Non gogoa, han zangoa
- Basque proverb
There are situations of change in life. I don’t know how else to speak my mind. Just imagine: you are in a bar on a Friday night. It’s crowded as hell and the volume of the music is so high that you have to yell to people that are just a foot away from you. Everyone around is talking loudly and you’re laughing your ass off at some stupid joke that your mate hadjust told and… …and the power goes off. Everyone shuts up and looks around like there’s something wrong.
You know that feeling?
I had never trekked before in my life. So when the idea of climbing up to the Annapurna Base Camp was presented to me, it was too tempting to say no straight away. I called “all-in” even though I wasn’t sure that I could make it due to a past injury.
A Nepali girl, two Spanish guys and I took a taxi from Pokhara to Nayapul. It was 7:15 in the morning and we were all excited about the upcoming adventure.
Different reasons for different people: one of the Spanish guys was an experienced trekker and wanted to climb a new mountain; the other wanted to run all the way to the top; the Nepali girl was curious to explore more about her own country and I was wondering if my multiple-surgery-titanium-stuffed-leg would resist the stress.
Permit check and go. Yes, you need to fill out a few papers before you can trek the Annapurna circuit: it’s something like 40 bucks to get the registration card and the entry permit. Both are easily obtainable at the Tourist Office in downtown Pokhara.
Back to the hike…
Soon it was just three of us: The running guy disappeared from our sights as he embarked on his own challenge. After a couple of days, even the girl left the group. She said that we were walking too fast and she preferred to stay behind and climb at her own pace. I didn’t like the idea of splitting the company furthermore, but she insisted telling us to go ahead. So we went ahead, leaving her behind with another group of trekkers.
Now, my only trekking-mate was this guy from Spain. But he’s not Spanish. He’s Basque. And if you call him Spanish he gets pissed. People identify themselves in their roots. This is a good thing, even if sometimes it may cause issues in some countries.
He taught me something in his language that I liked a lot. It was on day two, when I was so exhausted that I was about to leave the whole fucking shit behind. Non gogoa, han zangoa. In English it would sound like “you’ll be where you want to be”. I liked it. We made it all the way to ABC in four days.
The entire trekking experience has been awesome, but there are some bits of it that need to be highlighted, like the fucking-hell!-how-many-more steps that took us from Chhomrong to Sinuwa – and back; the hour and half that we had to hike under the snow from Deurali to Machapuchre Base Camp, just because we said ourselves, “we can get to the next, can’t we?”; or the chilling wind that was blowing at Annapurna Base Camp, piercing our skin like a frosty needle stuck into butter.
Another good memory: the day when we took a wrong turn and got lost, ending up in a castaway village with just a handful of houses; surrounded by mountains and fields and trees and terraces and birds flying all around. A woman cooked a tasty noodle soup for the three of us to eat. The woman’s two kids keeping themselves busy outside of the house, the older teaching the younger how to file a cropping tool. These moments of ordinary Nepali life make it clear that the “need for excess” is subdued, overwhelmed by simplicity. You breathe life up there.
Clearly, the Annapurna circuit is a highly beaten track. I mean, there are guest houses in all of the villages and many other buildings are under construction; a clear sign that the tourism in the area is expanding and getting stronger, bringing money to the communities. Prices of food and beverages rise as you get closer to the top, while accommodation is not as much affected. The reason to that, is that to carry and deliver the food up in the mountain, there is absolutely no other option other than using manpower. Not even donkeys. The donkeys, or Asses, whatever they are, can only go up to a certain altitude. After that is man.
I could try to explain how this men –and women, yes, women too- carry the goods from village to village, but I would rather suggest you to check out the pictures: I managed to take a shot of a young man transporting a fully loaded basket, the weight of it on his head, up the same track I was worried about climbing. That pic says more than I could ever tell.
Now, if you imagine how hard that job can be, there is justified the price. By the way: obviously there are no ATMs up there, so if you’re thinking to do that trek, calculate an average of 1200 Rupees/day (12usd). Without many comforts!
Silence, what a feeling! But being up there? Priceless. After waking up at dickhead o’clock to reach the last destination before the sun rose;proudly standing with a smile on my face, in front of the Annapurna Mountains; gazing at the golden-reddish light of the sunrise as it slowly revealed the snowy peaks in the sky. Maaan, I was almost crying.
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