[OcelotNews] Ocelotians in the Himalayas! //WL2K

KD7NDG at winlink.org KD7NDG at winlink.org
Fri Jun 22 07:24:00 PDT 2018

Dear Friends & Family,     June 2018, Pangkor, W Malaysia

Life has taken some interesting turns, & we've just realized that we last wrote from Timor Leste (East Timor) with nephew Rainer on board, last July.  At the time we thought we would go back north and east through Indonesia, to Raja Ampat, and then over the top of Papua New Guinea into the Pacific. 

Instead, we joined the Sail Indonesia Rally (for the 3rd time) which goes west and then up to Malaysia.  This let Rainer have some teen fun with the family and boys on Kandu, and we made more cruising friends.  We visited several new islands, & returned to some previous favorites like Komodo to see the dragons, Kumai (Kalimantan) for another river trip to see the orangutans, and Bali to dive an awesome wreck and visit friends ashore.  One couple has built a stunning house overlooking the northern anchorage, and the other has a beautiful Eco-Resort high on slopes of the volcano.

When we sailed back into NW Malaysia in November, we hauled Ocelot out of the water in Langkawi and flew to the US for some much-needed family time.  First on the agenda was hunting a wild Christmas tree in the Washington Cascades with our kids, Chris and Amanda.  A new snowfall made the day extra fun as we slipped and slid on snow-covered roads high in the forest.

The next adventure was a 3-day drive from Seattle to California's San Francisco Bay Area.  We went in Chris's big Subaru, along with his girlfriend Scy, and Amanda.  We drove the magnificent coast road from Oregon with its wild and rocky shore, through the redwoods and Mendocino to Santa Cruz.  There we had a Thanksgiving feast with Jon's dad (as patriarch), and all the nieces and nephews (save 2).  Much laughter and story swapping ensued, and it's always amazing to see how all the "young rellies" have grown up and are creating interesting lives. 

In December we joined Jon's father, Colin (89) and his lady friend Margret (91), aboard a Princess Cruise from San Francisco to Mexico and back.  We are definitely NOT cruise ship people, but the food was awesome (and too plentiful) and getting to spend such leisurely time with Colin and Margret was a real pleasure.  They danced the nights away, and we were hard pressed to keep up! 

Back in the Northwest we had a fantastic, social, whirlwind visit with Chris, Chip and Angela (Sue's brother and sister-in-law) in Seattle, and many days in Olympia with Amanda.  We ferried to the San Juans and Victoria for more quality time with good friends.

It was all over too soon, and we headed back to the heat of Malaysia and a week of routine boat work on Ocelot:  maintenance on the sail drives and engines, lots of cleaning and scrubbing after leaving Ocelot closed up for 3 months, polishing the topsides, new bottom paint, and into the water.

First stop: Penang for some GREAT food, better company (sailing buddies and their family), and affordable and excellent medical care.  Jon had both eyes improved with cataract surgery and new lenses, so he now sees clearly without glasses.

In late March we left Ocelot at Pangkor Marina on the west coast of Malaysia and flew to Nepal.  And that's where we've been until just last week.  We did 5 different treks, some merging one into the other.  Our dear Sherpa friend, Pema, whom Sue has known since 1974, trekked all 5 treks with us.  Our nephew Daniel (23) was with us for a month, and two sets of cruising friends joined us for different treks as well.  We hired Sherpa guides (required on 2 of the treks) and porters, and enjoyed their companionship and knowledge.

Late March found us puffing and panting in the steep foothills of central Nepal into the newly-opened and still restricted Tsum Valley.  The trail was both magnificent with forests, and treacherous where the 2015 earthquakes had created new landslides we had to negotiate.  Tea houses had been rebuilt after the quakes, and we had basic accommodation with somewhat limited food choices each day.  The people in Tsum Valley are of Tibetan origin, kill no meat, plow their fields with wooden plows and yak/cow breeds called "tsopkio", and still maintain their traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.  Strangely, the Maoist party appear strong here.  Apparently, nobody has told the locals that Communism & Buddhism don't go together, despite the proximity of Tibet.  The valley begins with steep narrow canyons cut by the rivers, and higher up opens into a broad glacial-cut valley hemmed in by high Himalayan peaks.  We walked for 5 days up the valley, to within 6 hours's walk of a pass into Tibet where the local people go to trade each summer. 

>From the Tsum Valley, which is a spur off the Manaslu Circuit Trek, we continued up the ever higher, more rugged terrain around the glaciers of Mt Manaslu (26,938' or 8163m) with its white twin horned peaks.  We walked for 5-6 hours each day through rock-lined yak pastures, under massive cliffs festooned with waterfalls.  Marmots peered at us from large burrows, and herds of blue sheep grazed the high hillsides.  Evenings we enjoyed talking to the many international trekkers around us.  Unfortunately, our friend Barbara got AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and she and her husband and a porter had to return down the valley.  The rest of us continued over the Larkya La Pass (16,925' or 5160m).  Late season snow still covered most of the trail, so we were thankful for the tall poles that showed our route through the rocky, barren terrain.  From the white, majestic pass, under countless Himalayan peaks, we dropped steeply down 5,000' (1500m) to the verdant valley where the forests were abloom in rhododendrons, and pastures were carpeted with wild strawberries, primula and irises.    

