Reflections and images from my travels

Hello everyone. I am now in Bangkok and flew in just as a major rainstorm was descending on the city. It is quite hot and humid here. However, I’m only here for an airport hotel stay overnight and then I fly out tomorrow morning to Paro, Bhutan. So I will have to leave exploring Bangkok for another time. I am again staying in a rather posh hotel, the Novotel, and on check-in they upgraded me to a superior room for free. Excellent.

I had a great half-day in Hong Kong prior to coming to Bangkok. I got up quite early and went down to the exercise room for a 10km run on the treadmill- I have to be ready for those mountain passes- as I was feeling relatively vigorous. Then, instead of relaxing, I decided to go down into the heart of the electronics district in Hong Kong. It is unbelievable how busy this city is. It is literally a shoppers paradise. I actually found what I was looking for because it was not available in North America just yet so I was happy (for the curious a super telephoto lens for the micro four thirds system). I was able to get back to the airport thanks to a very excellent transportation network as I was flying out by 1530 hours. Calgary could really learn something about public transport from this city.

As I alluded to in my earlier post, gear and more gear was required for this trip. It actually took quite a bit of planning. I will be in two different countries, three different areas over six weeks. I will not always have the availability of electricity, however, digital photography and GPS and flash as well as headlamps all require power. The solution I came up with was a 10 watt foldable solar panel with 12 V output as well as a Brunton lithium polymer battery storage unit with both 12 V input and selectable output including a USB output as well. It is amazing what is available to help you with any adventure. This system is relatively portable and very rugged and will withstand the elements. I also have a AA and AAA battery charger with 12 V adapter and a camera battery charger also with a 12 V adapter. Believe it or not this system will also allow me to run my MacBook Air so I can use it for processing raw files in the field and the computer also becomes my storage device for the thousands of pictures I expect to take. The MacBook Air is really quite light.

For my feet I decided to get a lighter set of Asolo hiking boots as my mountaineering boots are really too heavy and too stiff for all of the walking we will be doing. They feel great and I know my feet will be appreciative after hundreds of kilometers of hiking over six weeks. They are also quite light and waterproof. All of my clothing is lightweight, warm and very collapsible-layers come to the rescue again. Technology has done wonderful things to adventure clothing. I also have a light weight Gortex shell top and bottom for inclement weather.

Refreshing sleep is also a very important component of any adventure. For this I decided on a down sleeping pad from Xped which is an amazing piece of technology. It also folds down quite nicely and has a self inflating pump and provides an amazing R8 insulation factor. Theoretically you could use this down to -30°C. I also brought a -15 centigrade sleeping bag and a silk sleeping bag liner which should keep me comfy.

I had to do a total rethink on the photography end. I absolutely love my large and heavy lenses and DSLR camera, however, the weight of this system would simply not work for this particular adventure. I decided on micro four thirds. I have always been a fan of Olympus and they provide an excellent product with high quality and very light lenses. I determined my interests in photography on this trip would best be served by wide-angle lenses as well as a short telephoto lens for portrait photography. I passed on any macro photography lenses. I also got a lightweight super telephoto which the system provides again for. The difference in the lens sizes for the primes with this system is amazing. The quality of the lenses is also excellent. I was able to fit all of my lenses and camera as well as all of the paraphernalia for filters in a very small bag which works as part of a system with my backpack. I have a photography backpack from F-Stop which will allow me to carry all of my photography gear and still have three quarters of the pack for clothing on the trail.

For water I have a Katydyn lightweight water bottle that provides for filtering and chemical neutralization! We will have boiled water provided by our guides but it is a good idea to have access to more.

Prior to coming I received my rabies primary vaccination series, took a booster dosage of Dukoral and brought an assortment of high elevation medications just in case- Ventolin, Decadron and Diamox. In addition several antibiotics, antihistamines, analgesics as well as a personal medical kit especially for the solo part of my adventure.

All of my gear was able to fit into a lightweight 120 L Patagonia duffel as well as a 40 L F-Stop backcountry backpack. Everything is quite portable. However I may have to pack a few items out prior to going out on the trail in both Bhutan as well as Nepal as we are limited by the porters carrying approximately 11-15 kg maximum per participant. We can leave some of this gear securely in Paro for the Bhutan trek and in Kathmandu for the Nepal trek. Also, some of our regional airline connections only allow a maximum of 20 kg for checked in baggage. You really have to think hard about what to bring and what not to bring. I think we always err on the side of bringing too much. This time however I think I have just what I need.

That’s it! A short refresher on some of my gear now you can all wake up. I promise the rest of the posts will be about the experiences and of course some of the photographs of my adventures. None of this would be possible without some gear, hence, this post. If you have any questions about my gear please feel free to leave a comment through this blog. I will try to give you a reply eventually.

I am now off for a quick shower, a nightcap at the bar and a good sleep! The adventure begins tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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