KAT // FIN

Dream. Do.

Some Are White Light // Thank you // Last episode

”A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”
– George Moore

We came back to Finland at the end of April 2015. At that point we had been travelling 6,5 months. Everything in Finland was exactly like it was when we had left in October. Except that dark late-autumn had turned to fresh spring. Our beloved ones were waiting at the airport. Air was so fresh so fresh.

I was in total mess. Culture shock which hit in Finland was something I hadn’t expected. Leaving was actually really easy compared to coming back. (I’m sooo beginner in this travelling business…) May and June was mentally worst months I’ve ever been through. I felt lost between two worlds and it seemed that I didn’t quite belonged to either one of them. My old clothes didn’t seem like clothes I could wear anymore. My old flat didn’t feel like home anymore. I felt like a total stranger in my own country. I felt like I had just come back from the war. I could never find the right words to tell to people about all the things I had seen and experienced.

It is funny…my internal search started only when our trip was over. That was the reason I had to travel far. To notice that all the answers were already lying inside me. That was one motif for my travels, to change something within me. To grow gratitude. To grow respect. To grow love. To find my way again. After my breakdown, after struggling for a while and after questioning all the choices in my life I finally got my answers. I started to feel good about the current situation. I started to feel confident about the fact that life would bring right things to my path when the time would be right. Life after making my big dream come true started to feel like a great ever-going adventure. Suddenly everything that I had never noticed in Helsinki or in Finland started to gave new perspective. I started to see more opportunities. I started to see more beauty. Life isn’t a day-to-day struggle between home and work anymore. Life is a great adventure where every day gives you great bunch of new opportunities…if you want to see them around you. And I want!

I started to work for my old company two months after coming back home. How much I loved that old family I had always had there! I started to search for a new flat, found a perfect one and moved into it alone for the first time since 2008! I bought a proper bed, colourful curtains and many flowers. I had my own sauna-shift every wednesday. I started to enjoy cleaning my new flat and having all my old stuff around me. I started to smile to strangers on the streets and talk to my neighbours. Happiness grew with each passing day.

And what my trip taught me?
– Never fear what travel brings.
– Always expect the best.
– Being open and honest is the only real way to be. People give you back what you give to them.
– There is no real barrels between people. Ethnical, cultural or religious differences don’t mean anything if people encounter a soul level.
– Doing good always comes back at you.
– Travelling far helps you to understand that answers will be found near.
– Travelling far helps you to appreciate the smallest things. Seeing Taj Mahal really isn’t a big deal compared to seeing humanity in everyday life.
– You can always choose your thoughts and attitudes.
– Your thoughts are shown through your actions.
– Whether you think you can or can’t do something you are always right.
– No matter how carefully you try to plan your life it will always surprise you.

At the moment I feel ridiculously happy. I feel free every day. I continue dreaming and have the trust that all my wishes will be answered eventually.

”Intuition recognises those future motifs that lies within us.
Belief turns them into actions.
Trust gives strength to carry on even many difficulties may appear on the path.”
– Tommy Hellsten

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There is a bunch of people who made our trip to Nepal, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. All these people taught me something. Thank you for appearing into my life!

Tara P Panthi [thank you for a nice meeting and chat in Kathmandu…I appreciate so much the work you do for Nepal…world needs more people like you!]
Tuomas Klaus [thank you for nice and surprising meeting in Kathmandu and for sharing your great stories from Kabul]
Bijay Rai [thank you for all your help, Dhanyabad!]
Kajiman Rai [I can’t ever thank you enough for sharing all the stories which told so much about your attitude towards life and Nepal, thank you for the rum we shared every evening on the way to the base camp, it made us really feel special :)]
Mani Rai [thank you for plying those nepali songs on the way to the base camp and for carrying our stuff for 10 days, thank you for each and every ”let’s go” during those mornings and thank you those best moments when we played cards]
Pushpa Guesthouse / Mr. Raj Ojha [thank you for your kind help in Pokhara]
Shankar Kalay [thank you for your kindness and best drinks enjoyed in the dark night facing Phewa lake in Pokhara]
Markus Forss [thank you for sharing your interesting story]
Manish Forss [thank you for your kindness]
Koondan Joshi, Amit, Rozesh, Ashutosh [thank you for sharing all those great songs and stories with us! We hope to see you again!]
Kristal KC [thank you for the most funny trip to Kirtipur]
Dinesh Raja [thank you for your friendly attitude in Elite]
Nikhil Thapa Magar [thank you for your kindness and tongpa :D]

Grace India Holiday, New Delhi [hmmm…thanks for showing us how systems in India work :D]
Sabby’s Cabby, New Delhi [thank you for your friendliness and for driving us safely away from Delhi!]
Kuldeep Verma + Anu, Udaipur [thank you for the most memorable riksha-ride ever!]
Josh + Elliot, Jaisalmer [thank you for the nice afternoon in Jaisalmer]
Camelmen in Thar desert [thank you for the trip and great photoshooting session!]
Rachel + Jake [thank you for the times in Mumbai]
Ankit Uniyal and Sunny Mandyal, Goa [wow….thank you guys for the most memorable 4 days in Goa]
Anju / Lemon Dew, Alleppey [thank you every yoga session and for your kindness]
Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Math, Amritapuri Kerala [Māṁ āpakā śukriyā]
Houseboat crew, Kollam Kerala [thank you for the most memorable trip to Munroe Island and thank you for the excellent food Eric!]
Vinod Viswa + Mari / On the way, Varkala Kerala [thank you for your kindness and for the best atmosphere in Varkala…was really pleasure to meet you both!]

Sapa O’Chau / Mô [thank you for the best guidance and for showing us your home and family in Lao Chai]
Le Gecko hotel, Sapa [thank you for your help to organise our christmas lunch and for the most memorable Christmas celebrations!]
Kate + Steve O’Neill [thank you for spending great Christmas with us!]
Hue Happy Homestay / Viet [thank you for your excellent advices and help in Hue!]
Easyriders [thank you for the best ride between Hue and Hoi An!]
Le Vinh [thank you for the best guidance in Hue]
Ali [thank you for your great company in Hue]
Manu Mart [Manu…thank you for all the great talks in Hue, HCMC and Phnom Penh…it was great great honour to meet you!]
Maria Ora Pro Nobis [Maria…thank you for all the great talks in Hue, HCMC and Phnom Penh…it was great great honour to meet you!]
Jack Riley [Jack, thank you for the great talks in New Years Eve and in Finland! :D]
Pham Trung [Trung, you felt like our brother in HCMC…thanks for everything you made for us. You will have the same treatment when you will come to Finland!]
Phạm Nam [Nam, you felt like our brother in HCMC…thanks for everything you made for us. You will have the same treatment when you will come to Finland!]
Tak Ng [thank you for nice company in HCMC!]
Chinh Nguyen [Chinh, our vietnamese father…thank you for everything you made for us in Vung Tau!]
Lien Pham [Lien, our vietnamese mother…thank you for everything you made for us in Vung Tau!]

