Am I outgrowing my LJ account?

Hey there,

I never check this site anymore. I only post when I go overseas or I am planning to go overseas. Have I become too busy in my life? Or was it when my roommate moved in and I have been always occupied?

I do miss reading and adding to my LJ account.

Last night in Cambodia...

Hey out there to everyone back home,

Well this time its just Christen writing because Norton is fast asleep at the guest house and well...I can't sleep because it is only 8:30 and the heat is a bit much.

So where did we leave you off? Oh that's right...we caught a bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. And it was hell...well for Norton anyways. First of all, we paid a couple of extra bucks to go on the 'limousine bus' which basically meant that we had aircon, sufficient space, a 'host' as well as some snacks provided. Well, the snacks, host and air-con bit was right....and they were right about sufficient space too...for everyone else. Luck would have it that we got the only two seats that had literally NO legroom as we were the last two seats shoved between the rest of the seats and the toilet. Norton (again) had to shove his legs in the walkway the entire 6 hour trip and I was cramped as...well...really cramped anyways. The bus had absolutely shocking suspension so that when we went over the tiniest bump...it was like we were on a jumping castle. Phew!!! But we got here in the end.

So our first afternoon in Phnom Penh begins. And seriously...within about 2 hours...we were (lets say) less than pleased about the friendliness of the people here. Norton has coined the term 'fuck with the foreigner' which includes great games including a couple of tuk tuk drivers just stating that they have no change and then as we go to get some...they have been laughing with their friends about it. Another one was telling Norton the completely wrong direction to get to an ATM. Another one is asking if you want to buy something...then insulting you in Cambodian when you say no or defiantly asking WHY.

Last night we went for dinner at a place down the street cause we couldn't be bothered dealing with tuk tuk drivers. Anyways, we went to this 'restaurant' where the people were a bit rude and the food...well it made Christen ill...so yesterday was just a bit crap (gotta have one completely shithouse day right?)

But all was not lost!!! We got up early this morning and went to the Genocide Museum followed by going to the Killing Fields. For those of you who may not know, between 1975 and 1979, a political leader by the name of Pol Pott came to power in Cambodia and basically did exactly what Hitler did. Out of the 7 million people population here...2 million people were tortured and executed during this period. The Genocide Museum that we went to today was previously a high school that during Pol Pott's reign was turned into a prison and torture. It was absolutely atrocious...the things that were done to these people...Norton and I both had a few tears in our eyes as we walked around and learnt about the history.

Following this, we went to the Killing Fields which mass graves were found (a total of 20 000 people at this particularly field) and we took a guided tour of the area to learn further about the history. Whilst the history and hearing/seeing about it was saddening and disgusting...we are so glad that we went there today to learn about the situation and have more insight into it.

After this we went to the Central Market to go shopping and just bludge around a bit...we are really going to treasure going into a store at home and not have people bother us!!! We splurged out today a bit and bought ourselves new mobile phones (they were cheaper than at home) LOL.

And then tonight....we had our lobster that we have been planning for months!!! We both have never tried lobster and Norton thought that he would take this opportunity (considering the fact that he is eating meat product here anyways) to try it as well. We went down to a gorgeous restaurant that was on the Mekong River and order our entrees as well as our lobster!!! It was really nice and we are both pretty full and fat now (which is probably why Norton is sleeping now....oh and the fact that werewolves were fighting him in his dreams last night and he kept waking up).

Oh...and for the parent patrol...don't stress...we have confirmed our flights via telephone from here to Bangkok tomorrow at 4:30pm. The airline just obviously forgot to send us our correct information!!! Phew!!! So whilst we are sad to end our holiday (Norton would like to keep going for another couple of weeks)...it will be good to see you all again.

Oh and to people with Sounds of Spring tickets...we are going too and are going to have drinks at our place in the morning before we go if you want to come over (okay Mel? LOL).

Love Christen (and Norton in sleepy spirit)

Holidaying in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Hey yáll (Norton thinks he's American today for some reason),

So two days ago, as we said, we went to see the temples but changed our plans a little. For starters we couldn't sleep the night before until about 1am because of the heat here and we had a sleep in the arvo. So as you can probably tell (especially with Christen's love of waking up early) we didn't quite make our early start.

We got up pretty late and went to brekkie before cycling on our borrowed bicycles (with half flat tyres, no gears and butt-thumpingly hard seats) the 8km's to the start of the temples. It was quite a good ride on the way there because it was all flat and the start of the day; however we did have to take it easy as the traffic drives on the opposite side of the road here and turning into new streets is a bit special as is the whole 'everyone ignores the red light' thing. As a side note, its weird that next to the red light is a timer that flicks down the seconds till the lights change (we thought it was pretty cool).

