A Travellerspoint blog

The Trekking Edition!

Well, we made it! Myself and Sally T successfully completed our trek!! After 23 hours of walking over 5 days, and a distance of rougly 38km, we are back in sunny Pokhara, with satisfyingly achey and weathered bodies! And what a 5 days it was. I will, in true Anna fashion, be a little more descriptive but just to set the scene with one simple word......WOW!! Well and truly WOW! It was so worth the sweat, aching, burn and 2,130 upward climb (!!!). I am and will forever more recommend trekking in Nepal to anyone and everyone!

So, Day 1: we left Pokhara on another very bumpy bus to a little place called Nyapul where we start our trip. To the suprise of pretty much everyone we talked to before we left and during the trip, we didn't have a guide or porter to help us find our way or carry our bags. Hence we were carrying 5 days worth of stuff on our backs and attempting to navigate our way round questionable and poorly signposted routes. But, with my trusty Sal-Nav on board we had nothing to worry about at all. The in-built compass of that girl never lets us down (well, apart from when we walked the wrong way as soon as we started, but enough of that! Nothing to do with me at all *cough cough*!!!). The first day was a hot one and the sweat beads were flowing after mere minutes of walking. We trundled up steps and slopes with very little shade to assist us. Dotted all along the route on these treks are small stopping points, where you can buy water and general snacky bits at severely inflated prices, or you can sit down and eat, or even stay at the guest houses. These places are quite odd as they are literally there because the trekking route is there - completely tourist-driven and all looking pretty identical to one another. As one guy we met said, it's like being on a film set, everything seems a little fake. There are extended families living at each place, with their own shop, guest house, or restaurant, but their lives simply consist of watching people come and go...come and go... it must be quite an odd way to live. After a gruelling 4 hours of upward climbing, my face was distinctly rouge and probably quite frightening (anyone who has seem me after exercise can vouch for this!), and we had arrived at our first detination, Tikedhunnga (try pronouncing that after a few drinks!). We ate some over-priced noodles and cooled down sufficiently, before deciding that we hadn't been punished enough and should walk a further 3 hours up the 280 stone steps (more like 1,280) to another small stop-off point, Ulleri. This way, our walk the next day would be much easier and more enjoyable as the elevation we would have walked was 940m on the first day. So on we went. Strangely enough, I enjoyed the afternoon upward walking alot more than the morning walk - despite the constant steps it was cooler, shadier and my noodles and Sprite had boosted my energy. Sal and I were even singing Eternal, "The Power of a Woman" as we struggled higher and higher!! We must have sounded GREAT! The view that rewarded us at the top was....mediocre! The clouds had come in, hence the nice cool walk, and so the mountains were hidden from us for the night. It even started raining a little. I was in bed by 7pm that night...an all-time record! It was unashamadely amazing to get snuggled up so early when it was so cold outside! A sign of things to come...

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Day 2: Our 6am rise was greatly assisted by my 11 hour sleep! I practically bounded out of bed to catch a glimpse of the sunrise over the valley and the morning view of Annapurna South. Breakfast was eaten looking out over the view and enjoying the best milk tea I've tasted so far! Lush! Our second day was really enjoyable to walk - still lots of inclines but alot shadier and cooler the higher we were. The Annapurna South mountain was a constant companion for the day, and would continue to be for the entirety of our trek....like a friendly presence encouraging and nudging us on. Everytime I looked at it, it was as spectacular as ever. The view never got boring! We wandered alongside delightful rivers, waterfalls and wooded areas, stopping for shots (not the alcoholic kind, unfortunately) and snacks every so often. We arrived at our next destination, Ghorepani, roughly 5 hours after leaving Ulleri. We were now at an elevation of 2750m so had climbed 750m that day. My legs were feeling ever so slightly wobbly! We spent the afternoon relaxing, reading, playing cards and trying to keep warm - the temperature was freezing at that height. Early to bed again as the pinnacle of the trek was the next morning - a 4.30 rise awaited us and what promised to be the most spectacular mountain views we could imagine.

