KAT // FIN

Dream. Do.

Flat is boring! – Way to the A.B.C. Part 1

I´ve always been interested providing myself challenges. I don´t know if it´s that secure life we are living in western countries that make me miss the element of adventure and even a risk. That´s when I can feel the most ‘free’. When we decided to go to Nepal it was obvious that we would do trekking there. We both are interested in nature and sleeping in not-so-comfy-conditions isn´t any problem for us.

We wanted our trek to be organized by a local agency, so I googled Nepalese trekking agencies and found many recommendations of a Pokhara-based-company named Beauty Nepal Adventure. I contacted them many months before our trek. It wasn´t obvious straight away that we would go to the Annapurna Base Camp. Even we both wanted to go to just that trek, we were thinking many times if it would be too much challenge for us. I sent many emails with Beauty Nepal Adv. concerning the A.B.C. trek. They always answered quickly and kindly and many questions were answered a long time before we finally came to Pokhara. Company leader Bijay and our guide, Kajiman Rai, came to meet us straight away when we arrived in Pokhara and we went through all our gear with them. Some stuff like down jacket and hiking poles we rent in Pokhara with Kaji. I´m lucky that we had the courage to choose the A.B.C.! That´s how it went.

Day 1 – Pokhara – Birethanti – Hille (3,5h trek – altitude 1460m)

We met our team in our guest house in Pokhara 8.30 in the morning. Our guide, Kaji, we had met a couple of times earlier and today we met also our porter, a 21-year-old Mani. First we drove to Birethanti to start our trek. Beauty Nepal Adventure had arranged our permits for the trek. You need to pay for entry permit to Annapurna Conservation Area and also TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System). In Birethanti we got our permits stamped and got ‘logged in’ to the Annapurna area. Our first day trail was pretty easy; we walked a couple of hours along the river Modi Khola through rice fields to our first lodge in peaceful country village, Hille. Accommodation and three meals per day, were included to the trek price. First evening Kaji taught us to eat Nepal national dish, Dhal Bhat, like Nepalese…using only your hands. We were pretty excited of our trek and didn´t sleep much during the first night.

DSC_0423 Our team with Bijay Rai in the left, Auli, me, our guide Kaji and porter Mani.

DSC_0428 Permit Check Point in Birethanti.

DSC_0430 From the beginning of the trail.

DSC_0457 View from Hille.

DSC_0458 View from Hille.

DSC_0482 Eating Dhal bhat nepalese style.

Day 2 – Hille – Ulleri – Ghorepani (7h trek – altitude 2860m)

Second morning started early. As we got to notice, rest of the mornings started also much earlier than we had used to. Breakfast was at 6.30 so that our trek would start at 7.00. With not so much sleep during first night, this day was pretty tough. From Hille the trail started to be steeper. To reach the next village, Ulleri, we had to climb 3333 stone steps going only up, up, up! There was a line of trekkers climbing up to Ulleri. October-November is the best time to trek in Nepal, so the route was sometimes crowdy. Anyway, the trail wasn´t crowdy only because of trekkers – in these heights where ‘road’ means steep stone paths, people uses mules and ponys as well as porters to transport goods from village to village. What we learned – a porter can carry loads of over 30 kilos! There is nothing to be complained for a trekker carrying only 3kg daypack! There was also independent trekkers with no guide or porter – their faces didn´t look so happy in Ulleri stairs. It started to look like Nepalese used the word ‘flat’ if it was ‘only’ 10 minutes of going up or down…no matter how steep the trail was.

We reached our next village, Ghorepani in the afternoon. It started to be chillier: Ghorepani was over 1000 meters higher than Hille. View from our lodges´ window was amazing – Annapurna South and Macchapucchre or ‘Fishtail’ Mountain was looking straight at us in the horizon! Shower in Ghorepani was so cold that I could hear a chinese lady from the room next door clanking her teeth like 10 minutes after coming out there. Darkness comes to Nepal around 18 so we used to go to bed at 20.00. There was power cuts in the lodge so after 18.00 we had to use headlights inside to see anything. Anyway, starting from this night I slept like a baby.

DSC_0484 Mules on the trail descending from Ulleri.

DSC_0495 During the 3333 steps we saw the first glimpses of the Annapurnas.

