Magic Mushroom Dealers and Mountain Biking: Nepal. Daily Vlog: 49

I grab the mountain bike from my hostel “The Hotel Cherry Garden” and head for the hills on an adventure in search of the Friendship Stupa. Along the way I get completely lost in the farming land of Pokhara, get hassled out by a Magic Mushroom Dealer, almost die riding up the 1100m high mountain, barely escape from a out of control motor bike, dodge lightning and crazy Nepalese bus drivers and then have diner with the manager of Hotel The Cherry Garden. Oh he also makes me the most incredible coffee I have ever had. Hand ground organic coffee, Hemp Filtered and poured down a sandalwood stick, It was epic.

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Tashi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Settlement.

I leave the chaos that is Kathmandu, jump on a plane and head to the most incredible place, Pokhara. I had heard about a very special settlement just a 30min drive from the town centre so we decided to grab a cab and head out see what it was all about.

Tattered Passport Pokhara

A gift from the Dalai Lama

We arrive at the Tashi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Settlement and were greeted by a beautiful gateway and a very unique script written on it. Through out my time in Tibet we had not seen any reference to his holiness the Dalai Lama. This left a huge gap through out Tibet, as the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism the Dalai Lama is held in the highest of regard, however it is illegal to even talk about him in Tibet. So it was so beautiful to see his name right there in big letters, inviting you into the settlement. “Given by his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama”, I new instantly this was a special place.

Tattered Passport, Pokhara

Tashi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Settlement

Tattered Passport, Pokhara

om mani padme hum

I dropped a “tashi Delek” and was instantly welcomed with open arms into their settlement. We were shown around by a beautiful Tibetan lady. Then I was invited into the Butter Lamp, prayer room and shown how to pray. This was a magical moment for me, I was able to give something back to these beautiful people, I purchased a butter lamp, said a prayer and was blessed.

Tattered Passport, Pokhara

Prayers and Butter Lamps

There are estimated 13000 Tibetan People living in exile in Nepal according to the The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). I am unsure of the number at this settlement. The people living at the settlement are kind of stuck between to worlds, it is very difficult for them. I do not pretend to understand how it all works for them, but from what I gather is that they are not allowed to work in Nepal. The only way that they can earn money is by selling some souvenirs. They have a small gift shop which sells hand made crafts, and as you walk out from the settlement you pass through a make shift market. Here you will find some amazing jewellery I am a big fan of beaded bracelets and necklaces and I was in heaven here. They are all hand made and you purchase them from the person who made them. In attempt to spread my money around I tried my hardest to by something small from all the stalls. 

https://youtu.be/7XB8nN0pR7g

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Bring Back Our Girls: Nepal Demonstration and Daily Vlog: 33

Finally I get a chilled out day, my days are always full on, adventure and exploring, such a hard life hey? So it was great to have a semi relaxing day. Saying that we did go visit the Pashupatanath Temple and walked through the villages until we found the Boudhanath Stupa.

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Pashipatnath Temple

The Pashupatinath Temple is Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple and is located on the banks of the Bagmati River 5 kilometres north-east of Kathmandu Valley.The entire precinct is on the UNESCO World Heritage sites list and is a place not to miss when visiting Kathmandu. It is full of colours, cows wonder free around the site and some interesting smells float around. The Bagmati River is considered sacred and many cremations happen here. The cremation happens in plain site, something slightly odd for westerners, however a sign of respect for the people of the temple. There are two spots for cremation inside the site, each side of the bridge, one for the people and the other side is for both rich people and people of importance. It was very strange to watch a cremation happen before our very own eyes. I new I was allowed to watch but I still did feel uneasy, like I should not of been there, like i was intruding in on a grieving families special moment to say goodbye. Could you imagine in Australia, just a bunch of random people hanging around and watching your parents funeral? It was interesting to see the deceased person treated with the upmost respect, they were washed in the sacred water, covered in beautiful colours and surrounded by their family. It was beautiful moment, but I could not shake the feeling that I should not of been there, so we hit the road and went looking for the Boudhanath Stupa.

