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November 27, 2000:

After a fabulous time in Australia, we had a little trouble adjusting to India. However, after a few frustrations, we soon got the logistics figured out and spent a day with a friend of Tom's touring Delhi, before heading off to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.

The Taj is one of the few places in the world that actually lives up to its hype, and looks better than the pictures. We spent the rest of the two weeks driving through Rajasthan, visiting forts and castles, and stopping in small towns and villages to see local life. We especially enjoyed seeing everyone cleaning, painting, and decorating their houses for Diwali. They adorned their houses with electric-orange marigolds, and set off spectacular fireworks to attract good fortune and wealth.

As the nation celebrated Diwali, we celebrated our first anniversary. For the occasion, we found the Devi Garh, a fantastic converted castle near Udaipur. We took a camel ride on dirt paths to see Diwali preparations in the local village, and visited the temple at the appointed hour with dozens of the locals. The celebration finished with fireworks all over the village - a great way to celebrate an anniversary!

Our next stop was Kathmandu, Nepal, for some serious trekking. We soon met our trekking companions, 4 men from the USA, and with one day of preparation, we loaded onto a bus for a hair-raising ride to Gorkha. There the 24 porters and staff loaded all the gear onto their backs, and we began to hike.

During 24 days we covered over 175 miles and crossed two 17,000+ foot passes. We walked around Manaslu, the 10th highest mountain in the world, on a route that only allows 400 trekkers a year. While the Himalayan peaks towered over us, we left the modern world and Western people behind. No roads, electricity, phones - all cargo is carried on the backs of porters. As we walked by the friendly Nepali and Tibetans worked their fields next to the trail.

In Namrung, a displaced Tibetan man invited us into his house for a ceremony. Three village elders chanted Buddhist prayers while we drank blessed Tibetan tea and nibbled on sampa. A few days later we got our first and last snowfall, although the temperature was below freezing many nights. Snowball fights at 14,000 feet get exhausting quickly!

After 17 days we joined the Annapurna circuit, heavily trafficked by trekkers. We eagerly asked for news of the US and tried to make sense of conflicting reports on the election. The ones that we didn't believe turned out to be the closest to the truth.

On the 24th day, tired and grimy (glacial rivers make for short baths), we returned to Kathmandu for much needed showers and beds. We spent a few days shopping, visiting local sights, and flying in a small plane around Everest for some spectacular pictures.

Now we're off to Europe, as a layover from Nepal to Argentina, where we'll spend a week visiting friends and hopefully doing some early-season skiing.

Our fantastic trip is coming to an end, and we can't wait to get back home to see family and friends. We'll be back in SF for New Year's, and then we begin the process of restarting our lives.

Next summary: We're Back!

Revised: February 12, 2001 on www.shieldsaroundtheworld.com.
Copyright 2000 Tom & Louisa Shields. All rights reserved.