paragliding…

earlier this year, i went to nepal. we walked, we ate momos AND we went paragliding!

i almost didn’t do it because i kinda have a thing about heights. you sign away your life in case of an accident and then you pile into a van, drive to the top of a mountain and run off the top! so i went to the top of the mountain where you run/walk right off the edge, and it didn’t look that crazy, so i just went for it!

the jumpers match you up with someone about the same size as you and apparently that’s all there is to it! the guy i jumped with, jimmy, was in charge of everyone else. so i got to watch and cheer as the rest of our group took off one by one!

and then it was my turn!

you step in the harness, get attached to another person (in my case jimmy) and then you walk and/or run when they tell you! jimmy patiently watched the wind sox and told me to walk, nope STOP! ok, wait… ok, RUN! nope NOPPEEEE! ok, let’s try this again. wait, wait ok now! run! and we were off!!!!!

it was such an incredible feeling to walk off the side of a mountain!

there were a bit of clouds in the sky, which meant that the thermals were right for going crazy high up before we headed back down towards the lake. (but also the reason for my start/stop take off!) and, because of the amazing weather, we could see the top of Fishtail above the clouds. 

but the best part of the entire thing was to spiral around and down towards the lake. we went so fast it was like being on a roller coaster without a track.

so if you ever get the chance, i recommend giving paragliding a chance!

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nepal flat

south dakota flat

i’m used to south dakota ‘mountains.’ we have newton hills, the black hills and the badlands. south dakota is so flat, that the hills look like mountains because there is no other point of reference. one of my favorite books is ‘walk two moons’ by sharon creech. in the book, the main character describes south dakota like this:


after driving for so long through the flat south dakota prairie, it was a shock to come upon the badlands. it was as if someone had ironed out all the rest of south dakota and smooshed all the hills and valleys and rocks into this spot.

sharon creech, walk two moons

there is no better description of south dakota’s flatness. 

nepal has hills and mountains. but for me, the hills seem like mountains. i was enjoying the massive and expansive peaks. i kept calling them mountains and jen kept correcting me, they are hills.

then the mountains appeared…

for a large amount of my time in nepal, it was unseasonably cloudy and rainy. it’s summer in this part of the world and it isn’t usually rainy. an occasional summer storm, but not days of clouds and rain. which is what we had in nepal.

one morning, the clouds drifted away, the sun came out and we saw MOUNTAINS.

mountains so high that the snow never melts. mountains so high that some have never been summited. mountains so high that you can’t help but stop and awe at the amazing strength and power of our mother earth. mountains so high that even thinking about hiking anywhere near them fills me with a bit of fear and anxiety.

and we were going hiking. not in the mountains or even to the mountains. just in the hills. but remember, coming from south dakota, even the hills look like mountains to me. but the lodge said that the hike was easy. so i wasn’t too worried about my lack of physical preparation. plus jen said you only need tennis shoes, not actual hiking boots. so again, not too worried that i wouldn’t be able to physically do it.

but still a bit scary when you see these beautiful mountains towering over you when you are on an impressively high hill.

day 1

we started the hike in the pouring rain. and i didn’t have a rain coat. luckily, i was able to borrow one from one of the local staff at the lodge. without that, it would have been miserable 2 minutes in and i would have turned back to stay in the nice, warm and comfortable lodge. it was quickly apparent that the nepal description of ‘easy’ was drastically different than my own. but since i’m not an avid hiker, i wasn’t going to say anything because i have no benchmarks for these things.

while we started in the rain, it let up about an hour in. then we were just hiking in mist. but it didn’t feel cold, so that was a positive. and it was slightly uphill, some steps and a bit of flat-ish path. when we arrived at the hostel, it was foggy and misty. perfect napping weather! after a big lunch of rice and dhal, i took a lovely afternoon nap. 

a short first day of 3.5 hours of hiking. my phone tells me that i walked 14,143 steps or 6.5 miles or 10.46 kilometers.

day 2

the second day was a BIG one.

it was mostly up, which was manageable. but because of the unseasonal rain, thousands and thousands of leeches were everywhere! and these were not manageable. leeches were EVERYWHERE!!!!! you were forced to stop every 10 feet or so and check your shoes to flick the leeches off before they got into your socks. it was leecheville!! even though it was a bit intense, we kept our spirits up and continued pushing through!

in the last few hours of our day (and about 4 protein bars in) it started to lightning, thunder and pour with rain. thank goodness we had made our way out of the forest and onto the jeep track to walk. then it got cold. and i mean COLD! ​my pace slowed down tremendously, but so did everyone else’s. while i was slowing down, i was still moving forward. one step in front of the other.