DSC_0505 View from our window in Ghorepani.

Day 3 – Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Ghorepani – Tadapani (7-8h trek – altitude 2700m)

Third morning started before the sun got up. With our headlamps on, we climbed for an hour to Poon Hill to see the sunrise. Even the last day had been tough and starting your morning at 4.00 by climbing a nearby hill isn´t the first option that comes to your mind when your muscles are still sore from the previous day, view from Poon Hill was really worth all the efforts! Annapurna Mountain range could be seen clearly when weather is always the clearest early in the morning. Seeing the first sun rays above Himalayas was truly amazing. The experience would have been even better without the masses of other trekkers but no can do if you choose the most popular trekking route in the world during the high-season :D

We hit back to Ghorepani for breakfast and after we continued our trek. Just a bit after Ghorepani we saw an ambulance helicopter coming from Ghorepani – there was a lady in another guesthouse who had had some kind of a stroke during the night. Helicopters can’t fly in mountains during the nighttime so they had to wait for help many hours. I hope she´s okay now! We also heard that some people had had altitude sickness symptoms already in these heights. We were lucky not having one and kept going.

It was a lot of ascending after leaving Ghorepani but luckily the trail descented to rhododendron forests and started to go alongside a river again. Tadapani was a beautiful small village with great views to the mountains. Once again we noticed the view only in the next morning when the weather was it´s brightest. In the afternoon it normally started to be cloudy and also rain a bit. Tadapani was cold! We were happy to have our -20 degrees sleeping bags with us.

DSC_0508 Glimbing up to the Poon Hill in the morning.

DSC_0529 Sunrise and Macchapucchre mountain.

DSC_0538 Annapurna South and Macchapucchre seen at dawn…that´s where we headed, between these two mountains.

DSC_0551 We weren´t alone…

DSC_0566 Trail continued up from Ghorepani.

DSC_0583 Riverbed from the trail.

DSC_0586 Rhododendron forests.

DSC_0616 Tadapani seen at dawn.

DSC_0598 Freezing in the sleeping bag at Tadapani!

Day 4 – Tadapani – Chhomrong (5h trek – altitude 2170m)

We had thought earlier that climbing up to Chhomrong would be somewhat strenuous so we were a little bit scared how the day was going to be. Once again, we left Tadapani early in the morning. In fact we had a great performance during the breakfast. Local kids were performing dances due to a hindu-festival and they were performing just in front of our lodge. There was a truly amazing young guy dancing his ass off…and it was 7am! Other kids were clapping their hands in the circle and this boy was dancing in the middle. There I was, having my morning tea in this landscape watching a local kids’ performance. Pretty cool moment…

Way to Chhomrong was amazing. The trail went through the farms and fields of millet and rice. Kaji taught us about local farming and plants. We saw buffalos, cows, mules, one snake an even an eagle on a hunt. On our way we also met group of three guys. They were on their way to A.B.C. as well, with no porter nor guide. One of them had sore knee so another one was carrying their boths’ stuff. Looked pretty much of a survival story already then. Their plan was to rent a porter or a pony from the way.

Our lodge in Chhromrong was a paradise with a white pony running free in the village.

Menus in the lodges are always the same – rice, noodles, eggs, potatoes…in different forms. A lot of vegetable dishes, very few non-veg dishes. Menus are actually accepted by some committee. Maybe the point of having similar menus in each lodge, is to prevent trekkers having diarrhea or porters carrying too many dish variations’ supplies to the villages. Imagine that even the villages farm themselves a lot of grains and veggies and grow poultry, cows and buffalos, everything that they don´t grow themselves has to be carried to the villages by porters or mules. That means every bottle of coke, beer or mineral water, packages of noodles or jam, toilet papers, building materials, gas…that´s totally amazing to see porters’ carriages!

We had always porridge with fruit for breakfast and some mixed fried rice or noodles for lunch or dinner. We always filled our water bottles with boiled tap water and used water purification tablets as a double-check. We tried to keep in mind not to buy food that had to be carried to the villages. So in this evening in Chhomrong our guide Kaji suggested us to have a pizza for dinner. When we offered last pieces to him, he ate them gladly and soon dig a small bottle of local rhum, Khukri, from his jacket. He also asked Mani to join us and there we were, our finnish-nepali-team proposing a toast together. This actually started a tradition; every evening after this we shared a small amount of rhum together as well as stories about our countries’ history, culture etc. Good times!

