Swirling stars, setting moon and unsettled weather over the 23,000+ ft Himalayan giants of Annapurna III and Nilgiri shot from our acclimatization camp at 16,000 ft. Words by @jetbutterflies - ~
A few hours outside of Kathmandu, the main highway crosses the Marshyangdi river. Here, the river is cut into a steep valley and tumbles violently between massive boulders, angry and deep. If you turn right and follow the river upstream, it undulates through cliffs and canyons, past small villages with men and oxen pacing across thimble-sized terraces on the steep slopes of the valley. The river calms as you gain elevation, shifting from blue to azure. ~
This magical valley sneaks around the Himalayas themselves and into the dusty rain shadow between the fertile mid-hills of Nepal and the high-altitude desert of Tibet. There are few places on earth where you can experience so much vertical relief in all directions. This geography creates a certain silence, a gravity that is nearly impossible to describe. It leaves you feeling tiny. Quiet. Humble. Nauseous from the thin air, from the realization of our own insignificance.
Day 6. To Upper Pisang. A massive day of hiking today. 1.5km’s. 1.5 hours. We decided the night before today was going to be a cruuuuuisy day. It was Marijn’s 23rd birthday and we deserved a rest! We were going to hike to Upper Pisang and celebrate Marijn’s birthday in true style. Get drunk and eat loads of amazing food. We woke up nice and late, my muscles were aching, my bag was still wet from being in the rain and my hiking gear was still damp with sweat (sexy i know). But it was so easy to set off knowing it would be over soon. After what felt like a few minutes the boys told me we’d arrived. This hotel was simple of course, but that view. Oh my god. We were sitting in the restaurant surrounded by windows. The wind was rattling the glass constantly and the door kept getting flung open. We were overlooking an open valley surrounded by mountains. Our guesthouse was the first one on the mountain. Which meant completely uninterrupted views (Naturally i was the one who decided we’d stay here) but it also meant the wind was ripping through the valley and hitting us directly. It was so comfy sitting in a warm dining area, drinking hot drinks and hearing a harsh wind whip past the snowy mountains. So as I said the plan was to party up a storm for big Maz’s birthday. With only an hour of hiking and only a 100m ascent we’d have loads of energy. How wrong we were. I ordered food, starving, but alas my nepalese stomach was starting to kick in and every bite was a struggle. We’d pushed our bodies so far for 5 days straight and with a rest day our bodies decided they were the boss again. By 12pm we were basically zombies. All lying around hardly able to keep our eyes open. Tomas was napping on the floor, I was sleeping with my head straight on the table, big Maz chose the chair to curl up in and i’d forgotten Bob even existed we hadn’t heard from him in so long. Turns out he was using the window as his pillow with his beanie pulled over his eyes so he could have a nice nap. We kept telling Maz we’ll party soon we promise, a quick nap and we’ll be fine. But alas, the entire day was spent napping, dozing or reading quietly. Wild.
Day 5 Latamarang to Dhukur Pokhari. 18.5km. 7 hours. It was just going to be a short day. A 3 hour hike to Chame, fix my shoes, get Erica some medicine, but the annapurnas had other plans. Of course it was another beautiful trek. I probably don’t even have to mention it any more, we can all assume from now on every single day is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. It was an easy trek to Chame, nice and sunny. It was too easy, it lulled us into a false sense of security. We arrived at 12pm, my shoes were going to take an hour to fix so I wandered around town in a sexy socks and sandals combo. There was nothing to do but sit down and enjoy an afternoon of chai masala. Sitting in a tiny indian take away shop with children running around everywhere, watching the owner cook tibetan bread crouching down in front of the fire. Before we knew it 2 hours had passed. We were all low on energy, Erica had her medicine but she was still sick, Tomas had a hectic cold setting in (which he later gave to me, bastard) so we thought ‘lets just cruise along to Bhratang, the next town, another 2 hours of walking and we can call it a day. We set off just as the rain began.
