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Author Topic: The ABC Trek (or, 75% Chance of Rain)  (Read 5759 times)
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arnon
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« on: October 02, 2010, 10:55:34 PM »

Along with the photos from my vacation in Nepal, I thought I might let you in on the trek we had and how it was.

What we actually did was sort of an extended version of the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek (aka Annapurna Base Camp, aka ABC). Our trek took us from Nayapul to Ghorepani (and Poon Hill) to ABC and back to Nayapul.

The photos are not only of the trek but certainly take up a good portion of it: Nepal 2010

I think I've found most of the spelling mistakes, but i'm sure there are plenty of grammar errors. I apologize for that.




Day1
And so we walked from Nayapul to Uleri.

…and now some more details:

Even on the ride from Pokhara to Nayapul the start of the trek was promising: the mountains were visible through the clouds.

Reaching Nayapul the three of us started the trek finally: Efrat (my much better half), Arnon, and Dambar (our porter). At first I thought of not taking a porter and carrying all our stuff, but my will was eroded slowly and I chickened out… a good thing, because as it turned out I was still carrying quite a load (about 10 kg!)

The path of the trek is pretty good for most parts. Not fit for any vehicle, but good enough for people. At some points it is half-blocked by landslides and often a small stream crosses it; at some points the path itself is a stream till the water finds a lower path. Probably the only real “danger” on the road are the “landmines” left over from the ongoing ‘Equine-Bovine War’ (i.e. Horse-Cow War). Not only do you have to be careful where you place your foot, but also calculate when to take in a breath.

For most of the day the view was good… up to a point, and the point being where the clouds sit on the mountains. We can easily imagine the snowy peeks of Annapurna and Himchuli, but we came to see not imagine.

The hardest part of the day was the climb up to Uleri. It’s about 600 m. of step-climbing… and not the way those sissies do it running up the Azrielie Towers. Let’s see them do it with 10-15 kgs. on their backs and each step being of a different height!

The lodge was nice and had the best massala tea we ever had. We taught TAKI (an Israeli card game, like UNO) to a nice German couple who learned the game too well.

Day 2
We no longer need to use our imagination to see the mountains. In the morning they were just there: tall, snow capped, and magnificent. By the time we finished breakfast clouds were sitting on them again.

The second day was easier (a bit) than the first, still challenging but nothing like the steep climb of Day 1. It was heavily cloudy with rare chances of blue skies; the scenery was nice and the villages were quaint with their stone cobbled streets, blue roofs, and chickens running around.

We reached our destination at noon.

Ghorepani is a large village sitting on a sort of a crossroad. That, along with the fact that it's sitting bellow Poon Hill, which supposes to have the best view of the Annapurna Range (people wake up at 5 AM to make the one hour climb to view the sun rise over the range) make it a sort of a tourist center. This means that almost all houses in the village are lodges, restaurants, or shops (or any combination thereof). Actually most villages along the trekking routes are like that.

Our lodge (the nicest we had along the trek) had a wood-burning stove in the common room and we sat around it most of the evening eating potatoes and corn from it.

Oh, we also tried Yak cheese which was nice. We bought about 100 gr. naively thinking it will last us more than five minutes. We'll probably buy some more tomorrow after we watch the sunrise.

Day 3
At 4:30 we peeked outside... it was cloudy and raining.

We went back to sleep...

At 5:30 it was still cloudy and raining with absolutely no chance of seeing the great sunrise from Poon Hill, and ultimately, there was no sun the entire day but we still walked.

It was a miserable day!

We were constantly wet (either from the rain or sweat) and the view was limited at best to about 20 meters and at worst to about five meters.

And then there were the leeches.

