Annapurna (the long version)
Alright…. the afternoon rains have started here in Kathmandu, time for me to post about the Annapurna trek.
Just getting there was an adventure! We took a public bus to the bus stand – we were so proud of ourselves for figuring it out…. though others on the bus were not so thrilled with our big packs! We had to take ring road (which goes around the city of Kathmandu) to the bus stand. Well…. it wasn’t so much a bus stand – but various vendors on the side of a very busy road – with lots of people seeing opportunity when they saw us! We had lots of offers for taxis, buses, and probably other items that we were unaware of!
Finally, we got a bus to Besi Sahar where our trek would start. Our bus, a ‘micro’ was basically a 15 passenger van, but it can fit up to 21 people (as evidenced on our ride out). our packs went up top and away went. People got in along the way, people got out, loud Nepali music blared, we passed trucks and buses on blind curves, we bumped over potholes, kids puked. Lots of good times. and then 6 long, hot, dusty hours later we arrived in Besi Sahar – ready to start our trek the next morning.
The trek starts in what are called the Middle Hills, lush, green hills that are filled with villages, terraced rice paddies, and waterfalls. Oh, and leeches…. yes, we are trekking at the end of the monsoon season, so there are leeches — because everything is wet and hot and humid and we were walking in puddles and sometimes streams…. we realized it on day two when Katherine had blook soaking through her pants on her calf. I hesitantly pulled up my pant legs and … EEK! No leech to be seen, but plenty of dried blood on my leg! then, later, when I pulled off my socks — three more leech attachs — though we have no idea where the leeches went — probably just took their fill and lept off! ewwwww…..
Have to say, we were happy to get out of the middle hills — though it was pretty — it was HOT and HUMID and sticky and we were ready for some mountain time…. The higher we went, the cooler it got and the air did get some what drier…. (did I mention that we were trekking at the end of the monsoon?!)
Also, the higher we went, the further north we went, the more buddhist it became. Every little village we came to had prayer wheels and chortens (or stupas) at the entrance. Each spin of the prayer wheel sends your prayers to the gods.
All the while we were hiking at this point, we were folowling a river up through a steep canyon – with water falls thundering down every couple of hundred feet. Finally, we started to climb out of the river valley and up onto a ridge. We found a nice guest house up on top of the ridge – it seemed like it would have a great view — but of course, everything was hidden in clouds.
[side note — you might be wondering where we stayed each night. The Annapurna circuit is famous for a lot of reasons – the views being one of them, of course, but it is also a great trek because there are tea houses all along the way that you can stay at. Katherine and I would pick a place where we wanted to stay when we got to a village – and we had our choice since it is before the trekking season really starts. Each guest house has nice enough rooms and you eat at the restaurant downstairs. We usually ate dal bhat – but there were other options though we thought the dal bhat (lentls) was a safer option since that is the local food!) Here is a picture of Katherine finding us a guest house before we got into town:
If we didn’t do our research ahead of time, people would be calling out to us left and right and it ended up being really confusing. But, for the most part, all of our guest houses were really nice.]
Ok — back to the guest house on top of the ridge…. Well, the guest house was at about 3670m – which meant that the air was getting thinner. Neither of us slept really well – from the air or from the excitement of being up high – not sure! But, in any case — morning came and….. THERE WERE THE MOUNTAINS!!!! our first real view of them in the morning light!!!!
It was pretty amazing up there…. we all just spent awhile staring and taking pictures (not knowing when this would happen again – which, as it turned out to be, not another clear day!)
Our days became increasingly shorter the higher we got — the reason for this is that you just cannot go too high and not expect to get sick from acute mountain sickness. This is all well and good, however, it lead to some rather boring days…. 3 days in a row we hiked for roughly 2-4 hours before we came to our guest house…. and since we are early risers, this meant that we sometimes got in before lunch — which meant a whole lot of sitting around – reading, journaling, playing farkle. It often rained in the afternoon, as well, which limited the number of hikes we could (wanted) to do. But eventually – it was pass day. The day we hiked up to Thorung La – the high pass before you descend down to the other side (which meant that the trek was over for us – since we were just doing the first half of the trek).
The hike up to the pass was not too bad – neither of us were really feeling the altitude too bad – though we did take it slow on our approach. It took us about 3 hours to get to the pass and then another 3 hours of straight down to reach the ‘end’ of the trek (though more about that in a moment).
yep — that reads 5416m (close to 18,000 feet!!) which I think is the highest I have ever been. It was pretty sweet up there — though there were NO views…. which was too bad. but it was cool to be up there…. then, as I said, we headed down down down to Muktinath — which is very dry. It is in an area called Mustang which is not all that far from Tibet (and reminded me a lot of Ladakh). After we got to Muktinath, showered, ate a lot of food, visited the Muktinath religious center (it is a place of pilgrimages – see the photo of some of the 108 waterspouts), the next day we made the long dusty walk to Jomson where we bought a plane ticket to fly to Pokarh in order to come back to Kathmandu.
All in all, the trek was pretty great — though they are building a road on the east side (the one on the west side is complete) and that was sometimes tough to take (all the road walking and road construction) — but all in all a great trek.
Some other highlights:
Suspension bridges (they were all over and pretty amazing and sometimes scary!):
lots of mani stones (I think that is what they are called — that are engraved and sitting on chortens or prayer wheel ‘stations’ as you enter or leave town):
and I will leave you with a picture of katherine and I at the pass:
of course there are gazillion moe pictures but it takes forever to upload them….. i will figure something out!