Thursday, April 16, 2009

~ The Annapurna Circuit Trek ~

Day 1: "Back on the Bhat"
(Besisahar --> Bhulebhule - 2.5 hrs walking, 9km, 840m)

From one bus to another, rip off after rip-off we slowly made our way to the Annapurna Circuit trailhead. By 2:15pm we had completed our bus marathon (which began at 6:30am and covered a staggering 114km) and decided to stretch our legs and try to cover some ground. Naturally, 10 minutes in and the rain started to fall as we started off on the the longest trek we had ever done.


Day 2: "Blisters in the Sun"
(Bhulebhule --> Chamje - 6.5 hrs walking, 20km, 1430m)

It was hot and sunny and we weren't complaining - in fact we were loving it!!! Our sweaty feet made a few bubbly friends that Kristin was eager to pop... must be a Thomas thing. We followed a ridiculous road that has replaced trail sections. Ugly site if you're a trekker - wonderful site if your a local (who can now take a jeep)!! But one landslide after another made the "road" pretty much useless. Not to worry, the workers should have it cleared just in time for the monsoon!
On a side note, Kristin sadly realized she had left her best friend behind in Kathmandu - her headlamp! She should be over it by day 14!

Day 3: "Move Your Asses!"
(Chamje --> Danaqu - 5 hrs walking, 15km, 2300m)
I guess starting early means you have to travel with the locals and their never ending parades of donkeys! As this is the main way to transport goods to higher villages, I think "donkey dodging" was actually more difficult then trekking today. Kristin's luck with animals continued as she was bumped into the side of a cliff at one point by an ass with an attitude! (We also happened upon fields, yes fields, of marijuana; needless to say we emptied our bags and loaded up!).
Day 4: "No wonder we're tired..."
(Danaqu --> Dhukur Pokhari, 6.5 hrs walking, 25km, 3240m)
Our morning began with quite a steep but fast ascent followed by... flat!! Not even Nepali flat (which is know as ups and downs) but real flat! It lasted for about 4 km too, which was a "miracle, as Kristin put it. At about 1:00pm we were pretty pooped and ordered our favorite boiled potatoes for lunch. We finally arrived at our destination, both a little out of it. Kristin had a little diarrhea blowout, but we were both exhausted. The altitude, maybe, the potatoes, possibly... and then we calculated our mileage for the day... 25 km! No wonder we're tired!

Day 5: "We'll be comin' 'round the mountains when we come"
(Dhukur Pokhari --> Nagwal - 4 hrs walking, 11km, 3657m)
We came face to face with the first of three Annapurna peaks today, with number four not far off. We also got our first taste of altitude since leaving South America; man what a wake up call! Definitely brought back our r-e-s-p-e-c-t for real mountains. The smaller village we stayed in was absolutely beautiful but quite desolate. Constructed entirely out of stone, it sits on a wind strewn plateau above the treeline. Perfect for a day in the sun, but quite a tough life for its inhabitants trying to make a go of it. Even more reason to appreciate a cold bucket shower and generous helpings of fresh cabbage!

Day 6: "Kristin in Wonderland"
(Nagwal --> Braga (Manang) - 2 hrs walking + 2 hrs side trip, 12km, 3300m)
Kristin discovered her heaven on earth today in the village of Manang. A breezy 2 hour stroll led her to her hottest shower since October 1, bakery upon bakery full of the "best" (according to her) Apple crumble, Apple pie and chocolate cake, beautiful sunny grasslands with galloping horses, samosas and even an en-suite squatter!! It took a lot of convincing to get her off her butt for a 2 hour acclimatization side trip, but the valley and the glacier views were worth it!! And so was the excuse for another extra helping of apple crumble. On to the foot of the pass tomorrow, with a quick morning stop at the bakery of course:-)

Day 7: "Let it Snow, let it snow, let it snow"
(Braga --> Yak Kharka - 4 hrs walking + 30 min side trip, 13km, 4018m)
And so the perfect weather came to an end but at the right time. As we slumped into our lodge at 4018m, we had just enough time to throw back some samosas and chocolate croissants (carried up from Manang) before the sky darkened and the snow started to fall. But it turned out to be a lovely afternoon acclimatizing with new friends by the fire (Eric, Scott, Lindsay and Lauren). We played cards, drank tea, watched the snow fall and talked about favorite beers and farting. Almost like being at home... almost.

