Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Annapurna Circuit Trek: Day 12

DAY 12: Marpha to Kalopani

Day twelve started rather late. This was the last time I would see the troop that was biking the Circuit Trek. After breakfast I set off rather late. That seemed to be the theme for the entire trek save for a couple of days. Thankfully I made some good time each day and felt stronger every day.

This was a very long day. After a brief stop to rest in Tukuche, I soldiered on and tried to make up a bit of the time I lost. The views leaving Tukuche were absolutely breathtaking. Seeing fields sparsely populated with the towering Himalayan peak Dhaulagiri in the distance would strike awe in practically any person. Next was Larjung.
Originally I was to stay here for the night. This was the next major village after Tukuche. A quick lunch of dal bhat and a snap decision was made to push on.

If memory serves correctly - Dhaulagiri beyond the southern edge of Tukuche

Pressing on, I initially avoided the recommended path that would go around and past Kalopani. At first I regretted this decision. Basically most of the area I trekked was on the newly constructed road. In days to come this would come back to bite me in the ass. I certainly much preferred hiking along the paths. More intimate views and less rocks to cause my feet to buckle! The ankles can only tolerate that so many times.

By about 4:30 PM I had arrived in Kalopani. I took the Lonely Planet guide's choice for a place to stay with the Kalopani Guest House. This was by far the nicest accommodations I would have on the entire trek. It's not to speak ill of the other places I stayed at. This place was relatively new and seemed to take a lot of pride in their work. Westernized bathrooms meant a relatively hot shower. It was needed.

In the meantime I took the chance to play with the camera and take some pictures as the sun was going down. Annapurna was off in the distance as was Takuche. Dhaulagiri was in view for a short time but clouds would obscure this beast. After a good dinner I relaxed with a movie on the tablet and rested up for the following day.

Annapurna I

Cost: 2600 Rs
Approx. distance trekked: 17 km
Next up: Kalopani to Ghasa

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Videos from the Annapurna Circuit Trek are up!

Videos from my trip!

Video from my trip that I took is now up! Below is a playlist of ten videos I put together, complete with music I felt fit the mood of each one. All of the video is from my phone. The ten videos in the playlist total 41 minutes worth of footage. Enjoy them and please share with others!

HINT: On the youtube display, you will see on the top of it "Playlist Nepal 2012 - Annapurna Circuit Trek! (12 videos)". If you click on that, thumbnails for the videos will show up, allowing you to easily navigate between the videos and any ones you want to watch!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Mark Buehrle and Hope Rescues

Hope Animal Rescues!

As one would know from my "About me" page, I work behind a bar. I'm an avid baseball fan, so during the summer months, I sometimes will get visiting ballplayers grabbing lunch before they head to the park. Today, Mark Buehrle was at the bar. He's currently in his first season with the Toronto Blue Jays. When he was traded from the Miami Marlins to the Jays, a problem came up - his ownership of a pitbull. This link is the story I read back in February.

Eventually, I asked about this story and if there had been any progress made. Unfortunately there hasn't, but he does seem hopeful. I then asked if there was a program that he had or that he supported that I could help give to or spread the word about. I was directed to the Hope Animal Rescues in Illinois. They are a shelter that helps give foster homes and second chances to animals that would otherwise be put down. Click here to visit their website.

I feel this site goes hand-in-hand with what I tried to do with World Wildlife Fund. Animals don't have the same abilities that we do. They need our help moreso sometimes. As one co-worker put it, "Sometimes I feel worse when someone is abusing an animal than when they abuse another person." Animals, be they domestic or wild, many times can't fight their own fight. We should step up and not only help each other, but those that can't help themselves.

I hope all of you are well, and soon I will showcase some of the video I took during the trip! More posts about the last five days of the Annapurna Circuit Trek will be coming, too!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Annapurna Circuit Trek: Day 11

DAY 11: Ranipauwa to Marpha

So day 11 was a long one. I woke up early and after an awesome breakfast, set off at around 7:15am. This day, I wanted to make sure I left quite early, as once you get to around Jomsom at noon? The winds will pick up like clockwork!

One of the alternate routes that would have added a day would have been to hike towards Kagbeni. Part of me regrets not doing this, but I honestly wasn't sure how much time I would have, and if an extra day would have been prudent. So I continued on through Khinga and then to Eklai Bhatti, where I had a light snack. At this point, it was about 10:30am, and I had to pick up the pace in order to try and avoid the winds. Once leaving there, I headed to Jomsom. I ran into a Chinese man that I had seen occasionally while trekking over the last few days. During this entire time, there was a small six month old puppy that was tagging along. Now, this pup was following along with us since Ranipauwa. We were a good ten kilometers from there!

