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

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Monday, November 16, 2009

We made it to Annapurna Base Camp!

The morning at MBC was bleak and cold. We hoped it would be a clear day and we would get a glimpse of the peaks we had been hiking 8 days to see up close. The hike, excuse me, trek started out innocently enough. There were no major inclines just a gentle upward gradient that should have been easier than it looked. I was, once again, struggling to get oxygen into my lungs and just moved in slow motion for most of the way which was only a couple miles.

It was still one of my favorite days of the trek. So quiet and peaceful, only the cries of crows in the lulls of the wind, in the alpine basin surrounded by the massive peaks of Annapurna I, Annapurna South, and Machapuchare. We spied a Himalayan tahr on the hillside, which is some type of a wild goat with bushy, wiry mane of hair.

We were in the heart of the mountain range, called Annapurna Sanctuary, with Annapurna I staring back at us.

“The sight far exceeded anything we had imagined, a terrific wall of ice rising above the mist to an unbelievable height, we were quite overwhelmed by its magnificence and grandeur”.

Yup. I couldn’t have said it any better than Maurice Herzog who along with Louis Lachenal were the first to summit Annapurna, the 10th highest mountain in the world. In doing so, they were the first pair to summit a peak higher than 8000 meters in the Himalayas, the planets highest mountain range. Higher than the Alps and the Andes. Put together. Ok, that last piece isn’t true but it sounds good.

We saw ABC perched on a hillside in the distance. The white guesthouses and blue roofs signaled the end of our journey, the sum of our struggles. One hundred thousand stone stairs of pure torture for one brief moment of sheer pleasure at the accomplishment. Somehow the math works out. It is worth it. Something in the challenge shows us what we are made of, which you just can’t get sitting on your couch watching other people do it in National Geographic specials.

Ron and Krishna reached the top and stopped to wait for me. Again. I just love to feel like the tortoise. I plodded along and Krisha came back down to take my pack. The high altitude made it feel more like 50 pounds and it was a relief off my tired shoulders. The last of the stairs up were almost effortless with the exhilaration burning in my heart over finally reaching the finish line. Sometimes I doubted I would make it, but I kept putting one boot in front of another a million times over. I didn’t exactly saunter to the top of this mountain, but I DID IT!!

We toasted and congratulated each other with the whiskey that Krishna had carried for over thirty miles, god bless him. One drink at 4130 meters and I was certifiably tipsy. But I relished the warmth in my belly because it was icy cold, even the sun couldn’t temper the arctic chill. Doesn’t that subliminally make you want to chew some gum? The only gum I have is banana flavored and lasts exactly four chews before you have to spit it out.

We checked in to our room at Snowland Guest House, and guess who was next door?! We pleaded with the owner to move us one room down, away from the noise of the girls, but later that night we could still hear them blabbering two room away! The next day I decided to take pictures of them at breakfast, y’know for the blog. This one is particularly attractive, not only is it blurry but the girl has a full mouth of food. Maybe the only time she shuts up. I know, I’m mean and spiteful. Don't mess with me and my sleep.

We ate pizza in a packed dining room of trekkers all joyously exhausted. My stomach was a little acidic and I was frightened and reluctant to bare my bum in the freezing squatty potty at night by nothing but headlamp. It’s amazing what you can do when there are no alternatives. You just have to get on with it. In our room, we could see our breath, but could only guess how cold it was, I would venture to say it was….freakin’ cold! I pulled out all the stops to warm my ice-cubed feet: two pairs of socks wrapped in my down jacket stuffed in the bottom of my sleeping bag. In addition to my furry hat, I wrapped my scarf around my face so that not a square millimeter of flesh was exposed. Whereas, I looked like a lump of clothes strewn on the bed, Ron looked cute all mummified. Even with blue lips.


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