Monday, May 2, 2011

Nepal - Annapurna Circuit (PART THREE)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Annpurna circuit - part 6 : Depression sets in

24th March

Usual routine, get up bloody early, sort your gear out, give Nara the trekking bags to sort out then breakfast.  Then it’s off we go, straight up “Oh Bugger” on a dusty rocky road, as soon as the Suns heat hit you, you felt your energy sap.

About 3 n half hours in we arrived at Chamje and thankfully got out the heat to have lunch and a cool down, unfortunately we couldn’t stay there all day so onward and upward we continued.

By now we had really started to get to know Ratna and Nara, also they had got to know us.  We had settled into more of a pals doing it together than Employer and Employee, it makes the trek more enjoyable for everyone and both my Dad and I much prefer it that way.  This also meant wind ups, jokes and a lot of laughing during all the trek, poor Ratna having his water bottle hidden quite a few times, I even managed to get his hat one day and stood next to him while he was routing though his rucksack and asked him what he had lost this time.  Nara even though he doesn’t speak a lot of English we found communicating with him was not that hard and it was him who suggested putting rocks in Ratna’s rucksack not us, every time Ratna would say how long we had to go and what the route would be like we would then ask Nara to confirm (we suggested that Nara was really a secret manager checking out how the company is running)

The heat never really let up and the steep up and down climbs really started to get to me, my aches began to have aches and then a wave of sadness came over me.  Feeling guilty as I was the one that had slowed the pace right down.

The one distraction we had was on the other side of the valley, where they were building a new road right into the side of the cliffs.  Workers clearing rubble by hand and throwing it over the top with huge thundering sounds, other guys hanging off ropes and using pneumatic drills to break up the rock.  You could spot on the trail rocks that didn’t belong on this side which had been caused when they had blasted the rock and it had flew over.

Then the depression set in again as each step up the slope was harder than the next (the only thing that keeps you going is there is no choice, no taxi’s around), then finally we reached the top and below us in the distance was Tal.  Relief set in and a final last spring in my step, a few photographs, pause to spin the pray wheels at the gate to Tal then go find the lodge.

 While waiting for my dinner I felt so exhausted and my legs really hurt (good news though, my foot had stopped hurting), though did find I had lost partial  feeling in one of my toes on my left foot (still not back to normal either).  I certainly dropped off to sleep quite quick that night.

Annarpurna Circuit - Part 3 - Exploring Kathmandu

20st March

Woke up quite refreshed this morning, only problem is part of my foot is sore as I wore my boots for over 30 hours from leaving UK until the hotel in Kathmandu (should have took them off whilst in the Oryx Lounge at Doha).  I really was hoping this eased up before we started the Trek.

After breakfast it was our Trek Briefing with Basant (the manager of the Treking company) and Ratna (the Guide for the trek), we had forgot his name an hour later but we hoped we would learn it before the end of the Trek. 

After introductions we went through the route we would be taking etc. and Dad to try on the Down coat he would be using on the Trek during the colder sections.

 I had brought one with me as been a fellow on the larger side I knew the branded stuff doesn’t come near me ( they are missing out on a big market I think) in the end I had accidentally come across down jackets on the Harley Davidson website and according to the data they did large sizes.  It just so happens there is a Harley Davidson dealership 10 minutes walk from my office, so very convenient, so the one thing I was having trouble getting I had got (and on sale, SCORE!).

Once that was out of the way it was time to change our Pounds into Nepalese Rupees, so many notes you needed 2 wallets. 

Then off to explore Thamel and go see Dunbar Square where all the big temples are (there are little ones on nearly every street corner).  Slowly we made our way though the streets, looking at this and that, snapping away with our cameras.  Looking at the state of the electrical wiring (seeing is believing), at one point the cables where lower than my head.
(photo to be added when find it)

The streets are dusty and can be dangerous if you don’t keep an eye out for the motorbikes zooming all over. 

