Monday, October 29, 2012

Nepal2012 Gudel Celebration

School was canceled today so all the school children could attend the celebration.  It was a surprise to us but it became quickly apparent that we were guests of honour at the celebration. 


 We walked a gauntlet of 300 school children who adorned us with flowers and prayer scarves.

Many children performed local dances to music delivered by a loudspeaker driven by a cell phone. 

The Maoist representative for the area gave an impassioned speech about Nepal's richness in geography and people, yet contrasted to Nepal's poor economic situation.  He spoke highly of Ganesh who employs many Nepalese people through his guiding business.  He was also sincerely thankful that our group committed $5000, which would be enough to build a 3-room school house that was so important for the education of the next generation of Nepalese children.  Gudel honoured Ganesh, his wife Maia, Ashok, and their father. This was a very proud day for Ganesh and his family and we were so happy for them.

We have now trekked 5 days from Tumlingtar to Gudel. covering 31miles (50kms).  
We have climbed 20638ft (6290m) and descended 11927ft (3635ft)
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Nepal2012 Ganesh takes us Home

Ganesh took us to his home and introduced us to his entire family. On the upper floor lives Ganesh, wife Maia, their 3 children, and Ganesh's mother and father. On the main floor this family plus Ganesh's brother Ashok with his wife and 3 children all eat and spend family time together. 

The home fire is in the middle of the room - used for cooking and heating. There is no chimney and suprisingly little smoke as they burn only very hard and dry wood. Their home is new and has a metal roof which is a feature only afforded by people with some money. Maia served us a plate of boiled potatoes as a special treat to us. We were genuinely honoured to be invited into Ganesh's home and family.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nepal2012: Baktapur

Baktapur is the cultural capital of Nepal. Baktapur's history goes back to the early 8th century, and it used to be the capital city of Nepal during the 12th and 15th century. UNESCO has honoured the preservation efforts of the Nepali people in preserving this world heritage site. This amazing city displays century-old fabulous art, architecture, cultural hertitage, and also the genuine friendly hospitality of the Nepali people.

Our guide, Purna, told us a long story of his arranged family marriage. In Nepal young people may have a 'love marriage' or a 'family marriage'. Love marriages can be difficult for the couple as either or both of the families may sever future communication with the couple.

Hogus found a man hand-making wooden rocking horse toys.


Hogus stopped for respectful prayers.


At one time the king had a giant personal bath area. This was the king's water spout.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Nepal2012: Everest Hardwear

Hogus and Paul needed some expedition-style warm clothing for our Imja Tse climb so we visited Everest Hardware where they manufacture a line of good quality, yet very inexpensive mountaineering clothing. The owners Sonam and Norki Sherpa remembered us from our 2011 trek. Sonam summitted Mount Everest several years ago so of course knew exactly what climbers and trekkers would need.

While I was trying on expedition jackets Hogus made a new friend.

After we had made our selections, Norji joined us in this picture.

Two young girls are shipping Everest Hardwear jackets to Singapore.

This man is cutting out the pieces for 100 jackets with a tool that looks like a jig-saw.

I bought a goosedown-filled sleeping bag, built to be warm at -25degrees Celsius or -13 degrees Fahrenheidt, and a down sweater.

Everest Hardwear gear in practical use .... Porter Bag,
a -25 degree sleeping bag, and an Expedition down-filled coat. When it's -15 degrees and you're sleeping in a tent with only body heat (no external heat or stove), good gear is essential.

From our team of 11 trekkers, 9 of us used Everest Hardwear porter bags.  

Thank you Sonam and Norki for well designed, good quality mountaineering Products. See more at

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Nepal2012 Hogus meets Holy Men

In the temple of Pashupatinath we met Holy Men, called Bubbas. These Bubbas seemed very serene and passive and without much expression but they liked Hogus and agreed to some pictures.

We moved along the river to where a cremation was taking place. Family members wait quietly while bodies are burned and then the remains are pushed into the holy river. Of course we did not want to offend anyone, nor interfere with their grieving, so took the pictures from a long distance.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Nepal 2012 School on Guard

Hogus and Paul went wandering the streets of Kathmandu and walked by a large school gate just as children were leaving to go home. The school is actually a very old, and only paritally completed building ... cement floors & ceilings are done,but the walls are still open and there is no roof. You can see the 'school' in this picture.

A small group of girls saw Hogus and thought he was cute. As they huddled together and tittered, I took this picture.

Three girls asked me (in sign language) if I would take their picture. Dozens of other groups swarmed around for similar photos. After each picture the children would gather around to see the picture on the camera. They always giggled then moved away and another group would move in. They were all very patient and courteous as they waited their turn.

One particularly striking girl posed and this is what we saw.

With all the children gathered around us I noticed a security guard coming towards us. He had no smile on his face and I wondered if I was doing something wrong or if he was concerned for the children's safety. He pointed to the camera and I showed him a few pictures, then he gestured and I realized that all he wanted was for me to take his picture.

