Bistare, bistare, jham jham! (AC Day 8)

Posted in Annapurna Circuit, professional tourist in the making, random bits, Thorong Pedi, Yak Kharka on June 15, 2014 by twotwoeight

Slowly, slowly, go, go!

Day 8 — Destination : Thorong Pedi, 4450m

Woke up at slightly past 2am because of the barking dog and subsequently had difficulty sleeping again.  It was freezing cold…luckily the Korean heat packs were actually pretty good and kept our toes nice and warm while we were snuggled inside our sleeping bags.  Climbing out of the warm cocoon each morning was a pain, and a battle against the body’s natural instinct of seeking comfort!  We were actually debating whether or not to brush our teeth that morning!! We did, finally, at an outdoor tap and by the time we were done, our fingers were blue and numb!!! After a breakfast of toast with omelette and vege noodle soup, we set off at 7.50am.

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Whilst leaving Yak Kharka, yaks were still roaming the land.  The giant dog which kept us up all night started walking with us as we left Yak Kharka despite many efforts to send him home…and to our amazement, he walked all the way to Thorong Pedi! We learned later that the guesthouse in Thorong Pedi and the guesthouse we stayed in in Yak Kharka were owned by the same family and this family pet actually travels regularly between these two places! Salute!!!

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Today’s climb was incredibly strenous. Even though the distance covered was less than the previous days, trekking at a higher altitude definitely alters the body’s physiology and each step forward needed effort.  Even breathing, which normally goes unnoticed, requires effort.  I could literally hear my alveoli screaming! 😉

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Nevertheless, with the mantra of just-put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, and humming random songs from Rasa Sayang to Pink, we finally reached Thorong Pedi at about noon. Got our room and proceeded to have lunch at the dining hall.  Dev said that after lunch, we would go for a short acclimatization walk — only short walk, about 30-40 minutes, he said.  Korean guy was also at the same guesthouse and we chatted while waiting for lunch.  He planned to go up to High Camp after lunch and to sleep there for the night.  Dev suggested for us to stay at Thorong Pedi for the night as we had been having headaches and he wanted us to sleep better at a slightly lower altitude.

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The guesthouse we stayed in was surprisingly modern, for such an isolated place.  The decoration in the dining hall exuded a very zen feel….with paper lanterns and jazz music playing in the background.  There were even pastries and we had the most awesome hot chocolate roll when we arrived.

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After lunch, while we were waiting for Dev and Mr. Limbu, PW and I noticed that many of the trekkers were going up in the direction towards High Camp…which looked like an incredibly steep climb.

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Initially we were glad we were done for the day but to our horror, Dev said we were going up the same way for our ‘short walk’!  We thought, maybe we were just going up a short distance and not go all the way up since this was just a ‘short walk’.

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Hah…we ended going all the way to High Camp and the round trip took us 3 hours!!!   Not to mention some parts of the climb was incredibly rocky and difficult!!

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However, the views up there were gorgeous…everything was snowy white!  We saw the trail that we would be taking the next morning and we were swept by a mixture of anticipation and nervousness.

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PW and I were ridiculously slow as we were dragging our assess up reluctantly knowing that we would have to do the same trek all over again tomorrow, in the dark…and poor Dev had to keep motivating us with promises of beer and KFC when we reached our destination! 🙂 On our way down, we saw a trekker who didn’t look too well waiting for helicopter evacuation and we reminded ourselves how important acclimatization was.  Had a cinnamon roll and lemon tea after coming back and met Korean guy again.  He had turned back after trying to go up to High Camp as he was feeling unwell and had a throbbing headache, hence he decided to stay in Pedi for the night.

We chilled out in the dining hall as it was too cold in the room and sipped hot tea while reading.  Dinner was vegetable curry rice and vegetable noodle soup — our staple diet.  We were fascinated when Korean guy brought out a pack of instant bibimbap as he was not accustomed to the food on the trek.  He was still feeling ill, and Dev gave him some advice on what were his best options — of which not one of them will allow him to be in Muktinath with us the following evening.  We could see that he was devastated, and felt sorry for him that his plans were disrupted…and we were reminded that when in the mountains, every person is at her mercy.  Dev gave us a pep talk for The Climb the next morning, and shortly after that, we went to bed at 9pm after setting the alarm clock for 3am! Gulp!!!

