Monday Sessions – Nepal


Today’s Monday Session is with Linda who I have known for a few years. In October of 2016 she travelled to Nepal and saw the top of the world. Linda shares with us her experiences seeing Everest from Base Camp and the people of Nepal. Thanks Linda!


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WTW:  You traveled to Nepal in October 2016. Why did you choose to visit?

Linda:  I decided to go to Nepal because I was in dire need of adventure and Nepal seemed to be the right place to go. They had the mountains, the culture and the diversity that I was looking for. After reading the book “Into Thin Air”, I became hooked on the fascination of humans climbing Mount Everest. I wanted to hear people’s stories and experience a small portion of the adventure. 

WTW:  That is a fantastic! You went with a tour company.   Which company was it and how did you find this form of travel? How long was the tour?

Linda:  I was in Nepal for just over 3 weeks and I went on a 14-day tour with G Adventures and I would absolutely recommend them.  This was my first time going on a “tour” and I feel like I experienced the hike in a way that I may not have been able to if I hadn’t had a local guide. While you can do the hike on your own, the local government highly recommend doing it with a guide for safety reasons and to help the economy. We had 2 guides, Nima and Tsering, and 4 porters. The guides have the answers to all of our questions, they kept us going at a great pace, and kept our spirits up when we were feeling the effects of the high altitude.  The porters were so amazing. They beat us to each stop by usually half the time and had our duffel bags waiting for us in front of our rooms as soon as we got there.  They didn’t speak much English, however we felt a bond with them instantly and we were all so grateful for their hard work. Towards the end of the hike, some of the trekkers couldn’t carry their own day-packs due to weakness and oxygen deprivation. Without hesitation and on their own time, some of the porters came back to assist some of the trekkers up to the next stop.

WTW:  What an experience. What surprised you the most in Nepal?

Linda:  This was my first time traveling by myself and what surprised me the most was how safe I felt.  Everyone in Nepal wanted to show you around and teach you about their culture and home.  Whenever I thought of Nepal I though of mountains, however, since going I realized that Nepal has a very rich culture to explore away from the mountains too.  I had also been told that the food was not great, however, I learned pretty fast that when people were talking about bad food, they were talking about the food on the trek. The food in the city was delicious. When I first arrived in Kathmandu, I dropped off my bags and went on a hunt for dinner.  My first meal was so delicious that after I made a conscious effort to eat somewhere different everyday and I was so happy I did. 

WTW:  Great to know. What is your fondest memory of this trip?

Linda: I have 2 memories that really stick out for me in regards to my highlights of the trip. The first is meeting a few other girls on the plane and being able to explore Kathmandu with them for a few days before I met up with the group tour.  I remember getting off the plane after traveling for over 30 hours and seeing the chaos of Kathmandu and wondering what the heck I got myself into.  We went to the Pashupatinath Temple on our second day.  This Hindu temple is very active and there were several ceremonies and cremation fires happening while  we walked along the holy Bagmati River. I wasn’t expecting to be able to witness these ceremonies and the whole experience was very humbling and spiritually enriching. Pashupatinath Temple is also home to several Sadhus, who are wandering holy men who have given up everything in their lives to practice their own spiritual journey in Hinduism.

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The second fondest memory would be meeting the Nepalese people living in the villages while we hiked. Their culture and energy  was so amazing. It really felt like I was out of my realm while walking through the little villages up to base camp. It was so fascinating seeing how they live at such a high altitude without any access to pretty much everything.  The people living in these villages have zero transportation and agriculture is very limited.  Everything is carried on their backs or by yaks. This also includes a lot of the food and supplies that they sell to the tourists.  I really realized how lucky we are to have so many simple luxuries that we take for granted here in Canada.

WTW:  Nepal suffered 2 devastating earthquakes in 2015.  From what you learned, how has that affected the Nepalese?

Linda:  The earthquakes have been quite devastating for Nepal.  What hurt me the most was when the Nepalese people would ask me to tell people back in Canada that Nepal is safe and to please come visit.  It was heartbreaking hearing their efforts to bring tourists back to their country just by word of mouth.  Many guides had reached out to past groups to try and get them to come back with friends.  In fact, a lot of the other tourists that I an into had been to Nepal already and they were visiting because they wanted to bring money into the country again.  Structurally, a lot of monuments and history have been lost forever.  Many homes are also still damaged.  When I asked what I could do to help, most of the locals recommended to just come to Nepal and give directly to the people.  The government distributed money to the people after the earthquake, however, it just wasn’t enough.  From what I understand, tourism in slowly increasing in the area since 2015 and I am seeing Nepal on a lot of blogs recently so hopefully the tourists will keep coming!

WTW:  That is heartbreaking yet glad to hear people are still wanting to travel there. What were you thoughts and feelings when you saw Mount Everest?

Linda:  Seeing Mount Everest was pretty amazing.  When people ask me to describe Everest I usually respond with “it was really, really big, every thing was just really big”.   Standing at base camp, I really understand the desire and the call to climb to the top.  I spoke to several locals who were Sherpas taking people to the top of Mount Everest and what fascinated me the most was how they were still amazed and humbled by the enormity of the mountain.  While us Westerners want to “conquer” everything, the Nepalese people are all about the journey.

