Hiking through Nepal
13.05.2010 - 30.05.2010 70 °F
For those of you anxiously awaiting a (real) update - we had an absolutely AMAZING time in the Annapurna Himalayas! Words can't describe how incredibly huge these mountains are! We did the Annapurna Circuit trek where you start in Besisahar, a several hour bus ride northwest of Kathmandu, and make a big loop around the Annapurna monsters eventually ending in Tatopani. Here are a couple of interesting stats about the trip:
Days on the trail: 16
Distance walked: about 200 km – we lost track after that
Starting elevation: 800m (for those of you still on the U.S. system, look it up)
Max elevation: 5,416m at Thorong La Pass (seriously, look it up. I don’t know why our crazy country doesn’t use the metric system. It is far too logical)
Rest Days: 1
Porters that we started with: 2
Porters that we finished with: 0
Our trek started with Jaime, myself, Christina, and 2 Nepali porters. One porter carried Christina's pack and the other carried the single pack that Jaime and I shared as well as serving as our "guide". We originally planned the trek without any porters or guides since we are perfectly capable of carrying our own packs, but for one reason or another decided to hire them the day before we left. More on this later…
The first several days of the trip were extremely hot so we started early in the morning (around 6:30am) and took a long break at lunch before continuing on in order to avoid the worst heat of the day. We had a couple of rainy afternoons as we rapidly approach monsoon season, which helps explain the lush green landscape of the jungle-like forests at these lower elevations.
In many of the mountainous regions of Nepal, the trekking trails double as roads to get food and supplies from village to village. And believe me, I use the term "road" very loosely for the east side of the mountains. We are talking about dirt paths just wide enough for a human (or donkey) to walk on. So the further we traveled, the more difficult it was to get even the most basic of supplies into the villages. We saw donkeys carrying huge bags filled with beer bottles that looked like they were from another decade, Nepali people carrying stacked cages of nearly 40 chickens on their back and a handful of porters carrying nearly 200 pounds EACH of trekking gear, all of whom carried the weight on a strap across their forehead. It really made us think about the sheer dedication involved in getting a 30" color tv into a village 5 days walk from the nearest driveable town! These Nepali folk really love their WWF!
The higher in elevation that we climbed, the landscape continued to change.
At the higher elevations, it got pretty cold at night. We decided to cut space by not bringing sleeping bags, but survived on thick blankets provided by the guesthouses (thank goodness). We also treated our water all along the trail just to be safe. Neither one of us had any stomach issues while on the trail, which is a pretty nice accomplishment!
By the first night at a guesthouse in Ngadi, we met what would become our core group of friends for the rest of the trek. One of the most memorable experiences of the entire trip was the people that we got to know over the course of our adventures. Thanks to all of you and we hope to meet again somewhere in the world!
After the 5th day of hiking we were getting tired of the drama that our porter was creating. Everything was negative, he wouldn’t carry the pack and Jaime ended up carrying it for about half the time. Not only were we forced to stay and eat in certain guesthouses because he most likely got kick-backs, he started telling our friends that they were forced to do the same. Although we kept telling ourselves to just tough it out, it finally got out of hand and we decided to let him go. After the drama of firing him (the whole Nepali community watched the scene) Christina’s porter then ran off after promising to stay with her. We hate drama! It ended up being a great decision in the end because we then we had the freedom to go where we wanted, eat where we wanted, and stay where we wanted.
Before hiking over the pass at what ended up being our highest altitude of the trek, we decided to take a side trip (to acclimate) off the main trail to Tilicho Lake: the highest lake in the world (4,920m). The lake was almost completely frozen and quite spectacular. We hiked just over 5,100m in order to get a very cold glimpse of the lake before descending back to warmer temperatures.
One of the highlights of the trip was reaching Thorung La pass (if you actually looked it up, you will find that it's well over 17,500 ft!). I caught a cold a couple days before hiking the 1,000m up to the pass and boy was it rough! Not only is altitude a powerful thing when up that high, my cold came to a full blown head and felt like an elephant was standing on my chest keeping me from breathing properly. Poor Jaime carried our 40 lb big pack AND took Christina’s day pack AND his own day pack AND my day pack weighing in at a total of nearly 75 lbs!! What a boyfriend! But for the record, I did carry my weight down the other side . The descent was a painful 1,600 meters and we were happy to finally rest on the other side.
Despite the lack of meat and fresh fruits and vegetables on the trail, we had some fantastic meals in the villages (that I fully intend to attempt replicating). One of the guys estimated that we burned at least 5,000 calories a day. I personally made sure to try and eat that many calories…for fuel, of course… Among the many different options of curry, momo, dal bhat, thukpa and spring rolls, I didn't have a problem satisfying the appetite It was amazing how we snacked all day long and were never full. Well, until the day that we hit Manang, which had a couple out-of-place "German" bakeries selling delicious baked goods. We did some pretty good damage to the pastries in this town, but still managed to burn it off by lunch!
The last few days were spent mostly descending the valley in tremendous winds, eating, and relaxing. We reached Tatopani where we lounged in the hot springs as well. From here we took a bus to Pokhara for more relaxing and eating!
Take a look at our photo gallery for more pictures and we promise to have even more when we get home!
But here are a few more to help satisfy the curiosity: