Tuesday, May 31, 2005

new hospital new treatment

Once I checked back into the lush ViengTai hotel, I taxied downtown to the Bumrungrad Hospital. Wow. It looked more like a high class hotel. The taxi drove me up to the imposing entrance, a nice man in a white suit opened my door for me, I wakled inside and about three "customer service representatives" came rushing up to help me. Amazing. Just the sort of place I was looking for. Yes, I know, not a true travellers experience, but I had had that yesterday with my emergency hospital trip - this time I wanted safe, reliable, Western care. Come on, I have a dog bite! I am running a high risk of infection!

So, I hobbled over to the escalator that took me to the clinic, past a starbucks and a mcdonalds, and over to patient registration. I am now a fully registered patient in Bangkok, and have an ID card to prove it. After that, I limped to the surgery, where I was told I was the next patient in line. I was enjoying this standard of service! First they weighed me, and even their scales were nice, telling me I had lost 3kg. I personally thought I had put on weight, but maybe my tummy is just bloated from too much white rice. Then it was my temperature, and my blood pressure. Finally, I was allowed to see the doctor. My doctor was a Thai man who had great English - he should do, having practised as a GP for twenty years all over Scotland. He was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and a Fellow at both Glasgow and Edinburgh University. We had a lot to talk about. After an argument over whether I needed another rabies vaccination - he said no, I said yes, he being the doctor won - he looked at my wound, and gave it a good clean out. I was slightly worried, but unsurprised that the hospital yesterday had not dressed it well, by "packing in" my deep puncture wounds, but they have now been cleaned propery, and I have been given more antibiotics, as well as a whole bag of medical supplies for me to clean the wound myself. Yippee. Actually, I really am not looking forward to cleaning it out myself, since it will give me the heebie jeebies dealing with a big hole in my leg, and every time I have it cleaned it is so painful the doctor has had to hold my leg in place. Still, I have to be a grown up sometime. And at least this way, I can trust the cleaning, and monitor it myself. First sign of any problems, and I am straight back to the hospital. Unfortunately, after having spoken to my mum and my sister, as well as doing a Google search, chances of infection are reasonably high - around 20%. Not quite so reassuring. Kate tells me if I am infected, I'll need my leg cut off. But then, I can have an attractive stump, and nike are making a customisable shoe that will look good with my springy prosthetic leg. I've got all my options covered.

Sigh. Another evening downpour in Bangkok. Not good for the girl who can only hobble. Think I will be doing a lot of websurfing here tonight until it clears up.

a cautionary tale

Well, it turns out that Thai people don't go running very often, and the reason is that it is an incredibly hazardous activity. I took off yesterday afternoon, and had not been gone ten minutes whenever I had to be driven back to school on the back of a moped. The reason? I had been attacked by two dogs, one for each leg, who had managed to sink their teeth into my right calf and my left knee. It was a very strange experience. Right before it happened, I suddenly realised that I was going to be bitten. It wasn't very sore at the time (shock), but I did fall down in shock, and also the realisation that I didn't really know how to fight them off. I had been fighting the one who was attacking my knee, when the other sunk his teeth into my calf, which is a much deeper bite. An all round terrifying experience. The owner of the dogs got her son to drive me back to school, and from there I was taken to hospital. It was incredibly efficient - none of this hanging around that goes on in British casualty. Instead I was put in a wheelchair, wheeled in, and some nurses right away started to clean my wound. The doctor gave it a cursory once over, asked me why the dogs had bitten me, and then the nurses started poking cotton buds soaked in iodine right in the deep cuts (where the canine teeth really sank in. Now I know why they are called canines!), which was agonizing. I had to grab a pillow to stop myself screaming out. After that, I got another rabies shot, waited around for antibiotics, and was charged 1250 baht. Apparently, I can claim this from the woman who owns the dogs. Yes, like I'll be going back there.

I have to have the wound cleaned by a hospital every day. I also have to keep it dry at all times. Now, bearing in mind that there is no bath where I stay, and the asian toilet is too painful to even use (squatting is out of the question and makes me whimper in pain), I have skipped town and headed back to the incredible luxury of the ViengTai hotel, where I have air conditioning, a double bed, a western toilet, and most importantly a bath shower. This means I'll be able to wash my top half whilst keeping my legs dry. What I do is sit down in the bath with my legs away from the taps, and turn on the shower. This means my head gets wet, but not my feet. I also have to buy clingfilm to make sure this works. And I have to do this for at least 7 days. What a nightmare. Plus, I can't even walk further than 100 yards, so its not like I can go sightseeing. I am going to go to the cinema a lot, I think.

So yes, that's the latest news from me. Please send me emails so that at least I can have some entertainment each day.

Monday, May 30, 2005

I'm now a fully fledged teacher

Ha! I wish, but I have had my first day of teaching. I only had to take three classes, and two were quite easy, because they were 16 and 17 year olds. The 14 year olds were a nightmare, plus there was around 50 of them in the class. How on earth am I meant to control that, never mind teach them any English.

Its strange. Whenever I write things on the board, they understand and can say them, but if I ask them simple questions, like "what age are you?", "do you have any brothers or sisters?", then they don't understand at all. It's kind of book smart English they have. Well, maybe not the smart!

Tomorrow I have a day off, so I will do my laundry and go for a run. I would like to go for a run right now, but am starving, so I would run the risk of collapsing, potentially on the highway. No, I'm not actually going to run on the highway, but I haven't yet found anywhere I feel completely comfortable running yet. So that will be tomorrow's other challenge. I don't fancy getting run over by the multitude of trucks that Thai people drive.

Casey has invited me down to Koh Tao to do a PADI at the end of this week. Tempting that it is, I do feel that I have to stick out at least two weeks. Having said that, it depends on how I feel at the end of this one! Its bad to have other options like that. Though to be honest, I should probably cut back on my spending and not do it. I am saving money by being here (although it was damn expensive to sign up in the first place).

I have been meaning to write this for a while, and today I noticed it again - the Thai reliance on Nestle condensed milk. I have had it so far on pancakes, as Thai iced tea (yummy), and as part of a mocha frappe thing that would give Starbucks a run for their money. Today, it was on an iced dessert. I noticed all the kids were having it, and thought, oh sugary sweet thing that children eat. Then all the teachers went and got it as well. Its a bowl of ice, with sugary pink flavour drizzled over it, and then condensed milk. There are lychees and coconut jelly (the inside of underipe coconuts) as well as sweetcorn hidden in the ice. Weird, and incredibly sweet. Not sure I'll be having again. God help the Thai dental system.

I have a new friend to visit in Bangkok - David who I trekked with in Nepal did some more trekking and seems to have done himself some damage, and is currently in a Bangkok hospital, which sucks. So I'll have to go visit him next weekend, as well as the beach trip that some of the volunteers have planned. All systems go round here.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

meeting n greeting

I have spent the last day in Bangkok meeting other i-to-i volunteers. I am not the only person who has been stranded in the Thai countryside with no hope for escape, so that is reassuring, to some extent. Everyone seems less than enthused about our volunteer group and our country co-ordinator, Ram, who has been described as the man of misinformation. So that also bodes well.

There are about 15 volunteers with i-to-i in Thailand at the moment, and I have met about 10 of them. They are a split between 18 or 19 year olds taking their gap year, and 23-24 year olds who have just finished university. There is one Canadian, Stephanie, and one Australian, Reuben, and everyone else is British. Everyone seems pretty warm and friendly, so weekends will mostly be fun I imagine, although I am not digging the reliance on the Khao San Road for all needs. Too pricey, too touristy. But then again, maybe after having spent a week speaking no English and eating rice for breakfast, then I'll want the glaring lights and British pop music on offer.

