5:45 am we’re to meet the guy from the bungee-company in the lobby and I almost miss it again, since I forgot to adjust the clock yesterday… We walk over and hang around with all the other nervous people by the bungee office.

We are stuffed into a bus and are on our way. It’s a rather long ride but we befriend two aussie guys, Mal and Gary, who are just come back from a trek to the Everest base camp. They have a lot of stories about altitude sickness and extreme fatigue, apparently the entire trek takes about nine days – seven on the way up and only two down. You live at simple hostels all the way up, so there’s no need for tents, but you freeze a good bit anyway they assured us. Mal had promised himself that if they made it all the way up there he would go for the bungee as well, Gary wasn’t as keen on the idea though but tagged along for company.

Mal was working as a mechanic and when he heard we were swedes ha had a thing or two to tell us about the quality of SAABs… Not very good, if we are to sum it up, but certainly not as bad as TATAs, which were all hand welded and where you could often see where the welder had blown a hole through the metal and just welded a sheet to cover the hole.

Monica isn’t feeling well and has to stop the bus to throw up, turns out later that several others back at the hotel also were sick, so I guess it was something they ate. Ricard and I are unaffected though. After a while we come up on the gorge where the jumping is to take place. There is a long suspension bridge crossing it and we have to wait for the people already out on the bridge to finish jumping. Tension is building, and when we finally cross the bridge it’s on shaky legs. The bridge is 160 m over the riverbed below so you can bet I held on to the railing for dear life!

On the other side there is a really relaxed briefing hall with low tables and cushions all around. The briefing is short and to the point, and when one of the girls ask if they will push you if you’re too scared to walk off the ledge by yourself the answer is a cool “this is bungy jumping, not bungy pushing”. Then it’s time for weigh-in, and you get your weight written on the back of your hand. It all feels really professional so I’m not really worried about the safety aspects.

We’re up right away and once again trot out on the suspension bridge – just as scary as last time around! We’re a sizable group of about 25 people and we line up in ascending order according to weight, it’s theorized that the light ones go first while the cord isn’t fully warmed up but it’s mostly idle speculation. Anyway, this means since Ricard and I are among the heaviest we get to wait to almost last, and at 3-4 minutes a person this works out to a pretty long wait…

All that waiting means that the scariness is starting to wear off and suddenly the 160 m doesn’t seem all that scary anymore. Also helping is seeing many of the others not following the instructions we got at all and still being okay. Since both Ricard and Mal are going bungy they end up going before me, but right after it’s my turn, I actually miss Ricards jump as I get the harness on. By now all the courage I had developed standing around watching the others is but a fleeting memory and my pulse is racing. I manage to say a few words to the camera before walking up to where the ledge is. There I have a few moments to contemplate my mortality before they start attaching the snaplinks.

Edging out on the ledge where there is suddenly nothing to hold on to except the actual cord I’ll be swinging by it all becomes very real. The cord slips over the ledge with a gut wrenching tug, now it’s just me and the abyss (and the guy holding on to me I guess, but that wasn’t very comforting). As instructed earlier he started counting: “1, 2, 3, GO!”, it was all very calm, but also very authoritative. It felt only natural to step out into the void at that point.

WOOOOOOSH! It’s surprisingly lout I remember thinking, also there’s the feeling of “nogroudnogroundnoground” (as can be witnessed by my frantically pumping legs in the video). According to the homepage it’s a six second free fall, but knowing some basic physics that number seems off , since by five seconds you’ve fallen just over 120 m while they at the same time claim that there’s a 100 m free fall. Ah well, as the gentle tug of the cord says that it’s time for the swing portion I try to collect my body parts and assume the pose I had figured out while waiting around up on the bridge.

After a while the swinging stops and a guy on a platform to the side raises a rope over the river that I can grab on to and start pulling myself in. Back on the ground I go over to Ricard for a bear hug and to wait for Monica to jump. Her jump goes as planned and we come together for an adrenaline-fueled group hug before beginning the ascent from the gorge. This is probably the most dangerous part of the entire experience! You climb up the side of the gorge on precariously placed rocks with no railing to hold on to. It’s positively exhausting, so the delicious lunch waiting up top is certainly a welcome one!

Being still all riled up Ricard and I talk ourselves into a second jump (this had been advertised as an option before). But when we talk to them they give the same answer as the day before about the bungy – it’s full. Doing the exact same thing again isn’t as appealing though so we call it off. Meanwhile they’ve set up the videos of the jumps so that we can watch them before deciding if we want to buy them. Naturally we do buy them even though they’re ridiculously priced, about 200 sek, a third of the price for the entire thing. We also get a pretty cool t-shirt as a memory of it all.

Ride home is uneventful but late, and we manage to miss the walkthrough by the trekking company. Doesn’t seem to matter much though, according to the others he was mainly a pompous ass with not much useful to say.

Flying on top of the World

Today we go for a flight around Mount Everest! So as usual we’re up sinfully early (5:50 am) to go to the airport. I almost miss it because of the infernal 15 minute time zone adjustment Nepal has (srsly 15 minutes!?) but get down just in time.

The flight is rather short, 45 minutes all in all, and we’re not exactly flying around Mount Everest. Instead we fly just enough so that we can see it before turning back. The scenery is spectacular though since you can see much of the Himalayas as well as many of the 8000+ m peaks and I don’t regret spending 1000 sek on it. Back at the hotel we get a quick breakfast before going off on another guided tour. First stop is the monkey temple, probably the most famous sight in Kathmandu with the Buddha eyes gazing out over the world.

