Treking and my Birthday in the Himalaya
Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
38Trip End Jun 12, 2009
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A fact.. i thought i would start this blog with a fact. A nerdy thing to do? Maybe, but everyone likes a good fact, or everyone likes to pass on a good fact (or at least i do), plus its always good to have a few interesting facts in your arsenal, just encase someone invites you to a bring a fact party, or your sharing facts with your friends, hmmm definitely nerdy. Right the fact: 99.9999% of all species that ever existed on planet earth is now extinct. Wow! How good of a fact is that! One of my favorite recently acquired facts.
Enough blab why am i going on about facts anyways?!? maybe it is just an effort to make my blog a little more interesting... i have a feeling my last one was pretty boring, straight to the point boring...maybe thats what makes a good travel blog.... the facts, not thoughts? I don't know if it was noticed by anyone that may read this, but my blog was featured on www.travelpod.com home page, good ay and while it was there i posted a really rushed, boring blog (excuse: Still feeling a bit poorly, or just recovering and pushed to get it out before our 20 day trek) Result: Over 2000 visitors to a boring blog in just under a month.
Planned days for the trek: 21
Actual days taken: 18
Highest point reached: Thorung La (pass) at the height of 5416m, or 17,769 feet
Total length of the trek: 259km / 160.9 miles
Mountains seen: Manaslu (an 8,000-plus meter peak), Langtang Himal, Annapurna II and IV, Annapurna III and Gangapurna, and, of course, Annapurna I and Dhaulagiri
Point of interest: We passed through the
worlds deepest valley
Risk of AMS (Acute mountain sickness): High (if unprepared or rushed)
OK I'm led in my sleeping bag, under a blanket about to read some more "Douglas Coupland - The Gum Thief", but i just want to tell you about day 1. We woke at 5:30am and left our bags with the guest-house, we packed as little as possible (3 T-shirts, 2 trousers, 1 jumper...bla bla) i went as far as dumping my waterproof gear to make as much room as possible, as we have decided to trek without a porter or a guide, so we have everything for 20 days on our backs. Soooo bags dumped, taxi, tea & cake at the bus station, a very rickety stuffed to the rafters (people in the aisle) 31/2 hour bus from Pokhara -> besisihar. From here everyone took a jeep or a bus but me, Zo and a Ozzy guy called Dane decided to start the walking here. We walked Besisihar -> Bahundanda in 7 1/2 hours, including a lunch stop, and a ginger tea stop. The lunch stop was "Dal Bhat" a Nepalese dish similar to Indian Thali, you basically receive rice, curry, chutney, lentils (dal), a poppadom, and spicy potatoes. Normally for around 80pence the good thing being that if you manage to finish it all you are entitled to seconds of everything, usually piling your plate higher than the first time. The ginger tea stop included a spoonful of local honey (Hopefully keep the hay-fever at bay)... this was inspired by three tips offered by a guide: 1. Drink Ginger 2. Eat as much garlic as possible 3. If you get lost follow the donkey sh*t (this is particularly handy because you can use two of your senses for this, or even push it to three if you want to double check its donkey sh*t your following).
I'm wet! Soaked through, the last hour it pissed down, turning the paths into streams, i ditched my waterproofs and big towel in the name of space saving before we left so i am now wet.
15 Min's later: Dry again Whoop! Zoe just rubbed my feet to warm them up, i can feel them again, I'm about to find some food and massala tea, maybe read my book. Wearing shorts, socks and sandals a loverly combo while my stuff dries. Right, today we walked through rice terraces a few fields, up some very steep hills, stopped once for Dal Bhat, plus i got greedy and wolfed down a whole pack of biscuits. That was about it, we are resting for the night in a guest-house with the comfy-est beds i have slept in for weeks. It has a gorgeous view of the best waterfall so far and i will look forward to falling asleep to the sound of falling water. My umbrella broke to day so i am just using the metal shaft as a walking stick and have ditched the rest.
Thought: I have never visited Ireland or Scotland, and they are both so close! weekend adventures to come maybe :) Read. Sleep. Dream.