Last night I went to see some muay thai, or Thai boxing. I have always hated the concept of boxing (what? people beating the crap out of each other for fun? That's not a sport), but for some reason, Thai boxing seemed intriguing - I'm sure its the aspect of "the other", or whatever. Anyway, it was an enjoyable spectacle, although the kids who were only 13 or 14 weren't much of a match - it was a bit like u14 rugby games. The older guys did kick some ass, but we have a suspicion that the matches were rigged, because one of the bookies's and another blinged up guy in a white suit seemed deep in conversation, and then told us that the last fight would end in the second round, and it did. This is after they took our money from us making bad bets already. Hmmmmm.

So, its back to Pathum Thani tonight, where I'll have to plan my lessons for tomorrow, and get generally nervous about the whole state of affairs. At the moment I'm still at the blind faith stage. I think I'll need more than that when I am in a classroom with 50 kids tomorrow though.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


No, not the mood-enhancing kind. The health ones instead. I thought that I was getting a stomach of steel due to the fact that I hadn't been ill since I have been in Thailand (70% of travellers experience illness in their first two wks of being in a country), but no. Today I was reading my antimalarial fact sheet, and duoxycycline, the anti-malarial I am taking, is also used to prevent traveller's diarrheoa, and in fact, I have just been protected by modern medicine. Bring on the dodgy fish!

well, its certainly going to be a challenge...

I am certainly going to experience the "real Thailand" during my teaching placement, that's for sure. I have already eaten curry for breakfast with my kareoke-mad family next door, met tens of teachers whose names I cannot remember and barely pronounce, and treated myself to an Asian shower. More on that in a minute.

Ever since I got my job with HBOS, I have to say that I have been less than enthused about my teaching job in Thailand, and now that I have finally arrived, I have to say that the enthusiasm is still no longer there, mainly on account of the logistics of my placement. I am in what seems to be a village, which centres on an evening market. There is no public transport whatsoever, no post office, no phone boxes, just the semblances of some open-fronted stores. Now, the bareness of the town would ordinarily not bother me, but I have been placed in this school as the sole volunteer, and with no public transport, it makes it a tad difficult to even visit other volunteers. In order for me to get around, I am to ask the school driver, and apparently he will take me where I need to go, but its hardly very autonomous, and certainly restricts the places I can travel. I have Tuesdays off, but god knows what I will do with them! I think that I will be able to go for my daily run that I have been promising myself though.

My lodgings are rather random. I have a spacious, clean, though not overly furnished room, complete with microwave and refridgerator. (For those who saw it, it is very like my room in Chapel Hill, without the built in wardrobes). The school have been kind enough to provide me with several litres of water, tissues, some bread, and some jam, which I have to admit was rather thoughtful. Its a good thing that I like sitting on the floor, because there are no chairs. I do have a fan, and the windows have mosquito screens, so I can leave the windows open to try and keep the room cool. However, leaving the windows open means that I am subjected to kareoke from next door at all ours of the day. It never stops. This is a family who don't have their own home, but have a flat-screen tv hooked up to a kareoke machine. Well, of course they don't have their own home if they waste their money on that sort of crap! So my Virgin freebie ear plugs were put to good use last night. Like I said before, my room is clean, which is not something that I can honestly say for the bathroom. The shower is unreliable, as is the water supply. If the shower isn't working, then I am to give myself as Asian shower. I did this last night - it involves taking a bowl of water and throwing it over myself. Not too bad. However, if the water isn't running, I am to get a bucket from the slimy canal and wash myself in that. No thanks. I'd end up smelling worse than when I started!

