Ladies and gentlemen meet Annapurna 

So I finally left Pokhara direction Nayapul to begin my longed for trekking.  At this point I really needed a change of scenery and the idea of spending time on the mountains was really appealing.


After two hours drive we arrived in the Nayapul village.  From there I started walking and I didn’t stop until I got to Jinhu.  It took me the entire morning and when I got there I was ready to give up.  I was so tired that I had a hard time to talk and as soon as I managed to have a bed I  took a shower and went to sleep.  It was around 4pm but it felt like midnight.  I walked 17km up and down the mountains without any previous training and it had been hard.  

The last time I did something similar it’s when I was a kid and we went to the mountains with my family.  After that no mountain walks for me so much so that I had forgotten what it meant.  I love walking and the nature but this was another level of walking.  When you walk in the mountains you realize how nice it is to walk on a plane road,  on a paved road where you don’t have to check every step you take or be careful not to slip down the slope.  I have to confess that I wasn’t really prepared for this.  All the people I asked about the trekking to Annapurna Base Camp told me that it was pretty easy and duable. They were lying.  It’s not a complicated walk but it’s physically demanding.  And I have been  joined in my opinion by the people I met along the way.  

The second day I met two girls,  from Spain and from Uruguay and the trek has been lighter.  Not that the walk was easier, exactly the opposite as a matter of fact,  but simply for the fact that I was not alone and that I was able to distract myself by talking with someone else made things easier.  By one o’clock we arrived at our second stop in Sinuhua at 2340m of altitude.  We were all pretty tired so we decided to spend the night there.  It was starting to get cold and the fact that there is no heating whatsoever was not a reason for joy.  Nepalese people don’t use heating.  Ever.  They just content themselves with wearing warm clothes and drinking hot tea.  We were pretty cold and very tired but we managed to spend the night having some sleep. 

Third day began and the altitude and lack of oxygen started to be noticed.  Thankgod the walk was easier than the previous days so we managed to arrive in Deurali at 3200m,  almost 1000m higher than our previous stop.  The cold was worst and that night although exhausted I couldn’t sleep a bit.  In the meantime a couple of italians had joined the team and waling with Martina and Raimondo was a “nice little walk” uphill.

The following day was supposed to be the day that we reached the camp.  ABC is located at 4130m of altitude.  I was always the first to arrive (even though I was the eldest of the group!) and after I arrive to destination I had to wait a couple of hours to see all the others arrive.  The cold at that point was really bad and I wasn’t really prepared for it.  Inside the hamlet it was around 10° C whereas outside after sundown it got to -3. And no heating at all.  I couldn’t believe it.  I’ve never be good with cold weather although I had to admit that I got better with years but that was really too much.  There was no way to get warmer.  I kept on drinking tea (that means also peeing a lot at night) but I couldn’t get warmer.  It was just impossible.  When I was a kid and went to the mountains with my family it was cold outside but inside the hamlet it was really hot.  Here no.  Nothing,  not even a chimney.  We were all freezing and we were afraid to go to bed as the bedroom was colder than the dining room.  It had also started to snow and the fear of getting stuck there was growing fast.  We were actually looking forward for the following day to come so that we could leave and get to warmer temperatures back in Pokhara.  The night went by and thanks to the fact that we covered the windows with the extra mattresses in the room we managed to be less cold than the previous night.  A couple of times I had to wake up to pee and had the chance to see the myriad of stars above my head (as the toilet of course was outside the room).  There is no light pollution there and it’s possible to see all the stars in the sky.  Amazing!!! 

Morning comes and it was a fantastic sunny day.  We had breakfast at 6am and after a few (hundred)  pictures we made our way to descend.  At the beginning we were very careful so not to slip on the snowy terrain but when we reached the not snowy area  we walked as a fast as our soar muscles allowed us.  I was in pain for the extra exercise and for the cold and really desperate to go to a warmer climate.  Once again I arrived first (and alone) at the accorded meeting point some 9h later.  I had lost everybody along the way but I was really decided to get over with the walk as soon as possible.  The last part before checking point was a stair of some 400 steps upwards.  I thought I could die.  But I didn’t and arrived at the hamlet I managed to get a scorching hot shower after 4 days of barely washing in freezing cold water.  It was bliss.  I had dinner and went to bed.  Completely exhausted.  

The following day the others had not yet arrived so I decided to continue by myself and get to the bus to Pokhara the quickest possible.  I thought that the way uphill was over but I have never been so wrong.  Again the last piece of walk was upwards and when I arrived in Landruk I realized that the only way out was a jeep that costs 1500R  (roughly 12€/14$) that is a lot of money here.  But at that point I couldn’t walk anymore.  Had I taken another step I would have probably had a heart attack so I accepted the be taken for an idiot and pay 1500R against the 200 that paid the locals. 