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Day 3: Our 4.30am alarm was, to our extreme bleary-eyed annoyance, preceded by our exceptionally noisy Korean neighbours who woke up and started shouting outside our door at 4 in the morning. Hmmmm. The night had been so cold, I was basically wearing all the clothes I had to my name...so it was a quick readying session for me! And so we emerged, still bleary-eyed from our hotel to meet with the most amazing blanket of stars in the frosty night sky, and a perfect crescent moon. It was spectacular.... but nothing compared to what was in store! It was a surreal experience indeed joining the long line of wrapped-up trekkers and guides, trundling slowly slowly up the steep stone staircases and muddy grounds, dozily following the jittering light of a head torch atop the person infront, or behind. Like lemmings we marched up and up, the sweat beads expanding, the cold air becoming thinner, the heart beating faster and faster, the layers peeling gradually away....until, 45 minutes and a climb of 450m later, before the sun had even risen, we finally reached Poon Hill, our viewing spot for the next few hours. We were there with 200 plus other trekkers so the magic and solitude you imagine is slightly altered...it was more like squeeze for the photography spot you desire, wait for the person to move out of your shot, try to be oblivious to the hububb of people excitedly chatting and laughing. It was still totally magical though...regardless of all the other people.

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As we had been walking up to Poon Hill, the faint outline of the enormous mountains had been looming ominously, like a fearsome but respected teacher standing behind you in class- you can feel their powerful presence behind you, but know at the same time they were undoubtedly keep you safe. The shadowy outlines soon became animated with the rays of the rising sun and wow, what animations they were! With every passing second the landscape evolved into a more and more jaw-dropping spectacle. The sunshine crept gingerley over the silvery white peaks and curves, warming and caressing their cold exteriors like an old friend. The lemmings atop the hill all stood on the periphery, extending their massive, telescopic lenses towards the impressive range, snap-snapping away and absorbing the sight with every available pore. To give you an idea of the range of the view - the mountains we could see were Dhaulagiri, Tukche, Nilgiri Himal, Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Machhapuchhra and Himal. They were literally surrounding us! "Put the money in the bag and no one gets hurt!!!" It was epically beautiful and a morning I will remember and treasure forever.

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We literally bounded back down Poon Hill to Ghorepani, high from the incredible sights we'd taken in. But, no rest for the wicked...onwards and upwards we went from Ghorepani to our next stop, 5 and a hlaf hours away in Tada Pani. Today was most definitely the hardest day of walking in terms of terrain and upward-downward trekking. Our legs really took a battering going up to Poon Hill, coming back down and then ascending up to another hill at the same height, and back down again! Ow! Due to the height we were walking at, the sights continued to make us giddy all day (probably something to do with the high altitude too!). It was so satisfying to get to Tada Pani, as we knew that from there it was all downhill!

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Day 4: Met with a sunrise that equalled the Poon Hill sunrise, we soaked up the first chilly moments of Thursday morning with sleepy smiles. My eyes have been treated so much these last few days!! My legs on the other hand, had not been treated so well and were starting to complain in a serious way! My calf muscles had completely seized up from the inclines and declines from the day before so the downhill trek we had ahead of us that day was not as enjoyable as I'd anticipated! We started our journey to Ghandruk, our next stop, by trekking through a jungle, with huge monkeys swinging and playing about in the trees above us! Amazing! The path was full of trekkers heading up to Poon Hill or down to Ghandruk with us...the traffic was worse than rush hour in Bristol (but slightly more scenic)!! Thankfully for my weakening pins, we arrived in Ghandruk at lunch time after only 3 hours of walking, so we had the afternoon to chill, soak up the sunshine and wander around the little village of Ghandruk - a refreshing change to the "staged" stopping points we were accustomed to. The evening was spent gazing up at the Machhapuchhre "Fishtail" mountain peaking through the clouds.

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Day 5: Last day and more stunning mountain views over breakfast and more downhill, achey trekking for my legs to bear. Ouch! The scenery was beautiful walking back down from Ghandruk to Nyapul...rolling valleys with tiered padi fields creating glorious patterns all around. The contrasting colours from the bright green fields, to the vibrant purple and fushcia flowers, to the crystal blue sky, to the sparkling white Machhapuchhre mountain peak certainly eased our jolting walk down the steep stone steps. And so, we arrived in Nyapul and clambered onto our bus - hot, sweaty, knackered but most importantly.....SATISFIED!!!

