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Tim and Sam... ...will be out of the office until further notice.

Three Weeks In The Himalayas

NEPAL | Friday, 2 November 2007 | Views [1511] | Comments [5]

Tim in need of a shave.

Tim in need of a shave.

Due to a scarcity of internet at 3000-5000m, the blog has been a little neglected of late. We have now completed our three week trek around the Annapurna Circuit. Here are some highlights / observations:

GENERAL INFORMATION
Over the three weeks we have walked approximately 150 miles, up, down, up, down, up, down etc. We started at Besisahar and made our way anti-clockwise around the circuit to Manag where we had a rest day and took off on a side trip to Tilicho Lake, apparently the highest in the world at 5200m. From there we rejoined the circuit at Yak Kharka, crossing the Thorung La pass (5416m) a few days later.
From here we dropped down into the MUstang region where the food and accommodation improved spectacularly. At Tatopani (literal meaning = hot water) we bathed in the hot springs. At Ghorepani we made a 5am start to Poon Hill to see the sunruse on the multiple +8000m peaks. From there we took the less popular, as more arduous, route to Pokhara via Ghandruk. This was well worth it as we had the nicest accommodation on the whole circuit, plus we saw two different types of long tailed monkeys.
The trek finished in Nayapul with a 2 hour local bus experience to Pokhara where we are currently enjoying hot water, decent bed, sunshine and a few too many trustafarians.

INHABITANTS
So, over three weeks we have met many people. Lots of Nepalis and Tibetans who seem to run the majority of the lodges on the first half of the circuit. They have a very pleasing way of displaying and stacking crockery, biscuits, bottles etc that we thought Duncan would approve of. Our guide, Bhuban, was an entertaining 27 year old Nepali with a very different understanding of the word 'flat' (in relation to the gradient of the forthcoming day's walk). Bhuban also taught us the true definition of a mountain. 0-6000m is a hill and should be dismissed as insignificant. 6000-7000m is a peak and may qualify for a name, but to be a mountain it must be over 7000m. Somebody should tell the French.
In addition to the locals we have met people from France, Germany, Austria, Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Estonia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Israel and two guys from Meldreth which is about 2 miles from Tim's office.

FLORA & FAUNA
In addition to some pretty spectacular mountains we have enjoyed lots of interesting wildlife including:
- Eagles with about 6ft wingspan.
- Monkeys - 2 varieties; Langur Monkeys which are big with grey and white fuzzy faces, the other were smaller and brown. Both were monkeying around in the trees.
- Frogs - lots of small brown ones and one big bright green one with black spots like those exotic ones you get in the zoo.
- Spiders - good god. HUGE green and yellow striped tree spiders which fortunately didn't seem to venture indoors.
- Stick Insects - 8cm long bright green stick insects, very cool.
- Grasshoppers - huge ones that turn blue when they jump in the air.
- Butterflies - hundreds of different types of butterflies from super small purple ones to big black and electric blue ones about 10cm across.
- Deer (Blue Sheep) - very graceful and fast mountain deer. One morning on the more deserted path back from Tilicho Lake we found one of the deer lying dead on the path. It's throat had been ripped out and its hind legs eaten by a snow leopard. Was strange finding it like this, not disturbing really, we felt a bit like David Attenborough and of course it was very exciting to see evidence of the snow leopard.
- Assorted bugs, crickets, dung beetles, dragonflies, donkeys, cows, goats, chickens, ducks, buffalo, water buffalo, yaks, manky dogs, tiger striped cats and a yeti (only joking).
As far as flora goes we're not really botanists, but we did pass through some spectacular forests of rhododendrum and pine as well as fields of alpine herbs and hillsides covered in chamomile. Lower down in the jungle we found ferns and bamboo, lots of moss and a couple of different types of orchid.

ANNOYANCES
For the most part the past few weeks have been a peaceful, idyllic existence, ambling / scrambling through the splendour of the Himalayas. Two downsides are probably worth mentioning, however.

1. LARGE TOUR GROUPS.
Having been woken at dawn on the first two mornings to resounding cries of "MORGEN", we realised that the large tour group would prove to be our nemesis. Not only did they tend towards the loud and unfriendly, but they also seemed to weigh down their porters (usually a 15 year old boy in flip flops and a t-shirt) with two 80 litre backpacks. We kept a note of some of the more ridiculous items people brought with them in these 80 litre backpacks. Our favourites in reverse order:
- kettle
- hairdryer
- ugg boots
Although it gave us a smug satisfaction to stride past these groups while carrying our own packs, it turned out that the tour groups still got the last laugh. While they waddled up the mountain, conga style, carrying nothing but a day pack and some dreadful hat they'd bought in Kathmandu, their 15 year old porter had been despatched at 4am to run ahead and bag them the best rooms in the nicest hotels. This left us arriving in places first, but (in one case) sleeping in the store room adjoining the communal toilet with a mouse and a leaking ceiling from the kitchen above. At least it wasn't cold, well it was, but not for us because we had to share a single bed wearing everything in our backpacks.
Our dislike for the tour groups reached a peak in Sikha where a large German group kept us awake for an hour and a half singing the same Nepali folk song over and over again accompanied by an untalented porter on a tabla drum. I eventually asked them to shut up when they moved on to Rod Stewart and John Denver, for which they didn't know the words.
It wasn't all bad though, we realised we could wreak our revenge by arriving hours before them and using up all the hot water. Then later, from our cupboard / porter's bedroom we would chuckle at the cries of "kalt, kalt" "froid, froid".

