02 Apr - 01 Oct 2015 Barrie (...on and on)

Grandparents and Grandkids…
Enjoying in Central Ontario the first signs of the ongoing global warming, aestivating during a very mild Canadian summer together with our awesome grandkids Raoni, Tien and Ronja in Barrie, one of Canada's fastest growing and dynamic cities, and up in Bruce County, on Chris & Ulrike's farm, and finding the time to watch Europe's interesting demographic changes from a distance.


"You can only predict things after they've happened."


Bonding with our three robust grandchildren and spending together many days and weeks of quality time: (i) exploring the sights of the city of Barrie and visiting the annual Kempenfest on the shore of Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe, (ii) hiking the nearby, wild enough Ardagh Bluffs which boast over 17 kilometres of nature trails and have a total area of 520 acres, (iii) teaching our grandsons to swim in our Timberwalk community's sparkling swimming pool, (iv) building, on rainy days, our own Lego dream city, and (v) frequenting the range of well-maintained play grounds in our neighbourhood.
"A mother becomes a true grandmother the day she stops noticing the terrible things her children do because she is so enchanted with the wonderful things her grandchildren do."














Konni: Digging in Ulrike’s & Chris’ farm garden to make beds for more or less organically grown onions, potatoes, cabbage, kale, pumpkins, and many other healthy vegetables, and digging at the same time in my own childhood memories of having been brought up on a traditional farm, thus utilising long forgotten gardening tips and tricks which I had learned from my own farming grandparents.
“Switching to all organic food production is the single most critical (and most doable) action we can take right now to stop our climate crisis.”
 

Konni: Honing my vegan cooking skills and discovering three excellent, highly recommendable new resources in Barrie's brilliant Goodwill Community Stores: (i) Leah Leneman's Tofu Cookbook ("High in protein, low in calories and completely cholesterol-free, tofu can be used as a substitute for eggs, dairy products and meat. It's fun to cook and the ideal for the future..."), (ii) Debra Wasserman's Simply Vegan, and (iii) the Vegetarian Tastes of Toronto with over 150 delicious, healthy recipes that reflect Toronto's rich cultural heritage and include Russian borscht, West African sweet potato soup, orange teriyaki tofu, Thai spring rolls, vegetarian sushi, Indian lemon rice, stuffed red and green peppers, black bean chili, spinach lasagne, pesto, and plenty of dessert recipes from poppy seed cake to conkies (corn meal dumplings popular in Guyana).















Matt: Waging relentlessly a chemical, not-so-organic warfare on our balcony plantation: (i) dusting garden sulphur against nasty late blight (caused by Phytophthora infestans) onto the leaves of our tomato and jalapeño plants, (ii) mixing a powerful, chili-powder based combat agent to frighten off the resident black eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), and (iii) hunting down treacherous ants with borax-laced peanut butter; life's a compromise. 















Learning to identify a few new North American birds by (i) watching the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) sucking the geranium flower pots on our balcony, (ii) spotting a red dot on top of a large pine tree in front of our house and recognising it as a beautiful Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), (iii) watching families of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) circling over the old farm house of our daughter’s new place, (iv) disturbing a large heron next to a marshy meadow and finding out that it was a great blue heron (Ardea Herodias), and, last but not least, (v) comparing the very common red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) of North America with the red-winged starling (Onychognathus morio) of South Africa and Tristram’s starling aka Tristram’s grackle (Onychognathus tristramii) of the Middle East. 

Visiting repeatedly Barrie's non-fatist Saturday-morning farmers market, enjoying the politically correct atmosphere and stocking up with all kind of organically grown, local veggies. 

Enjoying great Canadian live music during the XX. Barrie Jazz & Blues Festival: (i) The Gred Hardy Trio at the farmers market, (ii) The Jane Bunnett Quintet in the Rotunda at Barrie City Hall, and (iii) The Bob Livingston Jazz Band and Denielle Bassels with her band on the centre stage in Barrie's lovely Heritage Park. 

Reflecting about congruency and topicality of our travel blog Konni & Matt - Perpetual Travellers (2000 - 2015) and about the fact that our individual priorities, interests and identities have tremendously changed over the past 15 years of retirement (Konni: from a travelling dive-master to a diving sun-seeker and story-telling ouma; Matt: from a travelling yacht-master to a psychologising portrait-photographer and story-generating oupa), and deciding to change both content and format of our online presence (Konni about scuba diving and u/w photography: Konni's Diving; Matt about ethnic portrait photography: Facing the World and Flickr Albums); many thanks to all our readers and supporters, until now and from now on.













(Once upon a time there lived) "… two disciples of a guru, called Chaitra and Maitra. One day the guru gave them one rupee each and took them to two empty rooms. He asked them to use that one rupee to fill the room. Maitra rushed out to the bazaar and tried to find something for one rupee with which he could fill his room. Of course there was nothing, for that price. And then he thought: 'I will go to the garbage seller,' and from him he bought a mountain of stinking rubbish and proudly piled it high in his room. But Chaitra meditated in his room and then calmly went out and bought a matchbox, an incense stick and an oil lamp. He lit the flame, filling the room not just with light but also a beautiful fragrance. When the guru came to inspect the two rooms, he turned away in disgust from the room with the garbage, but happily walked into the illuminated room which smelt of jasmine, sandalwood, and dreams."

Click below for more blog posts about our grandchildren


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Explore Konni's Photo Blog about Scuba Diving:
"Konni's Diving"
(Click on Collage)


Explore Matt's Photo Blog about Ethnic Street Portraits:
"Facing the World"
(Click on Collage)

"I poured him a drink and
he clicked my glass and said:
'Excuse me for not dying',
and I kind of feel the same way..."

14 May - 17 May 2015 Chitwan

Pachyderms in Nepal 
Matt: Making a detour between Pokhara, the starting point for my recent Annapurna Sanctuary Trek [1], and Kathmandu [2], [3], Nepal's only international airport, and coming en-route in contact with awesome Indian elephants and Indian unicorns.






“We make a lot of detours, but we're always heading for the same destination.”

Matt: Exploring the sprawling village of Sauraha, an overpriced tourist trap with many, mostly female, Asian working elephants which are used on safaris that look for tigers and rhinos and take tourists, who ride on a wooden platform aka howdah which is tied to the backs of the elephants (the elephant driver aka mahout sits on the elephant's neck and guides the animal by nudging a sensitive area behind her ears with a stick) into the jungle, and enjoying in the evening fantastic beer-enhanced sunsets over the sluggish Rapti River.

  

Matt: Visiting the local Elephant Breeding Centre (admission: NPR 50.- per foreigner), c. 3 km west of Sauraha on the far side of the small Bhude Rapti River, which provides many of the elephants for elephant safaris into the Royal Chitwan National Park, and watching the interaction between mother and baby elephants, as well as the multitask use of their trunk (which has a staggering 40,000 muscles), such as covering themselves in dust to ward off mosquitoes or scratching their backside with a bamboo stick. 




Matt: Taking a rolling ride on an elephant's back (charges: NPR 1,500.- or US$ 15.- per passenger, plus the steep entrance fee to the Royal Chitwan National Park of NPR 1,695.- or US$ 17.- per foreigner), lumbering through the dense jungle with this five-tonne jumbo, feeling her raised spine and the rumbling movement of her shoulder blades for more than two hours, feeding her bananas now and then and spotting from this fantastic viewing point high above the shrubs and tall grass a thick-skinned, one-horned Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). 



Matt: Taking an expensive and comfortable a/c tourist bus from Sauraha's tourist bus park to quake-hit Kathmandu (c. 160 km, 6 hours, NPR 500.- or US$ 5.- per tourist). 

Matt: Saying my good-byes to Kathmandu, which has been severely hit by two recent earthquakes (the 7.8-magnitude April 2015 Nepal Earthquake and the 7.3-magnitude May 2015 Nepal Earthquake) and has changed a lot since my previous visit in autumn 2014 ([1], [2]), and having a memorable farewell party with a bunch of local operatives in our favourite shebeen aka bhojanalaya in nearby Thahity: excellent Newari raksi/aylā and, for me only, the vegan version of delicious samay baji; thanks, namaste and subhakamana, my trusted friends.