 

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Yak attack!!! (AC Day 7)

Posted in Annapurna Circuit, from Manang to Yak Kharka, professional tourist in the making, yak attack, Yak Kharka on June 8, 2014 by twotwoeight

Day 7 — Destination : Yak Kharka, 4010m

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Shuvaprabhat! Got up bright and early and had a breakfast of ‘fixed breakfast’, which consists of toast, omelette and roast potatoes.  We left Manang at 7.45am and headed towards Yak Kharka.  Today was going to be a relatively short day, as the trek was only scheduled for half a day in view of the elevation gain of 500m from Manang to Yak Kharka.  It was not recommended to ascend more than 500m the higher we trekked for better acclimatization.

rest before Yak Kharka

The trek today was not technically difficult; the trails was not rocky but the steady elevation gain did render us out of breath as we neared Yak Kharka!

Hotel Yak

Mr.Limbu had told us the day before that there were only 6 guest houses in Yak Kharka and they were sparsely located, with 2 at the beginning of the village, 3 in the middle of the village and the last one a little distance away.  When we finally reached a sign that read Yak Kharka, we were overjoyed but that was shortlived, as they did not stop.  Looks like we were going to stay at the guesthouses in the middle of the village, so we trudged along.  However, when we reached the cluster of 3 guesthouses in the middle, again we didn’t stop and Dev and Mr.Limbu gestured for us to move along!

the log carrier

By then, both PW and I were already hungry and tired and breathless…but we grudgingly continued walking! How can we be complaining when the guy carrying the log is still all smiles? 😉 Hahaha…I think it must have been quite obvious as Dev brought this up a few days later! :p

Yak Kharka guesthouse

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Another 20 minutes later, we finally reached our guesthouse at about noon.  The views were extremely gorgeous!!

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Literally collapsed on the bench after ordering our lunch and shortly after, Dev found the right bait to lure us outside as he wanted to prevent us from sleeping in the day in order for us to have a good night’s sleep!!

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He found yaks!!!  Knowing that we were suckers for animals, we immediately pulled ourselves off the bench and went outside to see the yaks up close.

yaks galore

We were photographing the yaks and Dev reminded us not to get too close to them as they can be unpredictable.  And just minutes after he said that, the yak that was rubbing his back on the ground suddenly got up and dashed over to the yak with the “bull’s eye” that was right in front of PW.  Startled, PW leapt backwards which in turn scared me and I tumbled and fell on my butt!! Of course we were not in any danger as the yaks were behind a fence. 😉

the yak whisperer

Dev had a good laugh over our real “yak attack” — we had been seeing the phrase ‘yak attack’ scribbled on the walls periodically as we ascended the mountain and wondered what it meant.  Well, now we know! 🙂

lunch in yak kharka

Lunch was dahl baht and spaghetti — wolfed it down as we were starving!

yak kharka horse

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We walked around after lunch and wondered in amazement at the immensely blue sky and splendid mountain views.

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We were debating whether or not to trek up the hill opposite our guesthouse but decided against it and chose to sunbathe on a low table in the yard instead watching the clouds and soaking up the sun.

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Later, we joined Dev and Mr.Limbu for card games — they taught us to play a local card game and we brought out our loot of Nescafe 3-in-1 as it was getting cold!! Then we taught them to play ‘heart attack’, but this game only lasted a short while as Mr.Limbu was laughing uncontrollably until he was crying with backache and struggling to catch his breath!  It was hilarious just watching him laugh!

Come evening, we ordered dinner and then went to freshen up and make ourselves warm.  We all huddled around the dung-cake fireplace while waiting for dinner.  Even the huge dog that was lazing around outside came in and snuggled by the fireplace.  We all didn’t want to leave the fireplace even after the fire had burnt out as it was freezing outside.  Eventually, we dragged ourselves back to our room and luckily Dev gave us some Korean heat packs that was quite warm! (Once we figured out how to activate it anyway….) 😉

Was woken up at 2am by a barking dog that seemed like it was right outside our room.  Dev told us the dog slept in the common toilet and scared Mr.Limbu out of his wits when he went to pee in the middle of the night!! (PS/ The dog was huge!!!) 🙂

Noya bashogho shubo kamona!! (AC Day 6)

Posted in Annapurna Circuit, Chongkor View Point, Gangapurna Lake, Into Thin Air, Manang, Nepali New Year, through the lens on June 4, 2014 by twotwoeight

That means Happy New Year in Nepali!! We practised saying it so many times but at the end of the day, we still couldn’t remember the whole phrase without getting some bits wrong!