Nomads and Encounters Guesthouse, Phnom Penh / Robert and Vandara [Robert and Noreen thank you for so nice stay in Phnom Penh that it made us to come back over and over again! Thanks for your kindness Noreen and thank you for the mangos :)]
Badeth [thank you for all the fun we had in Phnom Penh! Wish to meet you again!!]
Isabelle [thank you Isabelle for your company in Phnom Penh and all the great advices for Myanmar! You are brave traveller, it was great to meet you!]
Isabel [thank you Isabel for all the fun we had in Phnom Penh!]
Jess [thank you Jess for all the fun we had in Phnom Penh!]
Pawel [Pawel…it was the best coinsidence to bump into you in Phnom Penh because it lead to having such a nice experience in Angkor Borei…I hope your business in Takeo is doing great!]
Cecy [thank you Cecy for all the laughs and talks we had in Angkor Borei!]
Yayi [thank you Yayi for all the laughs and talks we had in Angkor Borei!]
Asean International English School / Koy Sro, Sophea Koy, Sokun, Mr. Rati [I can’t tell how much I appreciate your attitude towards your work in Asean International School. I wish I could have helped more. Keep up with the great work Sophea!!]
Sena [thank you for your kindness and for sharing your story with us in Angkor Borei]
Shinn Tan [thank you for sharing your company and your poems with us in Siem Reap!]
Harald Vedø Tveit and Eirin Myklebust [Harald and Eirin, it was a great pleasure to meet you two lively spirits in Koh Rong! Thank you for sharing all those evening drinks and talks and especially thanks for Harald for teaching me how to tie a hammock!]

Zlatan [thank you for the great talks and great time in Phuket!]

Myanmar Exotic Travels and Tours, Yangon [thank you for great ticket organizing all over Myanmar]
Auli Kuivalainen [it was really inspiring to bump into you in Kinpun…thank you for those amazing stories from your travels!]
Shunsuke Kataoka [it was really great to spend time with you in Nyaung Shwe…especially I will always remember that birthday party when we sang happy birthday in many languages :)]
Han Sang Gyoun [it was really great to spend time with you in Nyaung Shwe…especially I will always remember that birthday party when we sang happy birthday in many languages :)]
Mya Ya Ta Nar Inn / Mya Mya [Mya Mya you were the most warm person we met in Myanmar…thank you so much for your great hospitality in Pakokku]
Uli [Uli it was inspiring to meet you in Pakokku…you have a great story to remember when you are back in Germany!]
Stephan Alexander [Stephan it was inspiring to meet you in Pakokku…you have a great story to remember when you are back in Germany!]
Re Mouchoss [Thank you for showing that there is guys like you around!]
Joy Kyaw Hlaing [Joy thank you for showing us the best attitude towards life]
Sai Sai [thank you for driving us safely around Shan hills :)]
Htun San Oo [it was really great to bump into you and Michael on the train…I will never forget that ‘Super Bass’ which you rapped on the train :D]
Michael Sapel [it was really nice to bump into you on the way from Mandalay to Yangon]
Bhaddanata DhaMaparala Monastery [thank you for letting us experience the monastery life for a couple of days in Yangon]
Sai Wai Yan [best Si Thu, thank you so much for your friendliness in Yangon :)]
Ei Ei Thaw [best Han Han, thank you so much for your friendliness in Yangon :)]

Daniela Hofner + Chris [Daniela and Chris…you felt like our adventurous parents in North-Sumatra…it was so much fun to travel with you in Berastagi, Ketambe and Lake Toba…I will never forget our jungle trips! :D]
Modestos [Modestos thank you for all the interesting talks in Berastagi! I will never forget that 2-week jungle trek that you had made. (There is always somone who is more hardcore than me :D)]
Polo [thank you for your excellent guidance and best attitude in Gunung Sibayak]
Pindra [thank you for your excellent guidance and best attitude in Ketambe]
Ahmed [thank you for your great hospitality in Ketambe]
Ketambe Boys / Alex, Ajak, Armada, Iwan, Kaiser, Muli, Sabri [<3 best performances and adventures in Ketambe...thank you!]
Salman and Putra [boys boys boys…thank you for the interesting time we shared in Ketambe and Lake Toba!]
Dharta Guesthouse, Ubud / Ketut [thank you for the best atmosphere in Ubud!]
Derakota Boom [Rini…thank you for teaching me so much…I still remember all the things you read from my hand…it all turned out to be true!]
Mariana Goncalves Braga [thank you Mariana for your great and happy attitude, it was a pleasure to meet you in Ubud :)]
Yogabarn Ubud [thank you for the best spiritual experiences]
Odysseys Surf School / Jimmy [haha thank you for giving your best attempt for trying to teach surfing to us]
Mario [thank you for the best beach bar in Kuta!]
Otto [thank you for the times in Kuta]
Zega [thank you for your patience when teaching me to surf :)]

And especially big thanks for those who have always supported and inspired us the most:

mothers and fathers
sisters and brothers
the strongest network of friends!
Parviainen Architects
everyone who inspired me by their own example: my mum, Jiri, Andy, Annika, Meiju…
Joonas/Kilroy

It’s pretty much it guys. Thank you for following my blog. I’m blessed. Time to fly on… :)

– Katariina / KatFin

Bangkok + off-the-beaten-backpacker-track in Thailand!

What have we done in two weeks in Thailand?

WP_20150218_003 Fixed our visas to Myanmar in Bangkok…it took three days

DSC_2855 Had a walk in Lumphini Park in Bangkok and happened to crash a free park-concert played by Bangkok Symphony Orchestra!

10923282_10153080971573560_9068890945243438053_n Celebrated Chinese New Year with fellow travellers

WP_20150219_006 I went crazy in Bangkok…got anxious, got fever and almost felt like quitting travelling! Auli took me to hospital <3

WP_20150219_004 Auli thought that a relaxed holiday would do us good…holiday with no stress…

WP_20150224_004…so we booked a nice and pricey resort for 5 nights in Phuket (zero backpackers – only pensioners…so refreshing!)

WP_20150224_007…which had jacuzzi on the balcony. Seriously we left this hotel propably twice!

