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.