A Travellerspoint blog

Nepal

Kathmandu and a three day trek

I arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal on Monday Oct 10th after another long 24 hours of traveling and multiple lengthy stopovers in Moscow and New Delhi. The hostel I booked sent a car to pick me up which was a nice bonus. Much easier than trying to find my own way there! I landed around noon so was settled into the hostel by early afternoon. I arranged a 3 day trek through the hostel which would start the next morning. I left at 8am and was driven to Sundarijal, the starting point about an hour’s drive from the hostel. The first day’s destination was Chisapani, 10kms away. The trek was mostly uphill and was supposed to take 5 hours, but I finished it in 3. The second day was a 17 km trek to Nagarkot and was supposed to take 7-8hrs but I did it in 5. The third day was 12 km trek to Dhulikhel and was supposed to take 6-7 hrs, but I did it in 4 :) It was only me and my guide trekking so we went at my pace. It felt good to be out and active again after not doing much exercise in a while. The first and third nights we stayed in hostels which were pretty basic. The second night while in Nagarkot we stay in a hotel, which had spectacular views of the mountain range, so that was definitely a highlight! The trek wasn’t exactly what I imagined. I pictured hiking along and up snowy mountains but to get that you need at least a week. What I trekked through was more green forests, at times seeming jungle like, and along roads between villages. The scenery was still quite beautiful and the Rocky Mountains I was used to out west seemed pretty tiny to the ones I admired during the trek. I arrived back in Thamel, Kathmandu on Thursday afternoon. My cousin Jenny and her husband Erik lived in Kathmandu for a year and had told me of their favorite restaurant, The Oriental Kitchen. I Googled its location and got someone from the hostel to explain to my taxi driver where I wanted to go. It was only 2.6 kms away according to Google maps but it took us an hr and 2 stops to ask people for directions to eventually find the place!! I ordered some momos (their version of dumplings) and chicken chow mien. They were pretty good. After I left the restaurant I decided to get my taxi to drop me off at a Durbar square. After exploring the square I walked back to my hostel, stopping about every 2 blocks to ask for directions. There are no street signs and the traffic is ridiculous! You are getting beeped at every 2 secs to get out of the way as every mode of transportation on wheels comes at you from every direction. It was very over whelming and once I made it back to the hostel I decided I wasn’t going to attempt any more exploring! Lol. I still wanted to go to the Swayambhunath Stupa (a monkey temple) but didn't have much cash left and didn't want to take anymore out. So I asked the hostel manager if he thought I could get a taxi there with what I had left. He said he had a car and could take me in the morning. So the following morning we left the hostel and the car he as turns out to be a motorcycle! Not what I was expecting and it was quite the experience as well! I had to close my eyes a few times for fear of getting hit. Doesn’t make sense but I did it anyway! The temple was cool and the monkeys were so funny. There were lots of baby ones and they were swinging from the prayer flags. After the temple I returned to the hostel, packed and headed for the airport. Next destination – China!

Sunrise in Nagarkot

Sunrise in Nagarkot


Me and the Himalayas

Me and the Himalayas


Breathtaking scenery

Breathtaking scenery


Dinner at The Oriental Kitchen

Dinner at The Oriental Kitchen


At the Swayambhunath Stupa

At the Swayambhunath Stupa

Posted by eppalea 02:03 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Sweden

