Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Off to Patagonia!

Off to Patagonia!!!

At the time of this post being published, I will be on a plane heading out of New York City on my way to Punta Arenas, Chile. A long layover in Lima, Peru will be included. The destination for trekking will be Patagonia to trek the Torres Del Paine Circuit, around Mount Fitzroy and other short treks. Lucky doesn't even begin to describe how I feel. I will be taking notes of my daily hikes and give detailed posts when I return in early March.

Again, please help me with my fundraising effort for the World Wildlife Fund if you can!!!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Annapurna Circuit Trek: Day 16 - Final Day!

DAY 16: Ghorepani to Naya Pul

Bittersweet ending to the trek. I awoke at about 4:30am and since I had put together the things I needed the night before I was set and ready to go. Following a trail of people up to the viewpoint at Poon Hill was done in complete darkness. Most everyone had headlamps on so following the trail was as simple as following the lights.

The sunrise view can be hit or miss. It's also quite cold so bring layers! Initially the clouds were obscuring the view but with a little patience we ended up with a great view of the sunrise over the Annapurna Himal and Dhaulagiri. A once in a lifetime event that I'm so beyond lucky to have experienced! The picture below doesn't do justice to what I bore witness to. Awe inspiring and humbling. One that I hope to see again in the future.

My view from the viewpoint above Ghorepani. Astounding!

After breakfast I hunkered down and after checking in at the police checkpost, continued on. Whereas the previous day was the single largest ascent, this day was the largest descent at about 1800 meters. Midway through the day I reached Ulleri and the dreaded "Great Stone Staircase". This stairway takes just shy of an hour to go down and at best guess has approximately 3300 steps. I timed it this time around and made it down in approximately 53 minutes.

Crossing the suspension bridge after resting some weary knees, I walked through the pleasant village of Tikhedhunga and enjoyed the fact that finally it wasn't a very chilly afternoon! Another two hours were ahead of me and by this point I was quite ready to rest my feet and ankles and just get a hot shower in. Initially I was debating simply staying the night in Birethanti. After initially refusing a cab ride to Pokhara I ran into the same driver ten minutes on and he lowered the price. It's hard to resist an approximately 20 dollar cab ride to go 45 miles! By just before 3pm I was in the Lakeside area of Pokhara and checking around for a room. The next four days were for relaxing and reveling in the accomplishment of having done the Annapurna Circuit Trek a second time.

Next for my series of hikes I will be down in Patagonia. I hope that this blog up to this point has helped give you the push to find your own adventure - big or small - and just jump right on in! Thank you and I hope to keep your readership!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Annapurna Circuit Trek: Day 15

DAY 15: Tatopani to Ghorepani

My poor ankles! Bandaged up tightly and ready to go I started off at around 7:30am. This wasn't one of the longer days at 14 km but it was the day with the single highest altitude gain at between 1700-1800m difference.

It started almost instantly as once we crossed a suspension bridge we hit a series of switchbacks that had us gain about 400m in only a two kilometer travel distance. Once at the top I re-bandaged my ankles and was in pretty obvious pain. Two men from China came over and offered a spray that helped alleviate the pain. They then proceeded to GIVE me this treatment. The kindness you find from people - regardless of where they are from - is amazing.

Pushing on I tried to avoid further damage by trying to stabilize the ankle and just go at a slow and steady pace. This meant that the day's trek wouldn't end until about 5pm, but it is worth it not to rush. The mountain views about an hour after reaching the top of the set of switchbacks is incredible. Stop and just take it in and see if you can identify the peaks!

After reaching Chitre I was faced with the second large ascent of the day. This one covered about another 300m in a two kilometer hike. The difference being that it is through a beautiful forest and due to the elevation difference is quite a bit cooler! I eventually got to Ghorepani and found a room at the Hill Top Guesthouse. While having dinner I noticed a young man outside taking pictures. It was 6pm and pitch black. When I focused my view I noticed I could clearly see some of the peaks. When I went outside to ask what he was doing I found that he was taking long exposure pictures. I immediately went to get my tripod and tried taking some before the clouds rolled in and obscured the view.

Annapurna I (left); Annapurna South (right)

After about an hour of photos and talking with the young man, whose name was Ben, I had to get upstairs and get some sleep. The next day required getting up at 4:30am to see the sun come up!

Cost: Approx. 2200 Rs
Approx distance trekked: 14 km
Next up: The last day of the trek!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Annapurna Circuit Trek: Day 14

DAY 14: Ghasa to Tatopani

This was one of the easier days of the trek. It did come at the cost of the general well-being of both my ankles, as the rough and rocky roads made for a tough time on the soles of my feet - causing me to roll my ankles one too many times.

I set off at around 8:15 and hiked one of the more beautiful sections this time. Instead of using the road I stuck with the old trekking trail. It is highly recommended that you do this route. You will see signs for the old route and you will cross a very long and HIGH suspension bridge. You will never not be scared of these things! Continuing on I passed through two small villages that had not too much in the way of supplies but did offer a place to sit and rest for a bit.

Rupse Chhahara - "Beautiful Waterfall"

Within a short time I crossed another suspension bridge and was back on the road and almost immediately met with the spectacle of one of the largest waterfalls you will see on the Annapurna Circuit Trek - the Rupse Chhahara or "Beautiful Waterfall". After heading farther along to the quaint village of Dana I crossed through the old passage instead of using the road. If you get a chance to use these routes - do it. Peaceful and tranquil are the best words to describe them. You also get an amazing view of Annapurna South to your left!

It didn't take too much longer until I arrived at Tatopani. I made great time. Trekking 13 km in under four hours is no small feat! Lodging was at the Dhaulagiri Lodge and I would highly recommend this very nice place. There is also a good chance to gather supplies here as well as souvenirs. I bought another Buddhist mantra charm for my necklace from the same woman that sold me the other one I had. It's amazing the people you meet and connect with so do chat it up whenever possible!

After buying another ace bandage it was time for bed. The ankles were really starting to hurt now. A high ankle sprain in my left side and a mild sprain in the ankle on the right. Rest certainly could not come soon enough!

Cost: 1900 Rs
Approx. distance trekked: 13 km
Next up: Tatopani to Ghorepani

Friday, January 24, 2014

Annapurna Circuit Trek: Day 13

DAY 13: Kalopani to Ghasa

First, sorry for the long delay!

This day I slept in. I Finally set off and decided to backtrack a bit and do a scenic loop around Titi Lake. After stopping for some tea, I continued on with some impressive views of Nilgiri South dominating my sightline. This extra route is highly recommended!

Trying to beat a storm that I saw coming just wasn't going to happen, however. Once I got to Choyyo? RAIN. With little to no shelter I was basically screwed as I tried to haul and make it to some semblance of cover. Once I got back to the main road, I then crossed a pretty precarious suspension bridge that on one end was covered by a small rockslide. Had I chosen to go with the road, there would have been buses competing for space with me. The buses will certainly win that one!

After a slow and steady rain for about an hour - and only about 2 miles from Ghasa - the rain finally stopped and the sun came out. Figures, right? When reaching the northern portion of Ghasa, I checked in at the police checkpost and kept on. I stayed at the Eagle's Nest Guest House but after the super accomodations in Kalopani the night before, it was going to be hard to compare! Great food and the dining area was shared with a large group of older Israeli women. Quite a rowdy and fun bunch!

Cost: 1950 Rs
Approx distance trekked: 13 km
Next up: Ghasa to Tatopani