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WTW:  I like that, being all about the journey.  Do you have any tips or suggestions for anyone considering travelling to Nepal?

Linda:   Nepal has been making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and reduce some of the plastic they use.  They are especially working on cleaning up the garbage along the hikes, where trekkers will drink a minimum of 2 litres of water a day, all out of plastic water bottles.  My suggestion would be to bring your own water treatment tablets so you can fill up your re-usable water bottle with tap water and then treat it yourself.  I hiked for 14 days and drank about 4 litres of water a day. The more water you drink the better your chances are for not getting altitude sickness and you also save the planet from 56 1-litre water bottles. Not bad!  Many of the trekkers were still buying water bottles regardless of the environmental impact, however I hope that people will think twice.

There are so many beautiful places in Nepal and so many locals who are willing to show you around.  I would explore Nepal solo in the cities however join a group tour for the hikes.  You can also find tours once you land in Nepal which are all very reputable.  Hiking is one of the main industries so they have it pretty down pact in regards to what they need to do to make it successful.  If you are not feeling a 2 week hike there are several other hikes you can do to experience the Himalayas.  A shorter but great hike is the Annapurna Base Camp trek which is done in  5- 7 days. The Nagarkot area is also very popular for trekking with many day hikes and overnight hikes available.  Nepal’s slogan is “once is not enough” and after going, I definitely understand what they mean.

WTW:  Those are great things to know. Thank you so much Linda for you time and for sharing your photos (all owned by Linda and used with permission). It’s great to learn so much about Nepal. It sounds incredible.

*Note: Wanders The World  or Linda are in no way affiliated with G Adventures and all opinions expressed are her own. 

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Sunday Special – Zanzibar, Tanzania


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Zanzibar beach – Photo credit: Public Domain

I am a member of several online travel groups. I like to use them for travel tips and inspiration. It was in one of these groups where I learned about Zanzibar, Tanzania. This archipelago lies in the Indian Ocean, a mere 25 – 50km/15 – 30mi off the Tanzanian coast. Historically the island grew spices which continues on today and retains its moniker of the ‘Spice Islands’. It was also a location ideal for traders to make contact for commerce with those living on the Swahili coast. Centuries later the islands fell under Portuguese, Arab, and then British rule. It was in the mid-20th century that Zanzibar sought independence and merged a union with Tanzania, today remaining an semi-autonomous region.

The islands consist of many small ones and two larger ones, Unguja (a.k.a. Zanzibar) and Pemba Islands with its capital of Zanzibar City located on the former. Zanzibar City is considered the heart of Zanzibar and has much to offer. It is divided into two – the modern Ng’ambo and the historic Stone Town.  An interesting tidbit about Stone town is that musician, singer and songwriter Freddie Mercury was born there.

Want to check out Zanzibar? Well this is what I found about its activities and sights:

  • Historic Stone Town is good for wandering its storied streets, seeing quaint shops and visiting cafes. Time spent at Forodhani Market is a must.
  • There are amazing beaches with stunning sunsets
  • Snorkeling and diving at Mnemba Atoll for a fun adventure
  • Visit Prison Island for a somber trip to the Slave Museum and to see giant turtles at the turtle sanctuary
  • Visit Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park to get back to nature and see some monkeys
  • Take a spice tour to learn more about this important trade

These are just a handful of sights and activities that await you in Zanzibar. I can say these islands have moved high up on my bucket list, that is for certain! 

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Market in Zanzibar’s Stone Town – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Alex Petrenko [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Red Colobus monkeys in Zanzibar’s Jozani Forest – Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Taken and owned By Olivier Lejade from France (P8200036.JPG) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Monday Sessions – Nicaragua


Hello and welcome to the Monday Sessions where I post questions to some of my traveling friends. Everyone has a story to tell of what they have seen with their own eyes. Travelers are no different. Be it fun, practical, eye opening, a learning experience,  or a shift in thinking the experience of new places and people can be an incredible thing. These sessions aim to provide a bit of travel motivation so you may be inspired to craft your tales of adventure. 

Starting the series is my friend Bobby whom I met a number of months ago. Earlier this year he and a friend went travelling to Central America. Of the countries they visited Nicaragua was a his favourite. Here’s what he has to say about this gem of a country.


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The Mesaya Volcano, Nicaragua

WTW:  You visited several countries in Central America on this trip. Why did you choose Nicaragua for today’s focus?

Bobby:  To tell you the truth I did not know much about Nicaragua before I went. One of my best friends is in a punk rock band and his drummer is from Nicaragua so they told me “you have to go, its awesome.” They showed me some pictures and I was sold. Once I got there I have to say it was amazing. This tiny little country has something for everyone. 

WTW:  What areas of the country did you visit? Which was your favourite?
Bobby: I visited San Juan del Sur, Ometepe, Rivas, Grenada, Masaya, Esteli, Somoto, Leon, and Las Penitas. We went on many excursions and hikes in between these as well.

