Trekking in Nepal During Monsoon Season

When I was planning my backpacking trip to Nepal this August, I couldn’t find a lot of useful info about trekking during monsoon season, and I also couldn’t find a lot of stuff about short treks, as opposed to the Annapurna Circuit, which takes two weeks to complete at a jog.

So having freshly returned from a five-day trek in Nepal with my brother Willbutt (two months ago), I thought I’d answer some questions for anyone else going to Nepal during monsoon season.

(A full packing list is at the bottom of this post.)

1) How much does it rain in the Annapurnas during monsoon season?

This was the biggest question on my mind before flying out. Every city, town, and village I googled in the upcoming weeks before our trip forecast rain rain rain 24/7. Obviously, this made me nervous cuz  who wants to hike in the rain, plus lots of rain means landslides and floods, especially on mountain trails in a developing country.

William and I hiked for five days, mainly on the Annapurna Base Camp trail (the ABC), which is not in the Annapurna’s “rain shadow.” Even so, the weather was manageable and we did not experience any flash floods or landslides, although some parts of the trail were blocked by landslides from earlier.

It rained  at least three times everyday: once at noon-ish (between 11 am and 1 pm), then in the afternoon sometime between 3 and 5 pm, and at nighttime. We usually hiked through the noon rain, then stopped at a guesthouse before the afternoon rain, and were playing Pokémon cards or sleeping during the night rain.

The noon rain wasn’t really hard and didn’t get us much wetter than we already were thanks to our sweat, so hiking through it wasn’t a problem. There was only one day when it rained all day; obviously, we got drenched that day.

Because of the rain, we used rain covers for our backpacks to keep everything dry. William had a good rain cover and his stuff stayed completely dry, but mine was lousy and old, so everything in my backpack got completely soaked the one day it rained a lot, which made my backpack heavier.

Which brings me to the next topic:

2) Which clothes/things should I pack? What should I plan to wear?

NOTHING COTTON. NOTHING COTTON. NOTHING COTTON.

NOTHING.

COTTON.

Pack two sets of clothes: one for hiking and one for resting in the evening. That’s it. That’s all you need. Your hiking clothes will get sweaty and dirty everyday, but your evening clothes will stay clean in your pack, so you feel fresh and new after showering at your guesthouse.

For hiking, I wore gym shorts, Flyknit Nikes (which were perfect for the trail and didn’t fall apart or give me blisters), nylon socks (which were a lifesaver and I’ll tell you why later), quick-dry undies, and A COTTON T-SHIRT because I was an idiot when I was packing. That shirt was never dry the entire week and I absolutely hated touching it by the end of the trek; I wish I’d packed a shirt made from a quick-dry material.

We never had to wear warm clothes while hiking because you stay warm enough hiking up stairs for TWO hours, but we also never made it past 2600 meters (8500 feet) in elevation, so it might be colder further up. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

For my evening clothes, I basically had another set of shorts, another shirt, more undies and socks, and some sandals (but I could have gotten away with flip-flops or another lightweight shoe). Once we hit 2600 meters in elevation, the evenings were too cold just for shorts and a T-shirt, so I also had a sweater and warm socks to wear, but I wish I’d packed some sweatpants or long johns as well. (William wants you all to know that he let me borrow his sweatpants, thank you.)

Willbutt and I also packed rain jackets, but we never actually wore them on the trail even when it was raining. Even so, we did wear them at our guesthouses when we went outside in the evening.

I also brought sunglasses and a hat, but I sweated so much while hiking they became annoying to wear, so I ended up not using them.

We also wore fanny packs for easy access to our cell phones and salt.

Why salt, you ask? Why nylon socks, you ask?

The Annapurnas are FULL of leeches during monsoon season. This bit of info never ever came up during my pre-trip research, so I didn’t find out about them until we got there.

Before getting covered with leeches in Nepal, I thought leeches only lived IN water (rivers, streams, ponds, etc.). Turns out, leeches in Nepal can survive in almost any moist environment: wet grass, wet leaves, wet rocks, mud puddles — anything wet. Because they like wet, they’re twice as active when it’s raining.

During one 12 o’clock rain shower, while we were hiking on a narrow forest path between Ghandruk and Ghorepani, William spoke up behind me: “My feet are covered in thousands of leeches.” I looked back and saw tons of wriggling tubers sticking onto his shoes and socks. I looked down at my own feet and saw that they were also covered!

