Away with the Opies

Our travel adventures……

Category: Annurpurna Base Camp

Annurpurna Base Camp-Day 6

Day 6 – Deurali to ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP

 

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The night hadn’t gone well for Steve and it was touch and go for a while as to whether he was fit enough to get up and tackle the trek ahead. Opies though are made of stern stuff and he was determined to give it a go. My overriding memory for the first part of this day was Steve with hands in pockets, head down, moaning, groaning and grimacing with shear grit and determination to achieve our goal. I did my best with encouraging words such as “man up” and “we’re nearly there”, but he wasn’t having any of it and the further we walked the quieter he became. We reached MBC, the last camp before base camp, mid morning where he slumped in a chair. Shivering in his down jacket and looking pretty terrible he nodded off to sleep. Yuba and I played backgammon, as one does and thinking that sleep was what he needed we left him to it, a quick power nap to ready him for the summit push…

 

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Rougher still…

 

Sleep didn’t help much and the next couple of miles were the slowest I’ve ever walked with Steve – every few paces he’d stop to take a breather. I was genuinely concerned. Yep, it was that bad – all “man ups” had been replaced with “are you sure you’re OK?” and “does our insurance cover this?” Yuba constantly monitored him for altitude sickness and the decision was made by all to plough on. At this point I was so worried that I really was trying to remember if our insurance covered air evacuation! We carried Steve’s back pack, force fed him chocolate and eventually with much coaxing we all made it to Annurpurna Base Camp in one piece.

 

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We made it!

 

Reluctantly we allowed Steve to sleep for a while – he was shattered and couldn’t keep his eyes open, so we pretty much had no option. Apparently sleeping at high altitude without acclimitisation isn’t best practice so we woke him after an hour to keep an eye on him. He was at this point away with the fairies and by now everyone was concerned. I asked Yuba to check him and it was agreed we give him the anti altitude sickeness drug diamox. Myanna and Jim (our fab roommates for the night) were superstars, keeping him focused and lucid. “What jokes do you know” seemed to work wonders (for Steve at least!) and the patience and caring from them, Yuba and Sunny, along with the drugs seemed soon to take effect. Within a couple of hours he was more like his old self and we spent a fab night with two great people.

The next morning Steve was fit enough to get up and watch the sun rise over the Annurpurna mountain range. As the day dawned and the sun rose, the hundreds of stars were replaced with the clearesrt of dark blue skies. We’d made it, the first goal of our travels achieved and it was simply breathtaking. Yuba suggested we stay for a while and as more and more people dispersed we were left more or less alone in this incredible place. Knowing that Meg had experienced the very same thing only a few years before made it an emotional moment… and yep, I might have cried, just a bit, but mainly with relief that Steve was still alive…

 

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At around 9:00, having force fed Steve a little breakfast, we started retracing our foot steps back down the trek. The first night of the descent was spent at Dovan, after which a deviation from the route up was taken to visit some wonderful natural hot springs at Jinhu. Nestled in the jungle, beside a glacial river it’s a sight to behold and a very welcome treat for our old bones. There are three springs to choose from and the water was plenty warm enough for me, and I like it hot!

 

 

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There was a small entry charge, payable at the top of the hill and the walk to get to the springs was a longish downwards stroll, but it was well worth the trek. We bathed in them pretty much alone for more than 2 hours. Once it started getting dark we headed uphill to our last night in the mountains and my last and deciding game of backgammon with Yuba. Victorious I went to bed happy!

 

We will never forget this adventure – the experiences we shared, the friends we made, the countryside we walked through, the steps we climbed….

 

We agree with these guys….

 


The last dusty stretch included permit checks and got us back to the point we’d set out from 9 days earlier. Unanimously deciding not to take the public bus back to Pokhara, Yuba phoned a taxi driving friend for a lift. The journey back in Indra’s car was actually enjoyable, a pleasant way to spend our last couple of hours all together as a group.

 

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Me, Rudra, Yuba, Steve

Hahmi haru khusi chau!

(We are happy!)


 

 

 

 

Annurpurna Base Camp-Days 4 and 5

 

Day 4 – Tadepani to Sinua (via Chhomrong)

Tosma Dodua Adelma!

 

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Kate with sunglasses!

 

This was our longest day of the trek so far. After about twenty minutes walking Kate realised she’d left her sun glasses at the Tea House (an anniversary present, she knew there’d be trouble if she left them behind!). Whilst Kate and Yuba went back to collect them Rudra taught me the Nepali for ”Glasses left at the tea house” and ”Tosma dodua adelma” became the saying of the day. I have no idea of the spelling!

 

The rotating swing

 

During the morning we passed a local primary school which had had a ”rotating swing” built for Dashain. For a small donation trekkers were invited to use it and we jumped at the chance. With no health and safety considerations we boarded the swing and were propelled in a direction fun for us both. However, after a few minutes of enjoyment the direction was reversed and it quickly became a lot less fun and somewhat nauseating for one of us, much to the amusement of the locals!

 

It's a small world!

It’s a small world!

