Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Annapurna trek part 2

Here is the looong overdue second part of the Annapurna trek

After the two days of acclimatisation in Manang took off with our new porter Ram and trusted Tej towards the highlight of this trip and the Tarungla pass. The hike to Yak Karkha was steep and short. At this altitude you definitely feel it, but not too difficult. The accommodation was getting even more basic and after an initial 'no' and intervention by Ram got a 4 bedder for the three of us.  After an hours rest and the usual omelet for lunch, took off to Letdar for another acclimatisation. Tea break there and back to yak karkha for rest and sleep at 4100 mts. This was the first place with no power. So it is camping with stone walls. Took off early to ensure the room availability is not an issue on the higher camps.  The walk to Letdar with the bags and the freezing cold in the morning took a bit longer than last day, but manged within half an hour.  Reached Thorungpedi in about three hours and took a break. Met a couple of Americans who had their own oxipulse meter, checked ours and found it was pretty good and >85%. So after an hours rest decided to do part of the climb and reach the high camp at 4900 mts and thus have a slightly easier climd next day.
 Took another hour and ten mins to get to the high camp. The accommodation here was really rough ( rustic as Paddy wanted to call it) and very very cold.  Think the temperature never went above -5c. Went for a lovely walk to the near by hillock and fantastic views of the Annapurna ranges.

This was our first experience of camping in high altitude (close to 5000mts) and it was no fun. We could hardly sleep and even with all our layers on it was freezing. You invariably woke up panicking as you were breathless. Good news is that waking up at 4 am is no hassle. Took off at 4:45 am when it was still a bit dark but enough moon light to follow the path. The going was very slow as it was freezing and very very steep. With the high altitude you got breathless and wanted to stop, but every time you stopped the toes and fingers would go number and you had to move to warm them up.  The result was tat the water we were carrying was frozen within the first hour of the climb  :( . Around an hour or so into the climb there was a icy stretch with a steep incline where you had to be careful.
Tej was leading followed by Gina and then Ram, followed by me and Paddy. Paddy  slipped a wee bit and managed to stop, and came to a complete halt. Ram came back and asked "problem"? Our answer was Yay... how do we go ahead?  And Pat cam the reply " Think problem, walk no problem" Must admit we followed the advice and went through the icy patch with no issues. It was a case of trust your boots, hold your core and keep one step in front of the other at a steady pace.  Finally reached the Thorungla Pass after almost a couple of hours around 7am.  The views were magnificent, but where everyone headed to was the  tea shop there. No idea what the cost of it was BUT that hot lemon tea was worth every penny.
There was a crazy Israeli up there who took his shirts off and on his bare body got someone to write "Happy Birthday ...." to wish his friend. Gina took the photo and the bloke was checking it was OK all in topless condition at -15C and we were shivering through our multiple layers.

The tea shop obviously did roaring business, and guess the couple running it have earned it. The tea there is about 4 times what it costs in all other tea houses, but I don't believe anyone complained.

The climb down was a bit of an anticlimax and quite long. After a couple of hours hike, a lunch break and another hour or so, made it to Mukthinath and Ranipur, walked onto Jarkhot and stayed there.

Mukthinath temple is worth a visit even if you are not religious just to see the frozen water spouts :) Its still quite high at 3800 mts. Next stop was Kaghbeni where we stayed at the "New Annapurna Hotel" but for free as we had the guides room. The owner had to remove the blankets there ( and that took away the gym smells) and change the sheets.
Marpha accommodation
Next stop was Marpha via Jomsom a 5hour trek including stopping in Jomsom for some money changing, and bus enquiry etc.  Jomsom is where you can finish this trek if you want to and take a flight back to Pkhara. However, even if you wanted to do this, I would go to Marpha for  a day and then head back to Jomsom. Marpha has some really nice accommodation, we had one such with lovely gardens. This village is almost European with flagstoned streets and at the same time very tibetan with a lovely monastry. Then it was time to pig out with one of the best apple crumble and carrot cake in this part of the world.
From Marpha the plan was to bus it to Tatopani. This worked out to be two two journeys first a jeep to ghasa and a bus (ride from hell) to Tatopani from there. The speciality here is the hot springs which we really enjoyed and then relaxed in the gardens of our guest house "Daulagiri".

Tatopani to Chitre was all on steps and relentless climb, but we were away from the roads :) Next morning to Deorali pass after a break fast stop at Gorepani before ending the day at Tadopani. This was the first afternoon where it rained. This village is just a few lodges and hence a bit more expensive with toast costing Rs140 :) The walk to Ghandrukh from Tadopani was not very long and where there by lunch time. Lovely little town and stayed in Milin on recommendation from Tej, and turned out to be a lovely little place.  This is a reasonable sized town and has a museum :) The track from here on is quite busy and popular for shorter trips from Pokhara.
Ghandruk to Pothana was a down, up , down again and up and down through some million steps :) The route is down to Landrukh, some up and down walking to Tolka, followed by a steep down to Bhan Karkha. From here it was again a steep and stiff climb to Deurali no 2 Pass, and another short down hill to Pothana our last tea house stop before heading to Pokhara.  Beers with the porters before we say good bye to them tomorrow. Thanks for looking after us guys.
The final day of trekking was another steep down hill to Phedi. More steps and more kids way laying us and demanding money ( they have a queer way of begging here :))  Got to Phedi by 9.30 am and got a very talkative and friendly taxi driver who dropped all 5 of us at the hotel.

Great to be in a decent hotel (Trekkers Hotel) with hot showers that worked well. AND had some dinner that as not dhal bath, and even got a Pizza.
Phokara was very well decorated and a lot of Tihar dancing by kids in front of businesses to get Bakshish. A lovely two days including an early morning ride to the Sarangkot View Point. The half hour walk up the steep steps there seemed so easy after the two days rest and all that we had done, that we kept over taking most people there. The views there was really worth the early wake up.

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