One big black Aeroplane and Nepal

Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
Trip End Jun 12, 2009

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ooooo K Cha cha cha.

The last time i left you i had a bad foot resting on Koh Phangan with a number of options before our flight to Kathmandu.  Well we are now in Kathmandu, low on money but still loving our trip with some slightly altered plans for the future :)  Before i let you in on the start of our Nepalese adventure i will fill you in with everything between lying in bed with a bad foot and touchdown in Nepal :)

Well my foot healed up fine, i started to feel fine so we booked up a three day Live aboard dive trip on the west coast of Thailand.  To get there we spent a surprisingly comfortable night on a ferry, with foam mats to sleep on getting to Surat Thani.  Waiting for a bus from here to Khao Lak we bumped into Leron, a guy that we had spent some time with on the organic farm in the north... we spent some time catching up and he informed us that after we left the farm he built an oven out of mud...they all enjoyed making pizzas and cakes! Sounded awesome and after looking at pictures of what else had got up to after we had left we started to miss the place again...ahh well we can put it on our list of places to return to :)

Waiting for our dive trip to start we spent a couple of days in Khao Lak (where we were to catch the dive boat).  Khao Lak, hmmmm..... expensive.  This area was hit hard by the Tsunami and you could see a few after effects here and there, they also had Tsunami warning signs pointing out evacuation routes etc.  Our two days were spent on the beach getting the last bit of beach time in for this trip :(  I was able to relive my childhood after blagging the use of a  body-board off of one of the locals...we had a load of fun splashing about and catching waves... even though half of the day it was pissing down with thunder and lightning we remained English and remained on the beach :)  Zoe got all bay-watch and practiced her new rescue skills on me :) 

So the dive trip!  We decided to make it a little more interesting and book on a "Whale shark research and education" trip as opposed to just going on a standard diving trip.  What did this mean?!!  it meant that in between dives we were listening to lectures and learning all about whale sharks, sharks and rays...which i loved and was a major highlight of the trip.  We also received a "whale shark specialty SSI dive qualification" which involved completing a few special dives on the trip.  Before i get into the dives we completed, i just want to let you know that we booked with and i can highly recommend them :)

Right the dives..actually no not the dives, i will save the dives until last.  We boarded the boat (our home for the next 3 days) and met our fellow travelers and the Wicked diving staff... a great bunch of people and a good laugh throughout the three days.  We were then shown to our cabin and happy to find a small welcome gift on the beds (Lovely touch) we received a handmade bar of lemon-grass soap each as well as some fresh flowers, a wicked diving T-shirt and a wicked diving head strap for our diving Goggles (i currently just have the head strap so I'm gonna have to buy some goggles to compliment this).  The room was perfect with a gorgeous view of the ocean as we whizzed along the water to our first location.  The food on board was super spanky and super tasty, loved it :) and overall it was an amazing trip, an experience i will never forget :) Now the dives....

We dived around the Surin Islands, Richelieu Rock, Koh Tachai, Koh Bon and the Bonsoong Wreck.  There were four dives to be completed to receive the SSI ECOlogical diving certification.  The first, a "Perfect Buoyancy" dive was to improve buoyancy while diving, this helps to preserve the reefs and coral systems by preventing divers from kicking or landing on these living environments and also extends your dive-time by improving your streamlined positioning in the water and conserving air....we basically had to display a couple of skills and play a couple of games demonstrating our buoyancy.  After the required skills we continued on a fun dive and spotted two Leopard sharks.... absolutely stunning animals, i will put a picture up, their tail fins have a distinct shape and along with their pattern they are beautiful.  The two we saw were mother and daughter :) ohh and we also saw a bloody gert sting ray lying in the sand...maybe 1m wide.

The second specialty dive was a reef clean-up dive...picking up foreign debris from the dive sites and being told how to remove items safely and learn how to determine if they've been there long enough to become part of the habitat.  We found a bunch of fishing wire that we removed with some snips, a big blue pole and the top of a kettle!! How i felt good at removing some debris..oh on this dive we also spent about 10 minutes watching an octopus change colour and roam around a rock.