Plus we bought tickets. Not back to Finland but to Myanmar! There is highs and lows in travelling and especially I have been travelling in emotional rollercoaster for the last two weeks. Even it sometimes feels hard, we decided to keep going. Arrivederci guys!

-Katariina

Half-way check!

After my last post I got high fever during the same day. I never have fever back in Finland so it was strange and made me go to see a doctor after a couple of days. Luckily it wasn’t malaria nor dengue. I think it was my body’s way to force me to stop for a while. So I have been admiring Bangkok through our hostel’s windows. I’m fine with that. Actually it inspired me to make these lists of some of my top experiences so far!

MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES

DSC_0735_edit Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Nepal

DSC_1283India – all of it!

WP_20141127_003 Goa…in many ways

DSC_2054 Living two weeks with locals in Ho Chi Minh City with the best morning coffee ever!

DSC_2362_edited Teaching local kids in english school, Angkor Borei Cambodia

FUNNIEST EXPERIENCES

DSC_1360 Transportation in India – all of it!

WP_20141217_001 Minibus-ride between Lao Cai and SaPa with locals who offered booze to us all the way. Half of the bus was throwing up because of curvy mountain roads. We had a party even we couldn’t understand vietnamese nor they could english.

DSC_1739 Making rice porridge and raisin soup in Sa Pa and after being invited to local’s christmas party!

BEST SUNRISES / SUNSETS / STARRY SKIES

DSC_0541 Poon Hill/Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Nepal

DSC_1293 Thar desert, Rajasthan India

DSC_2256 Mekong river, Koh Pdao Cambodia

DSC_2694_edited Angkor Wat, Cambodia

MOST PRACTICAL SKILLS I’VE LEARNED SO FAR :D

DSC_2024 How to make a proper Vietnamese coffee taught by Mr. Pham Trung

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    How to succeed growing a mango tree (also in Finland!) taught by Mrs. Vandara Chea

DSC_2779 How to tie your hammock properly instead of a lousy banana shape taught by Mr. Harald Vedø Tveit

PEOPLE WHO MADE THE GREATEST IMPACT

DSC_0566_edited Porters in Nepal

DSC_0703 People living in poorly accessible mountain villages, Nepal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA People living as devotees in Amritapuri Ashram, Kerala India
picture: http://whatsupwithsara.files.wordpress.com

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    Mô, our guide in Sa Pa, who had lost his husband and who lived in very basic conditions with her two children but who was always happy

DSC_2324_edited Devoted teachers in Asean International English School, Angkor Borei Cambodia

DSC_2331 Cambodian people in many ways…

DSC_2348_edited Children who always seem so live their fullest no matter which their living conditions are!

I can’t believe that I’ve experienced all this!

-Katariina

I need a holiday from my vacation and from my mind!

Koh Rong island near Sihanoukville in Cambodia was the place where it started to hit me after four months of travelling. I had had some symptoms already for a while but when entering more quiet side of Koh Rong with 6 kilometres of white-sanded beaches, turquoise water and only handful of other travellers staying overnight, made the symptoms suddenly go worse. We were in the place where I ‘should’ have felt relaxed, calm and being able to process experiences we had had so far. Instead of these dreamy feelings I started to feel frustrated and anxious. It got that bad that it was difficult for me to fall asleep. It wasn’t these ‘exciting’ jungle sounds or the sounds of waves striking the beach near our bungalow that kept me awake during long nights. It was my mental shit.

DSC_2738_edited Long Beach, Koh Rong

DSC_2756 Long Beach, Koh Rong

After a couple of days confusion about what was happening to me, I diagnosed myself suffering from ‘travel fatigue’ at least in a medium level. It had started with feelings of not having interest to make any further plans. I felt exhausted about changing place often and always planning where to go next, where to stay overnight next and with which vehicle we should go next. It worsened by having feelings that even this paradise island’s landscape couldn’t impress me. Like if this couldn’t impress me, what would impress me?! I felt lost and alone even when being accompanied with other people. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I thought a couple of days relaxing holiday in Koh Rong would make it better but actually it didn’t. I felt I just couldn’t enjoy like other people seemed to do. I felt ashamed and had a guilty conscience. It was me who was supposed to have the greatest time of my life right now! Why I didn’t feel like that? Why couldn’t I enjoy and instead of hanging with people I felt more like spending time alone?

DSC_2759 Our bungalow ‘Tiger’

I did some self-reflection in order to solve why I felt like that. My organized mind always seems to want to plan the future even it isn’t yet processed things that happened a day or two ago. I feel happy when things go according to my plans. I need to feel that I’m in charge of my travels whether my plans turns out to be good or bad. I need to have some idea of what to expect of experiencing. That’s when I have time to dream about it and that’s when I have time enough to mentally prepare for it. Now my mind feels tired. Tired of planning and tired of looking things forward. I’ve been questionning what was my real dream in terms of this trip. I always thought that it would have been the feeling of freedom. Where is that feeling now when I feel that making further plans are more a burden than a pleasure? How well feeling of freedom goes together with too much planning?

I noticed that it started actually already after leaving India…when I started to go mentally downhill. I had been dreaming of travelling to Nepal and India for many years. I had some ideas in my mind what I wanted to experience there even we didn’t have 100% strict schedules. I wanted to do trekking, travel across India by public transport, do yoga and go to meet Mother Amma. All these things we did and my time in these countries was like one big firework. I was open to everything even we went according to this bigger plan. When we arrived to Vietnam, my passions for travelling suddenly disappeared. Auli was enjoying but suddenly I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I didn’t know what I should look forward of experiencing. Even we made plans together with Auli I felt like not having a clear enough idea on my own to be able to dream further things.

DSC_2741 Terrace views with unproperly tied, banana shape hammock tied by Kata

DSC_2760 Luckily met Harald and Eirin from Norway. Harald taught me how to tie a hammock right…with confidence, enthusiasm and skill of a serious climber :)

BUT…I need to change my thinking. There is no place which is 100% bad. It is up to you how you want to see things in life. We often see the faults in others (if it’s a place or a person I don’t really care…it seems that often there is someone else to blame if you are feeling bad) without realising that we can change only our own character. I don’t know if this is the thing they call a culture shock or if it´s just my internal shock which starts to affect now after four months of travelling. I hope it goes away…I try to convince me being not so hard to myself. I keep telling that during a trip this long, it’s natural to have many kinds of feelings. It can’t be only sunshine. It’s okay to feel a little bit lost. But still I have guilty conscience’s small sound in my head telling me that I should enjoy my fullest NOW…After all it’s my dream which I am now living real. I won’t give up it so easily.