Day 6 — Manang acclimatization day

Today marks the day of the Nepali New Year, although traces of festivities were not obvious in the mountains, Mr.Limbu’s phone was ringing constantly with greetings and warm wishes from his friends and family.

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Did not manage to get a good night’s sleep again…the nagging headache wouldn’t go away and after layering up before going to bed, it got a little too warm in the middle of the night so had to throw off some of the layers.  However, the gorgeous views upon waking up more than made up for the lack of sleep and the joy of not having to pack up our backpacks early in the morning was a great relief!

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We went over to Tilicho Hotel and Bakery for breakfast — got lured by the Lavazza coffee sign and the sight of beautiful golden pastries! Sipping hot cafe latte and munching on a hot cinnamon roll in the cold was just too heavenly.  We initially thought the girl who ran the bakery was Korean as she did not look local and we were even more convinced when we heard her speak what we thought was Korean on the phone.  We were so excited we were planning to tell Korean Guy (the solo trekker we had met earlier) about her as he had mentioned that he was feeling a little lonely trekking alone.  To our amusement, we found out later that she was in fact a local Manang girl who had gone overseas to further her studies and had returned home. ;P

After breakfast, we headed out to meet Mr.Limbu for our acclimatization walk.  Dev had gone for a trek to Ice Lake which was meant to be a 4 hour walk there and back…luckily we didn’t go with him, we’d probably make it a 6 hour walk there and who knows how many hours back!!

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We decided to go to the Chongkor View Point, which was described as a ‘nice walk’ after Mr.Limbu laughed at our initial decision to go to Gangapurna Lake (he must be wondering what acclimatization we were planning to do with a 15 minutes walk to the lake!!).

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So this ‘nice walk’ turned out to be a trek up a hill, from the side of the lake, along the narrow ridge to the tree-lined hill top you see in the picture above.  After the walk, PW and I decided to call it a mountain…not a hill!

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We made a stop at the Gangapurna Lake before starting our trek up to Chongkor View Point.  The water of the lake which comes from the melting glacier appeared grayish-green at the water surface level but as we gradually climbed higher, the splendid hue of turqoise shone through.

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The point where the melting glacier meets the lake water is like a work of art — continuously changing as the glacier succumbs to climate change. 😦

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After about 30 minutes, we made our way up the ‘mountain’ to start our leisurely walk.  Indeed, it was a walk in the park for Mr. Limbu but PW and I were panting after awhile! There were some pretty steep climbs and some parts of the path was muddy and slippery due to the earlier rain, but the gorgeous views at the top of the ‘mountain’ was worth every step of the way!

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Mr.Limbu offered to take some photos for us (with a 360 degrees background change!) — one of the few photos of us together!  We hung around for a bit and came down for lunch at about 1pm.

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We had lunch back at our guesthouse and decided to skip dahl baht for the day as there was no more trekking for the later part of the day.  We had spaghetti mushroom tomato sauce and fried chicken…and also tried the seabuck thorn juice — which was described by Mr.Limbu as a cross between orange and mango juice.  While we were having lunch, Dev returned from his trek to the Ice Lake and showed us beautiful photos of the lake. Can’t believe it took the same amount of time for us to get to the view point and for him to return from the Ice Lake!!

After lunch, we went up to do laundry and to take a much needed shower.  The water was lukewarm but the cold wind seeping in from the window gaps nearly froze us! Bbrrrr!!!

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We went for the AMS (acute mountain sickness) talk by a local NGO (Himalayan Rescue Association) at 3pm and I got the opportunity to ask the doctor about the persistent headaches that I’d been having and his opinion on Diamox (Acetazolamide).  I had brought tons of Diamox but had yet to take any.  After the talk, there was a donation drive whereby you pay 100Rs to get your oxygen saturation checked and they had a chart of daily winners and their nationality! Mine was about 93% only…no surprises, Malaysia wasn’t on the chart considering how low our country is.

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After the talk, we strolled around Manang town which was bustling with activities of the locals and foreigners alike.  Manang was by far the biggest and busiest town along the Annapurna Circuit.