All Nepalese school children wear school uniforms. Children whose families cannot afford to buy the school uniform are not allowed to go to school. So children of very poor families just don't go to school. Most children attend until age 10 or 11 then they are finished their schooling and start working to make enough money to live.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nepal 2012 Travel Canada to Nepal

It is a long hard 2 days of airplane travel. Saskatoon, Canada to Vancouver, Canada is 2 flight-hours, Vancouver, Canada to Seoul, Korea is 12 flight hours. Seoul Korea to Kathmandu, Nepal is 7 hours. With a layover in Seoul and many time-zone changes we would arrive safe, but tired in Kathmandu 2 days after departure.

We had a few hours to spend in the Vancouver airport which has green-space, natural and historical areas of interest, and a much more human atmosphere than many other utilitarian airports in North America.
Hogus sat on a rail and watched large salmon fish in the gigantic acquarium.

Then Hogus helped a Haida Woman with a tradition fish harvest.

Then Hogus sat with the massive bronze sculpture named The Spirit of Haida Gwaii. This bronze shows respect to the Haida Gwaii people, impressing many visitors as the arrive in Canada or leave Canada. 

This sculpture is also proudly displayed on our Canadian $20 bill. Unfortunately the Canadian Mint started making these $20 bills before Hogus got here, otherwise he would have been really famous with his picture on every $20!

After landing in Seoul, the process through Immigration and Customs was amazingly smooth and efficient.
When we picked up our baggage in Seoul, the box of 444 toothbrushes was covered in bright yellow tape with many Korean words, which I guessed to mean 'customs officials should check this box'. I was pulled aside and they cut the box, rope, and handle to check the contents. The customs officials were soon convinced(through an interpreter) that these toothbrushes were NOT for sale in Korea, but were destined for school children in Nepal. They were pleasant about this gave me a roll of tape to repair the box and then allowed me and the box to proceed. This was a good photo-opportunity but taking pictures is 'against regulations'. Wanting no troubles in a foreign country where I can't speak the local language I kept the camera in my bag and took no pictures.

The next morning during check-in there was confusion about my second piece of baggage(Box of 444 toothbrushes). The pleasant young ticket agent witheld my boarding pass pending payment of $91US. I was shuffled off to another counter to pay. The second agent made a phone call (in Korean), told me there had been a mistake and I did not have to pay, then gave me a boarding pass, and apologized profusely. Within minutes the small, young Korean ticket agent came running toward me tears streaming down her face saying 'sorry, sorry, sorry Mr. Paul'. She was horrified that she had made a mistake. Of course I quickly shrugged my shoulders explaining it was no problem and I was happy. She left somewhat relieved, but still shaken and embarrassed. I felt badly for her as she was so upset and it really wasn't any problem for me.

We had a few hours in the Seoul airport. Hogus spent some time just sitting then riding the people-mover and then was bored so  hesat by a mirror making it seem like he had a twin brother.

After a 7 hour flight we arrived at Kathmandu. The entry process into Nepal was tedious with long slow line-ups for each of Immigration, Visa Permits, and Customs, but we are here in Kathmandu!

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Friday, October 5, 2012

CBC Radio & TV

CBC thought there was an interesting story in
"a 62 year-old, with a colostomy, trekking in Nepal". 

With some trepidation, I agreed to the interview on
CBC Radio, the Morning Edition with Sheila Coles.

This was a live interview.
No prior knowledge of the questions.  
On-the-spot responses.  
No way to cover the 'uhhs' and pauses. 
While on-air, Sheila Coles announced the theme:

"Colon cancer is something people may feel uncomfortable talking about, but one Saskatchewan man is sharing his story through blogging about a 34 day trek through Nepal".
Then the questions started. 

Hear the 7-minute interview at CBC Radio

Within a few hours, CBC Television News reporter Jennifer Quesnel asked for a Television interview. I agreed to meet her on-location where I was conditioning for the Nepal2012 trek ... climbing stairs with a 60 pound pack.

This television interview was much easier.  Questions and responses could be discussed in advance.  Mulligans were OK ... we could re-do snips that we not quite right. 
They shot 30 minutes of video - some talking-heads during the interview, and some action shots climbing stairs.  This was filtered down to a 2-minute news article.

The Television News lead with Colostomy Bag no Hindrance to Saskatoon Adventurer

"A Saskatoon man who faced colorectal surgery to combat cancer is not letting life with a colostomy bag interfere with his desire to remain active.  Paul Riome, 62, had surgery three years ago and is now in training for an adventurous 34 day trek in the mountains of Nepal.
'People recover, and with the proper positive attitude, we can certainly live at least ordinary lives,' Riome said Thursday, during a breaking in his training. 'I'm hoping to show we can live extraordinary lives.' 

Riome's doctor said his patient was in exceptional shape when he was diagnosed with cancer, noting his patient's remarkable recovery is likely due to a combination of excellent physical conditioning and mental fortitude.  

As part of his exercise regime, Riome is running up and down the staircase attached to Saskatoon's train bridge, while toting a 27-kilogram backpack.  
He leaves for his Nepal trip on the weekend."