Immediately, we shook off as many as we could then ran to the nearest village. When we took our shoes off, there were at least a dozen pulsing leeches latched onto William’s feet. (We’ll get to my feet in a sec.) Leeches stick really hard and they’re nearly impossible to squish, so it’s hard to pull them off. The most effective way to remove a leech is to sprinkle a pinch of salt on it because, like slugs, leeches shrivel up and die when they get salted. A nice Nepali lady gave us a small bag of salt that we sprinkled liberally on any stray leech for the rest of our trip.

How were my feet? Even though my shoes had also been covered in leeches, my actual feet never got touched and I think it’s because I was wearing nylon socks. William’s socks were just normal hiking socks, so the threads weren’t sewn closely together, whereas my nylon socks just had teeny tiny spaces between the fibers, so not one leech had enough space to crawl through.

While leeches are annoying and unpleasant, they don’t actually cause any harm. Their saliva is an anticoagulant, so you do bleed a decent amount after getting bit, but leeches, unlike ticks, rarely pass on diseases to humans.

Every afternoon, after surviving a day of leeches and getting soaked in sweat, we stopped at a guesthouse. Once we got a room, we took showers and washed by hand everything we’d worn that day. Guesthouses had buckets to use for laundry and we brought a packet of powder laundry detergent.

There were also clotheslines to hang laundry at most guesthouses, but we  brought our clothes in before nighttime or else they would get wet in the nighttime rain. I wish we’d packed a clothesline to hang in our room so that we didn’t have to drape everything over chairs and bedposts, though. Even so, our clothes were never fully dry the following day, probably because our shirts were cotton and the weather was humid.

3) How much water did you pack and how much did you drink everyday?

Willbutt and I each had 2 one-liter water bottles that we filled up before trekking out in the morning. That was always enough water, we never ran out on the trail. We also had soup with every meal to help keep us hydrated (we only ate breakfast and dinner), and we drank a bottle of water during breakfast.

There are no water bottles sold on the trail, so luckily we’d brought our own. I had a Nalgene and an empty soda bottle, but I wish they were both empty soda bottles because that would have been lighter.

We filled up our water bottles at guesthouses for about 100 Nepali rupees per liter, but it got more expensive the further up the trail we travelled. They told us that the water they gave us was filtered, but Willbutt and I purified it with iodine tablets just to be safe. You can also fill up at clear streams; there are often little plastic tubes shooting off from downhill streams and waterfalls just for that. Just be sure to use iodine tablets if you fill up there.

4) How much do the guesthouses cost?

In my pre-trip research, I read unbelievable stories about $1 housing on the Annapurna Circuit, but I never saw that. Maybe that’s the deal somewhere else, but housing on the ABC  usually cost between 400 and 800 rupees for a 2-bed room. In fact, the further up the trail we travelled, the fewer the options for lodging and food, the higher the prices went up (not dramatically, but noticeably).

I read online to budget $25 USD per person per day, and that turned out to be accurate. Some days it was on the nose, some days it was way under. Obviously, everything on the trail had to be paid in cash, so keep your cash dry in a plastic bag.

As for food quality, the general rule was that the closer to civilization we were, the better the food was, and the further onto the trail we went, the worse and more expensive the food got. Our first and last nights, we ate really well, but the day we were furthest up on the trail, our potato soup tasted like salt water and our pancakes were cooked slabs of batter. (That was also the night that our guesthouse was run by four 20-year-old guys, so maybe try to find one run by a woman who looks like your mom.)

Also, my brother and I ate a lot in the morning and a lot at night, which took a while for the hosts/hostesses to cook once we ordered. I recommend ordering your dinner when you arrive at the guesthouse and telling your host what time you plan to eat. That way they aren’t waiting around for you to order and you can eat at soon as you’re finished with showers and laundry.

Every guesthouse we stayed in provided bedding that always looked clean, but I brought a lightweight sleeping bag and William used a fleece sleeping bag liner. I don’t regret bringing my own bedding even though it was extra weight because it was something nice for me to snuggle in every night, but I also wouldn’t have minded using the bedding provided.

FYI: Higher up on the trail, they charge for wifi, hot water (for showers), and power (there are no outlets in the bedrooms). Also, sometimes the outlets are really old and are too loose for whatever adapter or plug you’re trying to fit.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The running tab of your room and meal costs are paid the morning you leave. When you pay, I recommend leaving a generous tip. Tourists are a huge (if not the only) source of income for these people. We’re so blessed to travel and see their part of the world, but they may never leave their mountains, so show them how much you appreciate them sharing their homes by giving them lots of money.

