Chiang Mai in Visuals

I spent two weeks in Chiang Mai to unwind after Nepal. I went straight from working 45+ hours a week to hiking to the base of Mt Everest and it wa time for this gal to have a holiday. This was my first time I’d spent such a long period alone but it was definitely worth it. I spent my days cycling around Chiang Mai, finding new cafes every day, wandering through temples and resisting the urge to buy everything! Chiang Mai is a city set-up for someone who just wants to stay in one place. It’s so easy to get around, the accomodation is cheap and the food is delicious. Chiang Mai is a popular spot for digital nomads to reside and I can totally understand why! If I ever succeed at becoming a digital nomad this is where I’ll be coming to live!

Below is a few snaps of my time here. I did touristy stuff towards the end of my stay which I’ll post soon! For now, here’s some of Chiang Mai in pictures.

J. X

What Phra Singh

Wat Suan Doi
My diet was shot to bits in Chiang Mai. This brownie at The Barn was amazing!
I think I ate pad thai nearly every second day. For AUD$2 why not!?

Rustic & Blue
Wat Phra Singh
Breakfast at Rustic & Blue
Black jelly – I think it’s coffee?
The Barn: Eatery Design

Coffee from a world class latte artist!
Beautiful frangipanis outside my Airbnb apartment
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang

The Day I Got Chased By A Rhino

“Don’t make eye contact, don’t look, don’t look! Okay run, RUN!”

The three of us bolted, following the zig-zag pattern that our guide was doing to throw them off course. My camera bag bounced against my hip as I ran, my heart raced and the sweat started to drip down my face. The branches on the ground crunched as we trod on them heavily, being completely silent wasn’t an issue anymore – getting out alive was. 

How I’d found myself running away from a rampant female rhinoceros, I’m still trying to work out but here I was in the Chitwan National Park in south-west Nepal trying to outrun a pissed off mother rhino whose bath was rudely interrupted by humans. 

This morning when I’d left the Safari Club Lodge where I was staying, I was under the impression that we would be going for a lovely canoe ride down the river, followed by a short walk through a part of the national park to hopefully see some animals. I had assumed that the short walk was just a way of making it back to the lodge and they’d called it a jungle walk to make it seem more exciting. However, this is Nepal and after three weeks of being in this crazy, chaotic country that a short walk actually means two hours of trawling through dense grasslands in search of animals.

The canoe ride was indeed very lovely. There were two guys from the Czech Republic – who were also staying at the Safari Club – who had come along with me. Before we even got into the canoe our guide spotted two rhinos further down the river. One was cooling off in the river and the other was on the banks out of sight, sussing out whether he should invade the other rhinos territory. It was my first time seeing a rhinoceros in the wild and it was quite exciting to be up close to such an exotic animal. Little did I know I was about to get a whole lot closer.




There were over 600 rhinoceros in Chitwan National Park, the largest population in Nepal. They are some of the most protected animals in the park and years of poaching culling numbers dramatically. However since the 1970’s, many conservation laws have been put in place to protect the species. This has been very successful, with rhino population numbers higher than they’re been in years. The past three years the park has had zero poaching attempts, a number that they’re very proud of.

When I first decided to go to Chitwan I hadn’t expected to see any of the exciting animal in the wild, like rhinos, tigers or elephants. I thought it would be a glorified trip to the jungle where the most exciting thing you’ll see is a monkey or deer. So to see a rhino straight away, I was stoked!

As the canoe ride went on, we floated past locals fishing on their wooden rafts. Everyone seemed to know each other and yelled out conversations as they passed. Rain started to sprinkle on us and I was annoyed that I forgot my rain coat. A rookie error in monsoon season. We passed an elephant having a bath and a snack and a few diffferent varieties of birds. After about an hour, we pulled up to the sandy bank and climbed out, ready for saunter through the jungle.

Cruising down the river

Like I said earlier, I thought this would be a quick stroll through some of the jungle before heading on to the elephant breeding centre and the tour guide wanted to make the day’s program sound more exciting. However, I was wrong and we were actually going to stalking around the jungle for about two hours! Before we started, our guide gave us the lowdown on how to act if an animal turns on you. As he went on about running in a zigzag pattern and climbing trees for rhinos and standing still and making eye contact with tigers I had a little laugh to myself. These guides sure have been taught well on how to wind up tourists! He was so sincere in his monologue I almost believed him but thought that there would be no way they’d let us out in the wild with potentially deadly animals. Now you’d think for someone who’s done some pretty wild things in her travels, such as letting off explosives in a silver mine in Bolivia and hiking the illegal Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii that I would be a little less naive about safety regulations around the world (or more, the lack of) But no, having come from Australia where everyone is wrapped up in cotton wool and treated like a baby I still believed that everything will always be sunshine and dandy and danger would never come my way. 

