Archive for September, 2010

Trek – Poon Hill

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

When coming back down from ABC there are at least three options from Chhomrong to the main road for getting back to Pokhara. The people I was trekking with were keen to get back quickly so were going to go via Gandruk. But since I had paid for a 12 day trek, I had an extra day up my sleeve. So my porter and I decided to go to Gorepani which lets you go to Poon Hill. Tiffany had done this before and highly recommended it. So that’s what we did.

We split up just past Chhomrong. I spent one night in Gorepani. This was day 10. More about day 10 in a future post.

We prayed for a clear sky (or I prayed for a cloudy sky so that I could get a lie in).

There was a clear sky so I got woken up at quarter past four (in the morning). I had a cup of tea, put on my warm hat, switched on my head torch, put on my gloves and set off in the dark up the hill. We walked up for about an hour. Gorepani is at 2860m. Poon Hill is at 3210. Since we were at elevation (and it was very early and I’d been walking for 10 days) we went quite slowly. We saw some fantastic views of mountain tops peeking through the clouds of the early morning half-light.

We got to the top and saw an incredible vista of peaks. There was enough light for us to not need our torches.

It was incredible. And then it got even better as the sun started to rise from behind a mountain. The view as the sun hit the tops of the snow-capped peaks that we could see was astonishing. And below the snow capped peaks were the forests and jungles. The low-lying cloud hanging in the valleys and the cultivated fields in the valleys.

We could see Machhupichhure (Fishtail) and Annapurna South and Hinchulli. We’d walked between Hichulli and Machhupichhure and to the other side Annapurna South so it was incredible to actually see these peaks.

I’ve seen some wonderful things in my life. I’ve seen sunrise from the top of Sri Pada in Sri Lanka (with the triangular shadow of the mountain). I’ve seen the early morning sun on the sides of Everest from Base Camp in Tibet. I’ve seen Ulluru from the top and seen the sun on it at different times of the day. But watching the sun hitting Daulaghiri from the top of Poon Hill is I think the most amazing thing I’ve seen.

Trek – Wildlife

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I saw some cool wildlife while trekking:
Monkeys
Cows
Buffaloes
Donkeys
Goats
Sheep
Dogs
Cats
Birds
Chickens
Lizards
Grasshoppers
Butterflies
Leeches
Various other insects that I saw and heard but couldn’t identify (I’m no zoologist – I can tell the difference between a butterfly and a rabbit, but that’s about it)

Trek – Boredom

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I’ve heard it said that people on treks get bored.

Bored with the walking. Bored with the aching. Bored with the rain. Bored in the afternoons and evenings in the hours between finishing walking and going to bed.

Some people listen to music while walking. Some people sing or whistle. Most people play cards in the afternoons/evenings. Sometimes for money. Sometimes people read. Sometimes they chat. Sometimes they take photos.

I must say, I never felt bored. I did a lot of thinking while walking (and some drafting of blog posts). And a lot of not thinking while walking too. I didn’t listen to music (except when the person behind me was singing). In the afternoons/evenings I read or chatted. I didn’t play cards but would sit with the others and read while they played cards.

Ships in the Night

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

When you travel, especially when you stay in communal places – like youth hostels, you meet people.

Some of these people will stay with you. Some will just be people you meet, chat to and then never see again.

But even those you don’t see again are not forgotten. I still have very fond memories of some of the people I met when backpacking in Italy in 1999!! Andrew, the Scottish guy who walked through Eastern Europe. The PerFerveries (can’t remember their names but they were from southern USA and they pronounce per favour as per fervry), Shannon and Matthew (the Canadians who impersonated Americans occasionally).

Some of the people are people you actually get to know. Others are people whose names you don’t even know. Like the Swiss guy from Kathmandu. I will always remember him as the Swiss guy. But dinner with him and the Canadian guy was one of the best nights I’ve had on this trip (plus conversations with the American guy and the Sri Lankan guy). 🙂

I met an American couple when I was on my trek who I bumped into a few times after the first meeting. They were very lovely and fascinatingly interesting. I had a great time during my brief (yet in-depth) conversations with them. And Becca and Gary, if you’re out there, I hope Bhutan was fantastic and that you are really loving wherever you’ve got to now. Best of luck on your epic journey and I sincerely hope (and do not doubt) that we’ll bump into each other again somewhere and sometime.

And to all the other wonderful people I’ve met on this trip so far, I wish you all the best and hope that our paths will cross again when I get to Singapore, Canada, the USA, Kazakhstan, Russia, Serbia, Italy, Germany, Australia, Nepal, Sri Lanka or somewhere else entirely. And even if our paths don’t cross again, I won’t forget my time with you, however brief it was. 🙂

First Aid Kit

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I didn’t bring much stuff with me. I did bring a first aid kit.

And I got to use it! Which was nice (because it justifies me carting it around, and because it was for a minor ailment).

I got two leech bites while trekking.

With the first one, I felt the leech bite and removed it. It was on my right hip (I suspect it had fallen on me from a tree and then found the waistband of my trousers). We each had a bundle of salt tied up in fabric that when wet (which everything was by this stage) was great for brushing leeches off. It left a red mark but didn’t bleed.

I didn’t notice the second leech. I did feel something but I’d put it down to the first bite being itchy. But when I was tucking my money belt in at our tea stop I saw some blood on my thumb. I checked. At first I thought it was the first bite that had started bleeding, but on closer inspection discovered that it was in fact a second bite about 2cm away from the first one. No sign of the leech itself.

