So we left Chitwan this morning. It was sad to leave my elephant. I want to bring her home with me- but I think we’d just fight over food. So….might be better for her to stay here.
But alas, we have to leave, and we make our way to the bar to clear up our tab. I describe it as kind of a new Canadian Heritage Moment commercial- The camera shows us paying our bill….and handing over our credit cards, and then cuts to, “and that’s how they knew…the Canadians were here”…..and the village gets running water and a pizza hut. All because of our contribution via beer sales.
We do the drive…again…as we leave our little village all the kids run wave bye as we drive by. Its pretty cute. Before long we are on that crazy road again, and it is even longer this time because we run into some issues with a bridge that can only take 2 cars at a time. And there are about 234 waiting to cross it in either direction. Honestly, I’m so exhausted from yesterdays sun and excitement that I pretty much pass out the entire time-so even though it stretches for 6.5 hours, it feels only like 6 ¼ hours to me.
We arrive back at our hotel, the Shanker Hotel, in Kathmandu and we hit the pool within minutes-after securing the exact same rooms as last time. We meet at the pool bar and order some foods, pizza/fries/nachos and have a Muppet snack and some drinks. And just sleep the day away. It’s a nice break for us as we’ve been on the go for what feels like 3 weeks. I look back at the older Blog posts now and I can’t believe it was in this life time….side note: I want to thank all you Muppeteers out there! Readership is up to over 750 per post, well over 10,000 for the India/Nepal posts so far. Amazing! I’m so happy you are all reading and enjoying our specific kind of crazy…hopefully there will be more to come soon as we find another adventure down the road.
Okay so, we finish out the night at the pool bar, and then up to our rooms for the great trip re-org. This happens every trip. Its where we all do a re-pack to get the weights right….and all the couples fight. Its tradition. This in no different. And it always ends with us getting the weights JUST RIGHT, and Nicole bringing me back the blow dryer I lended her back in Delhi in 1987 and saying-“here, your gonna need to pack this yourself. I don’t have room.” And then the sisters are fighting too. It’s a whole thing.
We finish the packing and meet for one last dinner….the hotel restaurant for some traditional Napali Momo’s and some spicy Chinese food. We’re full and happy and make our way to bed, excited about tomorrow…and now that it happened I can tell you all about it. I didn’t want to talk about it before hand, because there is only about a 30- 40% chance of it actually happening….
We have booked a flight around Everest!!!!! The bus picks ups up at 7am tomorrow, and I’m equally excited and scared to death. The flight to Delhi last time just about did me in, and this is a quick flight on a 18-20 seater plane, around the Himalayas…sounds super safe. But I’ve come this far, and I’m not giving in to fear now. So we are up and ready at 7…bags all packed and in our rooms, we should be back to get them before check out at noon. If not, something has gone terribly wrong. We meet our pick up and excitedly climb into his 56 degree van- I ‘m super ready to get back to the 5 degree comfort of Halifax-or so I say right now, ask me in 24 hours…..
We pull into the airport and go through security and make it to our check in counter. We are booked with Yeti Air! How adorable!! We hand over our passports and get our tickets, then walk to our gate- and wait. We have about an hour wait before we will even know IF the weather is okay for the flight. It looks fine here in Kathmandu-sunny and hot, but apparently things can be MUCH different near Everest. So we anxiously wait for the ‘cancelled’ sign to show up over our flight…and at the moment I’m not sure if I wouldn’t prefer that. I’m pretty much scared to death. While we are waiting we check out the airport bathroom, squat pots and one western toilet. We line up. Might as well pee one more time before we die. And it’s a typical bathroom here. There is liquid all over the floor, and you can’t be sure weather is bodily fluids, or water poured on the floors to clean them…but we’ve done this before. No point in putting it off. You just get in there and do your thing, and hope you don’t catch the Rickets, or have 2 inches of urine soaked into your pants. As we leave a little British woman walks towards us, stank face and clearly unhappy, passport in her mouth to hold it while she applies hand sanitizer…. And takes the passport out of her mouth and says. “my god, these people, so dirty. I hope you girls didn’t touch anything in that bathroom!”…..passport back in her mouth as she closes up her purse. and maam, I hope you plan on gurgling with that hand sanitizer……cause you probably have the Hepatitis from your passport you fool. Honestly, people can be so ridiculous.
