Banff National Park…travel in our own backyard

Travel Close to Home

After writing about our travels in Southeast Asia and my trip to North Carolina, it excited me to share some stories and photos from a recent visit to the Canadian Rockies.  This is probably old news for the locals who read my blog, but I hope it may entice some of our “away” friends to come for a visit.  

This exquisite area is about 2 hours away from our home.  We know how lucky we are when we  can drive to the mountains for the day, and hear comments like, “ I’ve waited my whole life to come here”, and “This is just so beautiful, I have to just sit here.  I can’t even take a picture yet.”

Camping Plans

We are currently tent campers, but we are ridiculously good at camping, as our daughter points out.  Although she turned 30 this year, she still enjoys a road trip with her parents, and in fact, booked this trip for the 3 of us in April of this year.  It was necessary to book almost 3 months ahead as it is Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1 and the federal government decided to make all the national park entrances free for the entire year.  We also  wanted to stay in the village of Lake Louise in Banff National Park.  

It has a camping area specifically for tents and soft sided trailers that is contained by an electric fence.  This is  due to a bear attack in the past.  It didn’t help us sleep through the trains, but it did give us wild animal peace of mind.  The permit for firewood was extra, as was the fee for booking on-line.  The hot showers were free. There were fresh water spigots, covered cook shelters in case of rain, a sink area with hot water for washing dishes (our favorite luxury) and daily programs offered by the park on topics ranging from the value of bats in the park to demonstrations on how to camp.  The views were also free.

Love a campfire

Road trip to the Rockies

The drive along the David Thompson Highway, (a fur trader and mapmaker extraordinaire) takes us west from Rocky Mountain House towards the Rockies.  We travel past campgrounds and through the forests of the foothills bombarded with wonderful views as the mountains begin to appear in more detail around every turn.  

The only town halfway along the 2 hour drive to the park is the old mining town of Nordegg.  It was a booming community 100 years ago, but now provides tours of the old mine area, a small golf course, a gas station, hotel and delicious pie at the Miner’s Cafe.  Gas, snacks, camping and music festivals are also available at David Thompson Resort on the banks of Abraham Lake about 30 minutes further west.

Abraham Lake

Abraham Lake is actually a reservoir built to control flooding of the North Saskatchewan River.  It also generates some electricity as it passes through small turbines, and methane gas bubbles in the ice during the winter as plant matter decays below the surface.  It’s most noticeable characteristic, however, is its spectacular teal blue color.  Mountain lakes that form from melted glaciers contain “glacial flour” which is rock ground up to powder by the force of moving ice.  This powder, or silt, reflects and scatters the colors of light to send an almost indescribable color to the eye.  Unless you have seen it yourself, in photographs it looks fake.  It is especially impressive in the fall when the golden leaves contrast with the blue water.

Lake Louise

In order to manage all the visitors to Lake Louise itself, Parks Canada has a free shuttle bus from an overflow parking area a few km east of town.  School buses leave every 15 minutes and drop passengers at the visitor center in the village of Lake Louise as well as at the lake itself.  It sure beats driving around the parking lot hoping someone will leave.  

I love going to this lake.  I’ve X-Country skied and snowshoed on it in the winter, walked along it in the spring when the snow is still a meter deep, and hiked above it in the summer. The visitors who come are reverent as they stand in awe at the mountains and glaciers surrounding the lake. The majority of people have travelled great distances to come to this “bucket list” place.  

The Fairmont Lake Louise stands at one end and a company nearby rents red canoes to tourists to paddle quietly through the water.  In the winter, there is a skating rink cleared near the hotel with an ice castle sculpture. An ice bar with ice tables and stools is also outside.  Horse-drawn sleighs take people along the lake trail where they can see ice climbers ascending the waterfall at the end.  There is also a world class ski hill behind the hotel, overlooking the lake.

