Must Like Stairs: Day 1

Our plans to hike to Everest Base Camp were completely hijacked by fog that had settled into Lukla and the Nepali domestic airport’s complete lack of organization. We spent an entire day sitting in the domestic airport gorging ourselves on Snickers bars and Pringles, while we waited for the airline to decide whether there would be any more flights going out that day. We were even considering canceling our tickets and joining up with some others to charter a helicopter. Thankfully we didn’t go that route!!! But we learned a valuable lesson that day and it is this: If your flight is not the first or second flight of the day it will not go!!! No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Don’t be hopeful, don’t let some stressed out fool try to convince you to pay $400 per person, for a helicopter ride. It’s not going to happen, so book the first flight of the day. End of story!!!!

We luckily had a fairly flexible schedule, with 6 full weeks allotted for Nepal alone, so after a full day of sitting on the concrete floor of the domestic airport, we decided to cancel our flight and rebook it for a few weeks later. We weren’t going to accept anything, but the first flight of the day!!!!

With the Everest Base Camp fiasco solved, we decided to head over to Pokhara and the nearest large town to the trailhead for Annapurna Base Camp. We had been planning on doing the Annapurna Sanctuary trek anyway, so we were perfectly okay with the change of plans.

Pokhara view

The view from the top of our guesthouse in Pokhara.

We gave ourselves 9 days to do the whole trek, 8 would have been plenty, but having the 9th day meant that we could spend an entire day soaking in the hotsprings at Jhinudanda and stuffing our faces with momos.

I had done my research, so I knew there would be LOTS of up and down on this hike. I knew there would be lots of stairs. And I knew that it was going to be exhausting. At the time, this trek was the most days of consecutive hiking I had done EVER!!! We coined three phrases on this trip:

1) “There it ain’t”- referring to the next town, which would always be down the valley and up the other side.

2) “No guide, no porter, no problem”- referring to our lack of a guide/porter

3) “Yak/yeti crossing”- Anytime we passed gas

The views on this trip were seriously epic and totally worth every step….some of the sets of stairs I can still remember every single detail.

Day 1 Phedi to Dhampus to Landruk

Elevation of villages along the way:
Phedi: 1130 m.
Dhampus: 1650 m.
Bhichok (Pitam) Deurali: 2100 m.
Landruk: 1565 m.

Distance between Phedi and Landruk: approx. 12 km

Time: Phedi to Landruk: approx. 6 hrs

The trail begins with a set of stairs. You’ve been warned…. we were warned. There will be lots of stairs and you will learn to love them, actually you’ll probably never love them, but think about all of that booty firming that is going on. But it’s not all stairs (I promise); the trail meanders through farm land, and practically goes through people’s yards as it makes it’s way up the hill.

Nepal ABC Phedi

Looking down the valley from Phedi….the haze was incredibly thick until we got up above Dhampus.

You will have views of the valley and river below, but you won’t be able to see the mountains, well atleast we couldn’t. The valley at this elevation is still very hazy, as are most of the valleys in Nepal. But when you get up high enough, which doesn’t take long, you will be rewarded with view after view of mountains, valleys and farmland.

Nepal Phedi terraces

Terraces everywhere.

Dhampus Himalayas

Our first glimpse of the Himalayas from the roof of one of the restaurants!!!

After an hour or so on the ” stair climber” we reached Dhampus. We totally weren’t expecting to see the Himalayas from Dhampus, but we were pleasantly surprised to Annapurna, Fish Tail and the others. What a reward for tackling the first major hill and set of stairs!!!

Autumn in Dhampus

First set of stairs complete!!!

From Dhampus to Landruk the trail goes over the pass at Bichok (Pitam) Deurali at 2100 m and then descends all the way back down to Landruk at 1565 m., which (you’ll love this) is lower than Dhampus….hah, of course. We also started using the phrase “Nepali flat,” which is never actually flat. To enter the sanctuary you have to get your TIMS card checked in Pothana (maybe 4 km after Dhampus), so make sure you stop. They will check it again at Nayapul on the way out.

Prayer flags

Our first prayer flags…

One of the picturesque villages along the trail

One of the picturesque villages along the trail

traditional home along the trail...