After a while, about 30 minutes late, we finally board a bus that will take us to the tiny death trap-I mean plane. But the couple next to us tells us that this is their third attempt-each time they get on the plane only to be told the weather has changed and they can no longer make the flight. So there’s still a chance this won’t happen. This is either going to be terrifying, epic, or disappointing. I cant think of any other outcome possibilities.
We make it to the plane, and each are seated, each in a row all to themselves. I’m used to having Chris’s limbs to break when I freak out during take off and whatnot, so I’m not sure how this is going to go. I look over and see Nicole is swallowing hard too, we’ve both got a case of the scaredy Kathmandu’s since that one flight into Delhi. But, we buckle up, and against our better judgement, we both hope silently that we get to do this! One last adventure before the end of this epic trip.
After about 5 minutes of being seated, the stewardess comes on and tells us we are taking off in 2 minutes. GULP! I brace myself and hope this is worth it……and take off we do. Smooth and steady. No issues at all. And then we start to see them….the Himalayas. When your in Kathmandu, you can’t see any mountains…even though you know there all around you. And I’m sure given the right day you may be able too…but since we’ve been here, the only time we see any type of mountain is when we drove through them, and in the later afternoon when the haze lifts a little. But now we can clearly see that it is SURROUNDED by these giants. I can’t describe properly in words how magnificent they are. They almost glow…each mountain that comes into view impossibly bigger then the other-snow blowing off each peak. Reaching out over the clouds. And the blue stone next to the white snow all with the fluffy clouds below- it’s a Bob Ross painting some to life (and I’m pretty sure he spent some time on freak street….). As the mountains come more and more visible, the stewardess comes to each of us and hands us a map-a picture really-of the mountain range that we will see, showing us where we are on it and how far we are from Everest. Then she tell us that as Everest comes into view, we will be allowed, one by one, to go into the COCKPIT. I mean I’m all about an adventure, but I’m terrified….SO torn between fear and how badly I want to see it in person. But, like I’ve decided to live: sometimes you just have to do it afraid. And I do. Shaking I stand up and I shake all the way to the front, sitting to wait my turn – the woman next to me says in an Australian accent, “Love if your too scared you don’t have to do it…”, and I look behind me for reassurance from Chris….and I see them. All Three Muppets waiting their turn directly behind me. Doing it afraid with me. And I brush away the fear, and swallow the lump seeing them gave me, and I get up and walk to the front. It. Is. BREATHTAKING. The mountains in full panoramic for as far as I can see. And then one of the pilots points and says, “Everest”. And my heart skips…. No way. I’m looking directly at Everest. And I’m speechless. I croak out a “Wow” and “you two are so lucky!” and he smiles and says, “Yes we are. So are you.” And its just too much. The end of this epic trip and words so true they make my very soul ache, and again after one pic, I watch for few minutes, and I’m walking away with tears threatening to spill, walking past my Muppets- fist pumping as I walk by. Its all so surreal.
