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Published: December 4th 2011
AFTER BURMA TRAVIS AND I TOOK A SHORT BREAK in Bangkok and then flew to Kathmandu, Nepal. I liked Nepal right away. One of the first things I noticed was that everyone greets you by saying “namaste” and folding their hands together in a prayer-like gesture. The first time I ever heard the word "namaste" was in a travel memoir I read several years ago. The author translated the meaning as, “the seed of the divine in me recognizes the seed of the divine in you.”I fell in love with it immediately – what an amazing way to greet someone! I am thrilled that I get to use it now as part of everyday conversation.
We spent our first few days in the extremely hectic and chaotic backpacker district of Thamel and then embarked on an eleven day trek to Annapurna Base Camp. We didn’t really know what to expect and thus were not very well prepared in any sense of the word. We rented fleeces and jackets; got trekking permits; bought hats and gloves; hired a guide com porter and then we were on our way. With our guide in tow we took a 6 hour bus ride to
the lake side city of Pokhara, spent the night there, and then took another 2 hour bus ride to the small town of Nayapul in the morning. Below are excerpts from the journal entries I wrote along the way. Day 1: Nov. 4, 2011 / Nayapul (1070m) to Hile (1577m) / 3 hour hike
Our guide (Bishnu) is awful pretty. He is young, attractive and has a wide, contagious smile. Travis and I had been expecting some short, old, traditional looking Nepali man – not a young, hip, cell phone touting, designer jeans wearing 25 year old. Man, were we wrong. It will be interesting to spend every waking moment with him over the next few days.
Today was pretty rough. There was no introduction. We simply piled out of the bus and started walking. That was it – no stretching, no pep talk, no directions. We just started. Most of the day we walked on a ridge alongside a wide river bed passing small houses and make shift shops along the way. We were constantly having to dodge herds of sheep, donkeys, water buffalo (cows with large curved horns) and piles of dung. We only
walked for about 3 hours today but it was enough to make me exhausted as most of it was uphill. My shirt was drenched in sweat by the time we reached our lodge. Bishnu said today was the easiest day and that scares the hell out of me as I would definitley not call that easy. Day 2: Nov. 5, 2011 / Hile (1577m) to Ghorepani (2850m) / 7 hour hike
T and I stayed up late last night. Exhausted but excited we found everything funny. The walls of the lodge are only thin sheets of plywood so you can hear every single thing that’s happening in the next room – snoring, talking and definitely giggling. Despite this we couldn’t control ourselves. Around 11pm we were laying there trying to fall asleep when suddenly the room started shaking. We looked at each other realizing that not only the room, but the entire building was trembling pretty dramatically. It only lasted for about 2-3 seconds. “What the hell was that!?” we asked each other in unison. After a short discussion about the possibilities we decided that the only explanation was that it was an earthquake. This was hysterical to
us. We had just experienced our first earthquake in a tiny little lodge in the mountains of Nepal. This morning when we woke up several of the guides were talking about it. Our suspicion was confirmed - it was in fact an earthquake.
The hike today was downright painful. For three straight hours we climbed up extremely steep steps. We had to stop literally every few seconds to catch our breath. It was extremely slow going. I started to gain some confidence towards the third hour – feeling like I had gotten into some sort of rhythm with my breathing. We were making progress – very, very, very slow progress. Although it didn’t feel like it, when you turned and looked behind you you could tell you had traveled quite a distance. Halfway up the steps we stopped for one of our many breaks at a small restaurant. I noticed that another trekker, a young guy around my age was looking at me peculiarly. “Ayeshah’s friend? From Madison?” he asked. OMG! It was Ravi, a friend of a friend. He had seen me in the Yoni Ki Baat play last year and had recognized me! Of all places to
run into someone! Travis, myself, Ravi, and two of his friends that he was trekking with all had lunch together. We warmed ourselves by the fire, drink hot masala tea and shared stories about our travels thus far. It was a fantastic coincidence and totally made my day.
After lunch my confidence plummeted. The last hour was terrible. I was exhausted to the point of feeling ill. I was dizzy, weak, and my shoulders hurt from carrying the backpack. We had been walking almost 7 hours uphill and I was on my last leg. We reached Ghorepani just when I thought I would rather sleep there on the trail than walk another step. Although I feel better now after resting I don’t think I can take many more days like today. Day 3: Nov. 6, 2011/Ghorepani (2850m) to Tadapani (2630m)/5 hour hike
We've made friends! We met Anna and Raju on our first night in Hile and have spent the last two evenings with them. Anna is a young woman, my age traveling by herself from Berlin and Raju is her Nepali guide. It has been nice having Raju around because he has been explaining a lot
of things about Nepal and answering our questions about the trek. Although we like our guide, Bishnu, he is really quiet and not very assertive. When we ask him questions he kind of just mumbles to himself and we never quite get the answer we were looking for. Our lodge last night in Ghorepani was fantastic. We sat around the fire all night telling stories and laughing.
