Sanctury Sojorn - packs, paths, peaks and pizza
Trip Start Sep 25, 2003
59Trip End Apr 23, 2005
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Abstract: Finally after 12 days and an enjoyable Deepawali festival and not so enjoyable gut infection each, we parted company with Kathmandu bound for Pokara and the Annapurna sanctuary trek. Over the next 12 days we trekked, staying in lodges and carrying only 11kg, to the British 1970 base camp at 4130m. The view in the Sanctuary was stupendous, the most spectacular mountain scenery we had ever seen...
Finally severed the umbilical cord and headed out of Kathmandu on 15 Nov bound for Pokhara, a days bus ride west
doing, we don't really know what, but definitely recovering from bad chest colds & stomach upsets. We also managed to arrange for all our wedding stationary
to be handmade, caught up with our Aussie mate Dave at the end of his 32 days trek, and saw our very first Bollywood film with Sharukh Khan (swoon swoon) - this was great fun especially as we saw it over the Deepawali festival weekend together with hundreds of
Nepalese and we were the only westerners - luckily there were English subtitles as the plot was more complex than most and G certainly appreciated the wet sari scenes! We were missing Lucy our traveling companion of the last 8 weeks who'd set off to India to meet a friend.
After arriving at the bus station at 6.30am, we waited an hour to be escorted to the bus and found seats on the old cronky bus. We instantly made a friend, an older man who spoke a little English and looked after us for the entire trip. The road between Kathmandu & Pokhara had several military roadblocks to negotiate and was very twisty turny, so we weren't surprised when half the bus started to be sick including the little boy in front of us. Relieving travel sickness by opening all the windows resulted in a bus full of dust and fumes and by the time we reached Pokhara we looked like we'd been down a coal mine and goodnessknows what our lungs must have looked like.
The journey was all very civilized and we stopped morning and afternoon for toilet stops and at lunchtime for a hurried Dhal Bhat (staple Nepalese food of rice, dhal, veg and pickle)
Finally reached Pokhara 7 hours later, tired & dusty and were set upon by a pack of hounds - hotel touts to be more exact. Gave in and went with one to a small hotel over looking a lake from where on a clear day you can see the Annapurna Himalaya, but today there was no view. Ended up moving hotels and sat in bed reading and listening to the 'Best of the Beatles' being played in the café opposite.
After a good Trekkers breakfast we set off in a taxi to Phedi, and the start of what was to be an 12day trek to and from Annapurna Base Camp ,ABC, (site of the 1970 Chris Bonnington summit expedition). Strenuous is an understatement, especially for 2 unfitties who've spent the last 6 months sat on their backsides Landcruisering around Australia. We started at around 1000m and climbed to 4200m, not including all the valleys we crossed in between. We met up with an English girl, Sally and her lovely guide Ram, and two Aussies, Bec & Jake and together we formed the summit team and kept each others spirits up.
From Phedi there was no way to go except up a stone staircase (well there was one other option and that was to get back in the taxi and forget about the whole thing!) and rejecting offers of a porter to carry our bags up the 800m climb we set off - the porters said we could shout to them at any stage on the staircase and they would come gallantly to our rescue! Climbing out of the valley, we passed small villages where the inhabitants were harvesting and their pretty houses were surrounded by marigold bushes - shame it was so cloudy and we couldn't see any mountains
G attracted the attention of 2 sets of children who in separate incidents barred the track and sang at the tops of their voices in the hope that we would give them money or sweets - when we tried to pass, some pinched R which hurt and others rugby tacked G's legs which made progress really slow. They were really cute though and have been irreversibly spoiled by thoughtless trekkers giving them money which perpetuates begging, or worse, sweets which causes their teeth to rot and they have no access to dental services. In SE Asia we saw the effects of this thoughtlessness in kids with rotten teeth and one thing the Nepalese have is the most beautiful white healthy teeth which will be ruined by handing out sweets to them - you don't walk around the Lake District handing out sweets and money to the locals........I'll get off my high horse now!!
