Our group lives in the tourist area of Tamel, where they made a pedestrian zone for guests, which is filled with hotels and stores where you can buy local hats with tassels, souvenirs, fake things (Nepalis prefer Northface) and any kind of ammunition for hiking.
Tamel, of course, is not Kathmandu, there are many Europeans settled there, a lot of nice cafes with food for every taste – in general, all conditions are created for tourists.
I found the Nepalese to be very humble, polite, unobtrusive people. Despite the poverty, crazy traffic, smog, dust and dirt in the city, these people smile and exude calmness without any hint of aggression, which is striking in contrast to Moscow.
On December 25, the advance team and I drove to Patan, one of the three royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley, which is located about five kilometers south of the capital of Nepal. The city of Buddhist pagodas and Hindu temples is an important center of Buddhist and Hindu culture in Nepal. However, due to the lack of a guide and guidebook, we idly strolled among the historical sites. Personally, I was most impressed with the Golden Temple. To quote an article from the internet:
“According to legend, the Golden Temple was founded in the 12th century, although ancient writings indicate a slightly later time – the beginning of the 15th century. It is one of the most famous and important landmarks of Patan. The Golden Temple is the religious center of the entire Kathmandu Valley. Many tourists go to Nepal just to visit this shrine. The temple has its own prohibitions, it is forbidden to wear leather. Near the entrance is built a small room where all visitors leave their leather goods. This is because in the Hindu religion, the cow is a sacred animal. And, accordingly, it is a sin to come to the temple with leather objects. The intertwining of Buddhist and Hindu traditions in Nepal is reflected in the fact that Hindu religious practices are observed in a Buddhist temple“.
At 6 am we left Kathmandu. Once again I was convinced that the city was really ugly, ugly buildings, crazy traffic, lots of poor people. The road to Pokhara went between hills along a serpentine road, dust piled up and bumps that shook the bus. Pokhara is prettier than Kathmandu, more tourist-oriented, with lakeside hotels surrounded by green hills.
Here we changed to jeeps and drove toward the mountains, which were lined up in a majestic white chain – the Annapurna massif on the left and Machapuchare Peak on the right. Machapuchare – a sacred mountain for the Nepalese. Doing it climb the British in the mid-20th century on purpose did not reach the peak of 50 meters, not to offend the traditions of the Nepalese. Since then, however, there have been no climbs on Machapuchar. Our small mustachioed driver continuously honked his horn at everyone on the road and tried to overtake everybody, emphasizing his high status of a 4*4 jeep owner. The road closer to the mountain was completely inaccessible for cars, our jeep with 7 passengers on board was not able to climb the steep hill and the four of us had to get out and walk.
The loggias were small rooms without heating – two beds with mattresses and a pillow without linens. You put a sleeping bag on top and you can rest. Compared to tent camping, it was very comfortable. I looked in the porters’ room – a mattress for 4-5 people, all lying next to each other, obviously, so economical and warmer. There are also 2 eating areas downstairs – outdoors and inside. The food is a little more spicy than we are used to, but not too spicy. Soups, dumplings (momo), spaghetti, dalbat (rice, gravy, vegetables, chicken) are the local specialties. Rice and gravy are given without restrictions, so it’s all loved by locals and porters, you can get full.
Today was a full day trek, according to the trackers from the guys – a length of 13 km, 20 thousand steps. Rise was at 6 am (3 in Moscow), half-cold shower and charging with guide Max at 6:45. The trek is a walk uphill on steps. Today was a decent climb, so there were a lot of steps. I got used to walking with poles, which are indispensable for ascents and descents and greatly ease the load on my legs. Not to say that the places are very picturesque – green hills, through which sometimes the snowy peaks of high mountains peek through. During the trek clothes change several times – a T-shirt, a thermal sleeved shirt, a fleece, a windstopper windbreaker. Accordingly, everything is put on one by one, as the weather changes from scorching heat to cold places in the shade at the top. At the end of the trek in the village of Gorepani there was a beautiful lodge waiting for us with hot showers in the room, the temporary lack of light did not prevent us from enjoying hot water. But, most importantly, our lodge stood out for the best view of the eight-thousander Dhaulagiri and the Annapurna massif, which is breathtaking.
