Annapurna Base Camp Trek Pokhara (part 1)

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May 11th 2010
Published: August 25th 2010
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Why is this child so happy?Why is this child so happy?Why is this child so happy?

Hint (Look whats growing in the back yard)
ABC part 1
11/5/10: The bus left at 7:00am so we were up early to sort ourselves out. The tickets only cost us 500Nrs/person so it was worth taking the bus. Because the trekking season was coming to an end our bus was more than half empty, this was great for us, we were used to being shoved in like sardines. It took 6 hours to complete the 200km or so journey, 45mins of that was spent just trying to get out of Kathmandu. The winding roads took us through some amazing scenery, most of the time we followed the river that snaked its way through the valley. The river would be awesome to raft down and you could tell it had a lot of power. We stopped twice at restaurants along the road too grossly overinflated food prices and terrible food. We saw more than a dozen former accidents along the roadway, it was that bad there were bits and pieces of buses and truck spread over the banks below, some were trucks that had driven straight into trees. It was unnerving when you see a bus the same as ours lying on its side in the middle of the roadway. It wasn't long before we were safely on the outskirts of Pokhara. We were greeted by the hungry vultures called taxi drivers. We paid 130nrs for a ride into town, if we were keen we could of easily walked to town, it was only 2km and a nice walk. We stayed at Elia hotel for 350nrs with shared bathroom. The accommodation in Pokhara is overpriced as well as the food. We walked around the town and loved the atmosphere. Because of the season the town almost empty, it seemed dead, there were very little people walking around the streets.

12/5/10: Today was a day for getting things sorted for our upcoming trek to Annapurna base camp (ABC). We had to get our Park permit from the tourist office located 2-3km out of town; this involved filling out a form with two passport photos and 1500nrs each for the permit. We also had to pay for a controversial TIMS card which is just a way of extorting money out of tourist, they charge 2000nrs or $20 USD each for the card because we are trekking on our own, $10 if you do it with a guide. TIMS was short for Trekking Information Management System, I’m still not sure to this day what it actually achieves, it’s defiantly not for signage or check post for keeping tourist safe. We only received a free map after asking, we really didn't get much in the way of information for the money we paid. The tourist map was not even good for toilet paper and the altitude map was totally useless for gauging walking times and distances. We had to visit the local shop to buy some supplies and rashions for our trek. The word was that food was extremely expensive in the trekking lodges so we stocked up on good wholesome food, we bought a packet of dried fruit then we offset this with 26 packets of noodles and a large packet of chocolate éclairs. This still didn’t seem like we had our five food groups so when a little man with a trolley went past our hotel I bought fifteen eggs. We went back to the Elia Guest house and spent a good hour just packing our gear for the trek. We were careful not to forget anything. Oh, and I also spent 45min boiling all the eggs with our little hot water element.

ABC TREK (7 days walking altitude 4170m high)