Tea House Hike

There are 2 tea houses on the mountain above the lake that were built as lodges in 1905 and 1924. My daughter and I have been to the Lake Agnus Teahouse a couple of times already so this time we chose to hike to the Plain of the Six Glaciers.  It is 10.6 km return and 365 m elevation change.  The trail starts at the hotel and the first couple of km are a paved path.  It climbs up through the forest with lots of views of the lake along the way.  This was a high snow winter and there were several avalanche path still in place along the way.  We had hiking boots, hiking poles and snow experience so we had no concerns.  Those people walking in runners had more trouble.  I heard one man comment as he turned back, “I wish I had my soccer shoes.”   The hike was in fact not recommended by the visitor center because of the snow.

The teahouse is a beautiful log building.  The staff hike in and stay for a week.  Supplies are carried up on horseback or helicopter. They serve tea, of course, and fresh baking.  Soup and chili were also available.  We joined a family from Pennsylvania at a picnic table and savored Banff Tea Company tea and cinnamon scones, along with good conversation.  It seems so decadent to enjoy such treats in a remote place.

Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House

Moraine Lake

After a quiet night in our campsite, we headed out at 7:30 am to Moraine Lake.  It is another iconic view place that used to be the main picture on the Canadian $20 bill for many years.  The area is also known as the Valley of the 10 Peaks because you can see 10 peaks along the side of the lake from the Rockpile viewpoint.

Moraine Lake is glacial blue and is named after the crushed rock that gets pushed to the side by a moving glacier.  This rock remains in place after the glacier recedes. We hiked above this lake last summer so we just wanted to take some pictures.  The water was ruffled by wind so there were no reflections but the changing skies and snow-capped peaks made it a spectacular place.  Listening to the visitors who were there for the first time also made it special.  There were lots of selfies being taken, but many offers were made to take group photos for others as a wonderful memory.

Banff

The forecast was for showers and I was a bit creaky after our hike so we decided to spend the day around Banff, which is about 55 km away.  Our plan was to check out some places that we had driven past and never stopped.  We travelled down the Bow Valley Parkway, which is the original road between Banff and Lake Louise.  It is quiet and scenic, although we didn’t see any wildlife.

Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake

Our first destination was the Lake Minnewanka loop.  It is near Banff townsite.  The entrance to the day use and boating area looked busy, so we continued to Two Jack Lake and stopped when we saw the National Parks red chairs.  Parks staff  have set out a double set of red Muskoka chairs at various parks throughout Canada.  You can take a photo and share it with #redchairs as a way to promote places in the parks.  I had never been to an area where they were located before so this was exciting for me.  It was a lovely by the lake so we stayed for a picnic after the obligatory photographs.  As it was just a few days before Canada’s 150th Birthday, it was extra special to share our red chair photos.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site

While the railway was being built across Canada, a couple of workers stumbled upon a hot springs, which was later named Cave and Basin.  The Canadian Government saw the economic advantages of bringing tourists to this area and in 1887 Banff National Park was created in first national park in Canada.  

Cave and Basin is now a National Historic Site.  It has been recently renovated and is open to visitors.  We saw the original cave as well as an outdoor pool.  Swimming is no longer allowed at this location, but it is  at the Upper Hot Springs pool.  The courtyard at the historic site had replicas of railway worker tents set up, along with staff portraying the workers from the 1880’s.

No visit to Banff is complete without a drive down Banff Ave. and a little people watching.  We wandered through the local farmer’s market then stopped for a cold drink next to the pub window.  We saw people from all parts of the world strolling past, admiring the views and the atmosphere of this old mountain town.

Mt. Norquay

As we returned to our campground we spotted a couple more red chairs on the hill.  They were next to the road that leads up to Mt. Norquay ski hill.  I didn’t remember being there either so we drove up to take a look.  There were 2 chairs on a hillside with a fantastic view of the entire town of Banff, including the Banff Springs Hotel and Vermillion Lake.  There was even a herd of Bighorn Sheep wandering past.  We were so lucky to find 2 chair locations in one day.  

Emerald Lake

For our last day, we decided that many of the day hikes would still have too much snow on the trails so we headed further west instead.  Emerald Lake is about 40 km from Lake Louise in Yoho National Park.  It is a small lake, but emerald perfectly describes the colour of the water.  There is a lodge at one end that is comprised of cabins and a regular hotel.

There is a 5 km path  around the lake.  The first half was quite smooth and level and had fantastic lake views.  The second half of the trail was more up and down but surrounded by temperate wetland plants like Devil’s Club and lady slippers.

