ABC … (definitely not) as easy as 1-2-3

Our trek in Nepal seems rather frivolous in light of the recent earthquake and the suffering that is going on there. However, we have wonderful memories from our time there, and our thoughts are with the people we met.

We often had the Jackson 5 song stuck in our heads during the days of hiking towards “A.B.C.” — the popular name for Annapurna Base Camp. 

image
View from the breakfast table, after our Poon Hill hike. That's Annapurna South (7219m -- not even one of the giants).

After the stunning sunrise vista at Poon Hill that Kaia described in the previous entry, we hiked through more rhododendron forests, past Prakash’s favourite viewpoint on the trek, and towards a mountain pass at Tadapani.  However, this involved a huge downhill followed by a huge uphill… affectionately known as “Nepal flat”.

image
Little bit down...
image
... little bit up.
image
And some massive rhododendron trees in bloom. Makes me think of my bush back home that might squeak out 5 or 6 flowers a year (if I remember to fertilize it properly).
image
Villages along the route are prepared for the parade of trekkers who come through each day. When you're carrying everything on your back, doesn't seem like the best place to stock up on souvenirs! But the knitted hats and socks could come in handy.
image
Looking at the map while waiting for lunch.

At our lunch spot that day, we saw a hiker with his foot elevated and swollen.  One bad turn of the ankle and the trek becomes more complicated (and shorter, and probably quite a bit more expensive!)  He was a physiotherapist from Belgium and knew that his best option was to be airlifted out.  However, he had to get to a place where a helicopter could safely land which was several kilometers of “Nepal flat” away.  He limped along with a trekking pole in each hand and eventually made it to Tadapani.  We also stopped in Tadapani (early — around 1pm) because of our pre-dawn start that day (hiking by 5am).  Prakash had predicted that Tadapani would be busy and there might not be many rooms available at the tea houses.  Sure enough, we got the last 2 rooms at a fairly mediocre place.  The dining room/common space was so small that we had to take turns with the other guests to sit at the table!  But we managed to have hot showers which are a great boost to the morale.  We also spoke to a young Norwegian man who was on his way down from ABC and he was definite in his advice: “You MUST go there.”
The weather was pretty socked in at Tadapani and we didn’t get a view until around sunset when some of the peaks popped out.  Next morning, we saw the helicopter come to pick up the injured Belgian and his girlfriend. 

image
Thank you, health insurance!

We hiked (mostly down) to a place called Chiule where a group of Australians was camping.  They were on an ambitious trek that should have taken them to some high passes but the weather had foiled most of their plans.

image
At least they had a beautiful view to wake up to!

We had another day of steep down/steep up, but the trail was quite open in many places so we enjoyed great views across the valley.

image

image
Healthy grains growing in the narrow terraces.
image
Most cultivation is done by hand, with occasional help from a team of buffalo pulling a plow.
image
Corn seems to grow well in this climate as well.
image
It is dried and then stored in little shelters like this. Later, it will be ground into flour.

We passed a school that was getting a new roof.  Slate tiles.  Carried up by donkeys.

image

image
Jingling bells announced approaching donkey trains. Fresh droppings indicated that one was not far ahead.
image
Here's an example of a slate roof (not at the school) with Fishtail Mountain in the background.
image
Some kids were hanging around the school (no classes that day) and we gave them some Canada pencils and pens that we had. Then the guys working on the roof asked for some, too!
image
Every day seemed to be laundry day in the mountains.
image
Cam and Kaia tried lifting these bags carried by porters for a large group.

image

image
We were constantly amazed at the loads carried by porters. And the flimsy shoes they were wearing.
image
Precious cargo
image
New bridges have been built to cross the rivers in the valley bottoms. Then it's up, up, up again!

That afternoon, we arrived in the bustling metropolis of Chhomrong.  It actually was quite a big village that boasted some souvenir shops and not one, but two “German bakeries”!  We got set up at the Elysium Guest House (great view and excellent kitchen, we found out at dinnertime).  The guesthouses make most of their money on meals and the pricing for the rooms is based on the assumption that you buy dinner from the same establishment.  We had been thinking of eating across the road at a place that got great reviews for its burritos and chocolate cake, but when we found out that the cost of our rooms would quadruple, we changed our minds.  And the food was delicious at Elysium!

image
Arriving in Chhomrong. Lots of steps and lots of shops.
image
View from Elysium Guesthouse, where we stayed, looking up the valley of the Modi Khola, the river we'd follow the next day.

image
Cake, coffee, and a game of cards at the German bakery. Aaah! This is the life!

image
Just love this photo. One feels very small when surrounded by huge mountains and steep, deep valleys.

