Friday, April 29, 2011

Slideshow: Nepal - Annapurna Circuit (PART ONE) March/April 2011

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……..