June 23, 2009
Ahhh, finally a sleep in. A 9AM breakfast and lazy morning is much more like it. After that I went to my room to clean up some more photos while Sarah met with colleagues in the lobby. After she was done, new changes to the plan were announced. We would be going to Jiri after all. If the worst does happen and we get stuck, we will have a helicopter take us back to KTM. Although it is a terrifying 9 hour drive, its a 35-45 minute helicopter ride. And it can be a terrifying and sick-making flight. We will be out there for about 6 nights and then return to KTM for our last few days.
She also let me know that we would head out to the monkey colony today. While the road out to Jiri is pretty scary, it is a relatively good road. Not too wide at certain points, but you aren’t likely to slam your head against the window several times per minute. Thats a pretty accurate description of some of the road to this other location a couple hours out of KTM. The first 3/4 is actually fairly smooth. And it goes through quite a few small villages with locals doing what locals do.
There were men working on the road, women tending the fields, kids running around, chickens and cows and goats roaming anywhere they pleased. And then the paved part ended and it was a good hour of the worst road I have ever been on. A roller coaster this bad would be illegal in most countries. I tried as hard as I could to keep my head from snapping off at the neck. Sarah and Pravesh commented on how much the road had improved over the years. This was an improvement?
Finally we reached the destination but I cannot go into that here. Toward the end of our stay we had a wonderful lunch with rice, peas, and a wonderful mixture of mushrooms, tomatoes, and beans. Quite spicy and oh so tasty. I keep meaning to take pictures of these meals. Arrgghh.
For the return journey, the road had not improved at all, though I think I was able to handle it a bit better. Then again, I had just eaten a very spicy and acidic meal, so there was just a little churning going on as well. On both the way out and the return I was very happy with my new camera. The benefit this time was the automatically changing ISO speed, 1/8000 sec shutter, 8 fps, and good fast lenses. On the paved roads, I was sometimes able to use the zoom with great success. On the more rocky roads, the 50/1.4 really helped to keep the ISO down for less noisy shots. The fast shutter speed allowed for some good sharp pictures even though I couldn’t hold the camera very still. Sure, it would have been better to stop, but we didn’t have all day, and I managed to take about 1000 pictures on this one day alone.
One thing I noticed in this type of shooting was that the 80-200/2.8 that I have owned for about 15 years is still surprisingly fast at finding the correct focus. The 50/1.4G is very quiet, but much slower at focusing. Its a pretty demanding scenario since we were sometimes moving around very quickly and I don’t see it being an important question in the purchasing decision of any future lenses. But the weight is really tough on my arms. The D700 is hefty on its own. The battery pack adds a little, but the 80-200 is just as heavy as the body, perhaps more so.
By the time we got back to the hotel we were very shaken. On the elevator up to the bar, we all noted that it felt like we were still moving a bit. Much the same feeling as getting off a boat after being on high seas for a few hours. After resting for an hour or so with a soothing beer, we ventured down the street to a wonderful little Chinese place, and then an early night to bed…