DSC_0618 Local childrens’ morning performance in Tadapani.

DSC_0625 Trail went through rice and millet fields.

DSC_0633 Suspension bridge before Chhomrong.

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DSC_0660Chhromrong was a paradise.

DSC_0661 View from Chhromrong.

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    Chhromrong´s white pony.

DSC_0658 Our guesthouse in Chhromrong.

Day 5 – Chhomrong – Sinuwa – Bamboo – Dobhan (7h trek – altitude 2580m)

Way to Dobhan followed again Modi Khola river and was full of ascending and descending. After Chhromrong the route up went only to A.B.C. So all the trekkers we saw in the route after Chhomrong were going or coming from the Base Camp. As we noticed, the route was super busy. After the accident a couple of weeks ago some routes in Annapurnas had been closed so people had changed their plan and decided to go to the Base Camp instead. Our guide warned us we might not get our own room from all the guesthouses after Chhromrong because of too many people in A.B.C. route. That wasn´t a problem for us. We were clad that we had had a room. Many people were coming to our guesthouse pretty desperate asking for a room or even a dining room to stay over night. It was almost dark and rainy already then…

We got to sleep in the common dining room in Dobhan. I remember our staying in Dobhan being special also because of we taught some card games to our porter Mani. Before this we hadn´t spent any ‘extra’-time together after arriving to guesthouses but this afternoon and evening we spent many hours together playing cards with Kaji and Mani. I´m pretty sure all of us felt being a great team now!

DSC_0666 From the dining room in Dobhan.

…to be continued.

-Katariina

Pokhara greetings and some words about Annapurnas accident

Greetings from Pokhara! We´ve been spending a couple of days here before starting the trek to Annapurna Base Camp tomorrow. Pokhara is second largest city in Nepal, situated at the feet of Himalayas. Did you know that Himalaya is sanskrit and ‘Hima’ means snow and ‘alaya’ means home. So basically Himalaya means home for snow. Himalaya was transformed when tectonic plate of India hit the plate of Eurasia and it´s still growing year by year. 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world are situated in Nepal. Lake Phewa Tal is the centre point of Pokhara and it´s surrounded by mountains like Annapurna, Macchapuchare and Dhaulagiri. Atmosphere here is super peaceful and relaxed. Also cows walking free in the streets are taking it easy.

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    Tops of Annapurna I and Macchapuchare can be seen behind the Phewa Tal.

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It would be insane to come to Nepal without taking most out of the mountains so tomorrow our expedition will start with a 10-day-climb to Annapurna Base Camp (altitude 4130m). Trek is arranged just for me and Auli by a local trekking company Beauty Nepal Adventure. We will have our own guide, who we have already met two times and our own porter. We met the owner and founder of the company, Mr. Bijay Rai, already during the first day in Pokhara and with him went through all our gear to ensure they are capable to be taken to ABC. With our guide, we rent some stuff today like down jackets and rain poncho as well as hiking poles. Our trust to this company is 100% at the moment.

DSC_0344 With Mr. Bijay Rai at our hostel checking our gear

We are aware of the trekking accident that happened a week ago in Thorong La, Manang and Mustang area in the Annapurna Circuit Route and actually it feels somehow wrong for me trying to say something about that. Newspapers here aren´t exaggerating with headlines and in fact you can´t even see any tabloids here telling about it. Info is spreading more from people to people – that´s how it seems to me. We have been talking about what happened with our trekking company but also with local shopkeepers and service providers. We´ve read finnish newspapers as well as local ones and it feels that any other country´s media is yelling louder than Nepalese one. Really don´t know what or who to believe sometimes. What has been underlined here is that this has been one of a kind accident here in Nepal – surprising, unattended, very rare, very sad.