The way down was horrible and the “road” was not paved or smooth in any way.  Two hours in a tumble dryer and some more on a “decent ” road later I finally arrived in Pokhara and to prize myself for my accomplishment I had a very good pizza at “Godfather’s 2” 



The trekking has been one of the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and luckily I didn’t know much about it.  Had I known more what was expecting me I probably wouldn’t have done it.  It’s not difficult but it’s really tough.  It’s physically demanding and the altitude doesn’t help.  I wasn’t too affected by altitude sickness but my muscles were all soar and two days after I still have some problems walking properly.  And it’s also mentally demanding as you have to decide that even though it’s tough you wanna get up there and most of the times you feel like you wanna give up and go back to the start.  And the fact that people at the hamlet take advantage of the situation is not helping.  The farther up you go the more expensive things are.  For a roll of toilet paper you can pay up to 2€. But then you see the “goat men”, usually boys who move merchandise up and down the mountains on their back and you understand why things are so expensive.  There is not other way to move stuff.  There is not drivable road so all goods need to be moved by men or mules.  And you wander how they have built “houses” up there.  

But then the fact that you have to pay for recharging your phone,  for hot shower and so on it gets on your nerves.  If you ask for blankets you can get the answer that they don’t have enough.  It’s hard.  It’s trying but once you get up there and see the beauty of the mountains covered in snow you understand why you did it.  

I am very proud of myself and happy I did it.  But I won’t do it again.  Ever.  Don’t make the same mistake that I did and think that it’s easy because everybody say so.  It’s not easy.  It can be done by anyone decently active in sport but it’s not a weekend walk in the countryside.  You need a little preparation.  Don’t forget  hat, gloves and scarf (I had none of them of course).  Bring a small backpack full of warm but light clothes.  Bring a power bank and possibly two even though up there there is no network and the phone in airplane mode lasts a lot longer. Download maps. me (available for Android and iOS) as it works very well on the mountains and you don’t need internet connection. I had cramps on my back, I had a hard time to lift the tea cup on my last day. Drink a lot of water and take some rest every now and then.  Bring some food like dried fruits or nut for the walk.  Bring teabags so you just need some hot water (and you save some money).  Buy bags of dried noodles so again you will just need some hot water. And if possible bring your own sleeping bag.  But most of all don’t underestimate it.  Mountains are beautiful but cruel at the same time.  A simple mistake can ruin the entire trip (I almost killed myself a couple of times!!!) 

Now back in Kathmandu I really miss the quiet and peace of the mountains. I really managed to detox myself from the use of mobile and now it’s almost annoying.  The green, the tweets of the birds,  the sound of the river running in the valley.  But the cold I don’t miss at all.  Winter is coming in the city too and soon it will be cold. I thought that some time away from the traffic of the city would help me to be more patient with people and traffic in Kathmandu.  But it’s exactly the opposite.  

Nepal has been the greatest deception of this trip.  I was so looking forward to come here and now I can’t wait to leave.  I’m waiting for my Indian visa and as soon as I have a verdict I will leave this country probably never to return again.  It’s a shame but it’s part of the adventure.  Sometimes you are lucky.  Sometimes not.  And now that it’s finished I realized I really enjoyed my time up the mountain.  I was too tired and too cold to see it back then.  But one thing it’s for sure… The beach is the best place to take a relaxing walk!!!  

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Dinner with Sandokan 

So after leaving Indonesia one day before my visa expires I land in Kuala Lumpur. The idea of being in Malaysia brings back memories of my childhood.  Sandokan the pirate says hello from the depths of my memories and it feels funny to be here. 

For those who don’t know who Sandokan is,  you can check this link. 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandokan

The first thing that attracts my attention is the multi cultural environment in KL. People are Asian,  Indian,  Chinese, Malay and everything in between. It’s fascinating to see these people from so different paths of life coming together as one same nation. 

I meet my host in KL sentral (it’s not a typo.  It’s sentral with S) and by train we reach his house.  We go for dinner in an Indian place open 24/7 like the majority of Indian restaurants and after he takes me for a night ride around town. Obviously the main attraction are the Petrona towers (or twin towers as the called them here) and like many other tourists we stop to take a picture – well more than one. 

The following day I’m on my own around the city as Joko – my host  – has to work.  I really like KL that although is a big city is still very “doable”. They have a free bus that takes you around town like an hop on – hop off thing and once in the center I get off and walk around.  It’s really hot but there is a good amount of shadow so it’s OK.  I visit the main attractions and have lunch in Little India. In the afternoon I meet my host and after dinner we’re off to bed. 

