I had planned to take this trip beginning in April of 2020 but the China Virus had other plans. So instead of enjoying my first year of official retirement trapsing across the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Burma, then trekking my way through the northern tribal areas of north eastern Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Kashmir and finally finishing my journey crossing Africa – instead I spent a wasted year quarantining, eating too much, exercising too little and watching way to much TV.
And here we are in the last days of April 2021 still prisoners of the nasty little covid virus. Despite the warnings of the CDC, Dr Fauci, a senile President, and the well-meaning wishes of my family I have decided to say screw the virus I’m going on a walk about! So fully vaccinated, well stocked with N95 masks, and hand sanitizer I am finally on my way. I am currently on a flight to Los Angeles and tomorrow will leave LA for Istanbul then on to Islamabad arriving at 3:35am on the 30th.
I can already tell that traveling during a covid resurgence is going to present a whole new batch of challenges as well as amusing moments. First the amusing – have you ever tried to sneeze or spit with a fricking mask on? And I can only imagine how silly I look as I shake my head at the lady sitting across from me in first class wearing a mask, face shield and full head to toe hazmat suit including hood and booties. Quite a fashion statement in white with blue taped seams.
The first challenge I have encountered is the mandatory PCR test required to enter almost every country. The rules are a little ambiguous. Some countries require the test to be administered and results available before boarding the plane flying into their country.
Others allow the test to be administered before the flight but accept the results any time before you reach immigration. Some countries want the test administered within a 48 hour window before immigration, others 72 hours and still others 100 hours. And nearly all require an additional test upon arrival in the new country. So that is basically 3 test per country with tests running between $75 and $275 each.
Since this is my first foreign trip since covid I am struggling with the new rules. While the tech. had his swab so far up my nose that he was swabbing my brain he informed me the results would be available in three days. I told him that wouldn’t work because I needed the results when I board my Turkish Air flight tomorrow evening. He said it couldn’t be helped so I came up with a backup plan of also getting the rapid test with results back in 24 hours and a letter saying I have had the PCR test and the results would be on my phone by the time I landed in Islamabad.
Still worried about the logistics and getting grounded in LA without the PCR results – I googled “fast PCR test and results near the LA International Airport”. And guess what? I can get tested right in the darn airport for the low low price of only $199 if I want the results in an hour or $125 if I can wait for 4 hours for the results. So I will have received three tests in less than 24 hours and wasted $325 before even boarding the first plane of my 7 month journey.
God knows how I am going to get these test done in a timely manner in remote and far flung places like Skardu, Katmandu, Aswan, Dar es Salaam, Mombasa, Denizil, Entebbe, Kabala, Livingstone and Kigali. The logistics are going to be a nightmare. And unfortunately the fact that I am fully vaccinated doesn’t seem to carry any weight with any government in the world.
But despite the headaches of dealing with covid regulations I am looking forward to some fantastic adventures. In Pakistan I will travel to Chillas, Tatto Village then trek to Fairy Meadow and on to Nanga Parbat Base Camp (9th highest mountain in the world) and back. Then on to visit Upper and Lower Kachura Lakes, Katpana Desert Lake, Kharphoco Fort and the Khaplu & Manhoka Waterfalls. Near the falls I will visit the Khaplu Fort and the thousand year old Chaqchan Mosque.
I will end my tour of the northern Tribal area of Pakistan with visits to the Shiger Valley, the Cold Desert, Blind Lake, Skardu and the Besham Valley then back to Islamabad to catch a flight to Katmandu for 27 days of trekking in Nepal.
My time in Nepal will be divided by a 10 day trek to Choyu basecamp (5200 meters) – trekking through the high mountain villages of Luckla, Phakding, Namchae Bazaar, Dole, Mongla Pass, Machhermo, Gokyo Lake. Along the way I can expect fantastic views once again of Mount Everest, Syangbucha, and Cho You (6th highest mountain in the world).
Then after a few rest days in Katmandu, I will fly to Pokhara for a little site seeing before trekking to jhinu, sinus, deurali, Annapurna (10th tallest in the world) Basecamp, Dovn and Chhomrung before returning to Pokhara.
After a few days of rest and celebrating in Katmandu I will fly on to Cairo for a couple of days before flying down to Aswan to visit the ancient Temples of Philae, Ombo, Khnum, and Amada, the Pyramid of Elephanine, the Aswan Camel Market, Old Cataract Hotel, Aswan Spice Market, the Nubian Museum and the Monastery of St. Simeon and Tombs of the Nobles.
From Aswan I will fly to Tunis for a few days of touring ancient Carthage and beach time before I fly to Kilimangaro airport to prepare for my trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. All of this in two short months after that I will get really serous and really busy lol…. But that is enough of the plans for now. Who knows how many will be thwarted by Covid – my 21 day trek through Kashmir has already been postponed until fall by the dramatic rise in covid cases in India in recent weeks, I will just have to stay flexible and geographically nimble then roll with the tides of covid infestations around the world.
Stay tuned for more…