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Awards

14 Dec

We thought we would compile a list of awards for the trip, a “best of” and “worst of” of sorts. We came up with a number of different categories and nominations for each. We voted on the winner of each category to determine a winner (denoted by bold type). Most of the categories resulted in three different votes, so we argued and pleaded to narrow it down to one winner (except in two cases). Here goes…

 

THE MOST SURPRISING MOMENT AWARD

1)  Tahrir Square being peaceful and empty when we drove through it in a cab for the first time.

2)  Being split up at the very start of our trip when Typhoon Bolaven “forced” our flight to be cancelled.

3)  Having the exact same itinerary as Dan in Jordan and him offering to drive us through the country.

4)  Alan telling us he was flying to Australia.

5)  When Alan realized Dane and Eric would not be going to North Korea, and he was on his own.

comments:  It blind sided everyone, even Alan a little bit. Nothing else could top it.

 

THE CRAZIEST EXPERIENCE AWARD

1)  Being driven by a drunk taxi driver in India.

2)  Taking the local bus in Nepal with wooden floors that accelerated through the winding mountain turns that hugged cliff faces.

3)  Having to walk past a cobra in an alley in Varanasi.

4)  The overnight trains in India.

5)  Shark diving in Cape Town.

6)  Dealing with altitude sickness on our Everest Trek.

7)  Witnessing the training of young kids to perform at the Mass Games at the Children’s Museum in North Korea.

comments:  There were a number of crazy experiences on our trip, and any number of them could have been chosen as the craziest. We had to go with shark diving, though for the sheer amount of crazy we personally had to have in our own minds to actually go through with the experience, especially since we had seen a youtube video days before which showed a Great White breaching one of the cages.

 

FAVORITE PLACE AWARD

1)  Varkala, India

2)  Cape Town, South Africa

3)  Petra, Jordan

4)  Namche Bazaar, Nepal

5)  North Korea

6)  Mark’s Parent’s house

comments:  This one was unanimous. Cape Town is beautiful and there is lots to do there. We were meant to stay for four days and ended up staying for eight. We could have stayed longer.

 

FAVORITE SITE AWARD

1)  Mount Everest

2)  Taj Mahal

3)  Petra

4)  Pyramids

5)  Table Mountain

comments:  One of the ties. It’s hard to separate these two. Dane voted for Petra number one and Pyramids number two. Eric voted Pyramids number one and Petra number two. Alan wasn’t there, so he voted for the Taj Mahal number one. We had to overrule him.

 

MOST CONTROVERSIAL BLOG POST

1)  A Day in the Life of Alan

2)  India Wrap Up

3)  The post where Eric drank the finger water

comments:  Alan was in no part responsible for this blog, but it caused quite an uprising amongst friends and family because Dane and Eric failed to fully specify that it wasn’t written by Alan and it was a joke. Our bad.

 

THE “WEIRDED US OUT” AWARD

1)  When an Indian man looked into Eric’s eyes as the sun disappeared below the horizon on the beach and lovingly asked, “What are you thinking about?”

2)  Alan telling us he was flying to Australia.

3)  Ram getting jealous when we were interacting with another trekking group on our way up to Everest Base Camp.

comments:  As Eric said, only his girlfriend has ever asked him such a question. So, it was strange for a man who he didn’t know to approach him out of the blue and ask it. It definitely weirded us out. Still does.

 

THE “INCREDIBLE INDIA” AWARD

1)  Trash everywhere.

2)  The constant lies and the constant cheating.

3)  The drunk taxi driver who was allowed to keep driving after paying his fine.

4)  The overly crowded liquor store in Alleppey at 11 am on a Monday.

5)  The seemingly 496:1 ratio of men to women.

comments:  Unpopular opinion alert:  we didn’t absolutely and totally fall in love with India, which everyone else in the world seems to have, especially the other travelers we met along the way. We didn’t absolutely hate it, but we didn’t absolutely love it. That’s why we picked our “India Wrap Up” blog ended up on the most controversial award list. That said, the drunk taxi driver who was let off with a fine and handed his keys to continue driving has to be the most ridiculous thing we experienced in India.

