Pokhara Travel Blog› entry 39 of 49 › view all entries
July 8th, 2006 – by: umbralwalker
The guide book says the trek to Annapurna Base Camp can be done in 10 days, best enjoyed in 14, but I did it in 8. It was at once one of the most rewarding and painful things I have ever done. Apparently, when you go trekking in the Himalayas, there are not just some mountains to climb, but some deep, very deep valleys to cross as well. I thought we were gonna make a gradual ascension towards base camp, gaining height little by little each day. But NO! Thats not how it works!
The second day my ears popped several times from the pressure change. We ascended probably a total of 1800 meters, but only had a net gain of about 50 meters.Imagine my frustration. I would spend hours struggling up a seemingly endless steep stone staircase and finally make it to the top of the mountain, only to find that our destination in the distance required us to once again descend, cross a river, and climb up yet another steep stone staircase. These stone trails are the only way the locals can make it from one village to another- you should see their calves!
I picked the week of my menstrual period to undertake my most challenging test of physical endurance. Real smart. My periods can be so debilitating, that back home, I will often spend one day out of the month curled up on the couch immobilized by the pain of the cramps. Somehow I trudged on through the pain.The few days I was dealing with the condition, I took special care to stay away from the cliff edges. The loss of blood coupled with the exertion I was putting my body through made for some intense dizzy spells. A korean tourist fell to his death on this same trail only one month ago. I was very aware of those cliff edges!
There had been rumors of trekkers falling victim to violent robberies in the region. The second night I stayed at a guesthouse where the owner had set up a fence around the perimeter of the dormitory building and was adamant that the guests lock the perimeter gates after midnight. A visit to the toilet at night required me to venture outside the locked gates and lock the gate behind so that no unseemly visitors could sneak into the guesthouse.Seeing just how far the guesthouse owner had gone to protect its patrons, really scared me.
I cant believe I am about to announce this to the world, but here it goes... That night, I woke up some time after midnight with the urge to use the toilet. It was so dark and quiet outside that I was too scared to venture outside the locked "compound". So what did I do? I peed in a plastic bag, wrapped it up, and waited until morning to dispose of it properly. I can't believe I did it!
All along the trail, glistening spots of crimson were left behind by donkeys and buffalo who had fallen prey to the region's leeches. The first couple of days I was extremely vigilant, salt in hand, ready to kill.Fortunately, only a few made the unsuccessful attempt to make me dinner. However days 6-8 brought more rain and with more rain, came more leeches. Leeches, leeches everywhere. Big leeches, small leeches. They were some pretty determined little buggers, crawling up my shoes, biting me through my socks. At first, I stopped every few feet to flick them off, or wipe salt on them. But I stopped so often to handle them, that it was hindering my progress. I was never going to make it to my destination. So I resigned myself to being dinner for these little dudes and only stopped to flick off the especially large ones. By the end of the day, I had blood stained socks, but I didn't feel any pain.They weren't so bad.
The leeches weren't the only hazard on the trail- a stinging nettle bush came out of nowhere and lashed out at my hand. I was just minding my own business putting one foot in front of the other and all of a sudden my hand erupted in flames. My guide, Nirma, was quick to stop me from shoving my hand in the nearest stream, which she said would have intensified the pain. Instead, she sought out some fresh sage leaves, crumpled them in her hand, and then had me smear the juices around my skin. I immediately felt better, but my hand tingled for the rest of the day.
This trail was by far the most fertilized piece of Earth I have ever tread upon.Donkey logs, cow pies, buffalo pies, goat pellets, sheep pellets- here, there, everywhere! At first, I took care to maneuver around each bit of poop but i soon found this to be pointless. I resigned myself to having cow pie smeared along the ankles of my pant legs and resolved to only put energy towards avoiding the really BIG poops.
When we finally made it to base camp I had some issues with altitude sickness. I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and had streamers in my vision. I felt like I was on drugs. I had heard stories from other trekkers about people going to bed with a headache and never waking up. We were only at about 4100 meters, but people have still had serious problems at that altitude.I fell asleep wondering if I was going to see morning. Obviously, I woke up.
At night, Nirma and I had a lot of leisure time together. I taught her how to whistle, play "slap hands" and the card game Speed. The latter two activities inevitably resulted in my partner erupting in debilitating giggle attacks. The giggle attacks reminded me of my friend Chelsey who so often suffers from a similar condition. Ahhh Chelsey- I miss you!!!
The last 3 nights of our trek, Nirma and I shared our guesthouse with some volunteers from an organization called UNITRAV. They are guides and porters by trade and during the slow monsoon season, they get together and spend a few weeks picking up litter on the mountain peaks.This particular trip they gathered 80 kilos of trash, including bottles, toilet paper, used sanitary pads. Ick.
They were a real fun bunch. Purna, the leader of the group, had seen Nirma and I battling over a game of Speed. He asked to play and soon cards were flying every which way in a frenzy and we were laughing so hard my stomach was in knots. Anybody who has played Speed with me knows-I am the MASTER. It was the first time Purna had ever played the game and he kicked my butt. Oh, he was fast, very fast. But part of the reason he would win is because he would create so much chaos- cards would be flying everywhere. He just didn't seem to understand the need to maintain neat little piles.I need neat little piles! I am no longer the MASTER of Speed, I humbly hand over that title to Purna. Something that saves my ego in all this, is that I am considered the founder of Speed in Nepal. By the end of the third night, everybody pledged to go home and teach all their friends and family how to play. So, if you go to Nepal a few years from now and see people sitting outside their houses, sipping tea and playing not Gin Rummy, but Speed, I am to blame.
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Oh yeah. I didn't have any problems with the Maoist rebels. Apparently they are honoring a seize fire agreement and part of the deal is not to harass the tourists. The first night I stayed at a guesthouse in a village where the Maoist leaders were holding an important meeting. My guide didn't tell me at the time, but I later learned that there had been a couple hundred Maoists staying in that particular village that night.
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