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Published: March 5th 2011
God Blesh You
Kathmandu to Pokhara by car, crazy road, dangerous driving, 6 and half hours
Annapurna Base Camp trek 16-26 November 2010
It’s now time to immerse again into the beautiful land of Nepal and take the final effort to put down the long story about the ten day trek in the Himalayas to the Annapurna Base Camp arranged by Royal Mountain Travel, though the initially planned trip was to the Everest Base Camp. Much time has passed since the Nepal journey, but the thoughts and emotions are still lively. There might be no names of the villages, or persons, or rivers and other objects, but never mind, a map can guide you through the trek, and I will give the names which I remember.
All the other Nepal experiences have been already described. Our team consisted of a guide, porter, an Australian, and myself.
November 15 and 16
This day I got up early in the morning and the taxi took me to the airport where we waited, with a light in our eyes and a spirit of adventure in our souls, for several ours. At first, I didn’t have any presentiment that something might ruin the trek, I was simply afraid of thinking about it. However, soon it was clear
Menu at One of Cafes
had a bite during the drive
that we were not flying in time, and there appeared a notice saying that all flights to Lukla have been cancelled. Then I heard a most frightening and disappointing phrase about there being no flights for three days already. I didn’t somehow believe it. “All the flights to Lukla cancelled due to bad weather”.
I was hopefully waiting for some good news, but no. The airport was like a small beehive and all the tourists, mainly trekkers, were buzzing about. Some flights to Pokhara were also cancelled due to bad weather, but they began to take off later that day. Some other happy people managed to fly to other Nepal towns like Biratnagar etc.
The waiting over, we left the airport. I, in a depressed state of mind, decided to visit Patan in order to have at least something good to think about.
The next day there was no getting to Lukla. I was listening to some Russian tourists sitting near and also intending to fly to Lukla and visiting the Everest Base Camp. They thought I was a foreigner. Hope they get there only in two days. Being angry and disappointed, you know. The guide suggested
us going to Pokhara on the Annapurna Base Camp trek. Being in Nepal and not seeing a bit of Everest is most disappointing. The drive to Pokhara by jeep took about 6-7 hours. The road was the craziest I ever saw. Going up and down, in a snake-like manner. The views are astounding. High green hills and people living almost everywhere. Drivers must be very skillful here not to bump into each other. However, sometimes they do, and road accidents are not infrequent. In Pokhara we stayed one night at a guest house. The buildings here are rather smart, looking lovely. Hope, finally, that tomorrow at last the trek will start. Next time when I come to Nepal I’ll try to book all things myself and do the Everest Base Camp trek.
The bad thing about Lukla flight was that several planes DID takeoff to Lukla that day, which made me suppose that it depended to some extent on the air company… Our company did not even announce anything, while the other did. Also, if I were alone and on my own, certainly I would wait as long as needed, because I had a buffer of over ten days.
But, they write that during the monsoon season, for instance, the flights may be cancelled for as long as two weeks. Lukla is one of the most dangerous airports in the world, as you can read in the sources.
It’s November 17 and I still haven’t seen a bit of any mountains. I’ve had the worst night because yesterday while driving in the car I got a cold and my nose doesn’t breathe at all. I wish… Oh, it does not matter what I wish. Today in the morning I went out to see the Phewa Lake and, unfortunately, there was fog so the mountain view didn’t open itself to my longing eyes. I felt terribly due to the running nose and overall weakness of the body; and spirit, to a certain extent. I’m badly looking forward to the beginning of the trek which is to start in two hours or so. I had a bite. The price was quite cheap and I fell in love with the Nepali milk tea. I drink it always. Speaking of Pokhara, I should mention the fact that on December 2 I’m going to return here. I didn’t, as you
can guess, because I went back to Russia. Yesterday I thought, damn the car damn the road damn Pokhara, but on second thought I realized that this city deserves my whole attention. Anyhow, it’s better than to spend the remaining days of the trip in Kathmandu. I saw many boats at the Lake Side so I hope I will take one and explore the lake.