Rise at 4:45 (exactly 2 am Moscow time:)) Getting dressed warmly and climbing Poon Hill with flashlights. At this early hour only 9 people out of 13 were ready to get up. Poonhil has the best view of Dualugiri, Annapurna and Machapuchare in Gorepani village. When the rays of the rising sun touch the peaks in front of the spectators who made the early trek, there is a truly stunning sight. Information from guide Maxim: between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna is the world’s largest gorge of 5600 meters, the distance between the peaks is 35 km.
We return to the lodge for breakfast and go from Gorepani to another village Tadapani, going through the forest and jungle. This is so far the only thing a little frustrating in the trek – the nature (except for the mountains) is not yet breathtaking, quite standard landscapes, just greenery, rocks, mountain streams (can be confused with the south of Russia or Turkey, for example). Today’s figures: 22 thousand steps, 14.5 km. Mostly downhill, at the end of a killer climb at a small angle at 200 meters to the village. From our lodge there is a wonderful view – again of Annapurna and Machapuchare, already without Dhaulagiri, as from the morning, but still, as if in the palm of my hand, and very beautiful.
Up, exercise, breakfast, down to the suspension bridge next to the waterfall, crossing to Chomrong village. Today was an easy day in terms of exertion (10.8 km, 18,000 steps), although there were a couple of interesting uphill climbs and some nice views of villages from a few houses.
The sun was drowning in the morning, felt like a resort, smeared with protective cream. It seems that somewhere near the mountains there is the sea and soon we can swim. In the morning after the descent, we stopped at a picturesque glade where we could walk barefoot and sunbathe. The sun was scorching for the rest of the day and I walked the entire route in shorts and a T-shirt, applying sunscreen. Not all of our lodges are very comfortable, but all of them have great views of the mountains, again of Annapurna and the beautiful Machapuchare, also called fish tail because the peak looks like a fish tail.
Since the day was fairly standard, it is worth writing briefly about clothing in the mountains. Our guide Max says that you need to learn how to dress and undress in time in the mountains, it’s a whole art. I have a short sleeve T-shirt, a long sleeve thermal T-shirt, a fleece, a lightweight down jacket, a windproof/snowproof jacket. All of these are dropped and put back on several times during the trek in different variations. Pants must either unbuckle below the knees or be tucked in to go in the heat. The first two days I walked in my running shoes, but after my foot almost twisted a couple of times on a few descents, I put on Salomon trekking boots (for a dollar the porter untied the bound clothing boules and I retrieved the boots). The boots with the high ankle support, impact protection, and tread proved much more comfortable to walk in. Plus a bunch of different useful accessories: special dehumidifying socks for trekking, head bag – a great thing that can be worn as a mask, wind shield, scarf for throat and 10 other uses, sunglasses, must-hats (preferably a hat with brim). A nice sunny hot day ends with the usual cold evening – in thermal underwear, fleece, down jacket and hunting socks:) The sun has set and there are star lights scattered in the dark sky around the white silent caps of the mountains.
News of the day: you can’t eat meat for the next 2-3 days because no one knows in what condition it gets to the remote lodges. Max says it’s best not to take any chances.
Here I want to briefly explain why the meat “may not make it” to the highest-lying lodges and how the system of cargo movement in the mountains is arranged. The fact is that all the food, things and even construction materials are moved on the backs of porters and donkeys. And I have seen the latter 4 times during the trip, but the porters going up with their bags and running down accompanying a traveler during the whole trip. This is probably the reason why the cost of food and drinks increases as you climb up the mountain, and no one can guarantee the freshness of the meat after climbing on the back of the porter to the top of the mountain. What I didn’t see on the Nepalese trails. Most memorable were the three-tiered chicken cages and the porter with long planks walking along the narrow trail (to let us through, he had his back against the wall). It is said that even large appliances like washing machines make it to the top on the sturdy backs of stocky Nepalese guys.