I was going to be proven wrong, yet again..

After the safety briefing we hiked in a single file silently through the jungle. The humidity was even worse under the canopy of the jungle and my shirt clung to my sweaty back instantly. We walked for about fifteen minutes, treading carefully on the grassy plain below us, the only sound being the crunch of twigs breaking beneath our feet. I was already bored of the walk when my guide stopped suddenly and turned his head to listen. 

‘This way… Rhino” he whispered, indicating that we follow him behind a huge shrubby bush. As he pushed the bush away there was a small lagoon filled with lilyponds a few metres away. At first I couldn’t tell what he was pointing to but then I saw the dark grey blob amongst the bright green reeds. A rhino was bathing just 10 or so metres from us! Completely oblivious to his audience, the rhino looked so content as he wallowed in the reedy water. One of the guys inched closer and trod on some broken branches. The rhino turned his head towards us and looked us directly in the eye. We stood still waiting to see what would happen but the rhino just turned back around and continued his bath. He wasnt camera shy. We watched for a little longer before moving on deeper into the jungle.

What chu lookin’ at???
Nothing to see here folks…

Excited that this dull jungle walk was more than what I was expecting, I picked up my pace and kept my eyes peeled for anymore animals. Another 10 minutes passed with nothing and then we spotted some monkeys and deer going about their day. The deer with the excellent hearing ran off just as we got got but the monkeys weren’t afraid being so high up. We walked further and my hopes were slowly disappearing again. 

Oh deer.. they spotted us

Just as I was about to give up on expecting any more animals, our guide made a sign to be quiet and follow him. We tiptoed behind him and he pointed out a muddy water hole to our left. We walked past the waterhole to the hide behind a couple of trees. Just 20 metres away was a mother rhino and her baby having a bath in the muddy water. The baby rhino was quite possibly the cutest and ugliest thing I’d ever seen! We watched for a few minutes before trying to edge closer for a better look. As the branches crunched underneath our feet, the overprotective mother looked our way with her little ears pricked in attention. We halted abruptly and waited for our guides next move. Paused a moment, I got the chance to take a quick photo before the mother rhino turned towards us and started moving. 

Right before she started to run towards us

“Okay, go, GO!’ Our guide said and he took off – there was no protecting hotel guests here! We followed hastily, trying to run in a zigzag and not lose our guide. I didn’t dare look behind me but kept an eye out for any trees that might be climb-able. I wondered if my travel insurance would cover being trampled by a rhino. Even though it was only a handful of seconds, it felt like we were running for an eternity. Finally our guide launched into some bushes and waved us to get behind him. We squatted, panting for breath hoping that the rhino had been thrown off course. Thankfully we’d made so much noise running like idiots through the jungle that she was too startled to chase and ran off in a different direction. We stayed squatting for a minute to catch our breath.

“She gone, we are safe” our guide said. The three of us looked back at him bewildered. What happened to the mundane jungle walk!? We all looked at each other and burst into nervous laughter, talk about dodging a big, grey leathery bullet! Continuing on, I kept very close to our guide as we made a quick exit out of the jungle. That was enough cardio for the morning! We reached the edge of the dense jungle and walked down the beaten 4WD path until we reached the elephant breeding centre, sweaty and muddy. So much for an easy jungle walk!

J. X

Peaceful Pokhara

This morning was an early start. C and I had to be at the bus station 6:15am for our bus to Pokhara and after a pretty cruisy couple of days, it was a bit hard to function at this hour of the morning. Thankfully the bus station was easy to find and by 6:30am we were on our way to Pokhara in an air conditioned coach with wifi! Not too bad for about AUD$8!

