Landslides, a common occurrence in the Himalayas
Last day of hike. We started off rather early, and it was a pleasant and relatively easy route, passing dense jungles, flatlands and small rivers. My main motivation today was just to go to my hotel and shower the shit out of myself. I miss shampoo. I miss soap. I miss smelling and looking like an actual woman. Being out there for days on end with no shower has successfully turned me into some kind of ape form.
Throughout the hike today I was very relaxed and spent the time just reflecting on the whole experience. I loved every minute of it. I love the exhilaration, the adrenaline and the views. I’m pretty sure I would be doing the Everest Base Camp hike at some point in the future, hopefully better prepared with what I’ve learned. And I’ve learned so much during this trip. About what I’m actually capable of, new skills of the outdoorsy living, other people, and other lifestyles.
Getting to the top at the Base Camp was an accomplishment, sure, but what I will remember most is days and days of the journey itself. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes it was easy, other times it was hard, and others times it was a little overwhelming. And how you experience it all depends on how you perceive these things – if you choose to complain and whine, that’s what they will all just boil down to. A miserable experience. But if you choose to take all of them with stride, you’ll end up feeling pretty happy with the whole package deal. You see many types of people during this expedition with many types of personalities. The complainers, the ones who are determined, the ones who are reflective, and the ones who always look at the glass half empty.
Me? I’m just very happy to be everywhere I have been.
Also I’ve just taken a long, well deserved shower. Civilisation is the bomb, son!
I underestimated: The power of positive thinking
I overestimated: my ‘vegan’ abilities. I ate a pile of meat when we came back.
Tips: Learn to always find happiness even in tough situations.
Freshly picked mushrooms and potatoes, but really I just wanted to eat an animal
Beautiful Aisyah with beautiful prayer flags!
What a trip it was. Unforgettable.
Morning sunshine at the Himalayas!
Locals rebuilding the bridge destroyed by the avalance last night
Weather: Damp. Wet.
Because of the setback we had with the avalanche, today we had to make up for the delayed trek. What this basically translated to was the longest hike I’ve done yet, leaving the guest house in Deurali at 7.30 am and reaching the next guest house at 7.20 pm. I had the chance to witness the villagers build a new bridge to replace the destroyed one, and the Nepalis really are a bunch of resilient folks. A new bridge was constructed in almost two hours, and we were able to continue our journey back.
I walked mostly with two other male friends, and they were positive and upbeat so this kept me motivated. Despite the fact that my nose was blocked from flu, I smelled like garbage because I hadn’t showered in days, and my shoes were damp. Sunset hit us around 6 pm, and towards the end the trek was pretty tough. We climbed up with headlights, and it was very misty so the visibility was only around 7 meters ahead.
In the dark, it was quite a strange, spiritual, surreal moment, walking in the Himalayan range in the stark, misty darkness with no one around and only the headlights to show the way. Sometimes I find it a challenge to be in the moment, my mind always quick to wander to other places and other things. Not tonight though.
To be completely honest, I decided to join this Annapurna Base Camp on a whim a few months prior. I guess I was driven with the whole idea of wanting to live this year absolutely spontaneously. I trained hard before coming here, and I’m glad I did. My energy levels were right, and I experienced minimal muscle or joint pains throughout the whole expedition. This allowed me to just really enjoy my hike and the views, without spending too much time wallowing in exhaustion.
I am so happy to be here.
I underestimated: The importance of dry socks. The make or ruin your hiking experience
I overestimated: Nothing. It was an exhausting day, but I got what I expected
Tips: Train. Seriously. Especially if you’re not naturally athletic. The effects show in your energy level, hiking pace, and joint/muscle endurance (which translates to the enjoyment of the whole experience). I trained almost everyday, focusing on running, yoga and kickboxing to build stamina and condition muscles.
Raging rivers in the rainy season
My biggest nightmare - a very long hanging bridge
I love walking in this weather.
The ever-exhuberant gang
Annapurna South in view
Macchupuchre peak at 6.30 am
Weather: Sunny at first, and then it pours like nobody’s business.
In the morning the sky was clear, and from the base camp I was able to see Annapurna 1, Annapurna 2, Annapurna South, Macchupuchre and Himchuli, all the peaks for the main mountains on this side of the Himalayan range. Annapurna is literally translated into ‘the shape of harvest’, which describes the shape of the mountain. Macchupuchre is literally translated to ‘fishtail’, which is what the peak looks like.
But the day quickly turned sour as we made our way back where we came from. It started pouring rain again. Although this is one of the hottest month of the year here, it is also one of the wettest. As we hiked and approached Durali, the large waterfall ahead of us began having an avalanche. I had never seen an avalanche before in real life, and to be honest it was quite terrifying. The otherwise peaceful waterfall turned into a gush of large rocks and sediments, and with it the avalanche destroyed the bridge we were supposed to cross to get back.