We had a map and decided it would an adventure to walk there. So we followed the map through the local neighbourhoods, all the local kids were very intrigued at these foreigners walking through their neighbourhood they would all come out and say “Hi”, I got the impression that might of been the only english word that they new, as they would say it over and over again. We didn’t feel uneasy in this area, it did look very rough and extremely poor, so I didn’t pull out my camera, you just never know and I don’t like to attract unwanted attention. However I could not resist when we came across an empty paddock full of mature Marijuana plants just growing wild. They were huge and you could really smell them. So we snapped a few photos for fun and went on our way. I did not want to hang around there for to long, as I believed that the plants even though they looked to be wild, probably “belonged” to someone and they most likely would not want to me to be mucking around them.

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Weed grows everywhere

We soon made it to the Stupa, and it was packed as always, It was my 2nd time here now. I always get this chilled out vibe when i enter a Buddhist site, today was no exception. The prayer flags, peacefully waving in the breeze and the beautiful sound of “Om Mani Padme Hum” playing from almost every shop, just created a beautiful atmosphere. As we walked around the corner there was a small peaceful demonstration happening. This was at the time that the young girls from Nigeria had just been stolen by the brutal Nigerian Terrorist group Boko Haram. It was chilling to hear about the abduction and then seeing this group of young people was amazing. The group attracted an audience and I am certain a large Social Media hit. #bringbackourgirls

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Boudhanath Stupa

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#bringbackourgirls

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

One Hectic Day. Daily Vlog: 32

I jump in a cab and head off to Durbar Square nice and early only to find out that I am completely in the wrong spot and need to walk back to where I had just come from. I had been in contact with a few peeps from our Mt Everest Base Camp trek, CJ and Simone and were going to have some breakfast with them before they head off on there own adventures. After getting completely lost for hours, I finally found them, had a quick breakie and they hit the road and I made the looooong walk to the post office.

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Durbar Square Pigeons

I had planned on sending a bunch of my left over trekking gear that I no longer needed and some souvenirs back to oz, save me from carrying them around Bhutan and Tibet. Be warned if you are going to use the post office in Kathmandu, put an entire day aside for it. The post office is utter chaos, no organisation what so ever, and completely dodgy. They pile up stuff, throw stuff around, there is no instructions on what you have to do. I just had to wing it, push my way through the locals and hope for the best. I was actually surprised when I get word that the packages made their way home. The post officer checks your packages very thoroughly, opening up everything even a Buddha statue I had bought in Bhutan. He then signs some document and you are left in the lurch again. So I wander over to this old lady who wraps your package up in a white cloth, It gets stitched up, very slowly, this lovely lady kept on asking to give her some pot, really. Then you pay her, then walk over to another guy who goes over the stitching and puts melted wax seal stamps along the stitching, you pay him. Then you find out that you have to go next door and pay for the postage and in cash only. You battle with the crazy crowd all pushing in, I learnt very quickly to just push through and get to the front. So after that I was ready to head back into Thamel, I was there for 4hrs all up.

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Durbar Palace

 

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Prayer Flags at the Monkey Temple

That afternoon I caught back up with Luc and made our way over to explore Durbar Square and the Palace. You get an incredible view over Kathmandu from the 9th floor of this UNESCO Heritage listed building. Back in the square, a large group of people had congregated, so we wanted to check it out. Turns out they were filming a dodgy fight scene for a local Nepalese movie. It was pretty cool to watch, but ridiculous as well. We then jump in one of the dodgiest cabs I have ever been in and drove up the dustiest street in Kathmandu and visited the Monkey Temple. I was pretty happy when we arrived there, well more surprised I guess. The temple is beautiful and as the name suggests, there are monkeys everywhere, they are cheeky little things as well. We watched a few baby monkeys playing around in the trees and watched as a “Gang” of cheeky monkeys steel some of the thousands of prayer flags and drag the bundle to there hide out. It was really interesting to watch them, they were just like little kids.

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Monkey Temple

We then found the best spot for the sunset at the Nirvana Cafe, ordered a couple of coffee’s and watched as the sunset over the temple and on “One Hectic Day”

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Young Monk

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out.

