Nepal 2017 – Days 13-14 – Kagbeni, Marpha, Larjung

Day 13, Kagbeni to Marpha.

We arose early today – as we would for the next number of days – as we are now hiking down the Kali Gandaki Valley, which is situated between Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges, and as a result of the way the air flows between these ranges, winds end up howling up the valley around noon as the air warms.  So we would be hiking early and ending early to avoid the worst of the winds, as this section would be rather more desert-like than the way up to the Thorung La, and the strong winds can pelt you with loose sand for hours – not very pleasant.  We would be hiking down this valley eventually bottoming out in Tatipani at around 3,900 ft some 5 days from now, the lowest we will have been since the second day on the circuit.  After Tatipani we will be turning in toward the Annapurna Sanctuary, although it would be a few days from there before actually entering the Sanctuary itself.

We had a good breakfast at our tea house, with one other couple from France who did not speak too much English so communication was tough.  The tea house main room was rather dark – and cold – but this house had a fire burning in a grate under the lodge table we were seated at – with a thick tablecloth you could cover your legs with and trap the heat – it was really nice, although the room wasn’t necessarily that well ventilated so the engineer inside me was kind of prodding us to not dawdle at breakfast, as I wondering how much CO was building up in this room…

Despite my reservations, we survived breakfast (obviously), packed up our stuff and headed out.  At the base of the stairs out of the tea house, as we stepped out onto the “street”, we were met with this:


That’s a herd of goats heading our way!  There was a wall on either side as we came down the stairs, so it was a bit shock when we stepped out and had the herd bearing down on us quickly!  The picture is a bit blurry because I took it as we were rapidly retreating down the the narrow lane, trying to stay ahead of the herd!  We managed to survive the goat encounter 🙂 , but was a pretty unique start to the day!


20170505_03Sky was much clearer this morning – nice view looking towards the restricted Mustang region.


20170505_07Mandy hiking along the dry, gravelled riverbed that would sometimes be our trail for the next few days.


20170505_06Broken sheep(?) horn in the riverbed


20170505_08Someone planted new trees in the middle of the riverbed!  Plus a nice backdrop.


20170505_09Mandy, riverbed “road”, and mountains.


After a few hours we arrived in Jomsom.  This town was hit pretty hard by the 2015 earthquake, but most infrastructure was intact.  This is the end of the line for many trekkers, as this is the first town sporting an (albeit small) airport after the Thorung La pass, and many people will fly back to Pokhara after the crossing.  As Mandy and I were doing the “full(ish)” circuit, we would be continuing on from here, and in fact were only halfway to “finished” at this point.  But Jomsom is a bit of a “bigger” town (really not all that big though) and we were able to find a few more shops and items in town, and for the first time in days I actually had a cell signal (although it was 2G – Edge – so very limited usability, but enough for texting and simple – but very slow – web stuff).  After stopping at the local trekking checkpoint with our permits we did a little light shopping – picking up some fresh fruit – mangos and bananas.  Mandy was in love with the Mangos in Nepal from here on out, and tried to get one every day if she could.  I don’t like bananas, but had one anyway, and here in Jomsom is where I discovered I actually like non-USA bananas – these bananas are smaller but have a different taste, and after this I frequently looked for bananas when we passed through villages (although I wasn’t as in love with them as much as Mandy was “bananas” for Mangos… sorry I couldn’t resist)


20170505_1620170505_17School wall on the way into Jomsom


20170505_21This was the view out the window from the restaurant we stopped at for lunch…not bad.


After lunch, we took a longer route to Marpha, but one that bypassed most of the jeep road leaving Jomsom and passed by a large Gompa with nice views of the valley and mountains.


20170505_22Along our alternate route to Marpha


20170505_mov04_Moment20170505_3220170505_33Some pictures at the Gompa


20170505_36Looking back towards Jomsom and the valley below


20170505_mov05_MomentZoomed in a little.  Can see the airport runway on the left side just to the right of town.


20170505_46Some artwork on the mountainside.  May not look it, but that is really large – we were across the valley from this.


20170505_44The jeep road was washed out as we approached Marphia.  That’s a fast moving (suddenly new) river that’s taken out a like 15 foot section.  That car is waiting trying to decide if to try crossing it.  Not sure he ever did.


20170505_mov08_MomentThis higher clearance farm vehicle made it.


20170505_mov06_MomentSomeone had very conveniently put down a “bridge” for walkers :-).  Keeping my balance in the windy conditions to avoid taking an unscheduled bath.


