Monday, February 19, 2001

Letter from King's Office Of Ministry and Tourism
Monday, February 19, 2001
Kathmandu, The Kingdom Of Nepal

Dear Sir Kozodoy,

The Ministry of Tourism would like to inform you that Ms. Rachel S. (they never tell us their real middle names!) Thurston has returned safely from the Annapurna Circuit before the hordes of trekkers from Europe descend on our little sovereign kingdom. Why she and her mother chose to trek in the Himalayas during the middle of the winter is something we can only attribute to poor reasoning we see often from those usually coming from Italy and Russia. Perhaps they are rare North American specimens. (A little talkative as well.)

We are happy to inform you that she will be returning to Santa Barbara shortly and quite happily--though she has very much enjoyed her travels in Nepal, she sees no need for her presence here any longer in Nepal as we're not keen on public massages nor do we serve "very tasty pizza" and we are lacking a store called "Trader Joe's," what Ms. Thurston has called "God's gift to this fine world second to chocolate."

We hope that you are in good health in the country of Amerika and that you and your compatriates now have a president you can trust. Though from our humble experience we see that as being doubtful.

Ms. Thurston is busy on the streets of Kathmandu shopping and stuffing herself with whatever delicacies she can't find on the other side of the planet and sends her regards. She's spoken of you fondly and of her much loved friends in the town of Santa Barbara which you call a “Paradise.”

If you like, we would be happy to send you any relevant information you and your kind friends would like if you are considering a trip to our proud Himalayan Kingdom.

Good health to you and your family,
Ram Shaba-Ratri,
Officer of the Ministry of Tourism,
With gratitude to His Highness Birendra Bikram

Friday, February 02, 2001

"Return from the Thorung La, Annapurna Circuit--midwinter!"
Kathmandu, Nepal
Saturday, February 2, 2001

1st Trip to Nepal: Letter Three

Hoorah! We've made it!

i hope you are all well and as saucy as ever...i've carried your spirits with us up into the Himalayas and back--sweet intoxication!

We have many adventures to speak of! We trekked for 15 days and managed to cross the world's highest pass at 17,766 feet in mid-winter. Why we chose to trek the Annapurna during the absolute coldest month of the year is beyond me.

Mountains, glorious mountains, brilliant people from around the world, endless mule trains, pine forests, waterfalls, buddhist stupas. We began in tropical rice fields and increased in elevation through alpine forests reminiscent of the American Rockies and then onto the Tibetan Plateau (yes, I know, the NEPALI Plateau) where the windswept valley opened up to glaciers and canyons and staggering mountains. (cause you nearly trip looking up at them). The east side of the circuit was nearly void of foreigners during that time of the year, we walked through one town that looked like an old West Frontier with only the sound of horse hooves on the cobblestone and wind barrelling down the valley.

The trek was a lot fricking harder than people admit. I've heard it said that instead of 4 directions, Nepal has 6 directions...North, South, East, West, UP, and DOWN. My legs are strong and we ate like mules the whole way through. I was haunted however, by visions of random cans of pringles being sold along the way (some outrageously ambitious marketer has cornered the market here) but managed to resist. We ate and drank copious servings of potatoes (much sweeter than our own at home), the Nepali dish Dahl Bat, tea, noodle soup, Tibetan bread, more tea, and a stash of snickers bars (really satisfies you!).

The culture is well...very foreign. We became accustomed to hearing the requisite Nepali hocking on the ground when we awoke, squatting over pit toilets (a rat ran out towards me one night), watching mothers pick lice from their childrens hair as they wave greetings to us, endless trains of mules delivering goods between villages, and streams of runny-nosed children running up to us demanding pens and chocolate.

Unjaded it is not.

We also saw great beauty but Nepal is a handful. The woman's beauty here should be illegal. They dot the verdant fields of mustard and rice with brilliant saris in blood red, magentas, and deep purple. The men are also handsome though less fun to look at and a whole lot more pushy.

Forgive my ramblings but there's so much to impart.

We rode on top of a bus with 40 men cause there were a heck of a lot more people down below...can't possibly estimate. A slimy (mom likes to say) greaser guy tried to kick us off the bus on our way to the trekking start. Like a champ after many a vicious word was said, she pushed her way like a rock star through the 30 people between me and her to our seat (really the cumulative size of an egg crate). A woman behind us throwing up, another woman beside me with a giant gold flower stuck through her nostril and the slimy guy on our tail, and a gaggle of men climbing the ladder to the top of the bus with our bags. We demanded the driver stop, we swam through the mess of people, fell to the ground, then scampered around to the back ladder and climbed to our blissful seats a top the bus. Forty sets of dark eyes looked upon us. We were the only foreigners around and the only women on top.

All was fine and the views were spectacular. Besides, the guide books point out, if the bus starts to roll down the canyon towards the river, you can always jump off from the roof!

On our way here we spotted two wrecks where buses had slid past each other head on and had sheered off tires and sheets of glass.

And we call this vacation!

We've landed safely back in Kathmandu and are relishing in eating pizza, shopping, and avoiding all the touts selling tiger balm, fruit, and shoe polish.

As I hate getting email from people on vacation who appear to be self-absorbed for more than 2000 words I'll cut this message off at its knees.

We've had a spectacular trip. Last night, we fell asleep to the sound of elephants bugling and wild peacocks...and ahem, nearby HIndi pop music and Mambo #5 playing at a local BBQ.
A true Jungle Beat I must say.

If you've read this far, have a most excellent time of day in your neck of the woods!
I can't wait to see you all!

I'm looking out on the streets of Kathmandu, it's a true zoo right now and quite delightful.

much love and thankyou to you all,