Traditional home along the trail…

Village on the way to Landruk

Village on the way to Landruk

Angie and Autumn... catching our breath

Angie and Autumn… catching our breath

ABC bridge

One of the MANY bridges on this trek

We learned early on that there is a ton of elevation change on every single day of the trek. No matter where you are (except up at the base camps) the trail has continual steep ascents and descents. Thankfully half of the time you’re gawking at the views, so it doesn’t seem quite as treacherous.

Angie and Steve ham it up....

Angie and Steve ham it up….

Goats Annapurna Sanctuary

What’s cuter than a baby goat??? Two baby goats

Goats Annapurna Sanctuary

I’m pretty sure I have atleast twenty pics of these guys, but I’ll only subject you only to these two.

Down the valley up the valley, repeat, repeat, repeat

Down the valley up the valley, repeat, repeat, repeat

Our guesthouse in Landruk for our first night on the trail

Our guesthouse in Landruk for our first night on the trail

We arrived at our guesthouse early afternoon and the clouds had already started to descend into the valley, so we had no idea how majestic the view would be in the morning.   It was warm enough for us to enjoy all of our meals outside on the terrace and enjoy the fresh mountain air. After being stuck in Kathmandu and Pokhara for nearly a week we were loving the smell of the trees and smog-free air.

Totally worth getting out of bed for

Totally worth getting out of bed for

Epic sunrise on Day 2. Hello Himalayas!!! For the next 8 days we hiked up and down and criss-crossed this valley so many times it’s easy to lose track.



Sauraha’s Elephant Breeding Center

They must be doing something right at the Elephant Breeding Center because there were quite a few little elephants running around….some of them a little naughtier than others.

Baby elephant at Elephant Breeding Center, Sauraha, Nepal

This little guy wasn’t chained up and was “hamming it up” for all the visitors.

Chitwan Elephant Breeding Center follow the leader

Follow the leader.

The Elephant Breeding Center is a short bike ride from “downtown” Sauraha and it’s a pretty bike ride too…through rice paddies and traditional villages. A glimpse into Nepali life.

Nepal Chitwan Rice Paddy

Rice Paddy on the way to the breeding center.

Nepali Girl Feeding Chickens, Sauraha

Feeding the chickens.

GIrls at the river Chitwan

I have no idea what these girls were gathering, but they were at the river the entire time we were at the elephant breeding center.

And there is a fun bridge you get to cross too.

Bridge at the Elephant Breeding Center in Sauraha

The bridge crossing to get to the Breeding Center

If you’re planning on going to the breeding center make sure you go at feeding time. During the day the elephants head out to the fields to eat, collect feed, etc. I don’t even think they’ll let you in to the center outside of feeding time, so ask around about the schedule. I feel like we went in the late afternoon. It’s pretty fun to watch the babies eat….they get food everywhere.

Elephant breeding center feeding

Messy elephant!!! Food all over the place….just like a human baby.


A bike rental for a couple hours should only be a dollar or two (remember to bargain) and the entrance to the center is pretty cheap too…just a couple of bucks, but I don’t remember the exact amount.

Royal Chitwan Wildlife Safari

For some reason I thought being on a “safari” meant sitting on your ass with binoculars in hand…..”safari” in Nepal means something completely different…it means getting close to dozing rhinos (don’t worry if you’re upwind or is it downwind?), chasing after sloth bears (why are we running?) and napping in head high grass (are we baiting tigers with our own bodies?)….somehow I lost my ability to keep my own safety in mind. I’m sure our guides were perfectly capable of protecting us with their walking sticks.

Rhino Chitwan NP

Hello Rhino…we’re friends right?

Well…we picked the worst day of the year to go on safari….it poured, and I mean poured. We were soaked within minutes, maybe even seconds… and this was within the first hour. Apparently when it’s cool the animals don’t like to come out. Fortunately, this “friendly” rhino caught our attention when we were on our 2 hour canoe trip…we also saw a couple of spotted deer, a crocodile, and a handful of peacocks.