On the drive back to the highway, we stopped at a natural bridge.  The Kicking Horse River has worn through the rock so instead of being a waterfall coming over the top of the rock, it now comes underneath the rock, forming a bridge.

Natural Bridge, Kicking Horse River

Bow Lake

 

Our final stop on this quick road trip was at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway.  It is located at Bow Summit which is the high point between our access to the park from Highway 11 and Lake Louise.  The Lake is fed by glacial water and is the start of the Bow River that flows through Calgary.  There is an old Swiss Mountaineer Lodge there that has accomodations and a wonderful restaurant called Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.  We had another picnic overlooking the lake and a fresh coffee from the trading post.  It was interesting to watch all the visitors see for the first time an area that we are very familiar with.

If this doesn’t excite you about visiting Banff National Park, then I have not done my job well enough.  Please comment any questions you have, or share your favourite place to hike or gawk in the mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

Oriental, North Carolina…I have time, I can travel

Although we are home from our winter in Thailand, I am still retired.  Being open and available to opportunities that present themselves is key to a successful retirement.

Jeanne

I met Jeanne in Thailand when she moved into our building for a month.  I admired her nerve and her interest in the world.  She had already been travelling alone for 2 months throughout SE Asia, as a single at times, as part of a booked group at other times.  Being 67 did not deter her from walking 5 or 6 km every day or tasting all the street food.

She was quick to join into a group of regulars who had happy hour every afternoon in our yard.  She talked to everyone and listened for the best places to tour, to eat and shop for fresh fruit.  Her energy was infectious. I got to know her when her phone was so full of pictures that the red bar couldn’t be ignored for another day.  I helped her download them to her computer and set up a Google Photo album.  Her blog site needed a little help too.

Oriental, North Carolina

Before she left for Malaysia, her last stop before returning home to North Carolina, she told me about her “girl’s retreat”.  Every year she has access to a large guesthouse in her hometown of Oriental.  She invites people that she connected with in her travels abroad and her life at home, women that made a positive impression on her.  When I received my email invitation in March, I was ecstatic!

I decided that I had time and AirMiles so booked a flight from Calgary, through Toronto to Raleigh, North Carolina.  A rental car and 3 hours got me to Oriental on Sunday evening, May 7.

Stallings House

The Stallings House, where we stayed, was built in 1890 and sits on a large lot facing the 3 mile wide Neuce River.  It has 5 bedrooms on 2 levels and an open third level with several beds.  A sitting room, large dining room, kitchen and several bathrooms fill the rest of the house.  There are 2 wrap-around verandas overlooking the river.  This old home is often rented for weddings or large family gatherings.  Jeanne did quite a lot of work on the house and bartered the use of this great accommodation for a week every year.

 

The Retreat May 8-11

There were 16 people stayed in the house.  I was from the farthest away.  There were 2 women from New York State that Jeanne had met in Viet Nam this winter.  There were 4 women from western NC who had travelled with her to China in 1982.  Another woman from Atlanta met her in Australia on another trip.  Jeanne’s cousin and a friend arrived from northern NC and another woman arrived from Florida. There were more but too many stories to keep straight.

There were about 25-30 local women who came and went through the week.

Things to Do

We spent the week doing a variety of activities that were mainly planned by the people who attended.

  • The town mayor/bank manager, Sally, used to visit the house as a girl and shared her stories with us from a book she is writing about her life in Oriental.

Sally’s stories

  • Flora, a 70 year old who won the over 60 North Carolina beauty contest demonstrated her incredible skills as a belly dancer

