Sunday, December 26

A new year is coming

Well, the new year is coming bringing us closer to the end of the universe ... We are getting older and closer to death by the seconds, so we shouldn't waste any hahahha

You know that you are getting older when:

  • games you used to play when you were a kid are considered retro - see Prince of Persia and super Mario on the App Store

  • you go to bed as early as 10:30pm

  • you have conversations about your first google queries

  • you clearly remember the first few times Santa Claus visited when you were little but you can't, for the life of you, remember where you put the boat tickets just now (we are on the boat towards Limbang, as we couldn't find an empty direct one to Brunei)

Friday, December 24

Annapurna Circuit Trek, Part III

[Read the rest of the annapurna story here.]

Day 4. Baggarchap - Chame
Today we had the first glimpses of Annapurna II and Lamjung Himal in the morning.

Remember how good the Dal Bhat was the other day? Well, we were on our way from Baggarchap to Chame. Singing our merry way on the valley, and when I say singing I mean we would start a song and then improvise when we didn't know the lyrics. Suddenly, Claudia stops by the side of the road in this exact spot and starts to puke.

Soon after, Bogdan dashes into the bushes. A bit of Imodium helps Claudia but I give Bogdan his Imodium only when he dashes into the bushes for the third time.

And this is how we spent the day. Bogdan and Claudia could not enjoy the lovely views, sadly.

The highlight of the day was the first sighting of the Hymalayan Griffon (see below for another picture). He was circling us effortlessly while we were huffing and puffing up a slope.

The villages take a more tibetan feel, with kani and mani walls everywhere.

Yes, that guy is on a mountain bike. He has a porter to carry his stuff.

Today is the first time we see a chorten, at the exit from Baggarchap. A chorten is a receptacle for offerings. Each element has a symbolic meaning: the bottom square - earth; the dome: water; the rectangular tower on top of the dome have painted the all seeing eyes of buddha; the thing that looks like a nose is the number one - absoluteness of buddha; on top of the tower is a conical or pyramidal spire with 13 segments - the 13 steps leading to Buddhahood; the moon on top - air; vertical spike - the sacred light of Buddha.
We stayed at the New Tibetan Hotel, which gave us amazing views at sunrise the next day.

Day 5. Chame - Pisang 3200 m.
While our initial plan was to push on until Humde, we decided to stop here. And we did well, because there is another route to Manang (our acclimatisation stop), which takes us at 3700m and then again down at 3500m. This is an excellent exercise for acclimatization and also training, because we have our backpacks to carry as well.

Today was a flat day so nothing spectacular to say.

When we got to Pisang I was starting to feel a bit the altitude, so I was a bit grumpier than usual. We finished the day by going up to Pisang Gompa (tibetan monastery) (about 30 minutes SLOW walk). By the time we got there it was sunset, just i time to see the Budhist monks pray.

The view of the Pisang peak was amazing, it really dominates the valley. I will put only a few pictures because this was the time when Bobby decided to have a heart attack. Below is what I could recover.
This is Pisang viewed from the gompa.

Pisang peak:

And a chorten:

Day 6. Pisang (3200m) to Ghyaru (3700m) to Manang (3500m)
I felt much better today after a good night's sleep. Last night we spent the night in the hotel's restaurant (Hilltop hotel, amazing views and HOT showers!) in which they had a stove going so we could keep warm-ish. It's starting to get ccccold here and I am truly enjoying my down sleeping bag. Too bad marian is not so happy with his, so sometimes we just put his below us and mine on top.

The day started with a 400 m ascent to Ghyaru. It was steep, it was long, our backpacks were heavy, but we got up to the top of the world and we loved it. Bobby was still recovering from his heart attack, so not so many pictures.

We saw Annapurna II and Gangapurna. Notice my new Gore-tex jacket please.

We saw Himalyan Griffons. Up close and personal!

After being in the clouds for a while, at 3700m, we descended to the village of Mugje.

The descent was steep so by this time we were all very tired. And walking in silence.

Actually, as Bogdan put it, we first start with 2 hours of chattiness, followed by around 1-2 hours of brooding silence (probably wondering what the hell we are doing here). Conversation picks up during lunchtime, when the coffee we are having stirs us a bit. We start again happily chatting. If the day is long, another period of silence follows. Again. What the hell am i doing here? or I wonder how much more?

Once our destination is close, dinner looms in our conversation. Should we have pasta? Rice? Potatoes? Both? All three?

Where should we stay? To this question i can answer something if I had remembered something from the guidebook (we are not taking it out). What should we eat? (yes, it gets repeated).

The same happened today, and the boys could only answer this when we got to the hotel (yak questhouse). They had YAK STEAK!

Tuesday, December 21

One picture Tuesday

Because it's going to be yet another Christmas soon, when I am away from my entire family, including mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, dog, and a lot of uncles and aunts etc. And because I have yet to find it not weird seeing Christmas decorations on tropical trees and hearing carols when it's fucking 30 degrees (celsius) outside. And because I have just realized that people in the US do not say Merry Christmas! but say Happy Holidays!, here's a picture of a deer we spotted on the only snowy day in Nepal.

Monday, December 20

In which I get what I deserve

Those that climb with me or that have known me for a longer while know that during my (many) idle moments I like to sing. And while sometimes I may make it and sing out of tune, more often than not my singing is actually a shriek. I do know the lyrics of the songs I am shrieking so I guess this actually makes it worse for those unlucky enough ro have no place to hide- and yes, I have been asked by people not to sing along to some of their fav songs.