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Now we are back in Pokhara, fully enjoying our chilled weekend and the energetic Diwali Festival, or The Festival of Lights, that is happening in town and indeed all over the continent. Tomorrow we leave for Sunauli and then over the border we go to India, for the next episode of our travelling extravaganza!! Exciting times...

For now though, love and missings to you all xxx

Highlights since the last blog:
- Completing our 5 day trek! Yeeeeah!!
- Getting up to 3,200 feet at 5 in the morning and then being greeted by the Poon Hill View!
- Sunrise in the Nepali mountains - epic and awe-inspiring natural beauty that makes you truly appreciate how amazing our planet is. Lush!

Posted by Anna Rowl 23:04 Comments (0)

Kathmandu to Pokhara...stepping up a notch!

So, here you find me, tip-tapping away on a keyboard in the beautiful tourist city of Pokhara... I have to say I am thankful for the move as we outstayed our welcome in Kathmandu I feel! Don't worry, they didn't kick us out by the scruff of our necks or anything... we just had to stay around to get Sally's Indian visa so the place lost its' novelty to a large extent.

After my last blog, and after our little excursion to Chitwan National Park, myself and Sally came down with a few medical ailments (or "dodgy tummy syndrome" as we like to call it). Chitwan's greasy food, the elephant bathing in a river in which you can see the elephant having its' daily bowel-emptying session, and the heat proved too much or our delicate little bodies and so we lay them about in our room in Thamel for 3 days. Thank god for satellite TV!! I've watched more Chinese subtitled films in the past few weeks than should ever be allowed!! And it certainly negated from the travelling aura that we had anticipated so much before we arrived in Nepal...but alas, this is the way of the English rose gut and so we tried to make the best of a TV-based situation. How? Add chocolate and Will Smith!! Ha ha!

Anyway, bellies recovered (just....) we ventured to Bhaktapur which is another "city" just outside Kathmandu city, in the Kathmandu Valley. After our hectic expedition to Nagarkot, in which we had to pass via Bhaktapur, we felt much more prepared and in control as we actually knew where the bus stop was, where abouts our bus would be, how much it should be, and where to get off! All in all a luxuriously smooth experience! (apart from the bumpy ride!) It was Saturday so the one day of weekend for Nepali people. As a result, the whole of Bhaktapur was on down-time and we managed to sit in on a school performance being held just off the royal square in the city. We were treated to a multitude of impressive dances, fantastic costumes and beautiful Nepali children running around everywhere! It was so refreshing to gain a little insight into family life here. Bhaktapur was so much quieter than Kathmandu City so we soaked up the atmosphere in the main areas - Tamaudhi Tole and Durbar Square. Both are dotted with intricately constructed, towering temples, guarded by fearsome statues, all possessing Hindu meaning and significance. It was fascinating...me and Sal just wandered about taking in the sights and finished off the day sitting on a roof top terrace watching the world go by below us. As the sun sets, the hoards of snap-snapping and noisy tourist groups disappear and all that is left is the dwindling crowds of vegetable and spice traders and wandering lone tourists and locals. As the light disappeared, the houses on the hills started twinkling away around us and below us, statues of Ganesh and Shiva were lit by candles with people coming to light the flames and make their prayers. The hustle and bustle and beeping of the day was gradually replaced with the soothing sounds of Newari men ringing tiny bells and chanting in strangely melodious monotones. We sat for hours on that roof top...just soaking it all up.

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After Bhaktapur, we were on a "we're-free-from-the-shackles-of-our-tummies-and-Thamel" high so we got on a bus to Patan, another area just outside Kathmandu City, with its' only little Royal Square, grand temples and hive of activity. We wandered around for a few hours, before attempting to get on a bus to Thamel...which proved, like many bus rides do, to completely confuse us, get us lost, and end in us having to pay for a taxi ride home anyway!! But we can always say we gave it a bash...and that's the most important thing!

