As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, I had no idea that Nepal actually had jungles. Mountains on the other hand, I knew – everyone knows. Even if you don’t know where Nepal actually is in the world (and by now I am hoping you do, even if you looked it up on Google when you started reading this… ), everybody knows that the tallest mountain in the world is Mt Everest, and that it’s in Nepal. Ok, geography lesson over, let’s get down to the trekking!
|Me and the mountain.|
|Some guy with my sunglasses.|
You can’t come to Nepal and not go trekking – this is probably the biggest reason for coming here for most people. I mean the food is great, the people are truly welcoming and friendly, the prices are cheap, it is still a little out of the way and exotic… but everyone packs their boots and walking poles for trekking in the Himalayas – and can you blame them? Either can I. Although most people come to the Annapurna region to do the A.B.C (Annapurna Base Camp), which is a good 11 day return hike, I only had 3 days. I decided to do the Gandruk Loop, which would take in some beautiful mountain views, a decent level of hiking, and hopefully this would be enough for me… this time!
|A lodge at Tolka - $2 a night, views included.|
The first day was probably the best in so far as the views go – you start at a place called Phedi, and then climb the 500m ascent, all steps. Yes, out of the taxi, straight on to a Stair-Master machine for the next hour! The views at the top are out of this world though! You got a wonderful landscape view of the Annapurna mountains. Although not as busy as usual for this time of year, there were plenty of people doing this trail. There are also plenty of places to stay – in fact, the competition to get customers is quite fierce, and we were offered free accommodation if we ate dinner and breakfast there. The cost to stay 1 night for 1 person is about $2 - $3, but still, that saving can pay for your breakfast and coffee in the morning!
|The view after the 500m climb from Phedi.|
The second day was supposed to be the 'easy' day. We had stayed in a place called Tolka, and only had to do a few hours walking to Gandruk. Well, I thought, why just do an easy walk today - I mean, I can see where I was going to sleep that night - why not go a bit further and more in. This, at the time, seemed a wonderful idea! So, on I went with my 2 friends Harry and Ania (who were doing the A.B.C), crossing over at the village of New Bridge, crossing the 'rickety wobbly bridge,' on up to see the hot springs. I had a quick dip, and it was lovely! These hot springs are natural, and the water was lovely and hot, especially when it came straight out of the pipes from the mountain. Some people couldn't understand that in these moments, you should just soak, relax and keep silent... oh no, they had to drink beer, talk and carry on all the time in the tub! I left, feeling refreshed (if somewhat more annoyed at people than I usually am), and started by hike back to my lodgings for the night.
|Yak, yak, yak - just shut up and enjoy it!!|
|28 year-old Pramesh the Porter.|
Now, I was making great time on my way back, and thought it was going to be a breeze! I knew there would be a bit of a climb uphill, but I had no idea what lied ahead... 1000m ascent in the dark! I started at the bottom of the climb to Gandruk, at a height of 1000m, and started up. I thought it would a 45 minute climb and I would just make it time before it got dark - how wrong I was. It turned out to be a 1.5 hour, painful and seemingly never-ending battle of mind over legs. I think my savior was a young porter called Pramesh. I met a group of three guys climbing up the same way as I was, and decided to stick with em - so one of them could tell someone in town that I had fallen of the cliff when my legs gave out. Luckily that didn't happen. They stuck with me, and Pramesh even gave me his walking pole to help me get up. The leader of the group, Luxman, kept telling me it was only 10 minutes away... every 10 minutes for a full hour! One stop at a farmers house for a bit of water, I offered to pay the guy if I could stay there (as I honestly thought that I couldn't make it...), and he laughed and said I could sleep with his buffalo - I immediately agreed, and everyone laughed thinking that it was hilarious, before heading off again. I was serious about the buffalo.
I eventually made it, and headed straight for the shower, then dinner. The guys had kept me going, and my mind did win over my body. Over dinner, I got to know the 3 guys better, and we smoked and drank Raksi until I deemed it was well past time for me to hit the hay. Luxman is 39, and has been a porter for 12 years. Pramesh was only 28, and has been doing the job for 4 years, and the 3rd guy was even younger - 17 years old, and it was his first time! Although they weren't carrying huge packs (as some others were), Pramesh only got paid 5000 rupees for 10 days - thats about $50 all up, or $5 a day. Tough work! My legs ached for days afterwards...
|Machapuchare AKA "the fish tail."|
The town of Pokhara is the main town in this area, and is worth a mention. It is basically a big tourist haven, full of cool bars and restaurants serving pasts, pizza and steaks, and full to the brim with guest houses and hotels. I was told before I got here that it was a really cool and relaxing place - I had my doubts, and thought it was going to be full of hippy, new-age travellers with dreads and iPads - but I must say that I was pleasantly disappointing for the most part... there are always a few dreads kicking about and some idiot taking pictures with his iPad.
|Pokhara and the mountains.|
We took a small walk up a hill the overlooked the town, to see the Buddhist stupa at the top. This walk was easy compared to the 3 day hike, but also had spectacular views. Once at the top, you had the privilege of being able to see the lake, the town and the mountain rage all in one - words cannot describe it, but let me tell you that my camera was working away trying to do the view justice! It was quiet, peaceful, and clean. We walked around the stupa (you should always go clock-wise), and took it all in, not speaking very much. At the top of the hill, just before the stupa, there were restaurants and even a few guesthouses, prices still good and views to boot! Instead of walking back the same way, which just seems stupid to me, we decided to take a chilled out row across the river back to town.
|The Fish Tail at sunset.|