Saturday, January 28, 2012

A bunch of silly statistics from my time in Nepal and Thailand

I thought it would be fun to do a post about some statistics of my roughly 4 months in Nepal, and for comparison, my 23 days in Thailand.  So, let's begin:

Cheers!  This batch of Chang didn't result in my visiting a Nepali hospital.  And retrospectively, holy shit were my beard and hair short.

  • Days spent in Nepal: 118 (September 11, 2011 – January 6, 2012)
  • Days spent trekking: 59 (5 days just north of Kathmandu, 20 days on the Annapurna Circuit, 34 days on the Shivalaya to Everest Base Camp to Gokyo to Shivalaya trek)
  • Accidental coincidence: 50% of my days in Nepal were spent trekking.
  • Days with and without Katie: 84 with Katie (Until December 3rd), 34 without.

Money (Unless otherwise noted, the figures here are for both Katie and me):

Couldn't find a better photo to go under the "Money" headline.  Here's Katie.
  • Total trip cost: $7,715 – deceiving because this is the cost for me AND Katie. It also includes weird costs like my flight out of the country, repairs for the tons of things that broke early in the trip, etc. Figuring this out more accurately would be way too complicated. My finances spreadsheet for Nepal is 1132 lines long and a total disaster.
  • Average cost per person per day: $38. Again, this figure is screwy, and should be much lower because of Katie's departure, my weird repair costs, hospital visits, Katie's donation to her rescue squad, etc.
  • Money spent on lodging: $529.
    Normal lodging on the Annapurna and Everest Base Camp treks.
  • Average cost of lodging per person per night: $2.62 (Wow!)
  • Money spent on food: $1,754.
  • Average cost of food per person per day: $8.68
  • Money spent on alcohol: $456

    Tongba.  An awesome Nepali drink that keeps you warm in the freezing cold nights for next to free.
  • Average cost of alcohol per person per day: $2.26
  • Money spent on transportation: $961
  • Average cost of transportation per person per day: $4.76
  • My total cost for stupid repairs of broken gadgets: $757
  • Hospital costs (There's a whole post about this experience a few months back): $146. I filed for a refund of this cost with my travel insurance company after 87 (of 90 eligible) days, and got it all back. Nice.
  • Average cost per person per day for lodging, food, alcohol, and transportation: $18.32. This is why the $38 per person per day figure above is deceiving. I don't know where that extra $20 came from. I could probably figure it out but it would take way too long.

  • Days spent trekking: 59
  • Showers taken while trekking: Not very many. Seriously, probably less than 10. I'd need to look at the map I sent home to my parents to figure out the exact number, but I did go 27 days without showering at one point. I mean, wait, no I didn't. That's gross. You're gross.
  • Highest elevation reached: 5550 meters (18,204 ft) at Kala Patthar.
  • I hope to update this someday with information on total distance trekked, elevation gains, etc.

Other (figures are for me only):
  • Books read: 21
  • Pictures taken: one billion
  • Gigabytes of pictures kept (I deleted probably 10x this many): 80 GB.
  • Leeches: 3 for each Katie and myself. This was only a problem early in the trip, on our trek in the region north of Kathmandu, and when we walked around Pokhara.

    Ah, leeches.  What fun.  At least Katie was man enough to wait for this picture to be taken before freaking out and pulling the little bastard off.  After a brief search through my pictures, I don't think I was.  That sucks for me.  You know what else sucks?  Leeches!  Ha!  I just made that up.

  • Longest stretch without a shower: 27 days. Seriously.
  • Longest stretch without an alcoholic drink: 31 days. I think. I might have had a drink in Namche Bazaar on the way to Everest Base Camp, but I don't believe so. If I did, the correct number is actually 22 days. This is also a lifetime record, since I first found the joys of the drink in high school. I mean on my 21st birthday.
  • Times threatened by children with knives (1-12 years old): 3.
  • Hotels / Lodges / Teahouses / Hostels / whatever-other-name-you-can-come-up-with stayed at: 52.
  • Pieces of cake eaten at Snowman Cafe: a million.
  • New movies / television shows seen: 0.
  • Longest stretch without seeing a road-vehicle: 30 days.
  • Highest level of terror reached on a Nepali bus (1-10 scale): 11.
  • Tigers seen in the wild: 1.

