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 – Belize


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San Pedro Beach, Belize – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Areed145 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Not long ago a couple friends spent some time in Belize and absolutely loved it. So I though I’d take a look at this small Central American country that does not have a Pacific Ocean coastline. Since it is on the eastern portion of Central America its shores are the Caribbean Sea with neighbouring countries of Mexico and Guatemala. Those shores are one of the big attractions to this locale. Beaches are plentiful along the seacoast as well as on the many islands found nearby. Ambergris Caye is the largest island and possibly the most well known.

So what are all the wonderful things to see and do in this adventure-packed country? Plenty from what I have garnered. Let’s take a look.

  • The plentiful and beautiful beaches, as mentioned above
  • Adventure sports such as zip lining, jungle treks and hikes, repelling and spelunking, caving, kayaking, and diving are yours to enjoy
  • Mayan history and ruins, many of which can still be visited. These include the impressive El Caracol and ceremonial site of Altun Ha
  • Marine and underwater activities – with the world’s second largest barrier reef and the impressive Great Blue Hole make it a haven for divers and snorkelers 
  •  Food! Try Creole Johnny Cakes for breakfast, some ceviche for lunch and rice and beans or conch for dinner

Belize sounds like it has plenty to offer! 

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UNESCO World Heritage Site, Belize’s Great Blue Hole – Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain

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Altun Ha Mayan Ruins, Belize – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Photo Credit: By The original uploader was Aquaimages at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Sunday Special – Finland’s Saunas


‘What an odd post to showcase on the Sunday Special?’ you may be asking. Well it is an integral part of the Finnish culture. Also, you may be invited to experience this steamy little room on travels to Finland. Finally, I am of Finnish descent. In fact, I am a first generation Canadian as my parents were born and raised in Finland. They eventually immigrated to Northwestern Ontario where I was raised in one of the largest Finn populations outside of Finland.  I grew up with a sauna (pronounced “sow-nah”) in our home and miss having the accessibility to one here Vancouver.

The use of this type of bath in Finland goes back for centuries. Historically it was not only a place to bathe but also to prepare foods, childbearing and to treat illnesses.  These days a sauna’s purpose is aligned more with relaxation and cleansing oneself yet still a deeply ingrained part of the culture, history and mindset of the Finns. It was and still is a place that makes a home and is to be treated with respect. Using a sauna is not an occasional occurrence. It is something that  is used several times a week. When I visit my parents it the first thing I do!  Sitting in a hot room pouring water onto heated rocks is only part of the sauna ritual.   Birch branches gently slapped on one’s skin is an invigorating treat. Once the heat gets a bit to much it is time to cool down by jumping into a nearby lake, rolling in some snow, or plunging oneself in a hole cut into a frozen lake. The contrast is surprisingly refreshing. In modern times and urban areas taking a cool shower is a reasonable substitute. In fact, I myself have never jumped into a snowbank or dunked myself into a hole in a frozen lake after a sauna. But I would should the opportunity present itself.  After this startling contrast you head back in for some more heat and repeat the whole process. Should you find yourself in Finland make certain you take part in this very important part of Finn culture.

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A smoke sauna (wood-fired) – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Teemu Markkanen By Teemu Markkanen ((WT-shared) TeeMa) [CC BY-SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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A modern (electric) sauna – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Todtanis By Todtanis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Special – Bali, Indonesia


The fall weather continues its descent here in Western Canada. Although this part of the country does not experience the frigid cold weather associated with Canada we do get dampness to our bones from the rain that accompanies this season. The yearly tradition of folks discussing getaways to warmer locales continues. With this tradition at heart, today will be another warm destination.

The island province of Bali, Indonesia is located east of Java. Easily known to many as a sun destination,  the Island of the Gods has much more to offer. The southern region of Bali is among the most visited for these lush warm beaches yet the north also offers beaches – black sand beaches. The south also is popular with surfers and those enjoying an active night life. At the centre of the island is the city of Ubud. It is known as a cultural centre and offers much to see and do. The area offers popular cycling paths, beautiful trekking opportunities, historic Hindu temples, a plethora of colourful Balinese cultural performances, tasty cooking classes and more. Head to the east to visit Mount Agung, a stunning volcano with strong meaning to the island’s inhabitants. It seems to me that the small island of Bali has much to offer!

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Balinese Food – Photo Credit via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Ubud Writers Festival

By Ubud Writers Festival [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Balinese Dancer – Photo Credit via Wikimedia Commons – taken and owned by Yves Picq

By Yves Picq http://veton.picq.fr (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Sanur Beach, Bali – Photo Credit via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Inkey

By Sanur_Beach_Panorama_Hariadhi.jpg: Hariadhi derivative work: Inkey [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons