Tag Archives: Annapurna

Trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area: from Chomorong to Syaulibazaar to Nayapul and Pokhara

Wearily I rose, with my joints offering stiff resistance to my concerted efforts. With last night being the penultimate day of trekking, Narendra, the porters and our group all celebrated late into the night with dancing, drinks and cake. What had seemed like a good idea at the time I was severely paying for that morning.

Settling bleary-eyed at the long dining table, our breakfasts arrived just on time. Another thing most people forget to tell you about in Nepal, is that the higher up into the mountains you go, the more adventurous the breakfast choices become. Today’s menu consisted of boiled potatoes in a BBQ sauce, toast that tasted more like sweet pastry, eggs and porridge.

We all began the slow trek back towards Nayapul,  looking wistfully at the scenery that we would soon be leaving that day. The rainfall that had fallen for the past several nights caused an abundance of small waterfalls to drip onto our walkway, and on the heaps of silvery sheen rocks that littered the path and created a natural sort of sparkling fountain. The mountains were as green as we’d seen them, only now a rainbow arched across a smaller hill below.

Annapurna Nepal Rainbow

Suddenly, a large shape up ahead brought us to a standstill. Sprawled on the middle of our narrow path sat a cow, sunning herself on a bare patch of earth. One of our group attempted to shoo her away, but all he received in return was a flick of her ears and the back of her head.

Annapurna Nepal cow

“ She looks pretty comfortable there, “ I said, “it doesn’t look like she’s planning on leaving anytime soon.”

The cow continued to gaze off into the distance, unperturbed by the clicks of our cameras or the pleas and entreats to move aside. Accepting defeat, we tiptoed around her, careful not to give reason to provoke her. She remained impassive, and it wasn’t until we all had bypassed her and continued on the trail that we heard a loud “mooooo!” behind us in farewell.

The path narrowed along the ledge, until everyone was required to walk in single file. Up ahead we could hear a jumble of bleating sounds, and soon a herd of goats confronted us on the path, eager to cross without waiting. Well, all but one.

As we clutched at the rock face and trees to steady ourselves as the goats moved past, one small brown goat in the middle of the queue abruptly stopped, and turned towards us. With bleats of excitement he plunged his head into one of our member’s trouser pockets, eagerly anticipating whatever food he believed lay hidden. Laughter mixed with the angry sounds of the goats still in front of us, and our group member fumbled with his handkerchief as the goat tried to make a meal out of it. Victorious, he waved it  in front of the goat’s face, and, seeing an opportunity in their momentary delay, we all  quickly crossed it before the goat decided to investigate everyone’s pockets. Heads down, with a dejected look, the goats continued their walk across.

“Seriously, what is with these Nepalese animals?!” one from our group cried out between fits of laughter, “you’d think they’d have known how to share these paths by now!”

Nearing the stopping point of our trek, we came across a small, makeshift barn, and there stood quite possibly the most adorable animal we had seen on the trek. A baby kid, barely a few weeks old it seemed, stood feebly on its slim limbs, bleating pitifully at us. With caramel and white fur with a soft, downy texture, the kid nuzzled its head into each of our hands or chests each time someone went to pet it. Every time we made a move to depart, it would look up with large, tear-filled brown eyes, and let out such a small, pathetic cry that it melted even the sternest of hearts.

Nepal Goat trekking

“I think I know why the Nepalese animals are so accustomed to getting their own way now, “ I thought to myself, stroking the kid’s head lightly.

After a long interval we were finally forced to leave, and the kid’s morose bleats were mixed with the outraged chirps of chicks that had received no attention from us. Finally making our way to the Jeeps that would take us back to Pokhara, we threw our bags on the roof, and after everything was strapped down, began making our way along the bumpy road.

About a mile down the road, we approached a rocky bump in the road at a moderate speed, and amid the tired sighs and calls of “bye Annapurna” a sickening crunch could be heard. The car slowed to a stop, but not before another clunking and rattling sound was heard. Getting out and ducking our heads under the car, a part was dragging on the floor. Gazing uneasily at each other, we asked the driver what options there were to remedy the situation.

“Wait for my friend to arrive, he’ll drop you off at the bus site. Meanwhile, let’s move this car off the road so others can get by,” our driver replied.

A feat that was easier said than done, considering the road was in an inclined position, with a sheer drop on one side. Time flew by as we struggled to push the jeep up the hill towards a small space in the

Looking nervously behind us at the distance below, we continued to strain against the Jeep as it crawled up the dirt path. Our trepidation grew as a queue of cars and a bus began to line up on both sides of the Jeep. “This couldn’t get any worse,” I thought to myself. Just then, a small boy jumped from the steps of the bus and designated himself as traffic warden. Shouting words of encouragement while telling the bus driver where to turn as well as sternly telling the cars opposite us to wait, our fears of the small boy being crushed by the Jeep gave us all renewed strength. We hurriedly pushed the dilapidated car into the small space while the boy zigzagged between us, and heaved big sighs of relief that he had narrowly avoided being crushed by the car.

Looking around and satisfied that his job was done, the little boy clambered back up the side of the bus and began ordering the driver to continue. We all stood and watched the boy in astonishment waving his arms and hollering orders as the bus peeled down the road and to the rest of the villages. Shaking our heads and giggling in disbelief at the boy’s audacity, we were rescued from our stranded state by the arrival of our driver’s friend.

Dragging our bags onto the new vehicle and realising that it was much smaller than the previous one, we all squeezed in together and anxiously hoped this car would prove more resilient than the last. Looking around us, I thought to myself that there were possibly worse places to be stranded, and as a the vehicle grumbled to life we all wished, that despite the afternoon’s troubles, we had a little more time to spend in Annapurna.