Anyways, we rode to Angkor Wat as our first temple of the day. We spent a couple of hours exploring the grounds and temples, library's etc as the place is HUGE!!! We read about how some of the buildings have been 'put back together again' when Angkor Wat was 'rediscovered' and it looks like it was the world's biggest jigsaw puzzle (thought of you Lucy...were sure that you would be a shoe-in for a job here). The place was beautiful with lots of carvings in the stones and the stairs are very thin.

Got some great piccies and also had the expected market sellers bothering the shit out of us. We immediately noticed that whilst there are less of them than in Nepal...they are way more insistent and as Norton puts it 'much more painful'. Its pretty hard to keep your cool when you have said 'no thank you' to the same person about 5 times and they are blocking your way, shoving an item about 10cm from your face and basically telling you that you have to buy the item (if not now, you WILL buy it from THEM on the way out of the temple).

Then we had 'lunch' from a market stall. This turned out to be the most ''interesting' part of our day. For starters there are just about 100 metres of stalls in a row all selling the same thing...whole fish, whole chicken, whole 'I can't tell what that is'...on sticks. We weren't game enough to try those but we found a stall that looked like it was selling rice and noodles etc. So we tried to communicate with them (no one spoke English) and tried to ask them what these dishes were. A young girl could speak English very well but obviously had not come across the concept of 'no meat' before. Long story short, we bought food and sat down. What Norton thought was an egg dish (they were laid out in front of us waiting to be served...so we saw it)...was a 'fish in a blender' kind of egg dish. When Christen got her food...the bowl on the table was pushed toward her with a large fish head with a 'popped eye ball' on top (which Norton didn't see...which was good as he was struggling with his own meal). We attempted to eat our meal however it was impossible for Christen, as she was faced with a fish head and took a bite of Norton's food and had to choke down vomit. Norton, however, ate his meal by placing a little of the mixture on a big clump of rice and shoving it to the back of his throat. We had to walk away though from lots of food (rather quickly) and immediately ordered beer and Sprite from another vendor as well as having a cigarette each to rid ourselves of the taste. Norton, however, burped it for the rest of the day...LOL.

Returning back to the temples...we went onto the next temple and climbed the hill to get to it but it started to rain heavily for awhile so we returned to our bikes and (as Christen started sneezing again as we were drenched) we went back to our hotel...calling it day for the temples and drying off. For the rest of the day...we just chilled and bought more books.

So onto our adventures yesterday!!! After our bicycle adventure we thought that we would just pay a tuk tuk to take us around all day (we have bruising on our arses). We got up at 4:30am and met our driver at 5am. We went back to the temple we got rained on yesterday....Bekoung...for sunrise. It was beautiful and (surprisingly) there was only 3 other tourists there which made it serene and relaxing. We were glad that we didn't do Angkor Wat as when we went past there were hundreds of people going there for sunrise. So from there we went on 'the big circuit' and visited about 8 other temples including Ta Som, Preah Khan, Pre Rup, Bayon. The temples were all beautiful in their own way and we bought a book which told us about each of the temples and they were all built about 12th century. There were lots of repair/bracing work done on them and you can see lots of blocks on the ground where they have collapsed and teams are trying to put them back together again. Of these temples, Bayon would be our favourite. During our visits to all of these temples, we were just in front of the major 'tourists groups' including a couple of busloads of Japanese loud tourists. So we were happy.

Our last temple of the day was Ta Prom (the one we had been looking forward to the most). This temple is the one that was used in the Tomb Raider movie.Ta Prom has been left to nature's devices for hundreds of years and there is massive trees growing all over it. It is beautiful. The entrance to the temple was flooded so we had to take off our shoes and walk through knee deep water to get there (which was nice to cool us down...so bloody hot). We were disappointed that at this temple...everyone was there including loud tour groups which kinda killed it for about the first half of the walk (for Christen anyway) but then we lost them....YAY!!!

We do have some sad news to report though...during our adventures at Ta Prom, Norton was taking photos with our mascot, Bunny (Damo and Alli gave it to us...a bunny with a knife in its hand....its been everywhere with us including EBC). At some point in Ta Prom, Bunny escaped from Norton's pocket...so yesterday we mourned Bunny's disappearance but decided that the Bunny probably overheard us talking about going home soon and decided that he would rather stay in play in a Cambodia forest (thinking he's the next star of Tomb Raider). We are still sad...but wish him well.

