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travelling with laughter

My first week of walking...serious question...'can a hill kill you?'

NEPAL | Thursday, 25 October 2007 | Views [1536]

So this is my story of a 20 a day smoker who doesnt even like trekking turning into (still a 20 a day smoker) a happy TREKKER!!!!!!

So i am back from the Himalayas trekking the Annapurna circuit, still alive and kicking and most importantly still talking to my trekking buddies! It has to be one of the greatest things i have done, it has been challenging mentally and physically but well worth every step......there have been ups and downs, laughter and a few tears and one or two mountains to conquer!

I find myself back in Pokhara after three weeks and one day of walking still alive and kicking and most importantly still talking to my trekking buddies! It has to be one of the greatest things i have done, it has been challenging mentally and physically but well worth every step......there have been ups and downs, laughter and a few tears and one or two mountains to conquer!

I left the bustling Kathmandu with my to be trekking buds Mark and Sharon with the plan of doing the Annapurna circuit. Sadly i left behind Ant with whom i travelled for three months, it was sad to say goodbye as we have shared so much together and grown close.He is a very good friend to me and i thank him for all the joy and fun he has brought me. I knew i was going to miss him like mad but at the same time i knew i was in good hands with Mark and Sharon.

So my trekking buds....Mark is from Wales and is fitness mad, with a kind soul and a good sense of humour. Sharon is from Florida, she and i are very similiar, we laugh and talk a lot, she is good fun to be around. So we established ourselves during the trip as team MRS and we would get closer as the days would pass by,giving eachother pet names and songs.

So my trip began....

Preparation day......"What am i doing?"

I find myself standing in the aisle of a local safeway salivating over the chocolate bars, what and how many should i take? Mark has told me to stockpile as when we start to go higher we will need the energy....starting to feel the nerves flood into my system.So i go on a mission filling my arms with chocs and chocolate trekking mix (slighted addicted to this fruit and nut mix with the added benefit of m'n'ms in it!) grabbing a carton of ciggies on the way out! Sorted out hiring a down jacket and buying thermals... started to try and pack my bag as light as possible...most people have porters to aid them on the trail but not us....we were to be hard core and carry our own stuff.....mine was the lightest at 10kg but still......it will either make me fitter or else bury me somewhere on the mountain! My fears before starting were, can i do it? am i fit enough? will i slow everyone down? the only way to see was just to crack on....

Day 1...."7hrs to travel three quarters of an inch on a map.....how long is this trek going to take?"

So we left the safety of Pokhara and boarded a bus to Begnas Tal. We were not about to start our himalaya trek along with the hordes of people but start in the valley and have a couple of days of solitude. To start with we were heading for Sheklung and at first we went the wrong way (litte did i know this would become familiar to us) but eventually we knew we were going in the right direction though we werent sure how far it was as we had different responses to our 'how far is it?'.It ranged from 25 minutes to 2 hours to.....long long way....Helpful!
I found it hard to begin with and had thoughts of 'why am i doing this?' but i was not about to give in so fast....give it at least another 5 minutes! We headed on with bus loads of locals cheering us on..or maybe laughing at us? We rounded a corner and had to smile with pleasure as there infront of us was a 'ping', a wooden four seater swing like a ferris wheel. We were soon asked if we wanted to 'play?' and were then swinging around and around at the rate of knots with squeals of delight. It was a wonderful break and a great moment with the locals.
We had to head on though, we were hungry and in need of some kind of food. We were directed up a hill and it went on forever...so we decided to do it without our packs. The idea was to tie them to a tree....Mark and Sharon tried but after getting almost eaten alive by the mega ants we hefted the bags back on! The only clue that we were close to a restaurant of some sort was the broken egg shells on the path...felt like i was in a re-enactment of hansel and gretel. Eventually we found the town but for some absured reason we kept on climbing..after establishing that we were now heading off into the realms of hills we headed back ate and were offered a place to stay. Relief! We were given the owners room, good food, a bucket to wash in and we settled in for the night exhausted.