We stopped at a musical instrument shop and popped in, I had wanted to get my self a Nepalese Flute and when was told how much it was the equivalent of about £3 (on Ebay cost you minimum of £30, got it straight away). 

Then Dad spotted mini cornets in a cabinet and asked to have a look, he then started to try and do the last post on them (about the only thing he knows and then on a bugle) quite a few locals did start to look through the door to see what the mad European was doing, unfortunately there was no where for me to hide.

Through the winding streets we went until we finally got to Dunbar Square, paid for access and got ourselves a guide (so we may learn at least something).   This is where my Flip Video died on me for no reason (still miffed about that).  There we was shown around each of the temples and told facts & dates etc..  The Temple reputed to have been built using the wood from only on tree, the Hippy Temple (so named by the locals after all the hippies used to smoke pot there in the 60s).  We went into to the Temple of the Living Goddess (a 10 year old girl) but we was too early to see her when she briefly waves out of a window in the afternoon.  For about an hour or so we was shown this and that, our cameras snapping away and then the last Temple we came to was the Kama Sutra Temple with all its very graphic wood carvings, of course we took many photographs for educational purposes.

The rest of the day was spent exploring and taking photos, plus been harassed by sellers if you even look at what they are selling.
“come look, it free to look” is the usual start of the patter.  They then start getting out everything and you just have to say no, don’t think they understand most of us like not to be hassled and they may find they get more sales.
(photo to be added when find it)

Pizza tonight as we had no idea what the food would be like on this trek, after that it was back to the hotel as we had to sort out our trekking bags and rucksacks ready for the morning. 

It was then to bed and sleep early as we were to be picked up at 6:30am (Oh De Joy !) .

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Annapurna circuit part 5 - at last the walking starts

23rd March   -  Trekking Day Begins

up at 6am for a quick wash then fill our trekking bags for Nara our Porter to sort out (how the hell he carries that lot I do not know), then 6:30 for  breakfast and fill up our water bottles etc..  By 7:30 we was finally off on the Annapurna circuit and within 10 minutes we had our first river crossing, this one on a scarry looking wooden structure (more solid than it looked) but found it fun either way. 

first river crossing

not as bad as it looks

Passed many farms and little villages plus children doing thier long walks to school.

after a bit we began to notice I was getting lots of stares and some little kids would pat my belly as they passed, I guess they don't see fellows as big as me around the trrekking route (either that or they was wondering if I was a living fat buddha).

The journey had many highs and lows, both physical and mental but in general we were enjoying ourselfs and as we got to know our Guide Ratna and Porter Nara we found we had to great guys to share this journey with.

Nara (porter) and Ratna (guide)
For lunch we stopped at the top of a hill with fantastic views of the area and got to have a quick wash and sit down for a cold drink and something to eat. 

nice to cool down and clean up

Soup with a view

This is where we met another Trekker that we would meet on and off for the rest of the tripm even at the end in Pokhara.  The comadre you get with most trekkers we would meet was great, encouraging each other swopping information and stories.
Arrived at our lodge at about 4:30pm and instally the rucksacks and boots came off (cool feet what bliss),  my thighs knew they hadn't worked like that before, I knew I had done some hills and distance.

The rest of the evening was spent enjoying our meal and having a laugh with Ratna and Nara, then off to bed early as we was quite tired (well buggered) plus we had to be up early in the morning.

Annapurna circuit part 4 - Numb Bum

21st March

Up at 5:45am, quick wash then grab some breakfast before we were picked up by the Guide and Porter. Seeing 2 Europeans and 2 Nepalis with all the trekking gear crammed into an itsy bitsy tiny white Suzuki taxi must have been a right sight. This was just a short journey across town to where we would catch "the tourist bus" seeing is believing trust me,

Tourist bus with video my arse....

not sure how many where on the bus also if had a seat or not as my knees took some serious damage from the seat in front (especially as the German bloke in the seat in from of me kept sitting forward then slamming back down again).