Matt: Requesting a vegan meal for my upcoming long-distance flight back to Canada and learning about the fact that most full-service airlines do offer five different perfectly vegan food options: (i) VGML (Vegetarian/Vegan Meal - which is totally free of any animal products or by-products such as eggs or dairy products; it contains all types of vegetables and fresh fruit; it does not contain any type of meat, fish, or animal products or by-products), (ii) VOML (Vegetarian/Vegan Oriental Meal - which is a Vegetarian/Vegan Meal [VGML] that is also prepared Chinese or Oriental-style), (iii) VJML (Vegetarian/Vegan Jain Meal - which is for members of the Jain community who are pure vegetarians; it is prepared with a selection of Indian condiments and contains fresh fruit and cooked stem vegetables that grow above the ground; it does not contain animal products, by-products and any root vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, etc.), (iv) RVML (Raw Vegetable Meal - which consists exclusively of raw vegetables and salads), (v) FPML (Fruit Platter Meal - which may be ordered for dietary reasons and/or by members of certain communities who eat only fruit while fasting; it contains seasonal fresh fruit); it's all up and down to you… 

HappyCow's Compassionate Healthy Eating Guide


Matt: Taking a reliable city bus from Kathmandu's Old City Bus Park to the extremely busy Tribhuvan International Airport (c. 5 km, ½ hour, NPR 20.- per person), flying with top-notch Etihad Airways (“The World Is Our Home, You Are Our Guests”, delicious vegan meals) in a clean Airbus A 320-200 from Kathmandu to Abu Dhabi International (Terminal 1), thereafter from Abu Dhabi International (Terminal 3) in a big and comfy Airbus A 330 to Brussels and doing eventually the last leg from Brussels with Jet Airways ("The Joy of Flying") in a worn Airbus A 330-300 over the Atlantic Ocean to Toronto Pearson International, for US$ 1,275.- per person for the complete return/jaw half-around-the-world ticket Kathmandu-Toronto-Bangkok, all inclusive and booked over the internet already in November 2014 CE with Airline Direct, and arriving in South Ontario for my annual summer break together with Konni and my awesome bilingual grandchildren Raoni, Tien and Ronja, eh!

"The lemon trees blossom,
The almond trees wither,
It’s Spring and it’s Summer,
And it’s Winter forever,
Did I ever love you,
Does it really matter..."

Auf meiner Reise von Pokhara nach Kathmandu habe ich einen Umweg ueber den Chitwan Nationalpark gemacht. Dieser liegt im Grenzland zwischen Nepal und Indien und ist dafuer bekannt, dass man auf einem abgerichteten Elefanten reiten kann, um wilde Tiere aus sicherer Hoehe zu beobachten: Hirsche, Panzernashoerner und manchmal auch einen Bengalischen Tiger.
Vorn, gleich hinter den Ohren des Elefanten, sitzt der Elefantenfuehrer, der mahut, und lenkt den dicken Elefanten mit seinen nackten Fuessen und durch laute Befehle in der Elefantensprache. Der mahut und sein Elefant leben viele Jahre zusammen, wie eine kleine Familie, und beide verstehen sich recht gut. Vor der Safari wird ein Sattel fuer die Passagiere auf den Ruecken des Elefanten gebunden und los geht es im schaukelnden Elefantentrott. Die Landratten unter den Passagieren werden dabei manchmal sogar seekrank…
Auf dem Ruecken des Elefanten hatte ich Zeit, darueber nachzudenken, worauf ich in meinem Leben bereits geritten bin: frueher beim Militaer und auch nach meiner Versetzung in den Ruhestand am liebsten auf Motorraedern [1] und ab und an auch auf kernigen Drahteseln, einige Male auch auf Pferden und Dromedaren [2], als kleiner Junge sogar einmal auf einem richtigen Esel…
Dabei gibt es auf dieser Welt noch viele andere Reittiere: Lamas, Trampeltiere, Maultiere, Maulesel, Rentiere, Yaks und Wasserbueffel [3]. Strausse dienen vor allem in Suedafrika's Eastern Cape Province als Reittiere zur Touristen-Attraktion und das Reiten auf Bullen ist ein beliebter Wettbewerb innerhalb von Rodeos bei Euren suedlichen Nachbarn.
Ob Fred Feuerstein nun wirklich auf einem Dinosaurier durch das Neanderthal, Arion von Korinth auf einem Delphin oder sogar einem Seepferd durchs Mittelmeer und Nils Holgersson auf einer Wildgans ueber Schweden hinweggeritten sind, das alles solltet Ihr besser selber herausfinden. - Worauf werdet Ihr wohl als naechstes reiten? 
From Nepal, with Love!