So after going through temples for pretty much 8 hrs straight, we came home for a few hours before our tuk tuk driver (as he had suggested earlier in the day) took us to the floating village for sunset. WELL....we got scammed basically. We didn't know that you had to pay an entrance fee...which the government shack beside the road just decided any price that they want (US $40). Long story short....we drove out to where our driver said that we were going to get on a boat (news to us...). We were pretty dirty about the entrance fee but...when discovering that we were getting on a boat, we thought 'okay were at least getting this out of it'.

Got on the boat with two Cambodian guys, one driver and one 'helper guy'. Immediately after introductions, the bubbly 'helper guy', Ray, started saying that we had to buy exercise books for the 'floating school' and give them as a donation to the teacher. What a freaking jip...but we agreed (even though we know that the books will be returned to the store and they'll keep the money). It was dodge....we knew it but oh well it was $5. After this we went down the river to one of the huge floating restaurants, which is also a house, fish farm and crocodile farm. We said that we didn't have anymore money to buy from this restaurant but they said that it didn't matter. So we went up the rooftop of the restaurant and watched the most wonderful sunset with a lightning show as well.

Our two boat guys then came upstairs with a tray full of beer as well a tray of shrimp (tiny tiny prawns) and told us to join in. We asked how much the beer and shrimp were and Ray stated that he was buying. So Norton had a few beers...Christen had a few shrimp (knowing all along that something was going on...especially when more and more beer kept showing up 'for free'). So when the two guys went downstairs to 'chat', we moved our money and card into a 'hidey hole' in Norton's bag and prepared for them to either attempt to roll us (they were midgets though) or try some scam. We stayed up there talking etc and Ray offered for us to come back to his house in Siem Reap...which we politely declined.

Anyways, Christen made a point of stating how tired she was (due to being up so early in the morning) and the guys agreed to drive us back to where our tuk tuk driver was waiting on the mainland. During the boat ride back, Norton and Christen started to relax, however kept their eyes on both guys at both times....oh by the way we are sure (after we got on the boat) that the boat driver had been smoking opium or weed...he looked whacked out of his head. Anyways, long story short, Ray told Norton that the boat driver 'had to pay US $40 for the beer and prawns' and suggested that we 'tip him'. In no uncertain terms, we said ah...NO....and walked off the boat. So what a day!!!

Now onto today...where we have to book a bus from here to Phnom Penh and do some shopping. We are also trying to check on our flight from Phnom Penh to Bangkok...cause it appears that we don't have one right now despite paying for it. So were sorting that mess out now too...but ITS ALL GOOD!!!

Love you all and see you soon,Christen and Norton

Holiday in Cambodia...day one

Hey guys!!!

Well we left Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday in the afternoon and stayed overnight in Bangkok, Thailand. We were sadder than we thought we would be to leave Nepal and we kept saying "goodbye Nepal" in the plane as we were leaving. Its sad to think that we probably won't be there again because we have had such an amazing, full-on time while we were there. But onto new adventures of Team Awesome (the nickname we gave ourselves whilst on our trek)!!! The hotel in Bangkok (with airport transfers to save fucking around which was really good) was so awesome!!! The first REALLY comfortable we've had in a month...we didn't really realise that we were getting used to the thin, shit, two inch foam twin bed mattresses in Nepal until we laid down on our lush, luxurious, queen size bed with OUR OWN BATHROOM!!! Seriously, we felt like we were kings and living the high life!!!

We had dinner in an authentic Thai restaurant and it was beautiful food. We had to get up at 3:30am (Nepal time) this morning to get ready quickly and catch the shuttle to the airport. We arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia at 9am local time. We have figured out (we think) that we are only about 3 hours behind you guys now rather than 4 hrs and 15 mins. First thing we noticed about the place was the bloody awesome airport which looks like a cross between a resort and a temple. So beautiful. The second thing we noticed (when we got out of the plane) was ITS BLOODY HOT HERE!!! We immediately started sweating.

We went to our lodge (a random one we picked from lonely planet book) called Red Lodge (its on the net). We have our own bathroom and 12 foot ceilings in an old colonial English style building...according to Norton....its pimpin'....for 6 US dollars a night We have booked for three nights. We have done a little research and found that mostly Cambodian riel and US dollars are used here. The shops and restaurants we have already gone into are all quoted in US dollars which is strange. And its really hard when they give you your change in half riels and half US dollar considering its about 4000 riels equals 1 US dollar.

