KAT // FIN

Dream. Do.

Flat is boring! – Way to the A.B.C. Part 2

Day 6 – Dobhan – Himalaya – Deurali – Macchapucchre Base Camp (7h trek – altitude 3700m)

Day six was heavy. We ascended over 1000m to Macchapucchre (Fishtail) Mountain’s Base Camp. Landscape changed dramatically from sunny mountain views and forests to cloudy and rough canyon views. We walked alongside river Modi Khola again in a valley which was surrounded by mountains and very rough and low plantation. No green could be seen anymore in these heights. There was also a couple of avalanche prone areas which we passed.

Macchapucchre Base Camp was totally in the middle of nowhere with only a couple of lodges. We were laughing to each others that ‘imagine if another one of us would like to stay here and would just inform all her friends and relatives in Finland that one’s address from now on would be Macchapucchre Base Camp…and that it takes only 6 days to reach this point from Pokhara – welcome to enjoy afternoon’s coffee…christmas cards you may have to send 3 months earlier!’ But the truth is, Base Camp lodges are open 24/7, 365 days a year. There is really people living in these surroundings…high appreciation for them.

Cloudy weather, all the roughness of vegetation, steep river bed edges and the valley surrounded by snow-covered mountains made the landscape majestic. You really have to respect the nature when seeing places like this! It was super cold in our lodge. Couldn´t even think about taking a shower after the days trek. Concrete floors and no heating systems made our sleeping bags and down jackets useful again. We spent the evening by playing card and went to bed early due to a super early morning which would face us on the next day. Our aim was to see sunrise in the A.B.C…

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    Having a break between Dobhan and M.B.C.

DSC_0690 Landscape changed before M.B.C.

DSC_0703 Macchapucchre Base Camp

DSC_0718 M.B.C. views

DSC_0705 M.B.C. views

DSC_0701 Our freezing lodge in the M.B.C.

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    Next morning´s destination!

Day 7 – M.B.C. – Annapurna Base Camp – M.B.C. – Bamboo (9h trek – altitude 4130m)

We started our last climb to the Annapurna Base Camp at 4.30 in the morning. In two hours we reached the Base Camp when sun started to lay it´s first rays to the tops of the mountains. As Kaji said, sun rays seemed like mountain tops were on fire. It was amazing feeling to finally reach the Base Camp after 7 days ascending. We spent an hour in the Base Camp, Kaji telling us stories of the mountains and their future which – due to global warming – seems pretty sad. Luckily Nepal does big efforts for conserving their precious mountains. For example our permit money were used to conserving Annapurna Area. More can be read from Annapurna Conservation Area Project.

Annapurna Base Camp is situated in the altitude of 4130m and it´s surrounded by many over 7000-8000m mountains like Annapurna South, Himchuli, Annapurna I, Gangapurna and Macchapucchre. We saw many memorials of dead climbers who had died there during their attemps to summit surrounding mountains. Annapurna Base Camp is the last point for the climbers to fill their food and drinks before starting climbing to the summits – after that point they will sleep in the tents.

After sunrise, photos and stories we headed back to the M.B.C. for breakfast, picked up Mani/our backpack and started the way back down again. On the road we saw many groups/trekkers we had met earlier in the lodges or on the trail. We met again this group of three guys who were carrying their stuff themselves and had no guide. They told that they couldn´t find a pony to rent so this sore-knee-guy had walked all the way up with more or less pain. One of them had also had pretty bad AMS (Accute Mountain Sickness) symptoms during their stay in the M.B.C…

Descending is a lot faster than ascending and during the same day we returned the same route back to Bamboo where we stayed over night. Guides and porters always slept in different space/building than tourists and ate together themselves after tourists had had their dinner. It was unusual that they spent their ‘free-time’ with tourists. This evening we were super tired but after dinner we had our normal portion of Khukri with Kaji. There was a sentence in the dining room wall in nepalese (Kripaya haat mukh bahira pakhalnu hola. Dhanyabad!) and when we asked Kaji what it meant (Please wash your hands and mouth outside. Thank you!), he started to learn us nepalese. Many porters gathered around us and were pretty amused of our tryings to spell nepalese words. We learnt how to order hot water to fill our water bottles from the lodge´s kitchen (Kripaya malai panee dinuhos – Please, give me water). My great personal moment was when one of the porters who had been following our nepalese practises most interested touched me and said to me ‘didi-bahini’. When I asked what it meant he replied ‘sister’.

DSC_0733 First sun rays over the Annapurna South.

DSC_0735_edit Annapurna Base Camp 27th October 2014 at 6.30 am.

DSC_0740 Memorial of a dead russian climber.

