Sunday, 23 May 2010

(Part2) Annapurna Base Camp Trek (Annapurna Sanctuary), A benighted homestay with a farmer and return to Pokhara

We pressed on after enjoying the luxury of the hot springs with an early start and goal of trying to get all the way back to Pokhara. Normally you take a bus from one of the last villages ie Nyapul or Phedi but because of this preiod of 8 days Bandhe (political striking)there would be no movement on the roads today. A little ambitious tp try and push through the whole way and the day proved to have a few delays with an absolute torrential down pour that made for a longer lunch than planned.

We trekked on with beautiful views up to Deurali (another Deurali) as the big cumulus clouds were ever so cotton wool against the striking deep blue sky. A friendly dog joined us and as the sun began to set we were going to come up short for Pokhara. We pressed on (being well prepared with headtorches & tent if needed) but started to get very tired and with sore feet after over 11 hours on the go,frpm out of the shadows a local farmer offered to put us up for the night - we looked at each other and agreed - YES that would be lovely - not much debate there. We were fed beautiful Dhal Bhat and warm goats milk in the traditional Nepali kitchen by Grandma - and I have to say it was one of the best Dhal Bhats I've ever had!

A friendly dog decided to follow us for about 3 hours (not uncommon in Nepal) but it was rather embarassing as the farmer (and his family) presumed it was ours. We couldn't seem to shake him and so attached to us he even came and stayed in the room we'd been put up in for the night! The family seemed to accept this but I think maybe they thought there was something in it for themselves, evidence of which when they tried to shackle the dog to a pillar, but he duely escaped, as this dog seemed a bit special, a bit of a littlest hobo and he seemd to have his own agenda, calling his own shots!

The next day we awoke to a beautiful sunny day and headed off, thanking the family for there most generous hospitality and delicious chai for brekkie. The dog kept on our tail, outrunning some rather possessive local hounds until we caught a taxi past Palme. Rather odd, we'd thought the strike was still on, maybe an illegal ride, we piled in with 5 other people and a goat, which started nibbling John's collar to my amusement. We were on the home stretch and pulled into Pokhara discovering that yes in fact the strike had finished, and no we wouldn't have to walk, bike or fly to Kathmandu. We were back in Pokhara over and now could relax and celebrate our trek - lakeside style with a huge breakfast (eggs holandaise, pancakes, refillable coffee) at Mike's restaurant!

We met up with all the new friends we'd met from the trek and had a couple of days hiring a giant pedaloo (pontoon platform boat), kicking back eating & drinking and swimming in the middle of the lake where it's pristine clean with more gorgeous views surrounding us!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

(Part1) Annapurna Base Camp Trek (Annapurna Sanctuary) - Hotsprings, a Fishtail and a Leech!

I met up with John in the beautiful lakeside town of Pokhara before we set off on the classic Annapurna Base Camp Trek, made famous by legend climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal whom in 1950 climbed Annapurna I, Don Whillans and Dougal Haston climbed the very difficult 8,091 Annapurna South Face in 1970. Monty Python’s Michael Palin tackled the trek in his documentary ‘Himalaya’ adding a down-to-earth comical insight also.

John was introduced to me through a mutual friend Steve and had been living in Kathmandu for 7 months and had set out on some wild cycling adventures biking across Nepal and venturing down to South India on a 2 month riding soiree, an artist and self – confessed freak we were going to hit it off on our next adventure up to Annapurna Base Camp!

We headed to the local bus station and caught the local bus to Nyapul, where the trail head is situated to start our journey. This was good timing as the strikes or ‘Bandhe’ as they're known was about to kick off on the 1st of May in which the Maoists would use roadblocks to starve people of necessary resources country wide in their campaign to take over the government as the constitution deadline nears conclusion on the 28th May. A little background, the parliament has been made up of an MMP (mixed member parliament)style with all parties having to agree on certain policies to contribute in writing a new constitution. Most commentators agree there is no chance of the majority government making this deadline and this gives the Maoists the perfect opporuntity and justification to try and oust the current Prime Minister/Government and take power, most likely by force. Thus we were happy to escape the mayhem and head for the hills.

We followed the snaking Modi Khola River making our way up through the small villages to Kimche where we would stay, before trying to meet a friend (Saran) in Ghangdruk the next night. Great views down the river valley and a superb Dhal Bhat that had the zingiest fresh tomato, mint, chili sauce - divine to go with the huge carbo load. On to Ghangdruk over a large landslide and surprisingly this village is rather traditional and not a big town as it would seem on the map, no ATM and no internet working - this is definitely more down-to-earth and soulful than the Khumbu Region! We chilled out here for the day meeting our next groupie - Ray from the Nether regions and were lucky to get first views of Machhupachure - 'The Fishtail' peak amongst kids playing in the traditional village Good apple pie and chocolate cake with coffee in the afternoon too!