Today we just rested and slept (considering we got up so bloody early). This place is beautiful and so peaceful after Kathmandu. There is no smell of smog here or other things and we truly feel like we are in one big resort. We went for dinner tonight and spent about 7 US dollars for two entrees and two main meals...the food was faultless.

Because of situations with lack of understanding of vegetarianism here and the local food all being laced with large amounts of fish paste...Norton consciously ate his first piece of meat tonight in 5 and 1/2 years. He had seafood...and he is feeling a bit sore in the tummy and a bit guilty but otherwise good. And the restaurant draft beer (Angkor beer) cost 75 cents per pint and $2.50 per jug Norton says its a great beer and according to the bottle label, it has won gold medals at Australian international beer awards.

So off to bed now as we are going to get up an hour before the sun does tomorrow to ride bicycles (havent done that in years...ride a bike that is) the 8km to the temples..starting with Bayon (its on the net...as everything is) and then going to Ta Prom and Angkor Wat as well as whatever the hell else we want...*jumps up and down clapping excitedly*.

Love you all....Christen and Norton

Leaving Nepal today...

Hi everyone,

Well this morning is our last morning in Nepal. We haven't done much this morning except for pack, have brekkie and Christen has been lying down feeling sick (as she has been on and off for the last few days). We made a few of the locals days today when we gave away a small bottle of vodka as well as some protein powder to a mother with some children.

Norton got his hair cut by a barber here this morning and it turned out really well but the barber was slapping, massaging, and hitting hit fists ontop of Norton's head afterwards as well as cracking his neck. It looked kinda painful but Norton said that it was great.

We are sad and excited to leave Nepal as we don't think that we'll come back here again (seeing as there are so many other places we would like to see). We have had a great time here meeting the people, doing the trek and seeing/riding some jungle animals.

We are flying out to Bangkok today and staying there overnight near the airport before we fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia tomorrow morning (the flight only takes an hour between Bangkok and Siem Reap which is good). Then into Siem Reap and the amazing temples including Angkor Wat.

We don't know how many days we are going to spend in Siem Reap before we (well this is the plan) slowly make our way to Phnom Penn (the major city) as we fly out of there on the 8th of Oct back to Bangkok for one more night before returning home to Brissie.

We aren't homesick at all yet (people keep asking us) and are thoroughly enjoying our holiday. The only thing that we are really missing are all of you guys (but you'll keep) and Christen is missing some home cooked food (which doesn't say much for Christen's cooking if Norton's not missing it too...LOL).

Well off to the airport we must go....

Love Christen and Norton

Last days in Kathmandu

Hey all,

We thought that we would write you guys a quick update email even though we haven't been doing too much except for shopping and eating (and very quickly regaining all of the weight we lost on the trek).

For the past two days we have spent the day with our new Israeli friend, Hillel, going to museums and sightseeing a little bit as well as shopping. We have been cursing our families whilst over here as they are all WAY too hard to buy souvenirs for!!! All of the shops here literally have the 'same same but different' items to the point that they have shirts here with that embroidered on it as a joke. We are still getting used to haggling; however Norton still hates it. Norton is now the proud owner of a 'singing bowl' which he relentlessly has made music with every time we are in the room. His next step (Christen is holding him back by a thread) is to purchase a carved wood violin for Jack (our neighbour) as he told us that he...erm...loved the sound of it whilst he was here in Nepal but "accidentally" forgot to buy one.

On one of our last night's here we wanted to go to a fancy (well actually we have been eating in pretty nice/ritzy places whilst we have been here...never could afford that kind of service/restaurant at home) traditional restaurant. Oh...I suppose we haven't told you that most of the restaurants (well the ones that tourists can eat in without dying of dysentery) do not serve Nepali food and serve Western food instead. Anyways, we went to dinner last night at a 150 year old mansion that was built by a royal priest back in the day.

The dinner was amazing with solid bronze dinnerware, candlelit dinner and sitting on the floor. It was an 11 course meal (we were very fat afterwards) that had musicans, dancers and singers coming in at intervals to demonstrate different dances from all over Nepal. It was fabulous food and entertainment...we were thoroughly impressed. Afterwards we spent some time talking with the owner who showed us photos of the mansion before it was restored 11 years ago and the process took 2 years. The other good thing is that the restaurant is 'eco-friendly' in its practices as it refuses to buy/use any items that are packaged in plastic including buying mineral water in bulk and refusing to serve plastic bottles.

So today we are still very fat and are continuing the search for a hoodie for Norton. The next few days we are planning to just shop, go to the Monkey Temple again (but this time at night) and read books. Tonight we are planning to go to the Reggae Club again and are going to take Hillel for his last night of freedom (as he gets married in a month and is here by himself).

Love you all,
Christen and Norton.

Riding and washing elephants...

Hey there guys,

Well today was just absolutely bullshit fun and thoroughly enjoyable!!!

This morning we woke up and went for a mad brekkie at one of the restaurants here. In this small town there are only about four restaurants so over the past two days we have gotten to know some of the workers there rather well and they love to sit down and talk with us (they are all learning English). We sat down on the river again underneath the pagoda, reclining back and just watching the river with its tall grass and beautiful scenery. Once again we got out our books (we have both finished two each on this trip now...we never seem to make the chance/get the chance to read this much at home) and Norton bought another book, Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" as he has heard for a long period of time that 'it's a classic'. He really should have listened to Christen (as always...LOL) that he would hate to read the thickest book with the smallest writing from the late 1800's. He spent about 10 minutes reading it and (quoting Norton here) 'if he had a gun, he would have shot it...it's a stupid book'.

At 10:30am we met the people at our lodge to go and wash the elephant. WELL HOLY SHIT!!! First of all, we had to stand on it's back heel (while it was sitting on the ground) and then its tail to get ontop of it 'barebacked' so to speak (Donella...you have got to tell Di about this one...beats the shit out of horses...LOL). Wow, when it stood up...we thought we were going to fall off. We rode the elephant with the trainer guy who was a little tiny Hindu dude in PJ bottom kinda boardies down to the river where we thought we would get off and the elephant would lay in the water and we would wash it...right? Ah...no...boy were we wrong. First of all we want to (especially Norton...as he hasn't stopped stating repeatedly today) outline that this river is the SAME RIVER THAT THE CROCODILE WAS IN YESTERDAY!!! Remember we said about crocodile infested waters? Well that's the same river that we were literally thrown into today.

So we ride the elephant down to the river...the elephant walks into the river about 10-15 metres from the shore and then proceeds to shake us off its back whilst the trainer is going up and down the elephant passing us on its back. Man it was intense and freaky!!! So for about 1/2 and hour...we kept crawling back on the elephants back only for it to stand up and fall over on its side so we land back in the crocodile infested water!!! Norton was freaking out as where we were was in pretty much the exactly same spot as where we saw the croc yesterday. Norton kept heading for the side of the river as he was a bit freaked...but he braved it!!! The current as well (the river where we were was only waist deep) was the strongest current ever and it was really hard to get back to the elephant each time. We were lucky and a guy from the bar offered to video tape it for us so we have footage people!!! About halfway through another guy jumped in on our 'bath' and we had lots of fun and shared a beer afterwards. He's a guy from Germany (who sounds English) and has volunteered in remote Nepal for the past few weeks by himself and its his bday today so were going to have a beer with him later.

After that, we were pretty buggered. It took heaps out of us!!! So until our elephant ride at 3pm...we drank and talked and drank a little more before lunch (its so hot and beer and vodka taste so good!!!).

At 3pm we went and 'caught an elephant ride' into the jungle this afternoon for 2 hours. We shared our elephant with two other Aussies from Sydney. The walk was so peaceful and serene in the jungle with lots of different trees, moss etc. And then we hit jackpot!!! We saw (and were about 15 metres from) a rhino and its baby!!! It was so amazing!!! The rhinos didn't care that our elephant and about 8 other 'tourist elephants' were there. As we kept walking, we saw a crocodile in the water and got pic's of it. And again immediately after that our elephant walked through that water.

Nearing the end of our ride (with very sore arses) we saw a different rhino and its baby and we were the only ones there this time!!! It was pretty magical.

So now were at tonight! We have had a few drinks, talked to some of the people that we have befriended and were going to take the German/English guy out for dinner for his bday but the people at our lodge sacrificed a chicken for his birthday dinner; so we went elsewhere.

Tomorrow at 9am we are on a bus back to Kathmandu where our Israeli friend is and we are going to meet up with him. Not too sure what we are going to do for the rest of our time here in Nepal...but with all the action we have had; its probably going to be chillin!!!

Love you all,
Christen and Norton

Chitwan National Park

Hey all down under...