I'm tempted not to teach at all, and just pack my bags and run. But that isn't very sportsmanlike of me. So I'll stick it out for a few weeks, and then see what happens.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

lucky strike

Originally uploaded by scarlettholly.
This is the photo I talked about earlier on. It was taken during an awesome lightning storm on Koh Pha Ngan. There was lightning every night at the beach we were at, and we had tropical storms a couple of times. The lightning of this storm had a frequency of about every 15 seconds, so I just set my camera to rapid shots, turned the flash off, and set the exposure to -2. I got a ton of total blackness pictures, but I also got this, which is pretty cool.


khao san
Originally uploaded by scarlettholly.
You would think with the fact that I have had both cards and cash stolen that I would be able to cut back on the old spending issue, and start living like a monk. Ha! This is Bangkok - spending is what people do. Well, that and a few other extra-curricular activities which also involve the exchange of cash. So, what did I buy? The list is as follows:

3 books - one on buddhism, one Thai phrasebook, and one by Michael Frayn. Now, these aren't too bad a purchase, because I did trade two books in for them.

2 pairs of full length fishermen's trousers - one white, one grey.

2 brand t-shirts - one Tao (Coke), one Singha (thai beer)

1 fake roxy t-shirt

1 short skirt in yellow

1 longish cotton wraparound skirt in blue - tres good for the old teaching.

1 pair of cotton trousers with strange chinese writing down them.

Random cheap jewellry, including a gorgeous eye of shiva.

So yes, I admit that is a lot of shopping. I just couldn't help it. So now I know that I have to cut back, or start selling my soul on ebay. And cut back I will. Only street food from now on - none of this 50B pad thai nonsense! (Just to say, all of my purchases were between the 100-200B mark - that's $2.50-5 in US. Still, it all adds up.

I also posted my belongings home today, which was great. I even have a little tracking coupon, even though I sent them sea mail. One more of my tasks ticked off then. Still have the whole "learning thai" thing to master though.

a couple of inevitabilities

I suppose that if one of the biggest and most famous parties in the world is happening on the same tiny island that you are on, you really should go. That was the attitude Casey and I took to the Full Moon Party, and it more or less summed it up. We wandered around, we talked to people, it was good fun. The whole place had a carnival atmosphere, with people doing koi, a ring of fire to jump through (or stumble through, as most people seemed to do), lots of different sound systems, and everyone drinking buckets. I had a good time, but not a great time - I wouldn't plan a trip around it, that's for sure. We got home at around 6am, and then I had a taxi to get at 10am (later delayed until 11.30), so it was a long night which turned into a very long day and night again travelling back to Bangkok. I'm not very sure how it happened, but I managed to get booked onto the car ferry rather than the passenger speedboat to Surat Thani. I was certainly not the only person who was in this situation, and with only two rather pathetic fans to keep us cool, it was a very long, sticky journey, hardly helped by the hangover fevers. From there, it was another long bus journey, and a couple of hours hanging out in Surat Thani, before our spiffing VIP bus back to Bangkok. I did manage to sleep through the whole bus journey home, and then sleep some more whenever I arrived in Bangkok at 5am this morning.

However, travelling by tourist VIP bus will not be happening again for me. The reason? On the way down, my secret stash o' cash, and Casey's secret stash as well, were both taken from our backpacks, making me $200 lighter. And on the way up, my credit card was taken from my wallet. Nice. So yes, no more tourist bus for me. Public transport all the way.

I'm in Bangkok now, and I start teaching in a couple of days. This situation is worrying me greatly, and I really have no clue how I'm going to manage this, but I guess I'll find out tomorrow whenever I meet my coordinator, Ram. I have just found out that I am the only volunteer starting out this week, but hopefully there will be more than just me teaching. If there isn't, I'll be running like the wind.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

definite lack of activity

Moving beach was the greatest decision. Haad Thien was pretty, but it just wasn't as beautiful as where I am now, which is Mae Haad, or Koh Ma. Most definitely wonderful, and tres quiet. Casey and I are in a bungalow for 150B (ok, so the water doesn't run clean, but still, we have to sea to wash off in!), and all we do is wander and read. We barely talk to each other all day. Perfect. It doesn't help that she has a gimpy foot as a result of drunken incidents in Haad Thien that were nothing to do with me, but it does mean that she has to keep it dry - no snorkelling for her. I haven't actually been snorkelling yet, and tomorrow is my last day, so I am definitely going to go tomorrow. Each time I think about going at the moment, I get a wave of lethargy. The curse of the Thai islands.

