Posted: November 6th, 2012 | Author: Darren Chartier | Filed under: travel | Tags: annapurna, ANTA, g adventures, nepal | 2 Comments »
Day 12 – Kalapani to Tatopani
I am so clean, warm, and ready for supper right now. After spending what seems like forever in sub-10C weather, often sub-zero, today was gloriously warm. To top it all off we ended the day at a hot spring which is exactly what my body needed after all the work going over the pass in the cold.
I am in Tatopani, where I am reminded that outside of the relatively remote mountain regions where we were trekking, lots of Nepal is actually quite tropical. There are orange trees in the courtyard of our tea-house, and the outside temperature is at least 20C even though it’s after 6pm.
Romesh thankfully warned us about the temperature change, it was cold last night in Kalapani, probably hitting zero or just above it, so the temptation was to dress warm, but thankfully I pulled on my shorts and dealt with the early morning cold at breakfast knowing it would be a warm hike. After breakfast we took the same bus as yesterday for about an hour and then started walking at a town called Ghasa.
It was mostly downhill, following a silty river and crossing a few dodgy suspension bridges which seem to be a mandatory part of Nepalese trekking trails. We stopped for lunch by a beautiful waterfall, and continued on for a couple hours until we reached Tatopani (tato means hot, pani means water) around 3:30. The reward for all our walking was a promised hotspring in town, entrance a mere 60 rupees. They served beer, it was pretty much perfect for sore and tired muscles that had walked up and down a mountain.
I have no idea what is in store for tomorrow, I think we’re trekking but I’m not sure the details. It’s funny as so much of this trip is about making Thorong La, but there’s a full week after the pass to fill out. I think the next big bit is a place called poon hill which we’ll reach in the next few days, it’s not terribly high altitude (by Nepalese standards, somewhere just above 3000 meters), but it’s supposed to have great views of the whole Annapurna range.
Day 13 – Tatopani (1190m) to Sikha (1935m)
So. Many. Stairs.
We climbed over 700 meters in altitude from our low-point at tatopani yesterday, and I think because I had already done Thorong La I wasn’t really mentally prepared for another climb so soon. It was a tough day, hot and sunny and with pretty much a continuous climb starting after breakfast and not finishing until lunch at 1pm.
I was extra tired for the climb today, and I’m glad there’s only 2 more days of trekking left in this trip. It’s beautiful, but I’m starting to get tired of the constant plodding and having to keep a schedule set out for me.
As for the beauty, we’re no longer in the arid desert region that characterized the middle of the mountains and there’s tons of agriculture. All of it by hand, the old old old fashioned way. There were oxen, and they were pulling a wooden plow, also teams of villagers bent over cutting rice by hand and hand threshing the grain. I can’t understand, given how many mountain streams there are, why nobody builds a simple water-power machine to make some of this work easier.
Tomorrow we’ve got nearly a full km to climb, and then the next day we wake up really early to climb the final 300 meters up Poon Hill before dawn so we can get a big sunrise view over the whole annapurna range.
Day 14 – Sikha (1935m) to Ghorepani (2870m)
Even though today there was nearly a full kilometer of ascent today I had a much better time of it than yesterday due to the judicious use of headphones. It’s amazing how much more bearable a slog is when you’ve got music pumping to keep you going. We’re back at altitude today, but honestly I didn’t even notice, I think the many days above 2500 meters I already put in was enough to make this climb over 2500 meters less of an issue.
The walk was pretty much more of the same as yesterday, although less walking by rice farms and more walking through forests of rhodehedrons and oak trees. It was quite beautiful, and we lucked out on the weather again with bright blue skies with high wispy clouds, just enough to provide some contrast for the mountains in the distance.
Tomorrow is the last day of trekking, we’ll start the day climbing Poon Hill (3200 meters) for dawn and then continue on to Birethanti (1025m), which means lots of downhill tomorrow as well as gradually getting warmer. In total it’s something like 6 or 7 hours of hiking, possibly I can get wifi in Birethanti so I can upload my previous blog post, but if not it’s all going to have to wait for Pokkara and Kathmandu.