13/5/10: We were up early and ready to trek, there was just one problem; we had no money. We waited from 6:30am till 9:30 until the ATM’s came back online. This involved a lot of pacing back and forth while swearing, I’m pretty sure it helped? We were very close to risking the eight day trek on 8000nrs but thought it may not be a good idea if we ran out of money halfway down the mountain. With money in hand we had to catch a 100nrs taxi 15min to the bus station then take a 75nrs bus 1:30 to Nayapal where we would start our walk. It was frustrating sitting in the bus for half an hour while we waited for it to fill up with more passengers. The busses never leave unless they are at least ¾ full. While we waited a man walked up and down the bus selling some large bananas; he waved them in my face several times but I chose to ignore him. After half an hour’s waiting he was still walking up and down the aisle waving his bananas. He must have got the better of me because I ended up buying the bunch for 50nrs which was a bargain but later found out they were cooking bananas; I hate when that happens. After getting off the bus at Nayapal, it was now 11:00am. I realised very quickly that my pack weighed about 15kg and started to cut into my shoulders. We were swamped buy guides and porters who wanted our business but we were quiet capable of trekking by ourselves. We walked the opposite way to the track until one of the guides took pity on us and pointed to us the correct way. It was a bad start but we were now heading in the right direction. 10min into our walk we had to check in to the national park office and then another 15min walk later the TIMS card check in, these were the first and last checkpoint we saw the whole 7 days we trekked. It was 33C deg and the sweet was oozing out of us. We walked for 2 hours before coming to our first major village called Syauli Bazar, we didn't stop as our main goal was to get to Ghandruk even though we had a late start. After Syauli Bazar we started to gain some altitude, the view was more and prevalent as we climbed. We were still walking on a rather wide track at this point. An excavator had only just gone through some months earlier and made the track wide enough for a future road; that's progress for you, or was that what our TIMS card was paying for? We really hoped the track wasn't going to be like this most of the way. Halfway up between Syauli Bazar we came across a local dog that required a pat from me and Jacinta. The dog followed us for the next 3-4km and I was starting to wonder if I might have a new pet. Patting the dog proved to be the best thing we had done, when the wide track suddenly disappeared we got lost a few times and didn't know which way to turn at cross roads. The dog waited patiently until he took matters into his own hands leading the way up the correct path. Several times this happened until we finally got to Kimche around 3:30pm that afternoon. We were already tired and still had another 2hours of walking before Ghandruk. We meet a Korean guy that only spoke very broken English, he had also made a friend along the way; a young boy was showing him the way to Ghandruk. His mom and dad had a lodge at the top of Ghandruk hill called Peace Hotel. On the way up the weather started to turn bad, hail, rain, and lightning forced us to take shelter under a tree for fifteen minutes. We all agreed it would be extremely unlikely lightning would hit the very tree we were standing under, besides it was better than getting hit by grape sized hail. We all finally made it to Ghandruk around 5:30pm and 1000m higher from when we first started. Our fellowship was all tired including the dog. We were given a room with our own bathroom for 300nrs which was way more than what we expected to pay but they had a hot shower which clinched the deal. So 12km later and a hot shower we were eating the first packets of noodles with an egg each. Bed by 8:00pm for another big day of walking.
14/5/10: Breakfast consisted of more noodles and another egg each. We started walk at 6:00am to Sinuwa some 10km away, we hoped to beat the bad afternoon weather. Our legs were tired but not sore, within 1km the tiredness abated, our legs warmed up and we found our rhythm. Along the way we passed porters carrying huge loads of supplies up to the higher lodges. Some of the loads must have been more than 70kg, it was also embarrassing when one of these porters walks past you like you were standing still but it wasn't too long before you meet up with them again while they took short frequent breaks, resting from their heavy loads. Jacinta and I were still finding it hard to synchronise our walking pace; my walking pass was almost twice