Day 18 – Extracurricular Activity: Boudhanath Stupa

If you were wondering, if this was really it. No, that wasn’t it. Naturally we had to drink a big gulp of culture….at Boudhanath. Boudhanath is a very large stupa, about thirty minutes outside of Thamel – Kathmandu’s central section.Boudhanath is highly revered among buddhist pigrims. During our visit there were preparations underway for a religious festival the following week. The place is arranged in circles. The inner circle is the stupa (see above). The second circle is a wider walkway, where the believers and visitors walk about. Naturally, there is plenty of room for people to socialize and chat, too.

Of course, where ever there are large areas and people gather, doves aren’t far away. Along the second circle are also holy-men, blessing others. And then of course on the third, the outer-most circle, there are the souvenir and prayer-accessories supply stores. There are large varieties of prayer beads and smokers available for continued or deferred good fortunes and for calm minds immediately.

To get from the second circle to the inner circle – the one closest to the stupa, the pilgrims walk through an area where they can pray and collect themselves in private.   The devout can ring bells and pray for good fortunes.   And that concludes this entry and our trip to Nepal in April 2018.

I hope, I have been able to relay a little bit of the fun and excitement we have had on this trip. I loved the experience and want to say thank you to the friendly and hospitable people of Nepal for being such great hosts to so many different people from all over the world.

Stay sharp gang.

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 18 – Kathmandu All Day Long

Unlike on previous trips to Nepal, we decided to stay an extra day at the end, to come down from the emotional and mental high of the trip. You see, life is stripped down to a very bare and simple rhythm, when you trek: Get up; Eat breakfast; Walk; Eat lunch; Walk; Arrive; Drink something hot; Nap; Explore; Eat dinner; Sleep. It’s almost the life of a tiger, it’s great – I understand they live a pretty simple life, too. Now, for full disclosure, as I have been pretty enthusiastic about this trip and since this is the last day of the trip, I thought, today I might as well go all out…a “himalayan-all-out-enthusiasm-extravanaganza”, although limited to Kathmandu, the Nepali capital.As you have seen in the previous entry, it had been raining in Kathmandu and thus the dirt roads cris-crossing the city had become muddy and slippery.

When we are traveling in cities, I always like it when I see graffities. Graffities give a quick sense  of the city and its citizens. Due to the narrow streets in Kathmandu, if one wants to go about town, one walks, rides the bike of one takes a rickshaw. 

Yes, so this might be perceived as one of these instances, where my enthusiasm comes through a bit strong, because – why show four pictures of rickshaw riders. And the answer is twofold. Firstly, because rickshaws are a very uncommon sight for westerners in their local habitats. Secondly, because it is three different rickshaw riders at three different times of the day.

And just like in most Asian cities, motorcycles make for great all-purpose transportation, such as the school run with one’s daughter on the gas tank.

But not all of Kathmandu is busy at all times of the day. In fact, unlike Bangkok, Kathmandu sleeps at night. The mornings are a great time of the day until about 10:00, when the streets get more lively. However, if you are a dog, you just can’t be bothered. These three dogs demonstrate perfectly the three levels of not caring – Sleeping through it all (why bother at all), snoozing through it with one eye open (why bother) and the semi-interested glance (before going back to sleep).

But of course, there is nightlife in Kathmandu, too. The Shop-Right has the wishes of even the most discerning and demanding tourists covered.

And that closes the last day of our trek.

Cheers and Stay Sharp

Markus \m/


Day 17 – Lukla – Kathmandu

We got up early, had a small breakfast and went the few meters to the Lukla airport. The process from entering the airport building until one is on the plane, is unique to Lukla. It is more of a ritual for which a guide is extremely helpful. A competent local guide gets the client (us) on the first plane out of Lukla, makes sure that all luggage will be loaded on the plane and that it arrives at the destination. Our guide Yuba was such a guide (Madan, as well in previous years). And so, we found ourselves after the ticket check and the safety check at a door, that led out to the parking zone of the airfield, anxious to board the first plane. Once the planes start coming in, the mood switches quickly and it feels more like you are in the pit stop lane at Le Mans. From plane touch-down to plane take-off it is less than 20 minutes. That means, the plane comes to a full stop at one of the four parking positions, gets deboarded, unloaded, loaded and boarded again in 20 minutes maximum. That is quite an achievement. And thus we found ourselves aboard the plane, too.And a few minutes later in, above and surrounded by clouds. As we moved closer to Kathmandu, we got into some pretty heavy turbulence, which apparently was part of the rainfall we landed in at Kathmandu airport.There it is – Kathmandu. just another Asian city, densely populated and polluted. An hour after we looked down on Kathmandu, we were in it, wading through muddy, rain-soaked roads – and a different reality had us again. You know you are not in the mountains anymore when the prayer rocks have been replaced by graffities. When the doors you pass re not open anymore but closed and locked with chains.In the mountains you have a fair chance of reaching and touching prayer flags. In the city you need to bring a ladder.In the mountains on the trek you say a quick hello or you have a conversation with fellow trekkers you encounter, in the city you make sure you don’t get hit by the oncoming traffic and consider it a success, if you only get splashed, instead of hit.On the trek we climbed mountains and passes, while in Kathmandu people climb on chairs. Adapting from the serenity and quietness on the trek to city life in Kathmandu, posed quite a challenge for us. But Kathmandu still has a few spots of peace and quiet. The attentive visitor can still find spirit trees and small shrines throughout the city, where the business of the city is shut out from. And some of these spots we explored on the last day and which you will see in te next entry.

Until then, stay sharp and try to find joy in the changes in pace, smell, mood throughout your day, week and month.

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 16 – Namche Bazar – Lukla

Let me start by clarifying some thing. You have noticed, that I used to add altitudes of the start and endpoint of each day and now I don’t. Your observation is true, but as I relived out great trek, I also realized, that ascending is a lot more challenging and fun than descending. I loved seeing how high we would go and how I my body would cope. The descending part is quite a bit of work. Because on most descends you are relatively close to the day’s destination. When I descended I was and still am just contemplating the many alternatives I can come up with to walking down. Clearly, the most obvious choice would be a paragliding chute. But I do not have the physical fitness to carry all my stuff including the heavy photo equipment plus the paragliding equipment. And I do absolutely want to stick to my principle of carrying ALL my own stuff. We saw a lot of people being flown out this year, so I could just opt to fly down. But then I could not live with myself. So, for now, until there are quiet, solar-powered, electric jet-packs available that weight 2kg maximum, I will need to continue to descend on foot. To cut this rambling tangent short, I stopped adding altitudes from the day we started to descend overall, because the challenge of gaining altitude was gone – no more higher and higher. Now on to the last hiking day, as we walked from Namche to Lukla.

We had stayed pretty high in Namche, just off the main “road”. So, to descend from Namche, means to parade down the main”road”, which is for me bitter-sweet. You realize you are on your last days. You are chock-full of fresh experiences, that have not become memories, yet, and you also don’t want it to end. Once outside Namche, we walked through the forest and descended steeply until we reached the iconic rope-bridge, that almost any Himalaya documentary shows.The bridge is very impressive, especially when you have an oncoming yak- or mule-train traffic. Here though, we did not have any – all good.We moved on descending further, day-dreaming as we found our rhythm and soaking up these last impressions of this great place. We crossed the Khumbu river many times more and we ran into many mule trains along the way.And we also passed many prayer rocks, prayer stones and prayer flags along the way. There is something to be said about the faith of the Nepalese mountain population regardless if they are sherpas or not. They are very devout Buddhists , yet, I have never experienced the religious zeal that can be found in other religions. Maybe that is because Buddhism is more of philosophy to live by than a religion. Oh, well, I will not delve into religion or organized religion. Eventually, after a nice, relaxing lunch in Phakding and a little celestial motivation in form of heavy rain-clouds moving in we arrived in the Buddha Lodge in Lukla , just in time to witness how everything came to stand-still as it started to rain.Looking out of the Khumbu valley  Looking across the Lukla airport and Lukla up the start of the Khumbu valley. After I had taken these photos I joined the other three and we went for dinner. All that’s left to say is, for you to stay sharp and then to get my self a cup of tea and hang on to my thoughts.

