Himalaya Part I – Stair Run Is Not Always Fun

The Himalaya-Poon Hill-Panorama-View

Let’s plunge in the Alpine World

There was not much time to acclimatize to the “real” world after the “monastery week”. I had to go to the office of the travel agency the day I returned to Thamel to organize the last details of my tour. The next morning, Kumar, my guide for the next 10 days, picked me up already at 6:30am. We drove by bus the 200km to Pokhara, the tourist village,   every trekking in the Annapurna area begins. Believe it or not, you need something between 7-9 hours from Kathmandu to Phokara. Simply because of 2 reasons: 1. There is only 1 street to get in and out of Kathmandu. 2. The street is awful and pretty dangerous on top. On the way out of Nepals capital you get disturbingly close to the steep edge of the road.

But as you can work it out for yourself, I am still alive. 😉 We went straight to the hotel after we arrived in Phokara, to stay there for the night. The trek started the following morning, which was a good thing, because I didn’t have hiking boots yet. A few more warm clothes would be helpful as well, I thought. Eventually, it will get freezing cold in 4.100m altitude. I already got a huge rain poncho and rain throusers (I didn’t use a single time) from the agency. So hiking boots were first priority. Luckily I had Kumar, who went with me to a shop, I was able to buy some pretty cheap shoes. I decided to buy some second hand ones for only 30€. Together with some kind of warm leggings, a thick wool beanie and gloves, I payed around 50€. Not a bad deal.

After the shopping tour it was time for dinner. We went to a restaurant with Babu, another guide of the agency, who also started a trek the next day with Andrea, an Italian living in Down Under. We had a few tasty Nepalese beers and a big portion of Dhal Bhat, the typical Nepalese food, I ate every day during my trek. Pigged out I went to bed with joyful anticipation but also with a due portion of respect of the upcoming efforts.

Day 1 – The climb begins: from Nayapul (1127m) to Tikhedhunga (1623m)

The cock crowed pretty early again. A short breakfast and we took a cap to a small village called Nayapul, at the foot of the Himalaya. This is the first checkpoint of the trek, where you have to present your permit, which does not only cost money. It also is kind of an controlling system. Unfortunately, there was a young Dutch guy missing when we were there.

So I started the trek with a queasy feeling on the one hand. On the other side I was glad to have Kumar with me, an experienced guide, who knows the area like the back of his hand. Together with Babu and Andrea we were a jolly group.

The first day was, fortunately, not that hard. The uphill parts were pretty moderate and I was able to get used to the rocky underground and the weight of my rucksack, I had to carry additionally to my not very slightly bodyweight. Luckily, I could leave some stuff in the hotel in Pokhara. If you want to get up, every gram matters.

The lunch break came soon. “Dhal Bhat Power – 24 hour” was the slogan, we repeated every single meal from now on. With the new energy we reached the guesthouse in Tikhedunga soon and had the whole afternoon left to relax. How can you do better than with a cold Nepalese beer and the beautiful view on the green hills after your first 496 meters in altitude?! Together with Laura and Teresa from Germany we met on the way, we enjoyed live. They also had the same way to Poon Hill and Tadapani, we reached on day 3…

Day 2 – Fucking steps: from Tikhedhunga (1623m) to Ghorepani (2861m)

Day 2 was much harder. That hard, that we had to evolve some “alternative strategies” after sheer endless steps. One of them was the mantra “fuck you”, you had to say for every step, in the rhythm “‘fuck’ one step up, ‘you’ another step”. At one time we just took it with a big portion of gallows humor. Andreas sarcastic quotation “only 200 steps more” got kind of a continuous loop. Meanwhile, I wore my bathing tunks, after I was sweating that much in my thicker shorts the day before. Against my imagination, it was still really hot above 2.000m in altitude, if the sun came out and you had to climb the steps up all day.

