a quick peek at a slice of Japan with 5 hours and $25…… – so it turns out I had an 11 hour layover in Tokyo on the way home. And I was saving $20 for the taxi in Boise, but now that Aaron Beck is picking me up – I’m gonna go see what I can see….Should have planned it a bit better and taken advantage of my 3 seats in a row on the plane for a sleep, but got stuck watching movies again. Found a deserted corner in the Tokyo terminal for a quick cat nap until a profusely appolagetic policeman said I couldn’t sleep there. Every other word was ‘sorry’. These people are so polite, neat and orderly! How bizarre while still being in Asia! Ok, quick 2 hour cat nap in designated area, then back out through security (hello again!) and followed a hot tip from a Japanese stewardess : I took the train to Narita Station (round trip less than $10!) and walked to the Temple Gardens with the fall leaf festival in full swing! (No big parties, it just means that the fall colors were in full swing) So beautiful! Small delicate maple leaves in reds and oranges, with coy swimming in ponds with an example of every style of Japanese pogodas from different eras. Lovely! Now, this wasn’t Tokyo proper, this was Narita – and as I strolled through the curvey narrow lanes with miniature cars, and miniature construction cranes and minature everything, it felt like a Lego land set. Except the Japanese edition with waving arms of ‘lucky cats’ and plastic food models and prices (thank you!) in front of restaurants. After buying a round trip ticket for $9, and putting my heavy backpack full of brass trinkets from Nepal in the baggage storage ($3) – I had a little over $10 left. It’s like a game. I decided to try some mystery food. I gambled on some muffin looking things with sweet (surprise!) bean curd in them straight out of the oven. Yum! He asked where I was from and prompted me for the state – he’s been to Idaho at one of those things where you chase the cows…. a rodeo?! how random! At the Temple Gardens? (sorry, no map or visitor info other than just asking directions where ever I went – everyone so helpful and polite. Like ridiculously polite.) I wandered into a Buddhist ceremony? (all I had to do was take off my shoes and put them in the blue plastic bags provided) Huge room that echoed the chanting and the drums went right through me! Beautiful purple robes they wore and they made an auspicious fire under huge Grecian collumn shaped chandelliers. Then everyone rushed the stage with their purses?! and the dude in charge waved them over the fire several at a time. Hmmmm maybe a prosperity ceremony? ok, I’m in! I put my wallet normally in my thigh pocket in my satchel bag/purse and gave it to the guy. He motioned for my camera bag, too. Good thinking! Money lucky! money lucky! for everybody in the room!!!! Yeahy!
I did my community service of taking portraits of everybody together (so they didn’t have to rotate to take two people at a time out of three) and made peoples’s day. One couple looked like they had just gotten married and I took a pic with their phone, but she showed me their real wedding pics (on her phone) and said they went to Las Vegas for their honeymoon?! omg. I really just wanted to take their picture, too, but didn’t want to be a creeper. I wished them a long and happy life. Sampled all the crazy food items at the Temple gates, and settled on some sweet salty candy and some candied cumquats. And one more of those bean things from the rodeo guy on the way back to the train. Oh yeah, and also wandered into what was either a cemetery or a headstone emporium. If it was a cemetery, then they had pint sized plots, which makes sense – because every thing is pint sized here. and profusely polite, neat and orderly. Thanks, Japan, for the quick 40 second hug.
having a bit of a modern sterilized-Star-Wars-space-bar experience in the Singapore airport as I wander through all the high end shops filled with very expensive stuff I don’t need (really?! a $2600 handbag? does anyone need that?) amongst the new trendy businessmen in skinny jeans, pointy shoes and fitted jackets with spikey ‘baby dinosaur hair cuts’, alongside tatooed tosseled-haired surfer boys on their way to Indo – sprinkled with the impeccable queen’s English voice from a sexy British ‘Suri’ coming over the loudspeakers. Don’t forget the foot and calf massages if you like a little ‘pain with your pleasure’. Oh yeah, and the SpongeBob Squarepants Christmas display (I kid you not – you can’t make this stuff up!) is really freaking me out.
Matt Cone of KarmaFlights.org invited us to join them in a ceremony at the school near DickiDanda, and to attempt to fly home via The Green Wall. This is another great site, and all the paragliders used to disrupt the kids at the school – so much so that the kids would cut class and throw rocks at the pilots. Karmaflights turned this around and created a win/win situation. With the help of donations (coming from mostly tandem pilots donating flights) and the tough negotiation skills of the school master, school uniforms were bought, and now a hot lunch every day for the kids. There was a ceremony, with lots of orange flower leis, and cookies, and tea. Matt Cone also brought danishes. So now what was once disrupting a launch site, is now enhancing and making the world a better place. Thanks for making coffee for all us foreigners, but we had to scurry away to launch before the weather got too active. I surfed for awhile, but couldn’t make it to the Green Wall, and landed out in a rice field. Yeahy! No more bhanda! A taxi rolled up and offered us a deal we couldn’t refuse ($2 each) back to Pokhara, and the streets were clogged with political parties celebrating their regional victory with parades on motorcycles.