Driving in the car for about an hour to the trek starting point. Feeling bad. Seeing a huge beautiful mountain rising higher than the sky. How definitely clear I remember that moment, perhaps one of the most emotional moments! Later I learned that this was the mighty Machhapuchhre. That’s what I call happiness. The trek finally started at height 1100, to something about 1600/1700 meters. Please, do read very carefully about the acclimatization and the mountain sickness, if you go there for the first time. Very steep. Actually, it was not very steep, but I’m mixing the notes I made in a notebook during the trek and the current memories. I feel bad due to the cold. Views are breathtaking. Everywhere there are houses, villages, tourists, hotels and lodges and wild forests. Don’t think
it is a mad or crowded place. It’s a very quiet and soulful area. Love it immensely. Soon we came to the hotel and rested. I felt very tired, because I was sick and did not yet accustom to the tempo.
I did not give all my things to the porter, I gave him only several of them because I wanted to train myself to wear the backpack, become strong, so to say.
It was a very difficult day from the beginning. Walking started at about 7-30 in the morning. At first, I felt pretty bad due to the cold and there were very high steps. I mean they were so many. They took all my strength in exchange of the beautiful nature views. Those who have read about the Altai trekking might remember the word “kurum”. I saw no kurum here. Generally it’s hard to get lost here because the path is rather wide and there are so many hotels and guest houses where one can ask whether he/she is on the right way. It will do you good to learn the main phrases in Nepali, so you can ask it in the native
tongue. When I finally write about the European trip, I will tackle the aspect of trying to speak foreign languages, how amazing it can be, even if you are not perfect at it.
Some hotels have view terraces where a most enjoyable view appears. But this time there was fog. The fog generally comes in the second half of the day, in the afternoon. I saw many waterfalls, not very big, on the way. We had several short rests. The rest time is like you go for ten or fifteen minutes to a paradise – you sit and breath normally, and then have to leave it, in order to reach a higher paradise. If you look around, you see that the paradise is earth and it surrounds you everywhere, I mean, at least in the Himalayas.
We had a small bite at a restaurant; I had two lemon teas and a milk tea because I wanted not to eat. Now we are at another hotel staying until tomorrow morning. I had a hot shower (smiles to all the people of our small team during the Kolban adventure). Speaking of the necessity of showers, it’s of course indispensable to
feel your body clean, but not all mountains offer hot showers to you. I suggest that you get up early in the morning and boil a couple of buckets of water for washing. For almost every problem there is a solution; or go and wash yourself in cold stream water. There are hotels everywhere, and this means there are lots of hot showers. I saw many tourists on the way: Spanish, French, Slavonic, Chinese, German, Russian, etc.
Today we got up at about 5 o’clock in the morning and went to the Poon Hill. I climbed it like a weak boy and was very short of breath. I could see stars all over the sky. If the weather were not so fine we would not go there. I thought I was going to die or faint. But, I started to rest more than my companions and so I reached the top finally. A conclusion to be made here is that one has to trek at his/her own tempo. The view there was really something worth of getting up so early and taking pains to climb the countless steps.
Mountains were in front of me on
hot showers ara available often, they are really hot, though wind may blow through holes in walls
two sides, several peaks rising as high as 8000 (Dhaulagiri), 7000 (Annapurna South, Machapuchhre (Fishtail); looking so majestic I could look at them for hours on end. Below were the numerous hills clad with bleak strips of fog; ad then, slowly, up came the Sun, and gently lit the mountains tops. My dream will be now to climb an 8000 m high mountain… Actually, that’s not a utopian dream. The mountains seemed to be an immense wall, if I may say so, connecting the Earth and the Sky. I always start comparing this trek to our Altai experience, and find that it’s rather different. In fact, one had better not compare these two regions. Altai has its own pleasures and advantages, while the Himalayas – are the Himalayas. My Australian fellow-trekker carries such a small bag on his shoulders, and his camera. I wish I took no useless, yes! useless things like the shaving machine, trousers, books… Oh good Lord!