See the newscast at CBC Television News

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Nepal 2012 Ostomates are so Fortunate

We are so fortunate to have an ostomy, because it means we get to live.
People in other parts of the world are less fortunate. 

I really wanted to meet an ostomate, preferably a child-ostomate, while in Nepal. It would make a great connection with Hogus and would probably be an opportunity to get that child a Gastronaut.

I asked our guide Ganesh Kulung, who knows many people in many villages, if he knew of an ostomate.

English is a second language for Ganesh but his meaning is very clear.

"Paul Namaste
Yes I know you have a colostomy and saw you are very strong. But in the context of the Nepal we rarely find persons with colostomy for reason that people who suffer by stomack cancer or other [bowel] problem will die because of not getting treatment. It is not possible to have treatment in Nepal so they need sufficent money for treatment and they must go to another country for treatment."

With an average annual family income of $450, the cost of treatment in a first-world country is prohibitive, so people with Cancer or IBD just die.

We are so fortunate to have ostomies, and to be alive.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nepal 2012 Preparation

Travel on long journeys to far-away countries takes a lot of preparation to minimize the surprises.
Logistics Most of the logistics were coordinated by Tami Ellis of TwoFeetOneWorld, arranging for the Nepalese Guide, the route, the local air transportation, and the food and lodging. Our Nepalese Guide, Ganesh Kulung [website ] arranged for the assistant guides and all the porters. Dandi Sherpa connected us with our Climbing Guide and registered our climbing permits. I was fortunate to see much of these logistics develop and was amazed at the cooperation and collaboration among many people separated by half a world.

Government Stuff
Trekking Visa
Climbing Permits
all have to be in place.

 Insurance- Of course we need Travel Insurance for out-of-country coverage and I checked carefully for 'exclusions' such as dangerous activities, mountain climbing, and being at high altitude. We were sure to be covered for Helicopter Rescue as the risks and costs are high. We also took coverage for Emergency Air Medical Evacuation to transfer us back to Canada for major or complex medical treatment. Fortunately, my treated cancer and permanent colostomy were not factors on the premiums. Unfortunately age was a factor, at 62, but I am happy to be traveling at that age so I paid the premium without complaint.

Immunizations- We each consulted with a Health Travel Professional and got new immunizations or boosters to cover the high risks such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Traveller Diarrhea, and Polio. Most of us chose 'preventive measures' for Rabies and Malaria. We will carry 2 prescriptions for self-medication if needed - Cipro for gastrointestinal problems and Diamox for altitude sickness. I carried both these meds to Nepal last year and didn't need them. Hopefully I won't need them again this year. As these are common over-the-counter meds in Nepal our unused meds are given to the guides and porters.

Weight Gain- Doctor's Orders... "You will lose 10% of your bodyweight and a skinny guy like you can't afford to lose it so gain 15 pounds over the next 6 weeks." I have heard these orders 3 times over my lifetime... Prior to cancer-colostomy surgery, before trekking to Everest BaseCamp Nepal 2011, and now before trekking and climbing Nepal 2012. The routine was the same each time, in 6 weeks I gain 15 pounds and over the following 4 weeks I shed those 15 pounds. For me gaining the weight was a difficult and unpleasant job- eat 5-6 times a day rather than 3, drink 1000 calories a day in powershakes, frequently eat ice cream products for dessert, eat before going to bed, and make all the high carb/high fat choices. While many people envied this diet I really didn't like it at all, but it had to be done.

Airline Tickets- Purchased 6 months in advance to get best pricing... but still expensive

New Gear- All gear has to be carried on someone's back so weight and bulk are minimized. Being kind to our porters our total possessions cannot exceed 25 pounds (11kgs).  So I research products and am very selective to take only high-quality, multi-use, and absolutely essential items. Fortunately I have good gear from prior travels but did need a few specialty items for this trip. A new Osprey backpack with Hydration system, new Julbo trekking and mountaineering glasses, No-Stink Icebreaker merino wool sweater to be worn weeks without a wash, an intense but long-battery-life Petzl headlamp for every night but especially for those nights on the mountains, ColoMajic biodegradable liners, and Comfizz briefs, support belt, and stoma protector. We chose to rent rather than buy our climbing gear as it was unclear if we would do more climbing in the future and the purchase costs were very high.
Fuel- Many of us don't even think about the fuel we use for cooking... It's just the electricity or natural gas that is connected to our houses, but in the countryside of Nepal fuel is a concern. In lower forested areas the fuel is firewood, in higher deforested areas the fuel is yak dung, and in higher elevations the fuel is kerosene. We chose to use portable kerosene stoves for the entire trek and not contribute to the growing problems with deforestation of Nepal. So we pre-arranged to have kerosene bought in Kathmandu, then bussed to Tumlingtar, then carried by porters for our trek.

Hogus -  And of course there was preparation collaborating with StomaWise and The Bowel Movement to get Hogus created, geared, and transported to Canada.

This is Hogus buried in 444 toothbrushes, that we will deliver to Gudel .... so every school child in Gudel will have their very own toothbrush!

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