Ten days in Are, Ostersund and Stockholm

After an amazing month in Africa it was time for some R&R in Sweden. I left Cape Town on the morning of Sept 28 and arrived at Arlanda International Airport outside of Stockholm on the afternoon of Sept 29. I almost didn’t make my connecting flight since I forgot to switch the time ahead an hour on my watch when I landed at Doha International Airport for a 9.5 hr stopover. I fell asleep and set my alarm but since I didn’t change my watch to the local time my alarm was technically an hour behind. Luck was on my side though and by the skin of my teeth I made it to the gate as it was closing. From Arlanda airport I had to take a 5hr train north to Ostersund, the city my friend lives in. I arrived there around 10pm and was greeted by a smiling Hanna! We spent the evening catching up and the next day, Friday, I enjoyed sleeping in while she went to work. Friday evening Hanna and I took a bus to Are, a ski village about an hour and a half north of Ostersund, where her boyfriend Tobben lives. That night we went to a housewarming party. In Sweden, housewarming parties don’t happen when the house is finished, it happens once the roof is on! So I arrived at this party and it was a house with walls and a roof! The floor wasn’t even done. Planks of wood were placed across the beams to make a floor! There were benches, food, booze and Tobben was djing. Not exactly what I had pictured but still fun! The timing of my visit worked in my favor as it was also the fall festival weekend so there were lots of people in the village and a street fair too! On Saturday we checked out the festival and went out for a few drinks. Sunday we did some sight-seeing and then I took the train back down to Ostersund that evening. I spent the next few days relaxing and not doing much, which felt great!! Hanna and her friend took me to a few scenic spots on Tuesday evening as well. It was fall and it reminded me a lot of Nova Scotia. Wed night I took the train back down to Stockholm so I could spend the weekend exploring the city. I learned quickly that Stockholm is not for a backpacker on a budget!! Everything was so expensive that I didn’t end up doing too much. I took in the Royal Apartments and a bunch museums. The Vasa Museum was really cool. It’s a ship that sank in the 1600s on her maiden voyage. She only made it 1500m from the dock before she sank! Three hundred and thirty three years later she was discovered and eventually brought back to the surface. So what is displayed in the museum is 95% of the original ship. The other museum I really enjoyed was the Photographic Museum. A show opened while I was there that featured Nick Brandt’s photography of African wildlife. Sunday morning I left Sweden and headed for the Himalayas.

Me, Hanna and Tobben out in Are

Me, Hanna and Tobben out in Are


Ostersund scenery

Ostersund scenery


Stockholm

Stockholm

Posted by eppalea 00:29 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Amazing Africa

A 25 day journey from Jo'Burg to Cape Town via Botswana, Zambia and Namibia

Africa - it was the trip of a lifetime!!! I highly recommend that if anyone is looking for a place to travel they should go explore the Southern African countries!!

I signed up for a 25 day overlanding tour with Acacia Tours. Overlanding as described by the company is "arguably the ultimate way to experience Africa! Acacia’s fleet of self-sufficient, custom-built trucks are some of the finest in overland travel. Designed with comfort and durability in mind, they are more than simply transport - your vehicle becomes your home from home, and is stocked with all the facilities and equipment (and a few luxuries) to make your overland experience a great one. With forward facing seats and large windows, you won’t miss out on the amazing scenery or wildlife. As one of the team, you’re involved in day-to-day duties including setting up camp or shopping for provisions - a great way to mix with others and meet the local people."

The first 6 days of my journey took me from Johannesburg, South Africa up to Livingstone, Zambia. During this time I travelled with 11 people. Once we got to Zambia our group split. Two went home and 3 went north to see Eastern Africa. The 6 of us who remaining joined a group of 6 who came down from East Africa. We were also joined by 2 girls who were starting their tour in Livingstone. So our journey from Livingstone to Cape Town over the next 19 days was done with a group of 14 people. The majority of them were from the UK, along with 2 from Australia and 2 from New Zealand. They became my family and it was very hard to leave and say goodbye when the journey ended. I am planning meet up with some of them in SE Asia though so I am looking forward to that!

I took a lot of pictures and to get a sense of what I was up to over the past month I think that looking through them is the best way. All my pictures are posted on Facebook in 6 different albums. If you don't have Facebook (or we aren't friends on fb) you can still view the pictures by using the following links. To view my trip as I experienced it, click on the links in this order. Just a heads up that there are a lot of pictures, but definitely worth a look!!

South Africa - Part 1
Botswana - Part 1
Zambia
Botswana - Part 2
Namibia
South Africa - Part 2

A summary of the trip's highlights in point form are:

- Kruger National Park, South Africa – I did a 9 hr game drive starting at 6am. Saw 4 of the 5 Big Five, the four being Elephant, Rhino, Water Buffalo and Lion. No leopard :( I also did a night game drive. Was hoping to see some lions hunting but didn’t. I did see 5 wild dogs though and apparently they are a really rare sighting. They are South Africa’s most endangered large carnivore.
- Chobe River Cruise, Botswana – We did a sunset cruise on the Chobe River. It was a 2 hr boat ride down the National Park's river. The highlight was getting to watch over a dozen elephants cross the river. So cool!! Also amazing how close we were able to get to the animals.
- Big Air, Zambia/Zimbabwe – Jumped 111 meters off the Victoria Falls Bridge twice! Once bungee jumping and once as a gorge swing. Can’t believe I actually willingly threw myself off a bridge but I’m glad I did :)
- Lion Encounter, Zambia – Spent 2 hrs interacting with a pair of cubs. Got to walk them, pet them and watch them play.
- Okavango Delta, Botswana – We bush camped in the Delta for one night. We were transported to our camp in pairs in little boats called Mokoros. The boat rides were 1hr long. So cool to camp in the middle of the Delta. I got to try my hand at “driving” a mokoro. You use a long stick to push the boat and steer. It was harder than it looked!
- Bushman Walk, Botswana – We stayed at Ghanzi Trail Blazers camp where we went on a bushman walk and learned about the different remedies they use to heal their ailments. We got to hear them speak their name “click” language too!
- Etosha National Park, Namibia – Stayed at this park for two nights. It had an awesome watering hole that was dimly floodlit so you could sit and watch animals come drink at night. Over the 2 nights I saw a pride of lions, a herd of elephants, a couple giraffe, rhino and oryx.
- Spittzkoppe, Namibia – Here we climbed a big rock to watch the sunset and then slept under the stars. Absolutely breathtaking! The moon rose around midnight and lit up the sky. It was incredible!
- Swakopmund, Namibia – Played in the sand here. I did some sand boarding and 4 wheeling through the dunes. Sooooo much fun!!
- Dune 45, Namibia – It is one of the most photographed dunes in the world. I climbed this sand dune to watch the sunrise at 7am. It was a race to get up to the peak on time since the gate to the park didn’t open until 6am and the dune is 45km from the gate. And then it takes time to climb to the top! I was the first one up though and made it to the top just as the sun broke on the horizon :)
- Fish River Canyon, Namibia – Stopped for lunch here. It is the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon featuring a gigantic ravine, in total about 160 km long, up to 27 km wide and in places almost 550 metres deep. Stunning views!
- Highlanders Winery, South Africa – Wine tasting here! Surprisingly I enjoyed most of them.
- Great White Shark Cage Diving, South Africa – Spent 3 hours in the channel at Dyer Island (2 hours south of Cape Town) with Ecoventure Shark Diving where we watched and got in the water with great white sharks. Crazy but fun experience!
- Driving to Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope, South Africa – Spent the day driving down the coast to Cape Point. Stopped at some beautiful look outs and Boulders Beach to see the penguins.
- Table Mountain, South Africa – Took the cable car up Table Mountain to see the views of Cape Town and watch my final African sunset.

Posted by eppalea 08:37 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Argentina & Uruguay

Iguazu Falls, Buenos Aries & Colonia del Sacramento

For starters I apologize for the lack of entries over the past month. Internet is hard to find in Africa and when you can find it, it's very slow. This blog was written a while ago but I never had the chance to post it. I will post a summary of the highlights of my month in Africa over the next week

One bus ride, two plane stopovers, a taxi and 27 hours of travel later I arrived at my hostel in Igauzu. The weather was cold, under 10 degrees Celsius. Of course I would pick one of the only 2 months of the year when it’s cold there. I was exhausted so even though it was 10am I checked in and went straight to sleep. I set my alarm to ensure I woke up in the afternoon so I could go into town and buy my bus ticket to Buenos Aries for the following evening. Around 4pm I took the local bus into the town and managed to find the bus terminal. I purchased a ticket for the 7:15pm bus so that I would have a full day to spend at the falls. I had planned to get up bright and early so I could be at the National Park when it opened at 8am and make a full day of it but I didn’t manage to get there until 11am. It worked out in the end as the Devil’s Throat portion and St. Martin’s Island were both closed off due to water damage to bridges and docks. The falls were gorgeous and when I got to the lower falls the sun came out and created beautiful rainbows.

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

I got some great pictures and the only frustrating part was that I kept taking these wonderful pictures of other people for them but when I’d ask them to take a picture of me they would just point and click. The overnight bus to Buenos Aries was quite comfortable considering it was an 18 hour drive. The chairs reclined 160 degrees and we received a hot dinner and continental breakfast. Upon arriving in BA around 1pm I took a taxi to Milhouse hostel. The hostel was big, nice and I met some great people (and more dentists from the UK that I thought I would ever meet! Haha). The hardest thing to adapt to in BA was the lifestyle. They eat breakfast at 11am, lunch at 3pm, supper at 10pm, pre-game for the night at 12am and head to the bars no earlier than 2am!!! I had it down by the 2nd night but my first night I only lasted until 1:30am, which was okay considering I had to be up early the next morning. I had to leave the hostel at 8am to catch a ferry to Uruguay with my hostel roommates – Gurman from England and Emma from France. I also met up with Jill and Ashlee, two Calgarians I met in Iguazu Falls. We went to Colonial. It was an old town – small and quaint. We just strolled around, had some lunch and browsed the shops. It was a very laid back day. Over the next 4 days I spent in BA I checked out some street markets, the graveyard where Evita is buried, ate a lot of steak, went to a La Boca Juniors soccer game, took a tango lesson and saw a show and partied with friends I made at the hostel. It was a fun time and too short! I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked but I’m glad I went :)