The porter carries the Australian’s bag and also several my things. Since I would in now way like the porter (in appearance he’s like a boy, or a youth, though very strong) to have more of my things, I
will perhaps just throw something away… better put it – just “forget” a couple of things in the hotel. My back is aching. The funny thing is, I now remember, that I’ve forgotten my shirt at the Base Camp... Fortunately, there were no valuables in it. We’ve had three climbs today, always going up and down.
It’s an interesting thing that I’m not at all hungry after all this energy wasting process. In the morning, I had ordered toasts and couldn’t eat them. Two slices I just commanded myself to eat. Lemon and milk tea is very nice here. I will not anything substantial until the evening. After the Poon Hill (with a view platform on it and a hot tea distribution point) we started off to another destination and climbed a mountain pass, and up and down we went again, always up and down. I find absolutely no difficulty in going down. Poon Hill is one of the highlights of the trek.
It is a most rewarding experience to trek here. Your every effort is spent for your own sake and for your own pleasure. After today, I believe myself to be such a weak boy. I
saw several children doing the trek with their parents. That’s where strong minds are exercised. And as for Nepali children, they have to climb up and down to go to schools – struggling for life from the early age.
After the top (Deurali Pass) from where our eyes encountered a most stunning view on the mountains, though basically the same as from the Poon Hill, the path now led generally downhill. We came to a mountain river and the path now lay among trees and boulders. Small waterfalls were not infrequent. The third climb for today was many stone steps leading up, and down went my spirits as I climbed, sweating a most laborious sweat and confounding my backpack. However, I might attribute my weakness, to a certain extent, to the fact that I’ve caught the cold. I’m taking some medicines and hope they’ll produce the desired effect.
Now imagine a long table, under which there is a heating device, and people gathered round it for different purposes, generally just spending their time before the evening meal. Here are four Germans, 2 males and 2 females, one of the German men speaking much about something I cannot understand
at all because my German skills are too poor. A family of French, parents and their two little children, doing various things: the father reading a book, the mother reading Harry Potter to the kids; the mother and kids playing a card game called Uno. I just managed to catch some French phrases. Je ne sais pais Français tres bien, you know. But I’ve studied both German and French at the institute, not very diligently, perhaps. My Australian fellow-trekker is talking to some other English-speaking people. Everybody was talking. I was reading several short stories in Spanish and then patiently waited for supper, observing the people. There were two large American women speaking emotionally about the supper and some other topics. I must confess I do not like the American pronunciation, especially some of the sounds. The Australian is a better variant; I rather like it, yep, yep, yep. I also heard a British ‘accent’ – that’s the one I love most.
Several times before the evening, clouds (or fog) were passing by. We are staying at over 2,000 meters. I must say that food here is served in huge portions; I could not finish my spaghettis… I promise
the area abounds in waterfalls of all sizes
to have only milk tea and fruit salad in the morning, and pineapple juice for the evening meal. Imagine how hungry a person should be to order, say, three dishes.
I remember very clearly buying two cans of orange juice. It was not an ordinary orange juice. People usually expect orange juice to be sweet. But that orange juice, one can of it, was with spices. I was shocked when I tasted it. The other can of juice was even more unexpected, it had salt in it! I forced myself to drink the spiced juice, and of the salted orange juice I tasted only two drops. Surpises…
I don’t memorize any names of the villages here and names of the hotels. Today was perhaps the hardest climbing, but first I’d like to say a word about the panorama of peaks we saw in the morning. Nothing can be better than that. Certainly, the only better thing is to see the whole Himalayan panorama from a peak, but that’s reserved to mountaineers. I saw two distinct peaks, one Annapurna South and the other Fishtail. On top of the Annapurna I saw white snow being blown off.
Also, I could hear the distant roar of the mountain wind on the top. The weather seems to be very good in the first half of the day, and it turns less sunny, with clouds gathering and water drops falling from above. Today we climbed up and down, then up and down again. I am very pleased to say that I walked slowly today, that’s why I managed to have quite normal breath on the uphill areas. Today was much easier for me than yesterday.
