Day 3 of our Trek

We began our day at 5:30. Coffee did not arrive but the dawn did and it was glorious. Several of us watched its arrival while brushing our teeth as the sink is on the roof top terrace from where we watched one of nature’s wonders. A Himalayan dawn lighting up snow covered peaks. As the sun rises the turn from cold grey to a dazzling gold.

Once underway, our trek today was a hard one. We climbed to over 3000 metres then down and down to about 2000 metres then up to about 2600 metres. I’m too tired to check details so might be off in these figures by a couple hundred metres but you get my point! Today we either walked steeply up or steeply down and we did a whole bunch of both.

This evening we are in Tatapani at a rustic little guesthouse with tin walled rooms. Yes the interior walls of our rooms are white tin. Brenda, MJ and I have a reasonable sized room with about 18 inches between our beds. The others are in wee box like rooms. The toilet is across a courtyard. This is our first stop where we’ll have to go outside to do our nightly deeds. It’s cold but not raining.

Brenda and I have enjoyed a 2012 bottle of an Australian Chardonnay. We bought it last night and Brenda’s porter carried it deep within the confines of her pack all day. Brenda felt so guilty about giving him this extra weight that she carried some other gear herself. This was not an easy day to be carrying extra weight! The wine however was very good.

I’ve been trying to send pictures but the internet is too slow. Will send some as soon as I can. Meantime, good night from a very sleepy Didi in Tatapani.

Day Two of the Trek

Banthanti (2210 metres) to Ghorepani (2870 metres)

A crisp cool night last night. Most of us slept well. I did anyway. Sunny again today. Slightly cooler which is nice for walking. Low to mid 20s. Short sleeve weather. A bit of a slow start to our walk today, but after a bit of sorting out we set off. Brenda, Claire, Jim and I walk together with our porters and the assistant guide Lakpah. Doug, Joanne and Mary Jean walk with their porters and Tendi. Tendi catches us up about three or four times a day. As our walking speeds separate us by about an hour after two hours on the trail, he’s a tad busy.

Today’s trek saw us gain another 660 metres in elevation. It was easier than yesterday as some of the trail just sloped up instead of having to constantly climb the stairs. Even so, today so quite a few stairs as well. We also had a few short downs into small creek beds and then up the other sides. We walked through numerous pretty villages and through quite dense rhododendron tree forests.

We met a couple of mule trains today. One stopped outside a guesthouse where we were having a mid morning bowl of soup. The driver sold the guest hous owner some loves of bread from one mules basket. Then he removed his coat from another basket and began hauling out dead chickens. These were put in a plastic bag, weighed and purchased. The coat was draped over the basket again. Presumably this has some sort of insulating value as the sun is quite hot.

We stopped to give out a few more tooth brushes and paste. These little gifts are so well received I think I’ll do it every trek from now on!

We arrived in Ghorepani in time for lunch which we ate while sitting on a sunny terrace in front of the guesthouse.

I’ve organized with Tendi that instead of a three hour hike up and down Poon Hill to see the sunrise, he will have chairs set up in a roof top terrace here and we will enjoy coffees with the sunrise. We can stay in our night attire if we so desire. This seems far more attractive than a three hour trek up and down before breakfast. Who knows, the idea might catch on.

So now the sun is lowering and the temperature is dropping. Soon it will be time for warm Sox and fleece, a down vest and wool hat.

Good evening from busy vibrant Ghorepani.

Day One of our Trek

We gather for breakfast, our gear now organized into two packs. One large one for our porter to carry and a smaller lighter one for each of us. There is a bit of a delay in the arrival of the van which will take us part way to the trailhead but it eventually arrives. We pile in and endure a twisty bumpy drive along narrow roads up to Birathanti. Here we switch vehicles, now in two Jeeps for the remainder of a much bumpier drive to Tikhedhunga. Our assistant guide and my porter Nima have been with us since Kathmandu. Another couple met us in Pokhara. Now we are joined by the rest. We are sixteen people crammed eight per Jeep. Over these last few kms we pass numerous trekkers who have started walking in Birathanti. I am very grateful to Binod for suggesting we drive this first stretch.

In Tikhedhunga a huge cardboard box of fruit is divided into six plastic bags and each porter adds the bag into the top of our porter packs. Only one person did not leave enough room for the fruit so Tendi takes the last bag.

The sun is blazing down on us as we set off on the first day of trekking. Doug and Joanne have requested that they be able to go at a slower speed. Doug celebrated his 78th birthday last night! I hope I’m as fit and hike as well as they do when I’m 78!

Very soon we cross two small suspension bridges then we begin climbing 3500 stone steps. That is not one of my typos – 3500! We gain 670 metres in altitude, all of it climbing steps!

Not an easy beginning to a trek.

Thanks to Claire and Jim, we are all carrying tooth brushes to give out to children along the way. Jim gives all of his away – engaging every little kid he meets with his contagious good humour and antics! I have put all mine in my porter pack so don’t have access. Will need to carry them myself tomorrow as these gifts are met with smiles from kids and parents.

We stop for a break, then for lunch. This is a longish stop. For some reason that remains a bit mysterious it takes over an hour for the kitchen to provide seven bowls of MSG laden noodle soup. An short afternoon break, then into Banthanti by 4 p.m. for four of us. The other three arrive just over an hour later. Doug and Joanne are smiling after their climb, happy to be here, they are energized by the enjoyment of their trek!