News number two: starting from today we have to take diacarb, pills for the mountain sickness, because they start working in a couple of days when the ascent to the ABC will start. Here everyone is guided by how he feels. Because I felt myself normal, except for lack of sleep because of jet lag during the first days, – I decided not to drink, and at the same time to check how the body would behave at 4100, with the aim to future treks. The same Everest base camp is at 5200m.
Today is again wonderful warm weather, several descents and ascents on the trek, and at the end an elevation gain of 500 m. My knees and calves are tired from the work, my legs don’t start going right away. A couple of hours after the start of the trek, I bought a Nepalese warming star in the store.
Generally we have a “tight” routine 🙂 there are 13 of us, so everyone orders food for dinner in the evening, and after dinner for breakfast, around 1:00 pm we have lunch. This process goes through Max, the “one-stop shop” for ordering. Ordering food, taking food out, eating it, then paying (and so 3 times a day) sometimes takes up to 2 hours, because we move along the track unevenly, the difference between the first and last group can be up to 40-50 minutes, respectively, we wait for each other. To settle for food usually comes Santos, our second guide, who usually closes in on our group so that no one gets lost behind. His catch phrase in broken Russian is “give me the money!!!”. In general, eating is an important ritual in our hike:)
Doban is a small place of 2-3 lodges in a gorge next to a mountain river, the place is windy and damp, the night will be cool.
Also, starting from Doban, Maxim will measure our pulse and oxygen content in the blood with a pulse oximeter in the morning and in the evening. This device is used by mountaineers to monitor their condition, especially in high altitude areas where the oxygen content in the blood decreases noticeably and the pulse rate, on the contrary, increases.
For me December 31 was the most difficult day of the trek. Climbing 1,200 meters up endless stairs. 12 km and 19.8 steps (the next day even going back down was difficult). But the route went through a picturesque valley with mountains, waterfalls that turned into mountain streams, and on some rocks there were icicles hanging in crevices.
We stayed in a lodge with a beautiful view of Annapurna and Machapuchare, right between these two mountains. From an aesthetic point of view Machapuchare is more beautiful, while Annapurna is even frightening because of its huge size, absolutely dominating the space. It is impossible to believe that any of the mortals could dare to climb it.
Our lodge belongs to Machapuchare Base Camp (MBC), altitude 3700 m. When I went to bed I felt my heart pounding and it was hard to fall asleep. I think I understood what people with arrhythmia feel.
Before climbing ABC (Annapurna Base Camp) we had a radial hike to the moraine at 3850m in order to acclimatize. The moraine was a former glacier; one wall looked like a hill (we climbed it); on the other side there was a precipice with scraped rocks where the ice was moving and forming compacted rock on both sides. There was no trail on the moraine, so we climbed the wall directly on the grass with bumps, stood for 20 minutes and went to the lodge with flashlights.
We didn’t even have enough water to brush our teeth at the MBC, but the New Year’s Eve was a success. First of all, all of a sudden a Santa Claus, a real one, in a blue suit, with a beard, came into the dining room. It was Dima, a humble-looking guy from near Kiev, who gave us a wonderful surprise. Everyone present, including the Australians, the Spanish, the French, and other guests at the lodge opened their mouths in amazement:) Next was the giving of presents a la Secret Santa, Svetlana from Moscow brought us medals in honor of our trip. Dima from Kiev gave us little koalas from his sister Natasha from Melbourne (she was waiting for us downstairs in Dovan), and also gave out candy with New Year wishes in Ukrainian. Next was a sip of champagne to celebrate the New Year and a photo shoot with Santa Claus. In general, no one celebrates the New Year the way Ukrainians and Russians do! I think we were the envy of everyone around us.)
Rise at 3:30 or 0:45 Moscow time:) Happy New Year! Let’s get dressed warmly, measure the oxygen level and go to assault ABC at 4:15.
The head of our sherpa Santos is ahead of us, and he is followed by Santa Claus))))) Upstairs at ABC one Asian guy got hysterical when he saw Dima in this outfit). At 6 am in the dark we came to ABC.
The ascent from 3700 to 4130 meters, which was 2.2 km, 3761 steps.
We drank tea and went to take pictures of the majestic and slightly scary Annapurna massif.
