Saturday, October 31, 2015

Trek Day 7 - Someone push the down button!!

 

Friday, October 9th

Our fears about the clouds obscuring the mountains were unfounded as we woke to clear skies once again.   We did however wake to a hoard of Korean tourists tramping thru our camp to get to the ABC shrine at sunrise.IMG_4082

….and they were not the only ones getting in on the picture taking…..IMG_4093

I love this one with the flags and the mountains……

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Way too soon, it was time to pack up and start our long descent out…..

IMG_4108So, with one last photo….IMG_4113

…we said goodbye to the beautiful Annapurna Sanctuary!!   We all seemed quiet as we began our descent, each savoring the views and experiences that we had encountered.

We passed the signpost where we had taken photos yesterday, never realizing that there was another message on the other side saying Goodbye and Thank You…..

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Badri had told us that today would be hard trek as we would descend 6,000 feet in just the one day.   I had mixed feelings about this as I knew that going down would be so much easier physically, but I also knew that descending is much tougher mentally as you have to constantly be thinking about where you place your feet and trekking poles so that you get the best traction.   I also try to protect my right knee so am always shifting my feet around so that I take the steeper steps on my left knee.

The first hour was a nice walk thru the meadow to Machapuchare Base Camp.  When we got there I knew that I needed to change out of my long johns before continuing on the hike.   I went running on up to the teahouse with the idea of going to the bathroom to change.   Instead Badri pointed to one of the Lodge Bedrooms and told me to use that instead.   It was SO much easier to change in there!!!

As we came to one descent that was a bit crumbly, Sera moved in front of me and started kicking rocks off of the path so that I wouldn’t have to worry about slipping down.

Since we were no longer focused on the mountains ahead of us, we all started noticing other things along the path like flowers and grasses…..IMG_4128

I heard one fun interchange between Michael and Badri.  Michael pointed to a large white flowers and said to Badri “Let me guess… tall white flower”.  Badri’s answer…“Exactly!!”

It was fun seeing the stream winding down the valley below us and then to realize a few minutes later that we were now even with it, showing how far we had come down.

As we walked further and further down into the valley, I  really had trouble believing that I had climbed UP all of this only 2 days before!!IMG_4120

About two hours into the morning, Sera left us as we plodded along the path and headed down the track in front of us, almost skipping as he went.   I don’t know how these guys can be so carefree in their walking!!

The valley below us was gorgeous, a fact that had eluded me when we were climbing up it……

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We arrived at the town of Deurali and found the replacement bridge that had been quickly built after the avalanche 2 days ago (wow, was that ONLY two days ago!!)……IMG_4134

The “dirt” that you see in this photo is actually ice mixed with dirt.  The area had a surreal feel to it and it was quite a scenery change from the “before” photo….DSC06318

You can really see exactly how much dirt and rock fell from above and how much it filled in the valley.

We again reached Hinku Cave after about 3 hours of hiking,  meaning that we had already descended 2700 feet.   We took a long rest break there, enjoying the views and the people, including two sweet Aussie women….DSC06443

Even though it was a busy place, there was still a place for a quiet chat….DSC06437

…and there was great cell phone coverage…..

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Speaking of cell phones, coverage was spotty during the entire trip.  We marveled at the places where you could get coverage and where you couldn’t!!

And, naturally, the view was still awesome!!!

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We left Hinku Cave at 11:05 for the last push before lunch.

We arrived at Himalaya  at noon for lunch and found that it was completely overrun with people, mostly the Korean group.  DSC06445We were wondering exactly where we would be able to sit to eat, but that problem was solved when we saw OUR tablecloth on a “Reserved” table under a shelter.   Michael turned to me and said “I am so glad that we bought the “Ritz Carlton” of treks”!! 

Lunch started off with a Ramen soup with Bok Choy and onions added.  It was delicious and since returning home have made our own version of this soup…..DSC06662

although it didn’t have quite the same ambiance of eating it out of a red plastic bowl and looking at spectacular view!!

Back on the trek, the meal continued with fried Spam, french fries, coleslaw and more of the marvelous Gurung fried bread……DSC06446

I have noticed that Badri  never gets to eat a hot meal as he is always jumping up to serve us more or to see that we have enough of everything.  Lately he has started leaving the lunch table after the soup course and going away to eat Dal Bhat for lunch instead of our food.  I can imagine that he gets tired of eating non-traditional stuff day after day!!

We talked to one Australian woman after she used the term “No Worries”….that is a dead giveaway that someone is from Down Under!! 