The pup was, I believe, part Tibetan mastiff. They're actually quite friendly, in this region, and seemed to really like human companionship. The previous year, another one of these pups followed along from Eklai Bhatti to Jomsom - a good seven kilometer walk. Well, the Chinese man actually took a look at the pup and made a joke about how back home? That would have been dinner! Obviously, it was a joke, and I actually appreciated that someone played up the stereotypes. It was, of course, in jest.

Now before Jomsom occurred the only bad thing I experienced during the entire trip. There were porters for another group trekking along. One of the porters started throwing rocks at the little pup - and laughed about it. I made a couple of comments to the Chinese trekker, and finally snapped at the porter pretty sternly, wagging a finger at him and saying "No!" in Nepalese. Just a few minutes later, as the pup was laying down for a second, the same porter went to pick up another rock and throw it at the pup. I bent down purposely in his way, and got even louder with my displeasure. He still laughed. Eventually, one of the other porters actually picked up the pup and carried him the last bit before Jomsom. It was a pretty horrible thing to see, but it is fairly common in that part of the world. I came incredibly close to grabbing a rock and hurling it at the porter's feet, but honestly, I have no idea what sort of problems that could have potentially caused. I was 8,000 miles from home, and the last thing I should be doing is getting into a fight.

After getting to Jomsom, I parted ways with the other trekker, as I was searching for the guesthouse that purportedly had a certain Jimi Hendrix as a guest back in the late '60's. Complete with graffiti on the wall! The Thak Khola lodge is very beat up. Also, it's rumored to be closing, soon. As a thank you, I gave the owners 500 Rs to simply see the room. I stayed for about 20 minutes to see all of the other graffiti and it honestly was a pretty cool experience! Once I left, I continued into the Southern part of Jomsom, grabbed some lunch, and continued on.

The last stretch to Marpha was an ordeal. The winds had picked up furiously, by this point. Now, every day starting at 11am or noon, the winds get stronger from the South. This is due to the wind tunnel effect the gorge created between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna I that you're actually walking through. Depending on what source you would find, the Kali Gandaki gorge can be described as the world's deepest, at over 18,000 feet! Anyhow, the last few kilometers were quite tough. Walking headlong into the wind and the subsequent sand that was carried with it meant using the scarf I brought with me as a way to cover my mouth. If you're planning to trek this section of the Circuit Trek, do yourself a favor and bring a good scarf. You will thank yourself!

Tashi Lhakhang Gompa - Marpha

At about 2:30pm, I arrived in Marpha. I decided to stay at the Neeru Guesthouse, and they have excellent food! I also ran into the mountain biking crew for the last time, as they were finishing up the next day. While in Marpha, I visited the Tashi Lhakhang Gompa, which is pictured above. Remember, if you walk along the prayer wheels, make sure you find out whether to walk in a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion. It may not mean much to you, but it means a lot to the people that are there! Once I finished with a big dinner, I then fell asleep after watching "Princess Bride" on my tablet. Not a bad way to end the day, eh?

Cost: 2400 Rs
Approx. distance trekked: 20 km
Next up: Marpha to Kalopani

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New posts coming soon!

I want to apologize for the LONG delay in posts. I just recently finished a different fundraiser, and got very focused on that. Between that and the recent bombings here in Boston, I've allowed this blog to suffer. I will be finishing the remaining few days of my trek over the next month or two. I appreciate the patience, and will post again very soon!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Annapurna Ciruit Trek: Day 10

DAY 10: Thorung Phedi High Camp to Ranipauwa

Apologies for the long delay in posts. I have slacked, and really have no excuse for it. However, today's post has a highlight that goes beyond the goal of crossing the Thorung La pass. Some people may not believe that, but considering who I am trying to raise money for, it ties right in.

After waking at around 6:00 AM, I went for breakfast. First of all? It is extremely cold. At 16,000 feet? There are also dangers from the altitude. I felt a little nauseous, but otherwise was good. After getting ready, I started to look through all of the stickers and business cards that lined the walls that advertised the trekking and tour companies. I asked about leaving one of the cards I made for this blog. Initially they mistakenly thought I worked for World Wildlife Fund. When that was quickly cleared up, I then spoke with the owner of the lodge for about 20 minutes. The story he then told gave me chills.

The day before I had arrived, at around mid-day, a baby yak had fallen from the short cliff face on my left that I walked past as I reached the top. Well, it startled the people that work at the lodge, and they went to check on the animal. It had unfortunately died, but the wounds that were in the yak weren't from the fall. In fact, the wounds were made by another animal. Not from another yak, as yaks are also not too commonly living at such a high altitude. The wounds were from a carnivore, but there is only one large carnivore within that area: a snow leopard.