the speed of Jacinta’s and it started to get frustrating waiting for her all the time. When little school children were faster than her coming down the track, I used this as an excuse to demonstrate her slowness, she didn't like it, this developed into a fight. We somehow resolved the pace by me following Jacinta, this stoped me from getting out front, also the presents of myself right on Jacinta’s tale made her walk that extra bit faster. So with Jacinta now setting the pace we had just reached a Khimrong Danda at the bottom of the mountain. It was a torturous walk down to the bottom, this was not because of the walk down but because all the 700m in height that we made yesterday was lost in 1 ½ hours. Then next 3hours were spent trying to gain back more than 800m in height, with a gruelling walk up to Chhomrong only 3km away. As we passed through some of the minor villages you could not help notice the veggie gardens had an extra herb growing in them; it was MARIJUANA! This stuff was growing everywhere, in some places it was growing like weeds. We came across huge patches that any drug grower would have been proud of back in Australia. I couldn't help take a few WHERES DAN photos along the way. I even managed to take a really great photo of a small child that only laughed just when I pressed the shutter button. The photo turned out to be an over smiling child with a missive crop of marijuana in the background. The temperature soared to 33C deg again and we were finding it hard. Jacinta’s legs started to shake as they got tired. We reached Chhomrong around 12:30pm, we had some more noodles, eggs and bananas to feed our now huge appetite. While we rested the weather came in early and rain pelted down for half an hour. We debated on walking to Sinuwa as Jacinta was stuffed and I was also feeling tired. While we rested talked to two lovely girls; one from London (Clair) and the other from New Zealand but living in London (Caroline). We spoke about our travels and where we were headed next. We got onto the subject of Lao Vang Vieang and tubbing down the river. I mentioned about my blog “Wheres Dan” and to my amazement she had somehow heard of me while living in London. I was surprised by this and wasn't sure if it was true. Maybe of mouth had started to do its thing? Oh well, if the blog takes off that’s what I intended it to do. The girls were going to walk to Sinuwa that afternoon so we found extra strength in our legs to carry us the next hour back down the valley reaching another river to only have to come up to the same altitude on the other side 1hour later. Reaching the river below was all downhill from Chhomrong. The steps just seemed to keep on going down and down. We felt so sorry for the people coming back from ABC (Annapurna base camp) as it was a torturous climb up. Everyone we spoke to was not looking forward to this section when we come back. We reached to lower part of Sinuwa at 3:30pm just before the heavens opened up again forcing us to make a mad dash for the lodge. We had had enough of walking for the day and we were both absolutely stuffed. I was proud of the way Jacinta had walked the last few hours and was surprised she had made it back up the hill to Sinuwa. If I, was feeling sore and tired I hate to imagine what she had felt like. Claire and Caroline also turned up at our lodge, it was just the start of bumping into them the whole trek. The temp had dropped to around 16C deg and our 150nrs/night lodge ran out of hot water. The water was just warm enough to get under without feeling the onset of hypothermia. It was amazing how well you feel after a shower; even if it was a cold one. The guest house filled up rather quickly. As the sun started to dim over the mountains we once again had to get out packet noodles for dinner. We were hungry and noodles just weren’t going to cut it so we also ordered a fried rice to share. It was the first evidence of prices starting to really go up on the menu. With absolutely everything being carried up from the very bottom and on the backs of porters the food could only get more expensive. We even had to pay for boiling water for our packet noodles. We were also lucky we at least ordered at least something on the menu because there was a note in the very back stating that if you brought your own food and didn't eat at their restaurant you would be charged 450nrs/person for staying in their lodge, as opposed to 150nrs for both of us. I wasn’t sure how well this was enforced but I also wasn’t game to find out. By now, we had finished the 15eggs, the massive hand of bananas and where roughly down 8 packets of noodles with 18 more to go. Everyone had dinner early and went to bed around 7:30-8:00pm.

