You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘trekking’ tag.

Or: How I repeatedly disregarded my hunch and ended up paying dearly for it.

Woke at 6:30am. The rain had started the night before and I had thought I’d call the whole thing off if it was still coming down in the morning. But instead, I got dressed, went out in the dark, and bought a bus ticket.

Got off at Wannian temple and bam, Chinese tour groups and loud speakers! Maybe it wasn’t too bad compared to normal but to me it was shocking because I’d spent the past couple of weeks in remote quiet places. Thought about turning around. But then went ahead to get entrance ticket. 185 yuan, so freaking expensive.

Most tourists take the cable car up to the temple proper; i was pretty much by myself walking. (The temple was so noisy I didn’t even go in.) Passed a mom and daughter team, daughter already in middle age and mom a granny; I was so impressed. Crossed a young guy who seemed to want to walk with me but I ditched him. Big mistake. Why I ditched him I have no idea. He seemed nice enough. I was just in a cross mood. It was raining the whole time, sometimes fast and hard. My pants were wet, my shoes soaked. I took my socks off to wring out the water when I stopped for lunch and had to put them back on frigid after. I seriously considered just saying f*** it and turning around. But I pressed on. My feet were numb for an hour.

Sichuan, Emeishan, winter, hiking

So many times on the way, I paused and said out loud to no one: “what the hell, you’re crazy!” And in my head I was thinking: “did your parents raise you all those years to do this, taking a miserable hike in the cold wet rain and not even being able to see anything past 30 ft?” It was incredible misty and foggy. Finally climbed to the highest temple and then it started going down for a bit. This was getting slightly better.

But no! The monkeys appeared. There had been so many signs along the way: “Aggressive monkeys! Don’t joke them!” and I’d thought: No of course I don’t engage with wild animals; I’m not even interested a tiny bit in monkeys having seen too many of them in real life… Let’s say those signs were a serious understatement. I will never forget the leader’s mean face with his teeth out. He jumped right on my backpack and stripped the rain cover off and started gnawing at the top part. Then he very smoothly unzipped the side pockets but found no food so back to gnawing again. I got my pack off because he was weighing it down, which was a big mistake in hindsight. Should have just ran downhill with it (and with the monkey, but maybe he’d have bitten my neck off). I tried to tell the gang I’d give them all my food, and even attempted to unzip the top part for them so they’d stop tearing it. Of course they thought I was getting the bag back and started biting my legs. Hard! And from behind! Those sneaky thugs! Things were falling out and they got hold of my precious sleeping bag, and wanted to carry both the bag and the pack (and in it my passport) away, which really pissed me off. I started screaming, snatching both back and hitting the meanest one with the sleeping bag (wanted to find a stick but didn’t see any, and sleeping bag definitely doesn’t even hurt an ant). More bites ensued.

At this point I was shrieking so hard, someone finally heard. (There were quite a few people coming down after but no one was passing by at that point, such was my luck!) He came over, my savior!!!! He shooed the monkeys away and I was just standing there shaking and couldn’t stop crying. He kept saying “meishi meishi” to calm me down. And I was choking over tears to utter a few words asking him to give me a minute, and explaining to him that I don’t speak Chinese. He gathered my bag and the few essential things that were scattered around, and asked me to walk down a little further to a couple of small shops where I could rest (and where he came from). I was still crying the whole time. The monkey teeth tore my pants and sank quite deep in my flesh and blood was soaking out. I was completely shaken. The first time in my adult life, crying out of fear and helplessness.

I composed myself a little after sitting down. They cleaned my multiple wounds with alcohol (6 were bleeding and the others were more shallow and had dried up), gave me a place to change into drier clothes, and also a bucket of coal to warm myself and dry my shoes. Tears were still rolling down my cheek but I wasn’t choking up anymore. At this point I thought I could just walk down the mountain myself, but I’d need someone to accompany me past my tormentors. Of course I couldn’t say all that in Chinese (didn’t even know the word for monkey) so i decided to reach out to Kaylee for help. Girl is so golden. She was in Shangrila and after learning of my plight, made a series of calls to see what my options were and what could be done. All thanks to her, an assistance guy was dispatched to my place to help me get back to the foot of mountain. 14 freaking kms. At least most of it on the descent; instead of another 10 kms uphill. (None of the hikers that came after even saw monkeys. Make me wonder if they actually spied and seeing that I was alone and without stick, decided to ambush me.)