After taking a wrong turn we struggled into a lovely lodge called Australia Camp (very strange name) where the family kept Buffalo in a 'buffalo house' and chickens in a 'chicken house' and grew all their own veggies
We awoke to a clearish day and our first views of the Annapurna Himalaya including Machhapachhure a beautiful peak, and had breakfast watching a family of Mongooses play until they were chased off as they tried steal the chickens. Much of the path was paved with loose stone and rocks and we passed villagers walking in the opposite direction carrying huge loads in rattan baskets on their backs, using a wide strap held on their forehead. We also passed and caught up with a lot of fellow trekkers. I'm back on my high horse again - trekking companies in the interest of saving money, hire too few porters so they carry too much stuff - 40kg or more - and it is upsetting to see them struggling with huge bags - 2 or 3 strapped to their backs - what do people bring with them?
Every so often the track would pass through a small village or collection of lodges with immaculate gardens with marigold bushes where the hungry trekker could stop for lunch or give up for the day and find a bed. Those lower down the valleys also had solar showers which were a welcome surprise at the end of a sweaty day of uphill struggle. After the first day we gave up stopping for lunch instead ordering chapattis and boiled eggs at b'fast that we could scoff on the way, otherwise we would get cold from sitting in our sweaty clothes whilst we waited for our food to be cooked and never went as well after we'd stopped
On the third day, R didn't have enough b'fast and consequently 'hit the wall' on a 400m stone staircase climb and was nearly on her knees by the time we reached Heaven View Lodge just outside the pretty village of Chomrong at 2000m. Luckily the lodge mama was a great cook and sorted us both out with sweet milk tea, mashed potato and cheese and later chips, a mean spaghetti and awesome dhal bhat. We also were in possession of a soaking wet backpack as G's had decided to jump into the river when we stopped for a break - thankfully his sleeping bag was in a bin liner otherwise there would have been tears at bed time. One lodge we passed had a hutch full of snowy white Angorra rabbits which were really furry. At another point of the track we passed a water powered mill where water was used to drive a grinding stone and the motion of the wheel caused grain to pour into a hole on top of the stones at a constant speed and the resultant flower banked up around the mill stones.
Determined not to make the same mistake again, we ate a huge breakfast the following morning and were ecstatic at having an amazingly clear day with dazzling views of the mountains we were struggling towards. From Chomrong village we had to descend to a river (a long way down) and all the way up the other side - Oh for a flying fox slide to save the knees.....Today we met Bec & Jake as we got stuck in the middle of a goat jam on the track. I thought of Andy (R's brother) as there was a small ginger goat who really reminded me of when he was little!!!Not that he looked like a goat of course!!!Once up the other side of the valley the track thankfully traversed through Bamboo forest and moss clad trees and as we were making pretty good time, we pressed on to a little collection of lodges at Dovan at about 2500m
Awoke after a restless night (paper thin walls and those coming back from ABC didn't go to bed as early as those going up (7pm!)) to a cold but brilliantly clear morning. We were now above the general cloud level in the valley and the sky was so blue. The track hugged the valley sides and by now the valley was getting really narrow and after the first snows had fallen 2 days ago, the avalanche detour bridges were in place. G spotted some tiny shrew waffling through the undergrowth, about the same size as a thumb from snout to bum with a little thin tail - very sweet
That night, the summit team were treated to a wonderful sunset during which Machhapachhure went orange with the moon rising behind it (see photos). It was really cold. We were joined at the lodge by a group of Indians who chain smoked in their rooms resulting in all of our rooms filling with smoke due to all the holes and not the thing you need at altitude, and kept us all awake by emitting various bodily noises throughout the night and moaning and groaning in their sleep. I couldn't sleep with earplugs in, as for some reason it made me feel really claustrophobic. The crescendo of noise climaxed at 4am when their guide banged on their doors awakening the entire lodge clearly to get them up for sunrise, but infuriating the rest of us as they didn't get up until 6am!