  • pedicures, facials and massages were also done on the lawn by the river

  • boat trips along the rivers and creeks in the area provided beautiful views and more history on the area and its connection to fishing and sailing
  • Miss Faye, who is a 94 years old, teaches several exercise classes a week.  She spoke on why the same streets have different names in Oriental.  She allowed us to visit her yard where she feeds about 40 turtles dog food every night in a creek behind her house.  They come when she calls.  She is also a Senior Olympian and Humanacare Game Changer. Check out the link about her and her daughter.
  • Pat brought driftwood, paint and wine to spend the afternoon deciding what we saw in our wood and bring it to life with colour.  Most women got right after it with excitement, even before they had their wine.  It surprised me the number who were very uncomfortable with this creative activity.  Their elementary art teachers must not have been very supportive.  Now that I’m in my 50’s I don’t really care anymore what others think of my creative projects.
  • Cheryl took a small group of us who live outside the state on a boat trip to Cape Lookout.  We travelled through the inland waterway, past Shakleford Banks to the lighthouse at Cape Lookout.  There were wild horses, dolphins and an enormous sea turtle along the way.  Many fishermen were fishing in small boats and there were several shrimp boats with the large booms holding the nets out to the side. We were gone all day.

Things to Eat

  • Finola and her husband, originally from Ireland served us high tea on proper china with cucumber sandwiches and scones with cream and jam.
  • Miss Lilly, who was on a cooking show, “Chef and the Farmer” spent the day with us teaching us how to make proper biscuits.  She used lard, buttermilk and self-rising flour.  The lard and buttermilk went into a well inside the flour and was squished together until it was “silky”.  Then it was swirled in the bowl until it incorporated enough flour to make a ball.  The biscuits were squeezed off the ball, flattened in the hand and the edges rolled under.  The baking sheet was filled and then baked.  I’ve never seen any technique like that before.  The results were delicious, especially with some local honey brought by a woman in the group.
  • We visited Georgie’s crab shedding operation.  When crabs get too big for their shells, they molt their shell and purge all their digestive tract and lungs.  Within 2 hours they start to grow new shells and organs.  If they are taken out of the water and put into the fridge, they can’t grow a new shell.  The upper skin is removed with scissors and you are left with a crab that is only meat.  Georgie came to the house one evening and dredged the crabs in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and deep fried them.  Eating outside on the lawn by the river at long tables made the food taste great.  The crabs, though, would be delicious no matter where you ate them.
  • Carol made chef salad for everyone’s lunch one day. This is Laura eating the salad.  Carol is enjoying the pedicure.

Food of North Carolina

Other things I ate for the first time

  • pimento cheese dip and sandwiches.  Everyone in North Carolina seemed to have their own special recipe, but the general ingredients are grated cheddar/monterey jack cheese, pimento, mayonnaise/Miracle Whip and maybe a little grated onion.

  • Grits mixed with chopped ham and bacon, butter and eggs then baked as muffins.  It also reappeared another morning baked in a casserole dish.  Laura arranged for Kentucky bacon and sausage to be sent to the house for this event.
  • low country boil.  After the Girl’s Retreat, Jeanne invited some old high school classmates from the class of ’67 for a “Big Chill” weekend.  Pat cooked up a boil for me before I left at the end of the week.  It consisted of new potatoes, corn on the cob chunks, kielbasa and beautiful shrimp caught the day before.  They are all boiled together with Old Bay Seasoning.  The food is drained then dumped onto a table covered with newspaper and you just pick out a little of each, and a little more, and a little more…  There were several cocktail sauces made with differing amounts of hotness available and lots of paper towels.  What a feast!
  • Not new but a catfish sandwich for lunch the first day.  Crispy fish topped with coleslaw and served between 2 slices of white bread.
  • North Carolina IPA and wheat beer
  • And I caught a fish…

Pin fish used for bait.

Lots of relaxing and story sharing

I had the best time with new people in a new place and I can’t wait to get back to this part of the world again.

Full moon over the river

Packing for a Winter in Thailand…What did we really need?

It was difficult packing for a winter in Thailand.  What did we really need?  Having never visited Asia before, we weren’t sure what was essential, what recommended and what would be nice to have. We only had 28 sq. m for living space so we couldn’t take too much.  As we packed to come home, I made some notes for next time.

Prepared for action

Clothing

As almost every travel site will tell you, pack your bag and then take half of it out.  I did that initially, but could have done it again.  Thailand is hot and humid.  It is also very casual.  The only people dressed up were the tourists from China.  I took dresses, shorts, skorts, and wicking t-shirts as well as some stretchy shorts and light t-shirts to use in the gym.  I added a couple of swim suits and a cover up.