 

THE BEST NIGHT OUT AWARD

1)  Dane’s birthday in Maun.

2)  Eric-Sean 2012.

3)  Long Street in Cape Town.

4)  The umbrella drinks only night in Kovalam.

5)  The braai and bar crawl in Kommetjie.

6)  Sunday night watching Home Alone and drinking beer in bed at our Cairo hostel.

comments:  Lots of food, lots of beer, lots of friends. A wonderful time that slightly edges out the other nights on the list (except #6, it blows #6 out of the water).

 

THE BEST IMPROMPTU JOURNEY (SITE) AWARD

1)  Australia

2)  India/Pakistan Border

3)  Dahab

4)  Mount Sinai

comments:  We were all there for this one, and it tuned out to be an absolutely amazing experience I would recommend to anyone. There were hype men!

 

THE MOST CHAOTIC PLACE AWARD

1)  Varanasi

comments:  No other place even comes close to making the list. It would be an insult to compare anything else to it. It’s the most chaotic place anyone of us has ever been times 100.

 

THE MOST STUNNING FIRST LOOK AWARD

1)  The Pyramids at Giza

2)  The Treasury at Petra

3)  The top of Mount Everest

4)  Varanasi

comments:  This was a split vote, but again anything on the list easily could have won the top award. The top of Everest is something neither of us will ever forget.

 

THE BEST IMPROMPTU CREW AWARD

1)  The backwater boat tour group

2)  The attendees of Eric-Sean 2012

3)  The A-Team on the first leg of the safari from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls

comments:  There were some great people we met along the way. The A-Team was an odd collection of people that really meshed together. They made the long drives between stops on the safari enjoyable, a hard task to do.

 

THE BEST ALAN REPLACEMENT AWARD

1)  Dan from Jordan

2)  Narelle aka the “oracle” from the safari

3)  Peter from India

4)  Rich from Bangkok

comments:  The chef from London takes this one. It was a heated race, but Peter pulled it out by a nose. He was wonderful company, and it helped that we met up with him days after Alan left.

 

THE BEST RANDOM GAME AWARD

1)  Throwing rocks at other rocks everywhere

2)  Playing catch with minnows in the Okavango Delta

3)  Converting a rugby ball into an American football for a game of catch on the beach

comments:  The reason this idiotic game wins is because we did this in every country we visited.

 

THE MOST DISAPPOINTING MOMENT AWARD

1)  Missing North Korea

2)  Alan leaving

3)  Alan returning

comments:  This one will haunt Dane and Eric. We really wanted a peak behind the curtain, especially after living in South Korea, but it wasn’t meant to be. All we have are Alan’s amazing photos and stories from his time there.

 

THE MOST ROMANTIC MOMENT OF THE TRIP AWARD

1)  Eric and Alan’s one year sleeping in the same bed anniversary

2)  Eric not going on any international vacations without Dane for the last two years

3)  Eric and Dane spending nearly every moment of three months together

4)  Alan flying to Adelaide to surprise his lady love.

comments:  No question.

 

THE WEIRDEST DAY AWARD

1)  The day Alan told us he was going to Australia

2)  Day one of the trip when Eric and Dane were still in Seoul.

3)  Day two of the trip when Eric and Dane were still in Seoul.

4)  Taking the coast road along the garden route and seeing the coast for a maximum of 10 minutes.

5)  Not knowing who the President of the United States was while we were camping in the Okavango Delta.

comments:  The day Alan told us he was leaving was still the weirdest. We went to the southernmost tip of India. It wasn’t worth it, and we were trying to piece together in our mind why Alan was leaving what we saw as a trip of a lifetime. It must be love.

 

THE MOST DIFFICULT DAY AWARD

1)  When altitude sickness hit Eric hard after the second rest day.

2)  The Trek down to Lukla from Namche Bazaar.