When I get back to my seat and the others are also done their turn we are close enough to really have a good look out the right side of the plane…and the stewardess passes out Champagne and congratulates us on the rare treat of having seen Everest in person. So we take a few more pics and fly around the mountain at a safe distance and just stare. Its hard to get the full scope of it, to realize how high it is, but as we travel around it you can certainly see what draws people here. Mind you, NOTHING in me has a desire to climb anything except my bed- but I get it. Its infectious. And I find myself with the adrenaline shakes? Does anyone else get those? Just a slight shake and nervousness that you can’t put your finger on… that’s what it does. Like the feeling you’d get if you met a movie star- Just so unreal. The respect this mountain demands is as gigantic as it is, and I can see why it infected Sir Edmond Hillary to the point of near insanity. After about 20 minutes of enjoying the view we start back toward the airport, adventure filled to the brim. We take a pic outside the airplane, Yeti Air….and the trip feels complete. It feels like its come full circle, and Everest has put the perfect exclamation mark at the end of the long and soulful sentence we’ve been writing this past 3 weeks.
We head back to our hotel and quickly grab our comfy flight clothes-we leave this afternoon and leave the hotel at 12 noon for the exhausting 36 hour journey home. So, all packed, and dressed for the flight-we meet one more time at the pool and have beers and momo’s and snacks-and chatter away about the morning. Looking up facts on my phone about how many have died on Everest (well over 200) and how many have climbed it-4000ish. We talk about all the things about Nepal that surprised us-for example, I talk about how the people here seem like a perfect cross between the Indian and Chinese people-both physically and just in general-spicy Asian food the staple, with their claim to fame-momo’s being a Chinese dumpling filled with a curry based paste. and Nicole mentions how many more Westerners and just white people in general we’ve seen here compared to India- stares have really settled down. Chris didn’t realize how much greener it would be here- very lush and full of stunning red Geraniums- their official flower and Nicole’s favorite for years. Then Gary brings it back into Muppet territory- realizing with a shock that there were NO CATS in Kathmandu.
We chat and snack and finally it is time to leave. Hurry picks us up for one last shot at terrifying us with this crazy Kathmandu driving, doing a great job of getting us to the airport in tact and on time. We tip him well, and Gary exchanges Facebook info with him- another to add to our list-so different from other trips where we shy away from anything like that. And then Gary hugs him and, no joke, says “I love you man!”, Hurry laughing and hugging him back. We may have over did it with the beer at the pool? We wave to Hurry and off he tears, on to his next mission. Up to our gate (with .0000002 ounces to spare in luggage weight according to the Air India scales…NAILED IT!) and for some last minute shopping of course, ending with me as the only one awake-other Muppets snoring their fool heads off while I do what I do-take video of it and post it on the internet. Then we settle in for the flight back to Delhi, if we’re admitting it, all a little leery of the idea of flying into Delhi again, last time, as you know, took years off our lives. But it is smooth and we land on time.
Delhi Airport is amazing. It is huge and very modern, and the international section is especially cool-with Indian McDonald’s, Subway and KFC….lots of cool bars for one last Indian beer. Chris has been wanting to try MacDonald’s since we got here, so we get him the “maharaja Mac” which is like a Big Mac only the patty is made of a corn and grain veggie patty. I get the chicken burger from KFC as do Nicole and Gary. I think we can honestly say that we are CURRIED OUT. Never want it again, until next Sunday when I make it for everyone. Haha.
After lunch is done, we sit the boys and the luggage up at the bar for beers and Nicole and I go shopping again. Last minute things we don’t need. That’s what makes us happy. So we buy and buy, knowing the boys are sufficiently taken care of. We have a 16.5 hour flight ahead of us….its going to be BRUTAL. None of us are looking forward to it, the only thing keeping us from giving up is seeing our parents and our animals. So we settle in, getting out all our toys and trying to wrap our heads around SIXTEEN AND A HALF HOURS. Nicole and Gary in the usual seats ahead of us, Chris has a man next to him who is sweet, but completely oblivious. He keeps his coat over his head for the entire journey, resting his head on the tv screen, and turning his overhead light on and off with his forehead the entire 16 hours. He is so wrapped up in his blanket that at one point, Gary is standing up waiting for Nicole to come back from the bathroom, and doesn’t notice the man all wrapped up in his coat leaning ahead….so Gary leans in and tries to speak to Chris-no doubt to say something inappropriate, only to scare the Tandoori out of this poor man who has no idea where the booming voice is coming from directly into his ear….and this scares Gary into almost cardiac arrest, having had no idea that mound of blanket was a person. The three older Indian ladies behind us burst into laughter…me almost peeing in my seat at both men. Nicole comes back from the bathroom to see the attendant doing CPR on Gary and Tears rolling down our cheeks, CRYING laughing. She’s all..”I LEFT FOR 3 MINUTES????”