Day 15 – Ghorepani (2870m) to Poon Hill (3200m) to Birethanti (1025m)
Whew, a very long day today, our last day of actual trekking. We started with a 4:30am wake-up call, then left our tea-house at 5am to begin a climb up the 300 meters of so to the top of Poon Hill in time for sunrise. All in all it was a pretty easy climb considering what we’ve already accomplished, however it was very different than pretty much all our other hiking because there were so many people doing the climb. There were hundreds of people when we finally got to the top, and the reason why is that Poon Hill is the highlight of a much shorter and easier trek, so for people visiting Nepal for a shorter trip it’s the most accessible trek.
Still the mountains were beautiful, and it was somewhat incredible to see the whole range of mountains and realize that I walked around and over pretty much most of what I could see. I totally over-dressed, and was sweltering with my long-johns, two sweaters, scarf, hat and mittens, but thankfully after we descended I could pack it all away in my stuff bag and switch to warm weather gear (leaving our poor porters to carry my heavy warm clothes).
After breakfast we had a full 7 hours of hiking (including lunch and breaks) to make it to Birethanti. Again I gave in to the temptation to listen to music, and I’m glad I did. All those stairs I was complaining about walking up I now had to walk down and, even though the landscape was beautiful, it’s hard to appreciate it when you’re always just looking at the terrain in front of you to make sure you don’t fall and crack your head. I did manage to look up occasionally, and we started in a temperate sub-alpine environment, progressed into a temperate forest, then into a temperate rain-forest, then tropical forest, and now we’re in pretty much near jungle territory.
Tomorrow we head to Pokkara for our second last night as a group, with no planned group activities I think I might rent a motorcycle and ride around since I’ve already had a chance to explore the town.
Day 16 – Birethanti (1025m) to Pokhara (827m)
That’s it, the last of the trekking completely done. This morning we started out after breakfast for a short (45 minute) walk to where the bus picked us up and brought us to Pokhara for a free day to explore the town. The walk wasn’t particularly difficult or memorable, except in that we definitely knew we were back into the more populated areas of nepal as most of our walking was bordered by shops.
A short hour and a half later, we were in Pokhara saying goodbye to our porters who had carried all our heavy shit all over the mountains for us. A huge tip was collected into a very stuffed envelope, goodbyes were exchanged in broken english and weak nepali, and everyone shook hands, hugged, and exchanged high-fives.
What can I say about our porters except to say they were awesome. Most of them are Nepali university students, studying everything from Physics to the humanities, and many of them hope to become tour leaders themselves one day. It’s a bit sad that being a tour leader is probably one of the best jobs a student can get out of university, but such is the world as it is. Romesh constantly was throwing us (the tourists and the porters) together in a mutually beneficial way and even though it was hard to really talk I feel like good friendships were formed. Of course there’s nothing but respect for them on our part, they not only did the same trek we did, but they did it carrying 30+kg each!
After the good-bye to the porters we were on our own, and I introduced some of our group members to a little lakeside bar I found when I was last in Pokara called the Bamboo Bar. It’s a ways off the main strip, nice and relaxed and playing chillout music. Afterward we all split a cab and visited the International Mountain Museum.
The museum is a fair bit away from the touristy area of Pokhara, near the airport, and worth taking a cab to. Inside it’s a proper museum, dedicated to first the people of the Himalaya, the mountains themselves, and finally all the mountaineering that has taken place here. Full exhibits on all the first climbs of each of the fourteen 8000+ meter mountains are included, sometimes with examples of the original equipment, which made me feel over-equipped for even my little trek through the Thorong La pass. The best exhibit I think was the one about cleaning up the trash on Mt. Everest, a japanese mountaineer mounted a bunch of climbs whose purpose was to remove discarded tents, fuel canisters, oxygen tanks, and other garbage from the mountain, removing literally tons of trash.
Tomorrow we drive back to Kathmandu, and that’s it for this trip.