Five hours later, we were not quite as chirpy as the bus bounced and jerked along the road. To say that Nepal’s roads were awful would be the understatement of the century – THEY WERE THE WORST IN THE WORLD!! Let me just backtrack a little and really give you some perspective as to how terrible they are. Kathmandu to Pokhara is 204.5 kilometres, which in Australia would probably take under two hours to get there. However this is Nepal and nothing happens quickly here. It took us two hours just to get out of Kathmandu! It was a bouncy old show as well, the roads which were continually under construction were a pot-holed, often dirt lane that hundreds of vehicles and bikes fight to race to the front. C and I were slowly losing our minds as we bounced around the back of the bus, wishing we’d worn sports bra’s but the locals on the bus weren’t fazed. Despite it being six hours in and not even close to Pokhara they just sat happily, eating their chips and playing on their phones. I’ll give the Nepalese some credit, they’re patient as hell. By the time we reached the outskirts of Pokhara, C and I were ready to get off and walk. I may be sounding like a drama queen but I’ve done some hellish bus rides in my time and this takes the cake. As a forewarning for any future travellers to Nepal, the bus rides bloody suck!

We finnnnaaaallly got to Pokhara and found a place to stay easily. On the taxi ride there were drove past the lake and any disgruntled-ness I felt from the bus ride disappeared. Pokhara has a serene and calm place and the chilled vibe was very contagious. Our little guest house, the Harvest Moon, was costing us a huge AUD$6 a night and was just a couple of streets away from the lakeside. As the most touristic area, the Lakeside is filled with restaurants, cafes, spas and travel agents. We found a spot to grab a snack by the lake and relaxed in the afternoon sun and tried to plan out what we wanted to do here. After walking past the many spas and wellness centres, we decided we deserved to treat ourselves to a spa day. After all, we had just hiked Everest Base Camp and survived that God-awful bus ride. We booked in for a massage, facial, manicure and pedicure for the following afternoon and I was already feeling calmer.

Incoming rain

Finding dinner nearby to our guest house, we had an early dinner and headed to bed. It’s really quite tiring sitting on a bus all day! The following morning we woke early and set out to hike to the World Peace Pagoda. It was lovely and cool as we began our hike but as soon as we reached the forest where the main trail lay, the humidity set in and we were sweating in minutes. It took over an hour to get to the top. It was so much easier to hike in low altitude, if I wasnt dying from the heat I could have ran up there! (not really, lets be honest) but it felt good to actually do some proper exercise again! I’d done a couple of yoga classes in Kathmandu but nothing strenous like this uphill hike. We reached the top and cooled down by wandering around the large, white stupa. Here we met a couple of other travellers so after we’d done looking out at the beautiful view, we headed down the hill to a little boat station and got a boat back to the Lakeside.

Sweaty but finding peace at the World Peace Pagoda!

Lush views of Pokhara
Boat rides across the lake are a popular activity to do here in Pokhara

C and I hadn’t eaten brekkie yet and it was getting close to noon so we sussed out where this cafe that we spotted yesterday on the taxi ride in was and made a beeline for it. AM/PM Organic Cafe was a little slice of hipster heaven in central Nepal. They offered things like smoothie bowls, kombucha and cold brew coffee. A little more exxy than other restaurants in town but we reasoned that it was actually brekkie and lunch so thefore it actually worked out cheaper! I ordered an iced coffee and scrambled eggs and C got a smoothie bowl with her iced coffee. It was delicious and exactly what I’d been hoping for!

After our brunch we had about an hour to refresh before heading to Jiva Spa for our spa afternoon. I have to say, this is the first time I’ve done something like this. Usually if I’m spending money when travelling, its on good food or fun activities but something about this spa day was so exciting! However after my feet had spent two weeks in hiking boots, I felt bad for the lady who had to deal with them. The whole experience was about four hours long and by the time we got out I was feeling totally new. We topped off our afternoon with a peanut butter and banana smoothie and that shocking bus ride was a far, distant memory in my head. I was so zen right now!

That night we had dinner at the Pokhara OR2K restaurant, it had basically the same menu at Kathmandu, minus the espresso martinis! It was a great end to a good day though! We headed to bed early as our massages had put us in too much of a relaxed mood to do anything else!

Tonight’s dinner was served with a slice of gorgeous sunset

The following morning we had another early start as we had booked to go zip-lining. The weather was brilliant and I could even see a tip of one of the Annapurna mountains from our room! The drive to the top of the zip line was a little hairy. It was a one-lane road and i think  our driver thought he was in the Formula 1, not taking up bunch of tourists up a hill! We made it there safely though and had a beautiful clear view of the Annapurna range.

Sneaky snowy peak hiding behind the clouds!