​finally we came upon the village that our hostel was in and had 1 final staircase of stone steps to descend. i don’t think i’ve ever been so excited to see stairs in my whole life! we made it down, went to the room, took off all the wet clothes, put on ​my last dry outfit and crawled into the giant and warm comforter!!

this day was mentally challenging for me. it was tough having leeches everywhere. walking in the forest. flicking off leeches. walking on the jeep track. flicking off leeches. walking down stairs. flicking off leeches. walking up stairs. flicking off leeches. walking next to cliff faces that drop so far down you can’t see the bottom. walking in the rain. flicking off leeches. walking in the lightning and thunder. and still flicking off leeches. instead of complaining, i decided that i was just going to be in the moment and feel it all. good and bad. positive and negative. i was just going to experience it all. and while it was tough, and definitely not an ‘easy’ hike, i was there and i was going to finish it.

after an hour under the comforter, i was finally warm again. we ate dinner in our beds (thank goodness for our hiking guides who took such great care of us!!) and talked about our day. we played headspace on jen’s phone​,​ drank strong and burn-y nepali rum​ and had french fries and popcorn for dinner​. i slept very well!

my phone tells me i walked 20,958 steps or 9.5 miles or 15.28 kilometers. it was a LONG 7.5 hour walk indeed, but i finished it!

day 3

on the final day of our hike, we had 5 hours of walking. most of it downhill, which i usually prefer! but after a long 7.5 hours of hiking the day before? it was ROUGH. the stairs were steep but luckily not slippery since the sun decided to peak out for a brief moment.

a lot of physical feelings were arising in my body. i had jen’s yin yoga voice in my head, ‘it isn’t pain, it’s a sensation. listen to what your body is telling you.’ well, my knees are telling me that they hate doing thousands of stairs when I don’t do thousands of stairs EVER. so for my knees’ sake, i should probably keep exercising and keep them in better shape.

we reached a village across the lake from pokhara. it was impressive to look back up to the top of the hill and realize that i hiked all the way down. and i felt proud of myself! i made it all those miles. i didn’t collapse. i didn’t get bitten by leeches. i didn’t get blisters! and i hate to admit it, but i actually had fun doing physical activity! 

we took a public bus back into town. it was a typical developing country bus ride. a ton of people crammed in, people and luggage on the top, a kid throwing up and jenny (one of the ladies on the trip) ended up with someone’s kid in her lap!! we made it into town, had an amazing lunch of rice and dhal and came back to the lodge. in true ​hiking trip fashion, we arrived back in the rain​.​

my phone says that i walked 25,755 steps or 11.8 miles or 18.99 kilometers on day 3. that makes a total of 60,856 steps or 27.8 miles or 44.73 kilometers. much farther than that time me, lwendo and kim went off to some distant village and thought we were going to die because it was so far away!

nepal flat

in the dictionary description sense of the word, south dakota is flat. nepal is not. somewhere along the way, our guide introduced us to the concept of ‘nepal flat.’ because of all the hills and mountains, a dictionary description of flat is in short supply in nepal.

