Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kathmandu...whoa!

Well, here I am, at the Hotel Ganesh Himal after a solid 24 hours of traveling from Madrid. Not much sleep there, as you might imagine, but I have a wonderful clean room here with my own bathroom and a fantastic view of the neighborhood. I met a bunch of really cool Spaniards on the plane who are going trekking as well, I hope to see them on the trail!



Today I met Niraj, a Nepali guide who was going to accompany me on my circuit through the Annapurna mountains. Very very unfortunately his grandfather died two days ago and he will not be able to come with me until I get to Pokhara at the end of the trek. He is very very good at English, very kind, excited, knowledgable and giving. I really really would have liked him to be my guide but all things have a reason, and now I will be walking with Pancha Rai, a small man with very happy crinkles at the corners of his eyes. It seems he likes to laugh. I'm not sure how much English he speaks, but I'm going to try to learn as much Nepali as I can.



I'm flipping out with excitement about the trek. Niraj has assured me an excellent price (which I got, making sure Pancha is also paid fairly) and sternly told him that I was going to try to carry my own pack, but if I got tired he had to take it for me. We'll see...stubborn Colorado girl trekking...haha!



Niraj is taking me around the muddy, potholed streets of Kathmandu on his motorbike, driving extremely carefully and honking incessantly as seems to be the way to do things here. They drive on the left side of the road here, which I didn't know before but it doesn't seem to matter much as cars and motorbikes, pedestrians and bicycles are all weaving around each other through the narrow streets.

We visited a monkey temple where there are tons of apes running all around. Apparently they can be little robbers and steal jewlery and purses. I managed to escape unscathed. They even have a monkey swimming pool they leap into from 20ft above off tree branches in the summer time!

Then we went to Durbar Square which is a UNESCO world heritage site and full of tons of people, pidgeons and cows wandering around. Wow, Kathmandu is always bursting with people, shops and energy! I can't wait to get on the trail in the Annapurnas.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I´ve Returned to...¡Graná!

Eating lunch by the river where we hiked.
Luis and I at the café overlooking Granada. I made a friend!

View from Luis´Chalet


Purple tongues from eating wild moras, or blackberries


Sweet ´chillout´bar Luis and Jaime took me to in the Sierra


Jaime and me on his moto




On the trail Jaime, Luis, Alicia and David took me to. This is the Old Grandfather Tree.


In a café/bar with Luis and Alicia and the Alhambra in the background.


Alicia, Luis and Jaime overlooking Granada


Wow, the last few days have been such a blast and I am so so happy to have returned to Granada, or as they tend to say here, Graná. I have been extremely well taken care of by my friends here from when I studied here in the spring of 2007. I made 4 very good friends where I was here: Luis and Alfonso, two best friends and Luis (we´ll say #2) and his brother Jaime. I met a really cool girl named Daisy on the bus...surprise! She has been traveling for 4 months starting in Mongolia and ending here in Europe. We have spent some time together and get along great, she´s totally into organic farming and Colorado hippie stuff.

Anyway, I called Luis when I got here and we decided to meet for tapas that night, so Daisy and I found her a hostel and wandered the city until we met with Luis and his friends Julia, Bea and Chechu. We had a great time, I think we were out until about 3 am then Luis took me to the ´chalet´his family owns just outside of town where we crashed.

The next day we slept in then got churros con chocolate...yum! I met with Luis 2 and Jaime that afternoon and they took me to the coolest bar/cafe i´ve ever been to up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. See above chillout bar picture.

We went back to their house for some tea and cakes because Luis and his friend Rocio had gone on a road trip to California and showed the family and me their pictures. By the way, it was total synchronicity that Luis 2 was in Granada, he´s been living in Holland for 2 years working and was back this weekend for a wedding. Go figure! After that Jaime took me by his moto (vespa) to where I met Luis to go out again. Little did I know we would be out at bars and dancing until 8:30am...Spain does it again. Luis drove me up to the Chalet again and we crashed for a few hours, then picked up his friends and we went to a sweet restaurant up in the Sierra.

After lunch they dropped me off in town and I met up with Alfonso for a couple tapas. It was fantastic to see him and hear how well he´s doing. He quit smoking, which made me really happy and just seemed to be content. The last bus to Monachil, the town where the chalet is left at 10:30 so I had to leave the city early to catch it, plus I was exhausted by that point. I had to walk a ways up a large hill to get to the chalet, but I was proud to remember where to go and make it by myself.

Today I slept in then caught the bus to town again. I decided to stay in a hostel tonight because tomorrow I´m meeting Jaime and Luis 2 to go hiking in the mountains on Jaime´s favorite trail, La Vereda de las Estrellas (The trail to the stars). Their family loves to hike, bike and camp and is thrilled that I like that too, so we have a good time together and luckily his brother Luis and sister Alicia can come with us too!

I skyped my parents and Spencer today and gave Luis his keys back before meeting with my host family from 2 years ago for lunch. It was delicious, as always, a kind of paella soup, SO GOOD. It was great to see the family, they are doing well and the kids have grown up so much. Manolo, the son is now 18 and taller than I am...I can´t believe it! I feel so fortunate to have such good connections and memories here I can relive with them. They are so giving, it makes me happy to see them doing well.

After lunch I met with Jaime, Luis and Alicia to take a spin on the motos around the city. Jaime said that although they live here, they never go to the touristy and old parts of the city because it´s taken for granted, so having me there to show around was great! We went to the Albaicin and Sacromonte, the old parts of the city where the gypsies live and watched the sunset over the Alhambra at a cool little bar. Then we went down to the city center and met with some of their friends for tapas. I feel so comfortable around those three, they are kind, fun and not vulgar, like some Spaniards tend to be. They take really good care of me and their parents are freakin cool too, they also love to hike and be outdoors. Plus, they have motos and I just can´t stop laughing when I´m on motos so that´s fun!

I´m trying to upload pictures but the internet goes in and out...we´ll see what I can do tomorrow. I´m going to try to go to to ISA, the office of the study abroad program I was in to see the directors there before hiking tomorrow, which should be fun. Then the hike, then who knows! Tuesday morning I go back to Madrid to stay with Robin, then Wednesday I fly to Nepal. I don´t know how much internet I´ll have there, so it might be a while after Tuesday.

Take care everyone! Thank you for your emails, and oh! If you have trouble posting comments on here please send me a note on email for facebook if y´like!

-Karina