I did manage to achieve the unthinkable last night. We get the most beautiful lightning storms here - huge clouds with the lightning flashing through them, so close that you can almost touch them. Its gets windy, but has only rained once. Last night I took my cheapy digital camera out and managed to get some amazing shots of the lightning. It was a combination of luck and logical thinking that I got them. I used the option which takes continual photos, and for every 10 photo of pitch black, I got the most amazing shot of lighting shooting through the clouds. It was very addictive though, and Casey had to tell me to stop before I had a memory card filled with lightning shots. One is so perfect it is getting blown up and put on my wall. Its the only time I've been pleased to have a digital, I think.

Kate, my little sister, and I have been emailing back and forth about her coming out to see me. I'm going to take her to the islands on both sides, and I'm already getting excited about showing her stuff, and taking her places, and she isn't even coming out until August. By then. I will have been to three more countries. Hard to believe.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

bungalows and blue seas

I've been staying for the last week on Koh Pha Ngan, at the Haad Thien beach, although tomorrow we are moving beaches. It is blisteringly hot, and we only sunbathe in the morning. In the afternoon, its more hammocks and dozing. Although yesterday we were rather active, considering the circumstances, and got a boat ride to check out another couple of beaches. Typical of all Thai negotiations, what we bargained for before we left changed once we were in the boat. People say that Thailand is the land of smiles - certainly not among taxi drivers and long tail drivers. Those guys never smile, and instead pout and sulk through most of their journeys.

I am travelling with three other people - we are a cute little travelling family. It consists of Josh from Melbourne, Sarah from Sydney, and Casey from Tennessee. We met on the airport bus, and have been together ever since. Most amusing, and puts to death my fears about being lonely.

Our bungalow is rather small and dark, and inhabited by lots of creatures as well as ourselves, such as a big big lizard that wanders the walls, and far too many mosquitoes. Even though we have a net up over the bed, we still get bitten. Poor Sarah also got attacked by sand flies, and her legs are just covered with bumps. The mosquitoes and the heat at night mean that sleep is fairly fitful. I make up for it during the day with countless naps though.

One of the strange things about moving from country to country is adjusting to a new economy. Life in Nepal was so cheap that Thailand seems pricey. Realistically, I know that it is not, and my money goes pretty damn far (good game - getting your bank balance in baht. Now that makes you seem rich!), but the shock of everything being doubled in price isn't fun. Plus, it makes bartering hard, because what is a fair price?

Although nutella and banana crepes may not be strictly a Thai cuisine, they are damn good, and readily available, and therefore far too tempting. Any plans for losing weight have definitely gone out the window. Not that I was really expecting too. Sarah is also a girl after my own heart. Every afternoon, she is like, "I need cake!". The Sanctuary does do pretty good cake, it must be said. And excellent iced mochas. However, there is also large amounts of far too healthy food on the menu for all the fasters and health nuts. Its draws quite a strange crowd, that place. Trendies mixed with people who are serious about their yoga and feel a need to align their chakras each morning. Certainly not for me. Still, its the other side of the island tomorrow for about 5 more days of sunbathing. Awesome.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

land of temptation and plenty

Thank goodness I am leaving Bangkok today - it is the city of spending cash! I walk down the street and I become poorer, I swear. It is also the city of frustration. I spent so much money yesterday trying to get through to British Airways to change my flights - I finally got that done, many bhat later. I still have some other stuff to book, like my surf school, and jillaroo school. I'll try and do that this afternoon maybe. I'm now going to be home in time for Christmas, which is niiiice. I then tried to post my belongings home, but since it is Saturday, the post office isn't open. What a pain, but it seems that post offices all over the world are designed never to post anything! I'll do it when I come back to Bangkok in about 10 days. Since I'm going down to the islands tonight, I have decided to leave almost everything at the hotel, and just take down my day bag - I'm thinking that all I will need is a bikini, some shorts and vests. I was only going to spend 5 days down there, but I can see this turning into 10. At least.