Spotted Deer at Chitwan National Park

Between storms we took breaks at a couple of different places….one was a viewing platform set high above the grass complete with sloth bear scat!!! Maybe it was from the same sloth bear we saw in the forest. Anyway, the sky eventually cleared and we were able to walk through the grass plains in search of animals.

Chitwan Elephants

A male elephant escaped form the Breeding Center, so we saw a few different groups of Park Rangers out with their elephants searching for him.

Although the Terai grasslands started to heat up in the afternoon sun, the animals weren’t coming out…and we searched high and low.

Chitwan Angie and Steve

We aired out our feet…

Our guide in a tree at Chitwan National Park

while our guide climbed a tree.

With no luck in the grasslands we headed back into the forest to search some more….then we went to the river to search some more….no tigers, but I was pretty thrilled to see all the other cool animals in the wild: rhino, sloth bear, peacocks, crocodiles and spotted deer.

I wish I could have gotten a picture of the sloth bear. Unfortunately it is hard to focus a camera while running though the forest at a moving target. Sloth bears are even more rare than tigers in the park…in fact, there are so few and they’re so elusive that they aren’t sure how many are still around. (NOTE: Sloth bear does not equal Sloth)

Red Cotton Bug at Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Red Cotton Bug

Rhino at Chitwan National Park, Nepal


Note: Headed to Royal Chitwan National Park? All the accommodation within park bounds is now closed. There are TONS of places for EVERY budget in Sauraha. We stayed at a cheapie called Wendy’s on the road into town for about $5/night for 3 people. Our room was definitely spacious, but was unbearably musty, but we didn’t spend much time in our room anyway.

Also: We booked our guides through the guide cooperative. We had two guides, both were very knowledgeable and the younger of the two had great eyes. He could spot animals from really far away.

Also, bring some money for a tip….the guides will suggest you tip the boatman (a couple hundred rupees will do) and if your guides do a good job, they’ll appreciate the extra money too.

Also, pack your Rain Jacket and make sure it is actually waterproof, my Nepali made “North Face” that I picked up in Pokhara after a mouse chewed through my Patagonia jacket held up surprisingly well, while Steve’s Columbia Jacket was soaked through within minutes. Be prepared for mud and puddles too. All of our boots held up pretty well….our feet got wet, but it was from the rain running down our legs and filling our shoes from the top….wish I had rain pants too…lol.

Southeast Asia Packing List

Steve and I are finally thinking about what to pack for our upcoming trip. Both of us have done extensive traveling abroad and have keyed in to what we want/need while traveling. While packing hiking gear won’t be appropriate for every trip, nor will scuba gear…this is the list that is most appropriate for our upcoming trip. Since we will be spending lots of time in the mountains and in the ocean our list has a little bit of everything…and since our packs are only so big we will probably have to hone our list a bit more. This a comprehensive list for the female traveler, but with a few changes could be easily adapted for the male traveler.

As with any backpacking trip it’s important to fine tune your pack and make sure that you aren’t wasting ounces since you’ll be lugging your pack around town and on and off buses, boats, planes and trains. Also, for the inexperienced traveler…you can pick up almost anything you’ll need on the road…so even if you’re thinking it’s a must, but you’ll only need it for a small part of your trip, it might be wiser and cheaper to pick it up abroad. I hope this list helps you as you pack for your next adventure. I think that this packing list would be helpful for anyone going on a RTW trip or an extended trip in South America, Africa, Asia, and even Europe depending on the activities.


TOMS Canvas Slip-Ons or Ballasox Foldable Ballet Flats
Vasque Waterproof Hiking Boot(already broken in)
Havaianas flip flops (they’ll last TEN times longer than the cheapies you buy at Old Navy)

Ah shoes….I hate packing them. And really don’t like the idea of packing heavy hiking boots, but with doing multiple treks in Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia I’ve decided to pack them even though I’d rather pack my super comfy and light weight ASICS Trail Runners.