    The paw print left by the tiger that I accidentally awoke from ~15 meters away.  There's a whole blog post dedicated to this experience, unfortunately, this is the best I could do photographically.  I've got a million pictures of tiger paw prints WITHOUT extended claws.  The fact that the claws were obviously extended as he / she ran away from me and my guide makes me all the more gracious for my continued non-tiger-food existence.

And I'm off to Cambodia in 7 or so hours from the time this fascinating statistics-filled update has been posted. So I might as well throw in a few Thailand statistics, since I'm done here way soon.
  • Total time in Thailand: 23 days.
  • Total cost in Thailand: $694.
  • Average cost per day: $30.17. This just further proves how effed up my Nepal figures are. I really can't believe that Nepal was more expensive on a day-to-day basis than Thailand. Someday I might get around to figuring out where this discrepancy came from. But here are some figures that I can stand behind, thanks to a newly-designed expenses spreadsheet. Yup, I'm a nerd.
    • Total lodging cost: $201.
    • Average cost of lodging per night: $8.74
    • Total food and (non-alcoholic) drink cost: $142
    • Average food and (non-alcoholic) drink cost per day: $6.17
    • Total alcohol cost: $132
    • Average alcohol cost per day: $5.74
    • Total transportation cost: $74
    • Average transportation cost per day: $3.22
      That's it!  New post soon, hopefully!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Nepal Photo Post 3 of 4

About a week later than I hoped to post it - I got distracted by being on an island in Thailand - here's Nepal Album 3 of 4.  These pictures were taken between November 25th and December 24th, 2011.  

In this time, I climbed to the highest elevation I've ever reached - 5546 m (18,191 feet!) - and in all likelihood will ever reach, at Kala Patthar, a peak famous for it's views of Mt. Everest.  I spent 3 nights at Gorak Shep, which at 5416 m is way too high to spend so much time, including one night during which Katie got lost on the Khumbu Glacier and an impromptu rescue-party had to be formed to get her off the glacier and back to our lodge.  A really terrifying experience for me, I can't imagine what was going through the poor girl's head, and I won't even try to get into it in this post.

I also went across Cho La Pass.  This was undoubtedly the most difficult single day of the 5-week Everest Base Camp / Gokyo trek for an undernourished and underweight lumberjack (by appearance only) carrying more weight than anyone but most of the Nepali porters and guides we encountered.  And then there was Katie's unexpected departure.  This explains the sudden lack of photos of myself, Katie, or people in general.  So I hope any and everyone reading this likes pictures of mountains, because that makes up 90% of this post's content.  The last section consists of pictures taken in Kathmandu before my departure to the more jungly (yup, made-up word) Southwest.

Again, these pictures are a mix of artistic, story-related, and interesting shots.  Enjoy!

I'll try (but will in all likelihood fail) to keep caption-length readably (apparently another made-up word) short.  Did I mention that there's an overabundance of mountains in this post ... and in Nepal?
Taken on November 25th, the day after "Treksgiving," Katie and I, for possibly the first time on the trek, beat Lonely Planet's "predicted trekking time."  The day's trek was supposed to take 2 hours (Dingboche to Dugla, a big elevation gain); we did it in an hour and a half, and felt good enough to continue to Lobuche.  This isn't advised because of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), but neither of us had had any kind of elevation-related problems yet.  This picture shows a monument to the lives lost on Mt. Everest.  If you look closely, you can see "[Sc]ott Fischer 1996" painted on the 3rd from left monument.  Fischer is one of the guides killed in Jon Krakauer's excellent non-fiction "Into Thin Air," which chronicles the most deadly single day in Everest's history.