Marpha was a nice town that the jeep road bypassed (rather than passing through) – one of the main reasons it’s still a nicer town IMO.  This town is famous for their apple brandy, and this region of Nepal famous for apples in general.  Once we arrived in Marpha, we found a decent, mostly empty tea house.  We had our share of rooms to choose from, the first one we picked had a broken toilet so we quietly moved to another room, only to discover later this one’s shower was broken.  Since the original room we picked was still open, we used our ‘trekkers adaptability’ to take showers in that room before settling back into our new room.  Food was really good at this tea house, but we lost power multiple times, and when I got up in the night to use the bathroom, discovered there was no running water now either.  But still beats a tent!!!


Day 14 – Marphia to Larjung.


20170506_074546Me crossing a long metal bridge at the start of our day’s trek.  Notice the wooden one still standing beside it.


20170506_02Some apple trees looking down the long, slowly descending valley


20170506_04Mandy on a ledge high above the river valley, where we are headed later today.





20170506_12Back on the valley floor.  Sort of a road, although looks like there’s a big chasm now in the usual path…


20170506_115934Our lunch break today.  Studying the map and enjoying a (somewhat) cold beverage.


There wasn’t much to Larjung, and we settled into the Larjung Lodge at the south end of town.  This was one of the nicer tea houses we stayed in, and their WiFi actually worked semi-decently (at many tea houses the WiFi is pretty much useless) – it might’ve helped that we (again) were the only guests staying here.  Mandy had an awesome meal prepared here from the daughter of the owner, but she would discover tomorrow that the daughter was a much better cook than mom.  But more on that tomorrow –


There was voting going on in Nepal around this time, so we can share some funny posters that were about in town(s):

20170505_145621No bribing voters with food?

20170505_145644 smallerNo bribing voters with money.  Pretty sure on this one…

20170505_145650 smallerNo weapons at voting locations?  Or no angry mobs?  🙂

20170505_145655 smallerNo beating up the opposition?

Anyway, you can make up your own interpretations.  Or learn Nepalese and tell us what they say.


20170505_18Have to end with a mountain picture…because the last pic is what Facebook put up last time when posting – not sure that’s absolute but we’ll see… but anyway a nice pic to end on – enjoy –

New Zealand & Australia 2019-2020

We decided to go to New Zealand because our friends were getting married in Wollongong, Australia near the end of December. We debated traveling around Australia “Oz” but Australia is a VERY large country. It is actually as large as mainland USA with the sticking out parts (Maine, Florida) cut off. After doing some research I found that December is a CRAZY BUSY AND EXPENSIVE time to travel in Oz. It’s both school holidays and Christmas vacation so people are going all over and prices are jacked way up. Couple that with the fact that a huge section of Oz is uninhabitable, and people basically travel the coasts, and it looked like a not practical or fun plan. So we decided to tackle a place that is much more manageable, famed to also be beautiful, and a much smaller country-New Zealand. As is frequently the case when we travel, we got our plane tickets first and then figured out the details.


We flew into Auckland, on the North Island, early in the morning and basically had the day and night to explore. We rented a car and did as much as we could in the short time. We drove around a little, but Tom had to adjust to driving on the left (wrong) side of the road AND the right (wrong) side of the car-no easy feat in city traffic.


Since neither of us knew very much about New Zealand, we decided to go to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.  This was very interesting and gave us a much better understanding of colonialism in New Zealand, the wars that had shaped the country, and the Maori culture and language.


We parked the car and did a mad walking tour of the city!


Found a rose garden in the Botanical Garden with an aptly named rose bush.



This was one of my favorite parts of our Auckland stay! We stayed in an AirBnb in an old, converted New Zealand Railroad train station! It was great for an AirBnb but people lived there in low-income housing too. Our room was about dorm-room size and had no AC but did have an ensuite bathroom and and a small kitchenette (sink, fridge). People had to bring their food down to the large, industrial kitchen to cook and eat in the common areas. But the architecture and decor had been preserved so that it was very easy to tell that this was a train station at one time. It is probably one of my favorite AirBnb’s ever and I really enjoyed poking around and taking pics. 20191206_081514

We left Auckland and started driving around the North Island. We had about 5 days for the North Island which meant we were going to miss lots of things, but we tried to hit the highlights. P1040553

The coast was absolutely BEAUTIFUL and did not disappoint at any time, even when it was raining and crazy angry looking.P1040556P1040558

So many beautiful flowers! Lots are also found in the US, but because NZ gets so much rain everything was large and lush!