Day 8: "I said brrr, it's cold up here, there must be some Mountains in the atmosphere!"
(Yak Kharka --> Thurong Phedi - 2 hrs walking + 1 hr side trip, 10km, 4540m)
We finally arrived at the foot of the Thorung (or "Phedi" in Nepali) and the lodges were a buzz with Pass talk. Some groups were setting of at 4:00am to get a jump on the weather (you shouldn't cross the pass after 10:00am as it gets too windy and cold); 6:00am sounded early enough for us. To escape the chaos we had one last go at acclimatizing, and booted it up 400 metres to "high camp" (the last place to stay before the top). We were hit with a face-full of snow and an even more bitter "breeze". All we could think was thank god we're not sleeping up here (we were down where it was warm... -15)! And thus... bring on tomorrow!!!!

Day 9: "F***, F***, F***!!!"
(Thurong Phedi --> Muktinath - 5 hrs walking, 16km, 4450m-->5416m-->3800m)
After waking up at 4:30am (although I don't know if you could call what we did in the night sleeping), and laying there freezing for a bit Cory and I decided to get up and start the long hike up the pass. We left at 5:30am in the dark and cold. I'll describe the hike in 3 different sections as they all carry there own emotions:
Uphill (the first 3 hours): "Fuck, Fuck, Fuck, freezing, toes numb, snot dripping down my face, cannot feel my face, cannot breath, fuck, fuck, fuck".
The Pass (at 5516m): Amazing views, sooooo nice to be at the top, we celebrate with a quick piece of chocolate (thanks Jude and Rob) and then head down to try to get warm and rid of the headaches and slightly nauseous feeling... but AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING!!!
Downhill (1.6km) - "Sweet, smooth sailing, no more uphill..." and then two hours later... "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, pain in knees, and toes falling off, fuck, fuck, fuck".
Finally we arrive in Muktinath, have a hot shower, eat, feel great and are heading to "Bob Marley's Pub" (who would have thought???) to meet fellow summiters for beers... or a beer, before we all pass out.

Day 10: "Done and Done"
(Muktinath --> Eklaibhatti - 3 hrs walking + 1.5 hrs side trip, 16km, 2740m)
We slept until 8:00am and left at 9:45am, our latest start thus far. We started our LONG descent (of 6 days) pumped after flying over the pass. It had been a brutal 35 minutes of gentle downhill when we threw our packs down and dove into the trail mix. Two hours later we threw our packs down again and ordered apple and vegetable momos, and then pounded a pack of coconut cookies. That was it. The pass caught up to us and we were officially exhausted. We did manage to stroll to the next town (sans packs) to get a glimpse of the Valley of Upper Mustang, a Tibetan resettlement area still ruled by a king and forbidden to foreigners to enter. Maybe tomorrow we will make it a little farther; and maybe not.

Day 11: "Marpha's Vineyard"
(Eklaibhatti --> Marpha - 3 hrs walking, 13km, 2400m)
After dying the first half of the day we stopped hiking after lunch when we found another heaven called Marpha (I think it was our bodies that told us to stop or else it was the amazing apple crumble we found again). We decided to rename this trek the Apple Crumble Trail and indulged heavily, loving every bite. Cory and I also decided this is the way to trek; no carrying tents or setting them up, and no cooking any meals! The villages on the upper portion of this side of the circuit are struggling due to the new road completed 2 years ago. Supply prices have dropped dramatically, but so has tourism (because no one wants to hike on a road), and some smaller villages are now almost completely deserted (not to be confused by us with "desserted").
Day 12: "Almost out of Ghasa"
(Marpha --> Ghasa - 6.5 hrs walking, 24km, 2010m)
We managed another 24 km day, but barely. With an hour left to go we almost had our first full blown breakdown. I won't mention any names but the only thing that kept her going was a throw down of coconut cookies and dried apples and a midget Sherpa offering to carry her bag for the rest of the day (I won't mention his name either). But we made it, and after seeing the breakdownee's blistered toes at the days end, I'm not quite sure how; she's a tough one that Thomas girl!