Is that the Louvre?  In the Himalayas?  Nope, it's the "Italian Pyramid," a high-altitude joint Nepali - Italian research station.  The station is manned by 11 Nepali researchers and 4 cooks!  Good god they must eat well.
Why would anyone live way up here?  Ask this bird, because I couldn't tell you.  The views are incredible, but the air isn't.
Everest, some other mountains whose names, next to the awe-inspiring "Everest" are rendered meaningless, and the Khumbu Glacier.  This view was the reward for the 2-week trek from Shivalaya, almost four vertical kilometers below Kala Patthar, from where this shot was taken.
Everest (in the middle) is made even uglier by the juxtaposition of such beautiful people as these.  Glenn and Katie at a lung-crushing 5,546 m above sea level.  I'm out of breath just typing this.

The sometimes-crowded path from Gorak Shep, where Katie and I spent three cold nights at 5,164 m (16,942 ft), to Kala Patthar, a mountain famous for it's wonderful views of Mt. Everest.  No, the mountain dominating this shot is not Everest.  I don't even know what it is, actually.  Gorak Shep might be the highest-elevation legitimate "village" in the world, complete with an internet cafe - definitely the highest in the world.
This is a mountain.  There's snow on it and it is made of rocks.  There are some clouds, too.
From left to right: Crazy rock 'n' roll lumberjack Glenn, Everest Base Camp sign, Mt. Everest, prayer flags.

November 29, 2011.  This was Katie's second time at Everest Base Camp.  I'd tried to climb here with her the previous day, but undernourished and weak as I was feeling, I put it off a day.  She made my otherwise boring day a lot more "exciting" by getting lost on her way back to Gorak Shep.  WTF, Katie?!  One of the scariest nights of my life was certainly a walk in the park compared to hers, alone in the dark on the seemingly endless Khumbu Glacier.  The rescue is probably deserving of it's own post.

I miss Nepal.

5 minutes later.  I still miss Nepal.
Dusk at Gorak Shep.
Dusk at Gorak Shep.
Party?  Party!
Another shot that could have been great if I had any idea how to take star-trail shots.

I'm easy enough to see.  Katie isn't.  See the light underneath the most prominent mountain in the shot?  That's Katie's head lamp.  Taken in the freezing cold of night halfway from Gorak Shep to Kala Patthar.  This shot is awesome scaled down to 2 megapixels, but it was taken at ISO 25,600, so it's kind of useless as a print.  Damn.  If you count the peaks from left to right, Everest is #3, mostly obscured by the mountain range in front of it.

Cho La Pass.  I think Cho La is Nepali for "This sucks."  My first time crossing real snow and ice in Nepal was tough, to say the least.  Not for Katie, though, who busted through here, problem-free, hours before me.  There were a few minutes on the snow seen here during which, after falling down on a skating rink-like sheet of ice, I was literally unable to stand up.  It was just too slippery.  Trekking poles would have been good.  Crampons, too.

Bet you never knew CU's colors were blue and white.  As a CU alum, I felt obligated to post this.

The village in the lower right portion of this photo is Gokyo.  The primary reason to trek to Gokyo is to climb Gokyo Ri, the 5360 m mountain in the middle of this picture.  And the reason to climb Gokyo Ri is to get the best views of Mt Everest that are possible without some serious mountaineering knowledge, gear, and money.  The next 6 pictures in this album were taken during the hike to the summit of, or from the Summit of Gokyo Ri, on December 3, 2011.
Gokyo and the Ngozumpa Glacier, as seen from the hike to Gokyo Ri.
Prayer flags and posted elevations.  What else is necessary?
Finally, a shot that makes Everest look good.  Sagarmatha, as it is known by the Nepali people who live in her surrounding valleys, is the highest mountain in the world at 8,848 m (29,029 ft).  I totally would have climbed Everest but I was kinda busy.  And it was cold enough more than 3 km below the summit.

Sadly, I don't know the names of these mountains.  Gonna have to figure this out someday.  Dusk at Gokyo Ri.

The next two pictures are from the same file.  This is actually more what the sunset looked like, but I thought it'd be worth including a desaturated version too.  Which is better?