We awoke to a beautiful day and contoured around the hill to a small village before descending steeply nearing Jhimu (Chimru). A well needed swim was had as we braved the cold glacial waters and were surprised that it wasn't as 'ball-shrinking' cold as we thought. A lovely little waterfall and a 5 minute swim before heading to Jhimu for lunch and to our goal - the legendary Hot springs. A 20 minute trot down the path and we were stoked to see some nice girls in bikinis drinking beer - bonus! Jenny from Sydney and Suze from Dunedin were cool chix, although they did rub in the fact we'd made a critical schoolboy error in not bringing beer down as they quaffed there's down merrily. Great springs at a gorgeous temperature of about 38-40 degrees Celsius it had us jumping in the Modi Khola to cool down and get that tingling feeling through our well used bodies - great times! That night a few beers and we et the lovely French Girls - Constance and Fannie who would make up our group of 5 for a few days!

A beautiful morning with views of Annapurna South 8,091 and Hiunchuli 6,441m as we started the steep climb up to Chhomrung. A little over an hour and we were sipping chai on one of the most gorgeous spots - the view hotel looking right up the valley - just magic! Down the steep steps and a climb to Sinuwa for lunch, pulling in as a torrential downpour hit us, great timing and it only lasted to our 2nd cup of chai! On through the dense rhododendron & bamboo forest towards the village of 'Bamboo', as we rounded the corner we were hit with killer views of the 6,993 sacred peak of Machhupachure - rising hugely to our right with it's definitive double summit and 'Fishtail' profile! A party have only climbed it once in 1957, to 50m of the summit in respect as it is a sacred mountain and no longer is permission granted.

On from Bamboo, another gorgeous day through forest and small tributaries cutting across the path making lovely river crossings over smooth, carved rock. Again we stopped for some 'TrekAir' or 'TrekJumping' a bit of fun with the camera to embellish some small jumps with killer backgrounds - we had found a perfect place.

Check out:!/album.php?aid=180147&id=125604380964

Lunch at 'Himalaya' settlement, following the Modi Khola, up to Hinku cave and we started to get some huge waterfall action, stunning atmosphere as we pulled into Deurali. As we were having a chai I noticed a leach down by my foot, thinking it was rather odd, as we had gained height out of the jungle now and jokingly said 'it must have hitch hiked up on someone!!!! Little did I know that ride was me. Not until the next morning when we had set off in cloudy, rainy conditions had I started to get hot and pulled my woollen hat off, with Ray spotting something on the back of my head. Of course I thought he was joking, it felt like a big lump of dirt, but in fact was a mass of congealed blood. Unbeknown the leach must have attached itself to the back of my head when I stopped to rinse my face in a small but rapid, waterfall and clung on for the ride. It must have just fallen off at Deurali just before I put my hat on as I cooled off and because I had left the hat on all night, even when I slept, it had nicely compressed the 2 pronged wound rather nicely. it was very clean, as leaches are and as they release a local anaesthetic, very cunningly, you just don't feel it! Oh well 'onwards and upwards' we pressed on, with clouds and rain threatening, up through a beautiful valley, lined with waterfalls very reminiscent of the Milford Tramp in Fiordland, NZ. We made it up to Machhupachure Base Camp just as rain was starting, but it is often only for short periods, so we'd timed a chai break nicely once again! Our plan was to head up to Annapurna Base Camp after lunch and return to sleep at MBC.

The rain cleared offering us a small weather window, donning our wet weather gears,
we gave it a shot! It's a gradual climb from MBC to ABC, but be warned the altitude can catch you out if you aren't already acclimatised! With the old addage "climb high, sleep low" we thought we would take it easy and get up to ABC for a cup of chai and return to MBC! We cruised it, although Fannie did start to feel the mild effects of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness)being a bit nauseous and head spinning and she made the right decision to head down accompanied by Constance. The boys pressed on, feeling fine and it up to the 4180m Annapurna Base Camp as another front of rain came in - it wasn't going to be our day for views but fortunately we had tomorrow morning up our sleaves. We decided to keep it a short cuppa and run down to check on the French Gals. The rain was coming down and we arrived back at MBC in half an hour to meet the girls just pulling into the lodge. Fannie was still a little spun out, which can be quite normal considering the large ascent we'd made from Deurali (2700m)which meant we'd climbed some 1200m to MBC! My advice in this situation is to hydrate a lot (water, soup, chai etc) and not go to sleep as you may not wake up and often your body just needs those extra few hours to acclimatise and settle down! Always good for your mates to keep an eye on the patient too to observe any changes like vomiting, frothing at the mouth, irrational behaviour etc which may indicate a worsening condition into HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) or HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) which can be fatal within hours if not treated correctly. If in doubt get the patient down 300-500m ASAP!

A good night of cards and great momos ensued with an amazing sunset in which fishtail reared it's head a long with Gangapurna and an amzing inversion looking down the valley! Spindrift was licking off fishtail and the light became a photographer's dream exposing the sharp jagged peaks.

For more pics check out:!/album.php?aid=181117&id=125604380964

The next day we again awoke to atmospheric cloud action and John & I decided to head down, with Ray and the gals deciding to at least tag ABC and also give themselves the opportunity to potentially score some better views, if it did clear. John and I were focused on a big day, heading right down to Jhimu (to collect beer) and hit the hot springs for 5.30pm! We cranked it down, with lunch of Dhal Bhat at 'Bamboo' and motoring up the steep steps up to Chhomrang and hitting our hotspring date just nicely! That beer did taste great!

Check out some photos of TrekAir /TrekJumping:!/album.php?aid=180147&id=125604380964