Archive for the ‘Trekking / トレッキング’ Category

Friday, 11th Nov

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Trekking / トレッキング

An early start and a light breakfast of soup. We tried to get away before 8 but as usual we were the last ones out of our lodge. There was a large group of Spaniards and our two new German friends. They are intending to go further than us today. We followed the path down through Chhomrong following the route we took yesterday. Then the path went up and down before crossing a small river and then gently ascending. Julian was much better today; walking well without any grumbling. He has some small blisters on his little toes which I sorted out with some plasters yesterday. He didn’t complain about those either and so today was the best walking day so far. At lunchtime we stopped in a small lodge with a great view up and down the Modi Khola valley. The path continued around the valley and by now it was in the shad all the way. It’s so much easier walking in the shade. During the afternoon a very fit young Nepali overtook us with a cheerful “Namaste!” which means, hello. He was wearing shorts, a teeshirt and a jungle hat and he seemed full of life. His eyes were just shining with energy. A little later on we caught him up when he stopped for a break. He gave us a can of Red Bull and when he took it out of his bag, I noticed he had another two packs of 6 in there. That would account for all the energy. Julian noticed that he had a large tattoo on his lower leg. Taking a closer look we saw that it was a dragon and a fish with some flowers behind. Julian straight away said that he wanted one! I told him to ask his Mum! We arrived at Bamboo at about 3pm. There are about 4 lodges here and they are all full. The porters will have to sleep in the dinning room tonight I think. We have agreed to to let a young Austrian man share our small room. It really is like a prison cell; small wooden beds, a tiny window and a 25 watt bulb. Still, we are high up in the mountains miles away from anywhere and we’re lucky to be here. The Austrian, Peter, has long blond dreadlocks and lives in Thailand. He’s been living there for 4 years and seems to have an idyllic life on Ko Panghan an island I visited in 1995. Lucky chap! When we arrived at this tiny village this afternoon, a group of Englishmen were playing Cricket Dice! People kept stopping to look what was going on. It’s difficult enough to explain cricket but to try to explain it with dice…hmmm, no chance. Julian is writing his diary while we wait for dinner and the English lads are on to Yahtzee and beer. It would be nice to have a drink but not until the way down, as they are. Two young Americans are playing Rummy with their porter. Julian again is intrigued because the woman has a stud through her lower lip. I asked her if she had been hit by a truck and once the ice was broken we all had a very pleasant evening. She also has a tattoo; and so does Peter. They described to Julian how they are painted and the five hours you have to sit in a chair while the artist works away with a needle. He doesn’t want a tattoo anymore. I decided to teach Julian, Peter and Narayan Rummy and I had to ask the Tattoo Lady to remind me of the rules. I never found out her name and never will because they were going down the mountain as we were going up. In the end we settled on a mix between her rules and how I remember playing Rummy with my Grandmother. We could them the Annapurna Rules. A great end to a good day.

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This is Peter from Austria.

Thursday, 10th Nov

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Trekking / トレッキング

Today was our rest day. We woke at about 8 and staggered out for breakfast. Julian wanted a pizza (well, he is on holiday) and I ate porridge which was really good. After breakfast we went for a walk in Chhomrong. We are at the higher southern end and the rest of the village spreads out north and downwards. In the past few days we have seen several German bakeries and this morning we had a second breakfast of Danish pasteries and chocolate buns. There were some nice lodges at that end of the village and so when we come back down I think we will stay in one of those. Walking back to our lodge Julian had trouble going up the stone steps again. I’m beginning to have doubts that we will make it to Annapurna Base Camp. I can’t keep prodding him along like the donkeys that we are seeing everyday. It’s not much fun for either of us. We skipped lunch and in the afternoon Julian played poker dice with Narayan. They are getting on like a house on fire. I planned for us to have a shower in the late afternoon but unfortunately two other guests got in before us and despite it being only 3:30, there was no hot water left. We had a freezing cold shower again and then got straight into our sleeping bags to get warm. I listened to a podcast of the “News Quiz” from Radio 4 (how many other people can say they’ve listened to the News Quiz while in a lodge in the Himalaya?!) and then we went to sleep. This evening we had a nice meal and chatted to two great Germans, Bruno and Matthius. Their English, of course, was brilliant and we had many jokes. Julian asked them lots of his pre-prepared English questions and then he taught them some Japanese. He thoroughly enjoyed himself listening to their pronunciation. So the day ended well.

We are hearing stories that the lodges further up the trail are filling up. Our porter is phoning ahead to see if he can book a room in Bamboo (2,310). If he can’t we may have an easy day and just trek to to Sinuwa (2,360) and then leapfrog Bamboo the next day and go for Deurali (3,200). Hopefully there won’t be too much up and down from now on. Another thing we have been hearing from people coming down is that last week the weather was really bad all the way up. Some days it rained and everyday it was cloudy so that the trekkers couldn’t see the mountains as they trekked up. That must have been pretty demoralising. There was also snow up there with 5 or 6 inches at Annapurna Base Camp. It could be cold. I’m hoping that the recent milder weather will have melted some of that snow. It seems that those 4 days we waited in Pokhara were a really good idea.