This morning we separated from Anna and Raju as they were doing a shorter trek than us. I was kind of sad to leave them and on top of that it was cold and cloudy again (for the second day in a row). My spirits were down and I began wondering why the hell we had decided to do this. It was cold, cloudy and I was constantly out of breath – and it was only day 3. A part of me wanted to turn back. Bishnu is opening up more though. Today when I was feeling somewhat pathetic he looked at me and said, “okay, no problem, I carry you now.” This cheered me up of course. Sometimes as we walk he hums Nepali songs under his breath. I really like
it. We were in the jungle all day yesterday and today. The mist makes the trees look like a mystical fairyland but the lack of sun is not very motivating. I hope it clears up soon so we can actually see what and where we are. All we have seen up to this point is trees, mist and cow dung. Lots of cow dung. Day 4: Nov. 7, 2011 / Tadapani (2630m) to Chomrong (2170m) / 5 hour hike
Last night was cold. Really cold. As soon as the sun goes down it gets freezing, and there was no fire at our lodge in Tadapani. We huddled around the table talking to other trekkers from around the world trying to distract ourselves from how uncomfortable we were but no matter what we did it was freezing. We keep seeing two girls from Ireland (Chavon and Grace) and a guy from Korea (Jin) every night. The girls are hilarious. They talk a lot and have comments on everything that happens around them. It’s pretty amusing. We went to bed early last night to evade the cold.
We woke up this morning to Bishnu knocking on our door. He
told us that the clouds had finally cleared and you could see the mountains! We jumped out of bed and ran outside... and there they were! Huge, majestic peaks! It totally made climbing out of bed into the cold world much easier. Overall it was a MUCH better day. So much better in fact that I can now admit that yesterday was pretty miserable. The sun makes a huge difference on my mood. Not only could we actually see what we are hiking towards, but it was much warmer during the day. Instead of wearing two fleeces I wore a t-shirt the entire day. We are finally out of the jungle as well. Today we walked on the side of a huge green mountain overlooking a deep ravine. In the foreground you could see huge, green hills and behind them glimpses of the white tipped mountains. Deep below in the ravine was a long, rocky river. It was really beautiful. Day 5: Nov. 8, 2011 / Chomrong (2170m) to Dovan (2600m) / 6 hour hike
Is it seriously only Day 5? I feel like we’ve been in these mountains forever. Travis is sick with a cold/fever and I’m
feeling pretty crappy – sore throat, cough – ick. But there’s no turning back now. We are close – the mountains are looking closer and closer with every step. We woke up this morning to bright blue skies – not a cloud in sight. The mountains are so striking they almost don’t look real. The views were incredible all day today but it was still rough going. We walked along the mountainside through the small town of Chomrong and then up into the jungle again. After another hour or so we emerged from the jungle out into the sunshine. The uphill is still quite a struggle. By the end of the day I am completely and totally exhausted – stiff legs, sore muscles and beat tired. By the time we arrive to our lodge (usually around 4pm) the sun has started to go down and then it gets cold immediately. Wood fires are not allowed up this high anymore (part of an effort to conserve the forests) so there is not much relief from the cold other than cuddling up under a million layers. Bottled water is also not allowed so we have to boil water and then use our
steripen which is a bit of a process. The prices are also steadily going up the higher we get. We have been spending most of our evenings with the Irish ladies. They are funny ladies – always laughing. They passed us on the trail today and I commented on their wet laundry hanging from their packs. The short haired one, Chavon, said “I did have my sexy knickers hanging out to dry but Grace told me to put them away.” Grace shot back, “I read the modesty book on Nepal and it said ‘no sexy knickers’”.
We narrowly avoided catastrophe today. Bishnu did not call ahead to book a room in Dovan, where we planned to sleep tonight. Apparently this was a mistake. We stopped for lunch in Bamboo and were told that all the rooms in Dovan were fully booked. Bamboo was also fully booked so we could not stay there either. This was bad because the next stop – Himalaya – was an additional 2.5 hours – which we knew we could not make because we were already exhausted and Dovan was at least another 2 hours yet. Bishnu acted like this was no big deal. Fortunately,
the Irish ladies’ guide (Rashem) called a bunch of places and was able to secure a room for us. Thank God (or the Trimurthi) – we would’ve been in trouble without him. Day 6: Nov. 9, 2011 / Dovan (2600m) to M.B.C. (3703m) / 7 hour hike
Today was so long I don’t even remember how or when it started. The days are beginning to blur together. We left Dovan at our usual time – around 8:30am. It was supposed to be a short day which I was extremely grateful for. The morning went okay - it was extremely steep uphill but I knew it was a short day so that kept me going. The views were even more incredible today – we are officially in the mountains. We passed by several thousand feet high waterfalls, over a raging river with large boulders, over tiny mud and straw bridges, and over skinny dirt paths which barely cling to the side of the mountain. Nothing is alive up here – there are no more ponies or water buffalo, no more flowers, only dry grass and a few cotton plants.