We left Himalaya at 12:50 and now started a bit of ascending.  On the trip up, I used to make up time on the descents, now I am faster on the ascents….go figure.

We had a stand-up rest about an hour into the afternoon.  It is interesting that we are taking less rest stops while descending but that makes sense since we are not taxing our breathing as much.

Sabine was leading the walk and, as always, was on the alert for anything that he could show us.  This time he found a troupe of Langur Monkeys in the trees to one side of the path.  We stopped and watched, fascinated as they moved around the trees.  I was especially enamored with a large male as he sedately climbed across a vine to join the others.  Unfortunately, the foliage was too dense to get photos, but it is definitely imprinted on the photo board of my mind!!

At 2:20, we had another rest stop at Dovan and then arrived at Bamboo Village (altitude – 7,760 ft) at 3:15 where our camp was waiting…..

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Our wash-up water arrived immediately followed by tea at 3:45.  Since we were all pretty pooped, Badri suggested that dinner be earlier than normal (at 6:00) so that we could get to bed faster.  We all agreed!!

Dinner started with Tomato soup and popcorn, and then continued with Spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, fried Pakora (potato and something) and a fried egg!!   It had been breaded and then fried and had an interesting texture and taste.

The big treat of the night was APPLE PIE for desert and this was no ordinary Apple Pie.   It had a caramel flavor to it and was served with chocolate sauce….delish!!   Unfortunately, I had left my camera in the tent and was simply too tired to walk over and get it so there are no photos of this amazing pastry!!

We all headed happily to the tents and most appeared to have gone to sleep immediately.  It was a happy sleep knowing that we were so much further down the mountains!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Trek Day 6 - ABC, easy as 1,2,3…..

It was fun waking up early this morning  and listening to the sounds of morning…..the shepherd calling to his dogs, the kitchen staff starting to move around with someone humming and finally the rattling of the pots and pans as they started fixing our breakfast.  I felt very humbled to be able to be there to hear all of it!!

As usual, Michael climbed out of the tent about 5:00 and, again as usual, said that I really needed to have a look.   What I saw was astounding…..IMG_3805

The moon and two planets were lined  up in the V of the mountains.  It was breathtaking. 

The beautiful views continued as the sun moved further up into the sky…..IMG_3815

Here is a photo of the “welcome mat” for our tent, complete with bed tea, boots, water and dry bags for our pack…..

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Morning ablutions were completed in the glory of the mountains…..

IMG_3819 As I got the duffle bags packed up for the day, Michael worked on our packs….. 

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I wanted to get a photo of one of the Cook Boys, Provene, who always serves in the dinning tent.   He is apparently responsible for the napkin folding and general set up of the table for each meal……IMG_3826

This was the kitchen for the camp and I know that they were happy to have a real building rather than working out of a tent…..IMG_3828

After a breakfast of Oatmeal and apples, pancakes and scrambled eggs, we broke camp about 7:40.  As Michael and I took off our fleece jackets before we started, Badri offered to carry them for us (but Michael said that he would carry them!!).  He really does look after us well!!

As we headed out this morning, there was a general level of excitement as we were reaching our ultimate destination this morning…..Annapurna Base Camp!!!

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The sun soon hit our backs and we started to warm up a bit.  At 8:05 we took a break to take off some outer layers of clothes. 

As we walked, it was hard not to stop every two minutes to take a photo of the ever closer mountains….IMG_3853

…..seriously….every TWO minutes…..IMG_3860

About 30 minutes further along and Sabine points to some blue buildings and said that it was ABC.   This was VERY encouraging as it doesn’t look that far away and it isn’t much higher than we were right then.

Michael cant seem to get enough of Annapurna-2…..DSC06352

It was a gorgeous day for trekking, with the blue sky up above and the towering mountains in front of us.   We were ALL in a very happy place…..

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The peaks just got bigger and bigger every time you looked up…..IMG_3890

The guides knew that we were greatly enjoying this part of the journey and they let us just take our time and see all of the sights.

Then at 9:15, magically, we were there…..IMG_3899

We spent a few minutes taking photos to prove that we had actually made it…..

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….including one thanking Badri for helping us to get here……IMG_3901

Machapuchare had followed us for the entire trek, but here we had a completely different view of it…..

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We had to walk just a bit further before we arrived at my favorite camp of the trip…..