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This is a kitchen in one of the lodges. Most of the crockery is either metal or plastic, rarely china.

Wednesday, 9th Nov

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Trekking / トレッキング

Today was a bit of a bugger. We were woken by music playing through the village. It was some kind of religious mantra which we had heard many times around Pokhara. It was melodic, repetitive and very pleasant. We had breakfast but Julian wasn’t very impressed with the local bread and honey. So he started off the day a bit moody. We left our lodge soon after 8 and started walking up through the village. We went up about 300 metres mostly on stone staircases through forests. The sun was shining and before long we were all sweating. Last night I charged up the iphone and a camera battery from the solar panel battery and so today I put the solar panel on my back to charge up that battery. I hope that all made sense. It’s 7:30 at night now and I am really tired. Julian walked really slowly this morning; everything was a real effort. I decided that we should stop for a second breakfast of vegetable soup which Julian enjoyed and then we set off again. Heavy goods are moved along the path by mule trains; there’s mule poo everywhere. You don’t need a guide, just follow the mule poo all the way to top! I told Julian to stand well back as the trains, usually 8 or 10, mules go by. But he’s a 10 year old boy and wants to court danger. Well, I can only tell him so many times. There are also oxen, buffaloes and cows on the route so you really do have to watch where you are putting your feet and stand well back as the animals amble past. After we had been climbing for about 2 hours we reached the top of a ridge and had a great view across the valley and the Modi Khola river below. Unfortunately our route today was to go down to the river and then all the way up the other valley side. So we went down 450 metres through a forest and then up 380 metres on the other side. It was pretty bad. But we passed porters going the other way carrying huge loads. They are super human. As I said to Julian, if the porters can speak English they can get a well paid job carrying light loads and being guides for trekkers. If they can’t speak English, they carry huge loads in advance of tour groups or else whatever needs to be carried up to the higher lodges. I think the lesson wasn’t lost on Julian. In the afternoon on the gentler downhill slope to our destination, Julian found another packet of his mysterious energy and left his poor father far behind again. We reached Chhomrong at about 5 and fell into a lodge run by a friend of Narayan. We had been out walking for 9 hours. Julian has some small blisters on his toes which I have taken care of and we have decided to stay here for 2 nights. The daily treks from here will be shorter as we get higher – I don’t want to go through another day like today! The good news is that the solar charger completely refreshed its battery in only one day of sunshine so Julian can play Angry Birds on the iPhone tonight. Lucky him.

Our room in Gandruck. This one had a shower and an Asian toilet. It cost 900yen or 6 pounds and was the most expensive room we stayed in on the trek. After Gandruck we didn’t bother getting an en suite room again.

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This photo is of a sunrise but being halfway down a valley, it’s not as early as you may think; maybe 8 o’clock.

Tuesday, 8th Nov

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Trekking / トレッキング

Yesterday evening before dinner it started to get cold here. We broke out some of our warmer clothes from our rucksack which was a shame because they were all neatly and compactly stowed in the bag. After a good and generous meal of noodles, we went back to our small and sparse room and here I also opened out our sleeping bags. So when we leave here, we will have some packing to do. A dog in the local area barked most of the evening so I used the earplugs which I had brought from Fuji. Don’t laugh; I knew that these trekking lodges would be noisy in the early morning as some people left to get a head start and so I bought earplugs with me. That was a good idea because when we went to bed at about 9pm, the dog was still barking. We slept with our clothes on in our sleeping bags under thick duvets and were comfortable. At about 7:00 the sunlight coming through the very thin curtain woke us up but we didn’t want to stir from our cosy cocoons. We had a breakfast of local bread and honey before walking through the village with Narayan. The mountains were clearly visible and a spectacular sight. There was a small museum showing everyday and agricultural items from Gurung (the people of this village) life. We skipped lunch and I read while Julian carried on with his maths homework. At about 3 we decided to have an early shower before other people got the same idea. Despite the sun shining all day on the water heater on the roof, the water at best was tepid. We used our collapsible bucket but the shower experience wasn’t much fun and after the next sizeable town, Chommrong, I think we won’t bother trying again! In the afternoon sunshine, I read Julian the first episode of the Sir Rutherford Alcock story complete with sound effects and funny voices. We then had a few games of cards with Narayan. He taught us a completely unfathomable game which I appeared to win twice despite not being able to even pronounce the name of it! We then taught him pontoon and as usual Julian won most of the rounds. Then we talked about the plan for tomorrow and we intend to make it to Chommrong (2,170m) which is the last substantial village on the way to Annapurna Base Camp. It’s only 200m higher than this village but Narayan said the course is up and down and it could take us 5 hours. After tomorrow we will ascend more gradually so we don’t run the risk of altitude sickness. We can see the path windy gradually upwards on the hills in the distance but our eventual goal is actually behind the mountains in the distance! Wow! It’s now 5:30 the time that we ordered dinner for. The lodge is full with people coming up and down so I expect the dinning room will be standing room only! Time to go I think…

Robert – was there a split infinitive in this post?