Day 17 – Pokhara to Kathmandu and Day 18 – Departure day
The final bit of travel with G Adventures involved taking a bus early morning from Pokhara, we were on the road by 7am, and driving to Kathmandu. I have done the drive in and out of Kathmandu a few times now in my time here in Nepal, first leaving Kathmandu for Pokkara on my own, then coming back into Kathmandu after kayaking, then leaving again with G Adventures, so it’s a bit of an old hat for me at this point. What I didn’t expect is how different the road looked to me now that I have had the hair-raising experience of jeeps on _real_ mountain roads in the Annapurna area. In comparison, the road into Kathmandu seemed tame and calm, which is saying something.
On arrival in Kathmandu we checked into our hotel, collected our left luggage, and had a couple hours to spare which I used up searching for the trekking shop I rented my sleeping bag from (a real needle in a haystack operation as there are about a billion trekking stores that look identical in the touristy part of kathmandu) and dropping my laundry off to be washed.
The final activity in the trip was the farewell dinner, which Romesh organized at a nice restaurant outside the main tourist area. Drinks were drunk, dinner was eaten, and speeches were given, pretty standard really. I haven’t talked about the people on this trek really, mostly because I don’t really like talking about people (especially in such a public forum) but we really did luck out on our bunch. Everybody pulled their own weight, was sociable, and were honestly good people, and it was a pleasure to trek with them for the weeks we spent together. Email addresses and facebook ID’s were passed around, and while it’s unlikely that everyone will cross my path again that I’ll see at least a couple of them again considering there was a sizeable north american contingent (8 people of 15).
I’m not going to do a full on review for this trip like I did with the exodus bicycle trip, mostly because I don’t really have any substantial criticisms to levy. Everything went as smooth as possible, the crew went above and beyond in order to allow us to concentrate on walking and taking pictures, and I think the daily trip diary serves as a review for any who care to know what this trip is about.
Nepal internet is pretty terrible, I have yet to find any connection of any decent upload/download speed, so photo upload might have to wait until my next stop – Delhi.
Posted: November 3rd, 2012 | Author: Darren Chartier | Filed under: travel | Tags: annapurna, ANTA, g adventures, thorong la, trekking | No Comments »
Day 9 – Yak Kharka (4000m) to Thorong Phedi (4450m)
Six kilometers. That’s all we had to walk today, six kilometers. Within that six kilometers we ascended nearly 500 meters in elevation. It took us four hours. That’s less than 2kph, we’re really taking “walk slowly, walk slowly” to heart. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t have done it quicker, the air is really thin and even the slightest exertion is enough to take your breath away.
Within that six kilometers was maybe 300 meters of a landslide area, again, and once more we needed to up the pace when crossing it. A few years ago I ran the Midsummer Night’s Run, a 15km run that takes place in Toronto in August, I think I was just as winded after today’s 300 meter dash as I was after that 15km run.
Apart from the physical exertion, we’ve finally reached the foot of the pass through to the other side of the mountain, and we’re preparing for tomorrows big hike through. The plan is to wake up at 3am, eat breakfast at 3:30, and be on the trail at 4am. We have 10 hours of hiking in front of us tomorrow, with 1000 meters of altitude to gain as we approach the pass and 1800 meters of altitude down on the other side as we head to Muktinath to likely collapse into our beds fully clothed.
Expected temperature as we set out tomorrow is around -10C and I’m finally going to wear the heavy woolen socks I’ve been carrying since I started my trip. I think I’m going to be ok, I don’t have a down jacket but I’ve got lots of layers and if all else fails I will put my rain coat on top to cut the wind and keep the heat in. I’m hoping the wind won’t be so bad, I think part of the reason we set out so early is to avoid high winds which can pick up in the pass as the day goes on.
Day 10 – Thorong Phedi (4450m) to Thorong La Pass (5416m) to Muktinath (3800m)
We started our day with a 2:45am wake up call, followed by breakfast at 3:30am, and by the time we set out it was 4:30am. It was cold and dark, and it was all uphill. I, of course, didn’t have a down jacket and was counting on layers to keep me warm. Unfortunately I planned for temperatures of -5C to -8C, but what we actually got was more like -12C to -15C, plus wind. It wasn’t so bad as long as I kept moving, but keeping moving meant a slow climb of 1000 meters up to the pass, with nothing for my lungs but cold, thin air. On top of it all, my headlamp battery was dying.
