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

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Into the mist of Machapuchare Base Camp

We awoke bright and early at 5am so we would arrive early enough at Machapuchare Base Camp (nicknamed MBC) and find a room. We had asked the woman the previous night to book us a room but through a miscommunication we didn’t realize it was a success until we were already up and dressed, having breakfast in the early dawn. Our new discovery is a Tibetan fried bread (sometimes listed as corn bread or gurung bread) with a fried egg “both sides” on top. So delicious is an egg folded in fried bread, like a giant breakfast taco, to get your motor running.

The next town, Himalaya came in only an hour and half, and I had premature thoughts of how easy the day would be. We continued up rolling hills, past so many waterfalls that soon the trail itself was wet and trickling underfoot.

The next two hours would be harder on rougher, steeper trails to scamper up until we reached Deurali. And then the final couple hours to MBC were pretty brutal. The change of altitude as we pushed towards the goal at 3700m/12,135 ft left me out of breath. I would slowly inch forward, getting further and further behind Krishna and Ron, leaning on my poles like crutches. My legs wobbled around in their hip sockets like I was relearning to walk again after being paralyzed. This would be my least favorite day of the trek.

As we neared MBC, the temperature seemed to drop twenty degrees and a misty fog rolled in like I was suddenly dropped into a very bad dream. Visibility ahead was only a couple feet. I panted and wheezed. Krishna said we were close. We crossed a river and were met with a fork in the road. He led us up a stone staircase that had a lodge that appeared to float on a cloud, an oasis amidst the mountains. I took all my strength that I had left in me to drag myself up those last hundred stairs. “Every step was a struggle of mind over matter”. It’s not like I’m battling the elements and hardships of the first Annapurna summit. Still, I silently cursed to myself, trying to urge myself on.

When I reached the top, Ron asked me not to be mad. Uh-oh I thought. Apparently Krishna directed us up the stairs but our lodge was down the hill on the other side. The entire staircase was an unnecessary detour! I was too exhausted to be mad, but later I would mime to Krishna that if he ever did it again I would strangle him with my bare hands.

We were greeted by the jovial smiling owner of the Gurung Guest House and fell into bed for awhile. Wrapped up under our sleeping bags for a nice afternoon nap, we would soon “meet” our neighbors, a couple Australian girls in their twenties, who checked in next door. Loud and extremely annoying, they kept chattering on without the least care to the paper thin walls. I learned more inane facts about them than I ever cared to know, including a blow by blow of a cold bucket shower, as I lay mentally and physically exhausted.

We got up to dutifully filter our water before dinner, and then snuggled into the dining room for some Tuna Mac & Cheese. The long wooden table seated at least twenty people and had a heavy blanket over it all the way to the floor to trap the warmth of a smelly gas heater placed recklessly close to our legs. At one point smoke billowed out from the table, us choking on foul gas, too cold to protest the danger and lung pollution we kept eating like it was perfectly normal.

There was no electricity in our room, so we tried to read by headlamp, shivering in our sleeping bags underneath extra blankets.

But the Aussie girls kept laughing and snorting, pausing only when someone from an adjacent room yelled “Shut up!” and then continuing on as if nothing had happened. Sigh. You can’t even get away from dumb people on the other side of the world and halfway up a remote mountainside in Nepal.


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