As per usual, things were moving in Nepali time (aka – slowly) so it was a good half hour before the first person went down the zip line. C and I were last to go and had to wait another hour for our 90 seconds of adrenaline rush! by the time it was our go I was so hungry for breakfast that I wasnt even excited about the zip line anymore! It was fun, don’t get me wrong but it was over so quickly! Everyone was ready to go by the time we were unharnessed so we had two seconds to catch our breath before jumping back in the van to head back to the lakeside.

The beautiful Annapurna Ranges – I’ll be back to hike you!
Compulsory dorky GoPro selfie!

That meant breakfast though! C was still buzzing from the zip line and decided to spontaneously book a paragliding flight because of the beautiful clear skies. I wanted to save my money for later (plus I’ve already paraglided in Oludeniz, Turkey – the best in the world! 😛 )so we split up for a couple of hours. C ran off a cliff with a parachute and I grabbed a coffee and my iPad to do some writing before going to the weirdest yoga class I’ve ever been to! I was the only person in the class and this guy was kook-city. A sweetheart but not on a whole other planet! I met up with C afterwards and got reorganised to have dinner at Pokhara Thakali Restaurant, which apparently serves the best Thakali cuisine in Pokhara!

The Thakali are an ethnolinguistic group originated from the Thak Khola region of the Mustang District in the Dhaulagiri zone of Nepal. There’s only about 30,000 Thakali in Nepal however most of them are successful businessmen, dominating the hotel game. They have a certain cuisine which is a combination of different curries served with rice, pappadums and condiments such as pickles and chutneys. The best part is the usually have free refills! We were having dinner early so were the only ones in the restaurant. The staff didn’t speak the best English so we ordered what we thought was the traditional Thakali meal and hoped for the best! While it lacked in presentation, it made up for it in flavour! The tiny bowls of curry were delicious and the sweet chutney was good enough to bottle and take home! After dinner we headed a couple of doors down for a brownie and ice-cream at AM/PM Organic! 

Tasted SO much better than it looked, trust me!

The following morning we were up at 6am to catch the bus to Lumbini. Unfortunately the man who sold us the ticket was a bit dodgy and the bus he promised never showed. We were put on a bus that was going to India, that would drop us in Lumbini but after waiting an extra 45 minutes, we bailed and decided to head back to Kathmandu. C was due to fly out the next day and we weren’t sure how long it would take us to get back to Kathmandu this time!

J. X

Exploring Old Kathmandu

Back into the craziness Kathmandu and it wasnt long before I was wishing I was still high in the mountains where it was a bit cooler and quieter! Kathmandu is a dusty, hot jumble of people, motorbikes and stray dogs. After being in a car-free environment for almost two weeks, it was a bit of shock to be launched back into the busy streets of Thamel. However the access to a hot shower, comfy beds and decent food was happily welcomed! 

Enjoying a rooftop sunset at the Traditional Comfort

There was a few people in the group that were sticking around Kathmandu for a couple of days after we returned so we took delight in celebrating with very Western food and lots of it! After a relaxing day in our swanky final hotel of the trip (Traditional Comfort, if you ever want to lash out in Kathmandu, this place it where to go!) a group of us headed into Old Kathmandu for a wander. Opting against getting a guide, we made our own way into the old city centre, venturing towards Durbar Square, albeit very slowly!

Old Kathmandu and Durbar Square is a busy quarter of the city, were family dwellings of all shapes and sizes (and homemade-extension types) knock out the sunlight, shop fronts spill out onto the street and street stalls selling everything from vegetables to motorbike parts clog the walkway. The old city is constructed on a fundamental building called bahal – which is a set of buildings joined at right angles around a central courtyard. This building style honeycombs the entire city, joining almost everyone together. Many of these bahal’s were originally Buddhist monasteries but have now been reverted for residential use. The streets were lined with a tangle of black power lines, some hanging so low you had to duck. Being an electrician in this country would be a nightmare! The effect of the 2015 earthquake was still very present here, buildings were crumbling at the edges and constructions sites were everywhere – most looked like they’d been classed as ‘too hard’ and just left to sit and disintegrate. 

Chaotic streets of Old Kathmandu

These guys actually sleep in their rickshaws – always waiting for the next ride
Remnants of the 2015 earthquake are sadly still present everywhere

We spent a good majority of our time wandering up  and down dusty streets, getting lost amongst the bahal and dodging rickshaws. As the only Westerners around, we were in the spotlight and locals stared at us from windows, shop fronts and even on passing motorbikes. The streets were tiny lanes, jam packed full of different shops and people. It was an ‘every man for themself’ situation. With locals pushing and shoving to get on their way, we had to do the same. Being tall and blonde had it perks, as locals stopped to stare they created an opening for me to duck through and be on my way. 