Thankfully around 6am it got light enough to see without the headlamp, and for a brief period after the sun rose, and before we crossed the 5000 meter mark, it was warm enough that my inadequate gear wasn’t a factor, so it was only really the highest part where I was uncomfortably cold. That last 500 meters of ascent was like nothing I have ever done before, a never ending sequence of left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, always hoping the ridge above you was the last.
It took 5 hours to reach Thorong La. We knew it had to be coming soon, but after 20 ridges that were simply followed by another higher ridge behind it I wasn’t particularly optimistic that we’d actually get there anytime soon. When I finally crossed a ridge, looked up and saw not yet another ridge but instead a prayer flag festooned ridge a short and relatively gentle way up, I didn’t really believe I was finally there. Of course our porters had made it there way before us and started yelling and cheering us on, so at that point it rung true. Everyone in the group made it up under their own power (entrepreneurial locals sit along the trail with saddled horses to pick up anyone who gives up before reaching the top) and hearty high-fives were exchanged by all. Several group photos next to the sign announcing the elevation and other particulars of the pass, some faffing about, and 30 minutes after arriving we were all aching to head to lower elevations, warmer weather, and thicker air.
In my mind, when Romesh was explaining our plan for the day, I hadn’t really paid much attention to the after the pass portion of the day. I knew it was going to take just as long to go down as up (since we were going nearly twice as far down as up), but I didn’t really think it was going to be a big deal. You can see where this is going. While going down was many times easier than going up was it wasn’t the cake walk I think I was expecting.
First off the terrain was extremely desolate, basically a mountainous desert. Where on the other side of the pass we were constantly passing glacier streams once over the pass the only moisture in evidence was the snow clinging to the sand, rocks, and gravel. Also, it was steep, and in many ways more treacherous as going down the risk of sliding increased. Finally, it just went on and on, and there was nothing at all in between the pass and Muktinath except for some tea houses about 45 minutes up from the town. That meant we had breakfast at 3am, and didn’t have lunch until after noon. And while I did have a snickers bar around 10am, I wasn’t exactly in top form for the last bit of descent before lunch.
In the end we all survived, and I am now safe and sound, if a bit chilly, in Muktinath. I just uploaded my last blog post and was going to post this one too, but alas I think I have used all my data from my NCELL sim card and will have to go in search of a store that sells reloads before I can post this. Pictures will have to wait until I can find a decent internet connection.
Day 11 – Muktinath (3800m) to Jomson (2710m) to Kalapani (2530m)
How many jeeps do you think it would take to transport 26 people 30km over a very rough mountain road in Nepal? Think about that for a little while and I’ll tell you about my day.
Today was a non-hiking day, a simple transport day moving us from Muktinath to Kalapani. We started off by visiting the big temple in Muktinath, which confusingly contains a holy place for both Hindu’s and Buddhists, bright and early before breakfast. The temple is a walled complex just between the town and the trekking path back up to Thorong La, about a 20 minute walk from our tea house. Within the temple walls it’s like a little slice of Canada in the late autumn, but with poplar trees instead of maples and of course the ever present prayer flags tied to every conceivable place. The biggest draw of this temple, pulling pilgrims from all over the hindu world, is the 108 spouts of water which are arranged around a central temple. I wasn’t quite clear of the exact mythology of the spouts and the exact deities worshiped at the temple, and I have no access to wikipedia to check, but as far as our guide Romesh told us Hindu’s who shower in the 108 spouts of water fare better in the afterlife.
After watching Romesh and the porters brave the sub-zero temperatures and wash their faces in all 108 spouts of water (or collect water from all spouts into a single bottle to bring home to family) we moved onto the Buddhist shrine around the holy pale flame. Again I don’t really know the significance of this really, but basically it’s a flame from naturally occurring methane or something in the area which has had a shrine built over it for some hundreds of years. I really wish I had access to wikipedia as I was going through it, I’m sure there’s tons of detail about the temple available there.