They're much smaller than what we usually see on TV, disgusting little creatures. Every few meters we stopped to check if any climbed higher than our shoes; and since we were walking through the forest, it was all to possible to suddenly find one on your hand, shoulder, or any other body part. By the end of the day around the dining room table the main topic of discussion were leeches and there was a story circulating about a man saying he didn't see any and was then told that he has a leech on his face. We started coming up with "improved leeches" and finally settled on the "flying ninja fire leech", but it got really disgusting when we combined that with a cockroach... well you can imagine the equal part of dread and hilarity that ensued.

The view from Tadapani, which also supposes to be magnificent, will remain for us only in pictures taken during the good season (by other people).

To pass the evening without thinking about leeches we taught everyone around us TAKI, at one point having 8-9 people playing.

Trek Leech Count: Efrat 1, Arnon 0

Day 4
Surprisingly enough, it was cloudy and raining when we woke up. And of course, yesterdays clothes were still wet. This worried us a lot because we came to Nepal prepared for the cold, no so much for Wet & Cold. One of the guides told us that it is possible to rent rain coats in Chomrong (our next stop) and that got us a little relaxed.

The day started with a steep downward walk, and the rest of the day was sort of "Nepali Straight" (meaning that if you end up at the same high you started it is straight, no matter how many ups and downs you went through). Visibility was better, but the Himalayas still had clouds residing on its tops. We walked mainly in the rain, we got wet, we didn't look up much, we met some more leeches, we finally reached Chomrong. Chomrong is also a large village with many lodges, but we managed to find the only empty one. We had a warm welcome and the woman running the place took our clothes and hung them in the kitchen (the only place with a fire), and we started to think of what to order for dinner so as to at least have the clothes smell as we would like them too. By the next day some of the clothes were still wet and all smelled of fire and cocking.

Trek Leech Count: Efrat 4, Arnon 0

Day 5
We awoke the see the Himalayas out of our bedroom window. It was beautiful and we feasted our eyes (and camera) on it. By the time I (Arnon) came back from ordering breakfast the mountains were replaced by clouds.

And it started to rain.

We rented two rain coats, put them on and our rain "ponchos" over it all. We still ended up wet but at least we were warm most of the way... well that's not true. We were warm only because we walked hard and fast with almost no rest that day. The day started with a steep descent then a steep ascent. We reached Sinuwa and drank tea to try to warm ourselves. When that didn't work we told Dambar that we want to continue on to Bamboo (next village), he just ordered something to eat so asked if we mind to go on ahead alone and he'll catch up with us (since there is only one way to walk there is no way to get lost). Since we were cold we walked briskly, making the usual two hour walk in just under 1:40.

We got into the only warm clothes we had on us (flees coats) and warm hats, and placed the cold wet shirts we wore during the trek around the main dining room table (under the table there is a pit, and in it they place a kerosene flamer that warms the place up... and as a perk it helps dry poor trekkers clothing, although it does leave them with a strong kerosene smell).

Interesting character of the day (perhaps year): Clint from Australia. He lost his shoes somewhere in India about seven month ago and has been walking barefoot since (think what 6 month of walking barefoot in India might do to your feet?). Currently he is doing the Annapurna Sanctuary trek (the one we are doing an extended version of) with his shoes in his backpack, if you see a barefooted print in the mud, you know Clint was there. His wild, yet true, stories had us laughing to tears (retrieving an iPod from an Indian toilet was especially good).

Efrat didn't feel too well (probably initial Mountain Sickness symptoms) and we started to plan what to do with our remaining vacation time if we return from the trek immediately (the southern islands of Thailand were mentioned).

Day 6
We decided to continue. Most of our clothes were dry (apart from the rain coats we rented). We did resolve to go slowly and walk on while it doesn't rain.

By the time we reached the first station of the day we noticed that we lost one of the rented rain coats.

We walked all the way to Deurali and it started to drizzle about an hour before we got there. The most "interesting" part of the walk to Deurali was the two bridges that need to be crossed in order to reach the village. The bridges are actually several tree trunks tied together spanning a gushing, overflowing river; the first about 5 meters across, the second about 4 meters across. In the proper trekking season (the dry season) these rivers are probably trickles that can be skipped over easily, but now the rivers are full to the brim and the rocks under the bridge along with the incredible current don't look too inviting. Efrat crossed the bridge on her knees... yes it was that scary.