Anyway, todayi was heading to the gym for a quickie when I passed the other gym - with the weights - and I heard Bon jovi's "I'll be there for you". So I open my mouth to shriek sing, when a very BIG fly flies into my mouth and I swallow it.

The End

Sunday, December 19

I think I am getting old

Believe it or not even my anti-social me used to love to go to parties and such, especially if they involved food! Well, last night I tried, I really tried, but after going to a party (2 hours early, albeit) at 6pm (it started at 8), by 10:30 pm I was ready (and I mean READY) to go to sleep. So I hang in there for a little while longer and then we left. We reached home and then spend another 3 hours just reading in bed on our respective devices: e-book readers, ipads, etc. However, most people when they get older tend to lose sleep or eat less. I dare say I still need my 8-10 hours of sleep almost every night, and as for the food, well, we know already how I stand on that.

That being said, there's another party we have to go to tonite and (despite the yummy food I know the host will cook), it's still retiring to the quiet of my room that is the most appealing. Pretty soon I am going to start talking with "in my time" and "when i was younger" and "kids these days"... Wait! I already do!

On a totally unrelated manner, our trip to Nepal and the subsequent upload of the zillions of pictures on flickr and picasa has sprouted a new set on Flickr, namely, "Room with a view". I have always wanted to collect something so I have finally found it: I am going to collect great views from our hotel room or hotel. Below is what i have so far.

Thursday, December 16

Annapurna Circuit Trek - Part II

[ Click here for the first part!]
Day 2. Besi Sahar - Bahundanda

Not much to say about this day really. The first part of the day was spent going slightly uphill. We followed the Marsyadgi river closely until the village of Bahundanda.

We saw a lot of things we will be seeing for the entire trip. These are the terraced fields, growing buckwheat, potatoes, cabbage, spinach, etc. People would use either themselves or buffalos to flatten the wheat.

And goats that I was going to photograph for the rest of the trip.

At first the river is light green, but it changes color soon. I fell in love with that color, whatever its name might be!

We met the first tibetan prayer flags and crossed the first bridges.

And the first waterfall of the trip.

The lodges and guesthouses we met along the way had various names, some with approximate spellings. Hell, even the village name is spelled differently within itself.

We stopped to make coffee (I carried my stove and pot for this particular purpose) and immediately got surrounded by village kids begging for sweets or school pen (I want to thank the tourist that actually got them started on this). The porters also stopped to look at us - not many stoves make their appearance on this trek.

Speaking of porters, a lot of people carry [HEAVY] stuff you would never think were possible to carry. Like chickens (that rack must've had at least 30kg), grass, gas tanks, etc. I know that this is heavy because the old man carrying it slipped while crossing a small stream and the boys helped him up.

The hike continues with a steep and apparently never-ending portion that goes up to Bahundanda. Upon reaching it, we climbed up a few more (60) steps to get to the Superb View hotel. The view, indeed, was superb.

Day 3. Bahundanda - Chayme
The Superb View hotel had a tree in the garden so I used it in the morning to do pull-ups. Bogdan did push-ups, and like this started our daily routine throughout the trip, where we would do either push-ups (hated by me) or pull-ups (hated by him). Marian, if I do say so myself, hated both.

Of course, we took some more pics.

After a hearty breakfast of mostly potatoes, we started with a steep descent into this wonderful valley. Normally, I hate descents because they only mean that you have to go up again, but this time, this view was worth it.

Along the way we found orange orchards, and drank orange juice made on the spot.

Goats, as we know, will eat everything, including orange peel.

A stray dog - Nepali made (all of them look the same!) followed us for a while.

Today we passed through the first kani: an archway with three pyramids on top, found at the entrance and exit of every village.

Near the village of Jaggot, you suddenly take a turn and see this beautiful valley in front of you.

This is the color I fell in love with:

In Jaggot we got picked up by a man that said that his hotel (in Chayme) had the bestest view in the whole village. According to him, from his hotel the waterfall was "most big". We decided to follow him and see if he is right. We had to take a left from the main road and climb up a bit through lush vegetation, but he was right! His waterfall was indeed, the most big.

And if he was not there to show us, we would have followed the dirt road and missed it. I guess this is why he kept saying that he hates the road being built.

Day 4. Chayme - Baggarchap
Today, we start with a flat portion, on which we can enjoy the views and fool around.

The sky is a bit cloudy bu the world seems to agree that today is a great day.

However, soon we have to go on steep uphill, which will take us into Tal.

Tal means lake, and you can see why

In Tal we also find the first mani wall, which either have a collection of stones on which "Om Mani Padme Hum" is enscribed, or they have prayer wheels which one is supposed to turn clockwise. The mani wall must be passed on its left side.

Lunch was of our own doing, roasted lamb with vegetables and mashed potatoes! It looks like vomit but it was nice!

The whole day today we were passed by donkeys carrying loads. They were much better than us at climbing, descending, and crossing bridges.

We stopped by the maoist party headquarters, but it was closed. After that, we reached Baggarchap shortly.

In Baggarchap, we stayed at the Pisang guesthouse. We ate Dal Bhat for the first time on the trek. The meal was fantastic, mostly because the potato curry was extraordinary, and we got second servings. The cook came to the dinning hall frequently to check on us and see if we liked the food. You could see that she really took pride in her work.