Mar 10, 2001 01:39
Pros: beautiful scenery, great mountain
Bus run to Pokhara reasonably smooth from the tragic border town
of Sunauli. Winding hill roads most of the way but the scenery was
beautiful. A little like the north east of Scotland, Sutherland
particularly. Barren spaces between forests and moors rising up
to meet high hills. Past fields of pale green wheat divided by irrigation
channels and raised borders planted with lavender. The outlook is
like a great emerald patchwork quilt stitched with purple silk threat.
Windy road bends its way over the eastern shoulder of the Mahabharat
mountain range. The usual bus and lorry carcasses were strewn across
hairpin bends, and one unlucky driver had plought his Tata truck
into the stantion of a bridge, blocking the crossing. Not to worry,
bus driver takes quick detour down into the river bed (mostly dry)
and up the other side, cutting across a disgruntled farmer's field
to get back to the road. Locals on the bus shouted and waved to
add to the fun, and one passenger revealed a live chicken from his
Ralka schoolbag and had that paraded up and down the aisle sqwacking
in celebration of a safe crossing. Bonkers.
Arrived 8hrs later in Pokhara to the usual madness of taxi and hotel
touts. Got in one taxi and was joined by 2 hotel touts. Got out.
Got in another taxi. Got out. etc etc. Anyway, as usual price agreed
to get me to hotel has increased by the time I arrive. So I just
sit in the taxi. It was raining and I didn't want to get out anyway.
Pokhara has a nice lake and is surrounded by hills, and the Annapurna
mountain range towers to the north. Very nice spot, no wonder it's
stowed with all us tourists. I'd come to Nepal to do some trekking
(and had lugged my boots about for 4 months just for these 2/3 weeks)
so I got stuff organised and left for the Annapurna Base Camp trek
after lounging about for 4 days on the lakeside. Nice time.
Left town early on the 24th to get to the Conservation Park where
the trek begins. It's a 2 hour bus run, but I missed it so had to
take a taxi, which was OK at 470Rs for 90mins of Gran Prix excitement.
I often wonder if taxi drivers have a special love of the Inland
Revenue because when they drop you off they all claim a special
'tax' is due. Driver takes 500Rs note and grunts "thanks"
then turns his back on you tell you to get out. Is 30Rs better in
his flea-filled pocket than in mine? That's me dinner money, you
monkey! Spend another 5 mins sitting in back of cab just waiting.
It was going to be a long time before I got a comfy seat again so
I was making the most of it! Got my cash from wastrel. I quite enjoy
annoying them now.
First 2 days of the trek were pretty bad. Very wet, cold and foggy.
Trudging up hill and down valley, up hill, down step. 6 hours a
day and I was knacked. I hadn't seen any mountains since arriving
in Nepal and was getting a bit disappointed. Nothing even to rival
the Glasgow Campsies. The 2nd night was bitter cold, and the fog
was rolling under the door of my lodge room. Chilly. I didn't see
much point in going on, so thought I'd go back down in the morning
and just count it as much needed exercise. And lo! on the third
day the great cloud broke asunder and the heights were revealed.
Got a quick start and met a Dutch couple at the mountain check in
post, said a perversely cheery "hello" and started the
descend of Chommrong Steps and up the other side of the valley.
Took me an hour to get across one valley, and the Dutch caught me
up because I'm so unfit. They'd stopped for breakfast too. Stuck
together for the rest of the trip up, and took it very easy for
a couple of days, only walking a few hours before stopping at the
next hill town. Wanted to avoid altitude sickness and no one was
in a hurry anyway. On the way up to the Base Camp we picked up an
English couple and a Norwegian national service escapee. Trooped
together through vine-hung forests, passed monkeys and streams and
clambered over landslides and avalanches through the snow to the
Annapurna Base Camp on 1st march.
I wrote a lot of nonsense in my diary when I was up at the base
camp (more than you see here) but finding yourself surrounded 306degrees
by 7000 and 8000m peaks, and you yourself in the slightly-more-thin
air at 4130m was pretty awe inspiring. Seeing the mountains so close
up was overwhelming and I almost wanted to get down straight away
so I could digest them at a distance. I've seen mountains before,
in the Rockies and Switzerland and Scotland too, but it was breathtaking.
"All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at
once clear-cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at
the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for
ever". That's how it felt anyway.
In the afternoon of our arrival and snowstorm came up the valley
and lasted until night when it cleared to reveal thick snow allow
the basin leading up to the base camp. The next day most of the
people staying at the lodge left to trudge a trail back thru the
snow down the slopes. Myself, the Norwegian and the English couple
decided to spend another day at the camp and sat in the sun playing
chess and backgammon. That was a bit mad.
On the way down the next day we stopped at some hot springs to mend
our aching muscles. Passing lots of children in the fields. They
were all happy and waving but I wonder if some day they'll ask themselves
where all these people are going to with their big bags, then the
outside world will be revealed.
Back to tourist town hell of Pokhara with a bump, though spent a
couple of days relaxing and in the pub with lots of the people I'd
met on the trek. Off on the bus to Kathmandu with a hangover. Groo.