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It had started snowing in the evening and after awhile, we were shivering in our jackets and needed some respite from the cold.  We got Dev and Mr.Limbu to watch a movie with us in one of the local “movie theatres” which was a very interesting experience indeed!Image

For 1000Rs, you get a private room with long benches and an overhead projector.  They also served us hot tea and popcorn, but the most important part is, there is a fireplace in the room!! We watched Into Thin Air — which was described in many blogs as THE movie to watch in the mountains.  It was a very old movie about one of man’s earlier attempts at summiting Mount Everest, or Chomolungma as she was first known.  Rather grim, as 5 people had died in that expedition.  It was only later that we learnt of the tragedy that had struck on Everest, where more than 13 lives were lost. 😦 Deepest condolences to their families.

Went back to our guesthouse for dinner after that — we had mushroom pizza and vegetable briyani and went to bed at 9pm.  Took half a Diamox as recommended by the doctor at HRA.  As a result, had to wake up in the middle of the night to pee, but slept better than most of the nights before even though there was a crazy dog barking most of the night.  Tomorrow, we head for Yak Kharka!!! 🙂

 

The day of the serpentine climb — onwards to Manang (AC Day 5)

Posted in Annapurna Circuit, from Upper Pisang to Manang, Ghyaru, Ngawal, professional tourist in the making, through the lens on May 18, 2014 by twotwoeight

Day 5 — Destination : Manang, 3500m

Bbrrrr…the night was reeeeeally cold even though we were snuggled up inside our sleeping bags AND with the blanket on top.  Didn’t manage to sleep well – woke up at 12.40am and thereafter only slept periodically.  Finally dawn came, and after suiting ourselves up to beat the cold, we walked up to the monastery at 6am to catch the sun’s rays on the mountain peaks.

sunrise in manang

When we reached the monastery, there were already a couple of other trekkers there (some who had come up from Lower Pisang) and the caretaker of the monastery was just getting ready for the day.  The sun had risen and its reflection off the snow-capped mountain peaks gradually intensified.

Pisang monastery

We were still freezing cold despite the sun being up and even the caretaker’s dog was curled up into a furry ball to keep himself warm!  We took some snapshots with our freezing fingers and were beaming with happiness when the caretaker came and offered us a cup of hot lemon!

Sunrise at monastery

We wanted to take a selfie with the gorgeous backdrop and while we were laughing and struggling to keep our fingers still, a nice tourist came to our rescue and snapped a picture for us.  We sat around for a little while more, and then we made our way back to the guesthouse to freshen up and pack up.  Teeth-brushing and face-washing left our hands numb and painful at the same time from the freezing cold water!  Breakfast was vegetable noodle soup and boiled egg…and hot coffee of course.  And then we set off at 8am.

Mani wall

After leaving the village of Upper Pisang, we passed the big prayer wheel wall and headed towards Ghyaru.

wise mountain goat

The small mountain path coursed through plantations of local crops on the steep mountain face where the locals and their jobkes were hard at work.  We stopped for awhile when we came across a herd of mountain goats…from wise old goat…

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to cheeky young kid! 😉

etched prayer

We reached a long mani wall after about half an hour, and what came up next was described in the NATT as “…the trail climbs up in many serpentines near the electric poles which are going up in the direct line.  And yes, you have to climb till the last of the poles! 😦 “.  And boy, was the description accurate!!! The serpentine climb looked endless and we stopped so many times to take a breather!  At one point I was feeling light headed and got a little worried if it was worsening altitude sickness.  But luckily after resting and an energy bar, I felt better and managed to reach the top.

on the way to Ghyaru

Gah…..can’t believe we were all the way down there earlier!!

Ghyaru

We stopped for a break at Ghyaru — a small village with only a few lodges surrounded by fields and offering gorgeous views of the Annapurna range.  We had a hot drink and some biscuits and also walked to the look-out point in front of the Gompa.  After a good rest and feeling refreshed, we were on our way to the next stop where lunch beckons!

Ghyaru for lunch

Reached Ngawal for lunch at about 12.45pm and by then, it was starting to drizzle and the temperature was dipping!  We were famished by the time the dahl baht came…and hungrily gobbled it up.  The three local trekkers from Kathmandu whom we met earlier also reached Ngawal shortly after we arrived so we all had lunch together, while listening to Bon Jovi songs!  Dev asked if we wanted to stop here for the day or continue on to Manang as we were due to have an acclimatization day at Manang the following day anyway, but PW and I decided we could still walk (despite looking like we were ready to hibernate) and so we decided to continue on.

we have bread

Thankfully, the walk after lunch was much easier than the earlier serpentine climb – a lot of descents though.  But nothing a little Jacky Cheung music couldn’t pull me through. 😉

Manang gate

After about 3 hours, we finally saw the entrance gate to Manang! Whee….legs were screaming by now.

