Hammerhead Shark: My First Crochet Amigurumi

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Drink umbrella for size. And shade.

In honor of Shark Week, I made my first amigurumi! I named him Sharkie Shark (but he does not hang out with the funky bunch). He likes hanging out under tiny drink umbrellas in the sand and collecting seashells.

So, I actually really love sharks as an animal, and hammerheads are one of my favorite sharks. While I like the concept of Shark Week, I am really not a fan of Discovery’s programming (I think its filled with unscientific fear-exploiting garbage that just harms the reputation of sharks). But I wanted to make a little amigurumi shark to celebrate the wondrous toothy creatures anyway!

I’ve never made an amigurumi before, and I found it to be a fun and quick experience! I worked from a pattern in this book. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it though– the instructions were a bit unclear and the fin pattern was a complete mess. I ended up creating my own pattern for all of the fins (tail, dorsal, and pectoral) and changing the eyes (why use french knots in yarn when you have beads?).

Bonus pictures:

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Finally Spring!

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It has been winter for a good long while in these parts. And only recently has it finally begun to act like spring! That means bees are buzzing, buds are blooming, and birds are….birding. Obviously I have an obsessive need to document everything and have been taking lots of pictures of the little creatures enjoying the warmer weather as I sit outside and read through The Gulag Archipelago (because it’s such great springtime reading?). I guess you can take the girl out of the poli-sci but you can’t take the poli-sci out of the girl. The birds at least provide a nice counter balance to the sad gulag human rights abuses.

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Goldfinch! We only ever get one or two of them in the spring and summer, and he’s pretty elusive. I guess he was hungry this day.

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A plucky little cardinal.

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House finch sitting in a tree.

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Here are the two of them sharing the feeder! The cardinal looks terribly suspicious of me.

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From top left, clockwise: chickadee, house finch, grosbeak (female), and nuthatch.

We have also seen a new face at our brand new hummingbird feeder!

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It’s a ruby-throated hummingbird! He’s quite small and difficult to spot as he flits back and forth.

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Flapping those wings very hard and fast.

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Getting a hit of that sweet, sweet sugar water. He’s actually pretty frustrating to photograph because he moves so quickly and is so tiny.

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I think I might name him Waldo, after the eponymous and elusive striped-shirt wearer. Relatedly, I wish I had one of those enormous NatGeo zoom lenses the size of an 18th century cannon. Anyone wanna loan me $10,000?

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The caterpillars and the dandelions are also out in full swing. And, finally, the cherry tree in our yard is blossoming! It’s nice to finally see signs of life after all the snow.

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Aquarium Trip

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Is there anything I love more than aquariums? Maybe cake. Maybe.

So I recently took a trip to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut with my boyfriend. With the minor exception of some misbehaved screaming children and a strange promotional day that involved the most depressing cello player I’ve ever heard, it was a lot of fun!

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It’s located right on the Norwalk River, and it was a beautiful day!

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There were, of course, all manner of strange fish.

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Fish is staring at you!

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Did this fish just hear a piece of juicy gossip?

There were, of course, more than just fish there…

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I think the frog to the left was an albino.

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Here is his non-albino counterpart hiding under a leaf. We can see you, frog! You fool no one!

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I was pretty excited about these two axolotls (the dark one blends into the background a little)! Is there a more awesome salamander? The answer is no.

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Here is a diamondback terrapin. The poor thing was being constantly bothered by the other terrapins in the tank as it tried to sleep. I came back later to find this:

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Happy ending: it finally found some peace and quiet!

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They also had a bigger type of turtle: the sea turtle!

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Here are some anemones and moon jellies.

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A fish enjoying the anemone.

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One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish!

My favorite animal at the aquarium, however, was definitely…

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…this goofus, the dragon moray eel. There were also other “dragons” at the exhibit…

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For instance, this Chinese water dragon.

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A sailfin dragon.

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And this weedy sea dragon! (Okay, maybe this guy was my favorite animal there.) And I’m so happy I managed to get a semi decent picture of him (despite the fact that it appeared the aquarium had cleaned the glass on his exhibit with vaseline jelly and flour.)

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But the tiny residents of the aquarium shouldn’t be forgotten! I found this minuscule hermit crab in the seahorse exhibit. He appeared to be shopping around for a new home.