The last two specialty dives focused on photography and shark education... we did not have much luck with the camera... one of the things we were looking forward to on this trip was the use of a underwater digital camera as sold in the package, we were excited to have pictures of ourselves at one of the best diving spots in the world..well the fist dive with the camera went OK, we had a practice and were just kind of getting used to the settings (or Zoe was as she had first dibbs), the second dive was not so successful! it was my turn and upon returning to the surface i noticed the expensive plastic underwater casing that held the expensive camera was full of expensive item killing sea water... our dive guide was definitely not happy so we decided never to mention the camera again for the rest of the trip...therefore no underwater pics of ourselves or what we saw!  Luckily we had a professional photographer with us who has promised to upload some pics so we are looking forward to them and we also bought a video from a guy with an underwater camcorder on our we have some descent underwater footage ..whoop!

Soooo the rest of the dives were all amazing, on one i saw a black and white banded sea snake which scared the life out of me! it swam behind Zoes head (she missed it) and past me towards the surface...pretty damn close.  They are super poisonous but apparently can not bite you (unless they manage to get hold of your earlobe or the skin between your fingers) none-the less this scared me a million times more than a shark ever could and i managed to suck out half the air in my tank in fear :)

We encountered three leopard sharks, one was a mum and her baby, the last encounter was a descent sized beauty chilling out on the ocean floor, i managed to get close enough to see her gills in action and had a very special moment...definitely my current favorite shark...this may change in the future with more diving experiences but currently the Leopard shark comes in at Number one on my fav shark list.  There were tons of fish on all of the dives, a lot more than at Koh Tao but unfortunately we did not See the big one again.. a "Whale Shark" we did however have an amazing time and it was definitely amazing diving... ooo we also discovered again how lucky we were to See a whale shark the first time, especially chatting to people with 100+ dives and people who had been diving for 15 years without ever seeing one!

Oooo i forgot to mention my favorite dive :)  It was so special i am never going to forget it.  We were in search of a big black aeroplane.  We spent the start of the dive following the coral, checking out the fish and generally having a good dive, the dive became a million times better when we spotted what we were looking for a Manta Ray! OH My God it was amazing ... a 3.5 meter manta ray appeared in the distance, emerging from the deep blue it headed straight towards us and coming super close performed some underwater acrobatics, disappearing again from where it came...... it left me wanting more, and it did not disappoint making three passes in total and displaying some cool underwater skills.  Three point five meters! it dwarfed us, got my heart racing and made the trip for me... thank you manta ray.  The video of our encounter has been put up on the net, with thanks to Dan the video guy on our boat... he also has the octopus we saw and some coral can check it out here:  ...please do (check the following entries: 11th March - Octopus, 10th March - Manta ray)

Right so that was the diving trip, Super duper amazing.. if you have a chance look up this video: thats the web site, not sure where you can buy it but if you can find it do so...very educational and is a great look at what is happening to the sharks in our waters, with concerns to fishing etc.  The main point to take home from this: Sharks are not dangerous....  The media have given them this image and more people are killed by Coca - cola machines each year than sharks.

Right dive trip done we headed back to Bangkok, ready to leave Thailand and completely happy with our experience.  One of the guys on our trip Adam offered us a place to stay (he is studying in Bangkok) and we headed to his.  Towards the evening i started to feel poorly again and decided i would rather my own place to stay or more to the point a private bathroom and me and Zo headed to a guest house... i enjoyed the last couple of days in Bangkok on antibiotics from the doctor for a tummy bug :)

We flew Bangkok to Hong Kong, three hours later Hong Kong to Kathmandu.  A very interesting flight mainly spent in the toilet (still ill), but an even more interesting experience within our first hour of Nepal.  We landed and soon realized we had to buy a Visa, we also realized that we had forgotten to bring any money and at 10:00pm had to find an ATM .  We asked the guys at security where the nearest ATM was in the airport and if it were possible for us to visit it so that we could buy a visa and legally enjoy our stay in Nepal.  We headed in the direction pointed out by security and ended up outside of the airport and standing in front of a closed ATM, we are then approached by some Nepalese guys who offered to lend us 30 dollars each for our visa and then after we bought the visa and picked up our luggage would drive us to the ATM to return the money... hmmm.  We ended up super lucky and before leaving Bangkok arranged a hostel and an airport pickup in Nepal (very organised for us) and very kindly the guy who came to pick us up agreed to take us to an ATM.  So there we were outside of the airport, into Nepal and heading 5KM away to the nearest ATM without a visa, and without our luggage.  We were returned to the airport waltzed passed security, attempted to pay for our visa with the rupees we had withdrawn and were told that it had to be paid in any other currency than Nepalese Rupees!! We had to go back outside and change the Rupees into US dollars and then buy the visa!!  We picked up our bags, past the non existent security and headed to our hostel, overall a very interesting experience...the airport being my favorite, literally a few empty looking rooms and then Nepal :)