The guest house was full of the good people from the previous lodge in Bamboo. That night we were introduced to the "hot bucket shower" routine, and it was probably the best shower we had during the whole trek.

The night was pleasantly passed with TAKI games and more hilarious stories from Clint (still barefooted).

Day 7
Efrat felt some of the effects of Mountain Sickness on-and-off the night before (headaches and fingers tingling) and in the morning and took the pill to counter it, but we were not sure if we should continue (even though we were less than 4 hours from Annapurna Base Camp, also known as ABC).

We decided to plow on.

The walk was relatively short to our next station: MBC (or, Machhupichhare Base Camp). We walked slowly this day as it started crisp and clear and the mountains were clearly seen during the walk (we even took some photos). But of course it started to rain a bit just before we reached MBC and since we resolved not to go too high this day to allow Efrat to acclimate to the height, we found a lodge to stay the night.

It happened during the Munchkin game (with a New Zealander, and a Danish couple).

For no reason whatsoever I look behind me outside the window (it was almost dark already) and see the Annapurna mountain just sitting there, all beautiful and majestic. We immediately went outside, took out our cameras, and started shooting. It was really exiting and lasted for several minutes.

Day 8
We awoke at 3:00 AM due to the lambs... they just wouldn't stop screaming... err, I mean bleating. I'm serious, there was a big heard just outside our lodge and some lamb was probably looking for its mother (and vice-verse). This lasted for about half an hour until the dogs got bored of this and started barking at the sheep to shut-up. By the time we fell asleep again the clock sounded the alarm we set for 4:00 and it was time to get up and head to see the sunrise at ABC.

We wore our warmest clothes, placed our headlamps on our... well, heads and started walking. The night was excellent because it was clear of clouds and we could see the stars. A good sign. The walk supposes to be about 1:30 hours it took us a bit longer due to the lack of oxygen. It was an excellent walk.

The night slowly started to clear: and at first we could only see outlines of the great mountains surrounding us; then the mountains appeared themselves, tall and beautiful. We constantly stopped in our tracks because we wanted to also look back at Machhupichhare, and other mountains. Remember that we are actually walking in a sort of a valley, surrounded by some of the highest mountains this world has to offer. At 5:45 were still not at ABC and took our camera out and started taking pictures. We noticed a cloud chancing us from bellow (from the way we came) and hastened our pace.

We got to ABC, rushed to the view point and managed to take several pictures of ourselves before the cloud came and hid it all. What you see in the pictures is nothing compared to what you see and feel there... but the fog settled down and we could see only 2 meters ahead at best. Even though the view of the mountain was short, all around us people felt that it was worth it.

It took us a moment to notice. We were 15 minutes out of ABC when we were suddenly aware of the fact that the skies were completely blue and the mountains surrounding us were as visible and crisp as if on an HD screen. We stopped in our tracks stunned from the beauty. We looked at each other and started to laugh and hug. You stand there, slowly turning around trying to take it all in and it's impossible. Efrat started taking pictures like crazy. We started walking back to ABC but saw no need to reach it (at some point a cloud settled over ABC but the rest of the valley was clear). The walk back to MBC was much longer than usual: you can't walk straight when you can't look at where you are going, it is impossible to walk and look at the mountains and the surrounding; the floor of the valley is sort of a tundra with many streams crossing it (slowly joining together as you go down), waterfalls, flowers, and thousands of rock rabbits (we saw a few but there are probably many).

We finally reached MBC (after many pictures being taken) and it was so warm and nice we had breakfast outside with a splendid view. We packed our stuff and started to go down. The weather was excellent and it was like a completely different walk (since we could see around us). The mountains remained visible for a big part of the walk... and we walked a lot!