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An interesting German/ Japanese combination; Sakura means cherry blossom in Japanese.

Monday, 7th Nov

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Trekking / トレッキング

Well, this is it. We woke up early, ate breakfast but then for one reason or another we were late out of our room and down to reception where our taxi and porter were waiting. The rucksack I have chosen for the trek is about 50 litres and is rectangular; it doesn’t taper at the top. I eventually got all the personal items we would need in there plus two sleeping bag and a down jacket. The other down jacket is strapped to the top. The bag is bursting at the seams and I guiltily handed it over to Hum Raj to take to the taxi. It’s only about 15 kilos but because of the bulk of the sleeping bags and jackets I think it’s quite huge. I took that final photo of us all outside the hotel and then had to go back inside to the wi-fi zone to upload. The hotel staff were quite amused; hopefully pleasantly… The taxi driver started chatting away immediately and then sprang the old “my mother is very sick” routine. I thought it was a bit early in the day to ask for donations to a life saving operation but no, he just wanted to drop her off at a hospital that was on the way. Is that OK? Sure, more the merrier I thought and then tried to go through the checklist in my mind of what we had with us. And then a terrible thought struck me. Where was my bag? My little bag that I was going to carry? My bag with the solar panels, keyboard, chocolate, games for Julian and his homework. (I’ll leave you to think about which of those I was most concerned about.) Yes, of course it had been left back at the hotel with the rest of our spare clothes. Terminally ill mother got in the car and while she looked about 60 there didn’t seem to be anything particularly wrong with her. I think she was just catching a lift to see her cousin Nelly but first she’ll have to see the outside of our hotel. Narayan, our porter, dashed into the hotel got the bag and we were finally off. The three locals chatted to themselves and Julian and I just bounced about at this early hour. The clouds were lifting, the sun was almost out and then Narayan pointed ahead and we saw mountains!! Our first view of the Himalaya. It was Machpuchre, the fishtail mountain but as we drove on it became obscured by foothills. Our taxi driver drove like a maniac, even with his Mum in the car. After about an hour of climbing and hitting every pothole on the road, we dropped of the mother and 20 minutes later we hit the traffic jam that is Naya Pul (1,070m). There were about a dozen taxis and 4 or 5 buses dropping people off to start trekking or picking people up after a trek. It was chaos. We got out of the taxi and I checked the inside REALLY carefully. Then we bought some water and followed Narayan. It was good having him with us at this point because he knew the way through this small village and he also guided me through the two checkpoints where my pass was checked. Details were written down and looking over the clerks shoulder I saw that I was exactly the 100th person through today! No prize unfortunately but it gives you some idea of the scale of the chaos. But within 10 minutes we were walking on a path by the side of a river overtaking some people and being overtaken by others. There were many porters carrying huge loads up for organised trekking tours. The loads were incredible! Rucksacks were strapped together and then a final rope passed around them which the porter balanced on his forehead and then stood up. Amazing. I’m don’t feel so guilty at the load we have given Narayan. The path was fairly flat for the first hour; a much better option than our original route. But then it started climbing mostly on stone steps. And on and on. We stopped for lunch in a hut that is run by one of Narayan’s friend. (He was meeting friends all morning.) We had our first taste of Dahl Bhat; Nepalese simple trekking curry. There was some mild spicy curry soup, some spicy potatoes, rice, nan bread and some volcanic orange spicy stuff. Julian ate it all but I advised him not to even look at the orange spicy stuff so he left that. Over lunch we agreed to try for Ghandruk (1,940m) today. It was quite a challenge but if we stopped halfway then we wouldn’t be able to rest two nights in Ghandruk. So after lunch, powered by Dahl Bhat, we set off. Julian suddenly found some form and off he went. He was ahead for about 30 minutes. Our porter was sometimes ahead and sometimes behind. I’m sure he could do this with his eyes closed. Just before Ghandruk we all came together but Julian and I found those last hundred stone steps a real effort. We were spent. I asked Narayan to find a lodge in the centre of the village (it’s quite spread out vertically) and he did; Mountain View Lodge. It was 4:30 and we had been walking since before 10 (with 30 minutes for lunch). We negotiated the price for 2 nights and then I helped Julian out of his boots and we lay down to sleep. Twenty minutes later our porter knocked on our door. I was almost asleep and not in the mood for anymore hassle today but he told me to come to the roof. I did. I saw mountains. The earlier clouds had parted and they were right there in front of us. Huge. You had to tilt your head up to see the tops. I was speechless. I went back to the room and with his eyes closed I guided Julian to the best spot and told him to open his eyes. He too was speechless. The long walk today was definitely worth it and in the coming days the view will only improve. Tonight we will sleep well and dream of mountains and yetis.

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Annapurna III on the left and Machhapuchhre (the fishtail mountain) on the right.