Wandering for a couple of hours we finally came across Durbar Square. Hunger took over our need to explore and we found a rooftop cafe in the corner of Durbar Square to munch down some veggie burgers before exploring on. To enter Durbar Square and the surrounds it cost 1000 rupees (about AUD$13) which was quite expensive to see the centre of the old town. This money was supposed to go to earthquake reconstruction funds, however the lack of reconstructing going on, it was hard to believe that was the case. Nonetheless, we paid for our ticket and headed in.

Durbar Square
Anyone need a dentist?


Without a guide we wandered around trying to give ourselves a self guided tour from a Lonely Planet book. As it was the middle of the day, it was hot and not ideal to be playing tourist in so we headed to the shady street (in more ways than one) known more commonly as Freak Street. This street was infamous in the 60’s and 70’s where it was a highlight on the backpacker hippie trail. The draw card to this particular street was the government-run hashish shops. Hippies from all over the world flocked to Freak Street for easily accessible cannabis and hash and it became a hippie nirvana until the early 1970s when the government decided to clean up of the area. Nowadays the hash and cannabis has been replaced by trekking and cultural tourism and hippies have been replaced by hikers and more spiritually inclined. As we wandered down the street, there was little renmant of this so-called hippie nirvana, bar one or two cannabis stores. It was fascinating to think that this part of the city, who now goes to bed early, was once a major pot-fest. We passed one or two dreadlocked, wrinkly old Westerners sat on shop front stairs covered in tie-dye and a glazed look out their eyes but mostly it was Chinese tourists taking photos. I’m sure those guys had a few wild stories to tell – if they could remember it!

Freak Street – a far cry from its marijuana-smoking hey day

With the heat getting to us a little, we found refuge in a rooftop cafe and ordered iced coffees to perk us up. Below us, the bustle of the old city never stopped. Between locals trying to sell their goods, to bus loads of tourists being suckered into buying them – it was in a constant state of motion. You could sit and watch all day and never get bored. We were waiting until 4:15pm when nearby a living goddess would be showing her face from her balcony. A tourist ploy, perhaps? But we were going to wait and find out.

In Nepal there is a tradition of worshipping pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy in Hindu religious traditions. The Kumari – as she is called – is a young girl selected from the Newari community in Nepal. While we were first told there is only one living goddess Kumari, it turns out there’s actually a few around the country. However we were seeing the Royal Kumari who apparently was the most important. As the Kumari has to be a pre-pubescent girl, she changes quite regularly due to the girls growing up. There has been 14 Royal Kumaris since the 1920’s, each who have passed the vigourious selection process.

Potential Kumaris must be in excellent health, have never shed blood, been affiliating with any diseases, possess certain physical qualities such as a body like a bayan tree and eyelashes like a cow. She must have very black hair and eyes, dainty hands and feet and show signs of fearlessness and serenity. If she passes all that, then the candidate must go through tests, such as showing no fear in a candlelit room full of heads of animals sacrificed in her honour and spend a night alone with them. If the candidate gets through this far, she then has to correctly pick out the belongings of the previous Kumari. If she is unsuccessful, the whole process is done again until the new Kumari is found. Can I just add that the candidates could be as young as 3 years old..

It all seemed a little airy fairy for me but I went along for the spectacle simply to say I’ve witnessed a living goddess. We were in good company too as the small courtyard from which the Kumari’s balcony is situated was jam-packed full of people. The power of the Kumari is perceived to be so strong that even just a glimpse of her is believed to bring good fortune. I was hoping they were right because I could really do with a good fortune right about now, but I have a feeling she wouldn’t be throwing money out her balcony window. We weren’t allowed to take photos of the Kumari so I won’t even have proof of the time I saw a living goddess.

The top middle window is where the Kumari made her brief appearance

4pm rolled around and myself and about one hundred other people squashed into the tiny courtyard waiting for the divine Kumari to appear. Being on time clearly wasnt a prerequisite for being a living goddess as it was another few minutes before she showed her face. Finally a young girl appeared in a red and gold dress, her face pale with make-up and eyes heavily painted with eyeliner. She stared at us for moments, directly staring us three Aussie girls mainly – a trio of Caucasians in a room full of Chinese – before disappearing back into the darkness. It was a fleeting visit and the only thing I could think of was how sad she looked, staring out at a room full of tourists. I didn’t blame her though, she would do the same thing everyday. Same room, different people. Even a living goddess can’t escape the mundane parts of a job.