Soon the sun is setting, the peak of Fish Tail mountain lights up briefly in vivid alpine glow, then darkness falls by just before six p.m. It’s not long after dinner that we’re climbing the steep steps to our little rooms.

Brenda, Mary Jean and I have a corner room so have two walls of window. The views across the valley and up to the ridges and peaks beyond is spectacular. Insulation value is lacking. We’re glad for warm sleeping bags!

Good night from Banthanti – in the Annapurna.

Temples and a bus trip

Yesterday we spent the morning on a quick tour around Pashupati Hindu temple. There weren’t too many bodies being cremated, not too many beggars and hardly sadas. Thus a pleasant and uneventful visit. Sadas are those fellows who wear dirty orange clothes, paint their faces white, grow their hair long, do not appear to wash much and who, at this temple, pose for pictures and charge for their efforts.

We then carried on Boudanath Stupa. My favourite place in Kathmandu. Shiva started on one of his long winded explanations and we rebelled. Lunch called and we climbed to a roof top restaurant and were soon indulging in various Nepali dishes. We spent the pm roaming around the stupa. Jim and Claire bought singing bowls. We all got ourselves blessed at the temple. I went and had Lassis with Tendi, Lakpa our assistant guide and three of our porters. Tendi’s son Nima is going to carry my pack! This is his first trek.

Today we spent the better part of eight hours on the bus driving 205 kms to Pokhara. We’re about to go down for dinner. Painful. Had a great driver – the traffic and road is really dreadful.

It’s Doug’s birthday and Tendi is off on a mission to find a birthday cake. Meanwhile Brenda and Jim are into the scotch.

Tomorrow we begin the trek. Everyone is stoked for it, but some are still struggling with the packing. I’ve faith that all will be sorted by morning!

These blogs have been pretty basic I know. Lots going on and lots to deal with. A few surprises and challenges which are taking a priority at the moment. Can’t wait to be in the mountains!

Good night from Pokhara

24 and 25 Oct – Touristing

Our first day in Kathmandu was a busy one.

We exchanged money and the money changer’s tiny street side office. This included sitting on stools and enjoying crazy sweet Nepali tea and lots of chatter before the business on negotiations for a better than posted rate.

Then the gear shopping. We piled into and effectively filled the shop. I negotiated a good price for bulk buying and the fun began, down jackets, sleeping bags, vests ponchos. Always entertaining to shop here! Deals were struck and we all left well laden with heaps of stuff to keep us warm and dry on the trek.

After lunch Binod introduced us to our enthusiastic city guide, Shiva, and we drove in a very upscale mini bus to Swaymbhu Temple (Known to many as monkey temple due to the filthy monkeys that inhabit the area.) Shiva got carried away with a long history of Nepal while we all did our best to appear interested in far too much information. Lots of post earthquake rebuilding has happened, and much more remains to be done but there is progress. As it was to be a full moon, the place was jammed with families picnicking under awnings. We had good views down onto the city as there’s not too much smog at the moment. Down the long steep steps, avoiding the beggars, back into the mini bus and returned to our hotel. We were all too tired to go out to eat so ate in the garden restaurant, enjoyed a few beers and were all disappearing into our rooms by shortly after nine!

Brenda, Mary-Jean and I are sharing a room on the fourth floor so we’re getting lots of exercise tramping up and down.

Today we went to the medieval city of Baktapur. Also heavily damaged by the 2015 earthquake it is slowly being rebuilt. Several buildings are surrounded by rickety bamboo scaffolding tied together with rotted looking string. We encouraged Shiva to keep things moving so managed to see the highlights without too many lengthy stops.

He has a mandate though to stop at the tourist shops. Yesterday was the Thanka paintings where we got the talk about how they are made and what they mean. The young man did an outstanding job of that and it was interesting. There was no buying pressure. Today the mandatory stop was at a singing bowl shop. Again, interesting display and explanation but the atmosphere was more directly focused on us making a purchase. We didn’t comply.

We enjoyed a roof top lunch, with beers then a wander around before calling it quits and returning here to Kathmandu. Now getting ready to go out for dinner.

Internet here is a bit slow. Will try to send a few pictures but no promises.

I’m enjoying being back in Kathmandu. A Nepali friend Homan came by this morning for a visit and we had a quick catch up. As usual he came baring gifts for various of his Canadian friends which I’ll deliver when I get home.

I find it interesting that here, vendors I see once a year greet me like a long lost friend while in Courtenay very few shop owners seem to bother remembering loyal customers.

This is part of what makes me love Nepal – genuinely friendly people.

On that note…. time for dinner.

23 October – Arrival in Kathmandu

Good morning from Kathmandu!

Doves are cooing outside our window. Shop front shutters are being rolled up. Motorcycle’s are beginning their infernal racket. The dogs are settling down. Dawn is arriving over Kathmandu. It was a short night.

We cleared immigration quickly, then waited in a mob for our luggage. There was much less mob by the time our bags finally began rolling out. About an hours anxious wait! Always a big relief. We all got everything!

We, with all our luggage, were met by Tendi and Binod. Wonderful to see my friends. Marigold garlands draped around our shoulders, gear loaded into a small bus and we headed through quiet dark streets to our hotel.

Rooms assigned, beers consumed bed called in the wee hours of the morning.

Slept well until 5 a.m.. not nearly long enough. It’s been a tiring beginning but always exciting.