Towards the end of the flight the announcement is made that because of the HUGE detour we had to take around Pakistan, we have no water left, neither for drinking, or for the bathrooms. The flight is longer then expected, and they can only carry so much. BRING OUT THE BEERS! So we have beer with breakfast (well, the more sophisticated of us Muppets have red wine. Chris and I aren’t savages), and the bathrooms are now off limits. Oh dear. This could case an issue…..how does Air Canada feel about dry cleaning their seats? Cause I’m bout ready to burst and we have 2 hours left….but also, I NEED OFF THIS PLANE….so I’ll hold it. Or at least do my best to.
We land and the race is on….we have 1 hour and 12 minutes to make it to our flight to Halifax….and its most likely not going to happen. Which sucks after 30 hours of travel….and sure enough. When we get our bags and get through customs, we are handed new boarding passes. 2 hours later. Sigh. Going to be even later getting home. But oh well, at this point what’s another 2 hours….either way MacDonald’s will be open when we get home-and we are going to put the beef in our mouses until we can’t breathe. I have been wanting a burger or anything that came from a cow for weeks.
Interesting things about India that I didn’t know:
The Cast system. Look it up. The arranged marriages possible are dictated by this system. I didn’t get into it here because its very complicated and I didn’t want to mess it up-but look it up. Its fascinating.
Don’t drink the Milk. They just boil it and use it, no pasteurization.
Everything for women is separate- separate customs and security lines/metal detectors and all. Women will be directed to a private cubicle And you’ll get felt up. A lot. They are very thorough.
I didn’t realize the food would be THAT spicy- I love spicy, and I’m not complaining-but its much spicier then I had imagined.
You will actually see monkeys and cows and goats and elephants just walking down the road.
The traffic is INSANE. The two lane roads will have 4-6 cars across them.
Beef is NON-EXISTENT. There are only two groups- veg and non veg.- eggs are always described in the menu-as its considered non veg.
I didn’t realize that we are so dependent and spoiled with our clean water…it’s a privilege I hadn’t considered.
You will get stared at, and it won’t always feel very good.
45 degrees dry heat is equal to our 30 degree humid heat. It’s a nicer heat then you think….it wasn’t stifling.
Its dustier then you think-you WILL have a sore throat from breathing it in. and you’ll cough up black guck.
You’ll be DIRTY at the end of the day…your feet will look like something that should be chopped off and made into a good hearty stew.
They can load a plane in 15 minutes-no zones, no organization. And its seamless. Every time.
The transgender and gay community is very accepted-Transgender has been a reality in India for years, but both were just legalized-and no wars were fought for or against it.
Education is VERY important-but you’ll only pay approximately $20 to go to university for your bachelors- it will get more expensive and harder to get in from there-but nothing like our system.
There is toilet paper in most every bathroom.
Women here are expected to be much more modest-swim suits look more like our wet suits.
Their. Hair. Is. Amazing-hands down every time, men and woman-and the hotel offered shampoo and conditioner is crazy amazing-not sure whats in the water-but your hair will be OUTSTANDING.
The women work just as hard as the men-we saw many women with an axe or shovel working on the street work in their sarees.
You WILL get Delhi Belly-bring prescribed antibiotics- and take them as soon as you have issues-within hours you will feel better- (but you’ll still KILL the Imodium. Bring lots.)