I don't think he liked the music they was playing

After about 2 hours of bouncing around, near misses, crushed knees and listening to the local top 10 (at full blast, the German in front was under the speaker and ended up putting toilet roll in his ears), it was stop for a stretch etc.. (a dark veil will be placed on the toilet facilities) then it was off again on the dusty roads, noisy hooters and buggered knees. quite funny when the bus would slow down or stop for something as straight away people selling what ever jump aboard then as quick aw they arrive they jump right off again. We then had another stop halfway were we where given some rice dishes (tasted ok and no delli belly from it). this bone shaking, bum numbing, knee crushing journey lasted about 7 hours when we reached Besishahar from which we were then supposed to walk onto Bhubbule but Ratna our guide decided this section was just too dusty as it was part of the road (also stiff as a board) so it was agreed we would stay on board until Bhubbule, after traveling on that dirt road we understood what he meant. At some points the holes and boulders where so bad the bus was rocking like a ship on the high seas.

Finally we arrived at our destination, stiff and bruised. Our rooms simple but decent beds with outside squat toilets and hot showers, food so far enjoyable and nothing has been disgusting. By 7am the sun had gone and most of the starts already bright, it was then time for a little read and sort gear for the morning (setting the alarm for 6am)..

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Annapurna Trek - part 2 - Kathmandu at last

19th March

About 5:30am it was time to fill up again on the free food & drink, seeing as we were supposed to  leave the Oryx Lounge at 6am.  Once fed and watered it was back into the normal waiting areas with the rest of the cattle.  So for the next couple of hours until our gate opened we walked around Duty Free (again), watched some planes take off and land, then just sit and watch the world go by.  Also laughing at the people who would run to the gate as soon as it was opened (seeing as you still wait for at least 20 minutes before they may lead you to the plane it is a bit daft and your seat number is already booked), then you get the ones that turn up just as the gate is about to close and they don’t look embaressed or apologies.

Once finally on the plane I was out for the count, only awaking for the food then had another snooze.   Awaking 30 minutes before landing in Kathmandu and like most on board the plane started looking out the window for signs of the mountains only to find clouds and more clouds.  Touch down with a bump and roar of the engines as they strained to slow us down and we had arrived.

Kathmandu Airport, hmmm lets just say it ain’t a Manchester or Gatwick type of Airport, but it does the job.  After queuing with the rest of the cattle so you could be stamped in by immigration, it was then on to play luggage belt roulette with a couple of hundred other people, 2 conveyer belts and no sign to say which one yours will be on.  As the cases and packages went past the only thing I didn’t spot was a cuddly toy, as time goes on you start to wonder did your luggage follow you from Doha Airport or is it now enjoying a holiday somewhere else, please to say every thing did make it and still intact.

It was then out side to fight your way through the guys wanting to carry your bags till we found the manager of the Trekking Company we were using, thankfully there he was with a big smile and his car.  For the next 20 minutes we make our way through the busy roads and streets of Kathmandu, seeing things that make you think “hey I  don’t have too bad a life!”.   The closer we got to Thamal (the district the hotel is in) the streets got thinner and thinner but the amount of little white cars, motorbikes and those pedal rickshaw things seemed to increase.  I think one rule of thumb for what ever vehicle you have is to make sure you have a loud horn, hooter or bell.

Finally we arrived at our Hotel the Nirvana Gardens, once inside we were given a drink and the Trekking Manager placed Pray Scarves around our necks as a greeting and good luck.  After that it was up to  check out our room, nice comfy beds, running water, a real toilet, the only down side is the city’s power supply can go off at times, the hotel keeps basic lighting going via a generator during these times.

Once refreshed it was out into the streets for a little bit to explore.  As most of the hotels used by trekkers are in Thamal you find a lot of outdoor clothing and equipment shops, selling top brands but a little cheaper than you’d find at home (in theory you could arrive with no gear and get it all in Kathmandu for your trekking trip, though it is a good idea to already have your boots as you needed to have walked them in).  So after a walk around looking at this and that, plus avoiding people trying to sell you one thing or another, we made our way back to the hotel, only getting a little lost once..