Well we arrived in Chitwan National Park yesterday after a 6 hour bus ride to get 140km's. The bus ride was pretty chilled and cruisy but it took about 2 hours just to get out of Kathmandu due to the freakish traffic and constantly sitting at a standstill. We don't think that we have explained to you how the roads work here yet...have we? Well you know those little streets in the estate's at home? Okay, take a street that big and put in winding down a little road...add lots of potholes, different types of items on the road including garbage and add a complete lack of road rules. The roads are two way streets for pedestrians, rickshaws, cars and whatever else wants to go on them (as otherwise you are in a shop and not on the street). Horns are blaring non-stop and lots of vehicles have 'horns please' written on the back of it. Surprisingly enough it all seems to work and no cars seem to have dents on them or any road rage is evident and everyone seems to negotiate the traffic with Buddhist-like patience.

Anyways, we made it here to Chitwan and did exactly what we wanted to do....sit on our arses. At the bus stop, Christen was immediately harrassed (felt like an assault) by a large number of people from various guest houses to choose theirs. Christen did get a little stroppy at them...but it all worked out good in the end. The guest house that we chose...we have our own little bungalow with our own bathroom, mosquito netting and a thatched roof with a tiny veranda which is about one minute walk from the river. How romantic (look at us swoon).

We spent the afternoon sitting underneath a thatched hut/pagoda on the river's edge reading books, drinking our favourite poisons and having only the odd seller bothering us. Today we woke up early and went on a canoe ride down the river with a guide to look at the wildlife. The canoe was insanely close to the water (as in the edge of it was about 5 cm above the water) and is made from one piece of wood (ie one tree). As soon as we set off we saw a crocodile less than 5 metres from us and it put its head out of the water, snapped its jaws and went under (don't worry, it wasn't trying to get us). Along the river we saw a lot of different birds (Nepal has a large number of different birds and apparently is ideal for bird watching lovers...thought of you Dad). We stopped about 1/2 hour down the river and went for a 3 hour walk through the jungle and grasslands. The particular type of grass grows up to 12 metres in height so was a bit overbearing walking through it (we walked through 4-6 metres in height) and we are wondering how it can support its own weight...its huge.

Before our walk, we got a 'safety talk' from the two guides (one walked in front of us with a large bamboo stick whilst the other one walked behind and constantly 'watched our backs'). Basically, we were told that if we come across a rhino which is going to attack us...we have to throw our stuff (for it to smell), run in a zigzag pattern and climb up a tree for 7 metres (how the fuck do you climb a tree 7 metres...lucky we didn't have to do it). For the elephant and tiger...if they decide to attack and you don't have trees nearby for cover/climbing...well you are basically fucked. For the sloth bear, running is pointless because they run faster and climb faster...so that's what the bamboo poles were for.

During our walk...jungle safari...we saw some deer, and more birds. We saw a monkey and as we were looking up at it on the tree, it moved to the tree above us...aimed...and commenced pissing at (attempting to get it on) us. We had to move pretty quick..but it followed and tried again (didn't work though...smart arse bugger). We didn't get to see any sloth bears, rhinos or tigers (they are rare...the tigers that it)...but we saw their tracks and lots of their poo. We saw where a tiger marks his territory by clawing a tree and making markings...we also saw his tracks in the mud nearby. So for the rest of the day, we did a little shopping, met some awesome Nepalese locals and spent the afternoon drinking by the river underneath our same pagoda with our books.

We watched the sunset and an elephant bathe in the river...so relaxing and beautiful. Tomorrow we have our turn to wash the elephants and take a ride through the grasslands on them. Pretty exciting!!! We are booked to go back to Kathmandu (we kept our room at Kathmandu Guest House) the day after. For now, we are going to have some water (it is bloody hot here and we can't stop sweating) as we have been consuming a considerable amount of alcohol today (but our typing is still awesome!!!) and have some dinner.

Love you all,Christen and Norton

The past few days....

Hey all over there in Oz,

Well its been a few days since we have updated you all...so here's a quick email to let you all know that we are not dead (just hungover).

So once again, we'll start where we left you off. We got back to Kathmandu and spent the first day just walking around Thamel (pronounced Ta-mel)...we have noticed that all of their 'h' in their words are silent here. Thamel is the main tourist district and where we are staying. So we walked around just looking at all of the stores and having all of them run outside to try to get you into their store or chasing you down the street with their rickshaw, taxi, Nepalese violin or tiger balm (yeah...were thinking of you Jack.). We had one drunk stall seller lady (the only drunk Nepalese person we have seen) chase us down 'Freak Street' from Durbar Square (Freak Street is the street that all of the hippies hung out in in the 60's). The lady was trying to sell Norton a horn that he had shown interest in and just would not let it go...we ended up having to be quite rude to her and basically walking off on her down the street (repeatedly).

