End of the trek!

Trip Start Oct 14, 2008
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Trip End Nov 16, 2008


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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Whew!  It is hard to imagine but after 24 days of hiking we have woven our way around the Circuit and just a few hours ago found ourselves at the end of our trek and in the bustling town of Pokhara.  There is a great sense of accomplishment in having actually DONE it -- circled the mighty Annapurna massif. 

One of the unexpected challenges of this sort of trip was the sort of 'unending' nature of it all:  no matter how we felt or how beat up we were from the day before we had to get up in the morning and do it all over again.  This wasn't always easy when some of us were pretty ill or hurting with blisters or muscles were simply not cooperating -- or hadn't been able to sleep in five days. 

After walking down the Kali Gandaki for a few days, we had a wonderful respite in a town called 'Tatopani'.  Tato means hot and pani water, so the name literally means hot water, and that was the highlight of the town -- huge hot springs that we were quite delighted to enjoy for some time.  We hung out there in three feet of hot, scalding water in a large pool along with 20 folks from Nepal and other countries.  Given the state of our muscles it was a great treat.  Upon their return, you will have to inquire of Luke, Joe, and Barry how they found their way back to the tents late at night......

We were led to believe the next few days would be relatively easy, but that turned out to be far from the truth.  I have an altimeter and was shocked to discover that in a single hour we would at times climb up over 2,000 feet -- only to descend 2,500 the following hour.  That kind of pounding on one's knees takes quite a toll.  Interestingly, I believe I was the only one affected as the 'youngsters' seem to take it all in stride.  One day after lunch I found that I could barely even stand up and the pain was intense through the afternoon. 

We went to a town called Ghorepani and spent the night.  In the morning we awoke at 4:00 and headed yet again in the dark up the side of the mountain in order to be at the top when the sun rose.  Our destination was 'Poon Hill' and it was truly specactular. The trip has had so many specactular and moving scenes that it is hard to pick out one that stands out, but Poon Hill is certainly one of those.  As the sun rose the Himalayas were stretched out to our north for tens of miles with several 27,000+ foot mountains, lots of 26,000 foot mountains, and an uncountable number of 20,000+ foot mountains.  And, breathtakingly -- there was not a cloud in the air.  It was an amazing spectacle to see several of the world's highest mountains seemingly within touching range. 

The next couple of days were spent working our way towards Pokahara.  The views were consistently brilliant and we had the immense delight of walking through deep jungle with birds and monkeys at times.  Of note is the 'langur' monkey that has white/silver hair all over but with a brilliant black face. It is truly a beautiful animal.  We encountered a troop bouncing and swinging and climbing near us that entertained us for long minutes. 

Our final night was bitter sweet as the full realization of the end of the trip began to hit home.  All the regimens continued as usual -- tea at 4:00, supper in our 'kitchen tent' at 6:30 starting with soup, and followed with a full meal.  But, our cook had cooked a special treat to end the meal:  a cake cooked (believe it or not) on a kerosene stove.  He had written the words 'Pisang 2008' on the top of it. He continues to amaze us with what he can do with so little. 

The next morning was just a quick 2 hour journey down a few thousand feet, and then we chartered a bus.  One of the porters ran very late and the others were furious with him and shouting various unmentionable to/at him.  I think they were all ready to be done and get on back.  During our final evening we had filmed each of the team members, asking their name, age, how many times they've done treks, and some family questions.  Most interesting was the porter who is 46 years old, has two wives who live under the same roof and several children.  It makes one wonder if he escapes all of that by joining a trip like ours and carrying 60 pounds for weeks on end! 

Barry and I decided to ride on top of the bus and thoroughly enjoyed our hour long ride into town.  That said, we did find it a bit nerve wracking to be on the lookout for electrical wires that we had to periodically had to dodge that hung across the street.

We've taken up residence until early tomorrow morning at a very nice hotel -- with actual electricity, running water, and a real toilet.  And just yesterday we were still living in tents and becoming very cold every day as soon as the sun set.

Tomorrow early in the morning we commence on our next phase:  four hours by bus away to Chitwan National Park in the southern part of the country for a couple of days.  This is the wildlife refuge of Nepal and promises various wonders in the form of lots of wild animals.  We have reservations at a hotel and from there will set out on the back of elephants to discover wild animals.  People tell us we have a good chance of seeing wild rhinoceroses, boar, and even tiger.  But who knows?  I'll keep you posted!

 
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