Cathedral Cove. This is a protected area so we had to take a shuttle-bus to get here and then hike down to the water. It was cold-ish, but beautiful.


Taranaki Falls in Tongariro National Park. This was kind of typical weather for most of the trip. Raining/misting/cloudy. We still did stuff, but wished it was sunny and clear.


This hike, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, is touted as one of the most beautiful treks in the world (one of my guide books claimed that, but I ditched the book, so I can’t give you the exact quote).  I am not sure I would go quite that far, but it was very impressive AND we had pretty good weather.  We had WAY more rain than we wanted, or expected in NZ so this day and this hike were one of the gems of the trip. P1040640

This is a lava tube-a lava tube is a solidified path where molten lava once flowed. We’ve actually walked IN them before, in the Pacific North West, but it was neat to see this one from this angle.P1040652

One of the really cool things about NZ is that all of the water, the lakes, streams, ocean, are different shades of shocking blues, greens, turquoises, aquas. They were a pleasure to see!P1040667


The day we caught the ferry from the North to South Islands SHOULD have been a piece of cake. We got to Wellington (south part of the North Island) to take the ferry. Got there early, took the  cable car up the hill and strolled back down through the gardens and parks. We were all set to drop off the car and catch the ferry BUT we forgot we had to get gas first. NZ, like Europe, uses the chip and PIN credit card system. But for reasons unknown, the US is not on board with the PIN part of the system so we needed an actual person every time we filled up. None of the gas stations around the ferry terminal had a human! We raced around like gang-busters trying to find an appropriate gas station, missing exits, and cursing while our ferry departure time got closer and closer!


…but we made it!


This is a weka-flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand. He was hanging out in the parking lot of the coastal walk we did.P1040705

Read about an area where we could go see sea lions so we headed over there.  You had to look pretty hard to see them among the rocks and sticks. Look how little that one is!


This is the viewing area, the sea lion rocks are behind us. P1040721

We drove A LOT in NZ, but we drove A LOT, A LOT this particular day. We didn’t intend to do the huge loop that we did, but we had good weather, which was not in the forecast for the coming days, so we took advantage of it.  The previous pics on the coast AND all the following mountain pics were all in the same day. We did both Lewis and Arthur Passes this day.  Winding, meandering, beautiful, routes through the mountains. P1040729P1040736


There’s those clouds we were constantly trying to dodge.P1040756P1040758P1040759P1040763P1040765

En route back to the interior we stopped at one of my most favorite areas: Lake Pukaki! We came through this area twice once in ok weather and then again, near the end of the trip, in beautiful weather.


We were headed to Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. Mt. Cook is off in the distance, beyond Lake Pukaki.P104077020191222_14362920191222_143644

These pics are from the second visit. I was absolutely enamored of this view. 20191222_14401220191222_15255020191222_18534420191222_185723

En route to Mt Cook!


Beautiful stained glass in the Mt. Cook visitor center.


More cool coastal stuff; Moeraki Boulders. P1040816P1040820

And finally, for this post, I end in another city, Dunedin (done e din). We had a very nice time in this city. We stayed in another beautiful, old, full of charm hotel-The Leviathian. Again, I roamed around and enjoyed the furniture and architecture.

View from the common room with that cool fireplace.20191214_082109

Dunedin held (disputed now) the Guiness Book of World Records title of steepest street in the world; Baldwin St. We walked it. P1040831

So did a bunch of Asian people. P1040833

We went to a GREAT farmers’ market at the train station. They really shy away from disposable items in NZ. Even when I wine tasted at the farmers’ market they had little glass cups that they packed away and washed. No disposable coffee cups and pretty much all bamboo cutlery and biodegradable take-out dishes around the country.  I know it’s harder in a country as large as ours but I was inspired.  20191214_103551

More beautiful stained-glass in the train station. 20191214_103556

In keeping with the reuse theme…I thought this was so cool! Take a cup to use while perusing and leave it in the bucket to be washed after.20191214_101456

Side of the train station. 20191214_103848

Beautiful day for strolling and taking in the architecture. 20191214_110040

Just kidding, I can’t end on a cathedral, even if it is is a beautiful one… here’s some more nature. I call them candy corn flowers.


