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Nov 1, 2014

What a day!

Wow!

I didn’t know yesterday you could walk to the back and uphill and be closed in by the mountains. What a view! 360degrees of snow-capped. This world is so beautiful and I’m so in love! (I know i keep repeating this.) I could close my eyes and see the Annapurna light up in golden glow, her ridges so majestic. We heard an avalanche boom on the other side of the mountain which sent billowed up a soft cloud. (And then while walking down could see the sun rise out of Fishtail). Those will stay among my favorite visual memories. The things that you take away and keep and one of those days take out again to remind you of what really matters in the end. I could spend a day just admiring that beauty. Maybe I should have. To see how the mountains change throughout the day. I’m not too fond of the cold at night though. It was 12 degrees at 3pm in the dining hall and dropped to 8 at 6pm. In the morning I had all layers on me and felt like a Santa Clause, so stuffed!

sunrise, Annapurna, base camp, Annapurna sanctuary

first light

sunrise, avalanche cloud, sunrise, Annapurna, base camp, Annapurna sanctuary

sunrise, Fish Tail, Machhapuchhre, Tibetan Buddhist prayer flag, sunrise, Annapurna, base camp, Annapurna sanctuary

prayer flags

Fish Tail, Machhapuchhre, sunrise, sunrise, Annapurna, base camp, Annapurna sanctuary

Had a leisurely breakfast and left around 8am not knowing the Spanish hadn’t left yet. Most of the way is downhill now so I kinda skipped along, running in small steps or springing on stairs. People talk about hurting their knees but mind felt somewhat ok for the most part. I know getting to Jihnu would be perfect, for the hotspring and for the schedule to get back to KTM next day but it indeed would be too much of a stretch, and Chomrong would be more realistic.

walking to Machhapuchhre, sunrise, Annapurna, base camp, Annapurna sanctuary

Made it to Dovan for lunch, some place called Tip-top. The clouds gathered but not too heavy luckily so I pressed forward. Ran into Emily lunching at Bamboo village; she was forced down from MBC due to altitude sickness. After Bamboo there’s a long ascent which I took slowly. And to Chomrong, the stairs to climb up after the bridge was where I really felt the toll. Took it slowly too but had to stop so many times. This trail should be called Infinity Stairs. I made it all the way to the top at 4:30pm, exhausted. Completely drained. And Jihnu is all the way down, no up. I asked a few different people to make sure. And hot spring is so tempting, I got up to leave again. And down and down and down I went.

steep stairs, infinitiy stairs, ABC trek, Annapurna

ABC trek, Annapurna, humor, flower

By then I felt like I’d pulled a muscle on my inner thigh and it was really bothering me. Made it to Jihnu, so close to hot spring, and so ready to collapse. I got to the lowest lodge closest to the hot spring. Unfortunately hot spring is still 20 mins away, down hill by the river. But I was determined. After getting a towel, I trudged along. It was already dark by then, probably a good thing, not too many people. A rowdy crowd on one side, at first I thought local, but then later thought chinese. Anyway stepped into the quiet pool. OMG sooo nice and I thought: so worth it! There was only another guy there. All quiet with the river rushing right next to us and the moon rising. yeah sounds like the perfect beginning for a romance. But all I cared about was relaxing my muscles in hot water. (This was also my first bath since the beginning of the trek.) Amazing! The walk up was difficult though and made me question whether it was worth it after all. I kinda hated myself there. My muscle really bothered me and I could feel it tense up and was in pain. Was a bit worried about walking tomorrow. Luckily took a nap right after dinner and woke up and feel so much better already. It just needs rest.

Right now, there’s a group clapping, singing, shouting in unison. After 11pm! Kinda ridiculous actually. Sounds like an Amway party and makes me want to go fnd them and tell them to shut the f up and leave the partying for the city. Definitely East Asians. They can be so damn loud so inapproriately!

Oh yeah and there was this bitchy looking cat with 2 slightly uneven eyes sitting on the dining table staring at me during dinner before being teased to step down on the bench. I wonder if he/she recognized a kindred soul.

white cat, Jihnu lodge, ABC trek

dinner companion

All in all this is one of the hardest I’ve pushed myself and I hope I won’t regret it tomorrow. I’m definitely telling S and P to go. It’s too bad that these trails are so popular with foreigners while so few Nepalis from other regions come and see.

My hiking stats: Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 2014

Annapurna basecamp

At the foot of snow-capped giants.

I often say the closest to a religious experience I’ve ever had is when I behold the beauty of unspoiled nature. Captivated. Euphoric. Awed. The clarity comes intensely of what truly matters in the end. And when I think back on those moments, I often take the bird’s eye view: me as a tiny speckle that merges into the landscape in that very instant. I transcend. Or I am transcended?

I’m not too good with words, and often find it hard to adequately describe my experience and my innermost feelings. And sometimes, you just have to be there, be present, and feel it. There’s no other way.

