Published: April 23rd 2007April 23rd 2007
Wish I remember where this was in the trek. Beautiful though isn't it?
I had quite a bit of trouble deciding what the title of this udpate should be as my time in Nepal has varied greatly. After a month in the country I am not really sure what my opinion of it is, or where it ranks in the growing list of places I've been to. I have started to realize though just how many factors may influence your experience in a country: where you are coming from, how much money you have, how long you have been away for, and all the little individual experiences that you have whilst there. For those that have been waiting for a blog update here it is. It's a long one and if you are like me and prefer to just look at the pictures, well I've taken some time to upload quite a few of those as well.
Most people who visit Nepal are either on a long trip or a short two to three week stint from their homes in Europe. Those on the long trip are almost inevitably coming from India and bathe in the ease of travel that is Nepal when compared to the fury and hassle of India. Most
Just one of the examples of the lies spread throughout the country. Next thing you know they're going to be telling me that the sky is blue
people talk of it as if they are just finally allowed to take a breath of air after having been forced to hold their breaths for months. The Europeans on their package tours and their extensive budgets (huge generalization) rarely need to worry about anything exept for how much to tip their guide. Arriving with a tight budget and coming from China where I got used to people being honest, and genuinely helpful, Nepal has been a somewhat frustrating experience. It's not the guys on the street who try selling you hash or try to get you to take a rickshaw. These people are easily ignored to the point that I don't even know if they are talking to me or someone else. In fact it is only when your dealings involved money. I'm not sure if it is habit, how they are raised or if they are taught it in some sort of business school but many people just accept that lying is part of business and that you should never, under any circumstances answer a question a customer is asking.
"Our elephant ride is more expensive because it is much better than the other guys'."
From left to right Craig, myself, C.J. and Jules. No we didn't plan it like that.
"yes but it is much better and that is why it is more expensive."
Rarely is a bill at a restaurant correct as the wily waiters and owners try and add on extra beers, cokes or even full meals that the ghost sitting beside you seemed to consume while you were unaware. The worst of all of them was buying my flight to London. Despite an 'exact quote' of the price whenever I would finally go to make the purhase the price of the flight would suddenly and inexplicably jump anywhere from $20 to $200 plus the extra surcharges that they failed to inform you about at first. Jimmy almost lost it when I went to pick up the tickets and before handing them over the agent told me that the price I had paid was too low and that the actual cost was $5 more. Luckily he said that they would kindly pick up the costs. I know these are small, petty things, and even worse I know they didn't use to bother me. And aside from the food poisoning that cancelled my elephant safari, and the altitude that made me want to throw
Unlike the treks in Patagonia, there were quite a few dwellings and villages along the trail.
up everything I have ever eaten, this has been the only problem for me here. And the beauty of the 17 day trek through the Annapurna region far outweighs any of the negatives.
Leaving on April 3rd after getting together with Craig (English), Jules (prince george/vancouver) and C.J. (chicago), the first few days were plagued by illness. Both Craig and C.J. had some serious travel bug problems and Jules was regurgitating anything she tried to consume. Being the troopers that they were though they opted to get porters and continue trekking hoping that with a little less weight their ailments would eventually go away. We took the first few days slow getting our bodies used to exercise and taking time to enjoy the tropical climate. Walking through bamboo forests hugging the hillside with the raging river below, I quickly began to realize how amazing the hike was going to be, especially if some of the dust that clouded the air in the afternoons cleared up. We eventually learned that a lot of the dust is due to the explosive work they are doing in order to finish building a road from Besisahar (the start of the hike) to Manang
Fields of Marijuana
The hike is so diverse. One day your walking through fields of a plant that is more feared than the Devil by many and the next day there isn't a tree in site.
(about six days in). While they say it will be completed in two years, working with dynamite, bars and picks, it is more likely to take them 20, and with any luck they won't complete it at all.
At about day 5 or 6 the tropical climate with bamboo forest and fields of marijuana abruptly came to a halt and we found ourselves surrounded in pine and engulfed by snow-capped mountains. It was what I had come for, what I have grown to love and produced a tinge of home-sickness as I reflected back to times camping at Squamish River Valley, or in the Shire. At round the same time we found ourselves about the altitude mark (2700 meters?) where people have to start worrying about Acute Mountain Sickness. I had only ever had problems in Lhasa with AMS and while I was nervous about it, I felt that given my time in Bolivia and Tibet, I had little to worry about on the hike. I was sorely mistaken however, and at only 3200 meters I developed serious enough signs that we decided we should take a rest day in Pisang and try and acclimatize. Lucky for us that
It's impossible for me to sleep past 6am now. In the back, Thorung Peak.
we did, because on our acclimatization hike the next day we were able to hike 200 or 300 meters higher and just sit and soak up Annapurna II. This imposing mountain at nearly 8,000 meters was quite something to behold and with our non-existent mountaineering experience we began debating on how in the world anyone would climb such a beast.