Day 2 "If i knew i would be rock climbing i would have brought some ropes"

A late and chilled start at 10am after samosas and doughnuts for breakfast. The night before Sharon had been taking notes on learning Nepalise so many hours were passed away trying to count from 1-10 and attempting some basics, practising by counting the children along the way.
Along the way we would encounter many locals wishing us 'namastay' meaning hello with hands positioned in a prayer position, this is one word that i got the hang of very fast!
The first part of the day was fine as it was downhill, we sang, made up songs and asked eachother copius questions to get to know eachother and pass the time. Then after taking a wrong shortcut we ended up walking through someones garden and then weaving through the rice paddys, much to the amusement of the locals who when we heading the wrong way would shout and point us the right way. We really were 'feeling' our way! But we were in safe hands as everyone seemed happy to help us the 'stray' backpackers.
Sharon and i soon had singing down to a tee, dancing through the paddys until she over enthusiastically threw some dance moves and fell off our path into the rice field! It took me a while to help her up as i was doubled up in laughter and Mark was off in the distance snapping the moment!
Our adventure had only just begun though....we crossed a couple of rickerty suspension bridges, passed unnamed villages asking directions along route .Two local lads who we asked soon jioned us and as we soon discovered thank goodness they did! We followed the river path with them comfortably and then the path disappeared into the hill, literally.Then it was HARD...up up up, proper rock climbing with no ropes!(i kid you not!) I was hanging onto scrubs, gravel and mud to haul myself up the embankment praying for dear life. At one point whilst at a fairly flat bit (but still high up on a skinny path) my right leg slipped off the edge..ahh...so there i am crouched down on my left leg, leaning into the hill, hands in the mud not really sure what to do with myself....laugh,cry? So i did both....half laughed with tear filled eyes! phey! Five minutes later (ordeal over) i got my well earned ciggie, calmed myself and carried on.
Late afternoon we arrived at Shyuauly bazaar, not where we had intended but it had been a longer day than anticipated and we all needed a shower and rest. Group decision...we would stay. It was a good place to recouperate and meet new off the beat trekkers; Oulevi a 65yr old from Finland and his guide KB from Nepal. Good dinner and we were set for bed......

Day 3 "Is it possible for a hill to kill you?"

I knew waking up that this was going to be a hard day...we were going to climb 1000 metres and the day may take up to 8 hours! So i filled my face with brekkie and tried to drown the butterfies in my tummy with coffee.
Again this morning we did our usual and got lost....we couldnt find the path so we climbed up some steep rocks AGAIN!!!! scared shitless doesnt even begin to describe the feeling i had going up, i just tried to concentrate on one foot at a time and NOT look down. Reaching the top you would think it would be over...but oh no...this still wasnt the right way and we had to descend....great! I half did the butt shuffle down, slightly hindered by the bag on my back...i must admit there were a few obsenities! To make this even funnier (in hindsight) we had a crowd of kids pointing and watching from the other side of the river....i am sure they had bets on who would fall first! Again a local 'rescued' us and put us on the correct path, this wasnt to be the first time of us going wrong though.....
So we carried on and came to a bridge, the word bridge i say very loosely though. It consisted of two tree trunks tethered together and then another two, no hand rails in sight....i inched across one foot at a time, arms out streched like a tight rope walker, trying not to get mesmerised by the water rushing past at a speed of knots!
After accomplishing this mean feat we walked the wrong way AGAIN, got ourselves back on track and headed up a never ending hill, followed by another, meeting Oulevi and KB on route (who had left an hr and a half after us!). From then on we were a team, stopping for lunch and heading onto Baglungpani. At lunch the locals had other plans in mind, that being that they wanted us to stay in their village so delayed the food and then told us that we wouldn't make it before dark and that there would probably be bandits waiting for us. Great, made me feel abit twitchy to say the least but it wasn't going to stop us reaching our destination. Now five of us we battled on up the tough terrain, pausing for a few gulps of oxygen, a swig of water and a few high fives everytime we reached the top of one hill. I found it hard and was soon learning about endurance and faith in my own ability. We had to really push on to get there before dark but we achieved it .Upon reaching the village i could have cried with exhaution, relief and elation all in one go. We all had a wonderful evening with the girls who ran the hostel, singing and being made to dance like a wally was all part of it. Smiles all round though even though we were shattered.

Day 4 "jioning up with the rat run of trekkers"

To bhule bhule we go......it was a relatively easy day, only 5 hours to walk (never thought i would be saying that in my life!) downhill. Easy it was but a killer on the knees as i was soon to learn. It was a good day to take in the views, we were surrounded by green jungle filled hills and smiling neplalese people going about their day to day life. It was nice to be able to look up withot fear of tripping ,stumbling or worrying about falling off the path. Though Sharon (slippey-ner new name) still managed to do all of these without fail, except the path bit thank goodness!

