Preface: Unfortunately I wasn’t able to write on my trek due to the obvious reasons. Then once I’d finished that a lot has happened allowing little time to try to catch up as there was more to write about. A bonus of being out of action due to my radiation lust, I’ve finally managed to go through my notes and put together articles covering this period of time. There are an enormous amount of photographs and moments but this is a blog, not a tome so I’ve decided to distill the entire experience into two articles. The actual dates for the trek are between 26th November to 4th December 2019. For any of you following, I do apologise for the break in the flow but I promised myself from the start that experience, enjoyment and memories take priority, as I’m sure you’d all agree … well, hopefully! 😉 So here goes…
After all of the fun I’d been having in Pokhara it was time to get serious; the Himalaya were calling.
As if the universe shone a beam of wonder upon me, I got to share my dorm with a rather fabulously attractive French lady whom not only made me melt but also had just returned from a trek in the same area. So in true Moog fashion I wasted no time in asking … about the trek!
I was quite concerned and nervous about the whole thing as even though I’d cycled Portugal not that long ago, it had been a few years since I’d done any long distance trekking and I was already well aware that my cycling fitness had long faded into not so many shades of grey. There were also other things to consider, such as heading into the mountains without adequate fitness and preparation could turn into a serious problem quite easily! As much as those thoughts were legitimate, I had to cast them away before they took hold and I’d never leave the room ever again.
Once we got talking … about the trek … I tried my best to not get lost in her accent and focus on the information. OK OK, I’m single, she was stunning and lovely but she was also as tall as me which if you know me at all, she might as well cast a spell of obsession! Anyway, back on point Moog!
About an hours bus ride north-west of Pokhara was trekking country, the southern part of the Annapurna Conservation Area home to the glorious Machhapuchhare (Fish Tail) and Annapurna peaks. This was where I was going to spend 4 days doing Reebok Step for what would soon seem forever. The ‘wonderful tallness’ said that it wasn’t a hard trek and she wasn’t in best shape either — although I found that hard to believe — so it’d be ok for someone of my fitness (she looked me up and down, Grrrr!) and it was easily doable in the 4 days I also had in mind.
The intended route, complete with terrible directional arrows. Each grid is 8Km.
After running this past Elena, we both agreed on 6 days — an important factor being that she was considerably shorter than me, and NO! It’s nothing to do with the French girl! Hmmmmm tall… But I’ll be pacing much faster. That’s all … nothing else… honest! So we headed off to the permit office to get our TIMS card and trekking permits.
Day 1 of 4
Elena and I caught the local bus early in the morning from Lakeside and made our way to the main bus station a few miles out of town. I’d been watching the weather for the past week, and for the past few days I’d been delaying our launch by 24hrs each time to ensure we had clear skies. My timing was superb as the sky was clear and we couldn’t have asked for better with a clear view of the peaks as we arrived. After some querying and confirmation of the pickup point for the bus to Kande — our start point — we found the beaten chariot and climbed aboard.
Along the way the bus stopped to add fuel — something I’ve never seen before — but thankfully it did as I was able to disembark and absorb the view of snow capped peaks, here’s what I captured:
Once we moved on, I noticed how the closer we got to our destination, the roads degraded in quality being either half finished, some parts with construction vehicles still working or worse, where the roads was badly in need of repair. Luckily no-one in the bus tried to open a can of Coke otherwise we would all be partaking in the sugary filth! 😀 It is here that I should give kudos to Tata buses; never have I witnessed a vehicle have to deal with so much of a beating especially while carrying so many. Among the knocks, bangs and squeaks, my ears were never pained with the sound of something metal finally giving in to the strain — for that I’m very grateful.
ABOVE: The joys of being 6’1″ in a full bus designed for small people.
Since embarking on my journey through India then into Nepal it was hard to miss the awful mishandling of waste and rubbish. India suffered worse due to the enormous industry but Nepal to me was mountains and wonder until I reached the outskirts of Kathmandu. It was obvious that there were issues in this country but so far I’d not seen anything too bad. It was during this ride and we were behind another bus when I saw crisp packets being thrown out of the windows, not just once and not from the same window either! That’s when I realised that education was a major factor alongside the lack of facilities and these countries have a lot of work to do to maintain their beauty before it’s too late.
Once at Kande, Elena and I got off on an rocky dirt road to the usual small group of unfinished concrete buildings and shacks selling mainly food and confectionery. Once we’d filled up on Dal Bhat we followed the painted sign pointing us in the direction of Australian Base Camp. After some trekking through local livestock and homes, we hit our first set of steps and started our ascent.
ABOVE: 1. Steps and more steps. 2. Glorious views as we climb. 3. Elena struggles with the climb. 4. Nepali peace flags adorn parts of the pathway.
I’d heard a lot about ‘the steps’ from other trekkers be it via casual conversation, over-hearing or a direct warning which I got from two Canadian girls who’d returned from theirs! Forewarned, up and up we went into a trail of steps that even I’ll say were hard work.
Selfie Selfish InstaZombie.
“… I wish I had a selfie stick! I so wish I had a selfie stick! — (Selfie stick this, selfie stick that!) — Can you take my photo? Please take my photo, thanks. Did you get a full body shot? Can you take it again please the clouds have ruined the shot, no-one will know where we are …”
All of the above I heard like a crack of whining American thunder in the midst of hillside calm and quiet! This happened at a small cafe/shack just before the Australian camp. Without the need to write any more words, I think you most likely share my annoyance at how some people have no regard for their surroundings and others especially when they find the,selves that important they fell the need to announce their conversations. Upon settling back into my chai tea, I found myself humming ‘Pretty Vacant’ by the Sex Pistols … I don’t know why!
Ignorant InstaZombie aside, Elena and I were thoroughly enjoying being outdoors, as we climbed up and up and up and up, we were blessed with more scenery and wonderful views. All of this though came with some serious effort as those forewarned steps just kept coming!
Our first pass at Pitam Deurali took us by a rather large guesthouse with our first serious view of snow caps. After a short stop for food, we decided to continue on further North to Tolka where we stayed at a guest house which was to be a beautiful true home stay with a loving old couple and their son. It was here where we met Felix who was travelling solo so we all shared most of the evening drinking the amaaaaaaaazing Chai tea and absorbing our surroundings.
Things I saw…
The sunset turn snow peaks burning orange just over the hill — I found this while going for a short wander:
At night I took a short walk up the trail and watched the Milky Way rotate above. Elena soon joined and we discussed life as we took in the night sky. It was during our deep conversation that I watched a super–bright meteor shoot across the sky then split into two! This was the second I’d seen in my life that was so bright, the last was about 7 years ago and went across the entire sky but didn’t split, both times I had to lift my jaw from the floor.
Next: Part 2 and the increasing days.