‘nepal flat’ is a wonderful section of road or path that allows you to relax a bit and just walk. it might be slightly up, it might be slightly down, it might be slightly curvy. but it’s mostly flat. it’s flat-ish. it’s nepal flat.

in our group, we had a few people who have been on a few hikes in different parts of the world. they were discussing how the hike would not be labeled as ‘easy.’ this made me feel so much better about thinking it was a bit harder than ‘easy!’ an ‘easy’ hike is mostly flat. our hike was nowhere near flat!

but no matter how you describe the hike, we all finished and survived to tell the tale! and despite the leeches, rain, thunder, cold, sweat, clouds and cliffs, i had a wonderful time. and i would go hiking in nepal again!*

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*if the hike contained a considerable section of nepal flat. 

momos and beer

the best combination

while in nepal, you must indulge yourself in the local food.

in my case my favorite nepali food was MOMOS! small dumplings with vegetables (or chicken) inside, i think i ate 100 of them. i had a range of different tasting momos, which i rated accordingly. but i definitely didn’t have a bad momo the entire time! yes, i ate some so-so ones. but overall? momos are just plain delicious!

my favorite momos were chicken momos i had on my last morning in nepal. it could have been because it was my last morning. it could have been because i was super hungry since i hadn’t had breakfast. or, they could have just been plain amazing! these were at a little restaurant just outside of our hostel.

and we had these amazing vegetable momos for lunch at a little restaurant when we were visiting the boudhanath stupa in kathmandu. they were juicy and tasty and went perfectly with beer on a hot afternoon!

i even learned how to make momos!!!

at the peace dragon lodge where we stayed in pokhara, they arranged a momo making class for us. momos are a challenge to make when you are first learning. i have giant hands, so working with small things is always a bit of a challenge. but after trying my hand at a dozen, and watching the chef do it SO slowly another dozen times, i finally got the hang of it. momos are pretty fun to make after that!

the filling is simple to make. and the dough is even simpler.

the dough is a simple white flour and water recipe. roughly 1 cup of flour plus 2-3 tablespoons of water is enough to make a dozen momos. you mix and work the dough a tiny bit and then let it sit for about 15 minutes. pinch off a tablespoon sized bit of dough and roll this out into a circle. OR, to make things easier, you can roll all the dough out and use a circle cookie cutter or a glass to cut out circles in your dough. when rolling out the dough, you want the thickness to be approximately the same thickness as a tortilla, maybe a bit thinner.

the filling is also super easy! you use a combination of vegetables, in this case carrots, onions, cabbage and green beans. you chop these up very finely and mix with momo masala, oil and soy sauce. you filling shouldn’t be too wet. and the more oil and soy sauce you add, the juicier your momo will be! if you want to add meat, it’s easier to use minced or mashed chicken and mix that with the vegetable mix. and if you are just learning how to make them? the chef suggested cooking the meat before you add them into the momos, that way you know that it is cooked 100%.

then comes the hard part. actually trying to figure out how to fill and fold the momos!

with a tablespoon of filing, put this into the center of your dough circle. you pinch one end together. then you basically pleat the dough together. we were all doing this differently, but you really just have to figure out how it works best for your fingers and your brain!

finally you can cook your momos! steam or fried, they are delicious and fast to cook!

i was also brainstorming different flavor combinations that you could create inside. taco momos. dessert momos. bbq chicken momos. the combinations are endless! i’ve been so inspired that i even bought 2 momo plates as well!

beer

i tried many local beers too!

beer is expensive in nepal compared to india, the prices seem more in line with what you buy on tap at a bar at home. you can get a cocktail for about 520 nepali rupees. a beer is anywhere from 420 nepali rupees to 545 nepali rupees.

my favorite beer is everest. it’s light and has a good crisp-can drink it on a hot day flavor. i’d recommend it when you visit nepal! they also have nepal ice and nepal ice strong. a few of the others in our group enjoyed the nepal ice. i liked the nepal ice strong better. (but i usually prefer the strong version of any kind of beer in this part of the world!)

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3 weeks to go…

t-minus 3 weeks until india/nepal departure.

i’m really excited to be going! i’ll get to spend time with friends. do a bit of archive work while at sangam too. eat tons of wada pav and pav bhaji and butter chicken. oh! and eat mangoes by the pool! all the amazingly fun things you do while at sangam!

i’m also going hiking. this is going to be an amazing opportunity to physically challenge myself. but i’m really lacking in the motivation to start training. i’m only slightly worried at this point because i still have 3 weeks to start getting ready. which seems like a lot of time (maybe it’s not, i’m not really sure).

i’ve been wearing my new shoes around the house. i figure this is the first step in training, just get my feet used to wearing shoes.

so now i need to get moving! wish me luck! or follow along on the journey and join my day hiker list!