The following day I switch host.  Jr is a very nice man.  With a funny Indian face (although his family is 100% Malay) he greets me in his very cozy apartment on the outskirts of KL,  very close to Batu caves. We chill in his place for the afternoon and we go to yet another Indian place for dinner. The following day we meet with his friend Raizan and his couchsurfer and head to the caves. 

Batu caves are two caves a little hour outside KL.  They are at the top of his hill and you have to climb I don’t know how many steps to get to the top.  It was hard but slowly but surely I made it.  The main cave is pretty big.  I was told that there were bats inside but thankgod I didn’t see any.  My host and his friend stayed down as they had been up there plenty of times and they didn’t feel like climbing in that heat.  So it was just me and the other guest, a young man from Algeria that took at least 40 (thousand) selfies,  ten for each position… I couldn’t believe it!!! 

There is also the Dark Cave that apparently is populated by snakes and rare animals but we didn’t have time to visit as we wanted to go also a waterfall a little further down.

So after the caves and the “cover girl” photo shooting  we headed to the waterfall. Can’t really tell where that is but when we got there it was pretty busy as it was a holiday. We had to walk quite a walk to get to the less populated area of the waterfall but once we got there it was nice to jump into the fresh water and wash away all the sweat and dust of the climb. 

 

The following morning I was to take the bus to Malacca so my host suggested that I spent the night at Raizan’s as he lives closer to the bus (bas) station. 

Raizan’s is the most messy place I’ve ever seen in my life but I felt at home from the moment I put my feet inside.  

In the meantime a friend of Raizan’s arrived and the four of us (Raizan, his friend, Mustapha and I) went for dinner and then to the hot spring nearby.  The hot spring is a shallow pool of hot water that springs naturally near Raizan’s house.  The water is pretty hot and it was very nice to spend some time there.  

The following day I took a bus to Malacca. 

Summing it up – Taipei

So my time in Taipei has come to an end. I still have the same feeling for this place that I had recently arrived. I really love Taipei. I’ve never been to China or Japan but I have the feeling that Taipei is what’s in between. 

Everything here is proper and clean. People cue politely every where is necessary, they stand in the right side of the escalator, toilets in every metro station so clean that you could eat out of the floor, water fountains and WiFi in every metro station. It almost feels unreal. 

People whispering on their phones, always paying attention at not to bother the people around. Kids super polite that you don’t notice they are there. 

Of course not evething is perfect. In the bus, if you don’t have the right change you cannot get in (but people usually have the transportation card so it’s kinda ok) and then…. something else, but I can’t remember!! 😂

I spent my nights at the cleaner hostel I’ve ever had been to. Fun Taipei is right by Shilin night market.

It’s extremely easy to go from here to anywhere in the city.

The other days I wanted to go to the Beitou hotsprings buy for whatever reason they just let you use trunks (that’s for men of course). So I couldn’t get in and instead I went to the beach. 

To get there I got off at Tamsui metro station and then from there you need to take a bus that it takes almost one out to arrive at the beach. I had to get back by 4pm so I didn’t have much time to stay at the beach. I still managed to take a couple of baths but had I known it would take me 1.5 hours to get there I probably wouldn’t have gone. Besides the wind was really strong and the sand was all over the place.

I got back to the city and later I met with Andy. He’s a very nice Taiwanese guy that offered to take me “climbing” up Elephant mountain. This hill is called like that because apparently seen from afar it looks like an elephant. There are I don’t know how many stairs to climb but the view from the top is very good. We arrived there is was sunset and by the time we got up it was already dark.

After the long way up we were very hungry so we got scallion pancakes that are apparently a specialty from here. They are so good that I got two!!

The following days I wanted to go and visit the Golden Waterfall but I end up getting off the wrong bus stop so instead I visited Juifen old street

To be honest there is nothing really special about it but it was still interesting to see this old alley with all the shops on both sides. Only negative thing is it gets very crowded and moving on it’s almost impossible.

Finally yesterday after a super yummy brunch at this vegetarian restaurant near Shilin metro station (exit 1) I went to other hot springs called something like “Juan tz” (the king’s pool, apologies for my “Chinese”). These are close to the city and you can get there by bus. They are devides in male and female so it’s all in the nude.

And in the evening I met Ethan, a couchsurfer and with him we went to Ximen for dinner (a sort of Taiwanese Soho) and then headed to the “Revolver” for a drink, a hotspot for foreigners nearby the Mausoleum.