Here’s what I found.  The laundry lady on our street washed, dried and folded our clothes about every 10 days for $7.  She usually had them overnight.  That meant I took too many t-shirts.  I also preferred wearing dresses with the stretchy shorts underneath.  The rayon dresses they sell in Thailand for $10 each are perfect for this climate.  They hang loosely and were the coolest, most comfortable option for me.  I had one nice sun dress I brought and a couple of other dresses that were also cool enough.  I would recommend buying dresses on arrival and a long wrap-around skirt to keep packed to use as a skirt or a wrap to be respectful in the temples.

Thai dress

The skorts were useful as they are appropriate for any occasion.  The black one was good when I needed black and white for a choir uniform. I had a white t-shirt but bought a dressier white top when we were performing. I rarely wore the shorts.

The most important item I took was a big white sun hat I purchased at MEC before we left.  I wore it every day.  The chin string seemed a bit uncool until I was riding in tuk-tuks and boats when it became essential.

swim cover and hat locked on

Travelling Clothes

Since we planned to visit the Great Wall of China during our Beijing layover on our flight there, we had a bag of clothes for layering.  We wore zip off hiking pants that were also very practical for our visit to Nepal.  I took a toque and mittens as well as a wind jacket and light fleece jacket.  As it was just around freezing with a light breeze, these clothes were perfect for the stopover.

The coldest high temperature in Chiang Mai was 23,  and only for a couple of days.  I wore my hiking pants once, just because I had them.  I wore a light sweater that I did buy there.  It was also useful in the movie theaters when we sat in the air conditioning for a couple of hours.  A scarf or skirt as a wrap would probably do. Most restaurants were open air with fans so we didn’t experience the chill I feel when sitting in A/C here.  We brought umbrellas and rain jackets.  It only rained twice and was too hot for a jacket.  The umbrellas could have been purchased at 7-11 for a small amount and then left behind.

Brisk day in Beijing

Footwear

For footwear I took flip-flops for the pool, hiking shoes, runners and sandals with good support.  I could have managed with just the runners and sandals but they both were pretty new and I wasn’t sure if they would feel good with all the walking we were going to do.  We had planned to do some hiking, but we didn’t, so I would take the same choices again another time.  There is plenty of footwear for sale, but with my feet I wanted to be sure I had what I needed ahead of time.

Toiletries

As far as toiletries are concerned, you can buy most of what you need.  There are many recognizable brands in the drug stores and grocery stores.  There were a few challenges.  Peter found the toothpaste tubes looked the same as at home, but the taste of Colgate was not the same.  Deodorant is either spray or roll on and contains whitener, as does almost every skin product in Thailand.  They want their skin lighter and we are all trying to make ours darker!  If you like solids, take lots because you will need it in the heat.

I wasn’t able to find 3 products.  I use a hydrogen peroxide solution to clean my contacts.  It is considered “dangerous” and is not sold in Thailand. I had to have some brought from England and Canada.  Blonde hair colour is also not available, which is to be expected in a country where everyone has beautiful black hair. I also had difficulty identifying antacids like Tums in the stores so my sister brought me some from home.

We took towels, but our apartment provided towels for the bathroom and for the pool.  I found some beach size quick dry towels that pack very small.  They were good when we went to the beaches in Krabi.  We also bought full face snorkel masks for the ocean, but there were places to rent them if we had wanted.

Games and Activities

I took a crib board, some cards and a couple of puzzle games.  We did use them, but there was lots to do in the evenings, or we were too exhausted to do much besides watch a little Nat Geo channel.  I took a couple of books with me, but there was a book exchange in our building and a couple of used book stores where I could find lots to read in English. Peter took his guitar and golf clubs.

Electronics

My computer got lots of use.  I bought an ASUS zenbook because it runs on a solid state drive so it is fast and is more durable if (when) it gets bumped around.  It is also powerful enough to run photo editing software. I used it to write my blog, edit photos, watch movies on Netflix, call home on Google hangouts and video call on occasion.  I also had a couple of external drives that I used for picture storage. Pete took his laptop and our tablet.  We also took along a small Bluetooth speaker that we used quite often. We did have a TV in our room that had many English channels, including a movie channel, National Geographic, History, and CNN International.