Day 3 - Chamje (1430m - Bagarchap (2160m)
Its nearing the end of the day, just enjoying the last bit of sun before it hides behind the mountain, quite a bit of walking today and once again it rained. We held off in a teahouse for a while as it passed but it did not take long to hit us again and i got soaked once more. Not a problem though, as the sun came out and my clothing is on the line for tomorrow. My umbrella that turned into a walking stick is now neither, it snapped. We met some stunning views today and followed the river for most of the day. The water is a gorgeous color, like blue powerade, a real nice turquoise. It almost forced me to write a poem, but my testosterone kicked in plus it would have been a rubbish poem anyways. We also followed a donkey train a fair while until we could squeeze past on the mountain trails. I feel bad for them, all they do is lug stuff up and down the mountain to meed our needs: kerosene, food, drinks...and how are they rewarded? They get to stare up the ass of their mate all day long.
We are waaaaay ahead of our planned schedule! I also got my trail name "Goat Boy", i like to think this is because of my incredible balance and amazing ability to tough it in the wild but i have my stupid beard to blame (secretly i like the name, i hope to graduate to Goat man by the end of the trek) Need to think up a name for Zoe hmmm. Eat. Sleep.
I'm all wrapped up again after an icy shower! We have found a loverly place to stay with individual shed like cottages. I might take a second to explain all of the guest-houses we are finding on the route: This is called a "Tea house trek" for the simple reason that every small settlement you reach is kitted out with at least one tea house to sleep for the night and get some grub, and as we found out you an often get a free room for the night if you eat at there restaurant and there are a few of you.
We have properly slogged it out with long days of walking putting us 2 days ahead of schedule and we have finished walking for the day today at 3:30pm So lots of reading, tea drinking, card playing to be done me thinks. And there is a hot spring, all the more perfect, can not wait to soak after some hardcore walking.
2 hours later: Cold. Lots of tea drinking behind me and some great card playing. Sleep.
Day 5 - Chame (2670m) - Upper Pisang (3300m)
I'm now enjoying a stunning view of Annapurna II, it is as i say stunning. We are now at 3300m and there is a possibility we will start to encounter symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) So the rule is if you feel any symptoms stay where you are.... if it gets worse descend, if the symptoms disappear your OK to continue your ascent. Nothing much more to say other than I'm looking forward to my Dal Bhat!
Day 6 - Upper Pisang (3300m) - Manang (3540m)
I'm sweating! But the view makes it all worth while, I'm staring at Annapurna II... it looks close enough to touch the peak reaching 7937m above sea level. We are just waiting for breakkie.. Tea, garlic omelet and Tibetan bread. It is now 8:45am and we have been walking for just over 2 hours waking at 5:45am... the walk has been mainly uphill and I'm starting to feel the altitude. We started at 3300m in Upper Pisang and in two hours have walked to Ghyaru at 3670m.
Levels of oxygen in the air :)
Currently where we are now in Manang: 60% Oxygen
On the high pass we will be crossing in a few days: 50% Oxygen
Mount everest: 33% Oxygen
We have also been told that we will now find ourselves breathing at 4 times the normal rate as our bodies attempt to get the level of oxygen required. Plus all the usual about not pushing on with symptoms as you can die, as many trekkers have done before. Interestingly enough it is now more important than ever to educate people here on the dangers of AMS...the reason being that back in the day only experienced trekkers hit the route, but now that Nepal is becoming more accessible along with its treks people like Joe the plumber and me can wander up here, and with no background in trekking can die.... God bless "The Himalayan Rescue Association of Nepal" and their life saving facts.
There is sooooooo much snow! I'm looking at 1 1/2 feet outside and its still falling! We planned to trek high and sleep low as recommended to combat AMS BUT as we can not see the trails, cliff edges, etc we are snowed in...it's too dangerous to walk.... can't even walk back on ourselves. If the heavy snow that is still falling does not melt we could be here for days i now feel fully unprepared and unequipped as before i managed to ignore it. Most people have waterproof coat and trousers, proper hiking sticks and gloves... i have, woolly gloves, woolly jacket, a bamboo cane as a walking stick (actually known as sticky) annnnnd the same cotton trousers i have worn for most of the year. Ok here comes my veggie burger for brekkie Yum.
We built a snowman and got involved with our group of 6 making a snow Yak, we let the local kids join in too. I have a couple of pics of the kids, and Zo on the snow yak so i will chuck it up.
**Memory - The next day a REAL yak was getting on rather well with the snow yak...how bloody brilliant***
Some time later: I have just finished washing form a bucket of hot water...more snow, lots more snow! How long until cabin fever sets in?
Mmmmm home made lasagna...sleep.
Day 8 - Manang (3540m) - Yak Kharka (4018m)
I just had sooooo much fun! First the day, then the fun.