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Here is the aforementioned seahorse, roommate of the house shopping hermit crab.

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Close up of the seahorse.

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One of my favorite animals of all time: the lobster! But why are their claws banded like that?

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A silly looking fish who stood around staring at me.

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A pretty lionfish!

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A harbor seal enjoying the beautiful day!

So, I hope you enjoyed this interlude of aquatic animals. If not, the fish below is going to sit and judge you.

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Actually, I think he’s going to do that no matter what.

Kathmandu

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Everest:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

If you can spare any amount, please consider donating to one of the many charities that are helping Nepal following the horrific and tragic earthquake.

To make any pictures larger, just click on them.

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A view of Kathmandu from the plane

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The very small airport of Kathmandu

Okay, so I actually did not spend very many days in Kathmandu, so these pictures are limited to only a few sights around town. I wish I had had time to see more!

First up was Boudhanath!

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It is an enormous and impressive Buddhist stupa in the middle of a square. Apparently it’s one of the largest in the world! And it really is remarkable– there is an elevated walkway that allows you to walk around the stupa. Sort of relatedly, I think it was during this little walk that I began my slow lung damage. They were burning some kind of incense, and I inhaled. A lot.

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Above is the view that greets you walking into the square and then a street view near the stupa. Look at all those crazy wires! That was definitely another point of interest– the insane amount of electrical wires.

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A woman holding a prayer wheel at the entrance to the stupa walkway.

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We also went into one of the nearby temples at the Boudhanath plaza. It was extremely colorful and beautiful!

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The pictures are a little low-lighting since they allowed pictures but frowned upon flash photography. I loved the gorgeous paintings that decorated the walls (as seen in the photo to the right)!

We also visited a painting school in the square where children were taught to paint the ubiquitous Buddhist mandala paintings.

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Here is one of the students hard at work (although, ugh, he’s gonna hurt his back with that posture). They were amazing! I cannot fathom that intense level of detail. They apparently train and practice for years to reach mastery level. There were, of course, paintings for sale at the school. The prices varied with the level of skill of the student– beginner, intermediate, advanced-intermediate, and master. Only masters are permitted to sign their paintings (which, as an artist, really struck me). I ended up buying this painting:

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It is an intermediate level student painting. You can tell it is not a master painting because it is unsigned, and there are small errors within it. I didn’t care though– I thought that the colors were absolutely beautiful!

The next stop was Durbar Square.

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Here’s Durbar Square filled with afternoon strollers and children with balloons!

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Durbar Square is filled with beautiful temples and vendors selling balloons.

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There was also a thriving market nearby.

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Here is one of the beautiful doors on a building and a very tired man.

We didn’t stick around Durbar Square for too long. We walked around the area and then went down one of the many side streets towards lunch!

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I saw this little cutie pie on the way down the street.

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Some of the side streets we went down (while ducking from motorcycles). I apparently love taking photos of streets.

Up next was Swayambhunath (say that five times fast…).

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Swayambhunath is a Buddhist complex atop a hill that features another massive stupa (as seen above). It also features one bazillion stairs to reach this stupa. Not that I’m complaining (okay, I’m complaining just a little).

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It was most definitely worth the climb! You can see all the prayer wheels in the photo to the left.

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The guy in the picture to the right definitely had the right idea. It was such a gorgeous afternoon that I really felt like having a nice nap too.

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Here is a monk who walked around the stupa, spinning the prayer wheels.

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In the picture to the left is a giant Buddha statue that is part of the complex on the hill.

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Here is one of the many stray dogs in Kathmandu. I thought the contrast between the mangy stray dog and the golden statute of a dog he’s laying beneath was pretty striking.

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The view of Kathmandu from the top of Swayambhunath.

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More stupas with Buddha eyes at a monk circling the large circle with the prayer wheels.

Did you know that Swayambhunath is also known as Monkey Temple? Hm, why could that be I wonder…

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Yep! There were monkeys a plenty, particular at the bottom of the complex.

And sadly that was the extent of my sightseeing in Kathmandu. The rest of my time was spent in Thamel, which is basically the tourist area of the city and where most foreigners/tourists stay while in Kathmandu.