Taken in Manang

Usually snow leopards are found much farther west at the time of year that I was there. The thought is that a handful of snow leopards followed a food source that moved east. How did this happen, however? Was the snow leopard a cub that was newly out on its own, and simply make a mistake or was unable to carry the weight of the baby yak? Did the baby get away and unfortunately fall? It's strange to see snow leopards at that elevation during a time where it gets colder, so to me, it speaks of desperation, by the animal. When the owner of the lodge told me of this story, and about his own personal reverence for the animal, as well as for most wildlife, it gave me chills and I had a smile broader than probably any during my entire trip.

After putting off leaving for some time, I set off. It was about 7:30 AM, and I had to stop procrastinating. I started off. The year before, it took me approximately three plus hours to make it to the Thorung La. This year, it took just less than two and a half. At a point only maybe twenty minutes before the pass, I passed a sight I saw a couple times the year before, also: someone vomiting. The altitude is something that not everyone takes seriously. The day trip to the ice lake outside of Manang helped me cope, despite the slight symptoms I felt.

Turned around and captured this image of a lone trekker behind me.

I then did it. I reached the Thorung La Pass. 5416 meters up. 17,700 feet high. I have friends that skydive. I admire that. It's something that I want to do, someday. What amazes me is that at an advanced level in skydiving, people jump from around 14,000 feet. What makes me smile and go "wow" is that I have twice stood at an elevation where there is over three miles of solid ground underneath my feet. An elevation that is almost 4,000 feet higher than friends that have jumped out of a plane. When thinking of it in this abstract way, how can one not be proud of what they have done?

You'll never walk alone, indeed!

Now comes the part that could possibly be even harder: going down. After going up about 1,700 feet, that morning, I now had to go down approximately one vertical mile. 1,600 meters down. 1,200 of that would be in the next two hours. This can be absolute hell on ones knees and back. After a pit stop where I had a brief chat with the mountain bikers, again, I kept plugging along. Despite there being fewer trekkers, this year, I knew that getting to Ranipauwa soon was important. Get there too late, and you could be searching in desperation for a room. This holds true even moreso for solo travelers, as many rooms are made as doubles, and one person spends less than two.

I arrived in Ranipauwa at around 2:00 PM, which is rather early. Of all places, I ended up staying at the Bob Marley Hotel. You read that right! After taking a hot shower, which was the only one I would take during the entire 16 days of the trek, I used the time to relax and plot out the remainder of the trek. After meeting again with the mountain bikers as well as the two german gentleman I had run across on two other occasions, I relaxed over a movie on my tablet, and went to sleep. The next day was a big one, as it was second only to the trip to Chame with regard to distance.

Cost: 2000 Rs
Approx. distance trekked: 11 km
Next up: Ranipauwa to Marpha

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Annapurna Circuit Trek: Day 9

DAY 9: Letdar to Thorung Phedi High Camp

Day nine saw me set off at around 8:30am. This seemed to be the norm, save for a day or two where earlier starts seemed more prudent. Letdar is close to 14,000 feet up, so the cold certainly has an affect before the sun's rays hit down on a place so high up. Within an hour of setting off, I was already beginning to peel off a layer to keep from sweating. Sweat mixed with cold and the wrong fabrics can lead to some severe problems. If you're thinking of trying such a high altitude hike, make sure to bring the proper clothing. Moisture wicking works the best, and wearing a series of layers - including your coat - is a big thing.

After a couple of hours hiking and even spotting more vultures, I made a stop to rest and be prepared for the last 'easy' section of the hike. By this point, my shoulder was feeling a lot better, as it essentially had become conditioned to the weight of the pack. The scope of the views can be seen below. A foursome riding mountain bikes and their Nepali guide made for good conversation, that day. One of those riders helped me to take this picture! If you're reading this, thank you!

Left: Annapurna III, Right: Gangapurna

Hiking on, it was only about another hour or so before hitting Thorung Phedi. Typically, people either stay here or make the extra 400 meter climb up to the High Camp. Feeling better acclimated this year, than last, I decided to push on up. The ascent to the high camp is not an easy one. Despite being maybe 1.5 to 2 km worth of a walk, at most, it will take some people as long as two hours to make the 1300 foot plus ascent. Switchback after switchback greets you. Loose rocks can be a problem, and this can hit about a 30-35 degree slope, which is steeper than it sounds. In the picture below, the top left area is where I was headed. You can't see it, but there are trekkers in the middle on the trail!

Believe it or not, there are trekkers in this picture!

Every ten minutes, I would stop for a breather, and then press on. After just 75 minutes, I could see more people - and without gear or packs! I had made it. I spent the remainder of the day relaxing and making sure I was drinking plenty of water too help combat the effects of the altitude. At this point, all of us are at just below 16,000 feet. In other words, over three miles up! The next day, however, would find me at my goal - the Thorung La Pass.

Cost: 2300 Rs.
Approx. distance trekked: 8 km
Next up: Day 10 and the Thorung La Pass!