A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Annapurna here we come!

Today is the day we start our trek! After much deliberation, we decided to do a moderate two week trek called the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, that takes you up to Annapurna Base Camp and back. We had initially thought we would do the classic three week Annapurna Circuit, but there is a hellish pass over 5000m (Thorong-La) that neither of us felt fit enough to tackle.

We awoke early to finish packing, had a big breakfast and was on the road at 9am. We took a taxi to Nayapul, 41km away, for 1600 NRS ($22). After an hour of winding roads through the mountains, the cab pulled over to the side of the road. Is this it? There doesn’t seem to be anything around. We started to get out, but then we realized that Krishna just had to take a piss. He thought this was highly amusing that we thought the trek started here, and it wouldn’t be the last time we would be entirely lost without him.

Around 10:30am we were in Nayapul, which seemed a long stretch of dusty wooden stalls on either side of the road. We grabbed our packs and followed Krisha down some stairs, through the bustling bazaar. Just like that, we were off on what was to be an epic journey. I was filled as much with anticipation and excitement as I was with anxiety. Will I be able to handle all the ascents? Would my knees hold out on the downhill? What are the teahouses like? And the bathrooms? What if I get sick or break a leg? Will I even make it to base camp? And if I get there, will I make it back?

We had our ACAP permit checked in Nayapul and TIMS checked in Barethanti a short 20 minutes further we started to criss-cross a beautiful aquamarine river by several suspension bridges.

We got our first glimpses of walking bushes or “tree people” what we dubbed the porters of large leave bushels (probably fodder for goats).

As we got to Matathanti the trail crossed the river (or we lost the trail) with no real crossing in sight. We literally leapt several feet from rock to rock, and came to a row of rocks that looked treacherous where I hesitated for too long. So long in fact, Ron had plenty of time to dig out his camera and capture my predicament on film.

Sometimes you have to force your body to just plunge ahead, because if you overthink it, you stand there for 10 minutes in an impossible situation of “there is no way forward or back, so you have to do it” even if you don’t want to. I finally started across the slippery rocks and one teetered ever so slightly so that my backpack pulled me off balance, and for the briefest of seconds I put my entire right boot (up to the ankle) in the river. Thankfully they were waterproof, and I made it across, but I was a bit ruffled right off the bat.

Our first day was blessedly short (around 3 hours) and relatively easy through stepped farmland. A little up, a little down. This is a famous Nepali description of trekking in the Himalayas, and what all the guides (including Krishna) use to describe virtually every hike. Today was maybe the only day that this was even fractionally accurate.

We stopped in Tirkhedunga at Shankar Guest House, our first teahouse, or what they call the guesthouses that line the trails around Annapurna. It was, in a word, basic. Two twin beds (about a foot too short for Ron) and a bare light bulb (useful only when there is electricity). The walls were paper thin, constructed from eighth-inch plywood board, and didn’t even extend to the floor. It was like our room was a bathroom stall, if you stuck your head in the 6” gap at the bottom of the wall you could see into the next room and the room after that!

The bathroom (which means only the shower-room in Nepal) is often solar powered, and usually has hot water if its been a clear day. The toilet is a toss-up between the squatty Indian variety and a regular western style toilet. The sink is never near the bathroom or the toilet, and is found closer to the kitchen. Inconvenient, yes, but let’s pray this allows the chef (or local gurung woman) washes up more often.

All in all, it did not match my imagination of ancient and historic teahouses that I thought would be more reminiscent of elaborately wood carved Tibetan monasteries. Like places Eddie Murphy visited in The Golden Child, where he rapped and scratched on a prayer wheel. I’m spoilt by this movie, and get a little smirk on my face when I spin one now (see previous post), not as reverent as I probably should be. Needless to say my expectations were outta whack. But I would soon appreciate the small comforts of the teahouses, the nice local people running them, the huge dinner portions near the warmth of a wood burning fire after a long days trek. All for 150-500 NRS ($2-$6) a night, you can’t beat it. We snuggled in to our humble abode and were sound asleep and snoring by 7 at night, which would not be an unusual hour for us to retire during the rest of the trek. Early to bed, early to rise.


Anonymous November 9, 2009 at 5:50 PM  

I have googled routes, maps and pictures of where you are going and will be following every step of the way (at least in spirit). If we had known you would be doing this scaled down trek we would have joined you! Can't wait to hear about your experiences in the most magical place on the planet. Namaste, Mom (and Ron)

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