Colonial

Colonial


mmmm steak

mmmm steak


Lining up outside the La Boca stadium

Lining up outside the La Boca stadium

Posted by eppalea 18:19 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Tamarindo

Sun, sand and surf :)

My shuttle to Tamarindo left Monteverde Monday Aug 15 at 9:30am and arrived at 1:30pm. For the second leg of the shuttle ride I sat next to Katharina, a girl from Germany who had been in Costa Rica for the past 5 weeks learning Spanish. She had finished school a week ago and did some traveling around the country and was returning to Tamarindo to meet up with her school friends before flying home in a few days. She was very friendly and when I said I was traveling alone she invited me to meet her and her friends for dinner and then out to the "discotheque". We made plans to meet at 7pm in front of the Subway next to my hostel. The hostel I chose to stay at was called Blue Trailz Surf Camp. Nadina and Mayte (the LA girls I met in La Fortuna) were staying at Pura Vida but the reviews I read were mixed and it was 5-10 min walk to the beach. Blue Trailz didn't have many reviews but most were positive and it was right across from the beach. When I checked into my dorm room there was no one else there yet. I settled in and took a shower. Just as I was getting out the there's a knock at the door. I have a roommate. It's a blonde girl and she speaks English, YES! I find out her name is Hanna and she is from Sweden. She is also traveling alone. She is in Tamarindo for 4 nights and then heads up to Playa Grande for a week long surf camp. I had gotten a message from Nadia that they were going for happy hour drinks at a Nibanna so I invited Hanna along. We got to Nibanna at 6pm and I told the girls I had planned to meet up with Katharina for dinner. They all came along and we went to meet her. When she showed up she suggested we go to Nibanna for dinner! So back we went. After supper we were all too tired to go out so just ended up crashing.

Happy Hour drinks with the ladies

Happy Hour drinks with the ladies

Beautiful sunset

Beautiful sunset

The next day Hanna and I got up and shopped around for the cheapest surf lessons. I wasn’t planning on getting a lesson since I had gotten one last year in Hawaii but she really wanted one and I figured a refresher couldn’t hurt. Our hostel was offering a 2 hr lesson for $45 but we found one for $35 instead. Our lesson was for 3pm so we just chilled on the beach and at the hostel for the rest of morning. The lesson went really well. We both stood up on our first wave and most of them after that. We were going to try going out to the bars again but we were wiped from the sun and surf (and Hanna had 8 hours of jetlag) so we crashed early but not before seeing a giant rat, or so Hanna thought! We were sitting on the porch outside our room, both on our laptops facing each other. All of a sudden Hanna’s jaw drops and she picks her feet up off the ground. “OH MY GOD! IT’S A GIANT RAT!” and shows me the length with her hands. It’s about the length of my finger tip to my elbow. By the time I turn to see it’s gone. She retires to our room and as I was about to too my mom Skypes in. As I’m chatting with her I see the rat, it was big! I tell my mom and she says I need to get a picture but he’s already gone again. As I get up to get my camera he comes back and I see his face more clearly. I think it’s actually a possum. I did manage to get a picture of him but not until the night I left. The next day we got some new roommates - two Aussies (Niall and Warner), a Swiss girl (Annina) and a girl from Norway (whose name escapes me). They were moved into our room because the dorm they were in got rented out by two Asian Canadians from Toronto – Freddy and Andrew. These became the people we would hang out with for the next few days and nights along with Mike and Tom, two Americans staying in another room. As we were hanging out in the common area the subject of the giant rat comes up. Warner says that he saw it too. It woke him up in the night because he thought it was someone knocking at the door! The debate as to whether it was a rat or possum was solved by the owner Steve (who’s actually from Calgary! He bought the place 2 years ago). He said it was indeed a possum (Yay I was right!!) and they find him in the recycling and garbage bins all the time, having to fish him out when he’s can’t get himself out. They call him Possy. Haha!