We made it to Deurali around 1:15pm, where we
had planned to sleep. The Irish ladies were already there and they informed us that Deurali was fully booked. DOH! We would have to continue on to M.B.C – another very steep ascent that would take an additional 2-3 hours. The good news was that it was only 1:15 so if we left by 2:15 we should get there just before nightfall. I was a bit distraught, but we had little choice – we had to continue on. It was tough going. My legs felt like they were going to collapse under me. I was getting crabby – this was too much for my little body to handle. I needed rest. Warmth and rest. Having Bishnu there actually helped a lot. If it was just Travis and myself I probably would’ve cracked and gotten upset, but Bishnu was very happy and was smiling and singing the whole time. Every time I felt like I wanted to give in and stop he would make some silly face or do something ridiculous and it would make me laugh. Travis was encouraging too even though he was just as exhausted as I was - if not more, considering he is still sick. Around
5:00pm we saw the “Welcome to M.B.C.” sign in the distance and dear God, was it a happy sight. By the time we arrived the sun had disappeared behind the mountains and it was bitter cold. We are deep in the mountains now, surrounded by towering snowy peaks on all sides. It is very surreal feeling. There are patches of snow on the ground as well. The white peaks that once looked so far away are now right at our fingertips. I feel like we’ve already made it. Day 7: Nov. 10, 2011 / M.B.C (3703m) to A.B.C. (4130m) and back / 3 hours there, 1 back
We did it! We made it! Hurray! Hurragh! Holla! We made it to the top – the top of the bottom that is. It was beautiful. Beautiful and cold, even for a Wisconsin girl. Brrrr! We woke up at our usual time (7:30am) and picked our way through the boulders and copper colored grass towards A.B.B. Snow capped mountains towered down on us from all sides and a stream of water and ice tricked beside us. It was sunny and warm, yet my fingers felt tingly and numb from the altitude.
We took almost three hours to reach A.B.C. (although you could probably do it in 1.5 - 2) stopping many times to sit in the tall grass and take in the landscape. You could tell the air was thinner here – the closer we got, the more breaks we needed. We would go 5 steps and be out of breath – this was odd even us since it wasn’t even that steep. As we got closer we heard the chatter of the Irish ladies up ahead. They along with Bishnu, Ramesh, Jin, and another Polish guy we had kept seeing along the way sat at the top of a ledge on a picnic table cheering and waving at us as we crept towards them. As we took the final flight of steps they cheered and clapped! It was so happy! It felt like a reunion with close friends. We spent the afternoon sitting in the sun, eating delicious hot food and drinking chai. Around 2pm the sun sank behind the mountains and it got colder than I know how to describe. My fingers were completely numb and actually began to hurt. Rather than stay and sleep at A.B.C. as the
rest of the group was doing we decided to walk back down to M.B.C. where we figured it was at least a little bit warmer. This ended up being a good decision as the walk back down kept us warm for a bit longer and it does feel a bit warmer here. Unfortunately the only room left was a dorm room that we are sharing with other people. Oh well, at least we will have a bit of a jump start in the morning. Day 8 – M.B.C – Bamboo (6 hour hike) Day 9 – Bamboo – Chomrong (5 hour hike) Day 10 – Chomrong – Jhinu Dara (1.5 hour hike) Day 11 – Jhinu Dara – Nayapul (6 hour hike) / Bus to Pokhara
We spent four days descending from Annapurna Base Camp, stopping for one day in Jhinu Dara at the hot springs. Coming down was significantly easier and more pleasurable than going up. We covered significantly more ground per day going down than going up so the scenery changed dramatically from where we started in the morning to where we ended up at night. In one day we went from snow
capped mountains, to green and brown hills, past large waterfalls and boulders, past the large cave, and finally into the misty jungle. The temperature also changed drastically. We started to see signs of civilization again – animals, flowers, people - which were a welcome sight (even the cow poop was exciting)! We spent so much time with Bishnu that we got to know him quite well. He was there with us every waking moment of the day. Many times he even shared a room with us. By the time we got back to Pokhara we felt like we had known him for years.
For more pictures from our trek see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thejarvisproject/
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