I was initially planning to do the Everest Base Camp. However, June is monsoon times in Nepal, and low season in the mountains. I gave up, but then found myself in circumstances that made me change my mind. So I did go to the Annapurna’s. Here’s a day-to-day log of my trip.
Besishahar (760m) to Chame (2600m), almost 2000m altitude gain in about 9 hours by jeep. And wifi!!!!! Nice surprise, especially that we are in a guesthouse just with the family, cooking at lamp light during an electricity blackout. They have a backup generator for small stuff.
So… After deciding that I will do the trek regardless the monsoon, I made a friend – a Nepali guy who wanted a break during his studies, and decided to join me. So now I have a friend, translator, and guide with me. Alternatively, I could have hired a guide for $25 a day.
Annapurna is a mountain range in the Himalayas, arguably more scenic than the Everest range. Before building a road that goes into the range, it was considered the best trek on earth. Now there’s more traffic, but it’s still breathtaking, and I can’t wait to start walking tomorrow into wilder areas. The “circuit” is technically not a hiking circuit anymore, barely anyone walks its entirety. The portion we will do will be about six hiking day plus a couple of days off-road by jeep. The altitude may be a problem, as we have to get to 5400m, and I know I don’t behave well at high altitudes; I may have to acclimatize longer and take more days.
Cost: $25 usd for the jeep ride, guesthouse free if we eat dinner and breakfast. Right now, the lady is cooking a vegetable soup for me for $2 usd. These are offseason prices; the high season is March-April and October-November (spring and fall), when the views are the best.
To Pisang, 3200m. The science of altitude is to gain no more than 500m per day. We walked for about 5 hours or so, and I can see there are villages and guesthouses every 2-3 hours apart. Although, now in the low season many are closed. Wifi is a bit of a luxury, but I decided to write offline.
I bought some more serious equipment in Kathmandu than what I had hiking in New Zealand. I thought hiking in the Himalayas is a bit more serious, haha. Brand names in Asia are everywhere, and very cheap. I say “brand names”, because they look exactly like an original, possibly made by the same factory, and possibly even the same quality. I bought “North Face” equipment for 1/5 of the price of original.
Thoughts from the trail – we are walking right on the dirt road with car traffic. We have not gone into the real mountains yet. I can see how the road spoiled the nature.
To Manang, 3600m. The trail goes through mountain villages and religious sites, and we are still trekking on a road accessible by motorcycle. I am impressed by the amount of religious effects all around marked by colored flags, each flag with some inscriptions on it. Today we saw some flags up on a steep slope, to find out that’s a cave where a poet monk used to live.
I had the first glimpse of the snow peaks, although they are still hidden. I get a strong feeling that this is a very spiritual walk, like a pilgrimage of some sort. Although the trail does go to a very important Hindu temple, and many do indeed go on a pilgrimage, I am more impressed with the cultural and devotional aspect of the villages and people we walk by. There are monasteries, temples, colored flags, and praying wheels at every corner. As if at this altitude devotion to gods is still the primary concern.
To Ledar, 4250m. No road anymore, now it looks more like mountain hiking. I’m moving very slowly due to altitude, but we were able to push it further than the 500m elevation gain. My Nepali friend Prem is very patient, and I feel like he’s watching my back. The villages are more rare and smaller. We sometimes pass by huts that sell basic food and drinks, and it looks surreal to have a meal in the middle of absolut nowhere – especially now in the low season, when it’s just us and the Sherpa shop keeper.
The ice capped mountains are just here and there, probably there’s more snow in the high season of spring and fall. I’m still craving a walk surrounded by snow and ice (not near me, if you know what I mean); but I believe this is not that walk, not this time of the year. The weather so far is stunning, hot, the sun is burning, with no signs of rain.
I was impressed today by a US family with three small children (11, 9, and 6 years old) who are doing the same trek. The kids said it’s hard, but they are very enthusiastic. It was interesting to have an adult talk with these children, who were going through the same challenges like me, only doing it stronger and faster.
To High Camp, 4,900m. Another 700m elevation gain. I almost didn’t make it this far. I was going to stop at a previous camp due to dizziness and headache, but other tourists gave me altitude sickness pills. So I decided not to brave it, and take the pill. After four-hour rest, I kept going.
I took very few pictures today. My enthusiasm for the trail was pretty low, as I tried to just focus on taking the next step. Tomorrow is another difficult day – going over the pass at 5,400m. I am going to bed right now at 6pm, and will take another pill in the morning. I hope I’ll be fine.
My Nepali friend Prem has none of these issues. The other tourists are on the pill, and doing better than me. But I expected much worse, I’m pretty impressed with my performance – if all goes well tomorrow, then we would have saved one day from the recommended timing on the route.
Ah, oh, yeah, we made it! Very tough day, ascent to Throng La Pass at 5,400m, then down to Muktinath at 3,800m in six hours. I was on the altitude pill and no problems anymore, but then the descent got me crippled. My feet and hip joints hurt like hell, my friend’s knees as well.
But we made it to the Muktinath Hindu Temple, our target! This is a very famous temple, they say that any good Hindu (at least Nepali) must come here at least once in their lifetime. Once at the temple, I touched the 108 holy streams of water, and soaked my feet in freezing holy healing water, and quickly felt much better, ha!
Then I absolutely wanted to understand the “miracle” that’s been bugging me ever since I’ve learned about this temple: fire coming out of water, uninterrupted for ages. So we walked to another temple in the same complex, and we saw two enclosures where the miracle happened. I looked with a torch, and I saw a little flame coming out, but of the ground right next to a stream of water – aha, nothing short of a miracle of nature!
The Himalaya expedition is not over. We still have to get to civilization, which is about two days away by jeep on extreme off roads that begin here. Yeah, we could walk some more, the scenery is still very alpine, but I absolutely refuse to walk on the road again. I am afraid that given my current state, if I see a vehicle passing by I will show them the finger, haha. I may change my mind by tomorrow.
A day by bus in the Himalayas. This side of the mountain does not require jeep, just a badass bus and a matching driver. We changed four such buses to get to Beni, the main town from where will get a direct bus to Kathmandu.
Never really thought of an off-road bus, but these were it! The craziest bus rides ever, of over 12 hours combined. I learned a new notion of a full bus: people on the hallway, around the driver, on the stairs, in the door, out the door, and on the rooftop with the luggage. And all the while on a one-car-wide-unpaved-rocky road, free fall drops, stream crossings, broken bridges, whatever. A wise mantra – when it’s out of your control, just trust. After hours and hours and hours of focused sightseeing, I let men fight the world and fell asleep.
Going back in time to this morning – ah, worlds apart, an entire valley apart haha. While riding the bus down the mountain, I realized I’d been on top of one of them and the experience synced in. It downed on me that I trekked in Yeti’s footsteps in the fucking Himalayas! That I met the Sherpas, ate their food, tasted the yak cheese, drank the spring water, and got my face burned by the Himalayan sun! I didn’t know (yes, I did know) if the tears in my eyes were due to the wind in my face, or to a moment of gratitude for a dream come true, like many dreams in my life.
I’m not yet in Kathmandu, but I will end this trip log on this note of gratitude for all good things in life. And I wish that everyone find the courage to live their dreams, as I know it takes more courage than money or anything else.
Anca is feeling satisfied 🙂