That’s Andy Pag. If you haven’t seen his amazing TedX talk – it’s a must…..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aum6wRbtVZY
and a great adventure it was! Started hiking up countless stone steps under a full moon to the village, where we found a house to crash at. We slept in the patio (with the cows?!-they are tied up, aren’t they?) and they made us some Dal Baht (sp?) that night, and some hard boiled eggs and tea in the morning. There we scored some porters for the epic-am-I-in-a-Lord-of-the-Rings-movie journey up more stone steps through ferns and moss covered trees and hobbit caves, then up above the tree line heather along a knife edge sharp ridge. Nearly there. It was hard enough without my 40lb wing. What hard work for the porters! Well worth $10 with a $2 tip! The old dude was the fastest. ha. The little porter boy in training carried up some stunned chickens and rice for dinner (uh, I think I’ll just eat my gorp). Well, the porters ended up staying the night at the hut, filled it up with smoke, and chatted loudly and partied all night, so we slept outside under a bright full moon and the snow capped Himalayas. Very happy with my recent purchase of a North Face knock-off down bag – rated to -20 degrees. -Because it was 10 degrees below freezing! We woke with ice all over our bags and the most beautiful alpen glow. ever. Excited and nervous about my flight – we stuffed our sleeping bags in our harnesses, and laid out our wings and waited for some ‘lift’. Hmmmm. Clouds. more clouds. So I took off first, wanting to be able to fly through the spaces in the clouds without hitting a mountain, and didn’t get much lift (we were already above the clouds at this point) and very little thermals along the way (for me). So, pretty much a straight glide. My wing is very safe, but doesn’t have a very good glide ratio, so I’m pretty much on my own. I squeeked over the second to the last ridge (I got it, no I don’t got it, yes I got it!), picked a good landing near a dirt road in a harvested rice padie patch away from power lines, and changed out of my warm clothes covered in my wing while the village children giggled. This is election day, so no taxis or busses – I had a 2 hour hike with my pack – ug – and walked with other villagers going to vote in Pokhara. Finally about 2 miles out, a friendly store keeper gave me and my huge pack a ride- on his bicycle! I sat on the bike rack holding on tight and trying to keep my balance while holding my already sore legs up off the ground. Thanks Bella and Jamey for including us on this awesome hike and fly adventure! Living large!!
the family let us light a campfire in their courtyard
yes, the crazy white people want to go up there…
I guess we’re having chicken for dinner. sigh.
some greens are apparently coming along with us, too
they got strapped to my paraglider – and get this….Bella speaks enough Nepali to overhear my porter chatting on his cell phone to his girlfriend (while smoking a cigarette and walking up steps) the jist : “yeah – I got a job – so I’ll see you tomorrow. Yeah, these crazy white people want to go to Korshon, but they don’t want to carry any of their stuff. “ Yep. that’s us.
the little porter boy in training carries one of the chickens for dinner. sigh.
played leapfrog with the porter carrying my wing all the way up – but I’m only carrying my water and some snacks
that will be us tomorrow!
Wow! Jamie shot this amazing shot of me right after I launched. Thank you!! very grateful!
ladies night in Pokhara…. met up with Bella and the gals (mainly to plan our next adventure) and closed down the Busy Bee. The band was hard rock complete with skinny jeans and BIG hair that they dizzingly swooshed around. Hilarious. Bummed I didn’t bring my camera to take a video to show the kids back home. I even joined the dance pit when they played my AC/DC request! It went all the way to ELEVEN. Uh, meaning the band stops and the doors close, and the nice policeman lets you out at eleven o clock.
and the adventure begins a little sooner than planned…. the drivers are all scared to leave tomorrow – things very uncertain with Nepal’s first election coming up – (over a hundred and twenty different political parties?! seriously?! and the Maoists have been causing trouble with enforced strikes on taxis and busses) so we are scooting out of town this afternoon. A jeep ride, a hike to a village, spend the night, then find some porters to carry our wings, food and water for the big 2,000 meter (6,000 ft!) hike up to Korshan in the Annapurnas, bivy in the small hut, then hopefully the weather will be favorable enough to fly back to Pokhara. Super excited for this adventure, as this will be (hopefully) my first x-country flight. wahooooo!
WIERD. No busses or taxis – only the mopeds and the motorbikes…
so this should be interesting…. today is a bahnda (sp?), or forced shut down of all busses/taxis etc to protest Nepal’s first elections coming up. Hmmm not sure I quite understand… but we have a front row seat. We are still going flying today, but instead of hopping on a $2 paragliding bus, or a $7 taxi, we will hike up the mountain (and I’m sure there will be a cluster of porters at the base wanting to carry my paraglider)
Everyone was in awe at the crazy Amerian girl that insisted on carrying her own paraglider. Was she just stubborn? poor? or superhuman?
stunning backdrop to today’s flight!
one of the landing zones – top right by the pool and the lake. If you fall short and land in the rice fields, you owe the farmer 500 rupes ($5) – if you overshoot it, you land in the lake. So I’ve been practicing my spot landings….
Change of plans – not going to California for the month of November like I thought. Turns out I didn’t have a boyfriend anymore when I got off the Grand Canyon. The next day I booked my ticket to Nepal to join Kathy Kristenson and the gang to paraglide in Pokhara! Can you believe I had enough miles?! That’s what I would rather be doing anyway! Grabbing life by the horns, and living large……this fall’s adventure series continues……
after a week and a half of code-red-hit-the-ground-running of paying bills, wrapping up loose ends, putting out fires (metaphorically), a couple portrait assignments shot and edited, and some last minute packing (really? it’s that warm there?), I’m ready…
Wow how lucky were we to put on the Grand Canyon 30 hours before the government shutdown! So sublime, and different every time. Such a fun group of people, we even had two, count them, two costume nights. Not just a crush, but I have a love afair with the reflections…..
Everyone from the trip is now decompressing and getting back to the ‘real world’ they say. I say -I think living in the Canyon felt more of the real world. We synched with the rhythms of nature – fell asleep soon after dark, and awoke at first light – we drank of the side rivers, and were witness to some amazing forces of wind and thunderstorms, and slept cozy tucked away in a deep canyon under a mind-boggling expanse of stars. Oct 1st was a new moon, and there were so many stars you couldn’t even begin to make out the constellations. That seemed real to me. In your face real. Front row seat real.
Thanks everybody for your contribution to the ‘cast of characters’ of our amazing journey.
Laughter is the best medicine!