Monday, March 17, 2008

Nepal

Hi everyone! We are back from the playground of the gods and our trek up to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) in the Himalayas of Nepal. The trek was stunning and the mountains enormous. It will probably take a series of blog entries to get up to date with our adventures so here is the start.

After my quick trip back to SoCal to visit graduate schools and play a little beach volleyball with Will, Seaners, and EP, I flew back to Bangkok to meet Chris and off we flew to Nepal. Another whirlwind of buses, planes, and taxis, but we made it to Kathmandu without too much trouble. We have been here for only two weeks and wish it could have been more. Because of our time constraints we arranged for a guided trek to ABC before our arrival. We were a little nervous about whether the company we had arranged our trek with after we received the following in an email:

''Good news. Money has arrived. I just picked up this afternoon. Now we are very much looking forward to serve you soon in Nepal.''

As it turned out they were there to pick us up from the airport and have been extremely organized and helpful with everything. (The company is called Nepali Experienced Adventure Treks – NEAT.) We drove directly from the airport to their tiny, hole-in-the-wall office to meet the director and our guide for the next few weeks, Pemba. The next day we had a 7:00 am bus ride to Pokhara - the jumping off point for most of the trekking in the Annapurna area. Luckily both Chris and I were so exhausted we slept for most of the seven hour ride. The "highway" that runs from Kathmandu to Pokhara winds along the steep cliffs alongside a huge river gorge. Swerving around blind corners on the edge of a cliff isn't exactly the safest endeavor but we made it in one piece and arrived at our hotel just in time for dinner.

Pokhara definitely has the hippy, outdoorsy vibe going on. The main tourist area is lined with stores selling woolen hats, scarves, and North Face knockoffs. We didn't get to spend too much time walking around because of the scheduled power outage and our early departure the next morning. From Pokhara we took a two hour taxi ride to the beginning of the trek. The ride brought us up and over some of the foothills, which of course seemed like mountains to us. The countryside is so steep it’s incredible. Then on top of it all there are villages dotting the hills and more terraces then I have ever seen in my life. The whole mountainside is terraced to grow rice, wheat, and vegetables. It's crazy!

We started walking in the village of Nayapul. The majority of the buildings in this village are little shops selling Coke and various trinkets to foreign trekkers. They also sell buckets, baskets and containers used for hauling materials up the trail to reach the higher villages. From Nayapul we entered the Annapurna Conservations Area Project – the first and largest conservation area in Nepal which was designed to promote sustainable community development and environmental protection. The trail brought us along a river valley, slowly climbing into the foothills of the giants above. Because of the overcast weather we couldn’t see any of the towering peaks – at first we didn’t even know they were there. In hindsight this might have been a good thing because we would have had second thoughts about just how we were going to arrive at our destination thousands of feet above.

Lower in the valley the weather was fairly hot. As we climbed higher we reached out first destination of Tirkhedunga. Following the advice of our guide, we decided to continue for another two hours to the town of Ulleri. Pemba pointed to some of the buildings way above us on the hill. Here was our first introduction to the preferred method of trail building – stone steps. We climbed and descended thousands (literally we counted for a few hours) of stone steps on this hike. How the people have managed to build these staircases I’ll never know, but they are everywhere. There is none of the winding gradual switchbacks you have in the U.S. – it’s stairs straight up or straight down.

Halfway up the hill we reached the first houses. Overlooking the entire river valley and terraces, these small stone buildings all have incredible views. Here we found out what we thought was our stopping point was only about halfway. I was not too happy about more stone stair climbing, but it was time to sack up and keep trucking. We finally arrived at the top of the hill some 500m later, tired but very happy to be there. The decision turned out to be a life saver, not only because of the big climb the following day, but because the next morning we got our first view of Annapurna South out our bedroom window. Wow, who knew such a huge mountain was right beyond the hills? Of course the question going through our minds was – how are we going to get way up there?

Love,

Emma

2 comments:

chelsea said...

the pictures are so awesome! the hike looked great...chris' beard is another story! ha. aren't all the terraced hills crazy too? when mom and i did our hike in india it looks a lot like some of those pictures. good to talk to you the other night- don't get the delhi belly!

plantnerd said...

best pictures yet. Watch that beard chris,Birds are going to want to make a nest in their. To bad your not at home chris, we could hide an easter egg in that thing. The bamboo basket backpack is awesome, glad you tried it out. They must have really strong necks. Way to go emma, keep that boy in check.-tug