Unders and Extras
5 pairs of ExOfficio underwear (moisture wicking and quick drying) and 2 pairs of cotton
3 bathing suits that can be mix and matched (PacSun and Victoria’s Secret are great resources for out of season swimwear)
1 sports bra
1 bra with convertible straps(neutral colored) (I love Calvin Klein bras for their durability, comfortability and their amazing fit)
3 pairs of socks (medium weight hiking socks (2), expedition weight (1))
1 pair of liner socks
hat (either a beanie or light weight running cap)

Invest in some super comfy moisture wicking, quick drying underwear. They may not be the sexiest, but ExOfficio, Terramar, and Patagonia all make some great underwear. Sometimes you can find them on sale at Sierra Trading Post or Patagonia which will save you some money….at $18+ a pop these might be the most expensive panties you’ll ever buy. I found a couple styles for slightly cheaper on amazon.

1 pair of Roxy Boardshorts
1 pair of cotton shorts
2 skirts- knee length or longer
1 pair of REI trekking pants (light weight, quick drying)
1 skinny jeans (stretchy and thin material…think jeggings, but classier)
1 pair of leggings or yoga pants (can fit under trekking pants, wear under a dress or on their own)
1 Sarong…for many reasons, skirt, dress, blanket, towel, privacy…it will be your best friend. If you don’t have one already you can easily pick one up on the road for dirt cheap!

I’m totally impartial to my Roxy Boardshorts and I’ve been known to wear them for days on end. When I was searching for them on amazon to post a link I found that they have them in more colors too, so I’m tempted to buy another pair…or two. While you can get away with short shorts in most of Thailand…you’ll need to cover up if you plan on visiting any temples or spending time in Muslim Malaysia or Indonesia; I always pack a skirt or two that hit below the knee, for this purpose exactly. Also, I like to pack my Mavi skinny jeans, they’re super stretchy and pack down really small. Steve and I hike a TON so I always pack my REI trekking pants, they’re super light weight and roll up into capris. They are similar to this pair here. Leggings are crucial too…you can sleep in them if you need to, layer them under trekking pants for an extra layer of warmth, or wear them on their own with a tunic or dress. A fold-over jersey maxi skirt is one of my new favorites. With a slightly busy pattern or stripes it can hide stains and match different tops…and it can be pulled up and worn as a dress. I couldn’t find mine online, but I really like this Ethnic Stripe Fold Over Maxi Skirt on amazon.

3 tanks (light weight cotton (2) moisture wicking (1))
3 tees (light weight cotton (1) moisture wicking (2))
2 long sleeve (moisture wicking, quick drying)
2 dresses (light weight cotton (1), wrinkle resistant (1))
1 cardigan or button-up (to throw on in a pinch to visit temples, etc.)
1 vest (extra layer of warmth for trekking in mountains)
1 Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket
1 fleece hoody

Target was a godsend for finding light weight cotton tanks and tees for super cheap. They have a great feminine fit and they’re easy to care for. For moisture wicking tops Patagonia Capilene 2 (for layering) and Capilene 3 (for cooler activities) are awesome because they don’t get as stinky as some of the other brands. I hate that so many of the hiking tops are cut boxy….just because I’m hiking and traveling doesn’t mean I want to look like a slob, so I really like Lole for their perfectly fit feminine tops. I wear them at work, running errands and on the trail. I try to make sure everything I pack atleast kinda matches/coordinates so it can be easily layered. I always pack a cardigan or button up that I can throw on over a tank when we visit temples, churches, etc.

Toiletry Kit

hand sanitizer
body wash
conditioning mask
prAna headbands(3) and hair ties (10)
chapstick/lip balm with sunscreen
shaving cream
nail clippers
Lunette Menstrual Cup or tampons
travel towel
small sewing kit (as in 1 needle and one tiny spool of threa

Arnica muscle cream

Wound care
athletic tape


ear plugs
eye mask
inflatable neck pillow

Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera
DSLR charger
Sony Cyber-shot
camera charger
Kindle 3G
Kindle charger
Old School Apple iPod nano
Ipod charger
Netbook charger
GoPro HD HERO2(Steve has lost two so I’ll be in charge of lucky number 3)
GoPro charger
Unlocked Smartphone
smartphone chargerPen
Notepad/Journal (soft back)

Obviously you don’t need all of these electronics, but since we’ll both be blogging on our trip (and possibly working) and using different mediums to record our adventures. We’ll split up the electronics between the two of us.