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22 Apr - 06 May 2015 Annapurna

The Himalayas and 7.8 Richter… 
Matt: Trekking into the frozen heart of the Annapurna Range, the Annapurna Sanctuary, a magnificent amphitheatre of soaring 7,000m and 8,000m peaks, and encountering en-route a devastating earthquake accompanied by substantial and impressive avalanches, rock falls and land slides.




Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones): "D'you know the most destructive force in the universe?"
Agent J (Will Smith): "Sugar?" - Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones): "Regret."

Matt: Preparing my upcoming independent Annapurna Sanctuary Trek to the South Annapurna Base Camp with the help of the reasonably adequate 1:62,500 Annapurna Base Camp trekking map from Nepal Map Publishers (available for NPR 200.- or US$ 2.- from any book shop in Pokhara; cheaper than a local guide who asks for up to US$ 30.- per day), teaming up with fellow trekker Lis from Switzerland (many thanks, Lis, for being such a great hiking buddy), taking together one of the regular city buses from the bus stop at Pokhara's Rastra Bank Chowk to the somewhat sleepy Baglung Bus Park (NPR 30.- or US$ 0.30 per person) and hereafter a jam-packed local bus from the Baglung Bus Park to Phedi (c. 25 km, ½ hour, NPR 60.- or US$ 0.60 per person), a cluster of shacks, from where the trail starts up a series of stone steps.













Packing List for the 15-day Annapurna Sanctuary Trek:
38l backpack, light rain poncho, bush hat, waterproof Gore-Tex jacket, outdoor trousers, sneakers, socks (3 pair), 3 T-shirts, 3 briefs, small towel, single bed cover, fleece jacket and fleece trousers, documents (reading glasses, trekking map, passport, T.I.M.S. card with valid A.C.A.P. permit, cash, small notebook with pen), wrist watch, camera with battery charger, small flashlight, pocket knife, lighter, small pad lock, 0.5l water bottle, toiletries (toilet paper, soap, tooth paste and tooth brush, antibiotics, pain killers, camphor oil, mosquito repellent).


Matt (1st trekking day: 22 Apr 2015): Exercising my femoral musculature and climbing together with Lis for 1 ½ tough hours the steep stone staircase from Phedi (c. 1,130 m altitude) to the sprawling village of Dhampus (c. 1,650 m altitude), thus overcoming a difference in altitude of c. 520 m, comparable to scrambling the CN Tower [1], [2], [3] all the way up to its very top; Holy Toronto!















Matt: Spending the night in the recommendable Hotel Raju Gurung +97761690690 GPS: N 28° 18.01' E 083° 51.52' (clean twin room with north-facing balcony, attached bathroom, hot solar shower and stunning mountain views for NPR 300.- or US$ 3.- per night for the room), situated right on top of the Dhampus ridge.

Matt (2nd trekking day: 23 Apr 2015): Enjoying a spectacular sunrise from the hotel's balcony with the complete snow-capped Annapurna Range right in front of me: from the majestic Annapurna South (7,219 m) on the left via Annapurna I (the world's tenth highest peak with 8,091 m), Hiunchuli (6,434 m) and Singuchuli (6,501 m) all the way to the vertiginous Machhapuchhare (6,997 m) on the far right - an unparalleled mountain panorama.















Matt: Growing my trekking legs and hiking together with energetic Lis for 5 ½ hours from Dhampus (c. 1,650 m altitude) via the spread-out settlement of Tolka (c. 1,700 m altitude) through forests that are alive with birds, ferns and orchids to the Gurung village of Landruk (c. 1,565 m altitude).















Matt: Spending the night at Landruk (c. 1,565 m altitude) in the recommendable Super View Guest House +9779846362753 GPS: N 28° 21.97' E 083° 16.50' (clean twin room with attached bathroom, hot solar shower and nice views of the traditional Gurung village of Ghandruk on the opposite side of the Modi Khola valley, for NPR 200.- or US$ 2.- per night for the room).















Matt (3rd trekking day: 24 Apr 2015): Hiking for 3 ½ hours from Landruk (c. 1,565 m altitude) along the Modi Khola valley through dense mixed forest to Jhinudanda (c. 1,780 m), saying goodbye to Lis, who was going to trek the Ghandruk-Ghorepani loop, and climbing for another 1 ½ hours from Jhinudanda (c. 1,780 m altitude) a very steep trail with many stone steps via Taulung (c. 2,150 m altitude) to the scenic mountain village of Chhomrong (c. 2,190 m altitude), the last permanent settlement in the Modi Khola valley.