I had one of my best Thai experiences today. I swear, this country is consigning to make me fat, and I just had some green mango with chilli sugar - mmmmm, delicious. Definitely a highlight. I have also been breaking quite a lot of food rules, like drinking drinks with ice (or consisting almost solely of ice, as was the strange snow cone I had yesterday), and eating yoghurt. Yoghurt, I am sure is good for you, since it gets your body used to strange bacteria. And so far, so good. (Now I'm going to jinx myself!).

Am most definitely looking forward to laying on the beach for a few days. Casey is staying at the Sanctuary so she can do yoga, and I will most definitely be joining her a couple of times to stretch out the old limbs. Am also taking my running shoes in case there is a nice path to go running. Am very much craving exercise at the moment - I think my body might be in shock after having trekked for so long. Besides, if I don't take some exercise soon, all that mango and pad thai is going to start showing up around my middle!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

tuk tuks!

If someone had told me that my first night in Bangkok would be spent eating grasshoppers and racing tuktuks round the city at 2am, I would have told them to take a very long walk. But that's pretty much exactly how it was spent, along with watching a guy eat a scorpion (he removed the stinger) and drinking long islands from a bucket - all with people who I met on the airport bus. Awesome and hilarious. Khao San is ten million times tackier than I ever imagined, everyone here is tan, and since all six of us had flown from Kathmandu, we spent most of the bus journey marvelling at the fact there seems to be a highway system here, and the roads were actually paved. Wonders will never cease.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

goodbye to nepal

Originally uploaded by scarlettholly.
I am leaving Nepal tomorrow to fly to Bangkok. I have to say that I have got quite fond of ramshackle Kathmandu, where all the buildings look only half-finished. Am sure that Thailand will be filled with other such delights, like the food. Will be avoiding fried food for the first couple of days for sure.

Before I leave, I do feel that I should make some sort of comment on the political situation in Nepal at the moment. Whilst I have been here, the King has lifted the state of emergency that he had imposed whenever he dissolved the government. However, it is unclear what this actually means, or whether a new democractic government will be elected. There is no free press here, so information is hard to come by. A UN human rights investigative body flew in last week to look at the human rights situation regarding free press, but I haven't seen anything about it since. There has also been a representative from the US here, but whether US aid has been promised has also not been clear. It seems that foreign aid in the form of security has been requested. This billboard is outside the Royal Palace, and I don't know how long it has been here. It does seem rather incongruous, in light of the recent events. Reminds me of communist propaganda, to be honest. On a more urbane note, the familiar ring of mobile phones has started again. Before I went trekking, the mobile phone services in Nepal had been switched off by the King. I also didn't meet any Maoists whilst I was trekking, although my Sherpa guides were searched by the army for weapons (ie being part of the Maoist army) whilst in Sagamartha National Park.

Early flight tomorrow after a bakery breakfast. Its a good thing too, since my rupee stash is running low. Time to break out the baht!


One of the best things about Kathmandu is that instead of bread before a meal, you get popcorn.

I didn't change my pants for 5 days whilst hiking.

I also didn't take a shower for about seven.

Buying magazines is twice the price of buying books, but sometimes a girl just wants to read Vogue.

Getting your laundry done means your whites come back with brown stains. Yummy.

If you go to an Irish bar, there will be an annoyingly loud Northern Irish guy discussing the football.

Diet coke does not exist in Kathmandu, and if it does, it is three times the price of the regular stuff.

Solar power means that toilets and showers don't work in the morning.