DSC_4042

That walk back might have been the best thing of the day. I was thinking: damn this is the most romantic I’ve ever done, could be straight out of a Korean drama, a guy and a girl walking arm in arm in the rain under un umbrella in the forest. I’m sure my companions didn’t find it that way. The first guy looks 19 and he was panting way too hard and sweating quite a bit, having to carry my (light) pack and supporting me on one side. I almost didn’t believe I’d climbed up all those stairs in the first place. They were just never ending. (And now I can’t believe I made it back down.) A couple of locals offered to carry for 800 yuan but I declined of course.

Got a free cable ride at the end. Then driven to a clinic where they cleaned the wounds good (and damn it hurt), bandaged them up, and gave me 2 rabies shots. They even gave me money for the extra shots I’d need to get in Vietnam. The staff who drove me to the clinic left to go home before I was all done. I thought that meant it’d be easy to get back to hotel but I was wrong. After getting a walking stick and a goodbye wave from the doctor, I was on my way. Hobbling along a dusty road near lots of construction filled with trucks and vans, bamboo stick in one hand, torn bag in back, sleeping bag dangling on the side, and a super miserable face, I must have been such a sight. People gave me some good long looks. That was really the least of my concern then. I thought the doc had said I could find lots of cars to get back once I got to the big road, but there was no taxi in sight. Quite a few big buses but there was no way i could just flag them down and tell them what i needed and climbed those steep steps. Stopped a few guys to ask to borrow their phones to make a phone call back to my hotel, but they just laughed and told me to use my own. Tried to say my phone wasn’t working (ran out of money from all the calls up on the mountain) to no avail. They just walked away. So here’s what to remember, if you can’t help someone in need, at least don’t laugh in their face. That’s bad manner. It turned out ok in the end though, that they left me helpless. A moment later, I saw a police station and went in. They let me use the phone, then drove me back all the way, and even checked to make sure I was back in proper hands. Thank you Emeishan police! And really Emei, you should stop pasting those cheerful monkey faces on all kinds of signs and banners. The staff took photos of my wounds, I hope you’ll put those up on warning signs instead.

Clips from the trail:

Sunrise special:

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 »

Oct 31, 2014,

Arrived in ABC (Annapurna base camp). Ascended over 1000m above 3000m today and luckily have been feeling fine. Gotta thank the Spanish guys for encouraging me to do it. Had a beautiful sunset. Met them at MBC (Machhapuchhre base camp) Serious mountaineers, they left Himalaya village at 6:15am and got to ABC at 9:30am, spent some time there and already back to MBC by 11am. They definitely don’t have the fanciest gears. No camelbak just plastic bottle hooked to the side.

It’s cold here. I have most of my layers on. Rented 2 more layers in Deurali and I think I’ll make it. The warmth of tea/hot pouch only lasts 1/3 here (time-wise) compared to at Himalaya. Not sure why but been so sleepy even before noon.

I really liked talking with the 2 Spanish guys at MBC and here in ABC met another 2 Spanish (turned out they were the ones that refused to sleep together on the double bed that Emily and I snatched in the end yesterday).

Man it’s just past 6pm and my eyes already so heavy.

fall foliage, Himalaya, Deurali, walking to MBC, Machhapuchhre, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

reminds me of New England fall

waterfall, Himalaya, Deurali, walking to Machhapuchhre, MBC, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek,

waterfall, tall cliff, Deurali, walking to MBC, Machhapuchhre, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

The trail opens up after Deurali. This is my favorite part. Started seeing snow on the mountains right next to the trail I walked. And after MBC it is like tundra, with snow still on the ground. First time I’ve seen such scenery, like Alaska though I’ve never been there.