Nepal 2017 – Days 9-11 (Braga – [Thorung La Pass] – Ranipauwa)

From Braga up and over the Thorung La pass ending in Ranipauwa. Detailed log here


20170501_081234We woke up to…snow. But the smiles are still there!


20170501_01Not much of a view of the Himalayas…


20170501_05Mandy passing a chorten.


IMG_5436Our $4 yak wool gloves which saved us much pain!


20170501_09See if you can find the yak…he’s camouflaged himself with snow…


20170501_11Mandy disappearing into the storm


20170501_15Suspension bridge. Snowing hard at this point the camera can’t focus!


20170501_23Our lodgings…Mandy with a “I’m cold and wet” frown!


20170501_165825Believe it or not, this is the same day as all that snow, just late in the afternoon.


20170502_05Waking up to a clear morning and Annapurna III


20170502_09Mandy on the trail


20170502_11Mandy on another loooong suspension bridge


20170502_15Mandy getting a yak to pose with Po


20170502_091102Po with yak…


20170502_17More yak


20170502_18Looking back towards Annapurna III


20170502_23Mandy passing a yak who picked the trail as the best spot to rest 


20170502_24A popular resting spot with a view


20170502_26Still smiling!


20170502_30Very steep canyon we were hiking through


20170502_35How many wild sheep(?) can you find? (think there might be 8)


20170502_39Mandy on the trail


20170502_40Looking up the steep side


20170502_mov02_Moment(2)20170502_mov02_Momentthis was a dangerous section with rocks tumbling down the slopes frequently. Up ahead can just see the yellow top of the pack of a porter that is waiting for our group to signal to him that it’s OK to “run” across the area.


20170503_03Early morning on pass day!  Mandy contemplating the steep climb towards the High Camp


20170503_06Annapurna III in the early light


20170503_08Some king of Ptarmigan or something of the like


20170503_09The high camp (15,900 feet)


20170503_11Mandy catching a rest at the high camp


20170503_13Onward we go!


20170503_18A rest enjoying the view


20170503_19Long cut going down the mountain. Pretty neat has to be glacial in origin I’d think.


20170503_21Mandy tromping through the snow along the cut


20170503_23Where’s the top of the pass!?


20170503_25Nice views as we go up.


20170503_26More views


20170503_31And more


20170503_32Steep part


20170503_34Mandy and mountains


20170503_35These posts were placed supposedly after the 2014 snowstorm disaster that claimed the lives of many trekkers on this route


20170503_38tea house at the summit (there’s no lodging I don’t think – even though it’s called “hotel” restaurant…It’s not that big…)


20170503_40Don’t think that tiny building is a hotel…but it does have a nice view


20170503_41prayer flags and pass sign. 5416 meters or 17,777 feet altitude!


20170503_43We made it!


20170503_105436Po made it too!


20170503_104434Other side of the pass. Much different climate we would discover


20170503_49Tea house, pass from a rise above (I want to get to 18,000 feet  )


20170503_50This puppy is a 20,000 foot mountain next to the pass. There was a guy trying to climb it while we were here


20170503_53More views


20170503_55Mandy and the mountain take 2


20170503_57Coming down the 5,600 feet descent on the far side of the pass. Some tea houses below for a quick rest a welcome sight!


20170503_63Goats or sheep or something else(?)


20170503_64Not sure what these 2 horses are doing but they were blocking the trail. We gave them a wide berth!

Nepal 2017 – Days 7 and 8 (Upper Pisang – Braga – Ice Lake)

Upper Pisang to Braga, then acclimatization day climbing to Ice Lake and back to Braga. Description of days can be found in if interested –


20170429_03Same mountains, different light. Pretty neat.


20170429_07Closer View


20170429_10Later the light and clouds have changed the views


20170429_11A prayer wall along the way


20170429_072651Cool stones in the wall


20170429_12Messages, pictures written on stone tablets in the wall. Neat stuff.


20170429_13Inside the wall


20170429_16Looking back to Upper Pisang


20170429_17A little zoomed in to Upper Pisang – really dug into the side of the hill!


20170429_23Mandy and the mountains


20170429_3020170429_33An old ruin along the way


20170429_3720170429_45This is supposedly a boarding school, looks very monastery-like


20170429_4620170429_47We had to cross this bridge. It was not quite as unstable as it looks… but close.