We left the Old Town, feeling not quite like we’d been blessed with good fortune but time will tell. We headed back into Thamel where we split up to refresh ourselves before meeting again for dinner at possibly the best, albeit most touristy restaurant in town, OR2K.

OR2K is an Israeli-run vegetarian restaurant, which serves up delicious food and more importantly, vegetables! I have been craving fresh veggies since the trek were white potato and cabbage were the best I could come up with. We gorged ourselves on falafel platters and hummus, before topping it all off with a hot chocolate soufflé pudding which actually may have been the best thing I’ve ever eaten! Oh and espresso martinis! Yes they had delicious espresso martinis for less than AUD$4! I was in love with this place! Definitely coming back here. I hadn’t eaten that much food in one sitting since Christmas and felt like I had to be rolled out of the joint, we definitely outdid ourselves on the food front but it was absolutely delicious.

Hummus, falafel, naan bread. HEAVEN!

Tomorrow C, B and myself are heading out of the city to explore Kathmandu valley. But now its time for a hummus-induced food coma to commence!

J. X

EBC Trek – Namche to Tengboche

After a pleasant “rest day” yesterday it was time to get back into hiking higher towards Base Camp. This morning brought another magical view from my windows. The mornings were so crisp and clear that all the mountain peaks surrounding Namche were in full view. Whilst my sleep routine was so out of whack, I was thankful that I was waking up early to witness this amazig sight. Usually by mid-morning the clouds settle in and cover up most of the mountains. 

Today’s destination was Tengboche, a small village of the top of a huge mountain at 3875m. In the village there is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery which is the major money maker for the small village. In 1989 this monastery was destroyed by a fire so thanks to financial aid for volunteers all around the world, the monastery was rebuilt and a ‘Master Plan’ was made. this included building a water supply system for clean drinking water, an Eco-tourism centre to promote more sustainstable tourism, improving school and education systems for the local people, establishment of sacred land for high altitude medicinal herb plantation, a hydropower station for assured electricity in the village and better facilities for the porters. Without the help of this financial aid, the Tengboche Monastary might not be here today.

Our hike began the same way as yesterday and feeling slightly more energetic from the influx of red blood cells I bounced up the steep track. The path flattened out after half hour and it was a beautiful stroll along the edge of the mountain. We were walking towards the same view as yesterday but as usual Everest was hidden by cloud and Lhotse was claiming all the glory! . I was starting to think that Mt Everest was just a very clever marketing ploy by Nepal Tourism – or its the world’s best mountain at hiding! It was still surreal to think that I was walking along the Everest Base Camp trail in Nepal. Just a week or two ago I was working in a office, now I was here! 


The path was built into the side of the mountain and with no guard rail to keep us in, one wrong step could mean a very long fall into the valley below us. Our group had formed its own little mini-groups, measured by walking pace. Three guys zooming ahead at the front, our group of six with us three Aussie girls, two Scots and one of the Germans. Behind us were the trailing Germans and the Americans taking it nice and easy. We mostly walked in silence enjoying the scenery, leaving conversation for break times where we spent most of the time discussing the scenery! One may say we were a little one-track minded! 

We walked along the path for an hour or so before we started to descend into the valley. It appeared we had to walk down to the river to cross it before making our way back up again to reach Tengboche. Undoing all our hard work from yesterday we dodged donkeys and yaks as we stepped our way down to the river. I could feel the pressure in my knees already from walking down steps. If they could last the whole trip, it would be a miracle! 

Stopping for a lunch break (at 10:30am) we sat in the sun at a little cafe by the flowing river and waited for the last of the group to arrive. This little break turned into a massive two hour one and by the time our guide Krishna told us to ‘Jam jam’ (Let’s go) we were all drowsy from the sun and not in the mood to hike up to Tengboche. Nonetheless we put our backpacks back on and walked across the suspension bridge that would start our hike uphill.


This hike uphill wasn’t fun to say the least. The constant steps, thinning air and moody weather made the hike uncomfortable and it was slightly frustrating that we were higher only just a bit higher than we were yesterday. If only we didnt have to go down to the river to cross it! As the heavy clouds set in for the afternoon, there wasn’t even the stunning mountainous views to look out to. Pink wildflowers dotted the path but apart from that we were still in quite a forestry, green area. The temperature dropped dramatically with the clouds and it was getting chilly, especially in our sweaty clothes. Thankfully there was the six of us hiking together so we all were in the same boat, happy to stop regularly and dream about a warm cup of tea and clean socks!

