Annapurna Trek

Trip Start Sep 26, 2004
Trip End Jan 15, 2005

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Thursday, November 4, 2004

It's going to be difficult to describe all I saw and experienced on the three week hike around and through the Annapurna range. I started the trail in shorts and t-shirts, and ended it the same way. In the middle week it was thermal underwear and below freezing mornings and nights. I climbed from around 2000 ft. to 17,500 ft. and back down to 2000 ft. again. Every day was different and some were much more difficult than others. It took me a week to get into shape carrying my pack, and I needed that time when the air begin to thin. My guide Ngima, is a Sherpa from the Everest region. Ngima has been to high camp at Everest without oxygen. (Just under 28,000 ft.) He had no trouble with the oxygen levels we encountered. I took a guide as it seemed safer due to recent Maoist rebel problems, and because I didn't want to make any wrong turns and end up lost and having to backtrack to the trail. Once you start the trek in Besisahar, there are no longer any vehicles of any kind on the trail. The only way to get things from one place to another is by porter or mule team. We passed many mule teams every day. Most were going up into the mountains full of supplies. Some carried empty containers, propane tanks, etc. down. The path is narrow most of the way and I had to give way several times to the 15 -20 mules as they went by. This trek is also known as a "Teahouse trek" as every night we stopped in small villages that cater to the trekkers. Also, along the trek there are numerous places to get tea and other drinks and snacks. These villages were farming communities before the trek became popular. They still plow their fields with plows being dragged by cattle, and harvest by hand. Rice fields dominated the hillsides, but there were vegetables and other crops as well. My guide has done this trek a dozen times, so he knew where to stay in each place. We hiked 7-8 hours each day at the beginning, and tapered off to 2-4 hours when we reached the mountains. Every day of the hike I saw the Himalayas, as the weather was excellent. The circuit is one of the most famous in the world because you see the mountains from different angles every day, and you see so many different mountains in the Annapurna range. There are two 8,000 meter peaks in the range. (26,000 ft+) We had clear views several times of these peaks. There are 14 - 8,000 meter peaks in the world, and 8 are in Nepal. Most are around Everest.(8.848 mt) I'll see Everest from the Tibetan side later this month. I'll ride there, as I am done with hiking for a while! We hiked 200 miles in 18 days, so a ride to Rongbuk Monastery is in my future. The guest houses on the trek were simple, but were also semi-comfortable. The power went off every day at various times. Candles were available, and I ate by candle light quite often. Once in the mountains, they kept us warm at dinner by placing coals in containers under the dinning room table. Blankets were wrapped around the table to keep in the heat. You just lifted the blanket and settled in for a cozy meal. Most all meals were cooked using wood fires, some kitchens used propane. Propane is heavy and costly to bring to the higher elevations, so wood was used more often than not. The rooms were not heated. I slept in my clothes for 10 days. At high camp, I needed a blanket to add to my down sleeping bag to keep warm. Once the sun went down there, it was below freezing all night. By using an experienced guide I was also privy to some warm meals in the kitchen. Watching the cook prepare your food from scratch was interesting. There are very few refrigerators on the trail, and as a result almost all of the meal is made to order. It takes more time, but there really isn't much else to do anyway. Tourism is way down due to the Maoist rebels, but there were fellow trekkers to talk with. I bumped into a lot of the same people along the way, so friendships were made and plans to meet in the future were discussed. After hiking all day just sitting around and relaxing was enough for me. I went to bed before 8 every night and was up by 6 or so for breakfast. You were asked to place your breakfast order before turning in at night. It was usually ready by the time I arrived in the dinning area or the kitchen. I ate a lot even when I wasn't hungry, but still managed to lose 10 pounds on the trail. It was a lot harder than I thought. I only saw a few overweight people, and I don't think they were headed over the Thorung La Pass. You can hike parts or all of the circuit. There are a few helicopter landing areas for altitude sickness patients, and a few airports for those who wish to fly back or only do part of the trail. (You can also hire someone with a mule or horse to get you over the pass)

That's it for now.....I'm off to Tibet in the a.m. Next part.....The Thorung La Pass
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