I preface the post about my trekking experience: This is extremely abbreviated and does not include all details of my trek, but I hope it will give you a taste of my experience and in turn convince you that your life is not complete without this kind of experience. Please go run around in the Himalaya!
10/10/09 -- Day 1
Farily uneventful; a 9 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Besi Sahar, the town where most Annapurna Circuit trekkers begin. The bus driver was young, crazy and got us around the massive traffic jam on the way, but I'm glad I was asleep for a good portion of it (There will be a video of driving in Nepal on another post to exemplify.) I met a girl named Jessie who is from Philly also traveling alone and without a guide, so Pancha and I adopted her for the first few days of the trek. In turn she taught me a bit of Nepali because she's currently living with a Nepalese family. Highlight: The teen at our hotel showing us his pet "ulu"--owl! He fed it rice and sometimes meat.
Day 2 --Besi Sahar to Bahundanda
This was our first day on the trail, which followed the raging, powerful Marsyangdi River through lush rice paddies and along the road being constructed for a bit. The trail was mellow and flat for most of the day but culminated in a very steep climb up a hill to a village perched there. Let me just say that I have no idea who decided it would be a good idea to start villages in these valleys; the kids are always walking up and down the sides of mountains to go to school, some villages are completely isolated 200m higher on the valley wall than anything else and the only way to get supplies are to put them on people or donkeys or make it yourself. I love it.
We got to the village early afternoon and were shown around by an eccentric woman named Laaxme, who proceeded to show me how to "stretch". We started off normally with hamstrings but later progressed to things like rotating the pelvis and breathing with our stomachs. It culminated in us standing back to back, locking elbows and one bending over to stretch the other person's back as they lay on top. All the villagers and other trekkers were watching and laughing but it was fun and actually felt good! Haha!
The power went off for most of the night so we had a candle-light dinner of dal bhat, delicious rice, lentils and curries, which I ate 24 out of 26 days in Nepal at least once a day. Did I mention I got to eat this WITH MY HANDS? YES! Finally, I am encouraged to do that!
Day 3 -- Bahundanda to Chamche
We start our day around 6am or when the roosters that are in every town and city wake us up. We have breakfast and are usually hiking by around 7:30. We hike til late morning or noon and have a break for dal bhat, then walk a few more hours to our guest house for the night.
The hike was interesting today because we reached an elevation where rice couldn't grow any more. AND we saw...Banana Slugs! WOO! Pancha told us about rock bees that live in the steep canyon rock walls and make a very strong honey. That night I got to try some homemade honey, not from rock bees but it was the real deal; the woman brought it out in re-used plastic water bottles she had filled. YUM.
Interesting tidbit about the next few days on the trail: there is marijuana growing everywhere wild. All the tourists are freaking out and picking it and drying it and smoking it, which is pretty funny! All of a sudden some grinning person will poke their head out of the plants on the side of the trail with fist fulls of plants.
Day 4 -- Chamche to Dharapani
There are huge "changas" -- waterfalls gushing over the edges of the canyon walls to the river. We left Jess today; she was feeling ill and said she would catch up if she could. When we didn't see her in Dharapani I was worried but Pancha later informed me that a man we had met in the tea house was escorting her along the trail which made me feel better knowing she was with someone, although going at a slower pace.
The trail today was pretty crazy because apparently landslides take out sections of it each year and the result is a boot-packed "trail" over a landslide area that tumbles into the enormous rapids in the river below. I made it, so I guess it was safe enough!
I got to hang out in the kitchen which was the best because it was very warm and the nights are getting a lot colder as we climb in elevation. The people were shelling beans and I asked if I could help which they found really funny but acquiesced to, and I got a cup of tea! I started making Pancha a friendship bracelet which fascinated him and a young porter also hanging in the kitchen.
Kitchens here are usually small and incredibly neat. There are brass and glass cups and plates and mugs and thermos' and bowls everywhere, stacked neatly on shelves or behind makeshift curtains. They use woodfire stoves to cook and the ceilings are blackened in testament. People are always warming their hands and drinking chia (tea) and chatting and eating. I like being a solo traveler so I can observe in a corner and not be in the way.
Day 5 --Dharapani to Chame
Today was our first really real view of the snow-capped peaks of Annapurnas I-V. Our lunch break was on a roof top overlooking the mountains and watching the trekkers trickle by below. I sat with an old man with a gold tooth who took a picture of his cheek holding my camera backwards while trying to take my picture.
Pancha and I woke up with a bit of a cold. Should have nipped it while I could have...oh well. I got to hike with some people I had met in Kathmandu and their guide told me Pancha is very respectful and trustworthy, which is always nice to hear. Pancha is 27 and already has a 5 year old son. His wife and son live with his parents near the Everest Region during peak trekking months then they live together the rest of the time. That can be really tough, I can personally attest to that...but for 6 minutes and about $8 I got to talk with Spence and let him know I'm ok!
Today after a particularly steep climb Pancha disappeared for a bit then came back with a wooden walking stick for me! I didn't even ask, how kind! He said it will help with the big pass we have to go over, Thoroung La.
Oh, I also met a guy named Tim that went to Naropa and lives in Boulder now...go figure!
Day 6 -- Chame to ?
We really started to get to higher altitude today, which means lots of plants resembling thos in Colorado! I saw some that looked like Rosa spp., Pinus spp., Juniperus spp., and Erigeron spp. and I even saw gentians today and got super excited. Lots more big mountains as well, every time we turn a corner there's a new breath-taking vista!
Pancha and I hike well together. Sometimes we're quiet, sometimes we talk and sometimes he chats with other guides or porters he knows or meets.
We shared the hotel with a British couple we had been walking with for the past few days and their guide. We were the only ones and had a great night in the small dining hall with a fireplace, our saving grace. There were several glasses of raksi, the homemade rice wine that resembles sake and the medicinal plants along the trail helped ease hikers' pains that evening. Lots of laughing and lots of fun!
Day 7 -- ? to Pisang
By this point Pancha and I are both feeling pretty sick with colds. The town is really cool: dirt and stone paths are the main route through the town of stone and wooden buildings. There are peace flags everywhere. I learned that they are put in windy places so that every time the wind blows it carries the prayer of "Om mani padme hom". That is what is written over and over on all of the flags, stones and prayer wheels in every town. If you couldn't tell, this region is very Buddhist.