DSC_0764 Annapurna South

DSC_0765 Annapurna Base Camp and Mountain Macchapucchre seen behind it.

DSC_0772 From the way back.

DSC_0774 From the way back.

DSC_0790 Our lodge in Jhinu Dada.

DSC_0792 Our lodge in Jhinu Dada.

Day 8 – Bamboo – Chhomrong – Jhinu Dada (5h trek)

Day 9 – Jhinu Dada – Syauli Bazar (4h trek)

Day 10 – Syauli Bazar – Birethanti – Pokhara (2h trek)

After reaching the base camp, last three days of descending felt only like a vacation. After night in Bamboo, we walked back to Chhomrong and kept going until Jhinu Dada which is known for its’ hot springs. I carried our backpack maybe 10 minutes in Chhomrong’s uphill because I wanted to try how it felt going uphill with 15kg. Mani got a short vacation :D Have to say that there was no chance that we could have carried our gear ourselves. Many people were on the trek alone with no guide or porter. I’m sure many people must think that carrying one´s own gear is ethically more right than hiring a porter. I don´t think the same. Trekking tourism forms a big part of people’s income here in Nepal and being a porter is a good option for many young guys to earn money. People are used to carry things here where roads are still yet developing.

Of course there is darker side in porter business which we saw as well. Many porters were carrying way too big loads. One was carrying 3 backpacks of which two were 85 litre backpacks and one was 100% Samsonite with wheels! We even saw a porter carrying Longchamp bags…Seemed like there was also that type of trekkers in the trail who don´t think at all what kind of bag is suitable for the trek. We also saw a very unhappy porter during the day 6 to Dobhan. He was having a break, sitting on a grassbench next to the trail. He didn´t look ok and when our guide asked how he was doing, he replied that he had over 45kg load to carry! Kaji said that according to porter ‘laws’ it´s prohibited for one porter to carry more than 20kg if you are carrying goods alone from village to village and 30kg if you work as a porter in an organized tourist trip. To this porter, trekking guide had been loading way too many kilos…

The thing is that tourists have the possibility to choose between trekking companies. Some of the companies aren´t licensed and obviosly not treating their porters right. It is our responsibility as tourists to support only that kind of companies who work in a legal and humane-basis. That´s the only way to support Nepal to develope sustainable tourism. Tourists’ reviews of trekking companies in Nepal can be read in www.trekinfo.com. I highly recommend people to think a bit what kind of companies and actions they want to support.

During our 10-day-trek to the A.B.C. we felt very secure with Kaji and Mani. They not only showed us the way to the A.B.C. and carried our gear there and back, but taught us many things about Nepalese traditions, daily life, history and culture. Days were planned well and due to reasonable ascending pace, we didn´t suffer from AMS (Accute Mountain Sickness). In our case, everything went well but in case that something unattended had happened during the trek, I had total trust that these guys had known exactly what to do. I truly feel that our 4-person-team made the trek: Kaji guiding us, offering rhum and sometimes buffalo milk and teaching us many things…Mani coming to our room every morning smiling and saying ‘Let’s go’ when we weren´t yet even half ready :D To me, it really wasn´t getting to the base camp but getting to the base camp together with these people and sharing life for 10 days with them. It was worth all the mental and physical efforts. I remember the last day when we got our trekking permits back in Birethanti: how great it felt having the ‘enter’ and ‘exit’ stamps on them! Mani was looking at them and noticed that me and Auli had been the first and second persons who exit the Annapurna Conservation Area that day from that checking point. We were back just where we had started and saw the familiar jeep which came to pick us. Mani smiled and said how happy he was that we were back there. All of us must felt the same. As an experience, trekking to the A.B.C. gave me more that I could have ever asked, wished or imagined.

DSC_0799 From the way back.

DSC_0803 These guys…

- Katariina

Flat is boring! – Way to the A.B.C. Part 1

I´ve always been interested providing myself challenges. I don´t know if it´s that secure life we are living in western countries that make me miss the element of adventure and even a risk. That´s when I can feel the most ‘free’. When we decided to go to Nepal it was obvious that we would do trekking there. We both are interested in nature and sleeping in not-so-comfy-conditions isn´t any problem for us.

We wanted our trek to be organized by a local agency, so I googled Nepalese trekking agencies and found many recommendations of a Pokhara-based-company named Beauty Nepal Adventure. I contacted them many months before our trek. It wasn´t obvious straight away that we would go to the Annapurna Base Camp. Even we both wanted to go to just that trek, we were thinking many times if it would be too much challenge for us. I sent many emails with Beauty Nepal Adv. concerning the A.B.C. trek. They always answered quickly and kindly and many questions were answered a long time before we finally came to Pokhara. Company leader Bijay and our guide, Kajiman Rai, came to meet us straight away when we arrived in Pokhara and we went through all our gear with them. Some stuff like down jacket and hiking poles we rent in Pokhara with Kaji. I´m lucky that we had the courage to choose the A.B.C.! That´s how it went.