It was blue skies in the morning and lots of sun. We decided to hit the trail, even with the snow, although it was perfectly fine as we saw a guide and his group hit the trail first all we had to do was follow the footsteps. Before we set off i stocked up on baked goods and we hit the trail....bloody hard day trekking through the snow breaking the 4000m mark at 4018m reaching Yak Kharka (translates to Yak Pastures). There are a lot of Yaks grazing here, i had some super strong super tasty yak cheese and I'm very tempted to buy a knife these guys are selling, the sheath made from Yak bone and Yak horn.
Day 9 - Yak Kharka (4018m)- Letdar (4200m)
Huff...Huff...Pufff...puff, just completed another acclimatisation session.... walked up a pretty steep hill for a few hundred meters and then back to our tea house attempting to stick to the "Trek high, sleep low rule" of acclimatisation. The Yak curry last night was bloody tasty (bit like beef), thought a town named after our furry friends would be the best place to try it :) This morning i smothered my shoes in Yak grease for extra waterproofing...do they ever stop being helpful?
Oh and i ruined a birthday present...my birthday being in 2 days. Zoe planned on buying the knife i mentioned earlier and surprising me with it, buuuut true to form i ruined my surprise by buying the knife myself...very kindly though Zo paid for it :)
Day 10 - Letdar (4200m) - Thorung Phedi (4450m)
I'm now sitting at Thorung Phedi after walking from Letdar. Just warming up after an acclimatisation walk that rewarded me with some stunning views of glaciers and mountains, were currently living in the clouds. The walk up the hill gave us a view of the glacier stuck between two rocks... giant and menacing with a kinder side of blue peeking through.
Other than that today has been quite a hard push annnnd we had to walk or rather jog at altitude with our backpacks through a high risk landslide area. We decided to break and as we stood their some small rocks traveling at quite a speed broke off of the crumbling hill and whizzed past our heads. We ditched the break and continued on.
Some time later: We are now sitting in a warm double glazed dinning room, within a cloud, a snow cloud... trekking tomorrow?
Day 11 - Thorung Phedi (4450m) - Jharkot (3550m)
Our plan for the day - Make it to high camp sleep and complete the pass for my birthday... this is not how things went, i am now shattered and i might add bloody dedicated to be writing this after today!
We said goodbye to the gang planning on breaking up our group as they all wanted to push on and i wanted to wait a day so that i could complete the high pass on my birthday. Knowing that we would not meet again, i ruined my birthday surprise from them forcing them to give me a necklace they had all chipped in for, strung with a black stone ... i love it :)
We let the group go and ordered breakfast getting ready to settle in at high camp for the rest of the day, with nothing much to do and gorgeous blue skies outside i decided waiting around for just another day of the year was stupid and we should take our chance to make the pass...that is what we did :)
We broke every rule by crossing on our own today, as you are supposed to cross in a minimum group of five and if we did not push ourselves we would be on the high pass after mid day when the weather would be changing for the worse and you would not want to get stuck there! We slogged it out and a bloody hard slog it was and made the peak to the top...en -route i felt dizzy and a headache kicked in, so we were happy to have made it and keen to get me down the other side as descent is necessary to stop yourself from falling into the more dangerous symptoms of AMS. All the way up the hill we were blasted with winds and snow whipped into our faces from the mountain, we were also chased by clouds that seemed to close the route behind us as we walked.
After we did the usual photo op at the top and i took a little video we headed on for the descent...a bloody long descent and not a good idea for those with weak knees without some supports. We found ourselves trekking through clouds and snow until reaching Muktinath (3800m). In a bid to re-join the group for my birthday the next day we checked the police log at the check-post and sherlock Holmes style discovered they had pushed onto the next town...we did too. Sooooo after 11 hours of walking i have ordered myself a lasagna with cheese bread, and am very much looking forward to some sleep. The group was ecstatic to see us as we were them and we called it a Reunion even though we had only departed 11 hours earlier.