Shane.

Good-Bye Bhutan, Hello Nepalese Drug Dealer. Daily Vlog: 31

I can’t believe it, my time in Bhutan has come to an end, I know that I have only scratched the surface of this amazing country, this country full of myths and mystery, I can not wait till i return to explore further. I say goodbye to both Bhutan and a new amazing friend Pelma, I look forward to the day that we meet again. You made my time in Bhutan magical, I learnt so much about your country and have a new understanding of Buddhism, thank you for your friendship, I look forward to visiting again in the future.

So I jump on the plane, this time ready for the crazy take off and it did not disappoint, super steep take off and hard banking to escape the huge mountains, a little more agile this time, we were in a much smaller aircraft. As we began to level out, i got a glimpse of the himalaya’s, some thing that I missed on the way over. There was Mt Everest, standing tall, looking over the rest of the himalaya’s, it was incredible to see the massive mountain from the air. Looking down on the epic expanse of massive himalayan range you start to see why this place is such a adventure travel hot spot. It is both huge and incredibly rugged, with massive mountains, huge cliffs and crazy rivers that rush their way down through the valleys.

#100happydays #day50

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I land in Nepal and ready myself for the onslaught that is the taxi run. I now know how much a taxi fare should cost, but I have no idea were I am staying in Kathmandu, I have nothing booked, I was just going to find some where cheap in Thamel. So I walk out and ask the very first taxi, “400 rupees to Thamel” knowing that I will have to bargain something, he says “No Way, its 1000 rupees fixed price” I laugh to myself, I got a taxi to the airport from Thamel last week for 400 Rupees, I explain this to him, needless to say I don’t get a lift with him, I understand and have no problems with this, he is just trying to earn money for his family and if he can rip an unknowing tourist off, he gets more than twice what I was willing to pay. I go through this a few times and get a driver. But to my amazement he says “Wait here” I soon realise that he has another fare riding with us, to which he explained to him that I was his mate?? So we make it into Thamel, drop the other fare off, I will catch up with him later, really top bloke, I find out that he had charged him 900 Rupees, So double dipping hey??? Anyway he takes me to the “Chill Out Resort” resort is a bit of a stretch, it is pretty much just a backpackers in the centre of Thamel, really nice place actually. I find out that the taxi driver gets a kick back for dropping people off at “Chill Out”, this is how Nepal works, this taxi driver has had a great morning.

I spend the rest of the day wandering around Thamel and getting myself absolutely lost. I am usually really good at finding my way around a city, but I was wandering aimlessly and had not been keeping an eye out. So after hours of trying to find my way back I bump into this bloke named Bubba, the local drug smuggler. The find out more read my early post “My Locked Up Abroad Moment”, I still can not believe that happened. So anyone traveling to Nepal and looking to chill out in Kathmandu, it is an awesome place but beware of the dodgy underbelly, it is everywhere.

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Busy Thamel Streets

 

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Tour Review: World Expeditions Everest Base Camp Circuit.

World Expeditions come with almost 30 years experience in the adventure travel industry and are self proclaimed to be recognised in responsible tourism initiatives, which I must admit did catch my eye. After many hours of research over the net as well as a couple of information nights I decided to go with World Expeditions.

There are many travel companies that operate in Nepal that offer very similar itineraries and experiences with largely varying prices. So I wondered why the large differences in costs? World Ex is not the cheapest, in fact I would say that they are one of the more expensive ones.

The World Ex. EBC. Circuit at $2,690.00 (18days) sounds a little higher than the Intrepid equivalent at $2,425.00. (20 days). Now I am not going to do a comparison as I have not trekked with Intrepid, however I have toured with Intrepid through Tibet. The World Ex trek is a fully catered trek, this means you get supplied, breakfast, lunch and dinner almost every night, the only nights that food is not included are those in Kathmandu. Keeping your energy levels up whilst trekking is vitally important to both your health and your ability to enjoy the trek. World Ex food, to put it simply, is astoundingly good. We never went hungry and the Chief suprised us every day. What he was able to prepare, sometimes with nothing other than a camp stove and cooking on a tarp in a frozen and windy valley was amazing. One night we actually had a full on Italian night, with pizza and spaghetti. I understand that this is not a traditional Nepalese cuisine, and for some that in it self would stop you choosing a certain tour. I am all for and normally do eat, local cuisine, however we found whilst trekking, eating food that you are used to back home is a great way to ensure that you stay healthy and keep the dreaded travellers belly at bay. This is not something that you welcome when the best toilet around is a hole in the ground.