Deurali, valley, walking to MBC, Machhapuchhre, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

Deurali, valley, walking to MBC, Machhapuchhre, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

tundra-like, Machhapuchhre, MBC, walking to ABC, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

fog, snow-capped mountains, Machhapuchhre, MBC, walking to ABC, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

Left MBC at past 12:30pm after lunch. The fog kept rolling in and sometimes opened up to reveal the imposing insurmountable summit of Fishtail. So ngạo nghễ: Here I am and I challenge you mortal beings. I walked really slow and steady and focused on my breathing ’cause I was worried about getting altitude sickness. Saw people work to make the trail up here! Fog was quite heavy by the time I got to top, and from the sign couldn’t even see the guest houses. Got a room easily unlike the night before.

Machhapuchhre, MBC, walking to ABC, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

humor on the trail

kids making snow man, tundra-like, Machhapuchhre, MBC, walking to ABC, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

ice-man?

tundra-like, Machhapuchhre, MBC, walking to ABC, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

workers making trail, tundra-like, Machhapuchhre, MBC, walking to ABC, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

trail workers at 4000m

trail worker, Machhapuchhre, MBC, walking to ABC, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

tundra-like, foggy trail, Machhapuchhre, MBC, walking to ABC, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

Annapurna base camp, ABC trek, Annapurna sanctuary, welcome sign

4130m

Fog thickened, could only see about 10m from the dining hall’s window. White snow covered boulders, and black birds that look like crows.

And then suddenly around 5pm, pouf! all the fog gone. The sky was blue and I could see why the Spanish guys encouraged me to go up and spend the night. We’re in an amphitheater surrounded 360degrees by mountains, snow-capped summits. I cannot describe in words. And luckily not too crowded/noisy here, but too cold to stay outside to admire and contemplate. Halucinante! Have never seen these beauties so close up and personal before. The world is so beautiful and I’m in love! The sunset lit up Fishtail first in a yellow glow, and then an orange burn. I’m so happy to be here. Can’t wait to see the sunrise tomorrow, but of course first have to survive tonight.

sunset, Fish Tail, Machhapuchhre, base camp, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

Fish Tail (Machhapuchhre) from dining hall

Oct 30, 2014,

I’m definitely losing steam. Could barely beat the recommended time.

Walked for almost 6hrs, most of it before lunch and after a small breakfast b/c they didn’t hard boil the eggs 😦 Gave it to the Australian guy, and his Indian wife was as disgusted as I was 🙂

Chomrong, walking to Sinuwa, trail along terraced fields, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

Chomrong, walking to Sinuwa, steep stairs, Gurung porters, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

Chomrong, Sinuwa, Bamboo, Gurung man, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

Sinuwa, Bamboo, walking to Dobhan, Dovan, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek, Gurung man

Sinuwa, Bamboo, Dobhan, walking to Dovan, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek, Gurung man

Stopped at Dovan for lunch and the clouds were forming. I rested an hour and decided to move forward though they have western style toilet there! Made it to Himalaya village right as the clouds descended. Only 2 small guesthouses and almost didn’t get a room. Was thinking might have to sleep in dining hall with porters and guides. Luckily in the end got to share a room with 2 Spanish guys (serious mountaineering people) and share the bed with a mixed Chinese-American girl (hapu born and raised in China speaking Chinese fluently).

view from Dovan, Dobhan, snow-capped mountain, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

Dovan, Dobhan, walking to Himalaya, wet trail, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

Dovan, Dobhan, walking to Himalaya, small stream in the fog, Annapurna Sanctuary, ABC trek

S texted earlier saying another typhoon coming! Things have been going pretty ok so far and I wonder what’s gonna happen now. Definitely need to find a coat to rent before climbing up tomorrow. This seems like a tiny village though so I really wonder. Everyone keeps asking my destination and I keep saying I’m gonna walk as far as I can, it all depends on the weather.

Yesterday didn’t have sound sleep at all. At times I even thought I wasn’t sleeping. So many dreams, thoughts, all jumbled coming in and out. I don’t remember what they were anymore but remember thinking at that point why I was even dreaming about those things.