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Two streets in Thamel, one with dazzling prayer flags and one with dazzling (and quite frankly an impressive amount of) electrical wires. I was almost hit by a motorcycle about fifteen separate times on these little side streets. Also worth noting– I managed to find extremely cheap and excellent Italian food in Thamel. My little heart sang! All I could think about climbing up and down Everest was spaghetti bolognese.

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Hmmm…something leads me to believe that this is not, in fact, a Walmart.

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And I’ll leave you with two final pictures of Thamel– one at dusk and one right at dawn.

Though I was only there very briefly, Kathmandu was an overwhelming and exhilarating city filled with gorgeous temples, delicious food, and– well– lots of noise! It was also filled with kind and friendly people. Again, if you can, please consider donating to one of the many charities that are helping Nepal. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see something so awful happen to such a wonderful country.

Abstract Christmas Photography Fun!

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I have been having a shameful and ridiculous amount of fun recently taking pictures of my Christmas tree! As you can see above. No, that’s not a color wheel; it’s a Christmas tree! How did I do it?

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It started when I was drinking water in front of the Christmas tree. I had the empty glass up to my face and realized it created a kaleidoscope effect with the lights. So I put the glass over my camera lens and started taking pictures, experimenting with focus and the distance between the glass and the lens.

The results span from the very abstract (usually achieved by putting the bottom of the glass very close to the lens):

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Pulling the glass farther from the lens achieves a color wheel effect:

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Adjusting the focus so the lens was focused on the bottom of the glass created a different looking type of color wheel:

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Going less abstract, I also played around with various concepts…

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Putting the star on the tree…

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Glowing magical orb! You can see the focal difference between the three as it progresses and the effect it has on the reflections in the glass.

I really liked the magic looking orb concept…

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Again, playing around with focus and concentrating the bottom of the glass on a green light on the tree this time.

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I may or may have not played around with this idea to the point of hand cramps. (I did.)

So if you’re bored and have a water glass and some Christmas (or whatever) lights around, give it a go! It’s a lot of abstract kaleidoscope fun and everyone loves bokeh!

Snowy Day Sorbet

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I got a sorbet and ice cream maker for Christmas, and I decided to take it on its maiden voyage this past weekend.

But of course it would snow the day I decide to make sorbet! I was undeterred. I also noted that I was not the only one interested in delicious treats that snowy day. (Of course I’m going to try to work in bird pictures any way that I can).

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Top left, clockwise: a white-throated sparrow, female cardinal, dove, and house finch out for a snowy day meal.

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A female cardinal sitting pretty in a tree, seen between deck rungs.

But I still had to go out in the snow to pick up ingredients. The yummy recipe I used called for Dutch-processed cacao. Cue running around all over town with my friend in a very determined search.

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Happily the driving conditions weren’t too bad. We found what we needed by the fourth grocery store!

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By the time we got back, it was getting dark.

As mentioned, I had never used a sorbet maker before (and had yet to read the instruction manual), so I did not realize that the bowl part of the machine needed to be frozen solid. Surprise! So we threw the bowl in the freezer and while we patiently waited for the bowl to freeze completely, I made the chocolatey liquid mix.

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I used semi-sweet chocolate chips. The recipe called for 6 oz finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate, and the price difference was ridiculous! $3.49 for 4 oz of solid bars of baker’s chocolate or $3.14 for 12 oz of chocolate chips. The quality of the chocolate might vary, but I’m making a sorbet, not creating chocolates for the queen.

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Here are the chocolate chips, mostly finely chopped. …Mostly.

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Here is the mixture before adding the finely chopped chocolate.

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And this is after adding the chocolate.

We then, per the recipe, chilled the mixture. Once the mixture was chilled and the bowl was completely frozen, I began the sorbet-making process. Now, the sorbet maker box says that sorbet/ice cream can be made in as little as 30 minutes. The box is a lying liar and is not to be believed. I poured the mixture into the machine, which then rotated the mixture around with its mixing arm, to both aerate and freeze it. After 30 minutes (the recommended mixing time), it was still something of an amorphous (but delicious) liquidy goo, so I threw it back in the freezer for 2 more hours.

Finally, I had a delicious super chocolatey sorbet!

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Here it is pre-sprinkles. It is super chocolatey and definitely rich enough to make you think you’re eating ice cream.

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And here’s one more picture with a black background. Because why not.

Everest: Part IV

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Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV (you’re on it!)

