First of all I want to thank everyone who has been following my blog and encouraging my travels. It really helps to know that I have friends and family supporting me back home. I wish all of you could be with me during this experience and hope that you all have a Merry Christmas!
The past three weeks have been nothing but adventure for me. Three weeks ago I was at the starting point of one of the most popular and beautiful treks known around the world, The Annapurna Circuit. For those of you who aren't familiar with this trek here is a map of the journey and a link for more information:
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The trek started by boarding a bus with my friend, Melanie, to part from Kathmandu to Bessisahar. It took around 5 hours to arrive in Bessisahar, and after checking in at the police post as a registered trekker we started the first leg of our trek. The trek is said to last anywhere from 11 to 22 days depending on the individual because of all the side treks that can be taken. For me, the trek took 16 days. That included a couple break/acclamitization days in Manang, a larger village before the notorious climb to the Thorong La Pass, the world's largest pass which reaches an altitude of 5416 meters (around 18,000 feet). The trek was considered to be medium to hard which is very true. You start at around 800 meter elevation, which is tropical/jungle like climate. As the days progress you make a gradual increase in altitude. Over the 16 days on the trek I hiked through lush green jungle, evergreen forests, barren sandy desserts, and around snow capped peaks and passes. The trek for the most part was relatively easy with the occasional steep climbs and then, of course, the mega climb up to Thorong La Pass which was the most difficult day of the trek. It was the day every trekker on the circuit was looking forward to. However, some of those trekkers may have been a little too anxious and pushed themselves too fast, which caused them to turn around and descend due to acute mountain sickness or food/water poisoning. One gentleman actually ended up with pulmonary adema at the base camp of the pass. Fortunately, I didn't have any problems and the friends I made along the trek didn't have any major problems either.
After we climbed Thorong La Pass we were relieved to make to Muktinath, the next village, for the night.
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The day was long and hard and everyone was a little sick from the altitude (headache, nausia, dizziness, etc.) That, however, didn't stop us from celebrating that night. We ended up in a hotel called Bob Marley Hotel. It was a great place to have the post Thorong La Pass party, and we needed it. for some people the trek could be considered over once you climb over the pass. It is after the pass that you start descending in altitude and the options of taking a jeep or bus are aplenty. However, it is expensive and sometimes dangerous to take those modes of transportation because of the poor roads. The next way out is to continue trekking down to Jomsom, the following town after Muktinath, and book a plane ticket. Some of my friends decided to do just that and pay $80 for the 25 minute flight. I, however, was not ready to quit and wanted to finish the circuit. I was able to coerce a few other friends to join me as well. So, we took off for Beni, which is the last town on the circuit. The trail after the pass had begun to acquire a reputation as not being trekker friendly as it was primarily a dirt road. Trekkers were deciding to forgo this part of the trek because it was supposedly boring, and the dust from trucks, jeeps, and buses were too much to deal with. Well, the last part of the trek to Beni was probably some of the best times of the entire trip. It was me, Peter from Sweden, Moira from the USA, and Amanda from Canada. We had a hell of a time trekking to Beni. It's too bad that the rest of our friends decided to end their trek early. The views were some of the best of the trail and it was nice easy downhill walk to the bottom. There weren't too many buses and jeeps to cause dust problems, and there were hardly any other trekkers along the way. It felt like we were the only ones on the trail and that felling made it special. Plus the company I had along the way made it even better. Here is a quick shout out to the three of them:
- Peter, Moira, and Amanda: I don't know if I could have finished that trek without you. I mean I could have, but it definitely wouldn't have been as much fun....lol. I'm going to miss playing euchre at night and watching Peter's face turn to disgust because he hated the game so much. It's too bad you both had to leave because Christmas would have been crazy with all of us here.
Peter and I took one day to do a side trip to Dahlaguiri Ice Fall which was a 1200 meter ascent in one day.
From there we attempted to trek 10 hours to another village called Tatopani which has several hot springs. We failed miserably in that attempt. We decided to take a trekking trail instead of sticking to the nice, flat, dirt road. We had to cross a large suspension bridge to get to the trail, and as I walked off the suspension bridge when fell straight to the dirt and sprained my ankle. I yelled and luckily Amanda heard me and came to my rescue. We decided to end the day at nearby village because we were all pretty tired and some of us were injured. The next day we finally made it to the hot springs of Tatopani and they couldn't have come at a better time. After a day of relaxation we made our way for Beni.
Once we arrived in Beni we were rudely awakened by the noises of the "real world." We had been secluded for soo long from the honking of car horns and shouting of street hawkers. The life that we were living for those 16 days was of simplicity; no cars, no pollution, and at times no electicity was even available. The trek was starting to become an addiction that we didn't want to quit. However, we could all feel our bodies give in and tell us it was definitely time to do so. We could only adapt to our surroundings and reminise about what we had just accomplished. We finished the Annapurna Circuit. As the four of us had preached to one another during the last stretch, "We ain't no pussies."
From Beni we then took a bus to Pokhara, the third largest city in Nepal. The bus ride turned out to be one of the most hellacious trips of my life. The road from Beni to Pokhara was terrible. I already knew that riding buses in Nepal could be a dangerous thing at times, but I hadn't experienced the real danger first hand. The dirt road zigged and zagged alongside the mountain cliffs. You can only do one thing during this time and that is trust your driver that he will do his job: get you to your destination alive. Well, I think our driver had one too many cocktails for breakfast. On top of that we witnessed the aftermath of a fatal bus accident. It was terrible thing to see, but the worse part was that we couldn't do anything about it. Our bus just kept going along the narrow road. The next day we read in the newspaper that seven people lost their lives in that very accident. We eventually made it to Pokhara, alive. But, before we finished the journey our bus driver had to engage in a race between another bus driver, again putting our lives at risk.
We spent several days in Pokhara just relaxing next to the lake and enjoying the fact that we didn't have to trek up steep mountains in the near future. We also enjoyed some real beef steak at the Everest Steak House.
After we spent a couple amazing days in Pokhara we booked a tourist bus to Kathmandu instead of the public bus. The agency told us that their company hasn't had an accident in 30 years and their drivers don't drink on the job. We were sold and the ride was amazing. I actually fell asleep.
I'm back in Kathmandu and have been able to see all of my friends from the trek. Several friends have left already to continue their travel plans. That included Moira and Amanda who both left yesterday to go back to their hometowns. It looks like I will be staying in Kathmandu for the holidays with Peter and another Swedish friend of mine from the trek, Jessica. After New Years I think I will be moving into an orphanage for a couple of weeks with Jessica to volunteer my time for the kids. I'm really excited about this and will keep you posted on ways that you might be able to help. Hopefully after that I will be heading to India!
My plans have changed so much since I left the states that I'm just going to continue living in the moment. It seems to be the best thing to do while travelling the way I am. My initial plan when I left the states was to go to Southeast Asia. Instead, I've gone from China to Nepal and soon to India. I guess we will see if I make it to my original destination because I've had some strong thoughts to go to the beautiful land of Pakistan!
Here are some photos of the trek. There are a bunch more photos of the trek in my photo gallery on the right side of the screen.