The porters carrying loads of up to 140kg were always a remember not to complain about your own backpack

Finally we reached Tengboche and as per usual, the last two hours were erased from my memory. It seems I was suffered from short term memory loss when it came it hiking. Once I reached the destination and become enthralled in it, the pain of hiking uphill disappeared. I wont lie, its quite a good problem to have!         

We walked into our lodge, thankful to be out of the cold and starving hungry. Thankfully the lodge knew we were coming and were quick to get food and drink out to us. After lunch we had a little rest before visiting the monastery to watch the monks perform one of their sermons. Our guide Dawa warned us it would be long and loud and to feel free to leave at any time but I was intrigued to see what goes on behind monastery walls, it seems like such a sacred and secretive place.

The monastery had a strong Chinese influence to its architecture. We walked through the huge ornate gate, elaborately designed with gold painted ornaments and walked up the stairs to the entrance. We had to wait for the monks to enter before we could go in and the whole thing felt a like cult like. As we walked in I was gobsmacked by the interior of the room. For a building that sort of looks like a large dormitory on the outside, it was so beautifully decorated on the inside. The Chinese influence (I guess its Chinese? Could be Buddhist?) flowed through the room, with more ornate carvings on the walls and roof.  Incense burned and candles were lit, creating a very zen-like atmosphere. There were four rows of long raised wooden boxes that the monks sat cross-legged on top of. Long, gold instruments sat at the two front corners of the room and several monks sat behind them, ready to play when told to. At the front of the room sat a statue of very large gold Buddha, the siza of the whole wall! I felt sorry for the poor sucker who had to lug this massive statue up the mountain, it was bigger than an elephant! His huge presence loomed over us and we sat on the hard wooden floor, pretending to not be there. I wish I could have taken a photo but were were forbidden to bring cameras inside.

Dogs of Tengboche
A monk waiting to begin his afternoon ritual

We sat waiting to see how the sermon unfolded but didn’t have to wait long as the monks opened their scripts and began to chant. There was a lead monk who ran the chants and the others followed. His voice was raspy and at times he seemed to just be making noise, but the others followed suit so I can only imagine it was part of the mantra. They added the musical instruments to their chants and the large horns scared the crap out of us sitting close to them, as the monks blew them without warning. I stifled a laugh, our dirty, tired, smelly group couldn’t be more out of place in this sacred building.

The chanting went on and on. They stopped at times and then began up with a different chant or a new blow of the horn. It was mesmerising to watch in a way that you could almost fall into a trance,  but after an hour the hard wooden floor was making my backside numb and some of us in the group were giving each other side eyes to see who would get up and leave first. 

Thankfully the Germans left first, making way for the rest of us to slowly file out and head back to the lodge. It was almost dark by this time and dinner wasn’t far away. They had lit the fire in the dining room of the lodge so it was toasty warm for our return. After dinner we had another UNO competition go down. I have to say, not having access to technology has been pretty great. I feel like we’re closer as a group because we haven’t spent all our times in front of our mobiles. It was another early bedtime as we were knackered from today’s efforts and knew tomorrow was going to be another big one.

J. X

Back in Lima (and getting sentimental)

Even though staying so long in Chile wasn’t originally on the cards, I was so glad I got to see some of this amazing country. That’s one of the best things about travelling; your plans can change in an instant! I made it to Santiago Airport after a disaster of a morning when nothing went my way. It was funny because as I sat in the airport complaining to my Mum over Whatsapp about my crazy morning where the taxi was an hour late and my bag broke, I just had to laugh because I once I gave myself a reality check and realized I’d been travelling South America for three months I had no need to complain about such petty issues.

The flight to Lima was quick and before I knew it I was back in familiar territory. I was heading back to Dragonfly Hostel where I had volunteered two months early and the sense of home that I felt as the taxi sped past the pebbled beaches made me forgot all about my horror of a morning. Arriving back to Dragonfly I was welcomed not only by my friends but a banner with my face on it advertising the hostel! It was hilarious! I caught up with my friends and filled them in on my travels over a couple of beers before conking out for the night.

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What a welcome back! Pretty much A list celebrity now!