It’s the last chapter in this saga! This will return us back down to Lukla.

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We left Pheriche for Deboche and finally lost our lucky streak of good weather. As you can see above, it began as overcast and became cloudier as the day progressed. I had also developed a fun new problem– my coughing had quieted a bit but I had developed a bruised rib from all of the coughing.

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Above are our dzopkyo crossing a bridge. They were, for whatever reason, quite fussy that morning. Unlike our ascent, which followed a somewhat indirect scenic route, our descent lead us along the main Base Camp trail.

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The trekking was fairly easygoing and still very picturesque.

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We were still high enough to see plenty of yaks traversing the trail.

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But I was so bummed about the weather! The clouds made the mountains difficult to see.

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Cue the Benny Hill music. There were a lot of yaks on the trail.

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Here are the yaks that were crossing the bridge, up close and personal. I was always a little nervous being around such big animals, even if they do have colorful little floof balls on their heads.

After some river crossing, we made our way through a small forest.

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I really liked the old man’s beard on the trees (sort of visible in the picture to the left). I had never seen that before! Other than that, the forest again reminded me of the forests back home.

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After walking through the forest a bit and passing the mani wall above, we stopped to camp in Deboche, just as the rain started in earnest. We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so I spent most of my afternoon in my tent, listening to the rain fall.

That night, as I was brushing my teeth outside of my tent, I saw a horse on the other side of the field. I was not super pleased that there was a horse wandering the field our tents were in (I’m a little horsephobic) but figured he was far enough that it wouldn’t matter. Later that night, I woke up at about 2 AM and my foot brushed up against something outside of my tent. And that something moved. I FREAKED out and immediately pictured the stupid horse I had seen earlier sitting on the entrance of my tent. I was now wide awake and mustering the courage to go outside and have a fight in the dark with a fat horse intent on sitting on my tent. I slipped out the back exit, creeped to the front of my tent, and…there was nothing there. Feeling a little insane because I knew my foot had hit something, I zipped open the front flap and found a stray dog lying in the antechamber of the tent, clearly seeking shelter from the rain. He looked up at me imploringly, and I felt (1) relieved I didn’t have to fight a horse and (2) terrible for even disturbing the poor dog. And that was my 2 AM animal adventure in Dengboche.

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If this isn’t the shadiest horse you’ve ever seen, you need to stop hanging out with such shady horses.

The next day I saw this shady horse. I half expected him to offer me some drugs. He was lurking near a bathroom that belonged to the teahouse we had breakfast in (you can see it in the left of the picture– the green metal). The bathroom had the most complex lock I had ever seen. I half expected to find a stash of gold in there, instead of a hole in the ground. And I was nervous to be encased in a metal box with this shady character lurking nearby.

Anyway, we left the shady horse and Deboche behind and made our way up (in the mud and rain) to Tengboche Monastery.

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After a fairly brief visit, we continued on our way to Namche Bazaar.

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This was probably the most miserable day of trekking. It was rainy, cold, and muddy and the rapid-fire descending (we lost about 4000 feet in the span of an hour or two) killed my knees and made me regret not bringing trekking poles.

I felt like a whiner for complaining, however, when I saw all the porters on the trail. I’ve sort of alluded to porters throughout this little saga, so I’ll explain here. There are no cars at all on this trail. To get supplies up or down the mountain, they must be carried by either humans or animals. The physical abilities of these porters almost defies logic.

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Oh, you know, just carrying a door and a bag twice the size of my body up a mountain side. No big deal.

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Are they building a rocket ship at the top of this mountain? I really hope these guys are very well paid. I was told by our sherpa that they are paid the same regardless of the size of the load.

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The trail finally linked up with the trail we had originally taken out of Namche and things began looking more familiar. We finally found ourselves back in Namche Bazaar and staying in a lodge for the night.

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As it turns out, our timing could not have been better. Perhaps you heard on the news about that horrible avalanche disaster in the Annapurna area? The Everest Base Camp circuit was hit with the same storm system, albeit not nearly as badly. While those at a higher elevation received snow, we experienced horrible thunderstorms and vicious rain and wind. I watched it from the window of the lodge and felt so thankful to not be in a tent.

And the next day….

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…was flawless sunshine! I couldn’t believe our luck with the weather. We sadly left Namche behind.