DSC_2767_edited Our neighbour from Finland was often sitting on a tree playing guitar…

I wonder if this mental flow made any sense…Please send wintry pictures of Finland so that I could realize that it’s better to stay in this side of the world!

-Katariina

Doing good in Angkor Borei

We got to know about Asean School in Angkor Borei by accident. We met polish Pawel during our last night in Phnom Penh before leaving to Kratie. Hence he talked about the place so warmly (and since he had spent there the last 4 months so he had to know) we decided to go and take a look ourselves after our trip to Kratie. We arrived to a very poor rural village of 4000 inhabitants. It was hot and dusty. Past us went loads drewn by horses, hen were poking around piles of rubbish and as soon as we left our stuff unattended there was one huge pig going around them way too interested. We got a simple accommodation in volunteers room with bed, blanket and a mosquito net.

DSC_2285_edited Asean School in Angkor Borei

DSC_2310_edited Front yard of accommodation building

DSC_2293 Typical street view in Angkor Borei

DSC_2317_edited Evening snack – grasshoppers and beetles

Asean School teaches english and computer skills. It aims to help the poorest kids in Angkor Borei for improving their working possibilities in the future. Director of the school is 23-year old Mister Sro. There are 2 other local full-time teachers and 1 part-time teacher. They teach at the school 3 times a day, in total of 8-9 hours. There is around 150 children willing to learn. To cut the costs of the school, Sro has decided to do as much by himself and with fellow teachers as possible. That means they don’t have any extra person to cook or to drive school’s minivan. It in turns means that these three teachers wake up at 6.00 to pick up kids to school by 7.30. They will teach between 7.30-10.30 and after, they’ll drove kids back home. Then they’ll prepare luch for themselves and to volunteers. Afternoon classes are held between 13.30 -16.30. Once again they pick up kids to school and back to their homes. Evening classes take place between 17.30 and 19.30. After, they’ll prepare dinner. During late evening Sro does ‘paperwork’…he replies to volunteers’ emails and seeks for donors to support with school’s funding.

Monetary situation is pretty desperate. Monthly costs of Asean school are approx 2500 dollars covering the rent of two school buildings, electricity, water, minivan’s petrol and teachers’ wages (only 150 dollars per teacher!). Monthly income comprises 20 dollars a week paid by each volunteer. In January total income was approx 900 dollars. I counted that they would need 125 volunteers per month (and each one should stay at least one week) to cover all the costs by volunteers. During our time, there were 3-4 volunteers at the same time.

Their dream is that school would be free to everyone. It’s not yet completely happening and they have to ask money from students. They have also not yet donors. I asked Mr. Sro how they cover rest of the costs. He said that sometimes he might ask money from his parents. I asked what do his parents do for living. He replied that they are farmers but sometimes they might sell something – for example their car to help him and this school. It’s crazy I thought…they really sold their car to support him? Does Mr. Sro ever ask anything for himself? All his energy and money goes directly to make his dream school come true. That is only admirable.

As Mr. Sro said to me (quoted freely):
‘Many times my parents doubt that if this what I’m doing is any wise…as I’m putting so much energy to this and it takes all my time. I have to answer to them that I’m working for my dream. As far as I have my belief and my energy I will continue. If I lose them and see it is simply impossible to continue, then I will stop. But it’s not until I have given everything there is in me to possibly give.’

I’ve rarely met a person this determined and selfless.

DSC_2381 Last dinner with Asean School team; from left to right – Sokun, me, Auli, Yayi, Mr. Sro, Mr. Sophea

There was running water in the accommodation building (which propably 90% of the villagers had not…I saw many of them bathing in Mekong). One morning I was very annoyed though. After having a nice and swetty morning run I noticed there was a water-cut at the accommodation building and showering was no-possible. Being annoyed of such a tiny and unimportant thing made me even more annoyed. As if not being able to take a shower would kill me…Anyway, I’ve never been so bit by mosquitos and propably I’ve never enjoyed showering and having a clean bed as much as I did after one week in Angkor Borei.
Selfish, selfish, selfish…I wish I could be more like Mr. Sro.

DSC_2309 Volunteers room

What about the kids then? They were amazing. So funny and most of them really willing to learn. We taught 3-5 hours a day. It is must to teach 2-3 hours as a volunteer. We taught 3 different groups; children below 8 years old, teenagers between ages 11-16 and high school students between 16-19 years old. All of these groups were very different. Basically we just played with youngest kids (‘Color’, number bingo and hangman were most successful and kept them paying attention). With teenagers we did different kinds of conversation exercises. To most of the lessons we invented the program ourselves. Some of the teachers gave specific instructions of what they wanted us to teach.

DSC_2324_edited Sokun teaching kids

DSC_2344_edited Auli teaching kids to play ‘color’

DSC_2345_edited My computer became popular

Especially I remember one boy amongst our youngest students. His name is Nara and he is 6 years old. He is really good in english already and always wants to understand. We did a small conversation exercise with our youngest kids. Conversation was very simple;
What is you name? (Students needed to fill up their answers like this: My name is ____.)
How old are you? (I am ____ years old.)
What is your favourite color? (My favourite color is _____.)
Poor Nara didn’t quite understand what was the point of this conversation since they learn almost everything by heart and keep repeating sentences like ‘This is my chest.’ Many students filled up words from the exercise they did on the previous day. To that exercise they needed to fill up words which were missing and which they heard as we read them. (My name is Nita. I am eight years old. My favourite color is orange.) They remembered these answers from the previous day and it was hard for them to understand that we were asking about their own answers. So Nara didn’t understand this and suddenly he just started to look up. We wondered what he was doing until their full-time teacher Sokun said that he would cry soon. He always cries when he doesn’t understand. So Nara started crying a bit. Sokun said that he is so determined to understand that if he doesn’t understand, he wouldn’t go out to have a break but stays inside instead and keeps practising until he’d understand. I really felt that these students are determined and it would truly pay them back in the future to study english this hard.