But when I saw how they transport heavy stones up there, I spontaneously decided to never complain about any work again. The tiny Nepalese stacked a few stones on some wooden appliance, you can carry like an rucksack, and put a strap around their forehead. Up and down, the whole day – incredible! We also saw lots of donkeys overtaking us on the way up or coming down, transporting the real heavy stuff, like gas cylinders.

Sweat-soaked and with hurting femoral musculature, it was time for the lunch break and another Dhal Bhat refueling. In few minutes, it got that dusty, that you had problems to see your own hand in front of your face. In that heavy fog, we started to walk the last part to Ghorepani. It is kind of a junction for every trek in the Annapurna area. The guesthouse was more like a hotel and in the dining room it got busy in the evening, even it was still low season. The reason why everyone comes to Ghorepani is the Poon Hill close by. If the weather is clear, you have a great panoramic view on the peaks of the area.

Day 3 – Poon Hill (3210m) and trek from Ghorepani (2861m) to Tadapani (2647m)

My legs stil hurt a bit, but the alarm clock was relentless. My cell phone woke me up of a deep sleep shortly after 4 o’clock in the morning. We wanted to go up to the Poon Hill before sunrise, to welcome the first sun rays from the peak. Somehow I made it out of my warm and cosy bed. Well wrapped up I met the others in front of the hotel. The sky was crystal clear and full of stars. Best makings to enjoy the mountain scenery. But, as you know, God invented work before joy. The f…ing steps again at this unholy hour. At least, we did not have to carry our bags, because we went back to the hotel after Poon Hill to eat some breakfast.

You may think now, without the extra kilos on the back, climbing up the steps is not a big deal. Far from it! On the one side there are still almost 95kg own weight you have to bring up. On the other hand, 1 quintillion steps still are 1 Q-U-I-N-T-I-L-L-I-O-N!!! 😀 And then the weather also got worse and worse. With that fog you can forget the panorama, I thought. After all that afford and steps, in the dark, at half past 4 in the morning?! Thanks for nothing! But I was still happy to reach the top at 3210m altitude. We went straight to the coffee booth. Served in proper style in an aluminium cup, I enjoyed my wake up drink and the dark silhouettes of the gigantic mountains in the background. They seemed to want to present themselves out of the clouds. Was there a chance the clouds go away and we can have a glimpse on the peaks…

What should I say? With every sun ray it got less and less clouded. Literally, the rising sun revealed a panoramic view on the giant mountains of the Annapurna region, that made me speechless. All credits for that to the “Fuck-off-clouds-dance” Andrea and I invented. For all who are interested in: just imaginarily wave the clouds away and jump from one leg to the other like an idiot. 😉

I got goose bumps, and not because of the coldness. You can’t get enough of this view. It seems more that you stand in front of a huge poster. So unreal. But it was, and so the foto session was about to start. How often will you be able to come up here and get such a weather? Have a look:

Back in the hotel we had our badly needed breakfast. Happy about the weather and the experience we started our daily trekking. With the rucksack on the back, thousands of steps laid in front of us as a change. Luckily we had out mantra. And after the 1st hard part uphill it got a bit easier. Kumar calls parts like that “Nepalese flat” if it is slightly up- and downhill. Ok, for him, the mountains under 5.000m of altitude are also no mountains but hills. It is just in the eye of the beholder…

The “flat” part came to a tropical forest, passing countless waterfalls. We even saw some monkeys moving hand over hand along the treetops. It was hot and sticky, the sweat was dripping all over. So it came handy that it started to rain during the last, hard uphill part. At least at the beginning. But the rain got stronger and stronger. Too strong to continue. We had to change our plans and ended our trek for that day in Tadapani. Normally Kumar and I had to split up after Tadapani with Babu and Andrea as well as with Laura and Teresa. The new plan therefore had something good and we enjoyed one more night together with some Nepalese wine (wine is a pretty abstract desertion for that drink; basically it is some booze)…

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