3)  23 hours of flight time, not including a four hour layover in Abu Dhabi, on the way back to America.

comments:  For the three of us, the trek down to Lukla was probably the most difficult. It was raining, we were tired, and the distance took us all day to cover. But what Eric went through with altitude sickness has to top it. And he continued hiking!

 

THE BEST OF NEPAL AWARD

1)  Base Camp

2)  Eating steaks in Kathmandu after returning from the Himalayas

3)  Having internet again after 10 days without it.

comments:  An easy choice. It’s where we literally were at the foot of the top of the world. It was the pinnacle of our trek and the reason we went to Nepal in the first place.

 

THE BEST OF INDIA AWARD

1)  The India/Pakistan border

2)  The Taj Mahal

3)  Varkala

4)  The Golden Temple at Amritsar

comments:  There is a reason everyone goes to see the Taj Mahal. It’s beautiful, and it dominates the surrounding sky. If you get the chance, go. You won’t be disappointed.

 

THE BEST OF JORDAN AWARD

1)  The road trip with Dan

2)  Wadi Rum

3)  Petra

4)  the Dead Sea

comments:  Jordan turned out to be a solid destination from top to bottom. We enjoyed everything we did there. But again, there’s a reason Petra is a wonder of the world. It must be visited by anyone who travels to Jordan.

 

THE BEST OF EGYPT

1)  Scuba diving in the Red Sea

2)  The Pyramids at Giza

3)  The Library at Alexandria

4)  Mount Sinai

comments:  Like the first two, there’s a reason people go out of their way to see the Pyramids, and none of them leave disappointed.

 

THE BEST OF SOUTH AFRICA

1)  Noel’s 75th

2)  Coffee Bay

3)  The drive down to the Cape of Good Hope

4)  Seeing old friends and their families and friends

5)  Kruger

comments:  It was nice connecting with people from Korea and Alan’s old friends and family. It’s always nice to know the locals. They give you the best advice about places to stop and visit and afford you the opportunity to do things most tourists miss out on.

 

THE THING WE’RE MOST LIKELY TO DO AGAIN AWARD

1)  Shark diving

2)  See the Pyramids at Giza

3)  Visit Cape Town

4)  Visit North Korea

5)  Go on safari

comments:  Alan, if he had not been in Australia, would have gone on his second safari already. As it is, we all stand at one. We hope, however, to run that number to at least two. Going on safari is terrific. Seeing wild animals is always fun.

 

MVP OF THE TRIP

1)  Dane

2)  Eric

3)  Alan

comments:  Alan disappeared for part of the trip. It’s as simple as that. He got a nice consolation prize, though, as he and his lady will be spending Christmas together in Ireland.

Farewell (For Now)

14 Dec

Our last day was spent in Johannesburg. Eric and Dane fly out today. Alan flies out tomorrow. So, our trip will end as it began, with the group split apart. This time, however, we’re ready for it. It will be nice to get back home. It will be nice to see old friends again and to be with our families for Christmas. We’re sad the trip is coming to an end. We’re sad to be leaving each other’s company for who knows how long. But it’s time.

Eric:  We’ve been traveling for 106 days. Me and Dane at least.

Dane:  Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

Alan:  It will be 109 for me by the time I leave tomorrow.

Eric:  Always trying to one up us.

Dane:  Part of that was spent in Adelaide, though, missing Petra and the Pyramids.

Alan:  I did get a pretty amazing girl.

Eric:  Wow!! What a suck up! You can write that, too. I must say, though, I am happy for Alan and Inyoung. And I’m happy he came back.

Alan:  So am I.

Dane:  So, Alan, what’s your favorite Eric story of the trip?

Eric:  There’s not many good ones.

Alan:  Favorite Eric story? When he drank the finger water.

Dane:  That’s 100% the right answer.

Eric:  Let’s not forget Alan abandoned us and should be the one we are making fun of.

Dane:  Go for it. Favorite Alan story?

Alan:  I didn’t put my foot in my mouth as much as you did.

Eric:  No one does.

Dane:  What about at Noel’s 75th?

Eric:  Oh yeah! When you were asked to say Grace at Noel’s birthday dinner, and you stumbled through it. You looked more nervous than when I talk to women.