Day 1 – Pokhara – Birethanti – Hille (3,5h trek – altitude 1460m)

We met our team in our guest house in Pokhara 8.30 in the morning. Our guide, Kaji, we had met a couple of times earlier and today we met also our porter, a 21-year-old Mani. First we drove to Birethanti to start our trek. Beauty Nepal Adventure had arranged our permits for the trek. You need to pay for entry permit to Annapurna Conservation Area and also TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System). In Birethanti we got our permits stamped and got ‘logged in’ to the Annapurna area. Our first day trail was pretty easy; we walked a couple of hours along the river Modi Khola through rice fields to our first lodge in peaceful country village, Hille. Accommodation and three meals per day, were included to the trek price. First evening Kaji taught us to eat Nepal national dish, Dhal Bhat, like Nepalese…using only your hands. We were pretty excited of our trek and didn´t sleep much during the first night.

DSC_0423 Our team with Bijay Rai in the left, Auli, me, our guide Kaji and porter Mani.

DSC_0428 Permit Check Point in Birethanti.

DSC_0430 From the beginning of the trail.

DSC_0457 View from Hille.

DSC_0458 View from Hille.

DSC_0482 Eating Dhal bhat nepalese style.

Day 2 – Hille – Ulleri – Ghorepani (7h trek – altitude 2860m)

Second morning started early. As we got to notice, rest of the mornings started also much earlier than we had used to. Breakfast was at 6.30 so that our trek would start at 7.00. With not so much sleep during first night, this day was pretty tough. From Hille the trail started to be steeper. To reach the next village, Ulleri, we had to climb 3333 stone steps going only up, up, up! There was a line of trekkers climbing up to Ulleri. October-November is the best time to trek in Nepal, so the route was sometimes crowdy. Anyway, the trail wasn´t crowdy only because of trekkers – in these heights where ‘road’ means steep stone paths, people uses mules and ponys as well as porters to transport goods from village to village. What we learned – a porter can carry loads of over 30 kilos! There is nothing to be complained for a trekker carrying only 3kg daypack! There was also independent trekkers with no guide or porter – their faces didn´t look so happy in Ulleri stairs. It started to look like Nepalese used the word ‘flat’ if it was ‘only’ 10 minutes of going up or down…no matter how steep the trail was.

We reached our next village, Ghorepani in the afternoon. It started to be chillier: Ghorepani was over 1000 meters higher than Hille. View from our lodges´ window was amazing – Annapurna South and Macchapucchre or ‘Fishtail’ Mountain was looking straight at us in the horizon! Shower in Ghorepani was so cold that I could hear a chinese lady from the room next door clanking her teeth like 10 minutes after coming out there. Darkness comes to Nepal around 18 so we used to go to bed at 20.00. There was power cuts in the lodge so after 18.00 we had to use headlights inside to see anything. Anyway, starting from this night I slept like a baby.

DSC_0484 Mules on the trail descending from Ulleri.

DSC_0495 During the 3333 steps we saw the first glimpses of the Annapurnas.

DSC_0505 View from our window in Ghorepani.

Day 3 – Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Ghorepani – Tadapani (7-8h trek – altitude 2700m)

Third morning started before the sun got up. With our headlamps on, we climbed for an hour to Poon Hill to see the sunrise. Even the last day had been tough and starting your morning at 4.00 by climbing a nearby hill isn´t the first option that comes to your mind when your muscles are still sore from the previous day, view from Poon Hill was really worth all the efforts! Annapurna Mountain range could be seen clearly when weather is always the clearest early in the morning. Seeing the first sun rays above Himalayas was truly amazing. The experience would have been even better without the masses of other trekkers but no can do if you choose the most popular trekking route in the world during the high-season :D

We hit back to Ghorepani for breakfast and after we continued our trek. Just a bit after Ghorepani we saw an ambulance helicopter coming from Ghorepani – there was a lady in another guesthouse who had had some kind of a stroke during the night. Helicopters can’t fly in mountains during the nighttime so they had to wait for help many hours. I hope she´s okay now! We also heard that some people had had altitude sickness symptoms already in these heights. We were lucky not having one and kept going.