DSC_2347_edited Children of the afternoon class <3

DSC_2352_edited Children of the afternoon class with teacher Markkula

DSC_2355 Children of the afternoon class <3

DSC_2362_edited Children of the afternoon class <3

DSC_2368_edited Children of the afternoon class <3

DSC_2374_edited Children of the afternoon class <3 Nara

DSC_2379_edited Children of the afternoon class <3

If small Nara had to stop studying english just because the school wouldn’t have enough money to carry on, it would brake my heart. After finishing teaching I still felt like giving something back to the school. 10 dollars a month wouldn’t cause any big damage to my life back in Finland but it would pay 3 childrens’ studies here in Angkor Borei for a month. If more volunteers would do that, maybe it could have a significant effect. ‘How could I make a money transaction to the school’s account’, I asked Mr. Sro the day before we were leaving. He said he didn’t know. He said that he had used his own bank account last time in the year 2012…

- Katariina

Many sides of Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, surprised me. I had imagined it would have been dirty, unplanned and that there would have been rats and cockroaches running wild wherever. That image many fellow travellers had been bolstering after they had travelled in PP and that’s propably the image which comes to most peoples’ mind when they first hear the name Phnom Penh. We arrived by Mekong from Chau Doc Vietnam and crossed the border first time by boat! What greeted us was a city with modern architecture and shopfronts made of glass, well-kept parks and adoring streets lined with trees growing through roofs of buildings. Phnom Penh seemed pretty westernized…we found brands like KFC and Make Up Store for example. Teenagers in PP seemed to use smartphones and dress like any teenager in western world. People seemed amazingly friendly and you got back so many smiles if you’d smile to people. What we found beneath this surface during our 5 night stay was horrible and hard to understand.

DSC_2191 Central Phnom Penh

DSC_2196 Central Phnom Penh

DSC_2149 Central Market

DSC_2220 Picking mangos one evening with Noreen

DSC_2218 Buddhist spirit house detached to a mango tree in the yard of our guest house. They believe that keeping the spirit happy your life will become happier. They give him offerings in order to do so. We gave him some finnish salmiakki.

DSC_2216 Noreen took us to a Botum Watei temple one evening. We met a 90-year old monk.

WP_20150117_008 Evening with fellow travellers

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Imagine that Phnom Penh had been a ghost city for almost three years between 1975 and 1979. During 1975 communist party called Khmer Rouge collapsed the present government led by their leader Pol Pot. By getting power, Khmer Rouge forced all people living in the cities to go to the remote countryside for working in conditions close to slavery. In just three days, Phnom Penh was emptied. Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s aim was to make Cambodia self sufficient, peasant-dominated agrarian co-operative. They saw educated people as a threat and recruited people from countryside who didn’t have the knowledge to questionize Khmer Rouge’s goals. Khmer Rouge burnt market places, abolished monetary system, eliminated national culture, destroyed monuments and pagodas…even schools! One school in Phnom Penh was turned into a prison. Khmer Rouge used that school building to detain, interrogate and inhuman torture. Educated, intellectual people were systematically wiped out – having glasses or speaking a foreign language was reason enough to be killed. Their main prison in Phnom Penh they called Security Office 21 (S-21). There were around 20 000 people arrested and brought to this prison. After, almost all of them were taken to Choeung Ek killing site to be executed and buried into mass graves. And these aren’t the only sites for these horror acts. They have found over 120 mass graves in whole Cambodia. Almost one third of the whole population (estimated 1,7 million people!) was executed or starved to death before Vietnamese troops collapsed Khmer Rouge’s regime and established the new government in 1979. (text from archives of S-21 and Choeung Ek)

DSC_2187 S-21

I saw a man in the wheelchair one day. He had lost both of his legs from below knee and was now selling books to make his living. When I asked how he lost his legs he said he walked to a landmine (there is still a lot of unexploded ones in Cambodia…they are result of American bombings during Vietnamese war). It’s crazy to travel here and not being able so buy a book from each man like that.

I don’t feel like explaining more about this genocide Cambodia faced just 40 years ago. There is many sites which explain way better than me. I just want to tell that we visited both of these sites, S-21 and Choeung Ek. After both of these days I felt sad and silent. You might think why anyone wants to see things like this but I think it’s important if you are travelling in the country which has a history like this…to understand the country better. To me travelling isn’t just about spending money and partying in different locations. It’s also about widening my perspective and learning why things in the world are like they are. There has been many great accomplisments mankind has done that we have seen already but oh boy…there has been so much darkness as well. I feel that I have learnt already more about Vietnamese war (for example) than I ever learnt back in high school. And what it comes to Cambodia – I don’t remember that they ever told us at school what had happened here.

Worse was yet to come…We had heard about Stung Meanchey waste dump where all the garbage in Phnom Penh is dumped. It’s the largest waste dump in Cambodia. I wondered already in Vietnam where they dump all the garbage they produced in Ho Chi Minh City. There is no recycling systems and they use plastic to everything. If you buy a bottle of coke, they give it to you in a small plastic bag, if you buy a take-away coffee, you will have it in plastic bag. Whatever you buy – they pack it to a plastic bag. It’s the same in Cambodia. They overdose plastic so much! So we asked about of hostel-keeper one day if we could arrange own trip to Stung Meanchey. We didn’t know where it was located. Our hostel keeper Noreen negotiated with a tuk tuk driver who was willing to take me and Auli there. We dressed to our shittiest clothes, left all our ‘extra’ belongings to our hostel, just took some money with us and went. We bought a 50 kg package of rice and without any expectations left to see this dump. We drove maybe half an hour, don’t know exactly where. Our driver took us to somekind of a back entrance of the dump because the main road was guarded. There was a community of 17 families living in the corner of the dump. We had to go through their slum. They had built their houses from whatever they had found from the dump, walls were made of corrugated iron and plastic bags of different colours. Children were running naked without shoes. They told our driver that we could go to the border of the dump but couldn’t walk any further or climb up the dump. Some other ‘tourist’ had walked up and had lost his camera to a local person living in the dump. Yes, when we approached the dump we could notice human silhouettes walking at the top of the dump.

There was a small group of people below the dump. One of them was washing plastic bags in a dirty water-pit. One of them was hanging washed bags to somekind of a clothes line. One was packing dried bags. We didn’t see the one who was collecting used plastic bags from among the other waste atop of the dump. One was obviously a mother. Her children were at the ages of 14, 11, 9 and 2. That 2 year old boy was completely naked and didn’t have shoes. He was running around and playing with broken something that once used to be headphones. Our driver translated our questions to these people and translated their answers back at us. They told they are living among the community of 17 families we saw earlier. They told that they are working here at the Stung Meanchey. They collect plastic bags amongst the other waste and they wash, dry and pack them. Then there comes a car which collects these packages and takes them to Vietnam. Vietnamese buy plastic from Cambodia since it’s cheaper than back in Vietnam. They told that 4 person can collect 30 kilos of plastic in a day. 1 kilo is worth 1200 riels which is basically 0,25 euros. Oldest children went to school but came to help after school and during weekends.