Matt (4th trekking day: 25 Apr 2015): Taking a day of rest and spending two consecutive nights at Chhomrong (c. 2,190 m altitude) in the well-managed and recommendable Hotel Heaven View +9779816645203 GPS: N 28° 24.85' E 083° 49.11' (clean and basic twin room with shared bathroom and hot solar shower for NPR 200.- or US$ 2.- per night for the room).















Matt: Surviving unharmed the deadly 7.8-magnitude April 2015 Nepal Earthquake aka Gurkha Earthquake (…and its continued nasty aftershocks), which killed more than 8,000 people, injured more than 19,000 people and triggered a devastating avalanche in the Langtang trekking area [1], and observing at first hand: (i) the violent rock'n roll of the hotel as a whole which sits on a precarious cliff over the steep Modi Khola valley, (ii) the total collapse of a residential house right next to me, and (iii) a huge, deafening land/rock slide on the opposite side of the Modi Khola valley, just a few hundred metres away, near the confluence with the Dichha Khola.
"...the maharajah came up to ask questions about the regions of eternal snow. This Annapurna venture had fascinated and disquieted them. We hoped that if national misfortunes followed, they would not attribute them to us for having infringed the divine law..."














Matt (5th trekking day: 26 Apr 2015): Taking a decision to continue with my trek, against all the odds, descending for ½ hour on a set of stone steps through the village of Chhomrong to the new suspension bridge over the braided Chhomrong Khola and ascending immediately afterwards for 3 ½ hours on a rocky contour path along the upper Modi Khola valley through oak and spectacular rhododendron forests, with great clusters of pink and red flowers, via Sinuwa (c. 2,360 m altitude) all the way to remote Bamboo (c. 2,310 m altitude), a collection of five lodges crammed into the narrow valley.















Matt: Spending the night at Bamboo in the cosy Bamboo Lodge +9779846257488 GPS: N 28° 27.42' E 083° 51.41' (clean and basic twin room with shared bathroom for NPR 200.- or US$ 2.- per night for the room; hot gas shower for NPR 150.- or US$ 1.50) and meeting quite a few shell-shocked guides, porters and trekkers who are breaking off any further ascend to the South Annapurna Base Camp due to the still ongoing risk of fresh avalanches caused by the earthquake's major aftershocks.















Matt (6th trekking day: 27 Apr 2015): Trekking for 4 ½ hours from Bamboo (c. 2,310 m altitude) on a leech-free contour path along the steep Modi Khola gorge over several avalanche chutes (first snow at c. 3,100 m altitude) via Dobhan (c. 2,520 m altitude) to Deurali (c. 3,230 m altitude), thus surpassing the altitude of Germany's highest mountain, Ze Zugspitze (fritzactly 2,962 m altitude).















Matt: Overnighting at Deurali (c. 3,230 m altitude) in the welcoming Deurali Guest House +9779846005200 GPS: N 28° 29.84' E 083° 53.89' (clean and basic twin room with shared bathroom for NPR 200.- or US$ 2.- per night per room; excellent food).















Matt (7th trekking day: 28 Apr 2015): Slogging for 4 ¼ hours through thin air and without crampons over fresh avalanches from Deurali (c. 3,230 m altitude) via Machhapuchhare Base Camp (c. 3,700 m altitude) to my final destination, the South Annapurna Base Camp (c. 4,130 m altitude), entering the mysterious Annapurna Sanctuary (not penetrated by outsiders until 1956 CE; until recently, the local Gurung people forbade anyone from bringing eggs or meat into the Annapurna Sanctuary, and women and untouchables were prohibited from going there as well) through its only entrance, a narrow pass between the peaks of Hiunchuli (6,434 m) and Machhapuchhare (6,997 m), soaking up the scenery of rock and ice, meeting only a handful of other independent trekkers and gulping a precious ice-cold beer from the Annapurna Guest House's store room: 330-ml cans of Tuborg Gold Premium Lager (5.5 % alc./vol.) for the stiff price of NPR 460.- or US$ 4.60 per regular can; cheers, job done!