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But were seen off by a bunch of young and friendly Namche residents who wanted fist pounds and high fives. We then followed the same trail back down to Phakding.

And I saw more impressive porters.

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He has to climb all those stairs with that heavy looking load.

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Taking a break and then starting on his way.

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Colorful porter baskets waiting for their owners outside of a restaurant. The porters just leave the baskets on a ledge and go inside to eat and drink.

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More colorful porter packs.

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There were a lot of donkeys on the trail. It may have actually been national donkey parade day.

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There were also very high bridges and waterfalls along the way, of course. No trail is complete without those.

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Everything felt like it was in stunning technicolor. When we arrived in Phakding, we finally finally FINALLY had the opportunity to take a shower. I won’t even mention how long I went without showering (it’s just not possible/practical at the higher villages along the trail). It was heavenly. We camped in Phakding for the night again (and promptly lost electricity during dinner) and then set out for Lukla the next day.

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Donkey is so beautiful.

We promptly encountered a serious donkey traffic jam and had to take shelter on a restaurant balcony. We were stuck there for about ten minutes but some of the donkeys were wearing flower crowns, so it was all good.

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When I said serious traffic jam, I meant it. This isn’t even the same group of donkeys as above (you can tell from what they are carrying). They just kept coming!

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More donkeys. Forever donkeys. I didn’t know this many donkeys existed.

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I saw quite a few women doing this. The seed or spice is put on a tarp to dry in the sun.

So the fun thing (read: not fun thing) about Lukla is that you actually need to ascend from Phakding to reach it. And as you can see from my pictures, it was very sunny and surprisingly warm. So that was an unpleasant last little jab that Everest got in.

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And we were back in Lukla! As a treat, we were staying in a lodge instead of a tent. The lodge, interestingly, was right next to the airport. And when I say next to the airport, I mean we were separated from the runway by a chainlink fence. I stood taking pictures of the incoming planes and helicopters.

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We sat and had tea in the yard of the lodge and I watched as the sun slowly went down.

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And finally the sun set in Lukla.

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The next day we were off to the airport…which, as mentioned, was right next door. I have not yet mentioned the sheer terror that is the Lukla airport.

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See the end of that very short runway? That’s just a sheer drop off the mountain side. It’s pretty sink or swim. The airport itself is also a little chaotic.

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It’s just a crush of people jostling for tickets and bag inspection. That’s how it works– you show up and hope you get a ticket. The tickets themselves just have a gate number and nothing else. Your departure time is whenever it happens.

After clearing security and getting into the little waiting area, I looked over to see many of the local young men transfixed by what was playing on television.

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What was playing? WWE wrestling! I kid you not. It’s incredibly popular there! One of our sherpas excitedly told us about his favorite wrestler. So my Everest journey concluded with me sitting in the airport with a snow-capped mountain visible from the open window, watching WWE wrestling for the first time.

And then I boarded my tiny plane and said goodbye to the Himalayas.

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Everest: Part III

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Between Dingboche and Lobuche.

Part I
Part II
Part III (you’re on it!)
Part IV 

And the Everest adventure continues! We’re going to make it to Base Camp this time! This leg of the trip is most seared into my brain, so get ready for some dramatic, verbose writing! So after two nights in Dingboche, it was time to leave for the very tiny village of Lobuche. We packed up and took the same route we had the morning before for the day hike.

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Taken about a minute after we left.

We retraced our steps about halfway up the mountain nearby and then turned off on a path that was being guarded by a pair of very lazy dogs. (They weren’t really guarding anything; they were fast asleep in the sun).

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We were immediately treated to more breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. As you can see above, we were not the only party on the trail. We passed some dzopkyo going about their business.

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I know how they feel, struggling uphill.

The initial trekking was pleasant enough, as it was on even(ish) ground without many rocks. We got a view of the town of Pheriche from above.

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See those little fields and buildings below? Pheriche!

There will be more on Pheriche later!

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We also passed this adorable little abandoned(?) cottage. After a good dose of walking across an open valley plain, we veered onto a path that wound around the side of a mountain. After more demented ribbon candy path trekking, we crossed a bridge over a channel of water and then had to climb back up. This is when things began in earnest.