In all honesty, the next few days were laidback and relaxed. As I had done a lot of sightseeing in Lima the last time I was here, I had no reason to rush around playing tourist. I met new friends, ate some of the best ceviche, went to some cool nightclubs and generally just had a fantastic time. We went into central Lima and I actually played tour guide, it was crazy to think I knew my way well enough around this massive city! We also went to a festival one night, which had some of Peru’s best music and got sunburnt by the harsh sun at the beach.

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Chowing down on ceviche at Mercado Uno – so delicious!
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Ceviche = love
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Selvamonos Festival – crazy night!

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Coming back to Lima was just what I needed after leaving my previous group of friends. I had no time to be sad because I left one travel family and stepped right back into another. It made me realize that my previous fear of solo travel was unnecessary and that you will never be alone for long. I wasted a lot of time waiting for friends back to decide to travel with me because I was too scared to travel by myself, when really new friends were just waiting to be made. I was also a little proud of myself, for not listening to those back home that said that travelling alone through South America was dangerous and stupid. I hadn’t felt in danger once during my travels (minus the time I was 1 kilometre deep in a silver mine – but that was self inflicted!) and wanted to show everyone back home how easy it is to travel solo. It may have only been three months since I left Australian soil but I feel like I have learnt and grown up so much. Travelling alone (and with friends for that matter) teaches you things that no school or university can. While I’m not out there doing my Masters or making millions, I’m learning important life lessons that you can only get from travel… Plus it’s way more fun! I know I’m not quite setting up my life like my friends are but I wouldn’t change the experiences I’ve had for a second – no job or house deposit can replace what I’ve done! It might be the extra strong coffee I had this morning talking, but I can happily say that the path that I’ve chosen to take in my early 20’s might not be the conventional way, but it’s the way made for me. But that’s enough cheesiness for now…

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Some of the gorgeous people I met while at Dragonfly! 

After several fun-filled days I sadly had to leave Lima and continue my travels, however I wasn’t alone. My next plan was to do some hiking in the mountains of Huaraz and had made friends with a French girl who wanted to do the same so we caught the night bus to Huaraz ready to shock our bodies by heading back into the high altitude and cold weather.

Stay tuned to see how we went after five days hiking!

J. x

GoPro – Not Just An Action Camera.

Ahh GoPro, the once unknown brand that has become a household name. What was once specialised camera for action sport lovers, has transformed into an everyday camera. Every man and his dog know owns one. In fact, GoPro just released a harness that you can put on your dog to capture life from their perspective. It pretty much lives up to its brand slogan as ‘the world’s most versatile camera‘.

I’ve previously written about GoPro and my initial struggles with using it, however fast forward to this very moment and I’d like to think of myself as a rather suave GoPro user. I’d also go as far as saying in one particular aspect, I’m a pro. And that my friends, is known as the GoPro selfie.

The GoPro selfie.
The GoPro selfie.

I can see my old housemates, hardcore windsurfers and snowboarders, shaking their heads at this. I remember hiding my recently purchased GoPro from them when I first bought it early last year, when GoPro was just beginning its road to success. They both had GoPro cameras and used them for their proper function, to record themselves doing adventure sports. And here was me, ready to jet off to Europe, with my new GoPro camera that I had no idea how to use.

My not-so-humble beginnings of GoPro selfies at Groovin the Moo festival 2013
My not-so-humble beginnings of GoPro selfies at Groovin the Moo festival 2013

Over the past year I’ve slowly taught myself how to get good shots, how to edit, etc. etc. I’ve invested in extras for my camera, such as the LCD, the tripod mount and my favourite, the selfie stick.

What I believe is the cause of my already high level of vanity, has transformed this sometime selfie taker, to an absolute selfie monster. When travelling, I’m hardly without my trusty GoPro and pink selfie stick. When travelling with B, we turn into selfie addicts. And you know what, I’m not even ashamed to admit it..

“Hi, I’m Jess and I’m a GoPro selfie addict”

The selfie before the selfie.
The selfie before the selfie.

However, I’m a little bit biased. This may just be because my iPhone is absolutely prehistoric and about to die, but I don’t like any other kind of selfie. I shake my head at people trying to fit the entire view, plus their head in the shot. I feel somewhat superior whipping out my GoPro and capturing the entire view, plus a good chunk of myself without a worry. Does this mean I’m a selfie snob?

Whatever it means. I’m still going to continue being an avid GoPro selfie taker. Even if they’re as dorky as this one..

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J. x

 

p.s – I swear this wasn’t just a post to share some more photos of myself. I’m not that vain.