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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Himalayan Heights

NEPAL | Saturday, 28 November 2009 | Views [4116] | Comments [8]

Crossing the China - Nepal border it was quickly obvious that things had changed. After the over efficiency of hand checking everybody’s luggage on the Chinese side, we would have walked straight past the Nepali Immigration office if it were not for the helpful locals pointing it out. However, it was on the bus that we really noticed that we had crossed into the Indian subcontinent. Every space on the bus was utilised, including the roof, women were dressed in colourful saris, the housing had changed from concrete boxes to wooden shacks, the Nepali / Bollywood music was a delight to listen to after too many months of Chinese/Thai pop and the smells of cumin, coriander and other spices wafting into the bus in each village were a joy to the senses.

We arrived in the Thamel area of Kathmandu and if it weren’t for the distinct smell and chaotic traffic, we could have been fooled into thinking we were back on Khao San Road in Bangkok, with hundreds of touts and shops selling identical goods. The area is completely set up to cater for tourists and isn’t a true reflection on Nepali life and culture, but since over 100,000 people a year come to Nepal to go trekking, it’s a good place to base yourself to be able to get all the equipment that you need, whether it be a genuine brand or a knock off.

We had intended to do the Everest (Sagarmatha to the locals) Base Camp trek, but having visited the North Face in Tibet we decided that we would rather experience something different and after a week of purchasing our trekking equipment and deliberating, we opted for investing 3 weeks in the Annapurna Circuit.

Having practically no experience in trekking we were apprehensive about what to expect, but things quickly fell into place as we soon learnt that the key to a good days trekking was a hearty breakfast.

Followed by a generous lunch and a Dal Bhat for dinner

Mixed in with the odd Snickers or two!!!

The standard of accommodation was very basic, but better than we had expected and for 100 rupees a night (about 85 pence!) we really couldn’t complain. We were also able to occasionally shower if there was enough sun to power the solar showers, otherwise it was a bucket of freezing cold water for a wash. Views from some of the guest houses would have cost more than 100 times as much elsewhere in the world.

The culture and scenery on the trek was diverse and we started off passing rice fields and Nepali villages and crossing hundreds of wobbly suspension bridges over the Marsyangdi Khola river.

We shared the trail with pony trains, who would occasionally forget they had a wide load so would knock you off your feet while carrying goods to villages further up the trail. It’s wise to remember to stand mountain side not valley side of the ponies to avoid getting pushed off the edge!

But they were not only carrying perishable goods as some were carrying dynamite!!! Like all treks in Nepal the Annapurna Circuit is shortening, with some treks disappearing altogether as trails are turned into roads. From purely a trekking point of view it’s sad to see the trails disappearing, but for the locals the choice of being a days road journey away from a hospital rather than a seven day trek then I can understand the need for the road.

So the first few days we had to contend with loud explosions, seeing and crossing precarious landslides created by the building of the road. We also shared the trail with many porters who are also used to carry goods to villages and by tour groups to carry tents and camping equipment. Porters are also hired by independent travelers to carry their backpacks.

We decided that we wanted the challenge of carrying our own luggage but understand that the trekking industry provides a livelihood for a great deal of people in Nepal. What we couldn’t understand however, was perfectly able tourists completely overloading their porters with a ridiculous amount of equipment they really shouldn’t have had on the trek. Porters are NOT animals and you wouldn’t treat people in such away in your home country, so why should you when you’re in Nepal? If you couldn’t carry your own luggage for 1 day then you shouldn’t expect a porter to carry it for you for the best part of 3 weeks.

Our first days on the trek we were treated to blue skies and bathed in hot sunshine and it wasn’t long before we were treated to our first 8000m+ peak, Manaslu

And before long we would also see our first Annapurna peak, Annapurna II

Ascending to greater heights gave us better views of the Himalayas but with the rise in altitude came colder weather and we were also met with rain and a fluttering of snow. The further around the circuit we traveled the more villages started to take on a Tibetan influence.

At the end of the first week we encountered our first real problems. Although not superstitious on Friday 13th I fell ill with a severe bout of travelers sickness, but it turns out that Saturday 14th was a more inauspicious day. Having been confined to the room for the majority of the day I found the strength to go to the guesthouse restaurant for something to eat. Returning from dinner we were shocked to find we had been robbed, the thieves making off with my rented sleeping bag,

a medical kit, head torch, alarm clock and warm weather gear amongst other things. It could have been a lot worse though as we had taken the camera to dinner with us and they didn’t find the money or passports that had been left in the room. Rather than letting the thieves defeat us, the next day we replaced the stolen sleeping bag with an inferior quality but more expensive one, but one that would keep me warm at night and allow us to continue the trek.