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Got our room at the guesthouse and then had a quick walk around the village, which was by far the biggest and most well-equipped village on the trek with temptations of Lavazza coffee and cinnamon rolls beckoning.  None of that for tonight — we retreated to the dining hall where there was a fireplace fueled by yak dung, and had soup and a yak steak for dinner.  It was too dark for pictures of the yak steak – the taste was good but the meat was quite tough (very good jaw exercise!).

After dinner, had a chit chat with Dev and Mr.Limbu about Nepal history…the assassination of the royal family…trekking accidents…and plans for the next day.  And then, it was time to call it a day.  Snuggled into our sleeping bags and layers and layers of clothing…and it was time for lights out.

Shuvarathri. 🙂

It’s snowing in Upper Pisang! (AC Day 4)

Posted in Annapurna Circuit, from Chame to Upper Pisang, professional tourist in the making, through the lens on May 13, 2014 by twotwoeight

Day 4 — Destination : Upper Pisang, 3320m

Rambro shutno boh?

Hajur..

Have been having mild symptoms of altitude sickness — a mild but persistent headache which I couldn’t quite differentiate from my usual migraine attacks and sleep has been interrupted.  But on a whole, still managed to get quite a good amount of sleep throughout the night.  Blankets as usual were fantastic!  Breakfast was vegetable momo and vegetable noodle soup, the latter which soon became one of our staple breakfast meals as there was nothing better than a hot bowl of broth on a cold morning.  (But Dev calls noodles fake carbohydrates though 😉 )  We set off at 7.45am and made a short detour to buy Paracetamol (which was known as Evamol in Nepal) for PW as our stock was running low.  Luckily, we managed to find some in a roadside stall which was a pharmacy and I was amazed at the variety of medications they had!

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The road today was pretty easy — most of the parts were rather flat, with no crazy rocky ascents like the days before so we walked at a better pace today.

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Passed a Mani wall shortly after we set off from Chame and this is a common sight near most villages.

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We also passed vibrant green fields, which we thought was grass fields, but turned out it was actually local crops.

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Our mid-morning rest stop was gorgeous beyond words — beautiful flowers, grazing horses walking about, with a backdrop of pine trees and snowy peaks.

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After that, we walked through a tree-dense area which exudes an enchanted-forest feeling.

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More gorgeous views at a place where we stopped for rest and coconut biscuits, courtesy of Dev and Mr.Limbu.  I wonder if they were worried we would be hungry as we always couldn’t finish our breakfast!  But they were right…and the biscuits always come at just the right time!

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Met another donkey train on the road today, this one carrying essentials…even a cylinder or two of gas tanks!  Very strong indeed!!

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We stopped for lunch at Dhukur Pokhari at noon, where we had dahl baht and pancake with honey. The elderly Korean singing Korean gentleman was also there, this time not singing though. 😉 It was beginning to get cold as the day became more cloudy.

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After lunch in Dhukur Pokhari, we walked together parts of the way with 3 local trekkers from Kathmandu, all of whom were photography enthusiasts!  We crossed a flatland where there were beautiful horses grazing quietly and stopped there for some pictures.  After that, it started to drizzle and we made haste.

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Reached Upper Pisang at about 2pm and after a fairly steep climb up past the village of Upper Pisang weaving between the typical flat-roofed local houses, we finally arrived at our guesthouse, which was the highest one in the village!

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A view from outside our room overlooking the village of Upper Pisang and Lower Pisang across the river.  Trekkers can choose to stay in Lower Pisang which was an easier trek but we were glad Dev decided we could make it to Upper Pisang!

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The highest guest house of the village was indeed worth the hike — the rooms were new and had a very log-cabin feeling to it, the dining room was small but cosy and most importantly, there was a fireplace in the middle of the dining room which kept us warm and comfy.  PW was immediately enamoured by the owner’s puppy which he had just brought up from town and it was happily lapping up the attention from us.

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After a hot drink, we walked up to the monastery which was a short walk up behind our guesthouse.  Visited the interior of the monastery and afterwards, we sat around outside and took in the gorgeous breathtaking panorama in front of our eyes.  With unbelievable views of the Annapurna range in plain sight and a cup of hot lemon tea in our hands, what more can one ask for?