Alan:  Now, we have to do Dane stories…

Eric:  Dane is so cool, calm and collected, he rarely does something you can make fun of him for. But, he lost his charm a bit, when he scared away Daisy from Botswana just because she had no shoes. She probably couldn’t afford them.

Dane:  I don’t respect the 47%.

Eric:  Which includes both Dane and myself.

Dane:  Not an ounce of respect.

Alan:  I would be a part of that, too, if I wasn’t Irish.

Dane:  So, it’s sort of the end of an era here. We have all been in Korea/traveling together for the past 2 years and 4 months. It’s been a helluva time.

Eric:  An amazing two year run. Because, yeah, our first trip was together, Hong Kong/Macau, and now, we’ve finished our last trip together.

Alan:  Hopefully not our last trip.

Dane:  When might that trip be?

Alan/Eric:  BRAZIL 2014!!!

Alan:  Or Vegas anytime.

Eric:  Alan’s bachelor party.

Dane:  I’m game. Any final tales of the trip to mention or closing remarks?

Eric:  I’d just like to say thanks to Dane and, even Alan, for everything, for the trouble we got into in Seoul to the drive through South Africa, I’ve enjoyed every second of it!

Alan:  The wolf pack shall be reunited in Brazil. We should tag James Finnie in that statement.

Eric:  Haha… We’re going to need someone to show us around.

Alan:  It really has been an amazing two and a half years. From the orientation class where I asked Dane how the hell does Eric drink like that and still have a smile on his face in class…

Eric:  That’s me, mom.

Alan:  …to being on the soccer team together briefly to the countless barbecues we had together on the weekend, it’s all been good.

Dane:  I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m going to miss you, boys. See you in Brazil or Vegas.

Alan:  Cheers to that.

Altitude Sickness is Real

21 Sep

After the minimal research we did about altitude sickness, we really only found out two things.  One, it is not something to mess around with, and two, it can affect anyone.  Even if we did loads of physical training, there is no way to simulate how your body will react to such high altitudes.  At base camp, there is half the oxygen in the air that is at sea level!  Well, as luck would have it, my body was nowhere near prepared for the lack of oxygen, and I actually got a pretty bad case of altitude sickness.

The first sign of it was in a village called Namche Bazarre, over 11,000 feet above sea level.  I woke up early on a clear day to try to get a view of Everest.  As I was climbing, I started getting the first of my many headaches.  At this elevation, it wasn’t too big of a deal and simply drinking a lot of water was all I needed to ease the pain.  I told our guide, Ram, about the headaches and he replied the same way he replied to just about everything,  “No problem!!” He claimed headaches were no big deal and everyone got them, “just make sure to drink a lot of water.”  For the next couple days I followed Dr. Ram’s orders and felt just fine.  I still had a few minor headaches, but nothing too serious.

On day 8 of our hike, we followed up a rest day by heading towards a village called Lobuche, over 16,000 feet above sea level.  In the morning, I felt no different than any other morning, but as we started hiking, that quickly changed.  The first sign of it was blurred vision.  I was just walking along and, boom, out of nowhere, the river started looking really blurry to me.  I thought it might just be an issue with my contacts, but it continued.  I felt quite tired and was grateful that about 20 minutes after the initial signs started, we stopped for tea.  I drank a ton of water but clearly wasn’t feeling great.  I hadn’t said more than three words on the hike, which Alan mentioned for a loud mouth like myself, meant something was clearly wrong.

I didn’t want to stop, so I tried to tough it out and hike the remaining two hours to get to our tea house.  Luckily, the night before we met another American guy who was on his way down.  He gave us a drug called Diamox which was supposed to help with altitude sickness.  Upon Ram’s advice, I took half a pill and was on my way.  I felt alright for about 15 minutes until things started to get bad.  At this point I was past any macho, pretending to be fine routines and everyone knew that I was pretty sick.  I trailed behind the group for much of the next two hours and frequently needed to rest.  Having altitude sickness was a weird thing for me because it was like nothing I had ever felt before.  It kind of felt like I was just drifting through the fields, like I was in a dream or something.  I also felt slightly drunk because I didn’t have a very vivid memory of what we had done that day.  Finally, I was incredibly tired and felt like my eyes would just close at any minute while walking along the path.  We finally got to the tea house and all I could mutter was, “I need a bed.”