We walked till about 17:00 and reached Sinuwa (what took us 2.5 days to climb we went down in one day). We were exhausted from a long day but still in a sort of euphoria from the morning.

Sleep came easily.

Day 9
We faced two options: 1) a 5-6 hours walk to Nayapul and then drive to Pokhara, or 2) Seven hours trek to Ghandruk village (supposedly a very nice place), and the next day trek to Nayapul.

Since we had no special plans for the rest of the vacation, the weather was good, and we don't believe we'll get to be in this area again, we decided on option two.

When we reached Chomrong we had to return our rented rain coats. When they learned we lost one of them big drama ensued with much heated conversation in Nepali, it started to sound like in Indian movie and we were worried that someone will jump from behind a tree and start singing and dancing.

It was a hard day's work... walk, with two very hard descents and ascents. But the weather was good (except for about half hour of rain while walking in the forest, and even though the leeches came out we walked too fast for them to latch onto us) and the trek became something completely different from what we got used to during the first 7 days of constant rain: suddenly we could walk looking around us seeing the great scenery: mountains, valley, rivers, rice paddies, small sporadic villages, and a whole bunch of Korean backpackers.

Ghandruk is indeed a nice little village, but we were too tired to explore it when we arrived. We settled into the worst guest house we had during this whole trek (we'll not bother you with the smelly green details, let your imagination run wild).

Day 10
The day started cloudy and remained that way, but otherwise it was a good day to travel: not too hot, not cold, and the sun wasn't beating down on us.

We started by exploring the village walking its stone paved roads, crossing streams, and getting to know the local school children. After about an hour we went for breakfast, packed our stuff and headed out.

The last day of the trek was a very nice and easy walk with beautiful surroundings. Leaving the village with us was an old woman with a walking stick in one hand and an umbrella in the second; she walked on relentlessly, setting a pace that did not falter no matter what obstacle she had to pass. When it took us some careful balancing to cross a river by stepping on several stones, she just walked on without even blinking. We did manage to pass her several times, but then we would stop for water or rest and she would just walk on by. When we did manage to pass her, the click-clacking of her walking stick followed us like something out of a horror movie.

By 12:30 we were in Nayapul, and about an hour later back in our hotel in Pokhara (we even got the same room with a good view of the clouds. Yes it started to rain on the way to Pokhara and has been raining since).

Conclusions:
•   DO NOT trek during off season (they always think the monsoon will end early. It doesn't!)
Actually that's the only conclusion...


That's it.

-arnon
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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2010, 11:25:36 AM »

Hey Arnon,

Thanks for posting that...those are great photos, and an awesome story.  Now I want to go on that hike too...when is "on-season"?

Looks like it was a lot of fun,
Joe
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2010, 02:14:14 PM »

Arnon,

Awesome photos, I'm envious. 

Kane
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arnon
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« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2010, 01:21:52 AM »

Hey Arnon,

Thanks for posting that...those are great photos, and an awesome story.  Now I want to go on that hike too...when is "on-season"?

Looks like it was a lot of fun,
Joe

The good season is supposedly from about mid-October to December. I believe the best time is November: enough time for the monsoons to be over, and not yet too cold. This of course also means that there will be tons of trekkers about; since we traveled in the off season there were still trekkers but fewer in numbers. It is said that during the season each guest house packs in 2-3 times the amount of people it can normally house: sleeping in the dinning room, porches, etc..

As for the photos: my wife is a great photographer and constantly complained that the cloudy sky messed up her pictures. If you are interested in underwater pictures you can check her site: mafish.net
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« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2011, 12:15:04 PM »

Those are beautiful photos.  I won't lie.  Reading through you daily logs, I was remembered of when Calvin and Hobbes went on vacation with Calvin's parents.  It rained the entire time, and then when they were packing up, it suddenly stopped. 
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