Sunrise was beautiful and at 7am G & I pressed on to ABC, 2hours and 500m higher into the Annapurna Sanctuary. It was sunny and wonderfully clear and there was a lot of snow on the track. Were passed by a fury dog, one of many who spends the time escorting trekkers on various sections of the track in the hope of biscuit rewards, we suspect.
The Annapurna Sanctuary as described by Chris Bonnington in his 1970 book 'Annapurna South Face' as "a huge glacier basin, its only exit being Modi Khola, a narrow gorge leading down into the foothills and eventually to the plains of India
Amazingly sunrise was clear and we were treated to another awesome view of the mountains and after a hearty breakfast we started the descent to MBC and back down the narrow valley we had struggled up - it was so much easier going down. We made it as far as the lodges at Bamboo approx 2500m so a descent of nearly 2000m and our knees were suffering. We spent the evening in the company of four American evangelical Christian missionaries in their late teens / early twenties who made us all feel very uncomfortable by playing the guitar and singing songs about Jesus the entire evening.... For those of you familiar with the Simpsons, G likened it to an evening with the Flanders!
Shortly after leaving the lodge in the morning, it started raining which we weren't unhappy about as having carried our wet weather gear, we were happy to don it. It did however turn the rest of the day in to one similar to trudging through the Lake District in the pouring rain. We arrived at an abandoned hut to find a huddle of people including our 4 little Christian soldiers and a group of Maltese and Israeli Jews who one of the missionaries was telling stories of enlightenment and trying to convert (more chance with Osama?).
The Maltese / Israelis had gone neo-hippy and wore woolly jumpers and ponchos and were wrapped in blankets and one of their party (who looked like Jesus) had walked to and was walking from ABC barefoot much to the wonder of the Nepalese. He was dressed in flowing robes and carried his belongings on a stick over his shoulder, Dick Whittington style, but had an amazingly flash digital camera. When we later chatted to an Irish guy he reckoned (and told the guy) the only way one would manage the walk barefoot was with half a ton of hash inside you, and we think that was probably the case!!!!Tonight was the last evening together for the summit team and it would be sad to go our separate paths tomorrow.
We awoke in the 'Excellent View' lodge to exactly that (see photos with mountains and flowers), my cameras battery reserve had diminished from seven at the start to the last one, I guess I take too many shots
We awoke at 5.40 excited at the prospect of a great view, and were bitterly disappointed there was cloud=no view
We awoke early and got a cronky old Toyota corolla to the bus station via the back streets as the taxi driver seemed intent on 'taking us for a ride' to the tourist park, where he would have got more commission... can't blame him I suppose... Arriving at the dusty bus park we managed to get a ticket without a scrum and they even elected one of the loitering touts to take us to our bus. The views where amazing as there was no cloud, we could see from Dhaulagiri in the west to Manasulu in the east, three 8000ers and dozens of 7000m peak in view. Partly due to looking at the great view Graham then amused the locals by performing a trip/dive and ended up flat on his face in a cloud of dust. Ouch.. the blood flowed, but more importantly the embarrassment was acute, I picked myself up laughed and tried to walk/limp off normally and I waited till I was on the bus before groaning...and mopping up the blood. The bus, much to our amazement sped off exactly on time. We tried to take photos of the panorama from the bus windows, much to the bemusement of the locals
Arriving back in Kathmandu the bus finally gave up the ghost and only about half a km from the bus station ground to a halt after half an hour crawling along... everybody sighed grabbed their bags/kids/chickens and started walking, we decided to get a cab, and where surprised when it only had to take us about 800m, the bus breakdown was right on our doorstop :-)
We retrieved our bag at the hotel, and over the next 48 hours feverishly ran around sorting out Indian visas, new (smaller) packs, lighter shoes (G), packing, cloth, stationary, and shipping our excess gear home. The excess gear (and our purchases) totaled 30kg in the end, FedEx claimed about a weeks budget to send it back. It was worth it to avoid the hassle of lugging it around India and Africa.