2. THE WEATHER
Although we took great satisfaction in being probably the lightest packers on the entire circuit, this backfired on us twice. On the third day walking, having left our waterproofs behind, it pissed with rain all day. We got completely soaked but improvised with some very large green bin liners.
The second balls up occurred as a result of the cold amd lack of blankets in some of the lodges. It turns out that when your sleeping bag says "comfort" is only to 5 degrees (mine) or 8 degrees (Tim's) then sleeping in it at 0 or - degrees, even when you're wearing every single item of clothing you have is not a good idea. The 3:30am start from Thorung Phedi was a welcome end to the clock watching we had been doing since 12:30 when we realised it really was very cold.

HIGHLIGHTS
The two literal high-lights were probably Tilicho Lake and the Thorung La.

TILICHO LAKE 5200m
Tilicho Lake was recommended to us by Dave and I should have known that something Dave thinks is a good idea might be a little reckless. I thought the first, almost sheer gully we had to climb up was a little hairy until I saw the landslides. It was a challenging walk and one that our guide was extremely reluctant to take us on. This was probably due just as much to the food, accommodation and toilets (all dreadful) as the terrain. The lake was beautiful though, definitely a highlight, huge and very dark blue/green, seemed unreal that it could be there so high up. About a week before we got there a group of Poles had set the world record for the higest scuba dive in the lake. Mentalists. Perhaps the lake induces strange behaviour. When we returned from our trip up there we (and everyone else having lunch outside the base camp) were treated to the sight of a sixty year old German, from one of the aforementioned tour groups, stripping butt naked and washing in the mountain stream. Not only is nudity in public illegal in Nepal it was also bloody freezing.

THORUNG LA 5416m
Following our excellent acclimatisation trip to Tilicho Lake (thanks Dave), we had no problem with the altitude at Thorung La. Well, aside from the 3:30 start, the wheezing up the mountain behind the fairy light head torches of a huge, slow group of French people and the knee crunching 1600m descent after the pass, a small part of which we slid down on our bums in the snow.
It was a great day though, passing from the cold, harsh, higher region of Manag to the surreal brown landscapes of Mustang. Suddenly you are back with real people, as opposed to the high trekkers camps before the pass, great food, warm showers (we'd gone six days without one) and in Muktinath, a beautiful complex of Hindu and Buddhist temples. Here the rich Hindus from India and Nepal are helicoptered in to bathe under the 108 taps of freezing water.

ONWARD
So, now we are in Pokhara enjoying breakfasts by the lake and planning the next leg of our journey including investigating some warmer sleeping bags. We have booked to go paragliding on Sunday morning and next week we are off to India.

Hope all is well back home.

Sam and Tim.

Tags: Mountains

 

Comments

1

Hey hey,<br><br>Lovely to hear from you - good post too. Sounds like you had an excellent time. Unfortunately, I can't top it with any tales of working life in Oxford so won't even try.<br><br>Glad you're both well<br><br>Lots of love,<br><br>Alex<br><br>PS. Sam - I just checked my comment for misplaced apostrophes. Thought you'd appreciate it.

  Alex Nov 2, 2007 8:16 PM

2

Best wished to you both, and boy, you write a good journal. It's making me quite jealous. Looking forward to seeing the pictures. Life here has not changed a great deal, although I'm planning to burn the garden down this weekend.

Dunc xx

  Duncan Robertson Nov 2, 2007 9:03 PM

3

I am very jealous. The most exciting thing we had planned recently was our great south run which we had to both cancel coz we had stinking colds!!!
ellen x

  ellen Nov 4, 2007 10:13 PM

4

We did this circuit back in May 2007, just before the monsoon, so there were a lot less people but more clouds and a bit of rain. No hassles with space in lodges. We found that umbrellas turned out to be the best. If we backpacked with our rain jackets on we ended up sweating so much inside them that we might as well have taken them off. A lightweight folding umbrella did the trick nicely.

  Phil and Jenny Davis Nov 7, 2007 6:48 PM

5

hey kids

glad to hear you made it to tilicho - definitinly worth the detour i hope (i'll ignore the 'a little reckless comment'). all those place names bring back some good memories. i'm still determined to get back there at some point with the mountain bike. i seem to remember thinking all the way down how good it would be....
take it easy
dave xxx

  dave Nov 12, 2007 6:17 AM

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