20170429_52From the tea house


20170429_53This is the yak dung heap behind the tea house rental rooms – under Tanja and Matthias’ room window…yuck! (Yak dung is used as a fuel to heat common rooms, especially at higher altitudes where lumber is scarce)


20170429_54The temple on the hill at Braga


20170429_57View from the temple


20170429_58dude in the temple


20170429_59this buddhist temple has manuscripts supposedly over 500 years old.


20170429_66the temple was built on a steep hill, with many tiers, they had hollowed out logs with steps cut in to get up and down levels. Not easy to use!




20170429_75Tanja, Mandy, the temple, and beautiful mountains


20170429_78I call this one umbrella Buddha


20170430_04There was a lot of cold rain yesterday – when we woke up we found that the snow line had moved ominously downward… only a few thousand feet up on the mountains behind the hotel


20170430_05fresh snow on the lower slopes… not a lot, but a concern since we had another ~6,000 feet to climb to cross the Thorung La pass.


20170430_11Town of Braga on the way to Ice Lake


20170430_18Buddhist bad boy (don’t know what they are called) on the way to the Lake. Awesome view though


20170430_19Zoomed out.


20170430_20Mandy making her way up to Ice Lake. That’s the valley we’ve climbed up from below. Wicked!


20170430_22Mandy, Matthias, and Mountains (the 3 M’s)


20170430_27Wildlife on the way up. These guys are at home in the mountains! 


20170430_28Looking back to the valley floor


20170430_40The trekkers at the top!!


20170430_43Ice lake… not very Icy. But pretty chilly!


20170430_45The other way view


20170430_46happy hikers and the ice lake


20170430_51The trail back down with some clouds moving in.


20170430_52We could use a hang glider now


20170430_57Us trekkers rounding the ridge, clouded in high peaks in distance. Still great.

Nepal 2017 – Days 5 and 6 Annapurna Circuit

We’re starting to get up in the mountains finally! A stop in Chame and then on to Upper Pisang – With utterly incredible views. The days’ logs if interested:


20170427_02Our little tea house room and great morning view in Danagyu


20170427_03Close up of mountains we couldn’t see yesterday due to the weather.


20170427_04Mandy and the mouintain


20170427_06Getting better!



20170427_11Compare Mandy and that rock – this slab of rock fell across the trail…recently. Fresh stone where it used to be attached


20170427_12Where the chunk came from above the trail.


20170427_18That’s a loooong suspension bridge! Mandy almost across.


20170427_23Another Mandy and the mountain! Beautiful.


20170427_123537This villager weaving baskets. Zoom in and check out his hat… 


20170427_32Mandy in the middle of another bridge


20170427_43Happy Mandy enjoying the hot springs in Chame. The Nepalese in this area are conservative when it comes to women flesh so I made Mandy wear a shirt with her bikini (as if I can make Mandy do anything…Let’s say she consented to wear the shirt)


20170428_03Day 6 – waking up in Chame to clear skies.


20170428_05Our tea house was pretty modern, although the shower kept going from burning to cold.


20170428_06Snowy Himalaya peaking over the nearby mountains.


20170428_07Close up


20170428_09Entrance/exit to the village





20170428_23The Paungda Danda “Gateway to Heaven”. 5000 feet from the top to the river down below.


20170428_30Paungda Danda from another angle as we hike on to Upper Pisang.


20170428_32Pretty cool.


20170428_33We’re getting further along…


20170428_34Looking the other way towards Pisang



20170428_41Annapurna II (I think) very impressive!




20170428_45Upper Pisang




20170428_48View from tea house roof.



20170428_58Inside a gompa in Upper Pisang




20170428_mov05_MomentCan’t do videos currently but this is a snapshot from one.

Nepal 2017 – Annapurna Circuit and Sanctuary Trek Days 1-4

So finally getting around to our hike in Nepal Annapurna last year. Breaking it up into multiple posts because there’s a lot of pictures and some have expressed interest in a more detailed account of our adventures – this first one is a bit lengthy, but should shorten up as we get into the mountains – most days consist of just hiking, the pictures tell the tale. Anyway if you have an interest in the read it can be found here:



Map of the Annapurna Region in Nepal. We would be hiking most of the circuit except we would divert at the end into the Annapurna Sanctuary to the Annapurna Base Camp and then back out of the central region.


20170419_190853What Mandy is living with for the next 35 days!


20170423_080236 (2)Final flight leg to Nepal. Can see the Himalayas poking through the clouds in the distance.