15/5/10: For some reason we had a bad sleep, we were tired and the bed was comfortable but we just couldn't sleep. The altitude was only 2400m high, this should not have affected us as we had only been in Darjeeling a week ago at an altitude of 2130m high; and we slept well there. Forgetting that we were in lower Sinuwa we still had a half hour walk up to upper Sinuwa before carrying on to our intended destination Deorali. At an altitude of roughly 3300m it was a perfect place to acclimatise for ABC (Annapurna base camp). The mountain view, toyed with us as we followed the valley, only catching quick glimpse of Machapuchre or fish tale mountain every now and then. From the village of Bamboo and Dovan was a beautiful walk. We crossed into forest with moss and lichens growing all over the trees. There were more and more streams and waterfalls’ coming down the mountain, the temperature was a pleasant 20C deg. On our way up to the village of Himalaya our drink bottles hissed compressed air when we opened them, the altitude started to become a little more noticeable. This same effect of the expanding air due to different pressures even had an effect on our bowls. We were farting continuously on the way up, sometimes doubled over in pain just trying to get rid of our expanding bloating gas. It was either the altitude and pressure difference or eating mostly noodles and eggs for the past couple of days, I think the later. Our legs were hurting again; we stopped at Himalaya for lunch and had packet noodles once again. We only rested for half an hour so we could keep in front of the weather. From Himalaya to Deorali was a tough 2 ½ - 3hour walk up and down, finally gaining 400m in altitude towards the end. Half an hour out from Deorali the weather turned nasty, the temperature dropped from 20Cdeg to under 8C deg in minutes. Rain started to come down as we were forced to get our rain covers and gloves on to stay warm and dry. There was a clan of monkey watching us scurrying to reach Deorali before we froze. We finally got to Deorali at 3:00pm and even though these villages look close they seem to take forever to reach. We were freezing cold and had to warm up. We basically put on all our clothes on an attempt to get warm. I had on shoes 2xpants a thermal singlet, long sleeve wool shirt, long sleeve quick dry shirt, gortex jacket, gloves and beanie and still had trouble keeping warm with all this on. The wind was howling so we took shelter in the main room of the lodge, had some hot tea and you guessed it PACKET NOODLES, we also ordered some veg fried rice because we were both so hungry. We didn't see Caroline and Claire that afternoon but we managed to make friends with a lovely couple from the UK. Richard and Emily where traveling for a few months finishing some volunteer work in Bangladesh followed by a visit to Darjeeling then Nepal. They volunteered their time teaching schools about the damage human trafficking creates to people and families. We talked for most of the afternoon until the cold got the better of all of us, we had to go to bed in our sleeping bags just to warm up. I was hoping we were going to see snow at ABC as others had said it was like Xmas up there. It would be great for Jacinta to see falling snow as she still has never seen it.

