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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trekking in Nepal - up till the ABC

It's hard to express all the sensations felt during the 1 week trek we did to the Annapurna base camp (ABC). The landscapes are astonishing, which makes the effort more than rewarding. The climbing demanded a lot of physical and mental strength. The tea houses where we stayed are meant only to provide shelter to trekkers, and nothing else. The comfort stayed down at the Pokhara valley. I didn't have any problems going uphill, but downhill my knees and my right foot Aquiles ligament swelled, which made the return to Naya Pul feel almost like a nightmare! And up at the ABC I experienced some altitude related problems: lack of breath and high heart beat rate.

But it was more than rewarding, and all the difficulties faced are part of the experience of trekking. I'll now briefly summarize our journey.

Day 1 - Pokhara - Naya Pul - Ghandruk
We took the 7 am bus to Naya Pul where the trek is supposed to start. After 1.30 h driving through breathtaking mountains and valleys the bus suddenly stopped! The impossible had happened... We ran out of gas in the middle of no where. Nothing to do except wait 30 min for the next bus and transfer some diesel from it to ours in the old fashioned way: rubber tube, bucket and sucking... After that we continued our journey, until suddenly the ticket collector starts looking at me and looking nervous... He soon tells me we should exit in the next stop. As we leave the bus we decide to eat something before starting trekking. 10 min later a guy asks where we want to go. We answer ABC and he tells us we're in the wrong place... The bus guy had forgotten to warn us when we passed Naya Pul... So we take a shared taxi and 15 min later we are finally starting our trek!
On the way to the check point where we have to stamp our permits we pass by two Norwegian girls, their porter and their yoga teacher. A couple of days later we were trekking all together. In this first day there weren't many difficulties. The climbing to Ghandruk was long but not so hard. We arrived there around 4.30 found shelter at the Mountain Lodge (300 Rupees), which has an amazing view from its rooftop. Dinner, relaxing, preparing the next day and sleeping were our activities for the rest of the day.

Day 2 - Ghandruk - Banawa
This was probably the most complicated day. First a steep climbing till the top of Ghandruk, followed by a very steep downhill by sand treks mostly used my mules until Khimrong. From there a long 600 m ascent to Chomrong where I completely lost track of the others and had to wait for them for almost an hour. Kara decided to leave some of her stuff here because she was having some difficulties, specially when going downhill. It was here as well that Aurora's and Sophie's (the norwegian girls) porter felt sick, said he couldn't make it further and left. We would meet them later in the tea house where we decided to spend the night. After climbing up the mountain to Chomrong we had to climb it down, which is a really steep way, by huge steps until we reached the river. The final part of the day was another stip climb uphill until Banawa (lower Sinuwa). We stayed at the Sherpa Guesthouse for 200 rupees. Here we met Peter, an Anthropology professor in Seattle, and his son. The two norwegians and their yoga teacher joined us later. And a Canadian who is just wandering around looking at birds from Nepal was also at the table with us. We had a really interesting conversation during and after dinner.

Day 3 - Banawa - Deurali
15 km overall was the distance covered today. I started feeling the first altitude problems, but they disappeared after a rest. We climbed 1200 m today and are now at over 3000 m. Some snow also fell on the mountains surrounding us. We hope that won't force us to change our plans of reaching the ABC the next day. The temperature is really low and since we are weak and dehydrated we feel it even more. We have to ask the shelter guys to turn on the heater and end up sleeping in the dining room with all the other personnel, just because it's warmer there.

Day 4 - Deurali - ABC
The big day finally came. We will reach our objective today. First we need to reach the MBC (Machhapuchhre base camp) 500m higher than Deurali at 3720 m and then another 400 m ascension. All this in 3,5 km. The first part went fine and everyone reached the MBC with a nice face. The worst was climbing to the ABC. My muscles were asking me to stop most of the way. The air is quite rare, my heart is going quite fast. But as I felt that if stopped I wouldn't make it I just kept on going.
We are all exhausted but extremely happy when we reach the top, at 4130 m. Up there the mountains are beautiful and peaceful. There's some fog than soon changes to a ice and snow storm that forces us to stay in the dining room of the shelter most of the time. We occupy the time up there playing cards, talking, resting and reading. I let myself go with the poetry of Caeiro.

Day 5 - ABC - Barawa
The morning brings up a clear sky which allows us to truly appreciate the views the base camp has to offer. We are surrounded by mountains, white is the colour that covers everything. The temperature is still very low which prevents us from staying too long outside. Before joining the others for breakfast I still see an avalanche far away in one of the mountains.
We went down at a great pace. We covered in the first day downhill the same distance it took us two days uphill. This was when my old injuries decided it was time to add some suffering to the experience. At the end of the day i'm exhausted, in pain, but at least my breathing got back to normal as well as my heart rate.

Day 6 - Barawa - Kyumi
My first objective of the day, given the circumstances was just to be able to move. I have a lot difficulties going downhill but when climbing to Chomrong i'm able to make my ankle work decently again and get back to my normal pace. I catch up with the others in Chomrong, where Kara had left part of her cargo and just move on to my second objective of the day: the hot springs in Jhinu. Diving in the hot springs and just relaxing there for a couple of hours felt like the price for all the effort and energy spent in the last days. After two hours it's time to go. There are two plans now in the group: try to make it to Siauli Bazaar and from there take a taxi to Naya Pul and transport back to Pokhara; or staying another night on the treks. When we get to kyumi and the Bright Guest House it's almost impossible to proceed... The place is so beautiful, there's a special aura in the place. There's blooming flowers around the rooms, a quiet waterfall on the side of the complex that goes all the way down to the end of the valley, joining the freezing river that is inviting me for a dive, which I eventually go for.

Day 7 - Kyumi - Naya Pul - Pokhara
This is the last day. The first part is the most difficult up till Siauli Bazaar and from there it's just following the road to Naya Pul... The problem is, there's a lot of downhill, although not so steep, which makes my knee swell making me limp for the last 4 km. I arrived in Naya Pul exhausted and mentally down. But after resting some minutes the energy came back again. And of course, I was already imagining the warm shower that awaited me, clean clothes, shaving and a decent meal!
After doing all the things I had been so eager to do, it was time to do some laundry, return the rented stuff and rest. We met the rest of the group in the Love Kush restaurant, had an amazing dinner (after eating so many garlic soups because of the altitude, the pepper steak tasted like the best I ever had) and then went out partying. We tryed Club Amsterdam but the live band was too noisy, so we ended up in Club Paradiso, and we danced until they sent us away - the doors closed at 11.30 but party continued for another hour inside. We were so energetic that it really didn't look like we were tired and had walked over 80 km in the last week. In the end we plan on having breakfast the next morning to say goodbye. We probably won't see the girls again in the next few months and their company on the treks made the experience much more enjoyable than if it had been only the two of us.

1 comment:

CHV said...

oooooh the girls! :)