So out came the first aid kit. I cleaned the bite with disinfectant and put a sticky plaster on it and smiled at the thought that my first aid kit has been used!

And now that I have used it. I can quite happily not use it again. For anything. 🙂

Chopsticks

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

A brief interlude to the trekking posts to talk about chopsticks.

There is a Chinese restaurant just around the corner from my hotel in Pokhara. I like Chinese restaurants. They serve good vegetarian food that contains real vegetables. The food isn’t curried (I don’t object to curry, I just like to taste my vegetables). The food isn’t dripping with oil. Oh, and they do tofu.

I’ve been to this particular Chinese restaurant several times. The guys there know me and seemed pleased to see me (I like to think it’s personal, I suspect it has more to do with the tip I leave). 🙂

One guy was astonished to discover on my first night there that I didn’t use the fork and spoon but used the chopsticks instead. He asked me how I knew how to use chopsticks.

It was fun explaining that my Glaswegian parents had taught me to use chopsticks at home in Melbourne at such a young age that I don’t even remember learning. Also nice to get the looks of surprise from the other diners (who were almost all Chinese).

Thanks Dad!! 🙂

Trek – water

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

This is the end of the rainy season. Well, nearly. Well, in most years it is but this year it’s running a bit late.

Ah well.

I like rain.

Which is fortunate.

When trekking in Nepal towards the end of the rainy season one gets wet.

From above: rain, waterfalls next to (or over) the path, water dripping from trees (with the occasional leech for fun).

From below: puddles, streams that cross the path, streams that are the path, the path that is a stream.

From beside: we had some fantastic experiences walking through cloud – awesome, but damp.

From inside: when you trek, you sweat – and I don’t mean glow or perspire – I mean sweat. I mean the sweat runs in rivulets over your eyebrows, along your nose and down into your socks (if you can aim well). When you wear waterproof trousers that don’t breathe then you steam on the inside as well. Lovely!

So if you plan to trek in Nepal. Be warned. You will get wet.

It’s worth it though. 🙂

Trek – Bridges

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Nepal has lots of mountains. It also has lots of water. Frequently in the form of streams or rivers that intrepid trekkers need to cross.

At the beginning there were suspension bridges. Now, not being a Kath that is particularly comfortable with heights, I was a bit scared by the suspension bridges. I concentrated. I went slowly. I tried not to look down (other than to see where to put my feet). I didn’t enjoy the bridges or the views from them.

A few days later and it was concrete bridges with no handrails over small streams. A bit freaked but ok.

Then we got to log bridges with stones on them. They were about a meter wide and quite stable. Slightly concerned but not a problem.

In between we’d be frequently crossing small streams on stepping stones just as the stream fell in a beautiful cascade across the path and down the gorge. I had to be very slow on these (most of the stones wobbled). And I got wet feet. Mmmmm glacial meltwater. 🙂

As we progressed further the bridges became less stable.

Just before Deurali on the way to Machhupuchhre Base Camp we got to a terrifying log bridge. Think bamboo ladder laid horizontally over an angry, turbulent, white water torrent. There were no stones on this one. I was walking across a horizontal ladder. With each step that you took the ladder would bend and twist. There was no handrail. There was no room for error. The water underneath was very angry.

Oh, and it was raining.

But I crossed it (trying desperately not to think about the fact that in two days’ time I’d be crossing the other way).

And I haven’t been that terrified, or that proud since the scary spiral staircases at Sigiriya!!

A brave Kath on a rickety bridge over a rushing river.

On the up side, I positively enjoyed the log bridges with stones, the concrete bridges and the suspension bridges (even the see-through metal ones) on my way back down.

Suspension bridge? Easy!! 🙂

Trek – Sense of Time

Friday, September 24th, 2010

I found after a few days trekking I completely lost my sense of time.

I didn’t know what day it was. I couldn’t guess what time of the day it was. I had no idea how long we’d been walking for.

I think I just got into a rhythm of walking where each segment felt like forever and yet many ended far too soon. Though some sections I must say didn’t end nearly soon enough. The steps up to Chhomrong after coming down from Sinuwa to cross the river were interminable. As were the steps down to Hille – and they actually hurt too!

But the rainforest that we walked through from Chuile to Tadapani was so wonderful I was hoping it would never end. It did. And while the chance to rest and drink tea was nice, it was with some regret that I left the glorious green of the path.

Trek – Valley Taog

Friday, September 24th, 2010

I don’t know what a toag is. But it’s got to be the opposite of a goat. And a valley toag must be the opposite of a mountain goat.

Now when Kath is trekking, she makes the most uncoordinated of valley toags look like an expert at sure-footedness.

Well, perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on myself. After all, I did only fall over once. I slipped on some mud and fortunately landed in the same mud rather than on a nearby rock. So no harm done bar some mud on the knee of my waterproof trousers. I did skid several times. I can flail with the best of them. 🙂

Have a stick helped a lot. Going up. Going down. Not going sideways. It helped with balance. It helped as an extra thing to put my weight on when I was trying to cross difficult bits.

And I went very slowly indeed over the slippy, muddy bits and the tricky stepping stones in water bits and the terrifying log bridge. I figured that going slowly was much faster than going quickly, falling and having to wait while I bandaged the relevant appendage and then hobbled along.

So taking my time, being careful, having a stick and just generally being damn lucky meant that despite my lack of natural giftedness I managed quite well. 🙂