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Breakie Alfresco

When we landed in Nepal we were met at the Kathmandu International airport by a World Ex representative and assisted through the maze of people looking to help carry your baggage or drive you to where ever you need to go. The mini bus/ van is what you would expect in Nepal and we had no issues with it. If you are an adventure traveller you would not be disappointed by the lack of air-con, the seats were fine and I felt safe as the driver made his way through the chaos that is Kathmandu streets. The driver even stopped for us to take a few photo’s of some monkeys chasing us along a wall.

Once we arrived at the Raddisson Hotel, where all World Ex tours leave from we were greeted by super friendly door staff and I could say no bad things about the 5 star hotel. The place is super clean and tidy, the staff go out of there way to help you, the rooms are very spacious and there is free WiFi through out the hotel. They say that you are only aloud 1 free WiFi ticket, that last 24hrs but we were never questioned when we asked for a 2nd WiFi ticket. Kathmandu is known for its rolling blackouts that happen completely randomly at any time anywhere. However Raddisson is one of the only places that have a generator large enough to power the entire building so you only ever loose power for a matter of seconds before it is back on again. This is specially good when the power cuts out and you are in the lift heading up to your room.

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What a view? From the roof pool at the Radisson

The World Ex staff are suburb, our Tour Manager Prasant was out of this world helpful and a super bloke. He was so knowledgeable about all aspects of the Himalayas and was always ready to answer any question we could through at him. He was also brilliant in diagnosing one of our trekkers and organising her a Medi Vac out of Gokyo Ri. Even after the local doctor had said that she is fine and not to worry. Prasant had watched the trekker detereiate over the course of the day and decided to get her a helicopter out. We later found that she was diagnosed with HACE, High Altitude Cebral Oedema, essentially Prasant saved her life. This knowledge is worth ever cent you pay plus many many more. If you are like us and this is your first foray into trekking, it is worth going with a highly recognised tour group that has many years of experience. It may actually save your life.

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Day Tour, We visit the Boudhanath Stupa

The Kathmandu day tour, guide was a character, it was obvious he new the city well and was very passionate about his city, however none of us could understand a single word he said. He would talk so fast and with so much energy the story was lost. The World Ex hotel representative who is based at the Raddison to support World Ex customers is very good at his job, he can sort out anything you want from organising a fair cab price into the city, or to the post office on the other side of the city, to hotel transfers. However his customer service could do a with bit of work. He comes across grumpy and unwilling to help, which is actually the opposite to what he is. He can help and is really good at it, as the face of World Ex at the Raddisson this probably needs some attention.

The pre-deperture and post return assistance I believe to be what your would expect. World Ex offer information nights in most capital cities and these nights are great ways to easily ask information about the tour and get a better understanding of what you will need to get and do to prepare. World Ex do hand out a what to bring list, which is very comprehensive. However you pretty much need to leave most of the gear in Kathmandu due to the weight restriction of the planes that fly to Lukla. This did mean that we spent way more on gear than we needed and what we could actually take on the trek. I believe the list is most likely a generic list that they send out to all trekkers, a suggestion would be have a gear list suited for each trek. Any trek that flies through Lukla, you are restricted to 10kg in your trekking bag and 5kg in your day pack. The 10kg already includes nearly 6kg of supplied gear, including your sleeping bag, thermal liner and down jacket. So you are basically left with 4kg for 18days. Not a problem but the gear list that World Ex

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The World Expeditions bag

suggest weighed in somewhere around 15kg in itself. They do supply a really cool World Ex trekking bag that the porters carry and you are aloud to keep. The Hotel do supply a room to store your gear that you leave behind, however it is just a room where everyone stuff from all treks is kept and is not always locked, which is a little concerning, we did not have anything go missing and I have not heard of anyones stuff go missing.

