Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 12 – May 1st, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I slept well through the night and didn’t even wake up before the morning tea was being served at around 6am. I roused and began the morning ritual of cleaning and packing before breakfast. Breakfast was served around 7am and it consisted of omelets, toast (which I skipped) potatoes and spam. After breakfast I snapped a few pictures.

Annapurna Mountain

Here Tendi is getting his day started with some hot tea.

Tendi and tea

A dog patiently awaiting whatever scraps are leftover.

Dog looking for scraps

We geared up and headed on the path again around 7:30 am. The morning was relatively cool and overcast but was really humid. We had stayed in a village called New Bridge so this must be the Old Bridge.

Old bridge

The porters passed us quickly and here they are ahead of me on the trail.

Porters on the trail

Here is just an interesting set of air plants attached to a dying tree.

Air plants

And here’s Thilo crossing a small creek.

Thilo crossing the creek

This was almost a vertical wall with trees and grass growing out of it. The photo doesn’t do it justice as to how steep it was.

Grassy cliffside

I thought these shoes would make an interesting photo. Although I probably should have removed the yellow leaf. What do you think?

Green on gree

Our first stop was at Kyumi, ~1330m, and we took a nice break there. Upon heading out from there we went through a handful of small agricultural villages. The path was nice and either well maintained or well used but probably the latter. The cloud cover disappeared and we were mostly trekking on a path that cut through large fields of grain, probably corn and wheat. So now the sun’s heat was beating down on us and the humidity became stifling. Now and then we would experience a short gust of breeze but the lack of shade  made the breeze ineffective in cooling us down. We kept coming across baby animals, such as goats, that were way too cute.

Here Damion is attempting to photograph one of those really cute baby goats but I think I caused it to run back to mommy.

Damion and the kid

Here is my last mountain shot (well at least for the day). I can’t recall if the clouds were just clearing away or rolling in.

Cloudy mountains

We made it to Sylan Bhat but we didn’t stop. Tendi got way ahead of Thilo, Damien and myself and this almost got us lost as we were traversing through a small village that seemed to have multiple paths in and out of it. Luckily we worked out the correct path and were rewarded by seeing Tendi on the path about 200m in front of us. I have no idea what we would have done if we took the wrong trail.

The way became even more open and the heat became more oppressive but we endured. The path curved around the edge of the mountain and we came to a rockslide area. The path here was very faint as we had to hop from rock to rock. It was like playing a real life version of Qbert.

This isn’t the slide area as it was much more treacherous but this might give you an idea of what it looked like.

Rocky Trail

After the slide area the trail joined into a road. I doubt there has ever been any cars on it but it seemed to be the right size. A goat herder passed in the opposite direction and I got lots of shots of goats but this little black kid with really floppy ears was my favorite.

Floppy eared kid

We continued on this road until we hit a small village. There were a ton of people constructing a new guest house using materials they were creating right there. There was one person whose job was smashing small rocks into smaller rocks to be used in the cement. There must have been 50 people in and around this worksite although most seemed to be having lunch. Tendi directed us down some steps where we took a short break away from the throng of people. While we were just sitting there resting I noticed this little swarm of insects on a rock. Not only was it interesting but I think the picture came out pretty neat.

insect swarm?

After the break, we took a “short cut” which involved taken a huge quantity of stairs down almost to the level of the river. Once at that altitude, we pretty much didn’t change elevation in relation to the river for the rest of the day. We continued down on the lower trail until we got to a crossroad with a small snack shop/restaurant. We took another break and chatted with other Trekkers.

There was a group of Trekkers just starting off that seemed to be way out their league. They didn’t seem to have the proper clothing, were not carrying water or any gear that would be recognizable as pertaining to hiking, and they were already having issues with the heat and exertion based on the tone of their conversations. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but I was chuckling inwardly at what lies ahead for them. Not that I was thinking mean thoughts, it’s that I was knowledgable about what they were about to encounter.

Anyway, we hung out in the shade attempting to relax a little from the oppressive heat. I enjoyed a cold Fanta as did a few of my fellow trekkers. Once we felt rested enough to continue we loaded up and made our way to Birenthanti. The way was relatively level and traversed through various guest houses and snack stands. At one point we passed a small creek that the road passed over but a cow decided that this was a good place to drink.