Ok, back to the jeep question. There was no real trekking today, after our temple visit we took _two_ jeeps, yes two jeeps for 26 people (14 tourists, 10 Nepalese, and 2 drivers), from Muktinath to Jomsom where we stopped for lunch. What can I say about the jeep drive, it was both an experience I’m glad I had and one I don’t ever wish to repeat. On our last jeep drive I sat in the front passenger seat, but this time I was in the back bench. Every. Single. Bump. Imagine driving over a dry river bed of nothing but largish stones and that is literally the easiest part of the jeep drive we did today. Other highlights included dodgy wooden bridges, bathtub size holes in the gravel road, and the mandatory sheer cliff-sides as we moved down mountain sides.
After our lunch jeep adventure we took a bus from Jomsom to Kalapani. The only appreciable difference between the bus and the jeeps was size, the road was pretty much just as rough, although maybe less switch-backs to navigate. Anyways, we made it safely to Kalapani where there is spotty wifi and I’m hoping it will be on in the morning so I can upload this post. Fingers crossed.
Posted: October 29th, 2012 | Author: Darren Chartier | Filed under: travel | Tags: annapurna, ANTA, g adventures, nepal, trekking | 1 Comment »
Day 5 – Chame (2640m) to Pisane (3300m)
It’s about 4C, and I’m wearing mittens while typing… they’re fleece lined and hand knitted with yak wool and have those neato flappy covers that expose or cover the fingertips. They cost me about $2 CAD in Kathmandu, which seems absolutely crazy to me since I know how much work knitting take since one of my favourite past-times at home is to sit and read while @pipesdreams knits on the couch next to me.
Today is our first full day above 2500 meters elevation, which means we’re now at the point where altitude sickness can become a factor. So far I’m doing ok, I can feel that the air is thinner, there was a short portion of today where we had to rush as we were passing a rock-slide zone (in itself a somewhat stressful undertaking, walking fast single file as close to the cliff as possible with huge drop a meter or so away) and after that I really felt short of breathe far beyond the what the exertion would have warranted. But other than an awareness of thinner air I’m so far free of any nausea, headaches, aches, or tiredness. Not everyone in our group is so lucky, as I write several people are lying in bed trying to acclimatize.
As for today’s hike, it was cold cold cold. Up until today we’ve been super lucky with the weather, enjoying clear skies and good views of the mountains for most of the day, and sunshine to keep us warm as we walk for at least most of the day, but today it was clear around 6am and cloudy from 8am onwards. Everyone broke out all their layers today, and my plan of doing without a down jacket and going for layers seems to be working, although it is strange to be trekking the himalayas with the same rain coat I use when riding my bicycle to work in downtown toronto.
Tomorrow is supposed to be a light hiking day, we should reach our destination in time for lunch, and then we spend a whole day more there in order to acclimatize to the altitude before we make the approach to the high pass of thorong la and our maximum elevation for this trip.
Day 6 – Pisane (3300m) to Manang (3540m)
If yesterday was defined by being cold and wet, today was it’s glorious opposite. The day dawned with blue skies, bright sunlight, and a generally easy walk with few steep ascents. It’s a good thing too, because the mountains were unbelievable. I really don’t have the words to describe it, so I’m going to hope that by the time I find internet I’ll be able to upload at least one of the many, many photos to illustrate.
The whole day was basically spent staring upwards at the huge imposing peaks of the Annapurna range, walking slowly a little bit, then stopping to go “holy shit” and taking a photo.
Weather wise it was warm to start, but at some point we passed onto a high mountain plateau with a wicked wind which cooled things down considerably. Thankfully the wind was always at our backs so once we all put on a wind proof shell it wasn’t a problem. I kept on thinking we were going to lose our sunlight, but our luck held and we had clear skies all the way to Manang.
Apparently, once a year they race Himalayan horses right through the centre of town, and today was the day. So after checking into our rooms and having a little wander through the town we were able to watch some pure chaos. Horses going at breakneck speed, others waddling along behind with smiling and laughing little men on top shouting jokes back at the crowd, all going at the same time in both directions. It was exhilarating, if a bit freezing once the sun went down (to be fair, I probably should have worn more than a t-shirt and a hoodie before going out).