The trek staff are some of the nicest and polite, hard working people I have ever met. You could imagine that in years gone passed porters were mistreated, leaving them to sleep in caves on the side of mountain in freezing weather and paid very poorly. This is now no longer the case, I am not blind and do believe these circumstances still happen. World Ex pay there staff according to the regulations set out by the “Trekking Agents Association of Nepal and the Labour Union of Nepal. They supply staff with three meals a day, accommodation mostly tents, appropriate foot ware, water proof clothing, warm garments, gloves, socks and sunglasses. Porters also receive Life and Income Protection Insurance, they have access to the same first aid equipment that the travellers have. The first aid kit and the PAC Portable Altitude Chamber were impressive to see and to realise that they were carried everywhere. One night the team gave us a demonstration of the PAC and explained to us how it works and what happens once you enter it.

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Portable Altitude Chamber

I would happily suggest World Expeditions to anyone thinking of trekking Nepal. I had such a great time and I felt safe in the knowledge that I was properly looked after by the World Ex team whilst in the mountains. The pre and post trek service I believe was what you would expect from a tour company. They support local people and the communities they pass through.

I have not received any form of payment for this review, it is the opinion of myself. I understand that others may have varying experiences of such tours, which I would love to hear about, so please feel free to comment below about your experiences with World Ex, or any tour company in the Himalayas.

Thank You for stopping by Tattered Passport. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or simply by clicking on the “Follow” button at the bottom of the screen. If you have liked this post please feel free to share with your family and friends.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out.

Shane

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Saying Good Bye.

Saying good bye is never easy, after spending 22 days with amazing people in some of the most breathtaking locations I have ever seen you build a very close friendship. Then after it all everyone leaves and heads off. Today I felt a little alone, so I got myself a massage, wondered around Thamel and did a bit of the Admin side of my blog. Sorry this daily vlog is only a short one. Nothing really happened.

Travel opens your mind and soul for new and incredible experiences. You seek knowledge and look for any opportunity to meet new people. Once when I landed in Kathmandu from Paro, Bhutan I shared a cab with a Swiss backpacker, after chatting on the way into Thamel we decided to catch up for lunch. After lunch we wondered around Thamel and found our way to the “Garden Of Dreams” where we bumped into an Aussie backpacker, who invited us out for dinner and she introduced us to her Chilean friend who told us about a cool Shisha bar where we spent the night singing and chatting over a bunch of beers and Shisha. I still stay in touch with all of them and follow there adventures. This unique way of building friendships so rapidly and then parting ways just as quickly can be a emotional roller coaster but somehow builds the friendship even stronger.

Have you had experiences like these? Have you felt empty when your left alone in a random country after making great random friendships?

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or simply by clicking on the Follow button on the bottom the screen. If you have liked this post please feel free to share with your friends and family.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out.

Shane

Lukla Airport Chaos, The Worlds Most Dangerous Airport. Daily Vlog: 22

Today we wake early full of anticipation, for today we leave the mountains and head back to Kathmandu. However as we found out yesterday many people had been stuck in Lukla for up to 7 days so the village was full of trekkers all wanting to get home so hopes were high.

I take a sneaky peek out of our window and I could see blue skies, however by the time that I walked down to the dinning room the clouds had rolled in and it was a thick as pea soup. It was not looking good, our tour manager Prasant was silently confident, he new this mountain better than anyone.

We got the call and we all rushed down to the airport caring everything we had. By the time we arrived it was obvious that the word had got out and the entire village full of trekkers were there all fighting to get on a plane. It was utter chaos, however what happened was something I would never of imagined would happen in such a peaceful and magical place. In amongst the chaos tempers rose to boiling point, voices were rising and heated words were exchanged. Right beside me a fight broke out between a couple of trekkers and the flight staff. It was a full on fight, with punches thrown, people getting knocked to the ground and the cops having to physically restrain the culprit.

