The valley was completely covered in cloud when I peeked through the window this morning. I turned over in bed and went back to sleep. Fast forward to 10am the sun is out although clouds still drift by and I’ve finally gotten up and had some breakfast. Today’s walk will be a short one, less than two hours even if I stop everywhere for photos. In spite of the sun the forest is still wet, the rhododendron leaves shedding tiny beads of moisture that drip on the moss below. All to quick the trail enters Ghorepani where a policeman checks my trekking permit and in approval the clouds part and the Annapurna reveal themselves.
The sun is shining and there is hardly a cloud in the sky when I get up this morning, looks like a great day for hiking. Breakfast is a bowl of porridge and pot of tea both hot and with a lot of sugar. Then I set off. Immediately the trail climbs up amongst the hotels that make up Hile but after a few minutes it levels off and shortly after enters Tikhedunga. That’s where the real work starts. The trail now becomes a staircase and it’s 3500 gruelling steps are infamous amongst trekkers and I go slow, very slow and the view gets better all the time,eventually I reach Ullerri. Lunch is a mixed affair good company, two American couples who are on a two week holiday from their jobs with a tech company, but mediocre food with a Dal that is tasteless and a curry that is just boiled potatoes. After lunch the trail keeps going up but more gradual then in the morning weaving through rhododendron forests dripping wet and trees covered in lichen and moss with flowers red and pink. Clouds are all ready covering the hills whenI arrive in the small settlement of Banthanti my home for the night.
It’s a bit grey and overcast this morning but the hotel owner is cheerful as ever while she gets me a cup of sweet Nepali tea and her husband gets the car ready to take me to the start of the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek at Nayapul. Nayapul once just a couple of farm houses and a bhati is these days a squalid little town with muddy roads, partially built shops and snotty nosed kids running out of badly constructed shanties. I’m glad to leave it behind.
Half an hour later I’m at the Police checkpoint in Birethanti where they check trekkers their paperwork and I have some breakfast in a small open air restaurant overlooking the river and watch in amazement the seemingly never ending stream of trekkers filing past. From here the trail follows a jeep road slowly but steadily uphill for the next few hours then crosses in front of a small waterfall up some stone steps and into Hille. Just as I start up the steps fat drops of rain start falling down and I run the last few meters into town and to Mamta’s guesthouse where I’ve stayed previously and the Dal Bhat is tasty.
On my return from the Everest area, I spent a few days in Kathmandu then deciding that the air quality there was quite literally choking me I took the bus to Pokhara. And while the air is better in Pokhara my body was not and for a week I coughed and spluttered before deciding it was time to go walking again. But that is tomorrow’s story.
It’s still pretty damn cold this morning and my mind has been wandering back to the comforts of Kathmandu. The decision is made easy by having no one but me to answer to and then reinforced by every stride downhill. The walking is getting easier, the air warmer and slowly trees and greenery start to reappear. When I stop in Pangboche for lunch I have already covered a distance that took me three days to cover on the way up. I stop in Thyangboche for the night and while it still freezes it definitely feels better. The next day I walk through Namche then down the ridge line to Monjo before climbing up again to Lukla. A long day but tomorrow I’ll be back in Kathmandu.
It’s bitterly cold when I get up and a fierce wind is blowing across the valley. While I am having my breakfast I watch the hotel Yak wandering about. It’s stabled in a small paddock near the main gate but as no one has bothered tieing the beast up or fashioning a gate it walks to the hotel kitchen door every ten minutes or so to look for a feed. The kitchen boy then chases it back to its paddock. Rinse and repeat. Later on, I climb a ridge to get a better view of The Imja Glacier. The views are great but wind gusts do their best to blow me off my perch and hurl me down to the valley floor. I retreat back down the hill, cross the glacial rubble back down to my lodge and order a pot of tea.
Cool but not cold this morning. let me tell you about another danger of the altitude. HAF or High Altitude Farts! For some reason it’s not uncommon for me to suffer from bloating and the occasional cramps while at altitude and last night was a classical case. People were polite about it this morning but I’m sure that the sound of a methane gas explosion must have woken up everyone last night. I did feel a lot better after that though.
Today’s hike is a short one up the valley and while the walking goes well the altitude makes it hard work and a strong wind makes it harder still. While wandering along in the general direction of the cluster of hotels that makes up Chukung and carefully crossing numerous partially frozen glacial run-offs I was passed by a a young local woman. Turned out she was there to open up the lodge I was planning to stay at. Good timing on someone’s part. The mountains here are stunning and if I can handle the weather the plan is to stay here for a few nights before returning to the fleshpots of Namche Bazaar.