Matt: Counting the surrounding mighty summits of the Annapurna massif, recceing the vicinity of the South Annapurna Base Camp (c. 4,130 m altitude) and the impressive South Annapurna Glacier, watching and hearing the still ongoing thundering rock slides on the opposite moraine cliffs, visiting the memorial chorten to Anatoli Boukreev, who was killed in 1997 CE by an avalanche, and spotting beautiful birds near the glacier: (i) a couple of striking blue grandalas (Grandala coelicolor), (ii) a small flock of white-capped water redstarts (Chaimarrornis leucocephalus) and (iii) plenty of shy snow pigeons (Columba leuconota).












"Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve,
they are cathedrals where I practice my religion."


Matt: Spending the cold night (c. minus 10°C) in the well-managed and recommendable Annapurna Guest House +977994610001 GPS: N 28° 31.83' E 083° 52.70' (clean and basic twin room with shared bathroom for NPR 150.- or US$ 1.50 per night for the room).















Matt (8th trekking day: 29 Apr 2015): Getting off early so as to take advantage of the hardness of the snow after the night frost, descending for 5 ¼ hours from the South Annapurna Base Camp (c. 4,130 m altitude), first following my Korean friend Kim's descending tracks through fresh snow, later climbing over rocks and hiking through lovely rhododendron forests, their gnarled pinkish limbs festooned with epiphytic ferns and orchids, back to Dobhan (c. 2,520 m altitude) and enjoying the Himalayas' lonely hiking trails almost for me alone since most trekkers, especially those uncouth and obnoxious Chinese tour groups, had fled the mountains immediately after the earthquake and many lodges were closed.















Matt: Overnighting at Dobhan (c. 2,520 m altitude) in the almost deserted Tip Top Lodge +97761621655 GPS: N 28° 28.20' E 083° 52.20' (clean and basic double room with shared bathroom for only NPR 150.- or US$ 1.50 per night for the room since I was the only guest in the lodge).















Matt (9th trekking day: 30 Apr 2015): Hiking uneventfully for 5 hours from Dobhan (c. 2,520 m altitude) back to Chhomrong (c. 2,140 m altitude).















Matt: Spending the night at Chhomrong (c. 2,250 m altitude) in the very friendly and highly recommendable Himalaya View Guest House +9779846342678 GPS: N 28° 24.85' E 083° 49.11' (clean and basic double room with shared bathroom and excellent sun-rise views for NPR 100.- or US$ 1.- per night for the room; great food).















Matt (10th trekking day: 01 May 2015): Descending for 1 ¼ hours the steep trail from Chhomrong (c. 2,250 m altitude) to Jhinudanda (c. 1,780 m altitude).

Matt: Soaking in the rock pools of the nearby hot spring (c. 38°C water temperature; compulsory entrance donation: NPR 50.- per tourist) and thinking a few heretic thoughts about some common trekking myths of the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: (i) "You need a guide and/or a porter." Wrong. If you need a guide you might have an aptitude problem; if you need a porter you might have an attitude problem… (ii) "You need a high-quality sleeping bag." Wrong. The lodges and guest houses along the trek supply enough warm, sometimes lived-in duvets... (iii) "You need water purification tablets." Wrong. There are plenty of springs along the trek which provide deliciously fresh and clean water; your runs are probably anxiety-driven and you should better see a couch doctor... (iv) "You need heavy-duty hiking boots." Wrong. Any light-weight sneakers are perfectly OK; if in the Himalayas, do as the porters do... (v) "Hiking the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is expensive." Wrong. Between Dhampus and Tikhedunnga, I averaged only NPR 1,200.- or US$ 12.- per day for accommodation, basic vegan food and plenty of raksi

Matt: Overnighting at Jhinudanda (c. 1,780 m altitude) in the conveniently located but empty Hot Spring Cottage +9779856036459 GPS: N 28° 24.60' E 083° 49.45' (clean enough, basic double room with almost cockroach-free, shared bathroom for NPR 100.- or US$ 1.- per night for the room).















Matt (11th trekking day: 02 May 2015): Climbing for 3 ½ hours from Jhinudanda (c. 1,780 m altitude) via remote Magar dwellings to the traditional Gurung village of Ghandruk (c. 1,940 m altitude), located only c. 1 ½ hours north of the end of the dirt road at Kimche, but already with the usual attributes of modern tourism: (i) begging children ("…chocolate, chocolate…"), (ii) adipose village beauties, (iii) two-tier pricing system, (iv) young balderdash-and-bubble volunteers as the latest livestock, and (v) at least five "German Bakeries".