Tomorrow is a rest day, I might take the opportunity to search for some internet to upload this post. I think there might be some sort of day-hike planned, probably all calculated to help us acclimatize to the altitude.
Day 7 – “Rest day”
Apparently rest day really means acclimatize to altitude by doing a hike day. Today we hiked from Manang at 3540 meters altitude to Praken Gomba at 3950 meters, to visit a local holy man who has lived in a little cave up there for the past 45 years. We were all blessed and given a little necklace of holy string and given a hearty good luck with Thorong La pass.
The hike up there was very pretty, we followed small trails through high alpine fields with first goats grazing and higher up the yaks. It was pretty much 2 hours of climbing, sometimes very steep, before we finally reached the mass of prayer flags and the small garden that marked the entrance to the cave we were heading for.
It was a pretty cool experience, I’m normally pretty cynical about religious figures but you simply have to respect anyone with the tenacity to live in such a remote and unforgiving place and dedicate his time to meditation and contemplation. Oh, I should mention that he’s 94 years old, with a very weathered face. His little cave is covered with mementos of his life, photos of him with the Dalai Lama, Buddhist imagery, and assorted random things that people have given him over the years.
We were lucky again with the weather, although it wasn’t as gloriously clear as yesterday it was sunny until about 3pm, which was plenty of time to get up and come back down to Manang again. Right now I’m looking out of the dining hall in our tea house looking out the window at a huge glacier high above me slowly being obscured by clouds.
I did go on a search for internet, and while there is some it’s very expensive and you have to use their computer, and I’m not super keen to trust my logins to random computers likely full of spyware. It looks like this won’t be posted until after I cross the pass, it’s going to be a long blog post when it finally comes 🙂
Day 8 – Manang (3540m) to Yak Kharka (4000m)
“Ready to go? Slowly, slowly.” That’s the refrain of Romesh, our tour leader as we continue to hike now that we’re at altitude. It’s strange to walk so slowly, but it’s pretty much necessary as he prepares us for the Thorong La pass. On paper it’s hard to appreciate how much of this trip is tailored to ensure that everyone makes it through without suffering altitude sickness.
Today we gained 500 meters in elevation by lunch time, and arrived at our tea house completely wiped. It really wasn’t a super hard walk, but the combination of sun, altitude, wind and cold was enough to give me something of a headache. Nobody was keen when Romesh announced that after lunch he wanted us to go for a hike up to 4200 meters and join him and the porters in a song and dance. Seriously, singing and dancing on the mountain top.
Just to be clear, our porters were really keen on this plan and how can you say no to the people who are working hard everyday carrying your gear? After following a pretty steep path up the local hill we stopped about half-way up, sat down among the low bushes, and took a rest break that turned into a dance party. After you got over the initial “dang, I feel pretty stupid” it was pretty fun, I now have a tune stuck in my head to which I know none of the words and can only barely hum.
At one point during the dancing a huge eagle passed directly over head, perhaps 10 meters above our little song and dance party, with the huge mountains as a backdrop, it was pretty magical and completely revived me, which I think was the point.
Tomorrow is our last day before we cross Thorong La and reach our highest elevation, and while I certainly won’t find internet access before the pass I’m going to end this post here and start another, likely it’ll be posted from Pokkara and I’ll have strong enough internet to upload at least some of the photos.
Posted: October 23rd, 2012 | Author: Darren Chartier | Filed under: travel | Tags: annapurna, ANTA, g adventures, nepal | 1 Comment »
Way back in February of this year, when it was finally looking like I’d actually get the chance to take my year off, I was obsessively looking at travel itineraries on all sorts of websites. In an effort to keep me sane, and with the patient encouragement of @pipesdreams, I decided to book a trek in Nepal in October 2012 to give me a destination to work towards as I planned the rest of my trip. Now I am finally on that trek, writing to you from a teahouse at somewhere around 2100 meters elevation on the Annapurna circuit.
