Gold Beach resident Dorthea Petersen doesn't mind traveling alone. In fact she prefers it. But when friends asked her if she wanted to accompany them on a three-week trip to Nepal and Kenya, she didn't hesitate.
Since moving to Gold Beach in 1990 and retiring as a registered nurse in 1993, Petersen has undertaken many trips, usually alone. During one such adventure, she took her tent and a sleeping bag and set out for Alaska and Canada during which she was gone for a little more than four months.
"I was camping in Denali State Park in Alaska in '97 when I met Sherry and Prakash," Petersen, 67, said. "We spent some time together and became good friends. Because Prakash is Nepalese, when they asked me if I was interested in this trip, I jumped at the chance to go because I thought it would be more interesting."
Petersen flew out of Portland May 20 and met up with the couple in Nepal. Because Prakash is a doctor, he had volunteered to work at a small hospital there for a couple months, although the couple lives in Nebraska. Petersen said they stayed in a hotel in Dhulikhel, from which they could see the Himalayas. During the week they were there, they took a driving trip to a little village called Mangalatar where Prakash had worked 20 years ago while training to be a doctor.
"He had vaccinated a lot of the little children there. Even though they are adults now they still recognized him," Petersen said. "The people there are so wonderful. They're very poor but very friendly."
Among the poorest and least developed countries of the world, the Kingdom of Nepal is draped along the mountains between India and China. It is slightly larger than Arkansas and has a population of 25 million. Although agriculture is the mainstay of the country, because of the mountainous territory Mount Everest lies on its borders only 17 percent of the land is arable. It is especially prone to severe thunderstorms, which Petersen witnessed first hand.
"We decided that because we had a prescription that it would be OK to eat there," she said. "But while we were eating a sudden rainstorm came and washed out the road so we had to wait while a Cat cleared out the mud."
Despite the fact that driving in Nepal is definitely a risk, Petersen said they resumed their journey to Dumja where some of Prakash's family lives.
"I felt so comfortable there that I frequently went for walks by myself," she said, "and one morning I was out walking and went past a primary school. A little boy who must have thought he was terribly brave came over to me and held my hand while I walked past the school. I guess he wanted to practice his English."
Nepal is the only official Hindu state and early one morning Petersen said she got up to witness a special ceremony.
"We got up at 4 a.m. to see a torchlight procession go up to a shrine. It was so beautiful to see the hundreds of flames weaving up the hill."
After spending some time with Prakash's family, it was time for the journey to
Kenya. Prakash and Sherry were traveling to Nairobi because their oldest daughter was graduating from a boarding school there. After arriving in Nairobi, the group took an all-day drive up the Rift Valley to Lake Nakura, on the day before the graduation.
"It's a really interesting place that's where Leakey made several of his discoveries and we saw several different types of animals," Petersen said. After consulting her journal, Petersen reported seeing zebras, gazelles, baboons, black rhinos, flamingoes and even domestic cats.
"When we stopped for a rest at a little grocery store, there was a mother cat and her kittens there. Jennie (the 13-year-old daughter of Prakash and Sherry) just loved those kittens. She held them and carried them around and didn't want to leave. Sherry couldn't believe she had spend $3,000 on this trip and her daughter's favorite thing was those kittens!"
After the graduation, which was also attended by Sherry's mother, the group went off on safari through Masamara State Park, which Petersen said is noted for its wildlife.
"There we saw eland, jackals, wildebeest and vultures, which led us to a lion kill. We knew it was a pretty fresh kill, because as is the nature of lions, the lionesses were waiting their turn to eat after the males had eaten their fill."
Following the trip to Masamara, the group journeyed through Tsabo National Park, which is close to the border of Tanzania.
"We got some great pictures of Mount Kilimanjaro there," she said. Despite the great beauty of the country, Petersen said there were extremes of poverty and she could see why the country wasn't making much progress.
As the trip was winding down, the group returned to Nairobi where they rested for a couple days and went shopping in the bazaar. Then they boarded a plane to return to Katmandu, Nepal, from which they would fly to Japan and ultimately back to the United States.
However, there were a couple layovers on the way. There was a one-day layover in Abu Dhabi, but the nurse from Gold Beach wasn't impressed. She said it was very hot and she didn't really have any desire to go back.
"As with a lot of places, smoking was very prevalent and unpleasant," she said.
The next stop, however, in Tokyo, she enjoyed and hopes to return one day.
"We spent two days there and I was very impressed with the transportation system. We were able to visit museums, the zoo and an open-air bazaar."
The group arrived in Los Angeles Nov. 12 where they all went their separate ways. On looking back, the adventurer who went to two beautiful places says that Nepal will hold very special memories for her because of the people.
"Traveling with friends and getting to know Prakash's family made all the difference," she said.
However, plans for the next exploration trip, which she intends to be another camping trip, but to Newfoundland and Labrador, will definitely be a solo journey.