lean forward and keep paddling!

Posted: October 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , | No Comments »

I can’t remember the last time I was so angry, the damned boat wouldn’t do what I told it to. I paddled on my left side, which by all laws of logic, physics, and decency should have made the kayak go right, but somehow consistently pushed me further to the left after about a half dozen successful strokes in left right sequence.

That about sums up my experience kayaking for the first two days of a four day learn to kayak clinic I signed up for in pokkara. Day one was on the lake in town and left me sore, tired, and in bed by 8pm. Day two was on the river, which was a nominal improvement as at least there there was a current taking me in the general direction we were heading, however I hadn’t really considered how much of river kayaking is fighting the current, either because the kayak instructors told us to or because I overshot where we were supposed to stop and I had to make my way to the group. Not only did I spend more time than necessary paddling in circles, the tame class 1 rapids managed to capsize me on more than one occassion, a frightening thought when I knew we had class 2 and 3 rapids waiting for us on days three and four.

Imagine my surprise when on day three the kayak started listening to me, it actually generally went in the direction I intended. Even better, I somehow managed to successfully perform a roll with my kayak during the early morning practice and was able to make it through the class 2 and 2+ rapids of the day without capsizing. I even smiled a little! Ok, maybe I went as far as shouting while paddling through the rapids, or screaming, anything as long as I didn’t go under.

Day four I was convinced that day three was a fluke, I couldn’t seem to manage a roll anymore, I was sore all over, and we had the biggest rapids of the trip to look forward to. It is only through sheer dumb luck, and the coaching of my instructor Sam (who went through the biggest rapid _backwards_ and managed to keep himself positioned through raging water right next to me, shouting instructions to me) that I was able to stay upright despite ending up riding several 2 meter tall standing waves backwards.

I’ve heard that when learning snowboarding the first two days are just hell, but then it all starts to make sense and becomes fun. I think the same applies for whitewater kayaking. Lean forward and keep paddling the head instructor continually hammered into us, I must have listened because right now my ab muscles are sore as hell. It was a blast, and if you are ever given the opportunity to try it I very much recommend it, just push through till the third day, it’s totally worth it.

The traveling social

Posted: October 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , , | No Comments »

*insert standard apology for seriously bad blogging habits*

No seriously, I have a half written post trying to summarize/review my trip to Egypt, but for now I’m going to leave that aside and just write about what’s going on now. I guess that’s the thing about blogging, it works when it’s current, and otherwise it’s a huge chore.

Anywho, it’s been a busy few weeks for me, after nearly a month with the same group of people traveling through Jordan and Egypt, then a week of decompression solitude in Abu Dhabi, I arrived in Kathmandu Nepal and immediately checked into a hostel again.

In Kathmandu nearly all the tourist accommodation, or at least a huge preponderance of it, is in an area called Thamel. To a lesser extent there’s an area called Freak Street which was the tourist ghetto back in the day when the beatles were just discovering drugs. The hostel I picked though, it’s way out of both these areas in a place called Swayambhunath, about a 45 minute walk to the Thamel. The distinguishing feature of this area is a temple, colloquially called “the monkey temple”, and they’re not kidding.

My first morning was a cacophony of sound, a buddist temple next door greets the dawn with a huge drum and monotone horns, the monkey’s come down from the temple and add their chittering to the mix, and of course being monkey’s they can’t help but tease the legion (and I mean LEGION) of stray dogs in the area, setting them to barking and howling like nothing else. This is all to say that I didn’t really get many good nights sleep when staying at the Sparkling Turtle, although by the last couple days I got used to it enough that my earplugs did the job and I only woke up briefly each morning.



The distance from thamel is both annoying but also awesome, it brought everyone back to the hostel before dark every night (and it gets dark, especially when the sun goes down during one of the frequent power outages) and created lots of opportunity to socialize. I had the following exchange with approximately 30 people: “Hi, where are you from? How long are you traveling for? Where are you going from here? Where have you been?” All questions that will be familiar for anyone who has spent time in a hostel.

There’s something about the crucible of travel that forms strong, fast bonds between people, making friends and foes in the space of one night. Thankfully I’m pretty sure I’ve avoided foes, and I’ve definitely gained in the friend department. There’s Eddie, a super awesome ozzie who just spent a year in Tanzania teaching kids math and helping drill village wells (he’s an engineer), Martin the uber-chill swede taking a semester off of his study of psychology, Dave with whom I think I became friends fastest, sitting next to each other on the 6 hour, 200km, very slow very bumpy ride from kathmandu to Pokkara who tried very hard to convince me (and might almost have) that I should just get into startups like he is, however he lives in SanFran so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised he sings the praises of the startup life. And those are just the guys I shared the bus ride with, I haven’t even mentioned Jens and Pedro over at baconbrother.dk!

That said, so much socializing, meeting people, talking, exchanging stories etc has really made it difficult (especially when combined with the time zone differential) to keep up the photo sorting, blogging, skype’ing, tweeting, not to mention the videos! I now have a ton of wicked video of me coming down class 2 and 3 rapids in a kayak that I don’t know what I’m going to do with since the internet in nepal is approximately 5k/sec no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Tomorrow I join up with a GAdventures trek through the annapurna circuit, which now that I’ve been here a couple weeks and talked to many people post treks I realize is probably going to be a super swank trek compared to how most people do it. Report (hopefully) to come 🙂