Possy (he's about the size of a water or beer bottle)

Possy (he's about the size of a water or beer bottle)

Blue Trailz Crew

Blue Trailz Crew


Paddling out

Paddling out

I was having such a blast with all these people I decided to spend the rest of my time in Costa Rica here instead of moving down the Nicoya Peninsula over the next 5 days. Hanna ended up cancelling her surf camp too, deciding to stay in Tamarindo and take surf lessons here if she needed. On Thursday Steve gave us the suggestion to take a taxi to Avellanas, the next town down the coast. He said there was a Marriott Beach Club there where you can pay $20 to get in but then that goes towards food and drinks. It has a pool and access to the beach. He also recommended a great place to eat called Lola’s about a 15 minute walk down the beach. Sounded great so on Friday seven of us piled in a van and headed for Avellanas. When we got to the gate for the Beach Club they said it was closed. Gah! Really! We figured the driver had the wrong place so we just asked him to take us to Lola’s. When we got there I asked one of the servers where the Beach Club was and if it was open. He said yes and pointed which direction down the beach. None of us were really hungry yet so we all started to walk down the beach in search of the Beach Club. We found it and there was no gate from the beach entrance so we just walked in, put our stuff on chairs and jumped in the pool. We were kicked out shortly after as it was closed for a private party. Someone had rented out the whole place for the day. Just our luck! So back to Lola’s we went and on the way it started to rain, and it didn’t really ever stop. We ordered some food and drinks and when we were done we just called our taxi driver to come back and get us. It was raining in Tamarindo too so we just napped and read there until the evening. Hanna felt like checking out some stores so I said I’d join. No need for my camera if we were just shopping. BIG MISTAKE!! We ended up seeing the sunset in the middle of shopping. It was the MOST GOREGOUS SUNSET I’VE EVER SEEN!! I was sooo mad I didn’t have my camera. As I looked out onto the ocean the sky to the left was filled with bright deep reds, oranges and pinks. To the right was this giant dark rain cloud that periodically shot forks of lightning! It was unreal! The next morning I went with Hanna and Annina as they shopped around for day tours to do next week. They ended up deciding on a day tour to Nicaragua. The tours only ran on Wednesdays. Too bad for me as it sounded really cool and I would’ve liked to go but I was leaving at 3:30am on Monday. Turns out there was a group going tomorrow that we could join in on so we jumped on the offer! Around noon, Mike and Tom decided to try the beach club again and take some surf boards too to ride some waves down there. I went along, as did Giovanni - a local who worked at the hostel. The waves in Avellanas were strong and I couldn’t get very far out, so I just stuck close to shore in the white water. It was still fun and I stood up a few times on the new board I was trying out.

The guys in Avellanas

The guys in Avellanas


Posing with my board :P

Posing with my board :P

The shuttle to Nicaragua picked us up at 4:30am. An hour later we arrived at a transfer spot and location to eat breakfast. After eating we got in a new shuttle with five other people to begin our journey to Granada. It was a long drive and I slept most of the way. Our first stop in Granada was a cigar factory but unfortunately for us no one was working because it was Sunday. Next stop was a church that was restored after a fire. Here we could climb to the top of the bell tower and see a view of the whole city. We walked around the city for a bit and then took a boat ride to see at bunch of houses on islands and “Monkey Island”. Five rehabilitated monkeys live on this island. There were four spider monkeys and one white-faced capuchin monkey. We only saw three of the spider monkeys. The rest hid from us. We visited Masaya volcano after the boat ride. This volcano is still active but with gases not lava. It releases Sulphur so we could only be exposed for a maximum of 15 mins. It was still really cool to see. Our lunch in the town of Masaya was delicious. I had freshly grilled fish. We wandered around a market after lunch and I ended up purchasing a beautiful painting of a woman’s face. The market was the end of our tour so around 3pm we started our journey home. We got back to Tamarindo around 8:30pm. Time for me to pack and sleep before getting up at 3am to catch my bus to San Jose where my flight to Iguazu departed from.

Beautiful church in Granada, Nicaragua (not the one that burned)

Beautiful church in Granada, Nicaragua (not the one that burned)


Pretty colorful buildings

Pretty colorful buildings


Delicious lunch

Delicious lunch


Painting I purchased

Painting I purchased

Overall I had a blast in Tamarindo! Hanna and I hit it off from day one and now I’ve added Sweden to my itinerary! I’m going to fly to Stockholm for 10 days after my safari in Africa. As I write this blog entry I’m on an overnight bus from Iguazu to Buenos Aries. I will be there for five days and then fly to Johannesburg. Stay tuned for my next entry about Argentina!

Posted by eppalea 10:26 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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