 

Fun and games over we headed onwards and upwards towards Chhomrong for our lunchtime favourite, Dal Bhat. On the way we stopped to chat to a group of people taking a break from the midday sun and were asked the usual question of ”where’s home for you guys?” Cornwall we tell them, to which they say, no way, we’re travelling with a Cornish guy called Sunny. Spookily just before setting off on our trip we were given the name of Sunny from the Yak and Yeti in Truro as a possible contact for some Nepali language lessons. Time ran away with us and we didn’t have a chance to meet in Cornwall – unbelievably we’ve now met on a mountain, miles from anywhere in Nepal!

 

M&M

M&M

After stocking up on chocolate (a favourite for our porter Rudra) at the trekkers’ shop in Chhomrong, we trudged up the last climb of the day to our Tea House in Sinua. Here we met people on their way back down from Base Camp and had one of our most enjoyable evenings in the mountains.

Thanks Marta and Marjan for such a great evening!


Day 5 – Sinua to Deurali

We woke around 6ish as usual, to find a furry friend on our doorstep. Having avoided the first obstacle of the day we sat down to our first breakfast pancakes of the trip. Kate loved them, but not to my taste – they would be my last…

 

I suffered my first bout of deli belly, a likely combination of the sun, the tough going and possible Dahl Baht overdose… I found the next 2 to 3 days hard going to say the least. Kate felt somewhat smug – as a habitual nail biter at home (a habit she’s ditched here) I bet on her being the first to become ill. Bet lost, it wasn’t mentioned for the rest of the trip…

 

 

We settled at Deurali, sharing our room with a young Dutch couple, Jordi and Malaus (unfortunately 2 days later Jordi was sent down from Base Camp with signs of acute mountain sickness) and it was here that we met our trekking buddies for the next few days, Myanna and Jim. We spent a great evening with them before going to bed ready for the ascent to the Base Camp the next day.

I didn’t sleep well…..


 

 

 

Annurpurna Base Camp- Days 2 and 3

 

Day 2 Tikhedhunga to Ghorepani

 

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Taking in the views

 

We slept like babies on our first night in the Annurpurna mountains, waking only when the alarm went off at 7:00am. Having wolfed down breakfast, we prepared ourselves for the day ahead. The start to the morning’s trek was a testing 3300 steps upwards – oh joy! We ascended them with much huffing and puffing, but actually without too much trouble – maybe there’s life in us old dogs yet?!

 

Usually we like to travel independently, but after much consideration and some
research we opted to take a guide and porter with us. Tourism provides the livelihood for many people here, so for Steve and I it was an easy decision to employ two people to help us with our trek. We didn’t regret it either – Yuba our guide and Rudra our porter were both fantastic. They looked after us brilliantly with just the right amount of attention, allowing us space when needed, but more often than not joining us for games, meals and chats. They taught us a little Nepali every day and helped us greatly with our pronunciation – really handy for our volunteering work starting soon. For the 9 days we were with them we enjoyed their company immensely and parted as friends.


imageThis trek was very kindly arranged by Bicky (VCD Nepal), a Nepali friend of our daughter Meg. Having a connection here has made everything easy and we’re so grateful to him for all his help and generosity of spirit.


We couldn’t help but feel for Rudra, our porter who was carrying our main pack, but when I saw what other porters were carrying I felt much easier – He didn’t have the lightest pack, but he certainly wasn’t carrying the heaviest load on the mountain. Many porters, employed by tourists and by Tea Houses were lugging unbelievably large, awkward and heavy loads, apparently weighing anything upto a hefty 35kg’s! Rudra’s pack was a mere 16kgs in comparison…

 

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Many porters prefer to carry their loads with straps around their heads, rather than using western style backpacks with shoulder straps – opting still for the tradional methods they grew up with.


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Mule train

 

The day started with blistering sunshine, it ended with rain. We had tea breaks anda lunch stop along the way. For a couple of oldies we felt fit and our progress was good. Some advice from Yuba on this day was to stand uphill of any mule trains passing (a tip that proved a lifesaver later in the trek when mules loaded with large gas canisters trotted passed without stopping – luckily we were pinned to a wall rather than knocked off the cliff!).


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Our lifestraws

 

We soon decided that so far the best bit of kit we had with us were our LifeStraw water bottles. Their ingenious system filters out bacteria and nasties (technical term) so the bottle can be filled from anywhere to provide up to 1000 litres of safe drinking water (around a year’s worth for us). Whilst everyone else was faffing around with water purification tablets/systems, Steve and I were  filling our bottles from taps and streams and getting on with our day. Environmentally they’re brilliant too because it reduces the need for plastic bottles. So far our Lifestraws have been the perfect solution for hassle free and environmentally friendly travelling – we can’t recommend them highly enough and have been the envy of fellow travellers throughout our trip.

 

Steve, numpty that he is, had to have his thumb stitched a week before we headed here – long story… Anyway, the stitches were due to be taken out on this day! Luckily we passed a small health post en-route manned by a solitary nurse. She (brilliantly for me, otherwise it was my job) took out his 3 stitches and all was well. It turns out that Yuba, although an awesome guide is somewhat squeamish, so opted to wait outside the door as the deed was done!