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As with a horse that smells it’s stable after a long journey I quickened my pace knowing that the trek was almost over. I also became very focused on getting to the destination and all of the sights around me blurred in my memory. As we continued on there were more pedestrians going in both directions. Sometimes there would be groups of men or women, not mixed groups that is, that seemed to be all cleaned up and dressed nicely. I never quite figured out what they were up to but my assumption is that was some sort of social gathering like a wedding.

Short while later we arrived in Birenthanti. We crossed the pedestrian bridge that we had crossed 11 days earlier and met up with the sherpas and porters. They were starting the preparation of lunch so we all relaxed in a small blue dining building between a rather large guest house and the river. I had just run out of water and I was rather thirsty so I attempted to purchase a liter of water from the shop underneath the guest house. The problem was that I only had large denominations of Nepali rupees and the proprietor of the shop didn’t have enough change. So I had to wait while he had a family member run around the area to get change. While I was waiting he got into an argument with one of his patrons. It was entertaining but I just wasn’t in the right mind to stand around while this escalated. Luckily the family member returned with my change and I rejoined my group in the blue building.

The dining building had windows on all of the walls but for some reason even though they were open there was little to no air circulation. It was really stuffy in there. We all enjoyed the cool (not quite cold) Fantas that were purchased for us and we attempted to relax. Lunch was served shortly after we finished off the Fantas and it consisted of beans with garlic, corn, french toast, french fries, and sausage. I think this was what was left of what the porters were carrying around for the entire trek. Anyway, we ate and when we were done we watched the local construction workers create cement, pass the cement on metal platters, and then splash the cement into place on a new bridge that was being built. This new bridge seemed like it was built to allow vehicular traffic to cross it but there was a problem that I could see. One side of the bride butted right up to the rock cliffside and atop that cliffside was the rather large guest adjacent to the blue dining hall we were in. There was no way a small car let alone a truck would be able to maneuver around the cliffside onto the bridge. Maybe motorcycles and scooters could do it but it seems kind of crazy to build such a strong bridge for two wheeled vehicles.

After finishing lunch we were just relaxing in the building when the wind began to howl and the sky grew darker. Tendi gathered us up and had us don our gear to finish out our hike to where the bus was going to rendezvous with us on the far side of Naya Pul. This was supposed to be about a twenty minute walk through the shops and housing areas around Naya Pul. We had to dodge taxi drivers that were dropping off trekkers and were touting their taxis to us in order to gain our business. We diverted off the main road and traversed a twisty walkway through the residential area with a lot of pedestrian traffic going in both directions. We then crossed a short foot bridge and emerged back onto another road that was lined with shops of all types. We had been walking for about fifteen minutes when the skies completely opened up and we had a mini monsoon. Luckily we were near a small building or shed with a sheet metal roof that had enough of an overhang for us to take shelter. The rain got steadily heavier and then hail started to fall. Hail is extremely loud when smacking into a tin roof. After a few minutes of us all huddled under the loud banging the rain let up and almost completely stopped. Chris got brave and stepped out from the shelter and stood in the street. A couple of minutes later I joined him and sat on a small wall on the opposite side of the street. Not seconds later there was a huge ominous crack in the sky. Then we heard a thud somewhere to my left. Chris was in the middle of saying something like “I think a piece of ice just fell from the sky” when there was another big thud. This time I saw the hailstone that was just a bit smaller than a golf ball. I sprinted back to the shelter of the tin roof overhang just in time to not get hit by the barrage of hail that rained down. This new wave of large hail lasted for a good five minutes and it littered the street with chunks of ice. There were two dogs that had just come to realize that they should be seeking out shelter like the people around them and they started to run around. I was admiring how they weren’t getting hit by any of the hail when one of the dogs got pegged squarely on the head. Luckily the hail had gotten smaller and the dog shook it off and darted underneath an empty parked bus.

The storm ended but we were all hesitant of exiting the shelter of the overhang until we knew the coast was clear. A couple of minutes later Dawa and his assistant cooks were walking up the road that we came from. Then from the direction we were heading we saw Karma beaconing us to get back on the road and follow him. We all piled out from the shelter and hurried after him hoping that we wouldn’t get caught in another storm. In another five minutes or so we were standing outside of our bus as the porters and sherpas got all of the bags and gear in or on the bus. All of the porters loaded into the bus as they were going to be driven back to Kathmandu after dropping us off at Pokkra. Then we got on the bus and the real journey began.

Let’s just say that the rules of the road are negotiable at best in this area of the world. The road itself is typically barely wide enough for one bus but utilizing the pot hole covered shoulders can pass each other by basically dancing around each other and hoping that the road doesn’t give way. The ride lasted about an hour and there wasn’t one single accident.

We arrived at our new hotel, Hotel Trek-o-tel, which looked to be a significant improvement over the last stay in Pohkra. We quickly dismounted from the bus, acquired our room keys, used the facilities and then ran back down to the hotel’s garden for a farewell ceremony for the porters and most of the sherpas. Chris made a speech and thanked all of the staff for their awesome service. He then handed over a nice wad of cash in order for the sherpas to distribute the tips across the porters and staff. This was followed by a lot of applause and laughter and then the group disbanded. I said my goodbyes to Tendi and Dawa as they were also going to be taking the bus back to Kathmandu.

I went up to my room to relax and get clean. My first shower in over eleven days was awesome. The dirt, sweat, dust, grime, and general nastiness washed off with relative ease. The hot water was exactly what my body needed and it refreshed and relaxed me. I emerged a new man except for one thing. Back before the trek began, while we were in Kathmandu, I had purchased a small bottle of shampoo in anticipation of having clean hair after the trek as I didn’t know if I would be able to purchase any while on the trail. So while I was showering I washed my hair three times. I figured that it would take at least two to get all of the sweat and dirt out of my hair and I was really surprised when even the third attempt didn’t lather up that much. I ignored it and after donning some clean clothes I relaxed on my bed and wrote in my journal for a bit.

After a while we all met in the hotel’s dining room and Karma joined us for a team dinner. The food was so so but the company was excellent. We laughed a lot. I was able to get back into my one habit.

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I ended up eating sweet and sour chicken and a vegetable spring roll.

After dinner a small group of us went out and stopped at a local t-shirt shop and then we went on the hunt for an internet connection somewhere. We decided on a small outdoor Korean restaurant and all four of us (Damion, Shaun, Thilo, and myself) all got out our smart phones and connected to facebook, twitter, and email while enjoying cold beverages and the nice evening. We were all very quiet as we were engrossed in technology and catching up on what our friends and family on the other side of the world were up to.

At around 10pm the Korean restaurant closed and we paid and headed back to the hotel which was about a block away. As soon as I got to the room I hit my bed and was asleep in minutes.


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Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 11 – April 30th, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I awoke the next morning in Chhomrong around 5:30am. I hadn’t slept well the night before but I wasn’t able to go back to sleep after I awoke this time. As I lay in my sleeping bag I heard sniffing sounds outside my tent and although I didn’t unzip the door to take a look I made the assumption that it was one of the local dogs looking for some food that may have dropped outside of the tent. When I did finally crack open my tent it was sprinkling outside. This did not bode well for the hiking the rest of the day. When the rain let up some I exited my fabric cave and used the facilities. When I returned to the tent the morning tea was being served. This was about 7am and it marked the beginning of the morning routine.

Sunrise from Chhmorong

Thilo in the morning

At around 8am breakfast was served which consisted of chocolate/cinnamon crescent rolls, scrambled eggs, corn, and toast but I didn’t have either of the last two. The crescent rolls were purchased at a local bakery. I guess that’ s an advantage to being in Chhomrong.

Breakfast time

There had been a group discussion sometime the previous day to determine the path we were going to take to finish the trek. There were two choices with one being the longer and more difficult and the other being shorter and easier but also leaving us with extra downtime. The majority of us picked the shorter route. It was also determined that Clarence would leave us in order to get back to Pohkara and Kathmandu a day earlier to ensure that he was prepared to return to Hong Kong. The majority of us then chose the shorter, easier route because we were pretty much done with the trekking. I think sherpas were glad that we made the easy choice.

We departed from camp around 9am. We began by climbing stairs up to Chhomrong proper and passing through the guest houses and other businesses that cater to the trekking hordes. Once we crested the top of the city and started downhill we had a view of our destination, New Bridge, which seemed very far away and very far below us. Which way do we go? Maybe this sign will help.

This way

We took a short break mostly to gather the group together and then we headed down the path which consisted mostly of stone steps. We passed through a couple of small villages and the path crossed what would be considered the front porch of a handful of homes. We really didn’t see many of the residents of these homes.

more terracing

Remember that marathon that we witnessed the start of?

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A couple of junior DogFellas:

mini-DogFellas

Our next real stop was at a guest house labeled Jhino. It was very well decorated with all types of flowering plants and it’s claim to fame was that it was the closest guest house to the hot springs. Just a 15 minute walk down (and probably 45 minute walk back up) to see the hot springs. I think if we had planned it better we would have stopped here and made a detour to see the hot springs. Instead we had quite a long break in Jhino. I think it was extra long because the sherpas were inside the guest house catching up on Nepali tv. Our group’s entertainment was a goat that was standing on a bench nearby eating some twigs and other vegetation.

resting in Jhino

Jhino

a goat on a bench

A goat and Chris

After a long while we hinted to the sherpas that we were ready to continue on and we continued our descent down to a river crossing. At this altitude the river was flowing very briskly and the bridge didn’t look all that solid but surprisingly it was.

This is the New Bridge?

After crossing the river there was very little tree cover and the temperature and humidity had gone up. The path led back up the hillside and the elevation gain at the beginning made the trekking difficult. There weren’t as many stairs but it always felt like we were climbing.

Finally we turned a corner around a jutting of the hillside and our climbing stopped, for the most part, and the path leveled out. This was a welcome reprieve from climbing. After a short while we were starting to descend and we reached our destination at New Bridge, ~1500m, just before lunch. We dumped our gear in a pile and sat down at a table under the roof of a small pavilion. We were served “juice” and teas and lunch came shortly after. Lunch consisted of cauliflower salad with a warm dressing, spam, salami, rice, mac & cheese, and curried vegetables.

garden with

overcast skies

I don’t recall if it was before or after lunch but Clarence left the group with Sonam and a porter to head down to Naya Pul so that Clarence could catch an earlier flight to Kathmandu the following day and not be too rushed. We said our goodbyes just in case we didn’t meet up with him again in Kathmandu before he went back to Hong Kong.

After lunch we relaxed at the table. The weather was still humid but it was overcast and there was a slight breeze. I decided to take this opportunity to dry some of the clothes on the campsite’s clothesline as the weather had never been optimal for me to do this on previous days. After accomplishing that one chore I rejoined the team as they sat at the table. We had a ton of time on our hands and so we just chit chatted for a bit. Some members of our group decided to take the opportunity to go into their tents and take naps.

During conversation the idea of having photo assignments to stretch our creative sides came up. My assignment from Chris was to use completely manual mode and to make sure that the subject of the photo was out of focus. I took a dozen or so photos but it started to be difficult to find interesting subjects and I returned to Chris and he gave me a second assignment. I had to walk 50 steps and after that I couldn’t move until I took 50 photos. I really enjoyed both assignments although I really failed the second one as I only snapped 18 shots. It was fun and I plan on making more assignments for myself in the future. We reviewed our shots and critiqued each of the photos that were deemed worthy.

After that we continued to sit around the table and chat and laugh and just enjoy the day.

At around 4:30pm someone declared that it was beer time. This is very significant on a trekking expedition as it signifies that the affects of the Diamox (it changes the flavors of carbonated drinks) have diminished. It is also a celebration of a successful trek as this was our last night on the trail. Someone bought the first round of beers for everyone (a soda for me). I’m not certain who bought the round but it was cheered loudly. This was the first alcohol that many had consumed since Kathmandu. The second round was purchased by Karma and the other sherpas (I believe) including a Fanta for me. Finally we convinced Karma and Dawa to join us in toasting the successful trek. It was an enjoyable time for everyone.

Sometime around 6pm dinner was served which consisted of pea soup with garlic, pizza, green beans, spaghetti (which I declined), chicken sausage, and dessert was fruit salad and fresh bananas. After dinner we continued to converse around the table until people started to drop away and head to bed. Although the day had not been the most strenuous I was ready to hit the sack. I gathered up the clothing I had hung up to dry and entered my tent. Sleep came quickly.

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Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 10 – April 29th, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I awoke around 5:30am and I spent the next hour writing in my journal about the previous days’ events. Morning tea was served around 6:30am so I turned my focus from my journal to getting cleaned up and packing my gear. The call for breakfast was around 7:30am and the food served was rice pudding (which I did not partake), cheese omelets, and fresh bread (which was in the shape of a B or 8).

We loaded up and started walking on the trail around 9am. The terrain was pretty typical but surprising there was a lot more climbing than descending. There were also a good handful of fairly level sections that were a very welcome break from going up or down. That was until we hit the stairs from hell again. I just don’t recall descending this many stairs when we were heading in the opposite direction a few days before. I thought the stairs would never end. There would be a flight of stairs and what looked to be a plateau or maybe a descent at the crest but it would just be a short jot around a boulder or a change in direction before more stairs.

small shrine on the trail

waterfall

I was given a reprieve when we stopped at Dovan, ~2286m, for a short break. We just took a little time to catch our breath and suck down some water and then we were off again. We hit the section of the trail where we were crossing small streams and creeks every 10-20m. We were also getting into the more tropical forrest region as everything got really green. We made it to Bamboo, ~2190m, after a little while hiking and took another break. Chris purchased a bunch of different juices for all of the trekkers. I think I had a mango drink which was alright but not great. While we were sitting around a picnic table someone pointed out a monkey in a Chhomrong nearby.

monkey in a tree

monkey 2

monkey 3

After taking a bunch of pictures of the monkey I went over to Karma and asked again what the name of that particular monkey was and he responded “dil-do”. If you go back to the second day of my trek you will see where I had talked with Karma about another encounter with a similar monkey and I walked away from that conversation with the assumption that the monkey was named a “dil-der-do”. So now with the name corrected this caused many crude jokes.

I looked up this monkey when I returned home and it’s a gray langur.

Having enough of the monkey and the monkey jokes we geared up and headed back on down the trail. On our way to Sinuwa there was a lot of construction to improve the path. This included the stairs that were being constructed as that we had passed when hiking in the other direction. Here’s a guy moving some very heavy wood along the path.

Nepali carrying wood

Speaking of stairs, we hit a ton of them on and they all seemed to be going up. Just when you thought there were no more stairs another set would appear. I kept asking myself why we were gaining elevation when we were supposed to be going down. I guess this is a Nepali joke on trekkers.

tree with blossoms

Here’s Sinuwa from a distance.

Sinuwa in the distance

There was a bird that came up in discussion many times along the trip. Chris had a long name and story behind why he had named it thus but I’m not going to go into that here. I’ll just refer to it as Chris’s bird. The goal was to attempt to identify this bird as we could always here it but we never saw it. That is until I captured this one make it’s tell-tale song.

song bird

Now you can see why it is so difficult to find in the woods. Here is a neat light fixture that I saw hanging in a guest house at the edge of Sinuwa.

Budha eyes light

Eventually we made it to Sinuwa proper, ~2340m. This is where we stopped for lunch which consisted of beans, curried cauliflower, peas, french fries, slices of cheese, and chicken sausage. Lunch was alright but I think the cooks were running out food stuffs and were just unloading whatever they had on us. Not that it was bad just that it seemed like something I would eat when I haven’t gone to buy groceries for a while.

After our typical post-lunch rest we continued our journey to Chhomrong where we would be stopping for the evening. The next two hours were extremely arduous. I thought after all of the ups and downs on the way to Sinuwa were going to be the hard part of the day but boy was I wrong. There were a lot more climbs and descents and in particular there was one climb and descent in order to go around the side of one mountain that was just killer. After that we descended all of the way down to the bottom of a river gorge. Long periods of going down can be very difficult on the body. I wasn’t out of breathe but my muscles would definitely start to ache. Once we got to the bottom we crossed the neat bridge that we had crossed before.

porter on the bridge

That’s my purple bag on the porter’s back with a bunch of other gear. My bag probably weighed 45lbs alone so I have no doubt he was carrying about 100lbs worth of gear.

We rested near the bridge because we knew that there was a very long climb up the side of the mountain to get to our campsite in Chhomrong. The porters arrived just after us, it wasn’t typical of them to be behind us on the trail, but then many of them decided to go for a swim in the river. Although it was really warm I did not really want to go for a dip in the glacier fed river. I just wanted to do the huge stair climb between the bridge and the campsite and conclude this day of hiking. I was already very tired of climbing steps but I got up and continued at a relatively slow pace.

water buffalo tilling

Eventually our group split up as those with more energy seemed to race ahead which left me with Thilo. Frankly, I think he just stuck around me in order to keep an eye on me which I very much appreciate. About a quarter or halfway up the climb to the campsite we encountered…

The cute snotty girl

Thilo and I were passing by a house when a little a Nepali girl came out onto the path to greet us. She was cute but very dirty with dried snot congealing below her nostrils. Apparently the snot thing is common among Nepali children that I witnessed. When she made eye contact with us she repeated one word “sweets” and held out her hand in a very overdramatic child-like way in order to receive whatever sweets we had to offer. We attempted to explain, in English of course, that we did not have any sweets. I expected that this would discourage the little one and that she would go on her merry way. Instead she dropped one hand and held out her other hand to offer a piece of plastic like those that surround toys or other small items to keep people from stealing them in a store. Basically she was trying to give us a piece of trash. When we signaled to her that we didn’t want the trash she dropped that hand and raised the the and repeated the inquiry “Sweets?” After Thilo and I both replied “no sweets” she switched hands again. This went on for a couple of more iterations but then she got distracted by a colorful, braided charm that Thilo had hanging from his camera. She began to admire and fondle the charm and with the little girl distracted I made an attempt at a getaway leaving Thilo to deal with her. I know I’m a bad person. Thilo saw my escape attempt and quickly followed in an attempt to get away from the little girl as well. But alas she was quick and she caught up with us and she grabbed a hold of a couple of fingers on Thilo’s left hand. It was adorably cute but I could tell that Thilo was very uncomfortable. She only held on for a dozen steps before losing interest and running back down to the house. As soon as we turned a corner and were out of line of sight of the house Thilo whipped out his sanitizing gel and used a bunch on his hands and the braided charm. I just chuckled.

We continued up the steps. Between the climbing and the heat I was constantly sweating and out of breathe. Thilo and I cheered each other on. Well really Thilo was mostly cheering me on. It just seemed like these steps were never-ending. When we finally reached the outskirts of Chhomrong the steps became more manageable as they were shorter and deeper and well made. We saw our campsite as it was the same one we stayed at the last time we were in Chhomrong. This gave me a goal which helped but I was extremely tired so it didn’t help that much. And then I finished off the last of the water that I was carrying. Even though we were close I would still need water as Chhomrong is rather larger. Because of its size it has more amenities than most of the smaller villages and so I began to think of purchasing a very cold soft drink once I reached camp. This spurred me along.

steps counted

Yes, it says 1585 steps!

Thilo and I made one final push and we arrived at camp. I dropped my gear and fell to ground to gather some strength and get my breathe back. After a minute or two I returned to my backpack, snagged some rupees, and then went on a search for a cold soda. I didn’t have to go too far as the guest house that was adjacent to our campsite had a little store with a refrigerator. I purchased a Sprite™ and it was probably one of the most refreshing drinks I had quaffed in a long time. The taste was still obscured by the Diamox™ but it was so good. I took the bottle back to the campsite and sat back down in the grass. We all relaxed and watched as a group of Nepalis and some foreign trekkers played volleyball on a court below us. I savored every sip of my soda but the bottle was small and went quickly.

Tea was served around 5:30pm and followed by dinner around 6:30pm. Dinner consisted of mushroom soup, mashed potatoes with some sort of red sauce, chicken, egg fried rice, and vegetable chow mien. Dessert was a fresh apple pie that was purchased from a local bakery in Chhomrong. It was alright but it wasn’t like the apple pies that someone would get in the USA.

The weather had changed some from when we arrived at camp. There was a slight bit of rain that hit us between tea and dinner and then the clouds really rolled in after dinner. I didn’t hang out in the dining tent for long after dinner and I went back to my tent. Sleep came very quickly but was not very deep and I tossed and turned through the night.

I was awakened in the middle of the night when I heavy storm passed through. The rain and wind were really strong but the lightning was really impressive. Even with my eyes closed I could see the light produced by the lightning and sometimes I could make out its shape. I always expected the thunder to quickly arrive after each lightning strike but the rumble seemed to always arrive much later than anticipated.

For the rest of the night I was in and out of sleep even after the storm was long gone.

People: Thilo Schumann

Thilo (Pingu) Schumann

Thilo is a very funny guy from Germany although I must admit that I didn’t get all of his jokes. Maybe something was lost in translation. He is a veteran on these Himalayan treks and a great photographer. He carried a lot of extra gear with him including a full tripod but that didn’t seem to hinder his ability to make it up to ABC and back. He was going to be Ben’s tent mate for the trek but due to Ben’s illness Thilo ended up spending almost all of the nights on the trek in a tent by himself. I’m not bitter about that or anything ☺. Anyway here are some pictures I have of Thilo.

Thilo and bamboo man

Thilo at Chhomrong

Thilo crossing a gate

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Thilo maintains a few sites including a blog, one for photos, He is also on facebook, twitter, google+, and flickr.

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Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 9 – April 28th, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I was awakened around 4:30am by the assistant cooks with morning tea. It was really cold but the sky was crystal clear. The plan for the morning was to leave Machhapuchhare Base Camp (MBC) and to hike up to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) before sunrise, take some pictures, then hike back down to camp to pack up and start back down the trail. I dressed as warm as I could as I knew that the trek up to ABC in the early morning, before sunrise, was going to be very cold and it’s easier to strip off layers than to put on more layers that are residing back at camp. We started our hike around 5:30am and the moon was highlighting the mountain peaks.

crossing the glacier

The beginning of the hike was along a small path that went over a couple of hills and then opened up to a great glacial plain. We only needed to gain about 400m of elevation so the trek was going to be about two and a half to three hours. The glacier area was just a huge field of snow and ice with a small but fast moving stream cutting through it. There were many areas where the stream dropped underneath the ice and popped out somewhere else. Our path stayed close to stream but sometimes it was easier to cross on fresh snow because the ice on the path turned into slush and was slippery.

Seeing ABC in the distance was a good boost to morale as I hiked along attempting to keep steady footing on the slush. The thinner air was getting to me as well as the difficulty in staying at a comfortable temperature with multiple layers on. The final hurdle was a huge set of almost vertical steps that led up to ABC. I took my time and even had to break in the middle as I climbed the steps. I reached ABC proper when I got to the top of the steps and I immediately needed to rest again and so I sat my ass down. I was so out of breath. There were a bunch of other trekkers milling around the three guest houses at ABC and probably giggling at me. Shaun was the only other one from our group around and I had no idea where the rest of the group was.

At some point Tendi came and found us and told us that we had to continue up the path. Yes, that’s right, we weren’t at the destination yet. So I struggled and got back up to my feet, found my breath, and traversed the last leg of this climb. The path up to the Annapurna Sanctuary, 4136m, was relatively short but it was still a climb. It passed through the guest houses that composed the base camp and then out the back side of the buildings. We hiked another 100m or so to the Annapurna Sanctuary and after I took a short breather I starting to take pictures.

sunrise in the mountains prayer flags at the sanctuary sanctuary sunburst damion and the mountains damions and flags

The proof I was at that altitude.

the proof Other treks at the top

On the far side of the sanctuary was a steep drop-off into this barren land.

IMG 4379 Nepali flag lines of flags The group

Here are the members of our group that made it to the top.

the survivors

Thanks to Thilo for providing this photo. Clockwise from the top left is Me, Clarence, Damion, Thilo, Tendi, Shaun, and Dawa.

We hung out at the sanctuary and took pictures for a while. We watched the sun crest over the mountain range. Dawa came up with hot drinks and snacks which we enjoyed as we took in our surroundings.

Just as we were preparing to leave Sanctuary we heard the starter pistol marking the start of the Annapurna downhill marathon. It was crazy to see people running at this altitude across such crazy terrain including glacial ice. Here are some of the 28 runners. The three in the lead are Nepali and the first one is carrying a Nepali flag.

the runners

I was especially amazed at the woman wearing a pink skirt in this chilly weather.

runnerette

We started back down to MBC leaving behind the Annapurna Sanctuary and ABC. As we crossed the glacier again I noticed that the morning’s sun was already softening up the snow making the trail relatively slushy. The trip back to our campsite was pretty uneventful and I concentrated on my footing. When we reached camp I was really tired and my tent was singing a siren’s song that tempted me back into comfort. I couldn’t resist but I also needed to pack prior to breakfast. In fact I was so slow packing that I was a bit late for breakfast which consisted of eggs and toast.