(A note now, though, on my pictures of the trails. I’ve noticed that my photos of the trails tend to feature a lot of flat and even paths that don’t look terribly difficult. You must be thinking “wow, this girl is a complaining drama queen.” While that may be true, I didn’t manage to get pictures during the more difficult times on the trail because I was trying (a) to not fall over or (b) to not cough up a lung. The more difficult zig-zagging parts of the trail were also not particularly picturesque.)

So, when we began to climb back up from the bridge, the climbing became far more rocky and difficult. It was also suddenly intensely windy and freezing. This also marked one of the last sightings of these along the trail:

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Here we see a toiletus sheet-metalus in its natural habitat. 

A note now on the toilets. Do not go on this trip if you cannot deal with bad toilets. And I mean bad. The toilet pictured above is actually pretty nice. I won’t go into the gory details, but most toilets on this journey consisted of a hole in the ground and squatting in cold and dark places. I will say that you do get used to it and once you return, you have a new found appreciation for Western toilets and indoor plumbing (at least I did).

After a fairly brutal upward climb, we reached a field filled with memorials:

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It was fairly sobering. These were all memorials dedicated to men and women who had died on Everest, either summiting or, in at least one case, on the trail to Everest Base Camp.

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I immediately recognized this memorial, of course. Scott Fischer was one of the casualties in the 1996 Everest disaster and a main character in Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air.

After a rather somber break, we continued on towards Lobuche. The trekking at this point was far easier (although rocky) and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful days.

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This is the view once you leave the memorial field.

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This was probably my favorite stretch of trekking. I cannot describe just how beautiful it was in person. The pristine white mountains in the background absolutely glowed.

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Here are two porters with colorful bags having a conversation. I genuinely admire how hard working these guys were. I can’t imagine carrying all that baggage!

And so, after about an hour or so of walking among the bleached rocks towards those mountains, we reached Lobuche. We did not stay in tents at Lobuche because it was so cold. We instead stayed in a lodge. Well. To put it politely, I was not a fan of this lodge. I genuinely believe that the construction was overseen by the Joker. It was constructed entirely of thin plywood, and nothing fit together as it should have (including doors and door frames). The long hallway to the bathroom was dark and Kubrickian. It looked like the set of a horror movie, and I honestly would have preferred sleeping in a tent. It didn’t help that I was tired, sick, freezing, and struggling to eat anything.

The next day was better. We left Lobuche bright and early with everyone else in town.

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This should disabuse you of any ideas of being alone on the trails. 

We were headed now to Gorak Shep, the last small outpost before Base Camp.

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The initial trekking, as you can see above, was not so bad. It became more intense as we went on.

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Stacked rocks on the beginning of the trail to Gorak Shep and a dzopkyo near the end of the trail.

Towards the end of the trail, I heard a loud rumbling and looked off into the distance to see this:

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An avalanche! Thankfully, this was nowhere near the trails and therefore no one was hurt/in any danger. After about 3 or 4 hours of trekking, we reached Gorak Shep.

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You can see how tiny the village is in this photo from the trail. It’s not much bigger closer up…

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All of the buildings looked brand new! 

You might be thinking “ah, you reached Gorak Shep! Good for you. Surely you then rested for the remainder of the day?”

HA! No. After reaching Gorak Shep, we ate a quick lunch and then pushed on to Everest Base Camp. This was the absolute most intense part of the entire trek. We were all freezing and exhausted. Two of the four of us had to have the sherpas carry our packs (I did not).

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It was like trekking on the surface of the moon. There was almost no vegetation. The path to Base Camp was also the most treacherous, with an incredibly uneven and rocky trail. As a result, I spent most of my time forcing myself along and trying not to fall over. Because of my lung infection, I spent all of our rest breaks coughing nonstop (for whatever reason, if I was moving, I was too busy trying to breathe to cough). I didn’t take a huge amount of pictures along the way.

At this point, we were at approximately 17,500 ft above sea level. It’s difficult to describe the challenge that such high elevation and thin air brings. Even with Diamox (a medication to prevent altitude sickness), you struggle to find an appetite, to sleep, and to exert yourself. Physical tasks that would be simple at sea level are now serious physical exertions. You have also spent the past nine days or so getting to this point. That level of fatigue drains you. And in my case, it hurt my damaged lungs to breathe in such cold air. You really have to keep a positive attitude and push yourself to get there.