Back at the hotel it was chill time in the garden with a cold drink and try and decide what to have from the menu.  We ended choosing things from the Nepali set menu with a little help from the waiter trying to explain what each dish was, which we completely forgot what we had picked when we sat down to eat..

The first dishes arrived, a steaming hot soup (still no idea what it was) tasted nice though, I suspect there was a some chili peppers in it, also came some cold pieces of potatoes mixed with something.  We each bite into the potatoes and thought

“That’s nice, can’t quite put my finger on what the flavor is”

then it was

“oh my God !  My tongue is on fire!!!!”, with our eyes streaming with tears.

Even though this was setting light to our mouths all we could do is laugh our heads off, use the soup to ease the heat, then stupidly eat more potato (gave the waiters some entertainment that I know).  Thankfully our mouths survived the onslaught and all the next dishes were nice but lacking in the super kick of the first dishes..

As it had been a long journey just to get this far, it was back to our room to do a quick unpack, dad briefly laid on his bed and 2 seconds later all I can hear is huge snoring, it is then while unpacking I discovered my earplugs where missing..

“Noooooooooo !!!”  (found them on the floor at my Dads when we got home)

Thankfully after an hour he woke up and went to bed properly and didn’t really snore.  As quick as a flash I got undressed and into bed so I could get to sleep before he started snoring again……..

Friday, March 18, 2011

Annapurna Trek - Part one - 24 hour Journey

17th March

Up and out early this monring, arrived at the Airport in plent of time for the flight, unfortunatley we relialised we where a day early.  So back home again, good practice run I suppose..

18th March

Well Back at the Airport again, this time the right day.  Had my first go at giving Airport Security a fright, as they now use those body xray scanners that see through your clothes.

Settled on the plane, leg room fairly ok etc..  10 minutes into the flight, I looked at the live flight information and realised at that very moment we where at the height which we will be at when we go through the pass, though I don't think I will be walking at that speed (going to take us about 10 days hard treking before we get to that height).

Well Dad is flaked out and I think I will check out what movies they have on offer.

Just had breakfast and it was pretty good and you got quite a lot.

Dad decided to watch a movie but his headphones don't work, we asked for another pair and bugger me they were broke as well.

About halfway to Doha now and have realised we are now flying near some the most dangerous areas of the Middle East at the moment, all those people that could be being killed right now belwo us makes me feel quite sad.

Finally landed in Doham had all our gear xrayed again but this time no body scan, so no scaring the security this time.  The Airport is not huge but a reasonable size, we have looked around the Duty Free as you do then sat down with a drink to watch this part of the world go by.

As we knew we where going to have a 14 hour wait at Doha before we catch the flight to Kathmandu, we booked ourselves in for a 6 hour block in the ORYX Lounge.  Free food & drink, comfy chairs to sit on, free internet, also a shower you can use.  The nice guy at the desk felt sorry for us and gave us 7 hours instead of six, what a vary nice man.  We are enjoying these little triangle cut sarnies and the lovley cakes, this will be the last time for nearly 3 weeks I am going to have it so good.

It's about 1:30am Doha time and I am not really tired, Dad is zonked out on a chair next to me.  I think I will go and type all this up onto my Blogg on one of the free Internet PCs, also means If my Dad starts snoring his head off, I don't dont have to look sheepish at the other people in the lounge.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Final walks before going to Nepal.

With less than a week to go now we thought we’d try and get some more walks in.

First we did a relatively short but hilly walk to the top of Moel Famau to Jubilee Tower and for the first time this year when heading to the tower the weather was great.   

The walk up pleasant and rather busy, with many people out making good use of the good weather.

Clear sky meaning once at the top you could see Liverpool on one side and Snowdonia on the other.

Due to the clear skys and good wind there was quite a few Para-gliders enjoying their sport, though it looked peaceful and fairly safe you still wouldn’t catch me try that.

The next day after an hours drive some on some scary windy roads we parked up and walked into Cwm Eigiau, again a nice clear and pleasant day which made it all the better.