On one hill, a man was sitting and playing mysterious melodies on a big trumpet, probably some kind of shaman. I hiked over and filmed his performance in front of the mountains.
Finally, I asked my guide to take me to the memorial plaque to Anatoly Boukreev (a great Russian mountaineer who died in an avalanche from Annapurna). I truly admire this man and walking up to his memorial was important to me.
Then began the big run down the steps from MBC to Bamba, which is just below Dovan. We essentially dropped 2,000 meters (21 km, 35,000 steps) in a day.
I will remember January 1, 2018 for the rest of my life. – Great luck to start the New Year in a place with such amazing energy! And indeed 2018 was definitely a time of change for the better, a period of new discoveries and development! They say, how you greet the New Year, that’s how you spend it!
The hard part of the trek is over, today we return to Chomrong and then go down to Gina Danda to sit in the hot springs. Yesterday I went to bed around 8:45 p.m. local (6 p.m. Moscow time) and woke up without an alarm at 6:20. My body has adapted to the early rise and my feet to the steps, so it’s easy and fun to walk. The springs are 2 shallow baths with warm water, in which it’s nice to relax and lie, listening to the noise of a boiling mountain river.
Our trekking is over, it’s time to return to civilization. We leave Chomrong early in the morning and by noon we arrive at Nayapul, where the jeeps are waiting to take us to Pokhara. As we drove down the mountain road, I threw some unwanted candy to the passing kids, which amused the kids a lot.
In the evening in Pokhara we fully enjoyed the “charms” of civilization:
It was all beautiful 🙂
The day started with a nice tour of Pokhara – we went up to the Stupa of Peace on the top of the hill, with a beautiful view of Lake Phewa, Pokhara and the Annapurna ring tops.
Then we went downstairs and took a boat ride to the Pokhara waterfront.
After lunch, the bus was waiting for us and we drove to Kathmandu. If you don’t like Russian roads, you should go to Nepal. It was an eight-hour hell ride through traffic jams, potholes and bumps of every level of difficulty. We arrived in Kathmandu very late.
Probably the only unfriendly Nepali I saw was our driver. Although, considering what he had to deal with on the road – the guy just has nerves of steel.
On the penultimate day of the trip we had a sightseeing tour of Kathmandu. Specially trained guide, who could speak intelligently about the sights we had, so I’ll describe a couple of main memorable spots.
Svayambunath, or translated as Palace of the Monkeys. At the center of the complex is a large Buddhist stupa, around which are several Tibetan monasteries of different schools and directions and a Tibetan school. The temple grove on the slopes of the mountain is home to a large number of wild monkeys, which are fed to pilgrims and temple servants.
Bodnath Stupa. At the center of the complex is a large Buddhist stupa, around which are located dozens of Tibetan monasteries of different schools and directions.
Bodnath is considered the main center of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. The stupa was built in the 6th century and is often mentioned in historical documents. Bodnath was the route from Tibet to India, and many pilgrims stayed here.
Durbar Square is a complex of 50 historical buildings, Buddhist and Hindu temples and palaces in the center of the old city.
The center of this huge complex is considered to be Hanuman Dhoka Palace, where all the kings of Nepal were crowned and from where they later ruled the state (“Durbar” means palace). This place is still the epitome of the power and authority of Nepal, despite the fact that the king no longer lives here.
Durbar Square. Kala Bhairav is a particularly destructive and terrifying aspect of Shiva in Hinduism. In this guise he is many-armed and holds a weapon and a severed human head, which symbolizes the cutting off of duality and going beyond the limitations of the mind.
After talking with many of the fellows in our group I understood that people come to the mountains for different reasons:
But whatever the motivation, daily hours of walking, living in modest living conditions and communicating with grandiose nature are somewhat akin to spiritual practice. Through daily practice and overcoming oneself, answers come and new meanings emerge.
In the evening after returning to Pokhara on the roof of our hotel we were admiring the city lights and the heavenly dome with the bright stars. Svetlana said bluntly but honestly, “Guys, let’s have no illusions, when the trek is over, we are unlikely to see each other again.” Yes, that’s true. Nevertheless, I am sure that our trip left a mark in the heart of the guys. May this experience be the beginning of positive change for all of us!