Many people have been cancelling their treks because they are afraid that something similar will happen again. Trekking tourism is crucial to Nepal and frightening tourists with media´s exaggerating writings may have a bad effect to many people´s income here. What is said to us by our trekking company, that it is safe to go to the Base Camp. In fact our guide was on his way to the base camp last week with a group of tourists and they got hit by the storm as well. That wasn´t as bad in base camp route and when snow fall started they obviously didn´t go any higher. I try to keep myself calm about what happened. I don´t want to sound arrogant, only realistic. Our trek will start tomorrow morning and hopefully by 30th of October we will be back in Pokhara. There is a chance that AMS (Accute Mountain Sickness) will cause us symptoms that unables us from continuing higher or someone of us might get sick or get hurt… Whatever will happen during these 10 days, I hope and believe that this experience will give me more than almost any other experience in my life. The thing is not to get to the finish – but trying it! Wish us luck!

Before ABC we´ve been relaxing in this amazingly beautiful place.
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Until next time!

- Katariina

First from Kathmandu

Namaste! We landed safely to Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, three days ago. We changed plane in Amsterdam and in Abu Dhabi and when landing to Kathmandu, we headed straight to a storm which had been taking over India last week and was just then above Himalayas. It was impossible to land so we turned back and stayed in Lucknow airport in India many hours before we could continue the trip. Sitting over 24 hours in airplane was pretty heavy job and after reaching Kathmandu in the middle of the night, we went straight to bed and slept almost over the clock. We heard just one day after landing that due to that storm many people had been killed in Annapurna and Dhaulagiri areas while trekking because of surprisingly heavy snow fall. We will go trekking in Annapurna Base Camp starting next tuesday so news about very unpredictable weather and dead trekkers obviously frightened us. Anyway, we got to notice that finnish people are very greatly taken care of abroad; after the storm news we got SMS from Finnish embassy in Kathmandu as well as email from Kilroy Travels asking if we are okay because of the storm. It felt good.

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Kathmandu Valley seen from Swayambhunath Buddhist Temple.

KTM_2Kathmandu

These first days in Kathmandu have been sunny though. Nepal has the brightest weather of the year in October-November, just after monsoon season. The weather is just perfect for us, a bit above 20 degrees. We have been taking these first days pretty easy; wandering around neighbouring areas in Thamel, Durbar Square and Swayambhu buddhist temple (also called monkey temple due to monkeys living in that same hill where the Buddhist stupa is located). We´ve been sleeping and eating well. Atmosphere here feels pretty relaxed and pace of life isn´t that fast than in Finland. People smile to you and are very helpful. Tourist gets fooled a little but what we heard – so does the local. You have to pay attention to change you get back after paying for example.

Thamel_1Having breakfast in the tourist area of Thamel
Thamel_2Thamel
Thamel_3Thamel

From western perspective, Kathmandu itself feels pretty poor as a capital city. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and you can notice that from the condition of the roads and buildings for example. During winter time, temperature goes near 0 degrees celcius, but there is no heating systems in houses. Electricity is produced using hydropower from rivers but in Kathmandu for example, there isn´t enough power to keep the city going 24/7, so power cuts are usual daily. We notice that when lights go out couple of times a day from our hostel.

Nepal lives from agriculture and most of the people are living in the countryside. The fact that surprised us is that there lives about 2 million people in Kathmandu and in Pokhara, which is the second largest city, lives only about 300 000 people. Total amount of inhabitants in Nepal is around 30 million. People sell their farm products in the streets as well as fabrics and wood work/carpentry products. Service sector brings most of the money to Nepal. In the tourist area of Thamel you see many places selling fake trekking equipment like ‘The North Face’.

Besides developing infrastructure and economy, there is still 40-50% of people living below poverty line. Nepal gets monetary support from many foreign countries and actually is one of the seven long-time development co-operation countries of Finland.

Life_1 This is how some locals live

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    We have been smiling to the electricity systems here.

Life_3 Relaxing

I think the best development aid that foreigner can give, is to travel here and spend some money to support local services. From below you can find some facts about budget traveller´s living costs here:

  • two-bed-room with own bathroom and balcony from hostel in Thamel 7 euros per night/person
  • breakfast 2 euros
  • dinner 5-6 euros (including drinks)
  • 8 kilometres taxi trip ~6,5 euros
  • 200 kilometres bus trip to Pokhara ~18 euros
  • In a day we have been spending so far about 20-25 euros.