It was a lot of ascending after leaving Ghorepani but luckily the trail descented to rhododendron forests and started to go alongside a river again. Tadapani was a beautiful small village with great views to the mountains. Once again we noticed the view only in the next morning when the weather was it´s brightest. In the afternoon it normally started to be cloudy and also rain a bit. Tadapani was cold! We were happy to have our -20 degrees sleeping bags with us.

DSC_0508 Glimbing up to the Poon Hill in the morning.

DSC_0529 Sunrise and Macchapucchre mountain.

DSC_0538 Annapurna South and Macchapucchre seen at dawn…that´s where we headed, between these two mountains.

DSC_0551 We weren´t alone…

DSC_0566 Trail continued up from Ghorepani.

DSC_0583 Riverbed from the trail.

DSC_0586 Rhododendron forests.

DSC_0616 Tadapani seen at dawn.

DSC_0598 Freezing in the sleeping bag at Tadapani!

Day 4 – Tadapani – Chhomrong (5h trek – altitude 2170m)

We had thought earlier that climbing up to Chhomrong would be somewhat strenuous so we were a little bit scared how the day was going to be. Once again, we left Tadapani early in the morning. In fact we had a great performance during the breakfast. Local kids were performing dances due to a hindu-festival and they were performing just in front of our lodge. There was a truly amazing young guy dancing his ass off…and it was 7am! Other kids were clapping their hands in the circle and this boy was dancing in the middle. There I was, having my morning tea in this landscape watching a local kids’ performance. Pretty cool moment…

Way to Chhomrong was amazing. The trail went through the farms and fields of millet and rice. Kaji taught us about local farming and plants. We saw buffalos, cows, mules, one snake an even an eagle on a hunt. On our way we also met group of three guys. They were on their way to A.B.C. as well, with no porter nor guide. One of them had sore knee so another one was carrying their boths’ stuff. Looked pretty much of a survival story already then. Their plan was to rent a porter or a pony from the way.

Our lodge in Chhromrong was a paradise with a white pony running free in the village.

Menus in the lodges are always the same – rice, noodles, eggs, potatoes…in different forms. A lot of vegetable dishes, very few non-veg dishes. Menus are actually accepted by some committee. Maybe the point of having similar menus in each lodge, is to prevent trekkers having diarrhea or porters carrying too many dish variations’ supplies to the villages. Imagine that even the villages farm themselves a lot of grains and veggies and grow poultry, cows and buffalos, everything that they don´t grow themselves has to be carried to the villages by porters or mules. That means every bottle of coke, beer or mineral water, packages of noodles or jam, toilet papers, building materials, gas…that´s totally amazing to see porters’ carriages!

We had always porridge with fruit for breakfast and some mixed fried rice or noodles for lunch or dinner. We always filled our water bottles with boiled tap water and used water purification tablets as a double-check. We tried to keep in mind not to buy food that had to be carried to the villages. So in this evening in Chhomrong our guide Kaji suggested us to have a pizza for dinner. When we offered last pieces to him, he ate them gladly and soon dig a small bottle of local rhum, Khukri, from his jacket. He also asked Mani to join us and there we were, our finnish-nepali-team proposing a toast together. This actually started a tradition; every evening after this we shared a small amount of rhum together as well as stories about our countries’ history, culture etc. Good times!

DSC_0618 Local childrens’ morning performance in Tadapani.

DSC_0625 Trail went through rice and millet fields.

DSC_0633 Suspension bridge before Chhomrong.

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DSC_0660Chhromrong was a paradise.

DSC_0661 View from Chhromrong.

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    Chhromrong´s white pony.

DSC_0658 Our guesthouse in Chhromrong.

Day 5 – Chhomrong – Sinuwa – Bamboo – Dobhan (7h trek – altitude 2580m)

Way to Dobhan followed again Modi Khola river and was full of ascending and descending. After Chhromrong the route up went only to A.B.C. So all the trekkers we saw in the route after Chhomrong were going or coming from the Base Camp. As we noticed, the route was super busy. After the accident a couple of weeks ago some routes in Annapurnas had been closed so people had changed their plan and decided to go to the Base Camp instead. Our guide warned us we might not get our own room from all the guesthouses after Chhromrong because of too many people in A.B.C. route. That wasn´t a problem for us. We were clad that we had had a room. Many people were coming to our guesthouse pretty desperate asking for a room or even a dining room to stay over night. It was almost dark and rainy already then…

We got to sleep in the common dining room in Dobhan. I remember our staying in Dobhan being special also because of we taught some card games to our porter Mani. Before this we hadn´t spent any ‘extra’-time together after arriving to guesthouses but this afternoon and evening we spent many hours together playing cards with Kaji and Mani. I´m pretty sure all of us felt being a great team now!

DSC_0666 From the dining room in Dobhan.

…to be continued.

-Katariina