One more plug: Our second night, William and I stayed in Chomrong at a place called Heaven View Guesthouse. It is honestly one of my top 5 places to see in the world. It’s on the edge of a mountain overlooking the convergence of three valleys with waterfalls and rivers coming in on every side. I could see clouds drifting in between the mountaintops and above the valleys, raining somewhere miles away, then changing directions and raining somewhere else. It didn’t feel like there was any sky overhead because we were already in the sky.

5) What are some short hikes? Preferably something a week long?

I can’t really answer that question completely because I was only out hiking for 5 days and didn’t stay on one definite route the whole time, but having trekked in Nepal and seen how things are located on the map I can offer some observations:

The Annapurna Base Camp trail supposedly takes a week-ish to complete. We started trekking on Monday in Birethanti and got onto the ABC in Chomrong on Tuesday (we initially were doing a different trail but had to reroute because of the leeches). We made it as far as Dovan on the ABC, then turned around Thursday morning because we wanted to be in Pokhara by Saturday. If we hadn’t turned around, I’m confident we could have made it to Annapurna Base Camp by Friday or Saturday. Maybe if we had planned to do the ABC from the start, we could have done the whole thing in five or six days.

Another option is to basically start at the end of the Annapurna circuit, hike from Birethanti to Poon Hill to Tatopani, then back again. (We tried to hike from Birethanti to Ghandruk to Ghorepani, but the jungle between Ghandruk and Ghorepani is FULL OF LEECHES and not worth it, so that’s why we hiked over to the ABC. I mean, there are leeches everywhere during monsoon season, but they’re especially bad in that spot).

6) Some pro tips:

You can get to the end of the Annapurna Circuit/start of the ABC by taking a bus from Pokhara at Baglung Bus Park (not the Tourist Bus Park on the other side of town). The bus is very uncomfortable and shaky, but it’s  only 700 rupees for one person, which is much cheaper than a taxi; I just recommend getting off as soon as you can in Nayapul.

Unless you’re trying to do a quick weeklong or five-day trek, plan rest days. The Annapurnas are beautiful and you’ll enjoy them more by taking your backpack off for a day and just relaxing. If you do the ABC, I recommend stopping in Chomrong, Jihnu, Sinuwa, and/or Kimrong.

Heads up: The Annapurnas are amazing mountains and took my breath away when I saw them on my first Nepal trip in November 2016. Unfortunately, during monsoon season they’re covered by clouds and you can only ever get  glimpses of them when the clouds part in the mornings, even when you’re on the trail. 🙁

There weren’t very many hikers in August. We only ever shared a guesthouse with three other trekkers. It was nice not having so many hikers because you could totally pee anywhere on the trail (#freewilly). I have no idea how it is during tourist season, but once we started hiking on the ABC we ran into a lot more people so maybe during tourist season you’ll run into a lot more trekkers.

If you can, get used to the time difference before you go. Being jetlagged and hiking up a mountain? No thanks. Take a week or so before your trip to get used to Nepali time.

There are stray mountain dogs who act as guides along the ABC. They led Willbutt and me from village to village, often showing us which way to go when the trail forked. They would sit outside of villages and wait for trekkers to come, then trot ahead and stop whenever we fell too far behind. It was semi-magical.

You also bump into a lot of little kids on the trail heading to and from school. Not sad, orphan kids, but just normal kids. Sometimes they’d ask for candy, but we didn’t have any, so I recommend either buying some in Pokhara or Kathmandu, or bringing some from home. You can buy candy on the trail but it’s expensive.

There aren’t very many mosquitoes, even during monsoon season. Even so, we applied DEET along with with sunscreen everyday. DEET supposedly also works on leeches, but I can tell you from experience that claim seems to be FALSE.

Plastic ziplock and freezer bags are a great travel accessory: they can hold anything and keep everything dry. In my experience, America makes them best, so bring some!

Granola bars are also something that America does best and they are a 100% necessity while trekking. I brought a ton from home and we snacked liberally on the trail because we really needed the energy. There were some days I could not have made it without them. Plan for two to three bars each day.

Also, there’s not much fresh fruit on the trail, so if you want some, you’ll have to pack it in from Pokhara or Kathmandu and ration it throughout the duration of your trek.