I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. I know plenty of people that I would say- Nope, don’t go. You’ll hate it. But I know plenty of others that I would PUSH to go-who would get a lot out of it and come home changed like we did. Its not a first vacation destination, more adventure then relaxation.
Some of our Misconceptions about India:
That it stinks- It DOESN’T- not once (other then animal smells when your near an animal) did we smell anything off. If anything it smelled nice-incense and oils.
We heard horror stories about the bugs-it was no worse then a Nova Scotia lake- and honestly not half as bed (I’m sure this was dependent somewhat on the time of year we came).
That its too crowded- I expected that I would be ARM TO ARM with people all the time- but that wasn’t the case. There were people everywhere, but it wasn’t overwhelming.
Its unsafe? Never once did I feel unsafe. I always felt well taken care of.
Not every Indian works in a call center-they are professionals and well educated.
The arranged marriage system is NOT hated- the men and women are very proud of it, and most are very happy with it- they are very accepting of the mates-their parents picked them out for each other and they accept and have faith in it.
That you can do India alone- you can’t. Pick a tour company. Don’t try to do it alone-you will be miserable and confused and it will put a dent in your happy vacation. We used On The Go Tours and we would recommend them to ANYONE. Absolutely amazing. Seamless at every transition, and the tour guides they use are all incredible and seemingly love their jobs.
That you have to wear a ton of clothes. You can pretty much wear whatever you want-just be respectful when you go into a temple or country area.-bring a scarf with you to cover your shoulders if you must. (GARY!!!**raises fists in the air**)
I feel like this trip has really changed me. I was shocked the moment I landed by my own ignorance and the walls I have put up. I assumed a lot about India, and she calmed all my insecurities. I come home feeling more whole, with the opposite feeling also- feeling that I left a lot of my baggage here-I’m different. I feel more privileged then I’ve felt before, and I plan to remember to be thankful for that everyday. I am from now on going to speak up when someone says “well, they’re in our country now-they should wear what we wear”. How freaking egotistical. No one asked me to change my clothes to theirs while I was in India. They didn’t impose one single way of life on me- allowing me to be western-and being accepting and kind and loving. In fact at the Toronto Airport, we had a Sikh attendant. His name tag said Hatmeet. I noticed his beautiful folded turban, imagined how long a beautiful his hair is under there, how proud he must be of it. I made sure I caught his eye and smiled. Head nodded and said Namaste. Saw the other Muppets do the same. I wanted to tell him I was just in India, ask him where he was from. -instead of being afraid and ignorant and looking away-thinking “Damn Trudeau. Toronto has too many Sikh immigrants.” (Funny: Pulkit told us that there’s a saying in India that when a Sikh is born, he is heading to Toronto. I’m proud of that now. They consider Canada a dreamland. and anytime we showed our Canadian passports we got more smiles and more respect.) We all discussed feeling the same way-its changed us.
We were driving home from Chitwan when Nicole woke me up, tears in her eyes, to make me read a quote on the end of a bus in front of us of all things. It said: Life is not about finding yourself, its about creating yourself. And we met eyes, and I got it. We’re creating a life, but not just a singular life-the kind of thing “Finding yourself” involves….its not something we’re doing alone. We’re creating it together, and although the boundaries might be in different places, and the book might be written differently, we are creating it together. Trying to gather all the pieces and experiences that will allow us to create whole people. When I floated a candle in Varanasi, something Pulkit told us we could do for whatever reason we chose, I found myself repeating, “please let us always be together”. More so then any other trip we’ve taken this one fed my soul, and made me thankful for us, and made me determined to be thankful for it every day. And so far I have. I wake up differently. I go to bed differently. I breath differently. My outlook has changed for the better-and I feel more equipped for the day to day…having dropped off silly things that were weighing me down, and picked up some well needed mindfulness and appreciation.
So into the vacation sunset we walk. Another trip under our belts-perspective adjusted a little again.
Until next time Muppeteers…..