Swayambhu_1 Swayambhunath Hill seen in front
Swayambhu_2 Steps to Swayambhunath, good practise for the trek!

Swayambhu_3 Monkeys chilling in Swayambhunath Hill

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    Tourists in front of the stupa

Tomorrow we will head to Pokhara, second largest city, situated at the feet of Himalayas. Looking forward!

-Katariina

GEAR!

Trip starts to get close! I thought it might be interesting to show what I packed to my backpack and daypack. Our trip will last approx 8 months and it will include cold weather and snow when hiking in Nepal and also super hot weather and beaches. Not guaranteed yet this will be the most working combination, let´s see that after my trip…anyway here´s what I packed!

BASIC AND ACCOMMODATION STUFF

    – backpack 65L (McKinley, borrowed)
    – raincover for backpack (Tatonka 65L)
    – daypack (Haglöfs Tight 20L)
    – silk bedsheet (Cocoon Silk Liner)
    – quick-drying towel made of linen

    – sun glasses

    – leatherman-multitool
    – mini LED-light
    – clothesline and clothespins
    – SPORK-multitool for eating
    – plastic bags; different types and sizes for garbages, rain protection, gear protection, to help organising stuff in backpack…
    – duct tape
    – adaptor

    – vacuum bags to help packing
    – hammock- hammock
    – mosquito net (to be bought)
    – mosquito net (to be bought)

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CLOTHES AND SHOES

    – trekking boots (Haglöfs, bought and used many months before the trip)
    – trekking sandals
    – flip flops

    – trekking socks and liners
    – quick drying underwear
    – quick drying sportsbra
    – bikini

    – 2* loose tank top
    – 2* loose T-shirt
    – thin, long-sleeved shirt for hot countries to protect from sun and mosquitos
    – 2/3-sleeved, thin and loose shirt
    – loose pants (below knee) with pockets
    – loose pants (below knee) made of thin, breathable fabric
    – college shorts

    – Asenne-cap

SAFETY

    – moneybelt
    – lock for guesthouses with many spare-keys
    – locks for locking backpacks and daypack
    – chain-lock to lock backpack in buses, trains…

PHARMACEUTICAL + HYGIENE + FIRST AID

    – Antibac-gel
    – medicine kit (incl. malaria drugs, antibiotics and some basic medicine like painkillers, diarrhea pills, hydrocortison…)
    – first-aid kit
    – toilet bag (incl. mini shampoo and conditioner, body wash and lotion, serious sunscreen and lip balm, deodorant, tooth brush and – paste, very few make-up, brush, razors…)
    – mosquito spray
    – baby wipes to clean when shower isn´t near

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GUIDES + DOCUMENTS + COMMUNICATION + COMFORT

    – Travel guide-books of first countries (Madventures-guide for travellers, Nepal and India-guides)
    – diary
    – mini-laptop
    – mini-speaker
    – phone and charger
    – camera + charger + extra battery + memory card
    – playing cards
    – Naimakka-bracelet which can be untied and used as rope
    – fleece blanket and pillow for cold bus trips and flights
    – sleeping mask, neck pillow and earplugs
    – small pack of salmiakki and chocolate

    – passport and travelling documents (incl. important addresses and phone numbers, prescriptions of medicines, insurance documents, vaccination card…These are also scanned and posted to a cloud-service)
    – extra passport-photos for visas
    – debit/credit cards
    – drivers licenses (Finnish and international)

To be taken as ‘extra’ stuff for Nepal

CLOTHES

    2* T-shirts made of quick-drying and breathing material
    Trekking jacket (Fjällräven)
    Trekking trousers (Fjällräven)
    Sports leggings
    Fleece-jacket
    50% woollen longsleeved underwear
    Long sleeved shirt made of Merino wool
    Long sleeved shirt made of breathable, quick-drying material
    Fleece-pants
    Woollen socks
    Woollen gloves
    Woollen beanie
    Buff-scarf

OTHERS

    extra-energy for the trek (energy gels, chocolate, nuts…)
    hot pads to warm your toes

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This little fellow was pretty interested what was going on…


– Katariina

How I made it possible? – About ‘dream-do’ – attitude and signs that led me to my decision

There is certain wisdoms in life which I´ve noticed being completely true. They say that if you have come to a crossing in your life and aren´t 100% sure what to do, you should act as following:

  • stop and breathe
  • wait for a while (never act straight away, you might go wrong)
  • start looking for signs universe gives to you

First sign came in 2013 when my body started to tell me it wasn´t happy with my lifestyle.