Matt: Overnighting at Ghandruk (c. 1,940 m altitude) in the empty Hotel Milan +9779846398197 GPS: N 28° 22.54' E 083° 48.50' (clean and basic twin room with shared bathroom and a great hot solar shower for only NPR 100.- or US$ 1.- per night for the room).















Matt (12th trekking day: 03 May 2015): Ascending for 3 ½ hours from Ghandruk (c. 1,940 m altitude) to Tadapani (c. 2,630 m altitude).

Matt: Overnighting at Tadapani (c. 2,630 m altitude) in the pleasant and highly recommendable Grand View Lodge +9779846257686 GPS: N 28° 23.81' E 083° 45.93' (clean and basic twin room with shared bathroom and great views from the communal terrace for NPR 100.- or US$ 1.- per night for the room).















Matt (13th trekking day: 04 May 2015): Hiking for 4 ¾ hours from Tadapani (c. 2,630 m altitude) over the Deurali Pass (c. 3,210 m altitude) to upper Ghorepani (c. 2,860 m altitude).

Matt: Spending the night at Ghorepani (c. 2,860 m altitude), a rather ubertouristed and uberpriced shanty town on the trekking highway, in the old-fashioned and friendly Annapurna View Lodge GPS: N 28° 24.15' E 083° 41.98' (clean and basic double room with shared bathroom for NPR 100.- or US$ 1.- per night for the room).















Matt (14th trekking day: 05 May 2015): "Attacking" Poon Hill (c. 3,210 m altitude, ¾ hour uphill and ½ hour downhill, compulsory entrance donation: NPR 50.- per person) before sunrise and watching the golden dawn light inch down the frozen panorama of peaks from Dhaulagiri I (8,167 m) and Tukuche (6,920 m) to Nilgiri (6,940 m), Annapurna South (7,219 m), Annapurna I (8,091 m), Hiunchuli (6,434 m), Tarke Kang (7,193 m) and on to Machhapuchhare (6,997 m).















Matt: Descending for 4 ¾ hours from Ghorepani (c. 2,860 m altitude) via the steep, knee-cracking stone steps below the large Magar village of Ulleri (c. 2,020 m altitude) to Tikhedungga (c. 1,520 m altitude), dodging the occasional mule/pony train and overhearing quite accidentally an interesting dialogue between a villager and a female Russian tourist: "Do you need pony service?" - "No, I'm married." 

Matt: Spending the night at Tikhedungga (c. 1,520 m altitude) in Laxmi's pleasant and welcoming but empty Tikhedungga Guest House +9779746019199 GPS: N 28° 21.06' E 083° 44.53' (clean enough and basic twin room with rugged shared bathroom for NPR 100.- or US$ 1.- per night for the room; excellent food).

Matt (15th trekking day: 06 May 2015): Descending for 3 hours from Tikhedungga (c. 1,520 m altitude) along the Bhurungdi Khola valley via Birethani (c. 1,025 m altitude) to the paved road near Nayapul (c. 1,070 m altitude), saying my good-byes to the mountains and catching a jam-packed local bus straight to Pokhara's (old) city bus park near Prithivi Chowk (c. 45 km, 2 ¼ hours, NPR 110.- or US$ 1.10 per person).















Matt: Licking my wounds, relaxing in the highly recommendable, tried and tested New Summit Guest House +97761461421 GPS: N 28° 12.32' E 083° 58.07', making time for the latest news about the aftermath of the huge 7.8-magnitude April 2015 Nepal Earthquake, exchanging emails with family, friends and foes, catching up with overdue admin work and discovering at Pokhara's almost totally deserted Lakeside ghost-town an interesting drop in the beer prices: 650-ml bottles of Nepali San Miguel Pale Pilsen (5 % alc./vol.) for only NPR 170.- or US$ 1.70 per bottle from the helpful Sadish Cold Store; cheers, I am back! 

Matt: Surviving unharmed a second big earthquake within two weeks, the 7.3-magnitude May 2015 Nepal Earthquake, and preparing for more aftershocks.