Packing list:

  • One set of clothes for hiking (shirt, shorts, undies, 2 pairs of socks, shoes) made of quick-dry material (According to Willbutt, switching socks half way through the day is nice.)
  • One set of evening clothes (shirt, shorts/pants, undies, socks, shoes) made of quick-dry stuff
  • Warm socks
  • Sweatpants
  • Sweater
  • Rain jacket
  • Pantyhose or nylon socks (for leeches)
  • Fanny pack
  • Extra shoe laces
  • Watch (waterproof for sweat)
  • Clothesline/rope
  • Powdered laundry detergent
  • Rain cover for backpack
  • Sunscreen
  • DEET/bug spray
  • Toilet paper/wipes
  • Toiletries
  • Soap/sanitizer
  • Outlet adapter
  • SALT
  • Plastic ziplock and freezer bags
  • Granola bars (at least three per day)
  • 2 one-liter bottles (can buy for super cheap in Pokhara or Kathmandu, or just bring empty soda bottles)
  • Iodine tablets
  • Map (see if you can get a waterproof one)
  • Flashlight
  • Microfiber towel
  • A plastic bag for any trash you make while hiking

Optional:

  • Fruit
  • Knife for fruit
  • Simple bedding
  • Power bank
  • Notebook and pens/pencils

Well, I think that’s it. I absolutely loved my trip to Nepal and regularly think about not if I go back, but when I go back.

Cat cafe in Taipei!!

I went to a cat cafe today. Was everything covered in hair? Did it smell bad? Did the animals get all up in my food? Was the food gross? No, no, no, and no.

Dog and Cats Cafe is a cozy little joint in Taipei. There are 15 cats, 2 dogs, and 1 bird. It felt very clean, the animals didn’t bother us while we ate, and the atmosphere was waaaay chill.

The food was super great. I went with my pal Jimmy who’s backpacking though Taiwan right now (which is a cool thing to do and I’m gonna start doing it this Friday!). He ordered the rice gratin and I got lasagna and both were *excellent*.

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lasagna

The cats and dogs were real chillaxed the whole time. They basically slept and ignored us. I thought they’d perk up once our food came, but they didn’t pay any more attention to us while we ate than before.

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Once we finished eating, though, the owners gave us some cat treats to feed them — then we got real popular. Couldn’t keep the cats off of us.

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Great place, great food, and great cats.

😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻/10

See more on my Snapcat (username gordygordyblog).

“Having Cats Gives You Superpowers” — Syfy Channel Original Movie Idea

So, with all the views my blog has been getting (I can’t tell you how many because I can’t conceive a number higher than 100, which is probably my bank account’s fault), I’ve been determined to maintain the integrity of the Gordy(Gordy)Blog. Just because people want to hear about cats doesn’t mean I’m gonna make the blog all about cats.

But this opportunity is just too golden and if they can turn some Twitter posts into a movie, then maybe this post can come to the (small) screen too. I think Syfy Channel would do a good job with it.

The IDEA of the movie is that having cats gives you superpowers (like, superhero powers come from cats) and that all those crazy cat ladies out there are really people the cats have selected to be superheroes.

The story:

So there’s this girl and she’s just a normal girl with a normal life and a boyfriend or whatever. But then one day her boyfriend leaves her and she’s WAY bummed about it.

But then this cat starts following her around and she’s not really a “cat person,” but she’s so lonely she lets it come home with her. The cat is smart and kind and becomes her best friend. Also, the more time the girl spends with the cat, she is able to think clearer (like, solve crossword puzzles and Sudoku better) and she realizes that hanging out with the cat makes her smarter. Like, it gives her super-intelligence.

Anyway, she’s living with this cat and it’s just whatever (aside from the super-intelligence stuff) until one day she comes home from work and her apartment’s FILLED with cats. And she says to the first cat (you HAVE TO put this in the movie), “I said you could live here, I didn’t say anything about your friends!” But she lets them stay.

So with more cats, she gets more powers (like, a superpower for every cat): agility, kung fu, laser vision, flying, etc/whatever. And one day she realizes, “Whoa, I’m a superhero,” and she goes out saving people and stuff.

So people think she’s just a weird cat lady, but she’s actually a superhero. She’s not Catwoman. Like, she doesn’t wear a suit with cat ears and stuff. She’s just a superhero who gets all her powers from cats.

I honestly don’t know if this is the same exact plot as “Catwoman” or whatever, but all these are my original thoughts and Syfy Channel makes AMAZING movies. Please make it. Please.

Here’s a video I put on YouTube a couple months ago. I made it at, like, 2 in the morning. There are some discrepancies between the story then and now but this is still important.

Brother Uses Cats To Recreate Twin Sister’s Instagram Photos

My twin sister Meredith is so great and I am so bad. Every year on my birthday, she gets me something cool: a t-shirt, a funny book, something she wanted to get rid of but chose to give to me instead, and so much more. And no matter where I’ve lived, she’s always either sent the gift in a package or saved it to give to me later.

And I’m the worst brother because I never get her anything for her birthday. Generally, I don’t get someone a birthday present if they live far away, so I usually don’t get her ANYTHING even though she always gets me something.