For sure I’d have a much harder and slower time if I had all the warm clothes and snacks. But then again I shouldn’t go up higher if I can’t get a jacket tomorrow. No sleeping bag hasn’t bitten my ass yet, thankfully. Blankets and my thermal pouch (amazing!) has been enough and I even got too hot. But it’s gonna be much colder tomorrow. People would probably think I’m crazy for being this unprepared.

And I really admire these older people I see on the trail in their 50s carrying all their gear! Anyone older than that even walking this trail (w/o pack) is also amazing. Power to you!

Oct 29, 2014:

Long day. It was hard during the walk/hike but I’m surprisingly not that exhausted. I wonder if there’s something called a trekker’s high which seems like what I’m having right now. I’ll probably be dead tonight.

So in the morning got the bus to Kimche. Everyone said it’d pass after 9, possibly even later 10, or 11. Yet at about 8:40 I saw a bus coming down and asked the ticket collector and yes, it was that bus! Ran to grab my bag and didn’t even say bye to anyone. Good thing I’d packed and paid before that.

Bus stop, Berithani, Kimche, Annapurna

Started walking from Kimche to Ghandruk and took me 1hr instead of the 2hrs in the brochure. Made me feel pretty good. The clouds had gathered by then and looked like it’d rain all afternoon like yesterday. Took room at a lodge with a view of Fishtail and probably Annapurna (left of Fishtail) but it was cloudy so only partly revealed. After lunch, around 1:30pm rain lightened and so were the clouds. They were still there but the direction where I was headed to looked pretty ok, cloudy but not that overcast. Decided to move on and got charged 150 rupees for the room. But whatever.

Kimche, walking to Ghandruk, Gurung women, Annapurna

Kimche, walking to Ghandruk, Annapurna, terraced fields, harvesting

Ghandruk village, Annapurna, Gurung

Ghandruk village

typical house architecture, Ghandruk village, Annapurna, Gurung

traditional Gurung architecture

Next village is Khomrong which I was thinking where I might spend the night, but again got there in half time (45 mins). Ran into a group of Nepali guys who wanted to get to Chomrong and I thought well if these beer-bellied guys with huge packs can make it, so can I. And plus I was making good time. We went together for the next leg. They’re from somewhere near Lumbini.

Ghandruk, Gurung men, porters carrying stones

Ghandruk, walking to Chomrong, Annapurna, log footbridge over brook

Ghandruk, walking to Chomrong, house on cliff

Nepali trekkers, Annapurna, Ghandruk, walking to Chomrong

It was 400m down and pretty muddy after the rain. Took me 50 mins, very close to the 1hr in the brochure. Either I was getting tired, or can’t go down that much faster than recommended. Probably both. The guys took a break as I pressed on for a long ascent. Parts of it almost as steep as Marble Mountain. Had to take so many breaks. And then also walked wrong way briefly for a couple of times. It just kept going up and up for 500m! I broke my very first chocolate bar to get some energy and spirit. And then up and up again. Such a relief to see “Hilltop” side. Now only a down part to get to Chomrong.

Ghandruk, walking to Chomrong, bridge over river

Ghandruk, walking to Chomrong, steep stairs

Ghandruk, walking to Chomrong, cherry blossom

Got here in Chomrong at 5:15pm before it got completely dark and felt damn good!

One thing I realized is that I need to think kind loving thoughts to fellow trekkers I came across, instead of feeling smug and judgmental. Need to smile more, and bigger smiles. And as conflicted as I feel about porters having to carry enormous loads, I gotta respect the older trekkers for doing these treks, I’m sure they’re pushing their limits. Hard! I’m glad I’m doing these things now when I’m still physically fit. Not sure if my knees can handle this in my 50s. (The younger trekkers though, should try to carry less around.)

And either I’m much fitter than I’d thought (and my training really paid off) or the time recommended is really for average person taking lots of breaks/photos. Anyway here’s hoping for better weather. I think the view here in the morning will be pretty good.

I arrived in Nepal without much of a plan. Any vague ideas I had come up with for my trip was tossed aside pretty quickly. Contradicting information and advice really confused me in the beginning. Things changed daily. I pretty much winged it the whole way, like this trek.