After a couple of miles walking in to the valley we stopped off at the cottage that climbers and walkers use as a base station.

Taking care of all needs

Enjoying the view whilst having a snack

Once fed and watered whilst enjoying the view, further in we walked until we arrived at the old abandoned Slate Mine and a took a look around at the remains of the workers slate houses that they would have built themsleves to live in whilst working in the valley.

Then it was time to walk back to the car park and on the way, we was lucky enough to come across the wild ponies of the valley.

So no more walks until we get to Nepal at the weekend, then it will be non-stop for 3 weeks.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Windy walk on the Northumberland Coast

For todays little walk we thought we'd pop up to Low Newton by the Sea and walk south all along the coast till we got to Dunstanburgh Castle then turn around and head back...

As it was lunchtime we thought we'd pop into the Ship Inn at Low Newton and had a great Vegetible Soup and hot chocolate...

Once filled and inner bodies warmed it was on to the beach and follow the coast line towards the castle.  No snow or rain this time but the wind sure gave us something to work against.   In quite a short one hour we arrived at the castle then after a look up  the hill at the castle, take a few photos, we then headed back the way we came.    With the tide starting to come in and the beach slowly disappearing our return journey back to Low Newton was rather quicker as you can imagine,  once back a drink or 2 at the Ship Inn before heading home.

sealing yourself from the wind

nice flat firm sand to walk on

bit of wildlife to spot on the walk

some of the upper track is rather muddy

Below the Castle - Lava rock in view

made it to the castle

best speed up we are loosing the beach

Go to Northumberland to get Yorkshire Crisps

well deservered pint

where's the beach gone

last view of where we have walked.

Snowy Walk on Hadrian's Wall

 For this weekend walk, I thought I would do a bit of Hadrian's Walk.  As my Dad didn't have any Scout camps he decided to pop over from Wales and join me.

The plan was to walk from Steel Rigg, then along the ridges until we got to Housesteads Fort.

Start of the morning was rather late as we slept in a little, as the curtains were opened we got out first view of the weather.

"Oh bugger it's raining agian!" moaned my Dad, " That's 3 walks in a row, we are jinxed"

But if we can manage the walks on Offas Dyke with the weather we have had the last few times, a little bit of rain will not stop us.

So off we left in the car, the closer we got to the wall the rain had stopped and we started to notice patches of snow on the fields.  Which ment my Dad might get his wish at last, as we have never managed to be on the wall after it has snowed.

As we parked up at Steel Rigg and could see it wasnt a total wipe out but fairly well covered and should make the walk different.   So kitted out in out gear, waterproofs etc off we treked.

First milestone Sycamore Gap

Dad please as a kid

Onward we tred

 First stop on our little walk after a few up and down hills was Sycamore Gap, used of course in Kevin Costa Robinhood movie.

Which is quite funny as the means poor robin got lost on way home as he was nearly 200 miles north (and seeing as he would have got to England via the Channel) also when he is asked which way is east by Azeem played by Morgan Freeman, Robin points in a southerly direction.   Which means either poor Robin has a real bad sense of direction or a wicked sense of humour......

After a stop for a bite to eat and something to drink, not forgetting taking a few photos, onward and upward we went.  At the top of the rock climb we came across  a drywall which some of had collapsed so my Dad of course had a quick go of dry wall building to repair part of the gap.


While my Dad did his good deed for the day, I admired the views from the edge and of course took a few pictures and may be a few more.

From then on it was slg our way through the snow up and down the slopes until finally in the distance through a gap in the trees we saw the Fort, then once at the fort just a little walk down the hill to the visitors car park where the car was waiting to pick us up...   Not a long walk, not as wet a walk either but most enjoyable and was nice to see what it is like with the snow up on the wall.  As you walk along you with all your warm and waterproof gear you think of all those Roman Soldiers a few thousand years ago with there mega gear, tough life it must have been.

last little bit an we are at the carpark

Snow got heavy at some point