The temple is a rather nice place to just walk around but there aren’t that many monkeys around. Dogs are strewn about, but you can see a clear difference from India in that they’re not mangy, rather they look well. The upper courtyard where we enter is chock full of those colorful Buddhist prayer flags and you really wonder how some of them got up there! We move on up to the top where the actual temples are alongside the usual craft stores. The half an hour free time we get goes by quickly and we move on to Patan.

Patan is an older part of Kathmandu with even more temples, of which the coolest is dedicated to Kali (whom you all know from that Indiana Jones movie). Turns out she really is a bloodthirsty sucker as our guide points to rope-like things hanging over the entrance and tells us that they’re actually Buffalo guts! Once a year there is this festival where people bring all kinds of animals to sacrifice and the floor is covered by blood. Not so much now though, but there is lots of really nice carvings of angry god figures to look at.

We also get to visit one of those craft stores where they make those insanely detailed mandala paintings. They’re very beautiful but I settle for some detailed photos and we move on to catch some lunch before going back to the hotel. The rest of the day is unscheduled except for deciding to meet up for dinner. I do some shopping in the myriad of trekking stores and get away with some pirated North Face and Mammut. Since I seem to have lost the others I find a nice café to do some blogging and have an afternoon snack. I get this cool vegetarian specialty Momo together with Indian Tonic and end up spending a couple of hours watching people and writing.

Feeling a bit ursine I find myself a barber while exploring my way back to the hotel. As usual I gladly accept the accompanying offer of massage (my sixth this trip). Next door is one of those awesome stores where there’s just a guy and a sewing machine. They sit there and embroider t-shirts “by hand” – meaning that they use the sewing machine to embroider freehand directly onto the t-shirt. If you want you can just hand in any picture and an hour later you can collect the shirt for a really modest fee. (around 100 sek) I get a shirt with the Everest beer logo as a souvenir before heading back to the hotel.

Sitting in the pub at the hotel I spot Ricard and Monica looking all excited. I head over and it turns out that they’ve made good on their talk about bungee the other day and booked it for tomorrow. Shit, I wanted to do that as well! Coincidentally I passed the place they’d booked at and I head back in a mad dash and get there five minutes before closing! The spots for bungee are all filled though, but the guy tells me that I can do something called canyon swing instead. A little bummed I agree to do that, even though that it seems like a step down from bungee. All in all it’s a really good deal though with transport, lunch and jumping for a mere 600 sek.

Following dinner we go out looking for this bar that Elin has read about where sherpas are supposed to hang out. On the way there we drop off Petra which is actually going on a date with that handsome nepali hunk who served us at the bar yesterday, you go girl! =D A lot of walking on empty dark streets later we decide that we probably won’t find that place and settle for the really nice Namaste bar where we down cheap colorful drinks until they throw us out at closing time. Since it’s kindof late we find the really serious-looking gate closed up when we finally get back to the hotel and we have to bang it to get the guard to open it. A pretty good day I’d say!

What do you do in Kathmandu?

For the people who want it’s another early morning as we go bird watching. Not that I’m especially into birds, but I want one last chance to get out into the bushes before leaving for the city.

Mostly we see very common birds, but one of them is less common: a yellow oriole. As we head back the guide also spots a rhino on the other side of the river! We hustle up to higher ground to get a proper look, but only manage to see some of it as it heads back into the forest. Still really cool though as these are wild, almost Jurassic, animals weighing in at 2 tons. Further on back to camp we meet another guide that informs us that the rhino tracks we saw on the way down, a mere 100 m from camp, were in fact from 5:30 this morning. Talk about having the wilderness in our backyard!

After breakfast it’s time yet again to hop on the bus, this time to Kathmandu. I end up next to Petra this time and spend some time psychoanalyzing her trust issues. We’re really heading into the mountains now and the road is winding to and fro with the mountainside with us hanging out the window, trying to get good pictures. After a long while we’re at the only intersection in all of Nepal, to the left is Pokhara and to the right is Kathmandu. Being the only road in the country it’s just as bad as you’d expect, it’s more or less single file, so the edges are really frayed since every time you meet someone you have to drive out on the shoulder.

After yet another eternity we go down into Kathmandu valley, which is actually a collection of towns, where Kathmandu itself is the hub. The outskirts brings back memories of ugly India, even if the houses are a bit more colorful. But as we pull into our hotel, the perception changes. We live in some sort of touristy shopping district, filled with nice stores, bars and cafés of every variety. It’s actually very nice and we browse around the numerous trekking stores where the prices are at 10% compared to back home. These are of course copies, but most of them are really good copies and the merchants are rather open with that fact and can explain the quality differences between the price ranges. There is some room for haggling, but not much, maybe 10-15%. Something I personally like.

Tired of browsing, Me, Ricard, Sara and Elin eventually find a nice café where we sit down do get a snack. I order some kind of dried, marinated meat which is really weird tasting, but good. Later on we also run into Petra and Helena and we all decide to go to another café. This one turns out to have a drink menu so we decide to order some really fancy drinks. We’re served by a really good looking waiter and the girls are joking around a bit about him. We others don’t think much more of it, but Petra actually goes out and asks for him as we are leaving. He’s already off for the day though, but a friend of him gets ahold of him on the phone and Petra is able to arrange a date the following day. Say whatever you want about it, but it sure is a gutsy move! =D