Later in the day when acclimatising to 4000m high,

we visited a monastery and were blessed by a '100 rupee' Lama in an attempt to change our fortunes, especially for the upcoming Thorong-La pass. Thorong-La is the worlds widest pass (whatever that may mean), it also lies nearly 5 1/2 kilometres above sea level and although we had been this high before in Tibet, we had been driven in a car and now we would have to get their under our own steam.

Our blessing seemed to be working as the weather cleared and in the days leading up to Thorong-La we once again had blue skies, but now the scenery was covered in a blanket of snow as the temperature continued to drop.

The day of crossing the pass was no different, although that’s not to say that the day was going to be easy. We would start the day at 4450m above sea level and would climb to Thorong-La at 5416m before descending to an elevation of 3800m on the other side.

The day was hard going despite the fantastic views.

With the altitude came the thinner air, being about 40% less than at sea level, and the most noticeable problem was gasping for breath after short distances.

But we slowly made it up to the pass for a quick celebration.

The trek down was steep, icy and hard on the knees and we ended up walking the last 30 minutes in the dark after the accommodation we had planned to stay in was full. But after a 12 hour day of trekking we made it to our destination and I rewarded myself with a beer.

The area we had descended into had a distinct lack of vegetation and was an arid dust bowl, completely different to anything we had seen before.

It was here that we were treated to our first views of the Dhaulagiri range, another 8000m+ peak.

And the Nilgiri range.

But the most pleasing difference was the temperature, although not barmy it was a lot warmer than the days leading up to and over the pass.

After a couple more days walking we realised that our visas were due to run out on a weekend and we had a couple less days to complete the trek than we had planned. Luckily, the whole of what is also the Jomson trek can be completed in a mixture of buses and jeeps, so we were able to jump onto a bus and make up 2 days walking to get back on schedule.

The reason for continuing the trek was to go to Poon Hill which gives a fantastic view of the Himalayas. Although having lost altitude we would again have to climb a grueling two kilometres up, but the views were worth it and a great finale to the trek

Having spent 20 days on the trail, we headed to Nepal’s second city Pokhara for some well deserved R&R...

Having enjoyed a memorable 3 week experience, the views from here weren’t bad either.

With my personal favourite Machhapuchhare or Fishtail mountain dominating the skyline

Until next time

Ryan & Jo (Pro Trekkers!)

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/sets/72157622794042013/

Tags: annapurna circuit, kathmandu

 

Comments

1

Welcome back guys. Was beginning to wonder where you were. I figured you must be trecking or meditating or down with the trots in some hotel in Kathmandu.

Great stuff as usual.

  Len Dec 3, 2009 8:42 PM

2

Hey guys,

Just a quick one to let you know that I'm really loving your posts. Always nice to know when someone is reading and appreciating them!

Dan

  Dan Morgan Dec 3, 2009 9:05 PM

3

Len - Meditating over a beer is more my style ;-)

Dan - Good to hear from you, I probably should have let you know I enjoyed reading your blog too!

Ryan

  ryanandjo Dec 4, 2009 7:37 PM

4

Absolutely green with envy - would love to have done this, but far too old now I'm afraid! This will make the Austrian Alps seem tame in January!!Keep the blogs coming we really do enjoy them and can live the dream through your eyes!!
Happy Christmas to you both and more enjoyable travelling for you in the New Year.
Jean and Mick

  Jean and Mick Dec 4, 2009 7:49 PM

5

Wow you guys are fit!! Great pictures! Hoping you're both well and enjoying yourselves every minute :)

  Tiff Dec 4, 2009 8:08 PM

6

fantastic blog post and photos. Sounds and looks like an amazing, never to be forgotten experience.

  Jodes Dec 6, 2009 9:35 AM

7

Hey ryanandjo,

We love following your adventures, so we've decided to feature your blog this week so that others can enjoy it too.

Happy Travels!

World Nomads

  World Nomads Dec 9, 2009 3:35 AM

8

The pictures are breathtaking! There is no other experience similar to trekking Nepal. It brings culture, environment and spirituality together.

  Trekking fan Dec 23, 2009 7:20 AM

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