If you want to get a good idea of how i was feeling on the crossing of the high pass, i made a recording on my MP3 players Dictaphone while crossing, a collection of clips along the way.... have a listen but bear in mind i was cold so i don't restrict my use of french annnnd i made it melodramatic on purpose..I'm not that much of a numpty. Enjoy. Grub yum. Sleep here i come. ***Unable to get recordeing from my MP3 player - so ya cant hear me swear on on the mountain :(***
Day 12 - Jharkot (3550m) - Marpha (2670m).. My 25th Birthday
Quick entry - just getting ready to leave for the day and get back on the trail after yesterdays 11 hour slog. I had to tell you about my loverly morning, i awoke to a pot of tea, and an apple pie with a candle in it. Our gang of 6 plus a couple of extras in the gang sang me happy birthday to start the day... "Happpyy birthhhday deaaaaarrrrrr goooooaaat boy, happy birthday to you" while i blew out the candle :)
Some time later: Blooooody hell it has been windy today, super windy. We ignored the advice of a couple we were chatting to last night who advised us to get to point X by 11 o clock because that is when the wind roars through the valley... we shouldn't have! My face feels damaged from the barrage of wind and sand that hit us all day!
We have crossed through the deepest valley in the world today (the windiest as-well maybe?) and made it to Marpha... a town whose main reputation comes from its cider. A very fitting spot for my birthday coming from cider country myself we spent the night, playing pool, eating loverly grub and drinking some home made cider...chunks of apple n all (bloody good cider too!) The town its-self is very quaint with brick buildings and small alleyways to get lost in... i also attempted to ring home today so they could wish me Happy birthday...failure, not much opportunity to call home in the mountains...but i knew the birthday wishes were being sent out anyway :)
Some time late: Bugs, bloody nasty looking bugs. Fat with a whole bunch of legs and pretty long...there were three crawling on the wall.... i just grabbed Barnabas being the wimp that i am and he removed them for me :)
Day 13 - Marpha (2670m) - Larjung (2550m)
I awoke this morning to stomp on all of my clothes and bag... those bloody bugs, i got up in the night to go to the toilet shinning the torch near the door there were three more of the buggers and they were crawling i also had a quick shine around the room from my bed before i drifted off into a very unsettled and sleepless night to spot another one crawling across the ceiling...damn bugs!
Rant over. Ofter waking bracelets, six of them..guess who for. Yes the group, after making my birthday a really nice day i decided to give everyone a bracelet to say thanks and as a reminder of the trip for them. We took a four hour walk to get to where we are now. Relax time :)
This morning when we stopped for brekkie we happened across a funny sight... Yak Donald's. Bloody brilliant.
Day 14 - Larjung (2550m) still
I am bloody knackered! We spent an extra day in Larjung for a side trip to visit some ice falls. It was a climb and a half. After waking at 6:30 am we climbed 1000m and after realizing that we wouldn't see anything (we were walking through clouds) we turned back. Another reason for the return was altitude, i was making goofy faces and not making much sense (although i still stick to the fact that i was fine) and glen was getting chest pains. The day was not a waste though...oh no not a waste at all.... dum dum dummm.
We rested on a plateau still Rather high from the ground with an excellent view of the valley and what flew by within 10 meters of us... a giant EAGLE, a giant bloody eagle! it was massive, you could see all features of its elegant form, you could almost grab it. One of the highlights of my entire trip! We watched it circle the valley and then soar past us again, effortless, beautiful. Poetry moment maybe...nah.
Day 15 - Larjung (2550m) - Ghasa (2010m)
I slept surprisingly well last night considering the rodents i could hear scratching behind the wall. I also enjoyed a breeze of a walk hitting new scenery. Alpine! I love the forest, i love woodland, wal;king through this kind of scenery is my favorite and i enjoyed the day immensely.
With only four hours walking i am writing this at 1:00pm and don't plan on returning to you until tomorrow, time to relax :)
Day 16 - Ghasa (2010m) - Tatopani (1190m)
Gorgeous forests and greenery... Now this could tempt me to become a poet, but it wont as i know it would be rubbish :P
After yet another day surrounded by the sounds of birds, the smell of wood, and trees, trees and more trees we were rewarded with some real hot springs.
I'm writing this now, yet again stuffed with food but i will tell you why in a minute.
We enjoyed the hot springs a definite treat to rest our aching bodies after the trek and also to prepare us for the walking we can look forward to tomorrow. I am so happy, i am really enjoying this trek and can recommend it to anyone... so happy I'm going to fall into a happy sleep and prepare for the early rise of 5:00am i have planned for tomorrow. Just a side not...getting up early and getting in a couple of hours walking before breakfast is a bloody brilliant idea, you are traveling lighter, for the first hour you are still half asleep and by the time you wake you realize you have already covered two hours of ground.