Oct 28, 2014 (pm)

In Berithani, 200 rupees ($2) for a room with a view of beautiful river. Reminds me a bit of Khudi, but this is a larger town, the beginning/end of Ghorepani trek.

room with a view, Berithani river, Annapurna

So yes, plan changed again, as expected. Was told I could bus from Pokhara to Phedi then jeep to Pothana. Got off at Phedi at the trail head where I could have started, but looked at the steep stairs and didn’t want to move (saw porters carrying huge loads down in the rain, covered by plastic sheet! Followed about 1/2 hour later by a group of tourists). Was then told could get jeep to either Dhampus, before Pothana, or Ghandruk, after it, so I chose the later, trying to minimize walking on shared roads with motorized traffic. A group of people sheltering from the rain at roadside tea house flagged a jeep down for me, but not a normal transport jeep. I just went along. Fell asleep half of the way, woke up to see the sky clearing up a bit and light pouring down glazing over the valley and terraces below. If there’s no storm, there’s no clearing up! That moment of light. Got to a town where the driver dropped off stuff and greeted people. And was told it was Nayapul, not among the 3 places mentioned before but was assured I was still in the right direction! Ok! Just not what I came to expect. Driver talked with a bunch of people, about my situation I suppose, before driving down to valley and dropping me off at check-post in Berithani, because he wasn’t going any further. By this point, I was thoroughly confused about these villages names and where I should start walking.

Pokhara, Berithani, light after storm

Check-post worker pointed out a taxi going up to Kimche (I assumed another village on the trail) for $8 but thought that was a bit expensive so I said no. Found out that tomorrow morning there will be bus up there after 9, so I’m gonna take that one instead. Still not sure which way to go after that. Could just do Ghorepani loop like planned but that’s gonna be only a few days. Was considering ABC (Annapurna base camp/sanctuary trek) but feel very unprepared with this weather. Can try to go as far as possible before being forced to turn back. As said, should just take it by the day. Didn’t see Berithani mentioned much – I guess people just trek right through it – but I find it quite pretty here, picturesque. Especially now. Cotton candy white clouds on blue sky, mountains on all sides, a few terraced fields with yellow ripe crops below, right above the river.

Berithani river, Nepal, Annapurna

It’s so cool. Sitting inside my room writing and still can listen to the river outside. I just love the sound of water moving in nature: oceans, rivers, waterfalls…

Berithani town, children holding hands, Nepal

Berithani town, girl cooking outdoor, Nepal

(… note about a friend’s personal matter…) But us, the modern girls of VN, caught in between traditions and opportunities, between the shoulds and the coulds/cans, we can never be too sure. Not knowing if it’s something about ourselves or if it’s our situations that make it so hard. Life. Love. The things that should be simple, and yet so complicated. Always. The quote that I read … has become one of my favorites: “Life is understood backward, but can only be lived forward.” There’s no way around it.

Things that happened during the first few days when I wasn’t keeping notes:

– Sat next to a French guy on the plane KUL-KTM. Diving instructor for 10 years and now manages a dive shop in Koh Samui! We talked about diving, traveling, life, being spiritual (or not). He speaks English like a German.

– It was Diwali here! I think Nepal is much less intense than India, religiousness, celebration (and much less visible destitution on the street and the attitude of treating poor people like dirt)

– Went to P and S house for dinner on Diwali. It’s a beautiful house with a nice garden. P has a nice big belly but she’s so cute and skinny and seems so comfortable walking around. In Hawaii, I used to think S was so lucky to have P but now I think they’re such a great match, though might not look like it the first time the way Z and R look together.

– S’s father’s family photo is amazing. 1 dad, 9 sons, 1 grandson. So many different expressions and attitudes!

– Found out Z & R’s relationship is very atypical: intercaste, long time dating, signing the paper without the wedding. Such a beautiful couple.

– Paid $40 for a freaking designer sari blouse. I so regret it and wish I hadn’t. The embroidery should be in gold!

Archives

Categories