(1,070 metres to 1,940 metres)
Beverley doing last minute map checking at breakfast.
Beverley and I are up at the Peace Ganga Hotel super early to get a taxi out to the main bus station. This is where for a joyfully small 75 NPR (Nepalese Ruppee/ 70p ish) we will be catching the first bus from Pokhara
to Naya Pul
one of two or three principle start points for treks up into and around the Annapurna region. After a couple of hours bumping along rutted roads by the early morning light we're deposited by the roadside and make our way down into the village. Oddly our presence seems somewhat of a curiosity to the locals. Maybe it's just the crazy, early time of day? I dunno.
Bev, across the bridge to Birethanti.
We settle on a quaint little foody-serving looking establishment and ask if we can have some breakfast. Again some mildly peculiar looks in our direction and hesitation from the owners, although to our eyes it's quite clear this establishment's sole raison d'etre is to hand over food and drink stuffs for the requisit amount of spondoolies being handed over. We are soon ushered behind some odd kind of curtained off table and sit studying our maps and awaiting hot tea. A kinda breakfast in purdah. The 'foreigners compartment'. Very strange.
Before you can hit the trail proper you cross out of Naya Pul to the hamlet of Birethanti
where you have, for the first time, to register your presence with an ACAP post. ACAP being the Annapurna Conservation Area Project.
Prior to moving from Pokhara a trekking permit for the region must be purchased and these are often checked throughout the trails and also used as a means of logging your progress around the region. I'll halt the boring details there as I'm considering a small 'Review' trek tips and advice entry at some point (although this may of course never happen!:). Bev and I part ways here as, almost entirely trekked out by Everest, she's only doin' a gentle 4 day stroll in a different direction to me so we say our farewells and Stevie sets off on his tod into the sunny, sunny hills.
It is a beautifully hot day. As in Pokhara a lot of heat haze. The path is very wide, with a gentle rise in these lower hill reaches. Packs of supply horses and donkeys are moved along the path by their owners laden with packs and sacks of provisions and empty red, clanging butane gas cannisters.
"Namaste!", "Namaste!", "Namasteee!"
come the friendly greetings from one and all you pass along the way. At the time of writing up (15/12) I can shamefully confirm this remains one of only about 5 words I've learnt so far in Nepal...in fact make that 3! In fact I think I learnt more Japanese in the time I was here?! Darn those lazy Brits! ;D
Early in the day groups of blue uniformed kids pass me on their way down to the nearest school. Waves of girls and boys alternatively. Never mixed in that curiously predictable way that youngsters adopt. Firmly segregating themselves into clans, steering well clear of the "smelly girlies"
or the "pooey boys"
... and the sweaty trekkers too! Greetings exchanged with them, and as they pass me peels of laughter often erupting from over my shoulder.
Amused by the rather peculiar figure I must cut, on my own or otherwise no doubt. A red-haired lean, mean five foot somethin' (just
) trekkin' machine with my brightly coloured Tibetan tassled belt hanging around m'waist. "Man oh man!"
I may have remarked this before but I really never knew such a tiny vessel (moi) could contain such vast
hidden reservoirs of sweat! Really REALLY! "Yuk!"
Getting thirtsy. Quickly. Real thirsty!
Start buying bottles of mineral water. It's clear immediately this is going to be an expensive game but I'm ok with my water purification tablets for the weeks ahead.
Todays walk is a beautiful, balmy summers-feeling hillside stroll of a day.
Quite reminiscent of my Austrian hiking adventures as a small kid or indeed more recently in this journey. Flies buzzing. The lowing of a cow somewhere in the distance. Cockeral crows catching the ear unawares. Not too many people on the trail heading in my direction today it seems. Walking alone. The occasional quizzical looks from local wouldbe trek guides. They find us lone trekkers a peculiar breed from both social and financially-frustrating points of view. There are many more butterflies in evidence than I am used to seeing in England these days but then I have lived in the heart of a city for the last decade.
There are lots of quite punishing steps for the final ascent to the hillside village of Ghandruk
Terraced hillsides are a regular feature, certainly of the Annapurna Sanctuary Trail.
It's been a gentle enough start... no more than 4 and half hours trekking but the start is sometimes the tough part. Breaking those muscles and bones in, and I confess I'm quite, quite shattered by it all. I am happy to slump down at the first guest house, the Annapurna Guest House, where there seems a semblance of life. A Japanese girl sits and reads 'Great Expectations'. Nepali guides, their tasks done for the day sit smoking,, laughing and drinking sweet black tea. It's getting cold now. A grey shroud of cloud sits as if propped up by the mountain and hill peaks. I'm aquiring a new layer of clothing everytime I climb the stairs to the third floor toilet (next to my bedroom) which is often as all the hydrating I've done throughout the day, allied with the drop in temperature has me up and down to the bog as if my bladder were attached to it by a bungee cord!
Two full plates of my first experience of the ubiquitous trek staple meal, Dhal bat.
Very yummy indeed. Generally this consists of a large tray with a portion of plain boiled rice, a poppodom, some fried assortment of potato and vegetables and a metal bowl of watery lentil Dhal - which I don't realise for 2 or three days you're supposed to mix in with the rice etc, rather than imbibe it like soup as I do tonight. "Oops
!" Regional courtesy should have it that your plate always be refilled at least once. It's supposedly an 'all you can eat' menu option but not always in practice more than two plates. It's waaaay filling anyway. The Nepali guides and porters pretty much eat nothing else and refer to it lovingly as "24 HOUR POWER!!"
food. I'm stuffed to the gills. It is only 7 o'clock but I'm TOTALLY shattered... but I can't lie down on a full, full
Dhal Bat belly can I?!... oooh yes I can!