    That year had been…let´s say very fulfilling what it came to my work. We worked with a very interesting project through all year and I gave as much to it as I could. By the end of the year I realised I wasn´t in very great condition mentally nor physically. It started to be hard for me to sleep. I realised I needed to change something in my life. I looked at the problem from different angles. I was pondering if I needed to change the place I lived, the city I lived, the job I had or if I needed to continue studying. Not single one of these options felt very great answers.

Second sign was a book my flatmate gave me one evening before christmas.

    It was a book which handled the meaning of dreaming in life (Saku Tuominen – Hyvä elämä, lyhyt oppimäärä, Paasilinna). The book was short but the message was clear. Too many people stop dreaming after they´ve ‘grown up’. The book said that the very basic thing to be happy in your life is to give some space for dreaming in your agenda. If you can dream it – you can achieve it. Basically when you put an idea to your subconsciousness it will start affecting to your life and to your actions in a higher level. You might notice in the long run that ‘whattahell I´ve had exactly that thing I dreamed a year or two ago! How did that happen?!’. (Of course you have worked hard, had great opportunities and answered to these opportunities correctly.)

    I realised that I had had exactly that kind of life I dreamed of four years ago before moving to Helsinki. I had a stable job and very nice people to work with. I had a dream flat from the centre of Helsinki and many great people to spend my freetime with. I had had the dream project at work I wished for a couple of years. After reading that book I understood that I had stopped dreaming. Maybe that was the reason why I felt that I had lost the vision of where I was going and that life had started to lead me instead that I was leading my life. I started to write down dreams I had had a couple of years ago, but which I had forgotten. Some of them still felt relevant.

Then one evening I still quite hadn´t found the one great solution. I had my dream list but it had too many things on it and I didn´t know which one of them would lead me to the right direction. I was surfing in the internet and suddenly I was looking at sign number 3.

    There was a banner of an event Kilroy Travels was about to arrange. Somehow I felt that I needed to participate and next week I was sitting in a seminar which was about different types of travelling opportunities. There was people talking about voluntary work or studying abroad but when I heard Sami and Joonas talking about a surfing trip they had done around the world, I realised it was exactly something I was looking for. Relaxed time for myself somewhere where I could meet other cultures, chill out and learn new skills that I´ve always wanted to learn like surfing. Another thing I realised then – I had been looking Kilroy’s adverts all these years when I´d been waiting a tram in the railway station in front of their Helsinki office. What had I thought all these years amused and ironic smile on my face: ‘Who are these people who could travel around the world doing amazing and interesting things?’ Answer came to my head crystal clear in that evening – it was going to be me by the end of this year.
    It felt scary and unsecure to leave alone so next week I called to a good old friend of mine who I knew might have similar interests. We had been talking about our dreams many years but they had been just talks then. Now we started to dream together more specifically where we exactly would like to go and for how long time and when leaving could be possible for us. When we had a rough route plan after one month, we booked a planning meeting to Kilroy’s office. Guess who was the dude behind the desk starting to help us to implement our trip. It was Joonas from my first Kilroy evening :)

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    -Katariina

Kat // Fin is born!

Welcome to my Blog Kat // Fin!

This blog is opened to share my experiences from my backpacking trip to Nepal, India and South-East Asia started in October 2014. Trip will start in a week from Kathmandu, Nepal. The plan so far is to be on the road until next summer. It´s great to have you here – stay tuned!

Tervetuloa blogiini Kat // Fin!

Blogi kertoo kokemuksistani lähtiessäni lokakuussa 2014 reppureissaamaan Nepaliin, Intiaan ja Kaakkois-Aasiaan. Matka alkaa viikon päästä Nepalin pääkaupungista Kathmandusta. Tarkoitus on näillä näkymin olla tien päällä ensi kesään. Mahtavaa että liityt mukaan seuraamaan matkaani – pysytään kuulolla!

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-Katariina