At the roadside town of Dharapani we intersected the famous Annapurna Circuit.  What luxury to find sophisticated guest houses with hot showers and interesting menus!  Time was short, and we hated the idea of walking on a dusty, gritty road, so we jeeped north to the ancient village of Manang.  Here the landscape was stark, gray, and barren.  Eroded cliffs overhung the wide valley, and the mud brick and wooden houses of the old town blended into the rugged scenery of this far-northern part of Nepal.  Despite the road's incursion, the Circuit is still Nepal's most popular trek and we found ourselves in company with throngs of young backpackers. We trekked 3 days north, ever higher, to the vast, glacier-rimmed Thorong La Pass (17,769' or 5416m), and down another 1500m into the villages surrounding Muktinath, a sacred temple for both Hindus and Buddhists.  Lying on the edge of Nepal's Mustang region there are no forests, only massive, yet intricate rock formations over the Kali Gandaki River.  The dusty road reaches all the way to Muktinath now, and we chose to explore a few ancient villages by jeep en route to Pokhara.

A few days in the lakeside town of Pokhara refreshed us, and on May 1 we left there with son Chris, his girlfriend Scy, and other cruising friends Tim and Leanne.  Our goal was the Annapurna Base Camp (13,550' or 4130m), a 10-day trek good for acclimatization for those arriving from sea level.  Together with a new guide and porter staff, we covered many vertical feet each day in the brutally steep foothills where Gurung farm houses dot the terraced hillsides.  The valley changed from river-cut and steep with bamboo, birch and rhododendron forests to a broader, glacial-cut valley under towering cliffs with graceful waterfalls.  The lodges were sometimes very busy, but we enjoyed the international crowds that joined us.  The monsoon season was early this year, and we often had heavy cloud cover in the afternoons.  But what a glorious treat to awake in the mornings to blue sky, punctuated by massive Himalayan peaks in the astounding "sanctuary" of the Annapurnas.  

Our last trek was to the Khumbu (Everest) Region which we know well, and always love revisiting.  Pema still has a house in Khumjung and it was a real treat to have an evening meal of Tibetan mo-mos (dumplings with meat and spicy tomato sauce) prepared by Pema and several nieces in her beautiful traditional home.  From there we walked through blooming rhododendron forests to Thangboche Monastery, where large hotels have replaced the modest buildings that used to house the trekkers.  But the monastery itself was magnificent, and nothing can detract from the views up the valley to the massif of Nuptse, Lhotse, and Chomolongma (Everest).  Overhead, graceful angel-winged Ama Dablam stood vigilance over the trails.

Along the "Everest Highway" we stopped at villages we've known since the 70's and 80's, but which now have nice accommodation!  Buddhist mani-walls, chortens, and prayer flags still dot the landscape, and we were pleased to see the Sherpas have retained their heritage and warm hospitality.  Getting to Everest Base Camp (17,650' or 5380m) was a loadstar for Tim and Leanne but it was astonishing to see the 1,000(!) tents of 30 expeditions dotting the white glacier at the base of the tumultuous Khumbu Ice Fall.  We were lucky with early morning sun for our climb up Kala Patthar (18,208' or 5550m, our highest point this trip) with its stunning and classic views of Everest and the peaks in nearby Tibet.

Good weather held for the rock and glacial climb over Cho La pass (17,781' or 5420m) toward the Gokyo valley.  Unfortunately, Tim suffered bronchitis and AMS and he had to be evacuated by helicopter.  (We seem to be hard on our cruising buddies!!)  Our guide and Pema flew to Kathmandu as well, so it was just the 2 of us, plus porters who continued to the lakeside village of Gokyo.  Because the weather was closing in, we chose to walk south along a trail we had last walked in 1980.  Just like 38 years ago, the trail was lined with purple and yellow blooming rhododendrons, and the air was fragrant with the pungent scent of the dwarf rhododendron anthopogon leaves in the warm sun.

Mountain flights from Lukla were back-logged due to bad weather, so we trekked 3 more days south through some wonderfully rural areas, reminiscent of Nepal in the 1970's!  No guest houses, no ads, no trekkers, no mule trails, just green fields of barley and buckwheat and narrow trails.  We found the new "jeep stand" from which we hired a 4WD and driver to take us on the often harrowing, but always entertaining dirt road for 10 hours back to Kathmandu.

After 55 days of trekking, many cold nights, and somewhat monotonous trekking food, we treated ourselves to 3 days in Chitwan National Park in the southern borderlands of Nepal.  Here with Pema, Tim and Leanne, we enjoyed feeling warm again, ate some tasty Indian food, and explored the park and surrounds by jeep, foot and canoe.  Although the tiger population has increased we were not lucky enough to see one.  But we did see many one-horned Asian rhinos and a variety of beautiful birds and other animals.

Now back in Malaysia, we are strong, fit and slim from all the trekking, and our heads are full of the images of the world's most astounding mountains and the memories of our wonderful Nepali friends.

We're currently aboard Ocelot, sailing south on the Straits of Malacca (for the 8th time!).  We'll be heading east into the South China Sea, Borneo and Indonesia where more adventures await us!

We'll be posting photos of the treks very soon now both on Facebook (Cruising the World with SV Ocelot) and on our website!

We've been 3 months with almost no email (indeed, no internet) and we'd love to hear from you!

Blue Skies and Fair Breezes  --  Sue & Jon   s/v Ocelot
http://HackingFamily.com    http://svOcelot.com    https://Facebook.com/svOcelot
Skype: sv-ocelot   US Worldwide Phone: +1-206-923-9714  WhatsApp: +6013.442.2717

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