Thamel for the last few days was uninspiring and merged into all the others that we have had. The morning we jumped on our bus to Pokhara was a relieving morning, even with a laborious 9 hour bus ride gaping ahead of us! The bus was the bumpiest we had ridden, but weirdly I managed to sleep for about 3 hours of the trip...apparently getting shaken around like a banana in a blender is my new method of drifting off!! We arrived in Pokhara with aching bottoms and still-juddering limbs, found some accomodation, and settled into the Life of Riley that we would occupy for a few days!

The tourist city of Pokhara is as stunning as the rumours tell. The main reason why Nepal was one of mine and Sally's destinations of choice was because my dear Dad had told me that sitting by the Phewa Lake in Pokhara is one of the most beautiful sights he had ever seen. Well, how could we resist!? And my dear Dad tells no word of a lie. Phewa Lake is enormous and divine. Enormously divine, if you will. Flanked by snow-capped mountain peaks and thick wooded hills, it hasn't failed to take my breath away every time I've laid my grateful eyes on it!

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Unfortunately we had a day and a half of non-stop, bordering on torrential rain when we arrived...so another TV-worshipping day and a half was in order! Oh, but when the rain cleared... we were met with gorgeous sunshine and flashes of the breathtaking Macchupucha fishtail mountain peak shocking your vision into a stupor! On Friday (The Day the Sun Came) we hired a row boat out and floated around on the lake, in complete isolation from any other living being, apart from the dragonflies and flutter-by's (after Kathmandu, I cannot tell you how amazing that feeling was!!). Here's a little insight into the experience...I call it "Lake Phewa Fairytale"

Gliding, riding this perfect pool
Pinch yourself, check that it's real
Waiting so long for the sun to shine
Now that it's here it is all mine.

Dip the oar, pull it back
Our little blue vessel, our wooden shack
Wiggling around, giggling sounds
At first we are so green
Steadily steadily straight and slow
Away across Phewa we go!

A Terrapin floats across the air
Rolling hills burst into the scape
Surely this is the perfect place
Surely we should never escape

Glowing sun kisses our needing limbs
Touching our faces and stroking our skin.
Pokhara it's true, you have magical powers
And for this perfect moment you are all ours.

I hope if you close your eyes tight enough you can indulge a little of that moment for yourself...no matter where on earth you may be sitting right now.

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Sadly however, due to our little boat experience, I am now a slightly redder shade of pink in all the wrong places (sorry Mum!)...but I refuse to let the burn taint the amazing memories of the lake!!!! Yesterday we trekked up to the World Peace Pagoda...some what of a preparation for our trekking on Monday, but slighty more "off-road" than I hope than the big trek we will be embarking on! We got lead off the Lonely Planet route and found ourselves clambering up a hill in the middle of a forest, (sound familiar Eddie!!?!!) with no clear path and, as I later found out, leech-infested grasses!!! (that's right, one attached itself to my ankle - eeewww!!) Sheer satisfaction prevailed when we finally reached the Pagoda, dripping with sweat and with the burnt skin radiating serious heat!! I'm pretty sure I was as hot as the Sun itself!!! The Pagoda was stunning though, and we absorbed the sights through our squinting eyes and camera lenses. An easier walk and lovely boat ride greeted us on the way down...thank goodness!!

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So now we are preparing ourselves for our trek up to a little spot called Poon Hill. It's a 5 night 6 day trek and promises to be quite a test for both me and the little one. Apparently on the third day it is a pure up-hill struggle that continues for around 5 hours. Oh great, let me at it. But in all seriousness, I am very excited and can't to see some ultimately gobsmacking mountain peaked scenery. LET ME AT IT!!!!

Love to all of you and I hope you wait with baited breath for "Anna's Blog: The Trekking Edition"!!

xxx

Highlights since last blog:
- Leaving Thamel, and more importantly, replacing it with Pokhara (I recommend it to you, my friends)
- Eating the most delicious, thick and tasty paneer (Indian cheese) that your taste buds can fathom (Rachel, I know you'll appreciate that one!)
- Some of you may think it's a poor highlight to bring to the table (but it did save our lives during the desolate, rainy and poorly tummy times!) - Satellite Television. Thank you.

Posted by Anna Rowl 06:06 Comments (1)

First week of the travels...Nepali style!

Finding our feet and exploring the treats of Kathmandu and beyond!!