Once we managed to get our way through bag checks and into the waiting room, we were able to relax. It was a mission to get through all that. Prasant came over and said “Now we wait”, and wait we did. Three hours in and we hear the call, “First Flight”. You could feel the energy lift in the room and we were all excited, we were actually going to get out and not be stuck here for days or even weeks. Watching the first plane land and take off was a strange feeling for me. One side I was well this trek is over and I was a little sad, then I was like well lucky we were not getting stuck here for weeks and at the same time I was feeling even more excited as I new I would soon be jumping on yet another plane and heading to Bhutan, it was a little bit of an emotional roller coaster. Then the actual roller coaster started, the flight down the mountain. It is a strange feeling in that plane, on the way up after take off all you do is climb, there is no levelling out at cruising altitude, then you land. Its even odder when you are returning to Kathmandu. You take off from Lukla and start to descend, almost your entire flight is downwards. You can feel it in your guts, really odd. Due to the clouds we were flying much lower and much closer to the mountains. This was both an incredible way to see the mountain, we got a real close up aerial view, however it did mean it was much, much more bumpy.

Once we landed in Kathmandu it was straight to the showers. We had not had a real shower for 18 days and were starting to be a little on the nose. So after a quick spruce up it was out to Kilroys for a last dinner and some celebrations, speeches, singing and later on some dancing.

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The crew Celebrating at Kilroys

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Peace Out.

Shane

Moments of Trekking Solitude. Daily Vlog: 21

We make our way back to Lukla, the small village that our adventure started almost 3 weeks ago. Today is only a short trek, 2 and a bit hours from Ghat to Lukla, however it is all up hill. We start the day with a raffle, trekking style. We all donate any gear that we either no longer want, need or would like to donate to our crew. The gear gets laid out on a tarp and all the items have a playing card placed face up on them. Then all the crew members, Sherpa’s, Porters, Cook, and helpers get to pick a card from the deck and what ever item matches the card, they get to keep. As you could imagine not all the items that the crew get suit them personally, but this is fine, they can trade with the other crew members or sell the gear in Lukla and make some extra money. It is a great way to say an extra thanks to the crew that have helped us reach a huge goal and successfully return safe and sound.

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Sorry just had to take a pic of this tree

Todays trek is all up hill but it is only a short walk. We trek through some of the thickest clouds we have encountered on the trek so far, this worries us all as we have heard that no plane has landed in Lukla for over a week, we quickly realise that we to may get stuck in Lukla. The way that it works in Lukla is that if your scheduled flight is able to land and leave than it does, if it can not and you miss your flight, your are put the very back of the line and wait your turn. This can be days or even weeks. As you can imagine there is sweet FA to do in Lukla other than drink coffee at the local “Starbucks” or drink beer at one of the many pubs.

We slowly make our way up the mountain, the clouds quickly roll in, the air gets very damp and then it starts to rain, luckily only for a short while. We break the cloud level and we can see the gate that we passed through almost 3 weeks ago. It sits atop the last short climb. This gate was not only a gate to the Himalaya’s, for me it is a symbol of what I have just achieved a symbol of what our group have achieved. I know that I was a little emotional as I passed under the gate and I’m certain others would of felt the same.

Tattered Passport, Lukla

We make it!

18 days ago as we passed under that gate we had no idea what lay in front of us. I had no idea of the amazing friendships that I would build and the incredible people that I would meet. I had no idea of the breathtaking sites that I would see or those moments of trekking solitude that are some form of meditation that will change you forever. I am finding it hard to put into words what I learnt about myself on that mountain. I have been touched and I will never be the same.

Nepal I will never forget you.

 

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Have you had similar experiences in Nepal?

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Peace Out

Special Episode: The Trekking Party.

Special Episode:
The Trekking Party.

We make it Ghat and get to celebrate our trek with our Sherpa’s and Porters. They treat us to a night of Traditional Music and dancing. We all had such a great time, a night we will never forget.

Than you to all you amazing World Expedition staff, Sherpa’s Porters and Chief for a your amazing food. You surprised us every day with what you could make in the middle of nowhere.

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One Life, One Search.

Peace Out,

Shane