We plodded along through pine forests, next to rivers, past locals huddled under overhanging rocks warming themselves by little camp fires. Staring at us as we trudged along in the cold rain. Berating ourselves for our decision to keep going. We saw more and more snowy peaks, our breath was frosting up. My fingers were getting colder and colder. Today felt like we were hiking in the scottish highlands. Finally the next town was in sight and a sigh of relief filled my soul. But as we got closer we saw Tomas and Marijn sitting and waiting for us. We’d lost them on the route so it was a double relief. It didn’t last long. They were shaking there heads. “Don’t get your hopes up, there’s no rooms” My back screamed in protest. “The next town is 2 hours away” I didn’t believe them. I can handle a long trek but not when I don’t expect it. I’d mentally prepared myself for a 3 - 4 hour hike, and here I was 5 hours later preparing for another 2 hours. My mind wasn’t ready. We were stopping in Bhratang. I still couldn’t comprehend that it wasn’t true. Putting my pack back on will still remain one of the most demoralising things i’ve ever had to do. We weren’t sure if there were rooms in the next town but we were hoping with everything we had. If there wasn’t rooms, it was another 2 hours to Upper Pisang. I knew i could physically manage, but mentally?
As we trekked the snowy mountains got closer and closer, the clouds dropped lower and lower. I was so cold, i could hardly move my fingers and the thought of taking my pack off and getting my camera out was too much. But eventually there wasn’t anything I could do about it, I had to get it out, it was that epic. Step by step I managed. I was so excited by the thought of the next town and putting my bag down, but I had no idea what was coming. After what felt like decades of trekking we crested the hill and suddenly there was the town. The first thing i noticed was the hotel signs. There were enough hotels around that I knew we’d have a place to sleep here. I could relax. I dropped my bag and grabbed my camera and could now appreciate the view around me. I was dog tired but the view was so overwhelming, i didn’t know what to photograph first. Everywhere I looked snowy mountains, so close I could see the the wind blowing snow off the peak. We were above the clouds, the trees were frosted over and the mist was roaming through. I was standing on the rooftop of the hotel with my zoom lens on so overwhelmed I was close to tears. Energy was coursing through my veins. The cold crisp air was cleansing my body of its aches and pains and the view made me forget the hours of pain.
I’ve spent the last 5 days describing the trek, mountains after mountains, aches and pains, overwhelming views. I’m sure it’s getting boring now. So let me describe what life is like on the trek. It’s not all walking and pain. I didn’t expect to enjoy every second of this trek so much, a lot of that is down to the people i was lucky enough to meet. But when you arrive in a new town first you feel the pure pleasure of being able to put your pack down. You check out your room, check the comfort of the bed. So far it’s been pretty good. You ask about a hot shower, every now and then you get lucky. (In this spot we were lucky, it was almost too hot.) Then you head into the common area to order dinner. The only place that has any warmth. As soon as the place starts filling up they light the fire and everyone huddles around with there feet and hands next to the stove trying to return feeling to their extremities. The warmth fills you up and you all wait for your food to arrive in anticipation. Food has never tasted so good. You sip a hot tea and admire how glorious a simple lemon tea is. There is usually another traveller or two in the guesthouse and you all bond around the fire, comparing trekking stories. Most of the time the other travellers have trekked far longer and quicker than us. It became an ongoing joke how slow we were. Not physically trekking, we’re fast walkers, we just didn’t push ourselves. But why push, it’s the most beautiful place i’ve ever been, why rush through.
I remember this night specifically being quite enjoyable, such a tough day with such a sweet reward. Laying around the fire listening to music and discussing our different lives. It was our first night above 3000 metres. We were all starting to feel the altitude, a little bit heavy in the head, more tired than usual, the breathing just doesn’t come AS easy as it should.
Day 11/12. Manang to Khangsar to Yak Kharka. We made it to 4000m. The alititude is here. So breathless. Low on energy which makes me low on mood. Nothing a good plate of fried rice can’t help with though. — I awoke at 5am to a snow covered wonderland in Yak Kharka. Still amazed by natures abilities to create such magnificent vista’s I braved the cold again and went outside with the camera. Greeted by a pink kissed mountain peak surrounded by soft billowy clouds.
Yet another soul refreshing moment.
Nothing like a good sunrise in the himalayas to improve the mood and get me ready for another day of trekking.