Ram told me some sort of wives tale about the altitude being able to attack me if I feel asleep so I promised him I would stay awake.  Two hours later I woke up and said, “Whoops!”  The rest helped a bit, but when I went down for dinner that night, I was at my worst.  I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t stand Ram because he kept bugging me, saying, “You have to eat!”

I was able to get down half a piece of bread before I just said I’m going to bed.  Ram tried to give me some words of encouragement saying that in the morning I would be fine and would be able to move on.  After I went upstairs, I later found out there was a meeting about me that I wasn’t aware of.  Ram met with Dane and Alan and basically said there were only two options.  One, first thing in the morning I would have to start walking to a lower elevation, or two, in the morning, he would call a helicopter rescue!

Luckily, for both me and my wallet, I didn’t need the rescue, and once I started taking the Diamox more regularly, I felt a lot better.  I still had some pretty bad headaches and a loss of appetite, but I was able to finish my goal and get to Everest Base Camp!

The next day as we were walking along, Ram had the quote of the trip as he tried to make fun of me.  He told me that my engine was made in “China and not Japan!”  Coming from Detroit, that was far from the pick-me-up I was looking for, but it made me laugh for the first time since I began feeling symptoms of altitude sickness. I took that as a good sign.

Everest Base Camp Trek

19 Sep

The altitude is no joke. Breathing heavy, I would stare up the slope, gathering the energy to move one leg forward. Then, I would swing the other leg around, staggering forward like a baby learning to walk. And my body handled the altitude better than Alan and far better than Eric.

The weather was good for the start of our trek. We departed Kathmandu early in the morning on a propeller plane bound for Lukla Airport (2843 m / 9,327 ft). The flight was smooth and the landing, though it looked scary from the windows of the plane, was also smooth. We gathered our bags, handed them off to our two porters, and began hiking immediately. Our guide led us downhill for roughly two hours until we reached our place of rest for the night. It was our easiest day.

We ate lunch and had the rest of the afternoon to kill. This would be a constant for the entire uphill portion of our trip. Our guide would lead us on a 2-4 hour hike, and we would arrive for lunch at the tea house where we would be spending the night. We played a lot of card games to kill the time. Another thing that was readily apparent was that we were the only ones at the tea house. It was reminiscent of The Shining. In fact, we couldn’t recall seeing that many people on the trail. We had read that September was the start of the busy season, and we were hoping to meet people along the trail, but apparently September 15th is the actual start of the busy season. We began our trek about ten days before that magical start date, so we wouldn’t be seeing many people in the tea houses or on the trail.

The next day we arrived at Namche Bazaar (3,440 m / 11,286 ft), or the last outpost of somewhat modern civilization on our trek. I classify ‘modern’ on this trek as having access to non-solar panel-provided electricity and internet access. Namche also had many stores, bakeries, and bars. They also had a rather impressive open air market for being so high up in elevation. We spent two days there to acclimatize.

Our day of acclimatization turned out to be one of only two days we saw Everest. Eric woke up early to hike to a Japanese owned hotel, the highest five-star hotel in the world, to see Everest, but by the time he got there the clouds had already moved in to obscure the view, though the clouds did break enough for him to capture a few pictures. Alan and I slept in and followed our guide around town. A few hours after Eric saw Everest, we also saw it from a nice vantage point just outside of town. We were excited by the site of the mountain and couldn’t wait till we could see it up close from Kala Patthar (5,545 m / 18,192 ft). Unfortunately, that day would never come.

As we climbed higher, the towns got smaller. There was no internet, the electricity, when available, was provided by solar panels, which meant the lighting was very dim, and western toilets became very, very scarce. There were also fewer tea houses, which meant the few hikers on the mountain were pushed together. So, we did get to meet some people.