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And then, just when you thought things couldn’t get any better than this, it started snowing!!! 🙂

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Alhough we had gone skiing in Korea before, we never experienced snowfall before and with this magnificent surroundings, and the feeling of the snow lightly touching your face….sigh….I wish time could come to a standstill.

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After it got too cold to handle, we huddled around the fireplace inside the dining room with the other trekkers and chatted before it was time for dinner. By now, we were scratching our heads over what to eat for dinner so we decided to have a change from our usual dahl baht. I ordered fried rice and PW ordered boiled potatoes and we were slightly shocked when her boiled potatoes came as it was literally a mountain of plain boiled potatoes! Nevertheless, it was still good with salt and pepper.

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After dinner, it was time for bed as wanted to wake up early to see sunrise at the monastery the next day.  It was very very cold!!  And for the first time on the trek, we needed to dig out our sleeping bags! Bbbrrrrr!!!

Shuvarathri!

 

Timang, my favourite village (AC Day 3)

Posted in Annapurna Circuit, from Dharapani to Chame, professional tourist in the making, through the lens, Timang on May 11, 2014 by twotwoeight

Day 3 — Destination : Chame, 2620m

We had a good night’s sleep thanks to the extremely warm homemade blankets even though it was really cold outside.  Woke up at 6am plus and shivered all the way to the toilet only to find both the common toilets occupied.  Saw the didi owner of the teahouse and happily greeted her Shuvarathri and she kindly pointed me to the toilet in the open yard next to the teahouse.  Later, I realized that I had mistakenly greeted her Goodnight…no wonder she didn’t respond nor return my greeting!  Had breakfast of Tibetan bread and cheese chappati which we had pre-ordered the night before as the teahouse was quite packed.

morning in Dharapani

We started trekking at 7.50am, and the morning views in Dharapani were gorgeous.  The mountain peaks were getting closer and the scenery constantly changing as we climbed higher and higher.

Timang clouds

The path started off nice and flat and we still had time and energy to take photographs.  But we should have learned from the day before, never rejoice for long on a flat stretch…the difficult parts are up ahead!  True enough, the path soon turned into a long (and what seemed like a never ending) stretch of winding rocky steps uphill!  Knees were screaming…lungs were bursting and it was just a vicious cycle of hypoxia and pain!  Needless to say, no time for photos of the never ending rocky steps at all!

after the crazy climb up

Luckily, all things come to an end…and after an eternity, the rocky steps finally dwindled and subsided into a flat but uphill gradient.  Despite feeling like crap on the inside, we could still muster a smile and pose for a victory shot! 😉

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All hard work is always rewarded — we came around the bend and found ourselves awestruck with the magnificent vista that greeted us.  Timang — which became my all time favourite village of the whole trek.

green pastures in Timang

Green pastures with grazing animals against a backdrop of magnificent snow-capped mountain peaks.  A panaromic view.  It was just mind blowing to stand there and absorb the magic of the moment.  If time wasn’t a consideration, I would gladly stay here, indefinitely.

lunch in Timang

We stopped for lunch at about noon here and the rooftop view was indescribable.  Recalling how excited we were on our first day when we saw glimpses of the snowy peaks in the distance, it felt surreal to be so close to them now…as if, you can just reach out and feel the snow in your hands. Unfortunately, PW was feeling under the weather since the night before, with headache and a mild fever so even the splendid views surrounding her couldn’t pique her interest. 😦 I had dahl baht for lunch (no surprises!) and PW had mushroom soup.

bird in flight

While waiting for the food to come, I soaked up the sun and paparazzi-ed the birds in flight.

 

enchanted forest feeling

After lunch, the trek became easier…no more crazy uphill steps!! And there was a stark change in the landscape too – we started seeing more pine trees and trails carpeted with pine needles.

landscape change

The earlier more barren looking rocky landscape gave way to fertile green pastures which was a welcome change.