I often start thinking how our Altai team would feel here. I just cannot stop comparing the two trekking experiences. For example, we could have no porters and carry all things by ourselves. I think it’s possible but the paths are sometimes not for the weak people with a heavy backpack. The other thing I’m musing about is staying the nights in a tent. I wonder how appropriate that would be on this particular route, given the fact that the area abounds in good places to sleep in (lodges, hotels, guest houses); there’s also no need to carry food because they serve a remarkable variety of delicious dishes here. What’s more important, burning wood
Poon Hill View
this is me. I was exhausted my the rise to Poon Hill
is prohibited, so cooking on a stove presents some difficulties (have to carry all the paraphernalia and the fuel). Rooms are cold (they don’t have heating), but warmth is provided by the sleeping bag when one gets inside it.
Yesterday I heard a large American woman saying how cold it was in the dining hall. I could imagine her feelings under a tent by a fire with her feet wet and clothes wet, and not a single hut, to say nothing of a hotel, to be encountered for miles.
Outside it’s cloudy and not too warm. I’m now going to read a book and listen to music.
Today in the morning I’ve got many messages from some friends of mine. Sorry to say, but my phone balance is minus, so I wouldn’t be able to reply not matter how hard I tried. My warmest regards to several persons all over Russia, from St. Petersburg to Chelyabinsk. If I didn’t mention any breathtaking views, it doesn’t mean that I’ve seen none. The path lies across hills, and when one goes up, there’s a stunning view. Sometimes it seems you are walking on the edge of an abyss. Your head
might go round; the height is conspicuous. Better come and see for yourselves; cheers!
Reached Deurali village at 3200 meters. As soon as we approached the guest house a fog appeared, however, it didn’t seem to be cold. Today’s experience included a six-hour long way mostly in the forest; it was rather humid both in the air and on the ground. Though there are plenty of waterfalls (you can hear their roaring very often), they often don’t show themselves, hidden by the thick bushes and trees. When I saw several waterfalls falling down from a considerable height, I felt happy. Though, the camera doesn’t manage to capture them quite well due to their remoteness. So impressive they are!
I mostly drink tea and pineapple juice and don’t eat much. Somehow I don’t feel hungry. I must tell that I’m feeding on the magnificent views. Or am I trying to save money, unconsciously?.. Waterfalls, boulders, countless steps, rocks, some beautiful plants and flowers. The last portion of today’s walk was so amazing I became all smiles and murmured to myself, Oh, that’s it! That’s beautiful! That’s what I want to see, that’s where I want to
A Sense of People Unite
from all over the world
Today’s walk revealed the greatest images before my eyes. It was easy to walk because I put on my heavy overcoat, this made the backpack less heavy. The path wasn’t too steep and I saw some magnificent rocks. When we reached the Machapuchhre Base Camp, we could see several high mountains in front of us, from 6 to 7 thousand meters. The over-7 thousand meters high Annapurna didn’t show itself, its top being behind clouds. The higher we went, the greater the views became. The mountains here are so majestic and powerful, and most of all I like the Fishtail. When my eyes met the panorama, my head just went round with joy and I even became more talkative and spoke a lot with the guide.
Now I’m sitting in front of the Fishtail thinking of my friends’ reaction if they had the luck to see these images. Three fourths of the whole panorama is clear, but the one fourth is overcast. Hope to see Annapurna tomorrow in the morning. I just can’t find any words to describe my joy and happiness here. “Mission accomplished”, as I’ve heard somebody say down at the Machapuchhre
Base Camp. There I had drunk 4 and a half cups of lemon tea… it was called a “small pot”, imagine what a big pot would be! I can do without food, but give me a refreshing drink!
After reaching the Annapurna Base Camp, I had a short rest and went to explore its roundabouts and found many interesting things like many “turs” (as I remember it’s called in Russian, stone structures supposed to be spirits’ houses), and I also saw kurum. I wonder how they call it in the local language.