The vegetation began disappearing and the mountains became more numerous and more imposing. Light-headedness (a minor sign of AMS) became a constant friend/enemy even though we never slept higher than 300 meters from the previous nights' altitude, took two nights every 1000 meters and even hiked higher every day to help acclimatize. At 4200 meters Jules lost her porter to AMS as we decided his symptoms were serious enough to have him sent down. It was not uncommon to see people headed back from the Thorung La (La means pass) having not been able to deal with the altitude. At nearly two weeks into the hike almost everything was about the altitude and making it over the pass, which at 5416 meters is one of the highest in the world. Having spent two nights in Letdar (4200) we hoped
I would definately not want to be up there in worse weather.
only to spend one night in Thorung Pedi (4540m). It seems once again though that fate was on our side. As the altitude crushed my head onto a table and tried to pull the contents of my body through my mouth, we met one of those people in the world that can't help but impress.
With Audi hats, shirts, jackets, a lab top computer and various other expensive electronice equipment, we had a feeling that we weren't dealing with just another tourist trekker. As the conversation led on we learned that he was going to attempt the North Face of Everest (unlike the regular route this one actually requires mountain climbing) alone, and without ropes or oxygen. The conversation inevitably went to mountain climbing where I asked him if he had ever heard of the book 'White Spider' - about my only knowledge of mountain climbing. The White Spider is about the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland - apparently one of the most difficult faces in Europe to climb. His response, "yeah I was in that book." He climbed it without ropes, on his own and in record time in 1983 at the age of 21. Type
Top of the world! or pass.
Made it baby. And yes it's damn, damn cold out, but I got my Canucks toque supporting from afar.
in his name - Thomas Bubendorfer - or maybe see if I can put a link up: Thomas
The best of it for us was the information he was able to provide about AMS and how our bodies cope. Basically it takes seven days from your highest point for your body to produce the appropriate amount of red blood cells to carry the oxygen in your body (something like that). After nine days your body will have produced enough Epo (a hormone that helps circulation?) to cope with the altitude. Things like garlic soup, mint tea and ginco (some pill he uses) help ease blood circulation as most of the problems have to do with pressure. Three days after going below the altitude line these little extras begin to deteriorate. If you push your body too hard, this process takes longer. So looking back some of our acclimatization hikes may have actually done more harm than good.
After taking some of his ginco pills, drinking copious amounts of Mint Tea and garlic soup (shudder), and popping a few diamox for good measure I was about as ready as I ever could be to attempt the pass. The
He's got an English accent and he plays hockey...what can I say.
day is a long one and most people set out before it is light out. Beginning with a thousand meter climb with half the amount of oxygen there is at sea level you then have a 1700 meter (the vertical of Whistler is 1561 meters) steep descent to the town of Muktinath. My worries were on getting to the top and I have no doubt that without a porter I would not have made it. Stopping made the world spin, and my stomach curl. I kept my eyes on the ground and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. We became a team of individuals each focused on getting to the top and each going at his own pace. Breathing became harder and harder, and what you could call a stride was inch by inch and very slow. The joy at reaching the top (my small Everest) was quite something and surprisingly we spent an hour up there taking photos, shaking hands and knowing that it was all down hill from here. On our way down we saw Thomas' sherpa who pointed out Thomas taking a short climb up a 'small hill' to the left of the
On the Jomosom side on our way down we head into the forest land.
pass. I couldn't help but shake my head.
We did the other side of the hike (The Jomosom side) a lot faster as my flight was quickly approaching. The world started changing again, going from mountains and desert, to green apple orchards, then to pine forests and finally reaching the tropical landscape that we had first set off from 17 days earlier. Sitting on the top of a bus with a tarp over our heads barely keeping off the rain, we could not believe that the hike was over and that we were headed back to civilization. I think even now the beauty of the hike really has not set in and I can't even begin to describe the different landscapes, people and cultures we came across in our 17 days. Every day seemed almost to be another world from the previous and I couldn't recommend the hike highly enough.
There are more photos below