Monday, May 09, 2005

ra-ra soup and fried potatoes

Like I mentioned before, food was a serious focus of the trip. This was because Nepalese tea houses do not do fine dining. This is fair enough. One of the things that you become very aware of in the Himalayas is that everything is either sherpa or yakked in, and sherpa or yakked out. That is a very physical, tangible existence. The sight of men carrying huge tins of tuna on their back climbing ahead of us was most disconcerting, and you certainly couldn't begrudge the tea houses their lack of choices. However, eating the same food for 14 days does begin to wear. And the choices were - rara noodle soup, fried noodles, fried potatoes with vegetables, spaghetti, momos, and some soups, and a lot of omlette. Oh, and dal bhaat. Each person had their own personal favourites, although we tried to mix it up as much as possible. Like I said, meat was off the menu. I have to say, my favourite meal of the day was definitely breakfast (hello porridge - dad would be proud of me. Maybe not the copious amounts of sugar I put on as "energy"). Anything after that was just perfunctuary eating. That's why coming back to Kathmandu and eating a chicken basket today, and steak last night, has been positively thrilling. The best thing about Kathmandu so far has been Mike's for breakfast. It was this place recommended to me by Nepali native (Patrick) and we had to walk through a fairly slummy neighbourhood to get there. Just when I was beginning to lose faith, I saw this green sign with the label Mikes, and we found this little oasis of colonial style. And the best breakfasts ever. David got the most huge huevos rancheros I have ever seen, I got waffles, corn bread and bacon (I was overwhelmed by choice and had to get it all!), and every one else got other such culinary delights like eggs benedict. It was less of a breakfast and more of an event. And just perfect for warding off the slight hangover that I had from last night's partying and early start today. My body clock for some reason thinks that 6am is a perfectly reasonable time to get up. Grr. Might well be going back tomorrow.

I've seen bigger

No matter what I see for the rest of my life, I will always be able to answer with "I've seen bigger". It was the catchphrase of the trip, and been immortalized on our Rum Doodle (a restaurant famed for its summitteer board in Kathmandu) foot last night. The trek was absolutely fantastic. Great experience, great people. Today, most people left, and now its just David and I left in Kathmandu. I think we are heading to a party tonight with some people who are volunteering here. You just seem to stumble into these kinds of things here.

But the trek. Where should I start? For a start, it wasn't half as hard as I thought it was going to be, which was incredibly reassuring. I had fears that I wouldn't actually be able to enjoy the views and take in the whole experience because I would be lagging behind everyone crying in pain. In fact, it was completely opposite to that. I loved every minute of the trekking itself, apart from maybe the treks back to Gorak Shep and Periche. By that stage, I was just exhausted, and my whole body was on auto-pilot.

Constant themes of the trip, apart from having seen bigger, was conversations about food (mainly meat, because we weren't allowed any - buff burger anyone?), the state of the toilets, and endless games of yanesh, which is an Israeli card game. The toilets were for the most part asian-stylee, which means squat. Easy enough for a guy, not so easy for a girl who has been trekking for 9hours. Our Sherpa leader, Oam, told us to keep an eye on our pee, and make sure that it was clear, so there were frequent comments opn that as well. Its amazing how open you can be with people who you have only known for 4 days! For some reason, altitude seems to be a diurectic, because at one stage every time we went to the bathroom, we seem to pee about 3litres. Most disconcerting.

Staying in guesthouses was a lot of fun, especiallly since you saw the same people over and over. There were the group of posh girls we didn't like, the Isralis, the Ruso-Israeli couple, and the Danish twins. A nice little sense of community was to be had, and even today in Kathmandu we saw a couple of the same people. There's no escaping!

Probably the best part of the trip was the trek to Kala Patthar. Kala Patthar means black rock, and it was the literal high point of the trek, being at an elevation of 5,600m. And man was it a slog to get up. For the last 25m of black rock that you had to scramble up, I was nearly in tears, but up on making it, turning round and seeing a 360 degree panorama of the Himalayas, with Everest poking up encircled by a halo of cloud, and 3,000ft drops of both sides takes your breath away. Doesn't kill the appetite for a snickers though! Snickers were the lifeblood of my trip. Without them, I am not sure I would have made it beyond Namche Bazaar.