20170423_155236Our first Nepal beers! (and our last for the next couple of weeks)


20170423_160422Any electricians our there? Your job is not that bad…


20170424_072948Leaving the polluted air of Kathmandu.


35629403_10213613822153297_7731512629738340352_o_10213613822113296Yay! The start of our trek!


20170424_05Mandy, and our first wildlife encounters


20170424_06Our first Yaks




20170424_10End of our first (shortened) trekking day. Can see snow in mountains off in the distance!


20170425_05Village, start of Nepal day 3 (day 2 trekking)


20170425_06Nice scenery. Can see a porter and guide up ahead – This guy helped us a couple of times from going the wrong way – thanks bud!


20170425_060806Wise words 






20170425_23Happy trekkers!





20170425_31End of day 2 trekking, from our tea house room


20170426_06Day 4 start – a day of water


20170426_09Starting to get almost jungle-like in the greenery




20170426_110604Po spinning the prayer wheels




20170426_114836Me at the far end of the suspension bridge.


20170426_114919Tom in the windy middle of the span



20170426_23Approaching the town of Tal.


20170426_26Very nice approach to town


20170426_2720170426_29From Tal


20170426_36End of day 4 (3rd trekking day). Some more snow on distant mountains.

Nepal 2017 – Day 12 – Ranipauwa, Muktinath to Kagbeni

So when we last left our story of our hikers (Mandy and I), we had just spent a long, long day crossing the Thorung La pass.  I finally was able to sleep decently (after 3 days of very little sleep) although I did not sleep as long as I would’ve thought, given my exhaustion level.  With the hard day yesterday, we decided to make it a sort of rest day today, with a morning visit to the nearby Muktinath temple complex, and a shorter trek this afternoon to the “Medieval-like” village of Kagbeni.

Muktinath is the most important pilgrimage site in Nepal for both Hindus and Buddhists.  Kind of cool how 2 religions share the site.


20170504_35Mandy and I in front of a huge Buddha Statue.


20170504_16Mandy checking out the 108 cow-shaped brass waterspouts, pouring forth sacred water.


20170504_17Close up of one of the waterspouts.


20170504_19Not sure how you get to be a VIP at a pilgrimage site, but I want in on that toilet!


20170504_22Mandy in one of the complex’s Gompas (temple).  Some very intricate and neat carvings in here.


20170504_23Something you didn’t know:  empty Pringles cans also double for sacred incense holders


20170504_2620170504_27The artwork outside was pretty amazing


20170504_29This is how you heat your tea in Nepal 🙂


20170504_31Worshippers inside the Jwalamai (Goddess of Fire) Temple, with the ever-burning flame.


20170504_33 (2)Just another worshipper of the Fire Goddess paying his respects.


After a “Mexican” lunch (consisting of a bunch of non-mexican vegetables, but still tasty nonetheless), we headed out on our short trek for Kabeni.  We ended up on the dirt jeep road much of the way, and once again had to break out our rain gear shortly after departing Ranipauwa.


20170504_38Cool formations on the way.


20170504_4020170504_41Kagbeni in the distance.  I cannot express how STEEP that mountain wall in the background towering over the town was.  The picture doesn’t do it justice.


20170504_44OH YEA!!!  The Golden…horns?  12 days in to our trek, we finally came to my Mecca.  Probably a copyright infringement, but I’m guessing McDonald’s lawyers won’t be hiking out here to issue the cease and desist.  Yes, we did eat here, and got Yak Burgers and fries!  In a fast food twist, Mandy really liked the yak burger, and I was more “meh”.  (But really, wasn’t a fast food place at all)


20170504_4520170504_46The narrow stone streets make you feel like you’re in some castle town of Medieval Europe.


20170504_48Huge braided river(bed) heading to the north.  Kagbeni is the kick off point to restricted Upper Mustang region, where porters are required and permits a bit pricey, but rumored to be stunning in scenery.  Our German friends were headed into this region, so sadly we had no chance of seeing them for the rest of our trip (although at end of our trip we’d find out we were actually in Pokhara at the same time for just a day and missed each other then).


20170504_52Weather finally starting to clear around sunset, revealing snowy alpine peaks.


20170504_063520Ok this one is from Pass Day, but got mixed in so included anyway!


20170504_51Mandy relaxing in our tea house room, with hoody, sleeping bag, and blanket.  She was NOT a fan of no (room) heat anywhere in the Annapurna Circuit… but at least it wasn’t as cold as a few nights ago, before the Thourung La Pass.  And in Kagbeni at 9,300 feet altitude, we were about 8,500 feet below where we stood a little over 24 hours ago!  Yay oxygen!