I so enjoyed Taipei that I’m honestly thinking of coming back one day. It’s a magic land between Europe and Asia where I felt like home.

Hanging out like a coffin (in Sagada)

I arrived in Sagada yesterday afternoon to see the world famous hanging coffins.

The city itself is just another Asian city, nothing really special.

I checked in at “Clairence Inn”. It is a very decent place close to the bus station, the rooms are nice and clean and have shared bathroom. For 300 pesos per night you have a very good value for money.

Afterwards I went for lunch at Masferré and managed to have a very good vegetarian combo, admittedly one of the best meal I had since I arrived in the Philippines. But don’t even think of getting a “pizza”. Once again, the dough was frozen and the overall very bad (one of the guys I had lunch with tried his luck!) The only VERY negative thing about this place is the service. It is run buy a bunch of adolescents, very impolite and annoying. They look at you, the laugh at you, they ignore you. All in all a very unpleasant experience (apart from the food, which unfortunately doesn’t make up for everything else)

In the afternoon I went visiting the hanging coffins. It is a very unique custom they have here in Sagada. If you like, you can decide that once you die you have your​ coffin hunged on a wall inside the cemetery perimeter. There are rules of course, not everyone can do that. You have to be old (from 40 on…!!!!) and your entire family has to agree. The reasons why they ​do this are not very clear. Some says it is to have your body close to heaven, some says it is because the dead don’t want to be eaten by the animals and insects when their body is buried in the ground. To visit the coffins you need a guide that is not very necessary as the hicking goes, but you can still ask as many questions as you want (and then you are free to believe or not his answers).

As I realized I was running out of cash I headed at the ATM by the information office. For some reason neither of my cards (Visa and MasterCard) worked. So I went out the ATM at the “mall”. Same problem. So following morning I went to the bank office. No luck either. I explained my issue to the bank clerk and I’ve been answered that Visa and MasterCard don’t work here. So I asked: so what cards work here? And the answer came with the best smile (only one I’ve seen since I arrived): only local cards!
Now, I’m stranded here with close to no money in my pocket and waiting for the bus to Manila that leaves this afternoon. Luckily I managed to buy the ticket yesterday, and that’s what left me high and dry.

 For dinner I went with some Spanish guys met here to this place called “Slabhouse Cafe” where they serve very big plates and the food is pretty good.

I can’t say I’ve enjoyed my staying here. People, it hurts to say, are not very friendly. They don’t smile and are not helpful. If you’re in trouble they make fun of you (excluding the girl at the hostel). The WiFi doesn’t work and if you don’t have a local SIM card to look on your phone for information, you have to rely on people that most of the time don’t understand what you’re saying and the rest of the time pretend not to understand.

But I have to admit that vegetarian food is good and aplenty out here! Silver lining 😊

It’s a long (and difficult) way to Paradise

I arrived in Batad to admire the UNESCO heritage rice terraces.

The bus from Manila arrived in Banaue at 5.30am. From the tourist information office I had to take a tricycle for myself as no one else was heading my direction. I got a discount and headed to the small village of Batad. At 7.30am it was already 34°.

The tricycle can go as far as “the saddle” then is hicking. 

From a lady at the saddle I have been taken to Top View homestay and the name is no wrong. From the terrace you can get a spectacular view of the terraces.

The rooms are decent and the food is good (and there is also a vegetarian option!!)

So after leaving my luggage I started to track down the path to the famous Tappiya Waterfall.

It’s about an hour walk, under the sun and on rocky grounds. Thank god I had my brother’s hicking shoes so I managed not to fall or kill myself along the way. 

From the lodging area the path follows the rice terraces and it’s up and down hills and fields. There is just one track that takes you there and every now and then you have to take a break, stop checking your footsteps and embrace the breathtaking view.

There are parts where the path is pretty dangerous and you have to be careful where you set your foot. And then the are the murderous stairs made of uneven steps that kill everyone’s breath.

I consider myself pretty trained but at some point I thought my chest would explode.

But after all the ups and downs along the hills you get there and you understand it was worth it.

The waterfall is small but absolutely amazing. If you get there around 8am you are lucky as I was to see the rainbow. There is no civilization around. You just hear the water flows, the crickets “singing” the the birds. The trip has been trying but walkig in this beautiful surroundings, with as a soundtrack the water wetting the rice fields, the crickets and the rooster calling from afar it was really rewarding. Of course I couldn’t stop myself to get into the water and refresh from the sun and the sweat of the long walk. The water is clear, fresh and invigorating.

Don’t get discouraged by the hard way to get there​. The reward is definitely worth the effort (and the sweat. A lot!!!)