Yesterday we went to the Monkey Temple in the morning and walked around. It is massive and such a steep climb up the stairs to get there but there are monkeys everywhere and Norton was basically a Japanese tourist chasing them around with his camera. Norton tried to get Christen to get close to them in some of the shots but she was a little spooked by a vicious monkey fight we saw just before that. We were going to keep going on that day to see the whole place but we decided that the heat and our muscles were way too tired from trekking so we came home, bought a book each and spent the afternoon reading on mattresses underneath a pagoda in the beer garden where we are staying. Oh it was lush (and damn it we are both LOVING our books and can't put them down now...damn bookworms).

We have eaten at a few really nice restaurants lately including a 'silver service' one that we went to the other night....all for $30 including Norton having a couple of beers (note: they serve beers in 'tallies' here; they don't have stubbies).

We went out for our first 'Friday night out on the town' in Nepal last night and it was fun. We went out for cocktails first at this tiny little bar during 2-4-1 time which worked out as $2.50 for two cocktails. Alison...Norton was whingeing and asking where his 'cocktail buddy' was because..well...Christen tried but bloody hates cocktails. But it was romantic cause once again it was in the middle of the daily 5 hours blackout which happens here. So its all by candlelight. After that we went for dinner (and being slightly pissy) to a cool place that played New Orleans jazz (thinking of you Mel) and had an awesome dinner and more drinkies. Last but not least we checked out the Reggae bar and it was funky as. But first...better tell you about how we keep getting offered 'hashish' every time we walk out of our guest house. We were told by our guide (before we went trekking) that we look like prime candidates for this due to Norton's tattoos and Christen's piercings. As you can guess, we keep saying no as it is only legal for Hindu's to possess in this country. One guy every tried to give/sell Norton some when the cops were only 2 metres behind him (and they are dressed like the army with WW2 guns).

Anyways, we went to the Reggae bar last night and found (as you would think in such a bar) people just rolling huge joints and a really good band. Norton was quite shocked and pleased as he hasn't seen anything like this before (whereas Christen has due to going to Amsterdam). It was an awesome place to hang out with sitting on the floor and funky lighting....were going to go again.

Lastly, we are off tomorrow to Chitwan National Park. It takes us about 5 hours on the bus to get there and we are staying two and a half days to ride the elephants, wash the elephants, see rhinos and other wildlife in the park. We are so excited!!! We need to get out of the main area as well as seeing the devastating poverty here is just a bit much at times and well...we are just too sensitive (we think anyway). Gotta go as internet time has run out.

Write again soon!!! Love you all.
Christen and Norton

Day fifteen...back in Kathmandu

Hey all,

We are back in Kathmandu and staying at the Kathmandu Guest House again. Before we get to the present...we thought that we would briefly take you through the days of trekking that you missed (as well as create a written memory for ourselves of course).

So day 5 we walked from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche monastery. The whole way was uphill for 'six bloody hours' as Norton puts it. It was a hard slog but totally worth it. Once we got to the monastery we met some cool people from Ukraine and a guy from Israel and spent some time talking to them and walking through the monastery's local forest which looked like it should have pixies and elves hiding behind all of the mushrooms and twisted trees that Norton took 50 million pics of.... so many different mushrooms. Then at 4pm we were permitted (well actually only the girls had to ask permission) to go into the monastery and look around as well as talk to a monk and sit in on their 2 hr chanting session with drums, cymbals and horns. It was so 'other worldly' and just completely amazing, breathtaking and peaceful. Norton just bought a CD with the same music/chanting on it.

Day 6 we walked to Pheriche...today was not the best day. The good part was we saw lots of yaks with 'big horns' that impressed Norton (as you will see by the many photos of them) and a couple more insane bridges which you just don't feel 100% safe on. On the way to Pheriche we realised that all of the trees were gone and it was just like a 'wasteland' kind of with shrubs and rocks/boulders. The climate had turned a little harsh and it was at this point that we realised how BLOODY SHITHOUSE the sunscreen we bought in Kathmandu was. We might as well have bought butter and rubbed it on ourselves instead of the alleged SPF50 sunscreen we bought. Quoting directly from Norton's diary entry of this day..."we are staying at Snow Lodge which is a shit little dump with an ignorant rude hostess and shit food...but hey for 50 rupees a night we are both saving money and getting exactly what we are paying for". For those of you at home...50 rupees is less than $1. But the night wasn't lost as we saw the Israeli guy again (his name is Hillel) and spent some time with him talking politics, education strategies, religion and other things...very interesting conversation. He is writing a book on education philosophy.