Gompa

We also walked together with a couple from Israeli and an elderly gentleman from South Korea some parts of the way.  The South Korean man was very very entertaining!! He was trekking alone but he had done this circuit many times and hence he was faster than any of us.  He sang and danced and did the Oppa Gangnam on request! He was either in a manic phase, or I suspect the hint of alcohol in his breath was a contributing factor!  😉  Nevertheless, he made the walk seem less strenous and soon we reached our next rest stop.

mule headdress

Bumped into a donkey/horse/mule train…and after what we read about them from blogs, we were a bit cautious!

donkey warning

mule

We could not really tell the horse and mule apart initially, and only learned later that mules have short mane as opposed to horses.  Also learned that horse + donkey = mule.  And yak + local cow = ? jobke (they are called dzo according to wikipedia)

Chame at last

We reached Chame at about 4pm and got our room at MonaLisa Guest House.  It was beginning to get really cold as evening came and luckily the guesthouse had a working gas shower!!  Yay….hot shower!

around Chame

Leg muscles were screaming by now, but I wanted to seize whatever light left of the day and as PW could not peel herself off the bed, I took a stroll around the village on my own.

going ons of Chame

Walked around a bit and watched the going-ons of the villagers and the animals.  Took some photos and then I just sat and absorbed the surroundings — bustling…yet there was a peaceful air to the scene.

buffalo jerky

Then it was time for dinner — candlelit dinner, as the electricity had gone off.  We had noodle soup and a mushroom pizza, and hot lemon tea never tasted this good in the freezing cold!  We also tried buffalo jerky, a local snack, courtesy of Dev and Mr.Limbu.

New words learned today :

Rambro shutno boh? – Did you sleep well?

Hajur – Yes

Hainak – No

Rambroso! – Good!

And then, it was time for bed.  Shuvarathri! 🙂

 

Malai sahayog garnuhos! (AC Day 2)

Posted in Annapurna Circuit, from Jagat to Dharapani, professional tourist in the making, through the lens with tags , , on May 8, 2014 by twotwoeight

That means “Help me!” in Nepali.  And this is one of the phrases which we felt compelled to learn after our first real day of trekking!

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Day 2 — Destination : Dharapani, 1900m

First night of sleeping in the mountains…woke up on and off in the middle of the night as it was quite chilly.  Finally, when the sky was bright, we got out of bed at about 6am.  Packed up our backpacks and went down to the dining hall for breakfast.

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Feeling excited to be on our feet for our first real day of trekking!!

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We had Tibetan bread with cheese and egg for breakfast (carbo loading as advised) which reminded us of ham chin beng (a variation of a type of local snack we have back home called Chinese crullers) which came to us piping hot and crispy — yums! The cook and owner of the teahouse was so amused when we flipped the egg over to check if it was also shaped like a huge doughnut AND proceeded to take photos of his Tibetan bread that he went to tell the others how amused we were and everybody laughed (hopefully with us, and not AT us)!!

After a satisfying breakfast, we were off! We left Jagat at 7.45am with the aim of reaching Tal by lunch.  The weather was good, the views were spectacular, the path was flat and easy — ‘Hey, this is not too bad!’, we thought to ourselves.  Little did we know, the harrowing ascents were just up ahead.

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Dev pointed out a cluster of beehives at the face of the mountain which we wouldn’t even have noticed had we been on our own.  PW immediately thought about a career change to become a Himalayan Honey Hunter after learning how precious this commodity was in Nepal. Ermm, maybe after reading this article you will think twice, PW 😉

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After a nice and easy flat stretch, we crossed our first hanging bridge across the Marsyangdi river — and stopped for the obligatory bridge-crossing photo.  Nice and sturdy, as compared to some of the rickety old wooden structures still surviving.

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Gorgeous views of the Marsyangdi as we continued trekking.

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As we continued on, the views became more and more spectacular.  But so did the path.  After awhile, the nice flat path became more rocky and the flat part was no longer applicable.  The walk became more inclined and even though the elevation gained was not that much, we started to feel the lactate building up in the leg muscles and the breathing more laboured.  Gosh, and this is just day 1!!!

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Some parts were just incredibly breathtaking — and by that, I mean the climb literally took our breath away!! We stopped for a short rest just before this harrowing rocky climb and thought we’d never make it all the way up — but looking back now, this was a piece of cake compared to the days to come!  During the climb, I kept thinking to myself ‘Should have gone to the gym more often before this!’

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Luckily after all the hard work and lungs-almost-exploding moments, we were rewarded with gorgeous views —  I wouldn’t be surprised if a Hobbit popped out of the hut and greeted me!

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Shortly after, we saw a village in the distance — Tal was visible!!!  Yay, lunch beckons!

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As we neared Tal, started thinking about what to have for lunch although it almost seems like a no-brainer since “Dahl baht power, 24 hour”, remember?  And we certainly look like we need all the power we can get.