final destination

Originally uploaded by scarlettholly.
Yep, this is a picture of the infamous Everest Base Camp. To get here, we had to hike 3 hours from a place called Lobuche to Gorak Shep, and then a further 3hrs after that, to an altitude of 5,300m. That's pretty damn high, and across pretty shitty terrain. Shitty as in a great big glacier that is strewn with huge boulders, just to make it even more of a challenge. I don't think I have ever been as exhausted as I was that day. One hour after Gorak Shep, I knew that my legs literally had nothing left in them. They were walking on pure habit, and a bit of mind over matter. We had been hiking for 8days at this stage, and climbed around 5,000m total. (The trail has a lot of ups and downs). That's pretty tiring. The worst of it was that every step that went closer to Base Camp was another step I would have to come back at the end of the day. And all to get to an empty camp of lots of tents. Totally worth the pain.

There were two highlights to walking to Base Camp. Not the views, because you are getting too close to the mountains to really get a sense of perspective beyond huge. However, the Khumbu Ice Field is just amazing. It is this incredible ice glacier that looks like a frozen sea mid-storm. Huge peaks and troughs in the ice as it moves. The second highlight was a couple of pretty big avalanches. They just tore down the side of the mountain and sounded like thunder. Anyone caught in them wouldn't have stood a chance. Such power.

finally made it

Originally uploaded by scarlettholly.
Yep, I'm back in Kathmandu after an incredibly boring couple of days. Gnawing off my arm and gouging out my eyes did at one stage seem sensible ways of passing the time. But instead, we had a a rather, no wait, very bumpy plane ride from Lukla. It took much longer than the scheduled 30 minutes because just as much time was spent going up and down as was spent going from west to east. Still, we're here. Arriving back in Kathmandu was like coming to a mad centre of civilization. We stared at the masses of people and literally called out all the things that we were seeing. Pashminas! Fruit! Rickshaw! Internet! Two weeks of trekking in the mountains and you would think we were savages. And Kathmandu is a rather mad form of civilization in all honesty. I am sure that I have mentioned the drivers, and the mad dogs, and the meat in the streets, and the strange men with their violins. Pure madness, in a good way.

Now, onto this rather glorious photo. It is off Nuptse, a huge rock of a mountain behind which lies Everest. If you are in the right place (ie high enough), and the clouds are right, Everest poke over Nuptse's left should, usually trailing a plume of cloud. Whenever that happens, its an amazing sight. The bottom of the picture shows the Everest Ice Field, which the climbers cross on their way to camps 1 through 4. Whilst we were at Base Camp (bottom left of the picture, but probably too tiny to see), we saw some guys carrying back the body of an American who had fallen into a crevasse. Dangerous place.

The dangers of altitude were rammed home to us pretty often. One of our trekkers, a great guy called Jeff, ended up with serious AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), with a pulse ox of 43% (it is normally 85ish at the altitude we were at), and cerebral and pulmonary edemas. If he hadn't gone down when he did (on the back of first a sherpa and then a horse), then he would have died. Once he reached the Himalayan Rescue Centre in Pheriche, he was reassuring told that "they hadn't lost anyone on the bed this season". Luckily he wasn't their first. A helicopter to Kathmandu later, and he is now nearly right as rain. Right enough to come for dinner and have a few beers last night anyway. Damn lucky escape though.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

misty rainy day

I am currently writing from one of the most expensive internet cafes in the world it seems, waiting for a flight back to Kathmandu. I am in Lukla, having completed my trek (much more on that later), and it is incredibly boring. As a measure of my boredom, I am reading a book by Dan Brown, the guy who wrote the Da Vinci Code. Yes, times really are that hard. And yes, it is total crap. Guess I should also say thanks to all you lovely people who leave me comments and claim that I am still on the Lisburn Road. Big fat liars!!! And there will soon be photos to prove it. If I ever get back to Kathmandu. An Israeli guy just told me that the weather is looking good next week. Lukla really is not that exciting. My highlight has been eating an entire box of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles. So much for the Base Camp diet.