This actually wasn’t the worst destiny there in Stung Meanchey. They told that there were 500-600 people actually living in the dump. That means they don’t necessarily have any shelter, they are sleeping just in the garbage. That 14 year old girl offered to climb up the dump and take a photo for us because we couldn’t climb there and see it ourselves. We had left our camera to the hostel and I think it’s better that way. Many pictures of Stung Meanchey can be found in internet. We left that package of rice to this community of 17 families. Maybe they could feed them all with 50 kilos. To us it cost 35$ which is basically reasonable day budget for 2 person here in Cambodia. Still…you can’t feed all of them. I became so sad when I noticed how happy these children still seemed. This 2-year-old was playing around like any other 2-year-old back in our country. But he wasn’t playing with any fancy toys, just with one broken headphones. He just doesn’t know that things could or should be any better.

The garbage dump in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Stung Meanchey (http://www.maciejdakowicz.com/)

All the time we are thinking new ways of making our lives easier and more comfortable in Western countries. We have been joking with Auli how we even have these motorized king-size beds in Finland (here many common people are sleeping just on the floor). When it’s time to questionize if we really need all the conveniences we have? Even the poorest person in Finland doesn’t know a poverty like this.

-Katariina

Tales From The North – Trekking 3 days in Sa Pa

One of our main interests in Vietnam was visiting the mountain village of Sa Pa. Sa Pa is situated in northwest Vietnam near China border. It’s approx 6 hours ride away from the capital Ha Noi. There is many ethnic minorities living in the small villages around Sa Pa. Weather in december is very cold and we noticed soon that after warm and humid Southern-India, we needed to upgrade our clothes to warmer ones to better deal with 0 degrees temperature! Too bad that we already had sent our winter clothes to Finland after Nepal…Many hostels don’t have any warming systems, you’ll get an electric mattress to keep you warm during the night and hot shower isn’t guaranteed either…so prepare with proper clothes if you wish to visit there in winter :) We were happy to arrive to Sa Pa though, as we noticed it had exactly the kind of a ‘christmas’-spirit we were looking for (and what is very difficult for a Finn to find under the palm trees). That was the main reason we decided to stay in Sa Pa for one week, so that we could spend Christmas there as well.

We wanted to do trekking in Sa Pa in order to have a closer look to it’s beautiful nature. As well, we wanted to see how local minority people live so we chose a trek which included 2 nights in local people’s homestays. We chose Sa Pa-based organisation Sapa O’Chau to organise our 3-days trek to Muong Hoa Valley. There is many tour operators in Ha Noi who do all-inclusive-trekking-trips to Sa Pa but Sapa O’Chau has great mission of employing local minority people as tour guides and homestay keepers. In that way money gained from trekkers goes directly to improving these peoples’ living conditions. Our trek price including all meals was approx 80 euros per person.

Trek to Muong Hoa Valley was more demanding that we had thought. Our first and second day’s walk were both around 20 kilometers. Route went through terraced rice fields which unfortunately had harvested in august. They were beautiful without rice anyway just filled with water. Sometimes the trail went through thick bamboo forests and across rivers via suspension bridges. Mostly it was going up or down and sometimes in a thick and slippery mud. Almost every tourist who did trekking and to whom we talked to, said they had been falling at least once while trekking. Our shoes were always so muddy after the days walk was over. And how can it be that our guide Mô always had such a clean shoes!?

DSC_1547 Me, our guide Mô and Auli in the beginning of the trek.

DSC_1553 Rice fields were covered with water.

DSC_1572 Terraced rice fields

DSC_1575_edit Boys carrying bamboo

DSC_1625 Damn these muddy and slippery paths!

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Seeing how local people live was the best part of our trek. Our guide Mô represented Hmong Tribe and said it is five different ethnic tribes living in the Muong Hoa Valley close to each other. Mô is 29-years old and has two children, oldest being 12 years old. Mô had been widowed earlier this year, her husband being only 33 years old when he died due to somekind of a heart-illness. Mô is guiding treks to Muong Hoa Valley and in this way is able to support her small family. We got to see Mô’s house in Lao Chai-village where we also stayed our first night in the homestay of Ms. May. It was pretty shocking to see Mô’s house. It reminded me of a barn houses in Finland having basically only one big room, concrete floors and walls made of bamboo leaves. No windows and as you can imagine wind can get easily in through those thin walls. There obviously wasn’t any heating systems and just a dim halogen lit the common room. All the family was sleeping in one big bed. There wasn’t any great storage spaces for clothes, toys, food or tableware. We didn’t find any bathroom either. Toilet was a separate bamboo house with a hole.

DSC_1587 Mô’s house in Lao Chai village.

Our first homestay keeper, Ms. May, had similar life story to Mô. Widowed at an early age and with three small children, she is now able to support herself and her family through the income she earns from her homestay. May’s house was bigger than Mô’s and had very clean western style toilet and bathroom with even hot water! Many children gathered to her living room to watch tv after the dark. There was me, Auli and and Australian couple staying over night. Mô and Mô’s sister Txuv made a delicious dinner to us and after May came back from her guiding work, we all ate together. We slept upstairs below two thick blankets and after first day’s tough trail, slept 12 hours in a row! Second night we spent in a Ban Ho village and shared a huge sleeping space with two girls from Germany.

DSC_1595 May’s house in Lao Chai Village

DSC_1583 May’s house in Lao Chai Village

DSC_1584Our sleeping settings

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    May’s children

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    Txuv cooking

DSC_1617 Dinner at May’s house

DSC_1638 Dinner at Ban Ho village with Mô, german girls and homestay keepers

DSC_1648 Auli with local ladies in Ban Ho village

In January there can be even snow in Sa Pa and temperature goes easily below 0 degrees. Imagine sleeping in those kind of conditions in a finnish barn house. There is some perspective to the western countries. Do we really need all the conveniences we have (i.e floor-heating or air-conditioning that can be adjusted room by room!) What do we really need for surviving? Seeing life of these people really made me think about the unfairness between our country and these people. We have it all and still it seems nothing is enough for us…these people have almost nothing but they still seem to be happy and enjoying life without even knowing what could they need more.

I really appreciate how people live in these villages. They grow almost everything by themselves from rice and corn to different vegetables, fruits, herbs and animals. All village help when it’s time to harvest huge rice and corn fields in late summer. They prepare all the food by themselves, use every single part of an animal and buy less ready-made-stuff from the markets. Women make their own, traditional clothes: they start by dying the fabrics, drying them, then sewing all the different decorations to them and finally they sew all the pieces together. Cows, buffalos, chickens, geese, pigs, cats and dogs live happily wherever they want, there is no fencing for animals. There is schools for different levels in each village and children play together outside after school. It didn’t seem to matter whose children it was spending evening in May’s house, everyone got to eat there who happen to be there in dinner-time. There was life in these villages! And I doubt it is actually pretty good life. When asking Mô if she was happy with her life, she truly seemed to answer ‘yes’ from the bottom of her heart.