Why am i stuffed? PK has become poorly, but not after ordering a steak..poor guy. I had to help him out by eating my lasagna, garlic bread and then his steak and chip. Oh i topped it off with a cadburys chocolate cake and custard yum. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Day 17 - Tatopani (1190m) - Ghorepani (2750m)
Today has been difficult, i am slightly revitalized from a steaming shower but still shattered. Today was possibly harder than the high pass. I finished the day on jelly legs, dripping in sweat plus an appetite to beat last nights!
We were walking by 6 am and with our packs on our backs, completed the day after 8 hours of pure up hill, most of it very steep! making a total climb of 1560m upwards. It was hardcore but although I'm moaning i enjoyed it. I could hear my body, my breathing, the aches the pains, it was another way to let me know how i alive i am.
There was a small issue at the start of the day, after a good 2 hours of steep climbs. Poor Zoe, she had pains in her shins, and was not having a good time. Credit to her she did not turn back and get the next bus to Pokhara to wait for us she pushed on.... and luckily within the next hour we found a pony trekking service, that after some hard bargaining agreed to take her to Ghorepani! Zo was happy as she got ride a horse through the Himalaya. I have to admit i was also happy as it allowed me to push on... I find the hardest thing for me to do is slow my pace when it comes to a hardcore walk...i need to push on as hard as i can for as long as i can or the day becomes very difficult for me. Thats what i did and was happy to reach the end of the eight hour walk with Scrubber ahead of everyone else including the horse..Winners! its not a competition i know but ...Winners! :)
Some time later: I am going to burst (notice a theme here) Just had dal baat.... the refill got me, on the refill i was given a plate of rice normally;: used to feed a family of four.. i finished it! Sleep.
Day 18 - Ghorepani (2750m) - Naudanda - The final Day!
I am now back in Pokhara and about to head out for a celebration meal with Dane and Scrubber. We met on day 3 or 4 and stuck with each other for the rest of the trek. The Glen and Doc the German couple left a couple of days ago... they are heading on to complete another 7 day trek to Annapurna base camp. Might i also point out that on day 6 Doc had her foot trodden on by a donkey, it has been swollen since then, she thinks that one of the small bones may be broken and yet she still treks on! She even did the high pass with one broken foot, the other foot having a shoe with which the sole was hanging off! Nutter! or super woman...i cant decide.
Anyways the day... bloody difficult yet a gain a good 6 - 7 hours of walking including over 2000 meters descent, helped out by over 3000 steps downward. Today i really had jelly legs...and poor ol Zo was experiencing the most pain she has felt so far on the trip. We were glad to complete the trek with a couple of hard days making the achievement of completing the trail that much better :)
Thats it...I'm done talking about treks now. I loved it and recommend it to anyone, very rewarding...plus don't forget the fact about it being an excuse to eat lots and lots and lots of tasty food :)
Sooo thats the end of my notebook from the trek..see the end up there marked of by a dotted line. Thats it.
What have we been up to since then...well we have been hanging out with PK aka Dane and Scrubber aka Barnabas for two days, we bought DVD's and chilled out with junk food in between going out and eating at restaurants all in the name of putting on the lost weight from the trek :)
PK and scrubber left for Kathmandu today, scrubber is returning to France and possibly continuing his career in Professional Ice Hockey.... PK he is off to complete a trek to Everest base camp. Set up by a guy he met while working in England.. 50 of them will be playing a couple of games of cricket at base camp, sponsored by Nokia and for a Guinness world record. This will be shown on ITN so keep your peepers open in the next few days for it.
Plans for the future: India! We should be leaving tomorrow, heading to the border and then heading into India. Looking forward to it, although i am sure that i will miss Nepal it is an amazing country.
The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson: What a bloody brilliant book, could not put it down...not because i was in suspense but just because of pure enjoyment. One of my favorite books read this year... i think it would make a good movie plus it has definitely given me a new measure of respect for burn victims
The Gum Thief - Douglas Coupland: Picked this one up because i enjoyed Coupland while i was traveling the U.S, and he didn't disappoint this time either, a very enjoyable , easy read
Into The Wild - Jon Krakauer: Seen the movie loved it and the soundtrack, read the book loved it as-well, it goes into stories of people who have completed similar trips as "Alex Super-tramp" the guy in the book. So it is good to get a few comparisons and possible reasonings for his journey.
So India :)
Once again grab all of our pics from this trip here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/discozo/sets My trekking pics are under "Nepal 2 (tom)"