Annapurna Nepal River

 

 

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Nepal trekking donkey

 

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I spent 12 days on Earthbound Expeditions’ Nepal Mountain and Tiger Tour, with our guide Narendra Timalsina, whom I would highly recommend. For more information about the tour, please click here.

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Day 4: Trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area from Tadapani to Chomorong and Jhihu Springs

Darkness enclosed the surrounding landscape, with only the muted outline of shapes discernible to the eye. A hazy orange glow, the size of a  appeared to the side of the teahouse, casting a pale light on the craggy outcrops on the side of Macchupuchare. The clouds transformed into a ghostly mist, hovering just below the mountain peaks. The light edged forwards, casting a dazzling shine on the snow capped peaks and rivers of sliver from the waterfalls that crashed down its side. The gloomy pall of night began to retreat, until the entire village of Tadapani was cast with the warming light of dawn. Sitting down  on the edge of the hill, I stopped taking photos momentarily and studied how different the mountains and village looked in the sunshine, when a small guffaw behind me distracted my attention.

 

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“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“Just got a great photo of the sunrise behind a marijuana-looking plant out back,” said one from my group, with a bemused expression on his face. We all had a little laugh, and as the sun began to cast its full rays on the mountains, we swiftly returned indoors to grab our gear and begin that day’s trek.

A few hours later, half of our group stood waiting ahead on a rocky platform in the middle of a muddy patch of ground. Narendra walked a little further ahead of us, approaching the group in long strides and calling out, “Don’t stand in one spot for too long, you’ve gotta keep moving!”

“But why? We’re on schedule to make it to the next place!” someone from the group called.

“No, not that, the leeches!” Narendra answered. At that point one of the ladies standing on the platform let out a shriek and began an erratic jig on the spot.

Leeches. The one thing many people seem to forget to tell you about when trekking in Nepal. When the mountains experience heavy rain showers, the leeches come to the surface and wait near waterways, muddy patches, or even on the edge of leaves, wait to tumble into a hiker’s shoe and feast. Unlike the leeches seen in films, Nepal’s leeches are small, thin and black, and possess the ability to stretch themselves needle thin to penetrate the seam of hiking boots, fabric and even rucksacks. Although they’re not dangerous, simply seeing one squiggling its way into the seam of your leather boot is enough to jerk anyone’s reflexes, which is exactly what was happening to our group now.

After calmly helping everyone inspect their boots for any sign of the leeches, Nerandra picked one of them up by his fingertips, as if to prove its harmlessness. With surprising agility and speed, the leech latched onto his finger and with a yelp Narendra furiously tugged him off his index finger. The porters and everyone suppressing a giggle, Narendra composed himself and turn back towards us all.

“They won’t hurt you,” he explained, “but they can be annoying, and can cause some unsightly blood stains after they’ve had their fill and drop off. They release a chemical that prevents your blood from clotting as readily as usual around the bite area, so just be prepared that the bite might look worse than it really is!

“Try to keep on stoned areas; they can’t camouflage themselves as well on that, and don’t stand in one place for too long! They can be fast and even leap small distances to enter your shoes. The best thing to do is forget about them and just enjoy your trek, you don’t want them to ruin it!”

With wary eyes keeping a watchful surveillance on the ground, we continued along the route in single file, this time careful to keep on the stone path.

 

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The trail eventually led to an open grassy field on the top of a large hill, where a large wooden teahouse sat perched atop. The rain from earlier that morning had been burned away by the sun’s rays, leaving the surrounding landscape in a harsh, clear haze of light. The hilltop afforded the best vantage point to view the surrounding hills, rivers and waterfalls. The hills were thickly covered in green forest, and the river running between two hills brightly reflected the sun. Pausing to enjoy the view, I laid my bag down and noticed another, more rudimentary bag next to mine. The main body constructed of wicker, with braided straps of twine forming two big loops, the basket was filled to the brim with plants and herbs. A small, stooped Nepalese woman came trudging over, and slipped one strap around her forehead, another her stomach, and began her precarious tottering down the side of the hill. Fearing she might fall at any minute, I kept a watchful eye until she disappeared under the cover of the trees.

“Well, I’m not gonna complain about my rucksack straps anymore,” I said aloud, “that lady can show me up any day, and that’s only using her head!”

Our group headed down the hill, with all the previous thoughts of leeches gone and instead replaced with discussions about the estimations of the extreme weights the sherpas and Nepalese people carry up the mountains.

 

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Arriving early at the teahouse where we were supposed to spend the night, we quickly found our rooms and dumped our luggage. Earlier Narendra had told everyone about visiting Jhihu Springs, a natural thermal hot springs next to the rapids where apparently monkeys also joined for a warm soak as well as humans. Following the slippery stone path downhill, narrowly dodging branches and tree roots, we eventually made it to the entrance. While we were sad to see the monkeys were not in their makeshift hot tub, on the bright side our group had a corner of the springs to ourselves. On the bad side, the leeches had made a return.

While they were repelled by the hot waters, the muddy warm areas by the entrance to the springs was perfect conditions for them. We watched as people hopped rapidly to the entrance of the springs, as if they were walking on hot coals, to avoid the jumping leeches, then took our turns rushing through the entrance. After four days of trekking, we all eased our tired legs and shoulders into the waters and immediately ‘ahhhh’ sounds were heard all round. A good hour was spent splashing water at one another, chatting and looking around at the surrounding trees and rapids, hoping that the odd monkey would make an appearance. As the day drew to a close and darkness began to dim the sky, we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of the hot springs and made the quick jig over the entrance and back along the path.

 

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I spent 12 days on Earthbound Expeditions’ Nepal Mountain and Tiger Tour, with our guide Narendra Timalsina, whom I would highly recommend. For more information about the tour, please click here.

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