Day 6 – Deurali to ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP
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…
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.
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…
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!
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.
Hahmi haru khusi chau!
(We are happy!)