Phones

Our phones were old when we took them.  After a few weeks of trying to keep them charged or plugged into external batteries to enable Google Maps to keep working to help us find a location, we started looking for something more efficient.  Once Uber became an option, it was essential to have a working phone.  We ended up buying the first new phone in Laos.  It was 2.25 million kip!  This is only $350.  Peter bought another of the Huawei gr5 2017 phones when we returned to Chiang Mai.  They last about 1 1/2 days on a charge.  What a relief.

Chargers and Adaptors

Thailand works on 220V and North America on 110V.  We took a plug-in adaptor with us as well as a small power bar.  We found that our phone and computer chargers work on multiple voltages.  This is printed right on them.  Even my camera battery charger worked.

The cords in Thailand have 2 round pegs and no grounding plugs, however the slot plugs from home would fit into the outlets which had an extra slot for the third peg. They often had to propped up to stay since the plugs had to be inserted sideways, and they weren’t gripped as tightly as we are used to.  The power bar was useful but we didn’t need the adaptor for our plugs.  I didn’t take any other appliances.  I bought a small blow dryer when I arrived.

Money

Thailand, and most of South-East Asia for that matter, is a cash economy.  We rarely used our credit cards, and if we did there was at least a 3% fee added on.  The ATM worked well for taking money from our Canadian account and giving it to us in Thai Baht.  There was a $7 fee for the withdrawal on that end and a $5 fee from our account at home.  We always took the maximum amount possible to minimize the fees.  Next time we would be sure to have a larger limit for withdrawals.  We also needed American dollars to pay for our visas in other countries.  It would probably be cheaper to take some of that currency with us.

We paid our rent with a global e transfer from our bank to the hotel account.  This had a smaller fee than 2 withdrawals would have and worked easily.

Packing

Air China allows 2 free checked bags of 23 kg on their international flights.  When we came, we brought 2 large rolling duffel bags, 1 smaller duffel bag and Pete’s golf clubs.  I had a 40L daypack for my camera/computer equipment and Pete had a similar daypack for carry on as well as his guitar.  We also used the daypacks as luggage for our trip to Laos.

Daypack and hat went everywhere

To return, we were doing well with only buying a few small items for gifts and had decided to replace the smaller duffel with a larger pack from the market.  Luckily we sent the golf clubs and few other items home with our daughter, Melissa, in March before we went to Nepal.  The “made in Nepal” outdoor gear was too tempting.  In the end we brought home our 2 big duffel bags and 2 large North Face waterproof bags full of outdoor clothing that will be great additions to our truck camping supplies.

Things We Left Behind-maybe for next year?!

Thank you for all your interest in our travels.  I will share a few more pictures and shorter stories now that we are home and have time to look through them before we head off on whatever comes next.  I appreciated being welcomed back to church last Sunday with, “We thought you were in Nepal!” since that is where my last post referred to.  It let’s me know people were following us closely.  We never felt lonely on this trip.  Let me know if I can help if you decide to just go to see the world.

 

Suprises in Kathmandu too…the good kind

Surprises in Kathmandu kept sneaking up on us.  They were mostly the good kind. We enjoyed shopping for outdoor gear and eating Nepalese food.  We saw a Hindu wedding event and toured some interesting locations.  Nepal turned out to have more going it than we thought based on our first impressions.

Kathmandu Shopping

One of the things to do in Kathmandu is shop for Nepal made “North Face” items.  I don’t know how they do it, but they are locally made knock-offs that cost little and look pretty authentic. We saw North Face logos and sizing labels for sale in the shops in our street. I bought a rain coat that had 2 pieces of loop velcro on the hood that were sewn onto the same instead of opposite sides of the closure but my tailor lady in Chiang Mai fixed that for me for less than a dollar.

Nepalese Food

We had no idea what Nepalese food consisted of.  I expected lentils and beans which someone had told me they ate in Kathmandu several years ago.  What we found was an international food selection.  There was wood fired pizza, fine dining, French bakeries, Irish pubs, a New Orleans cafe, and the Cafe with No Name that donated its profits to Nepalese education.