It's weird when night shots look like day shots.  This is a 21-minute exposure of the third of the six sacred lakes that form the "Gokyo Lakes," and lies just outside the village of Gokyo.

A mountain and the moon.

Here are some of the silly contraptions I carry with me when I go trekking.  The glacier here is the Ngozumpa Glacier, the largest in Nepal.  Glaciers are weird, and are not at all what I expected them to be when I set off on this trek.  If you walk on one and keep your eyes on your feet, you could easily think you are walking in a desert.  All the ice that actually makes up the glacier  is covered with dirt, hence the dirty gray color here.
I just realized these pictures, which I thought I posted in the correct order, are in fact NOT posted in chronological order.  So now we're back at Gokyo.  I spent 3 nights here, at the Namaste Lodge.  On my last night here, I had one of the best meals of my life.
I had to throw in one last yak picture.
Trekking above the clouds.
Namche Bazaar from above.

Cute or frightening?

This is how you dry clothes.  I probably shouldn't mention that at the time this picture was taken, the clothes shown had gone about 3 weeks without a wash.  Actually what I meant to say is that I showered every day and washed my clothes religiously.  I wasn't gross at all, in fact.

I've mentioned repeatedly how badass porters and guides are in Nepal.  Here's a guy carrying a stove.  Makes my bag look like something a kindergartener would take to and from school every day.

Porters crossing a 99.9 meter-long suspension bridge.

I think there's some kind of correlation between the prevalence of chickens on the street / in households and a country's standing on global wealth scales.  There are chickens on all the streets in Nepal.  And it is a poor country, undoubtedly.  But it is also the most amazing place I've ever visited, and the people, poor as they may be, are the friendliest I've ever met.  Without a doubt.

If this donkey is a dude, W.T. Fuck was his owner doing emasculating him like this?  If it was a lady, aww!  Cute!

High-elevation Nepal.  One place where farming is still done like this.
I guess I'm a red commie.  I hope I can get back into the States eventually, but I don't like my chances after this post.
An example of how unplanned photos can sometimes turn out to be the best.  This philosophy, of course, doesn't hold true for children.
I don't know what to put in this caption.


WHAT.  THE.  FUCK?!  Really?  Even if this is filled with packing peanuts...

Lots of kids wanted their pictures taken, and I obliged many of them, including this girl, who upon my taking her picture, gave me the flower she's holding here.  Look carefully at the next photo.

Nice beard.  This really isn't the most flattering self portrait ever, but my beard here is so glorious I figured I had to include it.  If you look carefully at my not-visible right ear (LEFT ear in the picture), you can see a tiny bit of the flower given to me by the girl in the previous picutre.

All done trekking.  Back in Kathmandu, this is Kathmandu Durbar Square at night.  Looking at this picture, I'm missing the food (Lumbini restaurant) and cake (Snowman Cafe) available here. WTF?  That's what I remember from Kathmandu?
Kathmandu Durbar Square again.

I mentioned a chickens-in-the-street correlation to any country's wealth earlier.  I think there's also a direct correlation to the number of electrical (and other) cables held up by the average light post.

Kathesimbu Stupa, a small Buddhist stupa in the middle of Kathmandu.
I've only seen clouds like this a couple times.  Pretty crazy.
Light bulb with crazy clouds.
Sunset in Kathmandu.

Sunset in Kathmandu.  Every evening at dusk, thousands and thousands of birds - crows and egrets mostly - would fly across the city.  No idea why, or where they were going, but it afforded some good pictures.

If you look really carefully in the smoggy background, you can barely make out the Himalayas that lie north of Kathmandu.

Prayer flags.

Boudhanath, one of the largest and holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal, it's well-deserving of it's UNESCO World Heritage status.  And it's only 11km from the middle of Kathmandu.

Them eyes ain't gonna keep themselves bright and shiny.
That's it.  I've got one more post that I'll get to when I get to it.  Could be a while, because I'm leaving Bangkok for Cambodia (Ankgor Wat, hooray!) and will probably not be spending much of the next month in front of a computer.