I had some trepidation about joining this group as I had been in Nepal for 2 weeks before joining up with the group, and I had passed up several opportunities to go trekking independently with people I had met here in Nepal, but as it was already paid for I was pretty much committed. Joining the group in Kathmandu went smoothly, and there doesn’t seem to be any real annoying people which is awesome.
Positives of trekking with a big organized group:
– Porters to carry your shit, I’m trekking with a little 22L day bag instead of a full-on backpack
– The group composition is a welcome change. The youngest is perhaps 22 and the daughter of the oldest, a couple somewhere in their 50’s I think, with plenty of people in the middle. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great conversations with the 20-somethings in hostels, but occasionally it’s nice to talk with people who remember the nineties.
– No planning, just show up and our lead guide tells you when and where to be, where we’re ending up each night, etc.
Negatives of trekking with a big organized group:
– No choice, yes everything is planned for you but you can’t really shop around or really have much time to decide for yourself what to do. Want to stop for tea in the afternoon during your trek, too bad.
– More expensive: I noticed this in Egypt as well, there’s something about a group of 10+ tourists showing up which somehow adds 50% to the cost of all meals.
On the whole though, the negatives aren’t really that bad and in context of my wider trip I can give up a bit of control for a few weeks no problem. And really, dang the landscape is so brilliant that it doesn’t really matter where I stop for the night or if I spend 100 rupees more for my dinner than I should.
To summarize the trip so far:
Day 1: show up in kathmandu, meet the group
Day 2: wake up at 5:30, in bus on road for 6am. Twelve hours later arrive in Jagat. That’s twelve hours, about 8 of which are in a pretty comfortable minibus taking the death inspiring road out of kathmandu (a steep, winding mountain road, “paved”, packed with buses and trucks). After the minibus we switched to 4×4 jeeps that have likely been in continuous service since 1982, and after the wheel came off one of them and we got a replacement, we had several hours on a road that makes the road out of kathmandu look like a superhighway. It didn’t help that due to the breakdown we didn’t arrive until after dark. It was bumpy, dusty, gravelly except where mountain streams cut through the road, and the was generally at least a 250 meter drop off to one side or the other. As frightening as it was I can’t imagine what it was like for the porters who were riding on the roof with the baggage. OMFG
Day 3: Wake up at 6 because that’s when the sun comes up, but we didn’t leave until around 8:30. The trekking was beautiful, pretty much beside a beautiful rshing mountain river the whole way, milky blue with rapids that I now see from a beginner kayakers perspective as probably suicidal. And while we had lots of deadly cliffs next to our path, they don’t seem so bad when you’re actually walking and not depending on a jeep to deliver you to safety. Pictures will have to tell the story here, but it’ll be awhile before I can post pictures. Probably the part that would give most people the squeeky-grues was crossing the suspension bridges over the river. Made of metal, like walking on a grill on the sidewalk except shaking with the wind and other walkers, 150 meters over nothing but tens of thousands of litres of water per minute. It was a long, beautiful walk, and it took about 8.5 hours to reach our stop for the evening gaining nearly a full kilometer of altitude.
And that’s where I am as I write this, but likely not as I post this as there is no internet here… I’ve heard there might be internet available before I make it to Pokkara and if so I’ll post this, keeping my fingers crossed.
There is internet in Chame, the administration headquarters of the Manag district here in the Annapurna Conservation area, so I can post this now. Unfortunately the internet isn’t exactly lightening speed, so text only, pictures will have to wait until we get to Pokkara. As for the hiking, Day 4 was significantly easier of a walk than Day 3, with stunning views of Annapurna II and bringing us up to over 2600 meters in altitude. We started out at around 8:30am, and made it to our guesthouse in Chame by 3:30pm. The cold is starting though, although it’s still warm enough for shorts (especially when in the direct sunlight), but when in the shadow of the mountains it gets chilly, I am especially glad for the wonderfully warm cashmere sweater @pipesdreams got me last year. Tomorrow we continue our trek, slowly heading towards our highest altitude on Day 10 as we cross the Thorng-La pass, I can’t remember exactly the altitude but I think it’s somewhere around 5500 meters, which seems crazy to me. As before, if possible I’ll try to post before we make the pass but it all depends on the Nepalese internet gods.