I forgot the wonders of a hiking group. People to make you laugh when you’re down and push you to keep going when it’s tough and you fall behind and you’re so tired and have no energy left in your muscles.
Enter Ollie (Nz), Kelsey and Ashley (USA) and there guide Mingmar. We met in the guesthouse and decided to hike together much to the disappointment of their guide.
I would say usually a guide wouldn’t want random trekkers clinging on to his group, but especially when those random trekkers are super sick and may need to get saved at some point.
Today was the day of Mordor. We began trekking through a new zealand-esue landscape, but eventually we made it above the tree line into a barren, cold, beautiful wasteland. Falling rocks, evidence of landslides littering the landscape.
The altitude was kicking in, luckily it was a slow steady incline for most of the day, nothing too drastic. But every ascent left me breathless. Followed by yet another coughing fit and another and another.
The others were fit and healthy AND they had a porter. I looked in jealousy at there tiny backpacks and there long legs speeding off into the distance.
I had to come to terms with the fact that I was the slow one. Not because I kept stopping to take photos (like on the Annapurna) but because my body wouldn’t let me go any faster.
Anyone that knows me, knows this would kill me inside. I’m highly competitive and grew up wanting to prove that I can do anything a boy, or a larger human can do. I am never the slow one.
As I was plodding along, slowly falling further behind, I spotted a sharp incline. ‘Oh shit’ my lungs whimpered.
But just as I felt my mood drop I spotted a familiar face waiting at the bottom of the incline. Ol’ mate bobby hot shakes. You may remember him from such hikes as the Annapurna Circuit.
He’d started the hike 2 days before me but he decided he wanted his old hiking buddy back and he waited around for me (plus he’d needed an extra rest day for acclimatisation)
Elated, I basically ran down and ascended, not so much with ease, but definitely with less pain than first anticipated.
We arrived in town at the same time as a cloud. So much hiking, so much pain and I’d hardly seen any snowy peaks.
It hit 9pm, my eyes were burning with tiredness, my body ached. I climbed into bed expecting to fall straight asleep but the altitude had different ideas.
I tossed and turned, coughing constantly until 5am when I finally managed to fall asleep. The whole time questioning every aspect of my life and travels. Wondering if I am in fact the strong lass I always thought I was. Will I make it up to base camp? I’ve hardly taken any photos on this hike, am I even a good photographer? Should I just quit and go home where mum will look after me and get me healthy?
I woke up at 9am to a blue sky, unexpectedly sweating in bed (we’re well over 4400m here). Not ideal due to the fact I won’t be showering or washing my clothes up here. (Yes boys, I am single ;) )
My filthy hair is matted over my face adding to the incredibly attractive picture I have obviously created. I feel like a truck has ran over my face but I finally have a view of snowy peaks outside my window!
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.
A slow morning. The first view of a snowy peak off in the distance. A hot coffee slowly makes it’s way into my veins, energising me for a long day ahead.
The dull roar of the river below us lulled us into a slow, cruisy morning. The first proper day of hiking began easy enough. A slow meander through valleys nestled in amongst mountains.
It was only a 12km hike with the day ending 250m higher, at 1130m above sea level. Though one thing you learn very quickly, it might seem like the ascent is small, but most days you hike up and down up and down.
We’d begun trekking through the sweetest little town, winding our way up the hill, passing through fields of banana trees. Our stomachs were grumbling and luckily we saw the sign for ‘The Superb View’ restuarant. We had to force our bodies up another 150 metres to get there but it really was ‘The Superb View’ restaurant.
The plan was to have a good lunch and re-energise our tired trekking bodies. Perhaps a coffee or a coke for that extra kick and we’d be rearing to go.
But in reality when you take your pack off you actually physically melt into whatever thing you’re sitting or laying on and become stuck there for at least 2 hours before your body resolidifies and can continue moving.
Food in Nepal usually takes a good hour to come out, by the time my dahl baht arrived my body had well and truly dissipated.
Eventually our bodies reformed and we made it to Ghermu.
Our guest house was nestled in amongst some more mountains. How very original. This time overlooking a waterfall. We were exclaiming loudly about how beautiful it was wondering yet again, how on earth it could get MORE beautiful.
This country is seriously AMAZING.
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.