Day 13: "Feeling hot, hot, hot!!"
(Ghasa --> Tatopani - 4 hrs walking, 13km, 1190m)
Welcome back to "Swelter-ville"... and we even sweat going down all day! We cruised in to our destination midday, leaving us plenty of time to visit the local bakery (of course), local hot springs (which our bodies thanked us for), and "chilled" with two other Canucks throwing back beers (which our minds thanked us for) and Euchre matches. Now this is trekking!

Day 14: "Welcome to the Jungle"
(Tatopani --> Banthati, 7.5 hrs walking, 24km (19km/2000m uphill), 2520m)
Well shit, we wished we had Guns and Roses blaring all day, it might have helped us walk up the 19 fucking km. There's no other way to describe it than it was brutal. 1300m up before lunch and another 700 m after, sounds fun doesn't it? Kristin was an animal who booked it up in record time (and almost got attacked by an enormous monkey). I finally met my match and was cursing and dying at every switchback on the back nine. Why are we so god damn competitive?

Day 15: "The Annapurna Diet"
(Bhantati --> Chomrong - 5 hrs walking, 16km, 2050m)
We thought we would share with you our healthy diet for the last 15 days:
Breakfast: Tsampa porridge (barley, flour, water and sugar) and Tibetan Bread (fried dough)
Snack: 2 packs of butter crackers with peanut butter or handfuls of trail mix
Lunch: Boiled potatoes (6 full potatoes each), and fried macaroni (yes, you can fry macaroni - who knew?)
Snack: A pack of coconut cookies each (the only cookies available on the trek if you didn't guess)
Dinner:- Dal Baht (rice, Dal, potato curry and a Papadum) - 2 full plates of each

Day 16: "Tips fr the Trekker"
(Chomrong --> Bichook Deurali, 5.5 hrs walking, 15km, 2100m)
We've come a long way, seen alot of sights, and learned alot of lessons. Here are our top trekking tips for a successful journey:
1. If your shit freezes to the toilet, kick it down with your shoe.
2. Always make sure you get a papad with your Dal baht.
3. Up sucks. Down sucks. Flat doesn't exist.
4. The Atkins diet is load of shit.
5. Earplugs are the most important piece of equipment to carry.
6. Groups are fucking slow.
7. Porters are not human, they can't be.
8. "Sweet" is a Nepali kid's version of "hello".
9. Cabbage is heavenly when it's the only veggie for miles.
10. Before accepting a room, feel the bed, test the light switch, check the roof, then ask for a discount. It only makes sense.

Day 17: "It's a long way down..."
(Bichook Deurali --> Phedi - 2.5 hrs walking, 7km, 1100m)
After waking up to a rooster/cow ensemble and a sweaty 3 hours downhill, we did it! We finished the 17 day, 261 km Annapurna Circuit! The latter half of the day was spent handing off our repulsive laundry, indulging in fruit salad, napping and laying around. Thanks for following us through this ridiculous adventure! And now, with mixed emotions, we're going to get drunk!

5 comments:

Vera said...

I'm exhausted reading this but happy, thanks for that great account, from a serious armchair trekker. Love you ...You guys are both tough cookies. Speaking of cookies, make dad bring you something other than coconut.

Kails said...

I love your trekking comments, we had lots of days like those! Sounds like an incredible, exhausting trip but worth it I'm sure! I remember how amazing it felt to finally peel off those trekking clothes at the end of the Everest hike...and finding a bakery in Namche, heavenly! Anyway, we miss you both and can't wait to see you again soon!

rob said...

Awesome (but all-too-brief) recount of an incredible experience. I look forward to comparing details when you return to western reality (put it off as long as you can!!)

Michael said...

Awesome guys! I look forward to hearing more about this amazing trek in person, soon!

Tanya Manoryk said...

You guys are amazing! Can't wait to see you soon (I hope).