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i hate shoes

i have the world’s flattest feet. and for the last 10 years, i’ve exclusively worn plastic flip flops from old navy. so i’m not sure which came first, my flat feet or the flip flops that cause flat feet. whichever way it was, i hate wearing shoes and the arch support that comes with that. it makes me feel confined and strapped in. i absolutely hate it.

unfortunately, since i live in a place with winter, you have to have shoes. so converse are my go-to shoes. flat, no arch support, but keep your toes warm when it’s cold and snowy! i’ve got a trusty pair i bought in india. and i recently found some vintage chuck taylors from the 80s that are a perfect fit!

but yesterday, my mom bought me HELLO KITTY converse!

so my converse collection is, clearly, complete. and i’m ready to go hiking!

what really started this shoe shopping adventure was to find a good pair of tennis shoes. because, in case you haven’t heard, i’m going on a himalaya hiking adventure!

i figure these will work. they are shoes, they are closed toe, and (since they are chuck’s) they provide ankle support-that’s a thing you need when you’re hiking, right? i figure they are perfect! right? RIGHT???!!!!!

well i’m not being allowed to hike in flip flops this trip (although i have plenty of other places!!!). my mom said she wouldn’t let me leave the country without a good pair of shoes. (and jen would probably agree!)

so i guess tennis shoes are needed.

i hate shoe shopping because shoes don’t feel good. i don’t like my feet caged into things. i like to feel the air and grass and world on my feet. and i HATE arch support. plus, my feet are huge and i can never find shoes that seem to fit perfectly right. and at this point in my life, i don’t even know what shoes should actually feel like when they are right. so it makes shoe shopping tough.

it took 3 stores and a lot of patience from my mom (and several helpful salespeople), but i found a pair of shoes that actually feel ok! which is super exciting, and makes me going on a hiking trip a bit more REAL!

but now comes the hard (and i can guarantee hilarious) part. i need to break these shoes in AND actually start training. because i still haven’t done that AT ALL! my feet hurt as i’m writing this and all i’m doing is wearing shoes at my desk!!!!!

so now you are really going to want to join me!

for any amount between us$10-us$30, you can join me as a day hiker and receive email updates about how things are going! and the very first email goes out TOMORROW!

join me on my himalaya hiking adventure!

5 weeks…

once again, i’m the proud owner of several airline tickets! a round trip ticket to india and flights to nepal! my countdown has begun: i have 5 weeks left until i depart for india!

this upcoming trip is going to be special for a few different reasons.

i have to go into official trip physical training! i’ve never ever trained for a trip. i barely even pack for trips. and i don’t exercise. so this is going to be a whole new experience! why do i need to train? well, i’m going hiking. in the himalayas! you can read more about my trip to nepal and how you can join me here! it’s going to be an amazing challenge and, as scary as it seems to me now, i can’t wait to experience the himalayas in this unique way!

i’m gonna hang out at sangam! which i haven’t done for SO long. i was last there in january 2017! which is unbelievable. i feel like it was just last year. but it’s been over 2 years! butter chicken, garlic naan, wada pav, pani puri, pulse candy, onion bhajia and the sangam staff are calling my name!!!

while at sangam, we will be celebrating jen’s time as programme manager and world centre manager because she is finishing. ;( but gwen and bron will also be coming to hang out (yea!!!!) and we’ll be doing all of jen’s favorite pune and india things!

it won’t be all fun and games. i’ll be volunteering in sangam’s archives. jen and i need to come up with a plan, along with the current archive ladies, to figure out what to do next and how. there are still SO MANY boxes that need to be sorted. imagine what we will find in there!!!!!!

i’ll be gone for 6 weeks and while that may seem like a long time, i know that it will go SO fast. before i leave, i need to really think about what i would like to accomplish and experience while i’m there. and then when i’m there, make it happen!

let the countdown begin!

you can join me virtually on my himalaya hiking adventure!