Annapurna Circuit Explorers
Hello friends, Kristen here. Sorry for the long delay in an update, but we were busy trekking around the Himalayas for a while. And by golly, it was amazing!!
Getting to Nepal was a bit rough, as expected. When Ville last wrote, we left Darjeeling in a jeep and planned to stay at the border town in India a night and leave in the morning to catch a bus, but once we got down out of the mountains, it was the same super crowded chaos we headed into and we just jumped on a 2 hour bus to the border, got stamped out of India, walked across a big bridge (which is the boarder between India and Nepal), got stamped into Nepal after paying our visa, and jumped on a bus an hour later leaving for Pokhara. The bus situation was not as bad as expected, but unfortunately, there are no sleeper buses or trains here in Nepal so we took a 16 hour very uncomfortable bus all the way through the night, to get to Pokhara.
Pokhara is a smallish city on a lake with a pretty laid back feel. As soon as we made it over the boarder, you could feel the difference in space and therefore far less people in Nepal. We could finally breathe in some clean, and cooler air thanks to the many trees, rivers, streams, and open spaces (of course we did spend most of our tiime in India in large cities and tourist spots). The Nepalese look quite different than Indians and are more friendly, less pushy, smile, and just for ease of getting around we have found that Nepalese people speak a bit more English than what we ran into in India.
Once in Pokhara, we stayed a couple days in the town walking around, catching up on sleep, and planning a big trek of the Annapurna Circuit. On the PCT we made it up Whitney (14,500 ft. and 4,421 meters) and the top of South Sister (10,358 ft. and 3,157 meters) but we would try and make it over the Thorung La Pass at 17,769 ft and 5,416 meters! And both of us were a bit nervous to see how our bodies would take it (not to mention we have been sitting our beautiful butts on trains and buses for the last month and doing very little trekking. But we hired a guide (looking back we could have completely done it without but didn't know well enough and so hired one), rented some sleeping bags, and gathered our cheap gear and set off!
We took a bus early the next morning with Kamal, our very sweet and very experienced (he is nearly 70 and a whopping 100 lbs. tops) trekking guide. We realized very early on that our trekking styles are quite drastically different, but did pretty well trying to embrace it and remember we were not on the same ass-kicking mission of the Pacific Crest Trail and should slow down and enjoy the flowers and tons of village stops to drink tea. Day one, a local panty thief ran off with a pair of my and another ladies panties (gross!), but left Ville's leopard print thongs dangling outside our room. As we climbed the views were more and more stunning. Living in the mountains in Bend, we love seeing the snow-capped peaks, but these peaks tower at over 20-26,000 ft and surround you from around every bend. Some of the "tea houses" or very simple guest houses we stayed at had the most stunning views of huge mountains which I can only compare to Switzerland with a far different price tag (our room was about a dollar a night and meals were $2-$3.50 each). Cheap!
We met some amazing folks during the hike: group of premed students from Spain, a group of Swedish guys, group of kids from all over, and a great fellow thru-hiker (he hiked the Appalachian Trail) and professor from Georgia Tech, Tin Man. Thanks Tin Man, for all the fun conversation and the great movie night in Manang of Into Thin Air. We had nightmares of that heading over the pass in cold windy weather :)
I admit there was a decent fear on this trek, of having signs of altitude sickness as we climbed, that we watched many others have and have to turn around and head back down. These ranged from headaches, vomiting, bloody noses, and even to a detached retina of someone's eye, that if not treated quickly would be permanent! Needless to say we took it very slowly, took extra altitude hikes from camps, and tried to acclimatize as best as possible and crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. It was nerve wracking. But our last night we slept at 16,000 ft. and as the storm outside blew, we shivered in every piece of clothes we had and were pumped to get up at 4 am and start our last push up to 17,769 ft. and 5,460 meters to the top of the pass (and Happy Birthday JLo!! I didn't forget you!). Sadly it was so windy and cold we snapped a quick pic and began our very fast decent all the way down to 8,500 ft to sleep. We were suppose to stay closer to the bottom of the pass, but Ville and I were dreaming of hot showers and a real bed back in Pokhara and pushed our poor guide to hike through the day in massive wind and then rain to get to Jonsom. The next morning we caught 2 buses lasting over 12 hours to get back to Pokhara and celebrated with Chinese food and a hot shower! Whoo what a trek!
We plan to spend the next couple days here relaxing and then on to Chitwan to do some jungle trekking in the south of Nepal. Ta ta for now!
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K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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