Summer Vacation Part 1. Phoenix to Texas 06/29/018-07/05/2018

These posts are going to be a bit of a jumble until we get to the present because we have done A LOT of things this summer. So I am going to start at the beginning of the summer and go from there.


We left Phoenix near the end of June, bound for New York, with one very strategically packed Honda Fit. We didn’t take the RV because it is much more difficult to maneuver and much more expensive to drive. Our summer was basically four 2 week trips. Phoenix-New York, New York, Alaska, NY-Phoenix.

First stop was West Texas-New Mexico border for cheap beer and a beautiful sunset.

You may have been to Texas, but if you haven’t been to West Texas, you are really missing out.  We camped, hiked Guadalupe Peak (the highest peak in Texas) , and went to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.



The entrance to Carlsbad Caverns. It is a massive underground cave structure with many huge rooms.



The pictures really can not do the park justice as the rooms are cathedral-like.


Next we went to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Some people had told us about Big Bend last year so we decided to check it out. It more than exceeded our expectations. There is a great deal of variety in elevation and climate with lots of interesting hiking and animals. We didn’t even have time for a river trip.


Our campsite in a beautiful valley.


Barbary Sheep-a “rare” sighting according to a Big Bend website.


The Rio Grande and its surrounding canyon.




This was a surreal sight of clouds and mountains.20180701_180847

20180701_182210P1000749P1000813Two-tone lizard.

This was an absolutely beautiful hike all along the rim of the canyon. Expansive views.


20180702_174233Javelina (Peccary)! We have seen these in zoos, but never in the wild!


Still in Texas, we followed a storm front for a few hours. The lightening was quite a show, but very difficult to capture.


Next, the Alamo and The River Walk in San Antonio.


We spent my favorite holiday, The 4th of July, in Texas on one of the many man-made lakes.  I have spent other Independence Days in Texas and there is never a shortage of great hospitality, patriotism, alcohol, and fireworks! Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of my cousins or their generous and hospitable friends but we had a wonderful and welcoming time (and another beautiful sunset).


Maybe Tom’s favorite fast food joint.



Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), Minnesota 08/26/2018-08/31/2018

Although I have been paddling for most of my life, the impetus to go to BWCA really came from Tom. He actually had such an interest in going to MN that he suggested I  get a job up there!  We didn’t exactly know what we were getting into, but we have enjoyed 3 or 4 paddling trips in the Adirondacks in the past and we figured this would be similar. In most ways it was. The biggest differences are the vastness of the BWCA and the types of wildlife we saw. We saw no fewer than 4 bald eagles, many frogs and toads and many turtles, as well as 1 leech.  As they are in the Adirondacks, Tom’s beloved loons were in attendance. The portages (carrying the canoe between lakes or bypassing whitewater) are also different in the BWCA-most are shorter and not nearly as muddy.  We were in the backcountry for 5.5 days and saw as few as 4 other people one day. We paddled and portaged a total of  about 76 miles over a frickin’ bunch of lakes!

This year was very light on the rain, so the water was much more shallow than usual (per locals’ reports) and I never found a good jumping rock at any of our campsites.   The lakes are also much warmer than the Adirondacks.  I had the pleasure of swimming every day (this also helps keep the stink down when there’s no shower around for 5 days).  We did get some rainy weather, but it was mostly at night and we had clear, beautiful, dark skies for 2 nights to view the stars and moon as well as couple of beautiful sunsets.

The leaves are already changing up here.

Making dinner and purifying water.


Tom forgot his hat so he had to borrow my purple one.

I know it’s a weird get up but I’m bound to get wet while paddling and it was cold with the wind and 70ish temps.  That’s all we packed, 2 dry bags of about 35 lbs each.

Kevlar canoe, about 40 pounds, considerable lighter than aluminum or plastic.

I swam out to that little island just left of center.


Our last campsite. Nice, high, vantage point that was shielded from the strong winds of the day.

Per usual, Tom doing lots of work while I lounge in the sun!






We have had a lot of interest in our pictures and stories over the two years we have been travelling. FB has a lot of glitches for sharing our pictures to both of our pages so after being inspired by our friends who have been blogging while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, we decided that this may be an easier method-both to post and to view. Things will be a bit out of chronological order for a while, but hopefully we can keep this updated regularly. Enjoy!