Stay sharp

Cheers Markus \m/

Amped Up Abstract Colorful

I walked around Bangkok yesterday, after I had visited a photo expo documenting climate change at the BACC. And what did my inspired eyes see?

Patterns that are reminiscent of Lotus leaves or Japanese Rising Suns. But that was only part of it. Look at the colors – all amped up. Hies if screaming light blues, turquoises and green are drilling their way through your retina straight into your brain.

There you have it. Stay sharp gang and vigilant.

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 15 – Thame – Namche Bazar

I told you in the Day 14 entry about the little kid. So let’s start with him. Cute as a button but all BOSS!! at a gentle 5 years old.

There he is Capt’n Cool, sporting extra dark shades as he stares down the Incense burner. The he proceeded to demonstrate “Nepalese Big Boy Hygiene” He was a little shy, but eventually I won hm over and we started rough-housing, where I would lift him up and throw him in the air – what ensued was a teeter-totter of high-pitched, innocent, but definitely insane laughter (the kind of laughter where panic and pleasure wrestle inside a person’s head – similar to the first time you rode a roller-coaster)  and begging for more, when ever I wanted/needed to recover.

Eventually we left and were on our way.Halfway in between Thame and Namche. We ran into a group from Germany that traveled with their own buddhist monk. They were ascending to spend a week together in a retreat. But these people were not looking “new-agey”. You know tie-dye shirts and surrounded by a sweet smell of the art teachers break room. They were my parents age and as it turned out, they had been doing this for years. As we strolled down – really that’s what we did – we walked past many prayer rocks. They usually all say the same:”Ohm Mani Padme Hum” one of those basic mantras.With about one hours to go, we crossed a bridge and stopped to admire the wall paintings.We kept walking and all of a sudden we literally came around the bend and Namche was laid out before us.Due to a certain lack of space, there are Yaks all over Namche, feeding and wondering what to do in this weird time, when they neither walk, not do they have loads to carry. Namche is the main trading post in the Solokhumbu region and thus the major village in the area.Some people are a little richer than the neighbors and so the old “Keeping up with the Joneses” applies here, too. Above is the entry door of the Joneses from Namche. And because of that front-door statement the Anderson’s – they are a bit “uppety” – well they had to keep up and surpass the Joneses and went all out on the carpentry and paintings of their new post-earthquake front gate.

And with that little “story “From The Book” we will close the chapter on Day 15.

Stay sharp and keep it real.

Cheers Markus \m/

You Know…

…that you have absolutely fallen out of favor when…

..a 7-Eleven in Bangkok, Thailand is using your country’s World Cup Coke can to run a promotion to rid themselves of “apparently unsellable” stock. Fame is a fickle friend.

Stay sharp and show some loyalty, dammit, will ya’!

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 14 – Lungden – Thame

It was with a little bit of a heavy heart, that we left Lungden. From now on, we were descending and we were walking “back” – as in this trip will end soon. The trek from Lungden to Thame is easy and one could probably, without too much effort walk through to Namche. But why would one do that, when one is surrounded by utter bliss. I had a hard time coming to term with the prospect of leaving – I am in love with these mountains, this land, the weather and these people.Our guide and porter ready to leave Lungden for Thame.