Next day, we started with another major downhill (the knees and thighs were really starting to feel it, and I was using a trekking pole by this point).

image
The steps were rough and there were a few obstacles.
image
We marveled at the labour involved in the construction of the steps.
image
Look at the size of the individual stones! They would easily weigh 500kg. How far were they transported?
image
Another suspension bridge with prayer flags at the bottom of a valley.

Continuing up the valley of the Modi Khola, we had lunch at a little well-named place called Bamboo.  It rained throughout the entire lunch stop, but cleared up as we got back on the trail.  

image
Fuelwood needs to be used sparingly. Locals use it for their own needs, but it is not supposed to be used for tourist purposes.
image
Very basic tools for a big job.
image
Portable manual "sawmill"

image
Local building materials, all cut by hand!

image
We kept crossing paths with the same people along the route. Here we are talking to Edwin, an Australian, who was on a long trekking holiday.

We spent the night at the village of Himalaya with 35 grade 9 students from United World College in Singapore.  They were all in a pre-IB program and this was part of their outdoor education.  We were impressed!  And also kind of happy that we weren’t the supervising teachers.  But, they had several professional expedition leaders as well as an army of porters, so the students only had to carry small day packs.  The group leaders performed a simple medical exam every evening on each student.  They had spent the day acclimatizing at Himalaya (~3200m) to make sure that all were in good shape to head up to ABC.  It also meant that the students were going a bit stir-crazy and had lots of energy for singing, laughing and guitar playing into the evening (I think Kaia mentioned the paper-thin walls at the guest houses).  We made sure we left early the next morning to get well ahead of them on the trail!

image
The school group took up much of the space in the dining hall. We learned that there was another similar group from their school that was heading up to Everest Base Camp (~5300m)!

The following day was one of the most exciting and scenic of the trek.  We did a substantial amount of climbing (about 1km vertical) and the mountains were really coming into view.  Until the clouds rolled in and it started to snow, that is.

image
Prakash told us that this rock overhang used to shelter a very rustic guest house with about 6 beds.
image
Our early start was also necessary for getting past the avalanche zones before the heat of the day.

Hiking through a place called “Deurali” en route to “MBC” (Machhapuchhre Base Camp), I realized that those names fit in quite nicely to our new version of the Jackson 5 song:
ABC, not as easy as 1-2-3,
it’s further than Deurali,
and MBC; ABC is a sight to see!

image
Between Deurali and MBC, Prakash pointed out the natural colouration in the rock wall that looks like a sitting Buddha.

image
The villages rely on small micro-hydro installations for electricity, mainly used for lighting. We saw many penstocks like this one.
image
Kaia is crossing the glacial Modi Khola on the way to MBC.
image
Heading towards the snow. We were lucky to have a clear day.
image
More porters with huge loads and flip-flops. They've already walked through snow and there is more ahead.
image
Approaching the Machhapuchre Base Camp. Clouds are moving in, as they often did by mid-day.
image
It was (just) warm enough for us to eat lunch outdoors at MBC.
image
We saw the Singaporean students arriving. They were booked in at one of the guesthouses. We chose to push on the last 2 hours to Annapurna Base Camp.

We hiked the last section in snowfall — it was beautiful! The steady uphill trek kept us warm, and we knew we’d have a room (and hopefully a view) once we got to the base camp.

image
Prakash and his handy umbrella -- useful in rain, sun, and snow! I will never again trek without one!

image
Cam is our porter, carrying "Big Red".

image

image
Almost there! With all my layers on by this point.
image
We made it!

In our high altitude haze, we saw some movement in the snow…

image
Could it be?

image
A baby yeti!!
image
Dinner tasted great. There were very few others at our guest house that night.

After dinner, we actually ended up going to one of the other guesthouses to take advantage of a little more heat generated by more bodies. We played some cards, but went to bed early in anticipation of getting up for sunrise. It was a chilly night, but the extra blankets kept us just warm enough!
Yvonne

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s