I felt a little panicky, and tried to remain calm as my anxiety began. Ok I don’t want to be one of those people in the news who died from a freak of nature.
As a result, we had to put up a night in Deurali until the weather calms down and the villagers were able to rebuild the bridge. My waterproof shoes were soaking wet because the water level of the river we passed has raised, and it came right above my ankles, causing me to have to walk the rest of the way in squishy, soaking wet shoes in the cold and rain. It was awful.
At night, there is never a lot to do at the guest houses. It’s cold so most people hang about in the common area, nursing hot drinks while chatting or playing card games. As for me, I quite enjoy the silent time to write.
I underestimated: The severity of the avalanche
I overestimated: My ability to walk across rivers without getting soaking wet.
Tips: Have things to do at night time. A book, a journal, music, playing cards etc
Rainy weather, sunny spirits
Journalling every night before bed
Around the base camp grounds
At the arrival 'gate' of Annapurna Base Camp - the dog is not as excited as I was
Everyone so relieved to finally make it!
Weather: Freezing cold and wet
Alright. Imagine walking outside in a vast open space with barely any trees, just grassy lands. It’s a steady, cold shower, of about 2 degrees and the grounds are slick, muddy and wet. The wind is strong, and because it’s an open space, there is nowhere to get some shield from, so there you are walking in the middle of nowhere for hours next to a large river of icy waters, with your left eyeball not completely covered so you have to wear foggy reading glasses instead. And now you have to pee.
But on the upside, the view of the grasslands and valleys are magnificent. Honestly, why do I work in an office all day?
Eventually, there it was. We reached the Annapurna Base Camp, the holy pilgrimage destination all of those who hiked there were really coming for. The minute I saw the signboard looming in the distance, “Welcome to Annapurna”, my spirits quickly picked up and I literally ran for it.
I can’t describe the feeling. Exhilaration, gladness and a punch of adrenaline. Two dogs greeted us by the signboard, and I was just as glad to see them as they were glad to see me. It was definitely a moment I won’t forget, just being there, in the middle of nowhere, deep in the Himalayan wilderness, a place so foreign and lonely and distant from everything I have ever known. There are times in your life when the present moment surpasses your ‘real’ life – momentarily you forget about your problems, your obligations, and your past. This was one of them.
I will always love adventures. I hope it will always love me back in return.
I underestimated: The cold. It was numbingly cold.
I overestimated: My susceptibility to cold-weather illness. I feel flu coming.
Tips: Bring wet wipes. You won’t shower for a few days.
Locals going up and down the Base Camp route with their chores
So many flowers and wild berries growing around
A small temple in the middle of nowhere
One of the tea houses along the way
The flags you see everywhere - White (peace), Green (trees), Yellow (earth), Red (fire), Blue (sky)
What a day. It started off pretty rainy, which meant I had to put on my rain proof gear. But the rain around the Himalayas today is kind of like the boy you dated who was the emotional douche bag – one minute it’s rainy and freezing cold, and the next it’s suddenly warm again. Today my thighs hurt a little, but I was still doing pretty well pace-wise.
We hiked from Bamboo all the way to Deurali, past the 2700m elevation mark. Anything above this altitude presents a higher risk of altitude sickness, so I tried to be careful by not climbing up too fast. But somewhere along the way my left eye’s contact lens stuffed up, so I tried fixing it after washing my hand at a nearby guesthouse. Turned out the water wasn’t clean and my left eye got immediately infected, so I hiked for the rest of the day with just one functioning eyeball. I consider this as a new life achievement.
The view so far has been nothing short of spectacular. You hike past the Himalayan range, and this means passing through hundreds of waterfalls, all so tall that you can’t even see the top, so they look like water pouring out from the skies or from the clouds. It was all so magnificent. It was like a set of a Jurassic Park movie or something. The valleys are deep and lush, the gorges cut by freezing cold water from the snowy mountains. The scenery was all so beautiful that it often made me forget that I was tired or that I was cold and wet and miserable.
Along the way I also managed to talk to a few different people. One of them was a guy who told me a story of how he once got dumped in Santorini (and you can read about my contradictory pleasant experience of Santorini here). I thought that was a pretty sad story. This hike is also fast becoming an emotional experience too. Turns out a lot of people tell a lot of stories when there is no internet at night.
I underestimated: How crappy being wet and cold feels like
I overestimated: How much carbs I can eat. I have been eating tons of carbs. Puke.