Annapurna basecamp, sunrise, Nepal, Sanctuary, avalanche cloud

sunrise hitting Annapurna and clouds rising from avalanche on the other side

Annapurna basecamp, sanctuary, Nepal

Annapurna basecamp, sanctuary, sunrise, Fishtail, Nepal

Fishtail

Oct 26, 2014

Ghalegaon, Lamjung

Annapurna, sunrise, Ghalegaon, Lamjung, Nepal, Gurung village

Annapurna, sunrise, Ghalegaon, Lamjung, Nepal, Gurung village, Lamjung Himal

If I were a poet or songwriter, I’d compose something along that line of inspiration at sunrise today in Ghalegaon. Watching the sun light up Annapurna and Fishtail, first orange and then that clear uninhibited view of white snow. Pure, untouched. Watching the soft unformed clouds, or more like moisture still, rise up to Lamjung Himal as sun rays fell on top of the hills spreading out in front of it, the interlayers of light and shadow.

I could just dance in the mountain.

For a moment, I wish I was all by myself in this morning quietness. (It was just the 3 of us, so still excellent.)

The mountains are imposing but the feeling is different from the Andes, even though they’re much higher here. Maybe because the village is much lower and not as cold.

I was super bumped yesterday when told about the ACAP permit that is single-entry only, which means I’ll have to pay again later. So my plan might change yet once more, after countless times already. But I’m ok with it now. Am reminded of the spontaneous nature of traveling not in a tour, doing things in the moment, deciding on feelings and weather. Not being sold on a fixed thing. Let go. Be with the flow. Enjoy what is there. Sure the girls slowed me down considerably, but we have such engaging conversations. And they help me to understand so much about culture and history. And I’m not in a race after all. I guess I also feel a bit responsible to push them to do “the most difficult thing they’ve done in life,” to see this beauty of their own country.

 

Oct 27,

Annapurna, sunrise, Ghalegaon, Lamjung, Nepal, Gurung village, Lamjung Himal

Annapurna, sunrise, Ghalegaon, Lamjung, Nepal, Gurung village

Last sunrise in Ghalegaon. We woke up a bit earlier to watch a true sunrise. Saw the first light hitting Annapurna and Fishtail, and then the sun rise from the right of Lamjung.

Compared to yesterday, I already lost some sense of wonder. Yesterday when I walked out of the house and was greeted with a clear view of Lamjung, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I kept saying OMG and touching my face. This is a reminder to be grateful, appreciative of the beauty that’s around each and every day.

Annapurna, rainbow, Ghalegaon, Lamjung, Nepal, Gurung village, Shangri La

Most people go on combined tours of Prambanan in the afternoon + Ratu Boko sunset, and Punthuk Setumbu sunrise + Borobudur in the morning. But if you are overnighting in the the villages outside of these temples, it’s absolutely possible to go on your own.

In Prambanan, I found a crusty hotel 500m past the entrance. The moldy wall and bucket bath didn’t appeal to me, but it was the cheapest of the bunch, and the owner was nice enough to let me use their bike for free. Direction was straightforward: 3 kms south of the temple. You only have to turn once and then just keep following the road, and you could actually see the hill right from the beginning of the road. I didn’t know that was it because built onto the hill is a multi-level structure with lots of staircases and pavilions that from afar sort of looks like one of those monasteries you’d see in a Chinese kungfu film, where shaolin monks’d be practicing on the platforms or hauling up buckets of water up the mountain; except that in this case, it was empty. Even after I had seen the sign and asked a couple of little girls that it was indeed Ratu Boko, I still felt unsure as I stepped timidly forward. I never figured out the purpose of the edifice, but on the very top is a restaurant with a sign saying “romantic sunset dinner,” and a ticket booth where they want to charge a whooping $11 to enter the actual Ratu Boko ground and the sunset viewpoint. That’s 11 Indonesian dinners. I didn’t care about this hill temple, and I thought sunset should be free. I promptly turned back and walked down to roam around the puzzling space beneath the restaurant. You could actually get a great view of the plain below with Prambanan in the distance, and possibly of the famed sunset. There was no sunset. It turned out to be a cloudy day and the sun quickly dipped into the thick fluffy blanket and disappeared.

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Chicken Kingdom restaurant, Prambanan, central Java, Indonesia, chicken knight

the awesomest restaurant name and logo in central Java

The information on Punthuk Setumbu was a lot more vague. Luckily, I saw a primitive map which shows that I’d need to go around the temple to the south and then turn west. A staff member where I was staying, Pondok Tingal, offered to take me on his motorbike for $8 but I declined, opting for a bicycle rented from next door. The next morning, setting out at 4:30, I was a bit worried that there would be no street lights and signs. Luckily, a few people were already up at that point for the prayer, and the yellow house lamps together with my headlights gave me enough to go by. There were only a couple of signs along the windy road, but a simple Punthuk Setumbu? to any villager cleared up any doubts. The last few minutes up the hill had me out of breath, but I felt a proud sense of achievement: I was the only there by bicycle. A few sweats, but it wasn’t really that hard. Dawn already set in as I made my way up a decently maintained stairway. Every few steps there sat a local guy with an enormous flashlight; I wonder if they were guides or just there to shine the way for tourists who forgot their lamps. Either way, none of them was interested in this #1 on tripadvisor sunrise, and neither were the drivers who all contented with waiting around at the parking lot. Any beautiful spot in the world might very well be someone’s mundane backyard. Folks already filled the line along the ridge. I sat on a bench in the back waiting and couldn’t help smiling as I looked at Merbabu and Merapi whose summit I had just climbed a couple of days before.

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