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It was very surreal to be living in view of these wonders of the world.DSC06378

And to have a toilet with the best view ever……IMG_3947

The guys got busy and soon provided us with a wonderful lunch….DSC06374

…..consisting of Sardines, potatoes, Yak cheese, carrots and green beans and the most wonderful yeast bread roll…..DSC06376

Sera told us that he made the dough in the morning and then it rose as we walked!!!

There were several shrines around the area, dedicated to people who have lost their lives while climbing these mountains……

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There was also a large shrine with flags flying over it….. IMG_3953

Our first stop of the afternoon was to visit it…….

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Badri had planned that we would hike up further and see a bit more of the area and it was interesting to look down on our camp as we climbed……IMG_3972

We climbed to the edge of a cliff and looked out over a glacier path….IMG_3977

Who knows how many years ago the glacier moved thru and it is surprising that it is still such a barren landscape.

We were enamored with this amazing cairn…..IMG_3989

We dropped down into a lakebed from a glacial lake that dried up about a year ago……IMG_3990

Badri indicated that the group was to continue heading upward, but at this point I had done ENOUGH climbing so I asked if I could stay in the lakebed.  Badri left Monise and Mingma with me.

This began one of my favorite parts of the trip.  The guides were sitting and talking so I was left all by myself to walk around and photograph the small flowers….. DSC06393…..and cairns in the area……DSC06417 It was also fun to listen to the two young guys talk and laugh and mess around with my trekking poles…..DSC06419

I spent some time sitting on a rock and looking at the scene before me…..

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I could hear “thunder” in the distance and finally realized that it was avalanches starting behind the mountains.  Unfortunately I didn’t see any but it was cool to listen to them!!

Toward the end of my “alone time” I started feeling creative so built this cairn to just say thank you to God for letting us be here……IMG_4049

While I enjoyed my peace and quiet, Michael and the others continued to climb up the mountain……

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….passing this amazing cairn…… IMG_4002

As they reached the top of the ridge, they looked over and found a mammoth glacier…..

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There were several streams flowing out of it as it melted (you can see them in this video)……

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…..and the guys saw several pieces that flaked off and tumbled down the icy bank.

The views from this ridge were even more fantastic…..

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Badri took the camera and flitted from side to side until he got the best photo of the guys with the nicest background scenery…..IMG_4023

The mountains seemed SO close……

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They rejoined me at the lake bed……..

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and we started making our way back to camp.  I had not been looking forward to this walk as it had been a chore for me to get here, but amazingly the walk back was much easier since we weren’t first heading up to a ridge!!

This is my favorite picture of Badri……

IMG_4043 When I was struggling just to walk, he runs up on this rock and said “Ta-Da”!!….showoff!!!

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the base camp, taking photos and enjoying the other trekkers who were there. 

We visited a building site where a new porter’s lodge was being built.  It was fun to watch the work going on, all by hand of course…..DSC06366

Michael took a video of these two using a double saw to split a log into boards…..IMG_4063

They wouldn’t stop sawing as long as he was videoing but took a “catch their breath” break as soon as he stopped!! 

We spent some time sitting in the dining hall of one of the tea houses.  We have found that most of these dining rooms are the same…. windows on all sides, a long table down middle with benches on each side…basically boxes with heavy rug type covers on them.  There are single mattress “beds” along each side of the hall that are used as overflow when the camp is really full.

There was a huge tour group (20+ trekkers)  from Korea that we enjoyed watching…some out doing Tai chi while looking at mountains, others taking photos of themselves in every possible position…..IMG_4092

The group’s porters came in to eat dinner at the long table.  Each took a HUGE plate of rice with a thin Dal on top of it.  They ate quickly (maybe 5 to 10 minutes), some eating with their hands and some using spoons.   They also had fried Poppadoms with their rice. 

They had two water pitchers that they all drank out of but they would never let it touch their mouths. They would aim the spout into their mouths and then pass it on to the next person. 

As the afternoon wore on, clouds started moving in, partially obscuring the glories before us……IMG_4074

We tried to soak in these last moments as we didn’t know if it would be cloudy in the morning so this might be our last view!!!

We were soon called for dinner and  had a wonderful surprise as Sera had made Mushroom Pizza for us!!!DSC06427

One of our team members had caught a cold and wasn’t feeling well.  Badri insisted that he have a “Sherpa Sauna”, complete with Vicks Vaporub in a pot of boiling water with the head leaned over it and covered with a towel.DSC06430

At the end of the meal, the Hot Water Bottles appeared and we happily climbed into our pre-warmed sleeping bags.   We heard one big avalanche right after we got into the tent.  It was nice to know that one would REALLY have to work to hit us!!!

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