Annapurna with G Adventures – after the pass

Posted: November 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , , , | 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.

2 Comments on “Annapurna with G Adventures – after the pass”

  1. 1 steve said at 9:51 am on November 6th, 2012:

    great blog, i read each adventure. brings back memories of my trek.

  2. 2 misterscience said at 5:35 pm on November 6th, 2012:

    Well told Darren. My knees hurt a bit after reading about all the climbing…

    Looking forward to more entries.


Leave a Reply