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Reached Tal at about 12pm.  PW and I shared a dahl baht and fried noodles and while waiting for our food to come (it really takes quite abit of time for your food to be ready so patience is a virtue…), we watched Tom and Jerry in Hindi with the teahouse owner’s son.  Also walked around the compound and visited the outdoor toilet.

After lunch, it started to drizzle and then continued on to a steady pour so we waited awhile for the rain to subside.  Saw a trekker walking past with his backpack and camera pouch and holding an umbrella!  Well prepared indeed!  Luckily the rain did not last long, and as Dev said, condition in the mountain is always changing…we set off at about 2pm for Dharapani.

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The walk after lunch was very…wet.  Not sure if this was because of the rain earlier, but some parts of the path was literally a flowing stream.  And occasionally, the path is crossed by the flow of water from the mountain face cutting directly across the path and continuing its path downhill.  This same path is also shared with jeeps and other vehicles and looking at the road conditions, I can only conclude that your driving skill has to be top notch to not die in the mountains!

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We also ran into some animals – goats, dogs, cows, horses.  I think after awhile, Dev and Mr.Limbu began to realize that we were easily distracted by animals and that their presence (especially if they are cute) usually means ‘rest stop’.  This group of baby goats were the most distracting as they were bleating continuously and they all looked like they have a smile plastered on their faces!  Mind you, we were not the only ones who succumbed to their cries, other trekkers also did and some even stopped to carry them and have pictures taken with them!  However, this particular white kid seems to be a little crazy as it was emitting high pitched and loud bleats continuously! (Don’t be deceived by its gentle appearance…)

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After the baby goats, at our next rest stop, we encountered three gorgeous dogs, and they seemed to be fully enjoying the magic of the mountains as much as we did.  You know how in cartoons it is frequently portrayed that when you get to the top of the mountain, you will find a yogi sitting cross legged, meditating exuding calmness and inner peace?  Well, seeing this dog gives me the exact same feeling.

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Occasionally, Dev will point to a speck on the mountain and tell us there are blue sheeps there…and after scanning the mountain for a long time, we’d be able to make out the shape of an animal there.  This, I honestly cannot remember whether it’s really a blue sheep or not.  But, I learned that they are neither blue nor do they look like sheeps.

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We finally reached Dharapani at 4.15pm — earlier than we expected, which was a relief as we were beginning to get worried that our pace was too slow.  We had wanted to ask Dev if he thought we were going too slow, but decided that ignorance is bliss… 😉

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Got our rooms in Eco House and then went outside to catch some photos before it was too dark.  The skies were overcast and it was becoming increasingly cloudy and cold as the day grew on.

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We followed a goat whisperer around…while he tended to his herd.

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These mountain goats are quite adorable, I must say. And they always look so pleasant.

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Thereafter, we all went four-leaves-clover hunting in a clover patch inside the teahouse’s compound.  Dev and Mr.Limbu were the champions — I don’t know how they managed to spot so many! By the time it started to rain again, PW and I had found none!

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A gorgeous dusk and end to the day before we went inside to freshen up and had dinner.  It was beginning to get cold, and we started drinking hot honey lemon, which was soon to be our favourite drink!  Had fried macaroni and potatoes for dinner.  We also had a taste of local beer — which was white and opaque in colour and had bits floating in it — I can only conclude that it’s an acquired taste! Learned some new Nepali words today…

Subar-prabhat – Good morning

Perry-bhatongla – See you

Didi – elder sister

Behini – younger sister

Eik, dui, thin, cha, panch, cho, shat, aath, nau, das (1 – 10)

Mitho chaa – It’s delicious

Shauzhalaiya kancha? – Toilet where?

Tapai lai kastho chaa? – How are you?

Malai thik chaa – I am okay

Ani tapai lai? – And you?

Malai pani thik chaa – I am okay too

(This how-are-you conversation became our routine morning conversation subsequently as practice makes perfect!)

Oh and of course not forgetting MALAI SAHAYOG GARNUHOS!!! (HELP ME!).  After going through some parts of the trek which seemed abit hazardous and the morbid me saw many potential falling-off-the-cliff moments, I decided I needed to learn that!  But after learning the phrase in Nepali, we decided in our times of need, we probably wouldn’t be able to remember the 8 syllables in the correct order anyway.  Hhmmm.  Better pray ‘Help’ is universally understood.

😉