Well, the first week of my travels has come around and it has been a real shock to the system...both weather wise, culture wise and tummy wise (!!!). After a total of 15 hours travelling (including a stop over at Delhi airport) I emerged from Kathmandu airport stressed (after having missions trying to get my visa sorted; knowing I was an hour late meeting Sally T; and apprehensive about the guaranteed onslaught of relentless taxi drivers shouting in my face: "Hello...Madam...cheap price!"), and sticky from the change in temperature. Seeing little Sally T's face poking through the sea of unfamiliar faces was like a beautiful shining beacon to my weary eyes!!! I couldn't quite believe after 5 months I finally had her in my arms and we shared an emotional (5 second!) hug before the guaranteed onslaught of taxi drivers decided that we'd had eough privacy and it was time to pounce. Great.

We jumped in our taxi, and the taxi door was slammed in my face because I wouldn't give the cheeky bugger who carried my bag 5 metres (woop de doo) a tip! My delicate English sensibilities were bruised for the first time only 3 minutes out of the airport!! I then scolded myself for being so sensitive... Nepal is very similar to India (I travelled in India about 5 years ago and Nepal lies just above the Indian border and is hugely influenced by the super power) so I knew I just needed to toughen up, don a thick skin, be an absolute bitch and forget all the kind and honest values I once had (!!!!).

Driving to the hotel I was also brought right back to my time in India...the roads and traffic are seriously crazy!! People drive anywhere and everywhere...there is no rhyme or reason...no logic or manners...just every man for themselves. Me and Sally chatted busily, briefly interspersed with either of us pausing dialogue to sharply breathe in as a rickshaw or car careered dangerously close to our taxi! Alarmingly, you soon get used to it!! The hotel we are staying in is right in the midst of the tourist quarters of Kathmandu- Thamel. The streets are lined with trinket and clothes shops, internet and phone places, restaurants and bars. The bicycle, motocycle, car and rickshaw traffic pushes you off the very narrow streets as you try and take everything in around you. The place is an absolute sensory overload! We ate dinner on a roof top watching over Thamel and wider Kathmandu, catching up on the 5 month "break" we have endured, before hitting the sack for an early night.

To give some background on the country, Nepal is very poor, with 82% of people living on less than $2 a day. The majority of people live in rural areas and work on the land, growing and selling their crop, the cities are overcrowded and are very dirty, with rubbish littering the streets and very poor sewage systems creating almighty stenches in places. There are many beggars in the cities and some of the physical and mental states that they are in are deeply upsetting (thick skin must come into play here). The Nepali people are very friendly and come from Himalayan, Chinese, Tibetan and Indian roots. It really is a melting pot of all types and races. One of the greatest things about Nepali people is their acceptance and tolerance of others, which you really notice when you are a foreigner here - the staring is alot less prevalent than in India and all people want is a smile and a 'Namaste', which essentially means 'I greet the divine inside of you'. The Nepali people see the divine as being everywhere and they see the world as dominated by prayer and ritual - gods are not remote, abstract concepts but living, present beings (we went to the house of a real life 5 year old "goddess" in Kathmandu's Durbar Square. Poor girl!). At the moment, the weather is changing from Monsoon season to peak summer season so we are still experiencing really heavy showers that come on with little warning and with drops the size of golf balls that hurt your skin as they fall! When it isn't raining, and the sun is shining it is hot hot hot. It is not a wise idea to show lots of skin in Nepal though, as it can be seen as disrespectful and can attract unwanted attention. Nepal, like India, has a caste system which determines not only a person's status but also their career and marriage partner, how that person interacts with other Nepalis and how others react back. You will find that the rich Nepalis you see in bars and restaurants are all lighter skinned, and the rickshaw drivers and manual workers are dark skinned. The injustice of it makes me resent my white skin at times.

The first few days in Nepal were spent finding our feet and getting our bearings. We explored a little of Kathmandu on the day after our arrival- I managed to get us so horrendously lost we had to get a taxi all the way back the way we had walked (in the searing midday heat!!) Sally took the map from then on! Ha!! Kathmandu was preparing for one of its' many festivals, this one is called Dasain, and people around the whole of Nepal celebrate it. The main gist of the celebrations are buying food, cooking, eating, dancing and merriment, with the sacrificing of 108 goats and 8 buffalo thrown in for good measure! The blood of the dead animals is for the goddess Durga, and the day after the sacrificing the blood is sprinkled on the wheels of cars and other vehicles to ensure a safe year on the roads (with their driving I think they need more than a bit of blood sprinkling!!). We saw loads of goats being pulled down busy roads on our first day in Kathmandu and then it all became dismally clear that the poor little blighters were living on borrowed time!