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    Mô was the best!

-Katariina

Winter

The city is wintry
Followed by silly and clumsy early chills
Flattering corner trees
And slowly the dark fills
The sweeper loses his will
Knowing that the autumn is lost.
Away the gold leaves, away the autumn

The city is wintry
Earthen roofs in dry silence
Streets struggle in the empty vastness
Of the stirring afternoon.
The dawn fades away
And away goes the white branch
Long shaken

The city is wintry
The winter, the city, and burdens of life
Dragging rural feet to survive
Shivering under the worn-out rag
The gold light is just lying long
Wander and wander round a cup of coffee
Billowing smoke
Like nothing.

Grizzly hair entangled with losses
The chill is not here, but within
Bewildered to find
Find who, find what…?

Life is long and large
Time refuses to drift
Echoes will just leave
For winter to stay.

Poet ‘Urban winter’ by Tran Tuan Anh

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Have a beautiful and peaceful Christmas guys! We are celebrating it in the mountain village of Sapa in northern Vietnam.

-Katariina

The Personal Costs of Travelling

I’ve been reading a book I bought in Nepal. ‘Where the mountain casts its shadow’ by Maria Coffey is about the personal costs of climbing. Book is not another great mountaineering summit or survival story. No – it examines the bond between a mountaineer and his or her closest people. It tells what it’s like to leave the people you care about all over again for an expedition and it points out how mountaineers sometimes think more highly about their climbing partners than their families. The perspective is interesting and I’ve found many ideas of the book being equivalent in travelling world as well. It would be great to share only inspiring and amazing stories of our trip here in my blog but the truth is there is not-so-nice sides in travelling as well. I would like to say some words about the personal costs that travelling has from my perspective.

When you have made the decision to leave to explore the world it feels amazing…to you! It’s your big dream coming true and you start to dream about your travel time with pink-coloured-sunglasses on. You feel nothing bad can happen to you. Almost like you’ve had some almighty powers. Those who start worrying even when you are still ‘safely’ in your homecountry, is your closest people. Many people might see you as a risk-taker who doesn’t mind about anyone but yourself. That’s partly true, travelling is truly selfish business. It is to please no-one else but you. You abandon your bonds and relationships in your homecountry just to build new ones somewhere else…once again – just to leave them behind after couple of days or weeks.

I want to explain a little bit…Every day is unique when you are travelling. You meet new people everyday and you change locations often. Friendships you build here can’t be compared to those you have built many years back home. What you try to build here when you don’t have any long-time attachments to the places where you travel, is something permanent, something familiar, something you can found safe and secure with. People who become close to you here might be a man selling breakfast to you from his food-trolley every morning, it can be your trekking guide or your hostel owner. You long for familiar experiences and people when you are travelling. Trying new things every day is emotionally a hard work.

Building friendships here is another interesting subject. I wouldn’t measure the successfullness of our trip in the means of how many things we have seen or how many countries we have been going through. More likely, I would measure it with how many real friends we have made. I don’t know really how long it takes to build trust and respect between two persons. I know you don’t build it in one day and you propably don’t build it in two days. Maybe the amount of the days spent in one place can’t be measured in the amount of different experiences. To me, time spent in one place can be felt to be enough when you’ve had the time to build a friendship.

I call them silent days; these days when you head up to a new place just after you feel that you have made friends in the place where you have stayed propably a little bit longer. In those days we don’t talk much to each other with Auli. I feel that both of us need our personal space to handle the feeling of leaving once again. Best times to me haven’t been reaching the Annapurna Base Camp or seeing the Taj Mahal. Some of the best moments I don’t share here in my blog (those moments I don’t have photographed either). In times like those you just have a strong perception of this really unique moment you are sharing with people you have met just a couple of days earlier. That’s when you notice that these experiences you wouldn’t have back home…These moments of perfection are worth the pain of leaving.

Leaving from some place feels always much worse when you are travelling. When I left Finland, I was already inside my pink-travelling-bubble. My mind was already somewhere else. I love my family and friends in Finland but have to say that saying goodbye to the people here has given me stronger emotions. I don’t know if it’s because there is the possibility that you won’t see these people again and times you share with them have been unique because of that.

I really do hate leaving and saying goodbye to people. I’m sorry having those ‘missing you’-messages and feeling really sorry too when people feel that we have abandoned them to continue our trip (and when we can’t give any guarantees if or when we are going to be back). It’s the only shitty part in this business really. We heard a great wisdom from our friend Sunny in Goa. There is no sorrys, thanks nor goodbyes in friendship. When the horrible moment of goodbye comes, there is nothing else you can do but say ‘see you’ (and hope for the best of seeing your friends once again in the future) and continue your trip.

Without leaving, there is no returning.

WP_20141127_003 Farewell to Goa…

-Katariina

Flat is boring! – Way to the A.B.C. Part 2

Day 6 – Dobhan – Himalaya – Deurali – Macchapucchre Base Camp (7h trek – altitude 3700m)

Day six was heavy. We ascended over 1000m to Macchapucchre (Fishtail) Mountain’s Base Camp. Landscape changed dramatically from sunny mountain views and forests to cloudy and rough canyon views. We walked alongside river Modi Khola again in a valley which was surrounded by mountains and very rough and low plantation. No green could be seen anymore in these heights. There was also a couple of avalanche prone areas which we passed.

Macchapucchre Base Camp was totally in the middle of nowhere with only a couple of lodges. We were laughing to each others that ‘imagine if another one of us would like to stay here and would just inform all her friends and relatives in Finland that one’s address from now on would be Macchapucchre Base Camp…and that it takes only 6 days to reach this point from Pokhara – welcome to enjoy afternoon’s coffee…christmas cards you may have to send 3 months earlier!’ But the truth is, Base Camp lodges are open 24/7, 365 days a year. There is really people living in these surroundings…high appreciation for them.

Cloudy weather, all the roughness of vegetation, steep river bed edges and the valley surrounded by snow-covered mountains made the landscape majestic. You really have to respect the nature when seeing places like this! It was super cold in our lodge. Couldn´t even think about taking a shower after the days trek. Concrete floors and no heating systems made our sleeping bags and down jackets useful again. We spent the evening by playing card and went to bed early due to a super early morning which would face us on the next day. Our aim was to see sunrise in the A.B.C…

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    Having a break between Dobhan and M.B.C.

DSC_0690 Landscape changed before M.B.C.