The view of the valley before us as we left Lungden. This, too, was going to be an easy stroll – a few hours of gently descending – time to let the thoughts wander and reflect on life in general (and believe me I had loads to reflect upon) and this trip in particular. Along the way we took our sweet time to look around and soak up every last bit of what we though was the beginning of “the last days” of this trip.We saw lots of yaks along the way, we were in the Himalaya after all. What else would we have expected. But, when I saw these yaks, the soundtrack my brain drew up from the depth of my subconsciousness was “Night Train” by Guns’N’Roses. And of course, that thought made me smile – giggle on the inside, if you will. Imagine, if the lyrics were not about getting wasted, but about being a yak herder or “Yak Train” leader in the Himalayas, but the music would stay the same. That would be something and i, at that moment found humor in that thought.This is just a great area, where everything is much bigger.Heck, we even had time for a group picture. I love this picture, because we are all so relaxed and easy-going. We had “gelled” into a great little unit of four people pursuing a common goal – doing the Three Passes Trek and having fun while doing it.Eventually, we arrived in Thame, where we stayed at a tea-house that was owned by a couple with a super cool little boy (you’ll  see him in the Day 15 entry). The man of the house had a great story. He had summited Mt Evererst 11 times, but stopped abruptly after the 2014 avalanche and quarrels between locals and overly demanding clients. He felt, on the mountain there needs to be mutual respect and stopped when he felt that it was not present anymore. I respect that greatly.And before we knew it, we found ourselves just a short descent above Thame. As we descended, clouds had moved in and it actually got cooler. We sat in the teahouse and enjoyed a hot tea and relaxed. After about, I got a bit antsy and went outside to look around. Clouds had moved in and had turned the surrounding mountains into a mystical mood. Yep and that concluded Day 14. Day 15 led us ot Namche, but that is a different entry for a different day. Stay sharp, gang.

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 13 – Tokyo – Renjo La Pass – Lungden

We are moving on, after we have had two pretty easy and relaxing days. Trekking to Gokyo was great, especially finally seeing Cho Oyu. And then walking up to Gokyo Ri was great, too – the view was absolutely unforgettable, breathtaking, pun intended. Renjo La Pass is one of the few high altitude passes that yaks can pass, too. Yesterday, as we lounged in the local cafe with a hot chocolate and a “high-altitude-locally-baked” chocolate croissant, we watched a herd of yaks ascend up to the path. They had left around 13:00 and they had reached the pass two hours later. That set the “benchmark” for us for our crossing the pass – ambition is  bitch.

Day13 - GokyoLakePanoMountans

As we ascended, we looked back over Gokyo, this place is absolutely gorgeous. Day13 - MtEverestRangeMakaluI really loved staying there. It is quiet and very beautiful and thus very relaxing. What was very remarkable this time, was that the helicopters were flying almost constantly. Due to the great location we dwelled at for a while, I felt compelled to take this picture.Day13 - HeliOverMtEverest

Yes this is Mt. Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse and due to the power of optical illusion, it looks as if this helicopter is “flying waaaay” above these +8000m mountains. We pushed on, because we wanted to cross the pass before the sun beat down too much and made the descent too difficult. The difficulty arose because the backside had a lot of ice and snow in stand was pretty steep and rocky. A spill could have put a major damper on the trip. So we moseyed on to the pass.Day13 - Portrait-RenjoLa

Eventually we reached the pass, we ate, drank and enjoyed the hell out of the view.Day13 - RenjoLaPass-View-East2

By now you should recognize tag mountains in his picture…c’mon, you can do it!Day13 - RenjoLaPass-View-East1

Day13 - MtEverestRangePrayerFlags

We descended surprisingly quickly and found ourselves in an even quainter valley tan the Tokyo valley.Day13 - TowardsLungden

We followed the path to the horizon and reached Lungden, where we enjoyed a shower and a hot Seabuckthornberry juice and then a fantastic nap.

More soon and stay sharp

Cheers Markus \m/



Natural Law

I am an engineer with a passion. You see as an engineer you don’t deal with bendable and changeable, arbitrarily man-made laws. Nature is your master and that’s that. No discussion, no negotiation. You can complain all you want, but nature will not yield. That definite level of constancy gives me great pleasure and security, because the rules will not change in my lifetime and they have been the same for Euclid, Archimedes, Newton, Einstein, the Ferrari Brothers and the Porsche boys. And while we have made great strides in the last 5000 years in our understanding of nature and our ability to copy nature. Nature itself still is the kingpin. And to drive that point home – at least to me – nature woke me up with a breathtaking sunrise this morning. Nature apparently knows that I dabble in sketching and photography and so this is what I woke to.

I am not kidding.

Now stay sharp and have a good day.

Cheers Markus \m/