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This was the final ridge we walked along to reach Base Camp. (Descending from this ridge, however, there was still more light rock climbing to be done before you reached Base Camp…it wasn’t just a direct trail there). From this ridge (but not visible in the picture) you could see Base Camp. If you looked down from the ridge, you could see glacial lakes.

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On the picture to the left, you can see the glacial lakes from the melted parts of the glacier. Note that all of this trekking was on the Khumbu Glacier. Beneath the rocks, you could see ice. To the right are the rocks you must climb up and down on to reach Base Camp. Your trekking poles won’t help you here (though I didn’t use any, so they never helped me).

Finally we reached Base Camp! *Trumpets sound*

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There really isn’t very much at Base Camp. There were some prayer flags (as you can see above), a biting wind, and fellow trekkers who looked like they could be on the cover of Fit Young Hikers magazine. But it was incredibly gratifying to know that I had made it. In something of an exhausted daze, we retraced our steps and made it back to Gorak Shep, where we also stayed in a lodge due to the freezing temperatures.

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Not the Hilton, but far nicer than Lobuche!

I woke up the next morning to a complete frost on the inside of the window. During breakfast, it was decided that two of our group members would be helicoptered out and taken to Kathmandu because they were so ill. After that rather grim news, the rest of us quickly began our descent down. We took the same path as we did on the way up. Because we were descending and entering more oxygen-rich air, it went much quicker. We stopped for lunch in Lobuche (where I happily watched the proprietress of the tea lodge knitting a hat) and continued our way down though the memorial field.

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The memorial field on the way down.

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This was the view from our descent from the memorial field. We used the path that we had taken from Dingboche to Lobuche. However, once we reached a certain point, we turned and descended down instead of continuing on to Dingboche. After about an hour and a half of walking on a loooong rocky field (I almost tripped about five times), we reached the small town of Pheriche (remember the picture at the beginning of this entry?). We tented down and enjoyed a nice afternoon tea.

While reading a book in the tea lodge, I looked outside and noticed that the sun was setting. It was absolutely freezing out, but I’ll do almost anything for a photo. I ran outside and took photos until my hands were numb.

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Like most places along the Everest Base Camp trail, Pheriche is undergoing a lot of construction!

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Looking towards the trail out of Pheriche at a Trekker’s Shop.

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Here is another building that is undergoing construction, with a mountain range in the background.

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The sunset reflecting off of a peak in the distance.

And so began our descent down. We actually took a different path down than we did going up, so I will cover that in the next entry!

Everest: Part II

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The view from Dingboche.

Part I
Part II (you’re on it!)
Part III
Part IV 

And so begins the second part of the Everest adventure! Where last I left off, I was in Namche Bazaar. We spent two nights in Namche, hiking up several hours the day after we arrived and then returning down to Namche in order to acclimatize. I, however, did not. By that point, the illness in my lung had progressed to what sounded like bronchitis, and I was having trouble breathing. I briefly attempted the day hike but quickly had to turn back, instead spending a good part of my day in bed, concerned I was not going to make it much farther up the mountain. I ventured into Namche briefly, purchasing both the cheapest Mars bars (88 cents) and the most expensive gummy bears (4 dollars) I had ever seen. Relatedly, I am considering quitting my job to enter the gummy bear import business in Namche.

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The very beginning of the hike out of Namche

Thankfully, I managed to pull myself together and keep going (no thanks to either my antibiotics or Dayquil). The next day, we left Namche for Phortse, a small farming village, via the Mong La Pass, which snaked through the mountains. There were some excellent views of various peaks.

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We also came upon a woman who was helping her (I assume) husband collect money for the privately-funded maintenance of the trail. I was fascinated by what she was making. The lack of crochet hook or knitting needles led me to assume that it is macrame, but if anyone knows for certain, please tell me!

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Macrame? Maybe?

As usual, the trail was varied and reminded me of demented ribbon candy, with its pronounced ups and downs. I was surprised, however, by all the beautiful and varied vegetation. Even more surprising were the little bumblebees and butterflies that I saw.

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That was the only railing I ever saw on the trail. A lawyer always notices.

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It was at this altitude that we began to see yaks. Above are a pair of yaks in front of a town on the way to Phortse. Following a brutal ascent, we descended all the way down to the Dudh Koshi River, and then ascended back up to arrive in Phortse.