It was very silly of me to drink too much of some lemon water stuff and my belly went crazy I couldn’t even breathe! Omitting some painful details, I’ll just say that I rested for a while and it became all right. But I promised myself to drink no more sweet juices now and pay more attention to simple spring water. It is, though, recommended not to drink water from springs, or to filter it by UV, but I drank a lot of it and felt well.
Just now I’ve had a small climb on a part of the mountain (Hiunchuli, I guess) which seems
to bear a striking similarity to my beloved Kolban; it’s the same boulders (covered with snow) and the general appearance is the same (see Kolban. Route for the Men of Spirit). Pardon me for referring so often to the previous experiences.
So, the altitude of Annapurna Base Camp is 4130, and I guess I was a bit higher when I made the short climb. It’s not that I’m boasting of heights, just to point out the fact. Oh, the Fishtail looks so awesome now! It seems to let no clouds approach it. The sunlight on its snowy rocks is simply amazing. Moreover, the Fishtail doesn’t stand alone, but neighbours with some other smaller peaks. Its height is 6997 m.
Tomorrow starts our 4-day homeward journey and I’m very glad of that. Now coming is the fog, so I better go to a warmer place not to feel cold.
In the morning I got angry with my fellow trekkers because it took them so long to get ready. It was snowing heavily and everything was covered with white snow. There appeared a Russian trekker to make my acquaintance. I felt so unusual to speak Russian.
We started descending and there was much snow, making the path treacherous and dangerous. The weather was autumn-like and I felt excellent. I walked down together with the porter, and the other two companions were a bit farther.
We stayed at Sinuwa, only 3 days remaining to getting back to Pokhara. I couldn’t respond to sms messages because there was no money on my phone. Now going to read the Wodehouse novel. It’s a remarkable thing how people start acquaintances here. One even does not need a motive, just come to somebody and talk about “Oh, it’s great!” and then you share opinions, and start talking on various topics.
It was rather boring for me in the evenings, because I had nothing to do. I thanked myself for having taken the two books which I read with pleasure. In the evening one is usually tired after walking, and usually at 8 o’clock I could fall asleep already. But sometimes the people in adjacent rooms make much noise. I hope you don’t mind a bit of mixed text in this story.
Going down. Fine warm and sunny weather. Feeling as fit as a fiddle. There
were children, ascending the steps, and I took one of the smallest ones on my shoulders and carried him up. I did not rest, I felt simply wonderful and wanted to reach the end of the steps sooner. Only 3.5 hours of walk. Then a long break at the hotel, lunch and walk to Jhinu hot spring. I bathed several times, washed myself and the clothes, and also immersed myself into the cold river. It felt so good to immerse in the warm water after so many days of being cold. The Australian did not bathe, unfortunately. There are two baths, and they are building other ones.
As usual, I spent the evening listening to music. There was no book to read, sadly.
Getting closer and closer to Pokhara. Tomorrow we arrive there and on the 28th I’ll be in Kathmandu and will try to exchange my air ticket for an earlier date.
Walking on hills up and down, up and down. As you descend, the wonders hide themselves behind hills… And then you say farewell to the mountains. There was a very, very, very steep ascent, at which I told myself to be
strong and go without stops, so I and the guide did. After that there was a rest at the village. There was thick fog and drizzle. I spent the evening a bit nervous, and I was bored by the constant fog, which hid all the panoramas. That evening a had a very hearty meal and tasted the much spoken about dal bhaat for the first time.
Three hours walk and back in Pokhara! The bad clouds, again, hid the panoramic view of Machapuchhre. The path lead mainly downhill. We reached Phedi where a taxi took us to Pokhara. I felt completely satisfied about everything, though now I realize that somehow the boring evenings and the sickness spoilt... Well, I am lying to say that something was spoilt, because the trek was perfect in spite of anything. It was a 1000% pleasure and a thing not to be repeated anywhere, because there are no other Himalayas on this planet.
I think this trek needs no summarizing, it says clearly what it says, and the photos show what wasn’t said.
Hearty thanks to Nepal, and to the Himalayas, be back soon.
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