Matt: Taking an expensive and just comfortable enough tourist bus from Pokhara's tourist bus park to Sauraha (c. 140 km, 5 ¼ hours, NPR 500.- or US$ 5.- per tourist), a sleepy village in the malaria-prone Western Tarai with many working elephants and a lively backpacker scene on the northern fringes of the 932 sqkm Royal Chitwan National Park, home to a sizeable population of tigers, rhinos and elephants.














Am 25. April 2015 gab es in Nepal ein sehr starkes Erdbeben. An diesem Tag war ich unterwegs ins Annapurna Sanctuary und hatte mich wegen des starken Regens bereits am Morgen entschlossen, im Bergdorf Chhomrong (c. 2,190 m hoch am Eingang zur steilen Modi-Schlucht gelegen) einen Ruhetag einzulegen.
Als Mittagessen hatte ich mir im Berghotel "Heaven View" einen Teller mit leckeren vegetarischem Momos fuer 300 Rupies bestellt und wollte sie gerade verputzen, da begann ploetzlich das ganze Haus wie verrueckt zu wackeln und zu schwanken, so als waere es ein Schiff auf hoher See. Der Fussboden unter mir tanzte Rock'n Roll und ich spuerte es am ganzen Koerper.
Also habe ich schnell meinen Teller mit den zehn dampfenden Momos ergriffen und bin durch die Tuere nach draussen gelaufen. Einerseits wollte ich nicht, dass mir die Decke auf den Kopf faellt, und andererseits wollte ich auch nicht zusammen mit dem doch recht abenteuerlich an einen steilen Hang gebauten Hotel ins Tal hinunterrutschen.
Beim Aufstehen habe ich noch schnell einen Blick auf meine Armbanduhr geworfen und festgestellt, dass es genau 12:00 Uhr war; high noon. Mein erster Gedanke: Die Natur kennt keine Uhrzeit und sie weiss auch nicht, dass es in Nepal jetzt genau 12:00 Uhr ist, also muss das Ereignis irgendwie durch die Menschen verursacht sein. Dieser Gedanke war zum Glueck falsch und seitdem glaube ich zum ersten Mal in meinem Leben an Zufaelle…
Auf der Terrasse vor dem Hotel standen dann alle ganz irritiert und aengstlich herum, die Erde bebte unter unseren Fuessen. Keiner hat gelacht oder dumme Witze gerissen. Am gegenueberliegenden Hang der Modi-Schlucht, nur wenige hundert Meter entfernt, krachte mit viel Laerm eine grosse Steinlawine ins Tal. Die Erde wackelte immer noch unter meinen Fuessen und direkt neben der Hotelterasse brach ein altes Steinhaus in sich zusammen; das Wellblechdach rutschte ins Tal.
Zum Glueck war der ganze Spuk nach ca. einer halben Minute vorbei und ich konnte meine immer noch dampfenden Momos endlich aufessen, sicherheitshalber draussen auf der Terasse.
Als ich spaeter in mein Hotelzimmer ging, war ich dann noch einmal erstaunt: Ein Teil der Zimmerdecke war heruntergekommen und auf meinem Bett lag allerhand Bauschutt. Waere das Erdbeben etwas spaeter, waehrend meines Mittagsschlafes, passiert, dann haette ich bestimmt mindestens eine fette Beule abbekommen…
Am naechsten Morgen habe ich dann doch meine Wanderung ins Annapurna Sanctuary fortgesetzt. Ich war der Meinung, dass es jetzt sicherer als vor dem Erdbeben sei, denn alle losen Felsen und Schneemassen lagen ja nun bereits im Tal. Manche Bergfuehrer und Wanderer hatten da eine andere Meinung und sind lieber umgekehrt…
Hier in Central Ontario gibt es kaum Erdbeben. Dafuer haben wir zerstoererische Tornados, denen man auch nicht ausweichen kann. Ziemlich genau vor 30 Jahren, am 31. Mai 1985, hat ein schwerer EF5 Tornado unsere Stadt Barrie ueberfallen, und erst im vergangenen Sommer hat ein EF2 Tornado viel Schaden im nahegelegenen Angus angerichtet. - Wie seid Ihr darauf vorbereitet, wenn ein Tornado Eure Farm heimsucht und die Grunzis mit den Huehnern um die Wette fliegen?
From Nepal, with Love!


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