16/5/10: Noodles AGAIN for breakfast. It was also freezing cold, we both rugged up to protest ourselves from the -0deg temps. Emily had a bad sleep due to a little altitude sickness. The rest of us didn't sleep all that well either, I had developed a dry cough that was almost impossible to ignore, it tickled the back of my throat and it kept me up most of the night. Jacinta and I left Deorali at 7:00am, it was good to walk just to warm up. The temp was now 5deg but soon warmed up to 15deg once the sun came over the hills. The view started to really get amazing; Machapuchre towered over our heads giving us a feeling of its immense power and size. We were still following the raging river below which soon gave way to more streams and waterfalls all flowing into the torrent. Waterfalls had little glacial ice melts underneath them. It was awesome to see the water fall finish behind the ice, disappear underneath the glacier then carry out other side. There were a number of these small glaciers; the whole valley had geological evidence of being one huge glacier millions of years ago. Steep smooth cliffs made from large rocks and boulders gouging the sides of the mountain. The mountain country started to really show its face, all the trees disappeared leaving only the toughest of grasses and bushes to survive the cold conditions. We had a 2-2 ½ hours walk up to Machupuchre base camp (MBC) climbing another 400m higher than Deorali and 3700m in altitude. An hour outside of MBC the altitude and little oxygen really made it hard to keep a good pace. Jacinta had trouble getting her breath and we both had to stop more frequently just to rest. It was always good to stop, the scenery became more and more beautiful the higher we climbed. It was also good to have a break from looking down at our feet, for the past three days it was impossible to look anywhere else whist walking, the second you looked away, you tripped. We reached MBC at 9:30am, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the air was cool and clean and the mountains were high and gleaming with blinding white snow. We rested at MBC for only half an hour before getting back to the rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other, having a short rest after every 50m or so. We started to walk out of the valley and into what can only be described as a giant fishbowl of incredible mountains. Everywhere you looked you were surrounded by 360deg views of mountains over 7000m high. Jacinta was on a mission to get to ABC, I started to have trouble trying to keep up with her. Every now and then I would stumble and lose my balance, I felt weak and dizzy; I also had to suck in big breaths of thin air just to feel like I was actually getting some oxygen. It almost seemed like we were taking turns with altitude related dramas. Later on we heard Caroline had bad altitude sickness and really struggled to get up, she only mad it after a fellow trekker gave her some drugs and she rested. There were many porters still carrying huge loads up to ABC, almost all would have been carrying there load for 4 days. The shear strength of these guys really amazed us.
The wildlife was incredible and we saw so many different types of birds with many different colours. One bird in particular had bright iridescent dark blue all over its body; it also wasn't very shy coming very close so we could get a good look. We made it over a ridge that gave us a clear view of ABC. I remember the bright blue roofing iron and thinking that it wasn't far, “we would be there in half an hour” I said to Jacinta.
It ended up taking almost an hour and a half, we thought we were never going to make it. I don't remember much between the ridge and the sign just before ABC, I only remember putting one foot in front of the other and concentrating on breathing and eating chocolate éclairs to keep my energy up. When we made it to the ABC sign it was just an effort to get the camera out and take a photo. After that we only had another 100m before climbing the last few steps up to ABC. I waited for Jacinta to catch up and we took the last step together. I gave her a kiss and told how well she had done on the trek. We had made it to ABC at 12:30pm at an altitude of 4130m. We had climbed for four days and pushed ourselves the whole way. Tired and exhausted we got a lodge for 200nrs/ night; which was the going rate at the time. We dumped our packs and collapsed on the bed for awhile. We later had a 300nrs macaroni and cheese meal each with Richard and Emily to feed our massive appetite. It was great to see Richard and Emily again as we were doubtful they were going to make it after how Emily felt in the morning. It was probably the most expensive and plain macaroni meal we could ever eat in Nepal, it didn't matter because we made it up to ABC and treated ourselves instead of eating noodles; the packet noodles were seriously overdone by now. Jacinta was cold and wanted to stay inside, I had other ideas and wanted to lookout onto the glacier only 100m from the ABC. There is no words that can explain how little you feel against Mother Nature when you see the massive cratered skid mark left behind from the glacier. I stood on the edge of a 100m high moraine and gazed out onto the moon scaped glacier below. I spun my head around 360deg trying to look at the whole valley, I stared up at the colossal mountains around me; my field of view could never be enough. I would have been quiet happy sit and watch for the rest of the day, the mountains around were alive, in the distance you could hear massive rocks tumbling down the steep slopes; if you were lucky enough to see one of the boulders tumbling you were able to make out the scale and size of the beast. Massive falling rocks collided against one another, shattering smaller rocks everywhere. The biggest rock I saw must have been the size of a small car, it sent up clouds of dust making it easier to spot more than half a km away. The sound that it made sent chills up your spine, you could only start to imagine the destruction that it made when it collided with the bottom of the glacier. Although the glacier wasn’t prevalent on top, the quarry of rocks sheltered to dirty ice underneath. The weather and fog started to close in so we all retired in to our lodge living room for a chat until it was time for dinner. We shouted ourselves a 400nrs plate of Dal Baht (Rice, roti, beans, and a pea like soup) They loaded up our plates and keep giving you more and more until we were about to pop at the seams. Dal Baht is real power food, full of carbohydrates for the trek down tomorrow. With everyone happy with the meals and the portions Richard and Emily show everyone up by ordering an apple pasty smothered in custard. Everyone was so jealous and the look of ecstasy on their faces said it all.
We were all hopping for snow as they had some the previous day but Jacinta would have to wait longer for her first glimpse of falling snow. We all went to bed around 7:30, mainly because we werent tired but because we were all cold.

