart from the last 10km where only one half of the road was tarmacked, and it wasn’t our side.
At the airport I realised I couldn’t get in without my plane ticket, which Rachel had. Luckily her flight had gone to plan and she was already inside, sat by the window waiting me to walk past looking confused and concerned. I made it passed security and we waited for 4 hours for our plane. Rachel seemed to be surviving, her re-hydration formula of Pringles (for salt) Starburst (for sugar) and water (for water) was going well.
The first flight from Kathmandu to Bahrain (6hrs) went okay; Gulf Air supplied us with some tasty food and the films kept me entertained. The connection at Bahrain was super simple. No extra security and a 2 hour connection time allowed Rachel to grab an hours kip on the floor.
We flew from Bahrain to Frankfurt (7hrs) at 2am so I was tired enough to not remember it being that painful, I may have even slept. They gave us an okay breakfast and we landed in Frankfurt on time. Frankfurt airport is gigantic and bit more confusing than Bahrain. We stopped in Starbucks for a coffee and a muffin; we hoped there would be free wi-fi so we could send an update to Canada. Sadly no wi-fi so after brushing our teeth and spilling Rachel’s tea we left and took the sky train thingy to the next terminal. After no more luck with wi-fi I got the sky train thingy back to the other terminal to use the computers stuck to the wall, I also bought some outrageously expensive water for €4. I told Rachel to ration it. With the board now switching from showing no specified gate for our flight to saying that it was boarding we hurried off. To our dismay there was a huge security checking queue! After showing the attendant that our plane was boarding she let us skip the queue, this is when the security check found the hardly sipped bottle of water in my bag and threw it in the bin before we had chance to quench our thirst. I was slightly pissed off.
Minutes later we boarded the Air Canada plane and settled down for the 10 hour flight. I managed to watch 10 hours of films and TV while Rachel succeeded in out drinking everyone on the plane, requesting at least 2 glasses of water and one orange juice every time the hostess went passed. The aeroplane food had been kind to Rachel, she probably ate more during the journey from Kathmandu than she had in the previous 4 days. Eventually the plane on overhead screen neared Calgary and a sense of relief joined the feeling of disgusting tiredness. Without her permanent resident card Rachel had to go see immigration while I took the longer foreigner queue. We collected our bags and could smell freedom until the final hurdle caused a stumble and we had to have our bags searched. I didn’t know if they would steal our imported Chai and was quite nervous about the loss of these tasty spices and the annoyance of emptying our 60 litre rucksacks. Luckily the man was nice and probably a bit bored so after we explained our story he only checked Rachel’s hand luggage and sent us on our way.
It was a strange feeling being in Canada, everything had happened so fast that it didn’t quite sink in until a few days after arriving, the 12 hours of jet-lag probably didn’t help either. It was perhaps a week before I felt any sadness about leaving Nepal and the realisation that we weren’t going to Thailand for Christmas. With only one pair of trousers, one jumper and one haggered old coat my main concern was getting some more clothes to face the -5 degree weather. It was nice being able to drink the tap water and eat vegetables that hadn’t been boiling for 48 hours and the coolness of the air was a pleasant change from muggy heat, but the views are less spectacular and although its awesome in Canada its not as bad ass as Asia.
Its strange not having a plan of what to do as even in India and Nepal we had vague ideas of where to go and what to do. We’ve been spending the week days in the AWT Technologies office writing our CV’s and applying for jobs! Much earlier than we expected and from the other side of the world. In the competition Rachel has applied to more companies whereas I have been contacted by more headhunters. Some practice aptitude tests have shown that my brain cells have gone to sleep during my travels and some drastic measures (revision) will have to be undertaken to get through this job seeking process.
Despite the snow and negative temperatures, we managed to grab a days climbing at Moose Mountain. A Chinook increased the temperatures to an acceptable level but the fingers still numbed out. The ridiculous valley of Moosey has more un-climbed rock than I have ever seen, partly because its spattered with choss and mainly because its in Canada, in the hills, 3km cycle from the road. The rock is steep limestone, kinda like Pen Trwyn, but instead of sea there is a mirror image of the crag on the other side of the valley and a snowy dirt track instead of the toll road, oh and its taller too. After 2 months of no climbing and no travel insurance I decide it was best to top rope. I did 4 routes with Rachel’s parents while she tried not to freeze and curled up in everyone’s spare clothes. After a few hours of fun time was up, the sun was setting and the slush on the dirt road was beginning to freeze over again.
We’ve begun to download the silly number of photos and organise the best ones into a slide show for all you inquisitive nosey people 🙂 . It’s snowing heavily here right now and psyche is high for some skiing and ice climbing soon.