 

We arrived at Ghorepani Tea House around mid afternoon. An efficient wood burning stove in the communal area was a welcome sight because at 2759m it was starting to feel a little chilly – it also proved a great place to dry our washing!

Steve and Yuba found a chess board and played their first (and as it turned out, only game) of chess, Steve was victorious, but thought Yuba may have given him the win – bigger tip for him now then…

 

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Steve takes control of the end game – apparently!


Day 3 – Ghorepani to Tadepani

(via Poon Hill at 5am!)

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Some things are just worth getting out of bed for and the trek to the top of Poon Hill at 5am in the dark to watch the sun rise over the Annurpurna mountain range is one of them – a magical moment for us and one that will linger long in our memories. As the sun came up, the mountains became rose tinted and a new day dawned in the most majestic of places. We drank tea, toasted the new day and decsended to our Tea House for a hearty breakfast in preparation for yet more uphill climbing.

 

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Early Start!

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The view was were worth it!

 

The next part of the trail took us through incredible rhododendron forests. Growing as huge trees rather than the bushes of home – it must be a spectacle in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. We descended a very long and tricky path through the valley before ascending a much friendlier route to reach our destination for the night, Fishtail Lodge at Tadipani.


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Annapurna Base Camp-Day 1

 

Where to start…

We’ve just returned from the most incredible 9 days trekking in the Himalaya. Our destination Annapurna Base Camp at 4130 metres was achieved on 24th Oct 2016.

 

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It’s pretty much impossible to describe just how magnificent, diverse and awe inspiring the scenery is here, especially in the mountains. Every day we trekked through different countryside – some farmed, some forested, some exposed, some sheltered – all of it beautiful and very little of it flat!


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Day 1  – Pokhara to Tikhedhunga 

(Between Bire Thati and Ulleri on above map)

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Our first real adventure in Nepal started by public bus which is an experience in itself – especially if you’re 6ft + like Steve. Public transport virgins so far this trip, we’d been putting off the inevitable and knowing we had to bite the bullet sooner or later boarded one of the many dubious looking buses. Most public buses here advertise themselves as Deluxe and ALL of them most definitely are not! Not far into the journey we were stopped by the police and both the money collecting lad and the driver were ushered off for questioning at a nearby check point. On asking our guide Yuba what was happening and if it happened often he simply replyed that he didn’t know as he avoided travelling on public buses… A little over 2 hours later we knew why!

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The ride turned out to be a long one -Steve could barely fit into his seat, more and more passengers were ‘shoe horned’ on as the journey progressed, the suspension was non existent and the roads were in pieces with what looked like lots of ‘drekly’ work being carried out on them.

Despite everything, we arrived safely at our trek starting point where, with huge relief, we unfurled ourselves from our confinement ready for the off.

imageTo walk to Annurpurna Base Camp, trekkers are required to buy permits and the first part of our trek was interrupted by having these checked at various checkpoints. Steve and I were fizzing with excitement, eager to get going and just so incredibly happy to be heading for the mountains – our adventure was about to become yet more exciting.

The sun was blistering in the valley, at the low level start to the trip and we walked for a couple of hours or so before stopping for refreshments in the first Tea House of our trek. imageApart from camping, all accommodation on the trail is in the form of Tea Houses. With their distinctive blue paintwork, Tea Houses offer basic accommodation with not much more than beds in the rooms and mostly shared, limited loo and shower facilities. Further along the route Tea Houses become fewer (after Chhomrong the land is owned by the government and so the building of new Tea Houses is prohibited in this area), this means that during busy times of the season such as now it’s Common for trekkers to have to share rooms. imageFor two nights that’s what we did and were lucky enough to be paired with great roommates who remained friends for the duration of the trip. Prices are set across the board – no haggling allowed, which is fine by us because we’re rubbish at it! The food is fantastic, all freshly cooked, with tons of choice for all meals of the day. Dahl Baht is the local dish of choice and the best value option as seconds and thirds are always offered. It also happens to be scrummy and great fuel for the long walks. We usually opted for black tea (a far cheaper option than fizzy, canned alternatives), which tends to come sweetened unless asked for otherwise. Ginger tea and Nepali masala were also favourites. Hot showers were available nearly everywhere (at a cost) and we took advantage of them more often than not. We braved the cold option only a couple of times and wet wipes were the fall back solution…

 

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We climbed the first of many gruelling steps and crossed the first of many wicked bridges to get to our Tea House number one stop over in Tikhedhunga. Nestled in the surrounding woodland it was a great place to spend our first night on the trail where basic living was about to begin.

 

 


Tucked among trees and by a river, Tikhedhunga Tea House was a picturesque and much welcomed sight after a long first day in the hills.

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We ordered Dahl Baht to eat and a beer each to drink – Yuba suggested we share 1 beer between the 2 of us! We took his advice and it turned out to be our last beer in the mountains. We went to bed at 7:30 and awoke to our alarm at 6:00 the next morning. A routine we would keep for the next 9 days, breaking it on only two occasions to get up even earlier to watch the sun rise over the mountains – beauty sleep well worth missing!


Living the dream…


 

 

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