Activity Items
Dive fins
Trekking Poles
Water bottle or bladder
Pepper’s Polarized Sunglasses(buy an extra pair in Kathmandu)
Daypack with waist belt and padded shoulder straps
Camera bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag (Koolertron)

heavy duty ziplock bags
Eagle Creek Packing Cubes: Pack-It Half Tube Cube, Black (1) and Pack-It Half Cube, Black(1)
neoprene netbook case
compression sacks (2) (Sea to Summitand REI make decent ones that are light weight)
Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack(1)

Save your sanity and stay organized on the road. Nothing drives me crazier than not being able to find something and having to dig through an entire pack to find it. Invest in a couple compression stuff sacks and separate the contents. I’ll usually have one for pants, one for tops, and one for bathing suits, underwear, socks, etc. I used to separate everything into ziplock bags, but a couple of packing cubes will help you keep your toiletries and electronics organized as well. The Sea to Summit compression bags usually hold up better than the REI bags (which have a tendency to tear at the seams when overstuffed) and the Eagle Creek packing cubes are super light weight just a couple ounces verses a half pound like some of the others.

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
Combination Lock
Pack cover or trash bag to line pack
SteriPENor purification tablets
Waterproof watch with alarm clock, either Timex Expedition or Garmin Forerunner GPS

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good headlamp while you’re travelling. It will come in handy when you’re rushing to the bathroom in the middle of the night, during the many power outages and during night hikes. You will want to bring your own lock if you’re staying in hostels….some provide a lock, but a fair number don’t and you don’t want to leave your valuables unlocked. Carabiners are one of those items that I always take with me and they are always invaluable: you can hook clothes up to dry with carabiners or hook nasty items to the outside of your pack.

Throughout your trip you will see plastic water bottles littering roads, trails, and alleys. Although bottled water is cheap, most of the countries don’t have a proper recycling system set up, so do your part by packing a Steripen or purification tablets and drink the tap water.

I love my cheap Timex watch…not exactly the prettiest watch, but it’s not going to get stolen. It has a decent alarm clock and is waterproof to 100m, so I can take it diving too. I would love to experiment with a Garmin Forerunner, but I can’t fathom spending a couple hundred dollars on a watch (even though it has GPS) when I could spend that money on another week of travel.

extra passport photos
copies of passport
drivers license, debit card, credit card, back-up credit card
travel wallet
folder with insurance, itinerary and reservation confirmations

Before you leave home have a few passport photos made. You’ll be surprised by how often you need them (for visas, permits, scuba certification). Also, keep an extra color copy or two of your passport and don’t store them with your passport. I’ll usually keep one copy in my toiletry bag and another in my daypack, backpack, or purse….or I’ll give a copy to a travel mate, if we’re going to be traveling together for the entirety of the trip. And make sure to leave a copy with a family member or roommate, just in case you find yourself in a bind.


Steve and I went on our AMAZING Southeast Asia trip. And to be completely honest, I lugged 95% of this list around for 6 months. We did however send stuff home at a couple of times during our trip. In Vietnam, after about 2 months of traveling in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, we sent a box home from HCMC with all of the stuff we hadn’t touched over the previous months: skinny jeans, TOMS, 1 skirt, 2 pairs of underwear, 1 camera bag. Also, I ended up not taking my trekking poles with me….they didn’t fit in my bag very well, and I didn’t want to have the strapped to the outside of my pack. I was fine, my knees didn’t bother me on any of our treks, so I’m happy I didn’t pack them.

After climbing the Pinnacles in Malaysia we sent another round of stuff home: fleece jacket,    all but one pair of socks, 1 wicking long sleeve shirt, 2 t-shirts, the SteriPen and all of the crap we bought in Nepal (and there was alot). My trekking pants were toast!!! I ripped them the first week of our trip in Thailand, stitched them up, and then I ripped them again in Cambodia and stitched them up again. I kept them through all of the hikes. After the Pinnacles they were fairly threadbare, and with the rips, and the horrible smell of sweating in the jungle, they promptly ended up in the trash.