I liked different places because of different reasons, but my favorite experience was hands down in Ometepe. It was mostly to do with with the people I met there and the fact that the island was not as touristy as other places I’ve been to in Nicaragua. This island is made of two volcanoes in the middle of Nicaragua lake, which is the only place in the world you will find fresh water sharks. The island does not have much traffic and most people get around using scooters or motorcycles. There’s a natural spring there which is awesome, and a few good hikes as well.

WTW: That sounds amazing! I can see why you enjoyed it. What type of activities did you do while in Nicaragua?

Bobby: I surfed a lot in San Juan. I watched a couple baseball games in Ometepe between Moyogalpa and Altagracia (the two rival towns on the island). Rode scooters around Ometepe and my friend and I got our licences suspended in the process. Got to experience the Nicaraguan legal system getting our licences back in Rivas. Amazing Spanish colonial architecture in Grenada. Saw real lava at the Masaya volcano. Had some amazing coffee and cigars in Esteli. The Somoto canyon hike was the best hike in all of Nicaragua. And I got to board down a volcano in Leon. 

WTW:  Those make for great stories. What surprised you the most about the country?

Bobby:  What surprised me the most is the diversity and beauty of the country; there is so much to do and so much to see for such a small country. And contrary to what people say it was extremely safe. The prices are also very affordable which was nice. There is a little something for everyone in Nicaragua: young or old, shy or bold, just look at some pictures and you’re sold.

WTW:  Can you name a favourite memory?

Bobby: There are so many but one of them has to be hiking through Somoto Canyon. It was a hike that involved both swimming and hiking through a gorgeous canyon. We did some cliff jumps at one point and rode in a boat at another point. The hike was one of the most beautiful I have seen. 

WTW:  That is fantastic! Nicaragua sounds amazing. Any tips or suggestions for travellers considering visiting Nicaragua? 
Bobby:

  1. Just go, you won’t regret.
  2. Take the local buses (chicken buses) they are really cheap and fun. Every once in awhile people get on the bus and sell a wide variety of stuff. For example: food, drinks, candy, medicine, groceries, electronics etc. It’s like experiencing going to the mall from your seat on the bus.
  3. Travel a bit off the beaten path, this way you will see the true Nicaraguan hospitality. Ex: one of the person that worked at the hostel lent us his spare scooter. He just met us and trusted us with it. Wow.!
  4. If you like to party go to San Juan del Sur for “Sunday Funday” it’s a massive pub crawl. Also stay at Big Foot Hostel in Leon, they are the original volcano boarding hostel. 

WTW: Thank you so much Bobby. I agree with you that it sounds like it has much to offer everyone. Below are a few photos that he agreed to share (all photos taken and owned by him).  If anyone has comments please add them below.

Happy Travel from Wanders The World.

Volcano boarding outside of Leon

Volcano boarding outside of Leon

My friend Volcano boarding in Leon

My friend volcano boarding in Leon

 

 

Me and my friend riding on a borowed scooter

Me and my friend riding on a borrowed scooter

Grenada

Grenada

Drinking from coconuts on Ometepe

Drinking from coconuts in Ometepe

Sunday Special – Montreal


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View of Montreal from Parc Mont Royal – Photo credit: Taken and owned By John Lian (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Today we will check out the city which I think is the coolest in all of Canada and that is Montreal.  This fun city is the largest city in the province of Quebec and the second largest in Canada after Toronto. Not only that, this city is the second largest predominantly French-speaking city on the planet, just after Paris. Additionally it was recently ranked as the world’s best city to study abroad by Quacquarelli Symonds. Finally, Montreal is celebrating its 375th birthday this year. Which if you don’t know, makes it older than Canada (which turns 150 on July 1).  Montreal wa founded on what was Hochelagaa St Lawrence Iroquois village in the 15th century, though First Nations peoples inhabited the area for centuries longer. It was part of New France until the mid-18th century.  Today Montreal is a vibrant and social landscape that has a bit of a European feel to it. It has been far too many years since I visited though I do recall enjoying the vibe of the city a great deal. Perhaps another visit is due.

  • Visit historic Old Montreal and take in various sites such as Bonsecours Market, the Old Port of Montreal, and the picturesque Notre-Dame Basilica. Or perhaps you’d like to wander its cobblestones streets via food tour?
  • Take in a pretty city view from Parc du Mont Royal (Mount Royal Park) or visit the Jardin Botanique de Montreal (Montreal Botanical Gardens) in Parc Maisonneuve?
  • Foodies rejoice – Montreal has some great restaurants and dining of all ranges, though do try the Montreal-style smoked meat, the bagels and of course poutine!
  • Sports fans take in all manner of games to watch:
    • Montreal Candiens NHL hockey
    • Montreal Allouettes CFL football
    • Montreal Impact MLS soccer
    • Auto racing
    • Boxing
    • Women’s hockey
    • Tennis
  • Music and comedy festivals abound

I don’t think my list has done this city justice though I hope it inspires you check out Montreal at any time of year. 

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Vieux-Port Montreal (Montreal Old Port) – Photo credit: By Joanne Lévesque (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style bagels – Photo credit: By Garyperlman at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style smoked meat – Photo credit: By chensiyuan (chensiyuan) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons