|Finally out of the city!|
Our team assembled, we piled into a small sedan and started the drive from Kathmandu to the trail-head at a small town called Besisahar. But it wasn't smooth sailing as of yet: we spent most of the six-hour drive trying to pass massive Indian-made cargo trucks belching exhaust on two-lane twisty mountain roads. Finally we arrived (albeit with a massive headache from the pollution) and ate lunch in Besisahar before lacing up our boots and setting out.
Over the next few days we hiked up a river valley that wound its way up the west side of the Annapurna mountain range. It was hot but at least the air was mercifully clear and fresh. A single lane unpaved dirt road ran up one side of the gorge but we often took goat trails up the opposite side. Plant life burst forth from every surface and the greens were almost blindingly vibrant. Tiny villages were sprinkled along the sides of the valley and as we passed local kids would run out calling, "Hellopen!!!" Many trekkers bring pens for the kids to use in school so they've combined "hello" and "pen" into one word. The villagers were subsistence farmers who were busy plowing their rice paddies with oxen.
|High altitude agriculture|
Along the way we stayed in 'teahouses," extremely basic guest houses that host trekkers in the region. As we climbed higher up the valley the temperature eventually dropped and the environment became more rocky and alpine. We visited a beautiful lake and were surprised by a flash hail storm. After a day or two more the dirt road ended and we were left with only the rugged foot path. We passed through huge glacier-carved valleys as the Himalayas rose up around us.
Nepal is a country of unparalleled scale. Words and pictures just can't capture how friggin' huge everything is. Massive glaciers pouring down into rushing rivers, row after row of breathtaking mountains marching off into the distance, meter after meter of elevation gain...
|Tibetan Buddhist prayer stones|
Almost two weeks into our trek we finally were nearing our goal for the first section: Thorong La pass. At 5416 meters (17,769 feet) it was the highest pass Andrea and I had ever attempted. It allows travelers to get around the northern edge of the Annapurna range and it happens to be the widest pass in the world. As we trudged up towards it we were passed by group after group of hikers headed the other way, defeated by the combination of thin air, steepness and altitude. Every day emergency helicopters would buzz over our heads, rescuing those unable to make their own way back to civilization.
|Our goal, Thorong La, finally in sight|
The best way to describe the experience of altitude sickness is that it's almost like the feeling you get at the end of an extremely fast sprint when your entire simply rebels and you want to puke and collapse in a twitching mess. Imagine that plus the fact that the feeling does not stop. It just goes on and on and on until you go to lower altitude, or die.
After a break at the top to take pictures and relax, we grabbed our gear and crossed the pass, ready for the long way down and our next adventure into the hidden Kingdom of Lo...
Co-posted on www.eliotpeper.com
Some additional pictures from the trek:
|River valley leading to Annapurna|
|Prayer flags decorate every village|
|Crazy erosion on the cliffs|
|Glacier melt at Tilicho Lake in Manang|
|The doctor is in!|
|Our awesome porter Monaz carried both of our backpacks and barely slowed down|
|Thorong La pass|
|We made it!|
|Prayer Flags at the pass|
|Altitude sickness survivor|
|Happy to be back in nature|