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Here is Phortse!

In the above picture is a stupa with the Buddha eyes painted onto it. In taking this picture and not paying attention to my surroundings, I was almost caught in the crossfire of an angry dzopkyo argument. I thankfully escaped ungored.

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A Phortse resident with the mountains in the background.

This is not one of the culpable dzopkyo. I show him as an example of a model citizen.

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We tented down for the night but, as usual, ate inside of a lodge. The lodge shown above struck me as particularly beautiful, so I took a picture. To the right, you can see the stove that heats the entire room. Because there are fewer and fewer trees at this elevation, the proprietors burn yak dung patties for heat. Yes, it is someone’s job to carry a basket and collect the yak dung on the trails. And I’m told that it is (thankfully!) a well paying job.

After a night filled with strange yak noises, we set out on our way to Pangboche, an even smaller village. The trail was similar to the one from the day before, with its snaking turns around mountains.

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Orange vegetation during the fall! My heart sang.

The trail was also another fun (read: not fun at all) exploration in repeated ascension and descent.

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Pictured above is one of many fun staircases up. Commonly, you’d proudly find yourself at the top, round the corner, and find a steep trail down. I think my screams of “WHY?!” echoed throughout the valley.

Like the previous day, I saw multiple yaks.

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Here is a small yak having some lunch. At one point on the trail, I stopped to take a picture of something behind me and when I turned back around, I found myself face to face with a giant yak. We both seemed surprised by the other’s presence.

Finally, we descended(!) to Pangboche.

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This was the view from my tent– some resting yaks and a whole lotta snow-capped mountain. Because this village was so small, we ate in the tent for the first and only time during the trek. We were treated to some beautiful views when we woke up.

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Dzopkyo enjoying their breakfast before setting off.

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More dzopkyo.

We began our day with a visit to a monastery…

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…which we promptly realized was closed! Above on the left, you can see a woman spinning all of the prayer wheels on the outside of the monastery. After this failed attempt, we set off for Dingboche!

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As we continued on the trail, snow-capped peaks greeted us at every turn. You might ask yourself at this point: was the trail winding and sadistically varied like all the other days? Was it a constant game of gains and losses in elevation?

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Look at the tiny person on the trail!

Yes, of course it was! What a silly question. But the scenery made it more than bearable.

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The river to the left is the Imja Khola river.

A brief walk through a forest of trees marked the last time we would encounter them until the descent. Instead, we found ourselves in an ecosystem filled with shrubs and, omnipresent as ever, rocks.

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Pictured: not trees.

If I never see another rock again, I will have lived a successful life. I cannot even begin to explain how frequently I tripped on rocks.

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Some rocks were better than others, of course. Pictured above are mani stones, inscribed with the Tibetan Buddhist mantra of “om mani padme hum.”

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Indeed, there were Buddhist relics everywhere along the trek. Above is a stupa, which are ubiquitous throughout the entire trail.

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To the right in the above picture, you can see the stupa that sits directly outside of Dingboche. After a not-particularly-challenging trek, we reached Dingboche at lunchtime.

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Above are some of the residents and visitors to our camp site. In the background you can see a little boy who was quite fond of playing with giant sticks.

That evening, I decided to attempt some nighttime photography (my first and last attempt at it). I was not displeased with the results, especially since my methods were rather crude. I didn’t bring a tripod, so instead I fidgeted about with the manual focus through mostly guesswork and rested my camera on a stone wall covered in yak dung patties (recall that that is what is burned for warmth). The hand sanitizer I brought was undoubtedly my best investment.

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The reality was much darker than the picture shows, so I was quite pleased that I was able to get things relatively in focus. And I’m sure I made quite the sight, fidgeting in the dark with my camera while crouched next to a bunch of yak crap.

The next day we remained camped in Dingboche and went on a relatively moderate 3 hour hike for acclimatization purposes.

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Here is Dingboche from the beginning of the hiking trail. It was cosmopolitan compared to the last two villages we camped in.

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Another stupa on the hike up! The views on the hike were spectacular.

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Here is one view. And then on the other side…

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…was this view. This was probably one of my favorite days on the trek. Beautiful views, a comparatively brief and easy hike, and Ritz crackers at lunchtime tea. What else can you ask for?