We had a lunch break and we soon knew that we were on the rat run as hordes of trekkers passed us by, porters in tow carrying all there stuff. The porters also known as Sherpas are amazing, generally they are of a slight build but carrying at least three quarters of their body weight. How they manage to move one foot after another is unbelievable.

By the afternoon we had arrived and settled in with a hot shower and food, bedtime creeping earlier and earlier, we were now up to about 8pm! I felt such an achievement and silently proud of myself, i had done three days (the most i have EVER walked) and i still had enthusiasm!

Day 5 "tip: when drying clothes on your backpack, make sure you attach it properly!"

We had a good start to the day, setting off late and a gentle walk, little ups and downs but as was to be the story of every day this only lasted a while...soon we were climbing. Now as we had only taken a very small selection of clothes in aim of keeping the weight of our bags down we had to wash our stuff and as it normally didn't dry in time attach it to our backpacks hoping that the sun would do the trick...so washing line backpack was fully loaded. Knickers hanging off the straps, towel wedged in the elastic and my t-shirt perched on the top. It wasn't long that at one of our pit stops i realised i had mislaid it, probably on a tree! Great....oh well....later i had a guide ask me if i had lost a top, yes i responded hoping that he had found it. But he hadn't he was just one of those irritating people who point out the obvious...."you have to make sure you attach it properly".....no shit sherlock! At least my bag was a little lighter.....

Before reaching lunch we had a calf burner of a hill, a slog and a half leaving me a real sweaty betty (my nickname) so i was very happy to reach the top and re-energise with a veggie burger! It was a relaxed break looking over the mountains watching a flock of green parrots take off and give us a display to remember. The scenery really is quite something, a magical moment for me was sitting on a rock on the edge of the mountain just taking it all in, its moments like that that made me glad i had made the decision to come.

Day 6 "laughing whilst trekking tends to slow you down!"

Sharon and i.....could we stop laughing?...no...much to marks dismay. The thing is this tended to happen on the up hills when we needed to concentrate and use our energy wisely and normally when we were getting tired too. Half the time there was no actual reason to start but once the giggles started that was IT! At one rather evil on going climb mark had to separate us....."Reb go at the front, Sharon at the back as you are wasting energy!"Ridiculous really...at 27 and 28 we should know better...he he he!

The maosists (a political group opposing the royals).....we met them, didn't really have a choice as they set up roadblocks and ask for 'voluntary' donations. They were doing quite well scamming at least 1500 rupees per person (12 pounds), it doesn't sound like alot but when you are on a budget of 1000 a day its a little painful. The thing is if you don't pay you get caught along the way at another point. We were determined not to pay though, as luck would have it other trekkers didn't want to pay either and as it was the end of the day they let us through. Sharon did her 'sweet talking' and was soon posing in photos with them which along the way would put us in good stead....go Sharon!

So we reached the town of Tal after a hard day still with pennies in our pockets. Dinner was getting interesting as the whole circuit has the same menu......why we still bothered to look i am not sure as we should have had it off pat by now...apple pie being a favourite! We have also been meeting and passing the same people everyday but they seem to be a good bunch so all was well.

Day 7 " the day of endurance"

My first whingey day (believe it or not), slept badly and woke up feeling shattered. I found myself battling mentally and physically along the way and choosing a bad day to feel like this as we had a 1010m climb and a whole day of walking up some mean hills. The varities in hills i then began to name....the ones with steps now being called bastards and the muddy paths bitches. After about 6 hours i did have a 2 minute moaning sess comprising of 'my back, legs, knees, ankles hust and i am soooo tired' and then got over it.

Sometimes the hills can get you espeically when you climb up, face a drop down and then look over to the opposite hill and see it climb back up again...ahhhh! What i would have done for a zip line. However reaching your goal makes it all worth while and seeing one of the Annapurna mountains for the first time as the sun is setting is awesome.

Bedtime, here it started to get very 'cosy'...the first of our threesomes! Sharon had a super dooper all singing and dancing sleeping bag but mark and i had brought the lightest but crappiest ones SO we pushed two beds together and slept three in the bed in the hope of sharing the warmth as the temperature had seriously dropped. Thermals on too, INFACT EVERYTHING WARM inc hat!

So a week survived and we are all smiling, still away to go though with the Thorang-la pass looming at 5416 metres!

Tags: The Great Outdoors

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