Tips: Make sure you are wearing water proof hiking boots. There is nothing more miserable than climbing around with wet shoes and socks.
At main tea houses there are maps so you can track your whereabouts
Waterfalls number 176 I think haha
The beautiful Himalayan valleys
Yoga mornings at Chomrong
Locals drying corn around the villages
Our superhero porters!
I woke up this morning in Chomrong to clear blue skies. The whole place was surrounded by snowy mountains. It was just a beautiful sight to behold. Reminds you what a gorgeous place the earth is. No wonder the aliens want to occupy us.
The hike today was from Chomrong to Bamboo, passing by the main village of Chomrong, perched around the mountains, connected by thousands of staircases. The village was just breathtaking. Imagine small houses made with slate roofs, vegetable patches, dogs running around, free range chicken, cows and people just going about doing their daily business like farming, schools, or just sitting around saying hi to each passer-by.
Speaking of people and animals, the people in the mountains are strictly vegetarians. They are devout Hindus and Buddhists, and you’ll find that none of the items on the tea house menus serve any type of meat. The foods are simple, and I had my first taste of the famous dhal bhat, which is a rice dish served with a few types of broiled, blanched and stewed vegetable and beans, finished with of course, a bowl of dhal or lentil curry. It’s pretty good after you’ve done all the treacherous hike.
I didn’t carry my own luggage, with the exception of my back pack with the necessities I needed for the day. Our clothes and other stuff were carried by porters. Their names were Suresh, Bhaval and I can’t remember who the other name is, although I’ve asked him about 3 times. They told us that they aspire to eventually become Sherpas for the great Everest expeditions, and I hope they make it! They are such hard working boys, carrying luggages up and down the mountains for a living. One of them even looked like he just stepped out of an Amitabh Bahchan movie where he’s the hero.
Must remember to tip them extra when I'm finished.
There’s also a weird tingly sensation on my face today. What is this? Hopefully it’s nothing serious.
I underestimated: Sunburns. I look like the chicken I left in the oven for an extra hour.
I overestimated: My kneecaps. Apparently they are traumatised by the amount of uphill climb I’m doing today (where is the damn minyak angin cap kelapa when you need it??)
Tips: Wear sunscreen! Not only is sunburn hideous, they hurt. And you’re bound to get bad ones at this altitude.
Retired here for the day. I WANT MY OWN ORGANIC VEG PATCH
A local with her home-grown produce
Gurung bread - a typical Nepali breakfast. Tastes like kuih cakoi.
Friendly village dogs greeting passer by.
I made the long bus ride yesterday from Kathmandu to Pokhara (which is not to be confused with pakhora, the vegetable fritters) that lasted about 6 hours long. The road was a reflection of the country’s state of economy – they were not constructed well, with no real highways, and the pot holes were deep enough to bury a motorcycle, I reckon.
This morning I started off early. The jeep drove from Pokhara to Siwai, which is the point where the hike was expected to start. The first hour was relatively easy and pleasant, but unfortunately I was hit with a terrible headache. I first thought it was the early signs of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness), but eventually deduced that it was due to the bumpy ride of the jeep (imagine roads with twists and turns across the forest, with Nepali songs on full-blast the whole way). I took two aspirins and a short nap during lunch break at one of the tea houses along the way, and felt much better afterwards.
The rest of the hike today was just stunning. My guide, Ishur, took us past small villages and tea houses, all surrounded by mountain ranges, tall waterfalls and gushing rivers. This part of the hike was relatively low altitude – we walked past dense, thick Nepali forests swarmed with leeches. If you stop for more than 30 seconds be prepared to have at least 2 or 3 leeches climbing all over you. God bless my skin tight jeggings, I had no bloody attacks the whole day.
We reached our stop for the day, Chomrong, well into sunset. I had been hiking for more than 7 hours, and to be honest my legs were a bit shocked by the abuse. We were greeted at the top of the hills by 2 friendly pups who lead us all the way to the guest house. The guest house itself was pretty basic – a room with beds, blankets, no heaters, and no fancy towels. You brush your teeth outside in the cold before bed. There was also just one mirror to be shared by everyone at the guest house, and the girl inside me cringes.
Also, I had my first taste of Dhal Bhat! I local delicacy, it's basically white rice served with simple vegetarian dishes, and a bowl of dhal. It's quite nice actually.
I underestimated: The darn leeches. The climb up everywhere, even up to people’s necks!
I overestimated: The temperatures. It wasn’t as freezing as I thought it would be.
Tips: Bring some ointment for cuts, insect bites and leech bites. Itchiness is a liability when you’re hiking.
Every couple of hours you'll find small guest houses or villages
Small temples in the hills
One of the local porters