Day 7... so today we woke up to find that it had lightly snowed in Pheriche the night before. Norton was so excited and was like a kid on Xmas morning dancing around and throwing tiny snow balls at Christen. We started our walk for the day which was pretty good and flat until we reached the 'crazy bridge'. This is the one that washed away later in our trip. The bridge consisted of three tree trunks with some little planks on it (like a horizontal ladder) and it was about 1 metre above those insane rapids that we keep talking about. We were both shitting ourselves to be completely truthful and it was nerve wracking crossing this. We both still marvel that yaks and horses cross this bridge. Once we crossed this we stopped up at the top and spoke to a person about a couple of French people who were sick from altitude sickness (this is for you Cathy).

A little bit about altitude sickness (AMS...acute mountain sickness). We researched this well before going on our insane trek. Basically at 3000 metres there is only 70% of the oxygen in the air that we have at sea level and at 5000 metres there is only 50% oxygen. Therefore you have to ascend slowly as you are not supposed to go over 300 - 500 metres upwards per day otherwise you risk becoming sick because you are breathing out more oxygen than you are breathing in. The symptoms are: mild to severe headache, vomitting, sleeplessness, walking like you are drunk, hallucinations, altered thoughts, nightmares and coughing up blood followed by coma and/or death. If you ignore your headache (first symptom) and you keep ascending...well then you can end up in a coma within about 12 hours.

Anyways, the people that we saw that were really ill...did 1000 metres ascent in one day and had to hire two horses to take them back down to the start of the trek at Lukla airstrip. They looked like shit, didn't see anything and cost them $100 per day US per horse...so you don't ignore AMS symptoms. We did get the headaches a couple of times but we made sure we followed the rules and TA DA...we did it!!

Day 8....today was the day that we went to Gorak Shep. Gorak Shep is the last place that had lodges/people living there before you get to Everest Base Camp and its located at the base of Kala Patthar. The walk today was insane as it was more of a rock scramble than a walk and it was just completely diiferent scenery...going from rainforest, rapids, forest etc a few days earlier to walking beside a glacier. During this walk however, we confirmed our usual thoughts about Americans....disrespectful to locals and their culture. We got stuck behind a group of them who were very Texas looking...loud, obnoxious and with beer guts and yelling out 'lazy Sherpa' to the Nepalese who were carrying their backpacks for them. We couldn't believe it...such dicks.

Day 9...we got up early (as we have been doing every day at 5:30am on this trek...once again...altitude means you can't sleep) and walked up Kala Patthar in thick snow. Kala Patthar was another 500 metres straight up and is the mountain that is next to Gorak Shep. Well holy shit...trekking in snow up this mountain making our own track and once again following some random person's footprints...is bloody hard work and was one of the hardest parts of the trek. We sat up the top for about 2 hours just waiting for the clouds to move over so we could see Everest (but in the meantime were looking at all of the other fantastic mountains surrounding it as well).

Day 10....Everest Base Camp. Well we kinda already covered this one in our last email. This day was really hard on both of us...the sun bouncing off the glaciers just fried our skin and now we are both the sexiest looking people in Nepal (Christen was wearing big sunnies so the bottom half of her face is dark brown while the top half is white....Norton just went red and peeled). It's too hard to explain how bloody insane this walk was...to be on a glacier a couple hours from anywhere in the snow and fog and realistically knowing that you could easily take a wrong turn and walk the wrong way and die. Sounds dramatic...but it is so bizarre.

Day 11 - 13...the walk back down the way we came. Well this was pretty good and relaxing despite walking 8-9 hours each day. Only took one wrong turn and then had to walk/climb down a pretty vertical mountain (Christen was shitting herself and sulking a bit whilst Norton thought it was awesome) which added on about another hour and a half to the day. We were lucky today that we got the first flight we asked for and had the whole plane to ourselves.

And now were back here...and we finally had showers!!! We haven't had a shower in about two weeks (thank god for baby wipes) and Christen had finally washed her hair...Norton's had a shave so he doesn't look like a mountain man anymore...YAY!!!

Now were going to do some shopping and and head to the monkey temple tomorrow. Off to have some dinner...oh and of course...BEER.

Love you all,
Christen and Norton.