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So, in the first week we have experienced little Sally T's 25th year in the world!! Unfortunately for the birthday girl it was largely spent being stressed out because we thought it would be "nice" and "relaxing" to go to a little place called Nagarkot, around 30 km out of Kathmandu with amazing views of the Himalayas and plenty of chilled vibes...it wasn't! We couldn't find our bus, and when we did it was so hot and busy we felt like chickens in a cage waiting for the sacrifice (!!), we then made it to another town where we had to change buses and then onto another bus on which we were sat next to a chicken in a plastic bag (who was literally waiting for the sacrifice) and I was sat on two huge bags of rice at the back of the very bumpy bus wobbling about for the majority of the journey! (public transport in Nepal is the biggest culture shock of them all!!) We then arrived in Nagarkot tired and still vibrating from the ride, and made it to our hotel, which was the highest in the town, with the best view...but it was so cloudy you couldn't see 5 metres infront of you!! To really top the day off, poor little Sal had a really bad case of jet lag/altitude adjustment/stomach cramps/general poorliness (our professional diagnosis) and nearly fainted when we went to try and find a phone so she could call her folks :-( which we couldn't :-(((

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The next day was met with new optimism and we awoke ready for the amazing sunrise over the Himalayan mountains and.........oh. The clouds were so thick you could barely see your own hand in front of your face! Back to bed we went (we may try that little trip out again...I think we were too close to monsoon season and the rain clouds evidently still hadn't cleared). Sally was feeling much better and it was all downhill back to Kathmandu so we had a gorgeous and sunny walk down to a little town called Sankhu, past rice padi fields, idyllic landscapes, picturesque village scenes and plenty of rosy-cheeked children calling out "Namaste...where you from?"!! Now that is what we came to Nepal for!!

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We have just returned from a 3 day trip to Chitwan National Park which has been breathtakingly beautiful but literally the hottest 3 days of my life...EVER!! We've ridden on, been splashed by, and been dunked off the back of elephants (although the treatment of them is very questionable), we've had a jungle trek, seen rhinos, crocs and plenty of weird and wonderful birds and vegetation, and witnessed fantastic sunsets by the Rapti River-side. I did feel that we (and the elephants) were on a huge, rotating tourist conveyor belt, sucking us in and spitting us out after 3 days! Good job it was so goddamn beautiful!

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The next few days we will be in Kathmandu Valley seeing some more sights and waiting to pick up Sally T's Indian visa....then it's off to Pokhara for some serious mountain trekking and jaw-dropping scenery. Photos will be put up soon. Much love to all of you, wherever you are!! xxxx

Highlights so far:
- Seeing little Sally T for the first time in too long!
- Seeing the snowcapped mountain peaks of the Himlaya and Annapurna ranges for the first time on our way to Chitwan National Park.
- Having a baby elephant snuffle my hand with its' gorgeous little trunk at the elephant breeding centre. LUSH!

Posted by Anna Rowl 05:15 Comments (1)

It's the final countdown!

First blog entry....4 days to go!

Aaaaargh!!!! The big trip is just around the corner. The final items are being bought, the last 'to do's' on the list are being ticked off, and the final goodbyes are being uttered. I still can't quite believe that I'm going...right now the overall feeling is one of numbness, mixed in with equal measures of apprehension and fierce excitement. The only thing to do now is just GO!!!

So, welcome to my blog! Here you will find the tales of my trip along with photos and other exciting tit bits. I hope everyone enjoys the ride, as much as I'm sure I will be. First stop is Kathmandu, Nepal and a Sally T welcome. Heaven!!! I will be updating my blog when I have got my tiny little mind around what is going on (don't hold your breath, this could take a while!)

Signing off for now.

Eeeeek.

x

Posted by Anna Rowl 12:47 Archived in England Comments (1)

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