I mean, I guess it could be because we live very different lives. I’ve been living the single life of parties and traveling while she’s been  married and has two kids. It’s like I feel that I’m not quite an adult so I don’t need to give people things but they should give things to me.

Anyway, I decided to do something very heartfelt to show her how much I appreciate her (plus, she and her husband are the ONLY ones in my family planning to visit me in Taiwan, so that deserves a special shout-out).

She is VERY social media, so for her 28th birthday (which is TODAY!), I recreated 28 of the photos she posted this past year. By looking at these photos, you’ll see how cool she is! Check it out!

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She wears cool pants and hangs out with white cars.

She goes to VERY cool stores.

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She is America’s Next Top Model (TYRA HIT HER UP FOR CYLCE 23).

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Nature-conscious but so so holy.

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She also has witch powers which she’s decided to use for good (notice I’m not floating because I’m NOT a witch).

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Clever and swanky.

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She looks great, but I just look like an extra on The Walking Dead.

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She is also a selfie QUEEN.

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She’s also really talented at Snapchat.

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We spend HOURS talking (usually about how impossible rice is #whole30).

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Even when puking she’s FLAWLESS.

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FLAWLESS.

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She just got into yoga and she makes it look so easy. (This pose reminds me of when we were in Womb together.)

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Natural yogi.

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But I learned through experience that it’s not as easy as she makes it look.

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Not at all.

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She’s a great mom to her two kids.

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She hugs them,

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takes them to Disneyland,

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and lip-kisses them.

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Not only that, she volunteers as a doula to help other women who like to have babies too!

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This photo sums her up perfectly.

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Happy 28th Meredith! Hope I can catch up to you someday!

I explain my relationship with cats

I’m gonna come clean and let you all know what I really think about cats. It all starts two years ago.
Two years ago, I had a great idea for a party. I realized the only reason people come to parties is to eat food (duhhhhhhh), so I had the idea to throw a food-themed party (basically, I’ll bring some food, you bring some food and we’ll eat it — genius party idea!!).
Also two years ago, I’d just gotten a space phone. I’d gotten into the habit of writing my great ideas in my new phone, which had the futuristic ability to turn human speech into text. BUTT, with this talk-to-text technology, you had to say “comma” if you wanted to insert a comma.
Anyway, so I was real excited about this cool food party idea and I wanted it to be written in all capital letters, so I said to my space phone: “ALL CAPS FOOD PARTY.” Unfortunately or fortunately (you be the judge), my space phone didn’t understand quite what I was trying to say, so it wrote, “Cat food party.” I thought, “Lol,” dropped the “food” idea, and just kept “cat party.”
I threw an OFF.THE.CHAIN cat party, complete with a kitty litter cake, decorated with random cat items I found at thrift stores (like stuffed animals and figurines), a raucous game of pin the cat on the cat lady, and an hour’s worth of cat videos. Everyone loved and enjoyed.
I swear it’s a cake.
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Cat face paint, pin the cat on the cat lady.

 

After that, I guess people thought I really, really liked cats. I started getting at least 10 cat videos/pictures shared on my Facebook wall daily and people would make jokes about me turning into a cat lady. Since I thought it was funny and since I “lack a noticeable personality” (according to some jerk from Tinder), I took the cat lady persona and ran with it.
An old FB status. Obviously digging myself into a hole.

I mean, things got out of hand and I regret it now. I followed more cats than people on Instagram (like Grumpy Cat, Colonel Meow, Lil Bub, Hamilton the Hipster Cat, okay I’m gonna stop now). I shared a lot of cat pictures and videos. People started giving me cat T-shirts. One Christmas, literally everyone in my family gave me cat things for gifts (books, posters, aprons). Random people at work started showing me pictures of their cats.  But I guess that’s just life.

This was my Halloween costume last year, so I haven’t really been helping myself.

I’ve been working on distancing myself from cats. I haven’t shared a cat picture in four days. I haven’t worn a cat shirt in over a week. And I haven’t thrown a cat party in five months. So it’s getting better.

I’m not saying cats aren’t good people, butt I’ll admit they’re hard to get along with a lot of the time. They’re just really distant and only want to cuddle, like, 2% of the time. But they can be cute and I’ve made friends with some.
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Cat the Cat. She’s lived with my family for 16 years. I know she’s indifferent, but I LOVE her.

 

Me and a kitten my lil bro found.
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Me and a cat that lived outside my apartment for a week (named him Secret Stranger).
I know this might be SHOCKING to a lot of you, butt I had to clear up the misconception.