We also ate at the Momo Hut one day.  They served traditional food which consisted of momos and Dahl Baht in a Tarkari set.  The Momos were like little pork dumplings you would find at home.  These were stuffed with a spicy chicken and served with a creamy tomato based chutney and some hot pepper.  You can get them steamed, fried, or kothey-which is steamed and fried.  They can be filled with other meat like rabbit or buffalo, vegetables or even chocolate in some places.

Dal Baht is rice and a lentil soup  Tarkari Set is when they serve these 2 ingredients on a tray along with curried vegetables, some pickle and meat if you want.  You eat everything together.  The local custom is to eat it with your hands.   It is usually served with chapati.  Everest, Gorkha, and San Miguel are the local beers.

Hindu Wedding

While preparing to finish our shopping, we heard noise out in our street.  We thought it was more horn honking.  The big trucks have a horn that plays a sort of tune with a series of notes.  I went down to check it out and discovered a band playing outside.  There were about 15 men playing drums, trumpets, baritones and 2 clarinets leading the group.  They played for about 15 minutes, amidst the traffic of pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, cars and trucks, who were still honking at anything they could see in front of them.  The hotel staff said that it was to call out the bride for a wedding ceremony.  He said they would be back again later in the day.

I was returning a backpack to our room later in the day, and the band was playing again.  They played, then began to move down the street, followed by several women in beautiful red saris, which is the preferred colour as it symbolizes fertility and life. There was also a wedding car decorated with real flowers.  I believe the bride was inside. This group didn’t let a narrow street full of loud traffic interfere with their celebration.  Cacophony is the only way I can describe it.

The final performance had the band marching back up the street.  There were more people behind them and many were dancing as the moved down the street towards us.  The groom was walking but I couldn’t tell if the bride was with him, or she got out of the car at a tiny alleyway.  About 20 people crowded into this opening between buildings where the ceremony took place.  The band played outside in the street.  When the ceremony was over, most people entered into the building from the side and most of the band went home.  We heard lots of music throughout the evening from our room.  What fun to be able to observe this event!

Other Things to Do in Kathmandu

There are several things to see within walking distance of the Thamel district, which is the main tourist area.  The Durbar Square-(an opinion link)  area has many HIndu temples as well as the Royal Palace.  Many buildings in this area suffered damage in the earthquake, but we saw a couple having wedding photos taken in the palace courtyard.

People also stopped to light a candle, leave flower petals or wipe red onto the statue of Bhairav. It represents the destructive side of Vishnu, a Hindu god who is the truth god and was used by city officials as a place where people had to swear to tell the truth. We saw dozens of people stop by to offer a prayer to this statue in Durbar Square.

We spent a quiet morning in the Garden of Dreams.  It was developed in the 1920’s by a man who won a game of chance against his father, the prime minister at the time.  He used his winnings to buy the land and turn it into a private garden.  It was later restored by an Austrian group from 2000-2007 and is now a public park.  A beautiful and peaceful surprise in the midst of this dusty and noisy city.

Leaving Kathmandu

Our last day was spent packing up all our new outdoor gear, then sitting on the stoop watching the world pass by.  We saw fruit sellers pushing their bicycles full of oranges, grapes and bananas.  The butcher across the street was slicing off chunks of meat from the chunks sitting outside on a table.  He tossed them into a balance scale and would adjust the weights on one side or the meat on the other.  The yak cheese seller was in her shop.  The counter is at street level and the shopkeeper stands below ground.  The buyer has to bend down to make purchases.  The cheese is covered with a mesh cloth and it is supposed to keep on the counter for 1-2 weeks.

School children were walking arm in arm off to school and includes boys and girls in Nepal.   It is a world away from Rocky Mountain House.

Our drive to the airport required masks for the smog and the horrible amount of dust in the air.  Although our plane was late leaving, we were above the clouds in time to see Everest and its tallest neighbors pushing up above the fluffy white cumulus clouds.  Our last surprise.  Except for the fact that Nepal kind of grew on us once we got over the disappointment of not being able to see the sky or the mountains.  The people and their energy captured our hearts.

Everest through the clouds