DSC_0703 Macchapucchre Base Camp

DSC_0718 M.B.C. views

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DSC_0701 Our freezing lodge in the M.B.C.

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    Next morning´s destination!

Day 7 – M.B.C. – Annapurna Base Camp – M.B.C. – Bamboo (9h trek – altitude 4130m)

We started our last climb to the Annapurna Base Camp at 4.30 in the morning. In two hours we reached the Base Camp when sun started to lay it´s first rays to the tops of the mountains. As Kaji said, sun rays seemed like mountain tops were on fire. It was amazing feeling to finally reach the Base Camp after 7 days ascending. We spent an hour in the Base Camp, Kaji telling us stories of the mountains and their future which – due to global warming – seems pretty sad. Luckily Nepal does big efforts for conserving their precious mountains. For example our permit money were used to conserving Annapurna Area. More can be read from Annapurna Conservation Area Project.

Annapurna Base Camp is situated in the altitude of 4130m and it´s surrounded by many over 7000-8000m mountains like Annapurna South, Himchuli, Annapurna I, Gangapurna and Macchapucchre. We saw many memorials of dead climbers who had died there during their attemps to summit surrounding mountains. Annapurna Base Camp is the last point for the climbers to fill their food and drinks before starting climbing to the summits – after that point they will sleep in the tents.

After sunrise, photos and stories we headed back to the M.B.C. for breakfast, picked up Mani/our backpack and started the way back down again. On the road we saw many groups/trekkers we had met earlier in the lodges or on the trail. We met again this group of three guys who were carrying their stuff themselves and had no guide. They told that they couldn´t find a pony to rent so this sore-knee-guy had walked all the way up with more or less pain. One of them had also had pretty bad AMS (Accute Mountain Sickness) symptoms during their stay in the M.B.C…

Descending is a lot faster than ascending and during the same day we returned the same route back to Bamboo where we stayed over night. Guides and porters always slept in different space/building than tourists and ate together themselves after tourists had had their dinner. It was unusual that they spent their ‘free-time’ with tourists. This evening we were super tired but after dinner we had our normal portion of Khukri with Kaji. There was a sentence in the dining room wall in nepalese (Kripaya haat mukh bahira pakhalnu hola. Dhanyabad!) and when we asked Kaji what it meant (Please wash your hands and mouth outside. Thank you!), he started to learn us nepalese. Many porters gathered around us and were pretty amused of our tryings to spell nepalese words. We learnt how to order hot water to fill our water bottles from the lodge´s kitchen (Kripaya malai panee dinuhos – Please, give me water). My great personal moment was when one of the porters who had been following our nepalese practises most interested touched me and said to me ‘didi-bahini’. When I asked what it meant he replied ‘sister’.

DSC_0733 First sun rays over the Annapurna South.

DSC_0735_edit Annapurna Base Camp 27th October 2014 at 6.30 am.

DSC_0740 Memorial of a dead russian climber.

DSC_0764 Annapurna South

DSC_0765 Annapurna Base Camp and Mountain Macchapucchre seen behind it.

DSC_0772 From the way back.

DSC_0774 From the way back.

DSC_0790 Our lodge in Jhinu Dada.

DSC_0792 Our lodge in Jhinu Dada.

Day 8 – Bamboo – Chhomrong – Jhinu Dada (5h trek)

Day 9 – Jhinu Dada – Syauli Bazar (4h trek)

Day 10 – Syauli Bazar – Birethanti – Pokhara (2h trek)

After reaching the base camp, last three days of descending felt only like a vacation. After night in Bamboo, we walked back to Chhomrong and kept going until Jhinu Dada which is known for its’ hot springs. I carried our backpack maybe 10 minutes in Chhomrong’s uphill because I wanted to try how it felt going uphill with 15kg. Mani got a short vacation :D Have to say that there was no chance that we could have carried our gear ourselves. Many people were on the trek alone with no guide or porter. I’m sure many people must think that carrying one´s own gear is ethically more right than hiring a porter. I don´t think the same. Trekking tourism forms a big part of people’s income here in Nepal and being a porter is a good option for many young guys to earn money. People are used to carry things here where roads are still yet developing.

Of course there is darker side in porter business which we saw as well. Many porters were carrying way too big loads. One was carrying 3 backpacks of which two were 85 litre backpacks and one was 100% Samsonite with wheels! We even saw a porter carrying Longchamp bags…Seemed like there was also that type of trekkers in the trail who don´t think at all what kind of bag is suitable for the trek. We also saw a very unhappy porter during the day 6 to Dobhan. He was having a break, sitting on a grassbench next to the trail. He didn´t look ok and when our guide asked how he was doing, he replied that he had over 45kg load to carry! Kaji said that according to porter ‘laws’ it´s prohibited for one porter to carry more than 20kg if you are carrying goods alone from village to village and 30kg if you work as a porter in an organized tourist trip. To this porter, trekking guide had been loading way too many kilos…

The thing is that tourists have the possibility to choose between trekking companies. Some of the companies aren´t licensed and obviosly not treating their porters right. It is our responsibility as tourists to support only that kind of companies who work in a legal and humane-basis. That´s the only way to support Nepal to develope sustainable tourism. Tourists’ reviews of trekking companies in Nepal can be read in www.trekinfo.com. I highly recommend people to think a bit what kind of companies and actions they want to support.

During our 10-day-trek to the A.B.C. we felt very secure with Kaji and Mani. They not only showed us the way to the A.B.C. and carried our gear there and back, but taught us many things about Nepalese traditions, daily life, history and culture. Days were planned well and due to reasonable ascending pace, we didn´t suffer from AMS (Accute Mountain Sickness). In our case, everything went well but in case that something unattended had happened during the trek, I had total trust that these guys had known exactly what to do. I truly feel that our 4-person-team made the trek: Kaji guiding us, offering rhum and sometimes buffalo milk and teaching us many things…Mani coming to our room every morning smiling and saying ‘Let’s go’ when we weren´t yet even half ready :D To me, it really wasn´t getting to the base camp but getting to the base camp together with these people and sharing life for 10 days with them. It was worth all the mental and physical efforts. I remember the last day when we got our trekking permits back in Birethanti: how great it felt having the ‘enter’ and ‘exit’ stamps on them! Mani was looking at them and noticed that me and Auli had been the first and second persons who exit the Annapurna Conservation Area that day from that checking point. We were back just where we had started and saw the familiar jeep which came to pick us. Mani smiled and said how happy he was that we were back there. All of us must felt the same. As an experience, trekking to the A.B.C. gave me more that I could have ever asked, wished or imagined.

DSC_0799 From the way back.

DSC_0803 These guys…

- Katariina