So Nepal, what have we been up to ?  Not much :P  i have had a bad tummy for a few days and have generally been feeling rubbish so have just been resting mainly.  We have ventured out a few times though mainly to eat and i LOVE Nepal so far.  Everyone is friendly, the food is amazing (all you can eat curry, rice and chutneys for 80pence), and there is a superb atmosphere about the place (Zoe says it reminds her of Moroco a little).  It reminds me of getting back to some proper traveling, Thailand was super easy, especially the south which is basically the new Ibiza / Spain, and Nepal is offering a bit more of a challenge again.  An interesting fact about Nepal is the electricity situation, basically the country has been divided up into 6 sections, each section receiving electricity for 4 hours a day on rotation ....each section receives electricity at different times of the day depending on the day of the week.  I'm currently typing in the dark as the section I'm in already had its four hours of electricity around mid day and at 6:45pm most places (such as this Internet cafe) are lit with one light bulb running off of a generator.  This Internet cafe is allowing three PCs to be run at anyone time :)

Our first hostel did not have water so we moved, it was a very nice place (due to be knocked down in a week), but we fancied a shower and moved closer to the center of town.  Being poorly has not been a bad thing it has allowed us to plan our time in Nepal or more to the point a trek :)  Being low on funds at the end of 9 months traveling we have decided to go out with a bang and complete a 20 day trek on our own...the Annapurna Circuit.  A lot of  people hire guides and porters, but it is possible to do it on your own and that is what we have decided to to...the final challenge almost, in amazing year that we have had traveling.  We have been researching the route in a book we have bought, stocked up on some trekking gear, registered with the correct agencies, and purchased the required trekking permits.  The highest point of the trek being 5416m (17,769 ft) we are also aware of the risks of altitude sickness and have planned our trip accordingly sticking to the rule "trek high, sleep low" setting the route out accordingly.  We will be experiencing sub tropical and alpine conditions, getting a first class view of the Himalayas and apparently the highest point is four times higher than Ben Nevis :)

So thats our plan, and after a couple of days sightseeing in Nepal......
.... through the magic of the Internet we have just finished the couple of days sight seeing :)  What did we sight see?
We visited Durbar Square, an area filled with some stunning architecture, temples, cows and locals selling their wares.  Pashupatinath temple was an eyeopener for us, we decided to find our own way there without another tourist in sight, through very poor areas, in spite of all this we felt completely comfortable and when lost the locals provided guidance with a smile :)  It is a Hindu temple and the eyeopener for us was the cremations taking place at the side of the Bagmati river...families could be seen throughout the day (we saw three) walking a recently deceased relative to the edge of the river...i say recently, they cremate a person on the same day that they die.  They place the person on a stack of wood, pay their respects and set fire to the wood, it was a very interesting experience but at the same time we felt very uncomfortable being their as families were saying goodbye to there loved ones.  We also visited Boudhanath one of the holiest Buddhist sites in all of Nepal, it contained the largest ancient stupa in the whole of the world, and if you don't know what a stupa is...take a gander at my pictures :)

So thats our sightseeing in Kathmandu, we are planning to bus our way over to Pokhara tomorrow (a seven hour bus) and we will then begin a 20 day trek..loverly.  Plans after that is to see how far our money can stretch and how many cities we can visit in India before flying home from Mumbai... i think we have a couple of months left :)

The next time you hear from me i will have completed the Annapurna circuit and will let ya know all about it... Yey! i hear you cry hmmmmm.

Books read... just a couple since the last blog:

Graham Greene - The end of the Affair... a bit different to my usual read, but i whizzed through it and enjoyed it thoroughly none-the less

Dan Brown - The Da Vinchi Code.... Bloody brilliant, but I'm sure a lot of you know that already!

Once again grab all of our pics from here:

Be happy

Tom :)
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