Additional photos below
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18th October 2010

So, let me get this straight. You and your girlfriend are paying $AUD 3 a night for a bed. Presumably you are enjoying the company of the locals and other interesting people from around the globe in a nice heated dining room. You complain about the (free?) shower not being hot and then complain about the fact that you have to pay for boiled water to heat up your own noodles. Who should pay for the cost of heating the water? Oh, right, it comes out of your 3 bucks! Haven't you heard about the accepted practice of buying food from the guest house when you enjoy their ridiculously cheap lodgings? Or didn't you realise that these people are probably trying to pay the rent or interest on the lodge whilst supporting their family and trying to get ahead? Please don't identify yourself as an Aussie. Gavin
27th October 2010

Tourist or Traveler
Hi Gavin, Just to respond to your pathetic email. I am more Aussie than you will ever be so do not insult others and their country of origin because that in itself is un Australian. The fact that my wife and I took the plunge and went to Nepal, spent money in their country, learned about their culture, made Nepali life friends is more than I bet you have done for Nepal or any other country for that fact. It would have been my pleasure to eat three lovely meals a day, spend money on a nice room with a hot shower after a hard days trek after carrying a 24kg pack of plain noodles on my back that i could have payed a porter or a guide to carry. If I did all of these things we would have only be able to stay in Nepal for one week and not one and a half months. We had one meal at every lodge and spent well over $3000.00 for the time we were in Nepal; how much have you spent? I am contributing to cultures and countries that you can only dream or read about. The sacrifices we have made in the last five years and continue to make just to travel in many countries is more than you could ever or bare to imagine. In the two years we are traveling we will have spent over $100 000 Australian with no incoming income so don't lecture me about spending money for the local community or making sacrifices; Spending little money in a country is better than not going at all. The fact that you cant even understand this makes me believe that you are a tourist and not a traveler. You have wasted enough of my precious time. Dan
1st December 2010

Great ABC blog, thanks.
How long did it take you to get down from ABC to NayPhul? There seems to be 2 routes from Ghandrung to Chomrong, did you go via New Bridge/Himalpani, Udi or via Kumron, Kyumnu ? Sinuwa to Deorali how long did this take you? Do we need matresses? Do we need a stove? I plan on taking a heap of noodles and soup to keep costs down. We are considering the folowing, any comments or thoughts or advise you'd like to share. There is 7 of us and we are going to take a couple of porter guides that I plan to arrange in Pokhara when we arrive. Thanks again for a great read and any advice would be much appreciated. Cheers,Andrew Day 1 - Naya Phul - Banthanti Day 2 - Banthanti - Ghorepani Day 3 - Ghorepani - Poon Hill - Tadapani Day 4 - Tadapani - Chueley - Melanjey - Chomrong - maybe Sinuwa Day 5 - Sinuwa - Deorali Day 6 - Deorali - ABC Day 7 - ABC - Chomrong Day 8 - Chomrong - Landruk Day 9 - Landruk - Dhampus - Bus to Pokhara Day 10 - extra day if we need it
3rd December 2010

Responce to question
Hi, From memory it only took three days to get down from ABC, ABC to Bamboo, bamboo to Jinu (hot springs), and from there to Nayapul. It would be a very hard slog to get from ABC to Chomrong in one day, at the most you would reach Sinuwa. Yes there are two ways, on the way up we went from Nayapul to Gandruk and from there we went through Kumron, it was harder but you got to see more village life along the way. I think you would not need a mattress, it depends on the seasons. If it is peak season then i would bring something to sleep on just in case, this will be helpful if you don't get a room in time and are forced to sleep on the common room floor. But usually they have everything there, including mattresses. If you take a tent just make sure the weather is not to cold; you will freeze, its best just to stay in a lodge, you get to meet other people and make great friends. You can take a heap of noodles, soup and dried fruit, also consider boiled eggs they work great. If you take a stove to boil water it is more to carry, the higher you go the longer it will take to boil a simple cup of tea. Just keep in mind that although they charge for boiled water and you are taking food, you will still have to buy at least one meal from the lodges. They have in small writing on the bottom of the menu, it says that if you do not buy a meal from them they will charge you two nights accommodation, and you cant eat in other lodges just the one you are staying in. Plan to take something for breakfast and lunch and pay for a meal in the lodges when you are tired in the afternoon. You can always get a cheap plate of fried rice and add stuff to it to make a bigger meal. Just remember that accommodation is cheap it's the food they will sting you on. We didnt take any porter or guides, everyone knows the way and it is relatively safe. The down side of not taking a local is you miss out on some of their culture, porters and guides, well the English speaking ones, can teach you things along the way which is a bonus. We were there for a total of one and a half months and we experienced a lot of culture. Also remember that you will not be alone in the lodges and you are able to talk to other guides and porters while you eat like and elephant. You burn a lot of energy when you trek so don't be surprised when the food runs out quicker than what you thought.

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