There were two large groups of British students who were trekking for charities, like a fun run but instead of amount of miles or kilometers covered, I think it was probably based on altitude. We also met two Canadians who spend their holidays trekking various mountains and mountain ranges. They were on the same ascent schedule as us, so we saw them at most of the stops up the mountain. We also met a climbing enthusiast from Seattle who gave us his extra Diamox, medicine for altitude sickness, which would prove to be very important.

About 16 hours after we received the Diamox from the climbing enthusiast from Seattle, Eric needed it. The altitude caught up with him. His vision started to blur, and he became incredibly tired. That night at dinner, he could barely eat. Our guide pulled me and Alan aside and told us if Eric didn’t improve, we would have call a helicopter take him to Kathmandu.

Luckily, in the morning, Eric felt slightly better and continued to improve throughout the day. (Eric will detail his experience with altitude sickness in a later post.) We pushed on higher to Gorak Shep (5,164 m / 16,942 ft) and then Everest Base Camp (5,364 m / 17,598 ft). Our guide was happily shocked Eric recovered and made it all the way up to Base Camp. He had never seen anyone so far gone recover to continue the trek.

Base Camp was great. We celebrated with high fives, Snickers, and Everest Beer (one split between the three of us). We walked along the glacier, took pictures, and basked in the accomplishment of our goal. The weather had been good in the morning we left for Base Camp, so we were fairly confident we would be in store for a good view of Everest from Kalla Patthar at sunrise tomorrow morning.

That thought ended quickly, however, when it began raining on our way back from Base Camp. It continued throughout the night and was snowing when I stepped outside to pee at 2 AM. When our alarm went off to wake us for the hike to Kalla Patthar, it was a nice rain/snow mix. We decided not to hike. Later that morning, we saw the two Canadians that we had seen in many tea houses along the way. They had made the hike through the rain and snow. One of them tried to make the best of it. He said there were a few breaks in the clouds and the views were amazing. The other one said it was shit. It was cold and it was shit. Normally, the truth lies somewhere in between two conflicting stories, but in this case, the second was is likely closer to the truth. One thing they did agree upon was that Everest was not visible.

We started our descent. Going down for me was harder than the ascent. We went down in only three days, so the hikes were longer. Going down also hurt my knees. And it was raining. It didn’t stop raining until we got to Lukla. Thankfully it stopped there. If the weather isn’t clear, there is no flying out of Lukla. When planes take off from there, they need to be able to see the mountain peaks that surround them, otherwise a crash would be imminent. By the time we reached Lukla, we wanted nothing more than to be off the mountain. We had been unlucky with the weather, and we were exhausted from the last three days.

The trek wasn’t perfect, but we did, all three of us, accomplish our goal of reaching Everest Base Camp, a place with only half the amount of oxygen in the air as at sea level, a place more than three miles in the air, a place so high almost all of you reading this have only exceeded its height in an airplane. Weather may not have been on our side, but we stood at the foot of the top of the world. That will forever be with us.

Everest Tomorrow

5 Sep

We’re excited. Six hours from now we’ll be on a plane to Lukla to begin our trek to Everest Base Camp.

This, however, means the end of any updates to this blog for roughly 15 days. Kathmandu has slow internet. It’s so slow, in fact, it took Alan several hours to upload his post on North Korea. I can’t imagine we’ll find better internet at any of the stops along the way up the mountain.

Nepal so far has proved to be fun. We went canyoning the other day and spent today exploring the temples of Kathmandu. We also rode on the bus of a madman for three hours, where the possibility of driving off a cliff or hitting another bus on the roadway were near possibilities every minute.

Those stories and the rest of Alan’s North Korea trip, however, will have to wait till after Everest. Hopefully the internet in India is better than here because we have plenty of stories and pictures to post and should have plenty more after the next 15 days.

We’re off to see the top of the world!

Image

Canyoning

4 Sep

Canyoning

Our trek to Everest Base Camp begins on Thursday. In the meantime, we’ve been repelling down waterfalls.