Very shortly after breakfast we mounted up and started our trek down to Deurali.

Starting back down

A moth

The trail down was almost all downhill. Our whole group seemed to be moving at an extremely fast pace except for Shaun and I. We were taking our time and trying to be careful. We crossed the river a few times over those wonderful rickety looking bridges. At one of the short inclines on the trail I stepped into a small hole and felt my ankle twisting. I didn’t hear a pop or have major pain but it was enough that it really pissed me off for not seeing the misstep. Of course this made me even more careful and therefore slowed me down even more.

Clear skies

After a while we arrived at Deurali and this is where we met up with Chris and Karma as well as where we stopped for lunch. The weather changed and the temperature dropped. When the wind picked up we all decided to move to an indoor dining room and that is where we were served lunch. I don’t recall being very hungry but I know I ate. Lunch was spaghetti with red sauce (not really marinara) and cheese, chicken sausage, sweet corn, and rice. As we relaxed after lunch the weather continued to be ugly and it started to spit rain. I had left my rain gear in my duffel so I just put on the fleece. We grabbed the rest of our gear and headed down to the Himalayan Hotel.

The first thing we had to do after we left Deurali was climb back up to Hinku Cave. At least I could look forward to the cave providing a short respite from the spitting rain. Just before we reached the cave the skies opened up and a full downpour started. I started to get soaked. The path that we were on turned a bit muddy and the rocks became a little slick but thankfully it did not turn into a stream of water to deal with. I was fully concentrating on where my next step was going to be placed except for when my water logged pants started to droop too low. These “trekking” pants, even with the assistance of a belt, definitely did not do well for me. They were a constant pain to deal with as I had to keep pulling them up.

weather souring

After leaving Hinku Cave we headed back down into the river valley. We came upon the snow/ice flow that bridged the stream that we had crossed the day before. When we had crossed it two days prior there was a small hole that let me see the fast moving water beneath the ice. Now that hole had grown to be humongous as it had undermined the ice. I had a lot of trepidation about crossing this again considering its change in size but Tendi tested it out and guided us all across by going a little higher up. We crossed without incident but I was still a little unnerved by the experience. Here you can see why.

The hole

The rain started to become a mix of rain and sleet and the latter was sticking to my fleece. We continued to trudge along until we reached camp, ~2870m. The tents were still being set up but luckily the sherpas had already set up the large dining tent and so we all gathered in there and removed our overly soaked outer clothing. The sherpas brought in hot drinks as well as a propane lantern in order to attempt to warm us up. The rain had calmed down but the temperature was still quite cold.

Once the rain had stopped we all piled out of the big tent, grabbed our duffels from where they had been stacked and covered with a tarpaulin, and took our duffels to our tents. I quickly changed into dry clothing including gloves and a head band and went back to the dining tent. My outfit led to many jokes about 80’s workout outfits. It also led Chris to pose me and take the following picture.

Master of the light

Thanks to Chris for this photo.

We all hung around in the big dining tent, trying to stay warm, until dinner was served and frankly I have no idea when we had dinner nor what dinner consisted of. I do know that we spent a lot of time gabbing away before finally retiring for the night.

I do recall waking up in the middle of the night to use the toilet tent and admiring the sky with the billions upon billions of stars that were visible. I just wish I had the wherewithal to get my camera out and photograph its splendor.

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Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 8 – April 27th, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I awoke in Deurali at around 6:30am which was a little bit later than most days on the trek so far. Our day’s hike up to Machhapuchhare Base Camp (MBC) was just a short 500m elevation gain so that is probably why the sherpas didn’t start the day as early. We got our morning tea at 7:30am followed by breakfast around 8:30am. Breakfast was scrambled eggs and pancakes which I had good portions of both. We got on the trail around 9:30am.

The trail up to MBC still followed the Modi Khola river in fact we crossed it a handful of sites. The terrain was extremely rocky and all of the plants seemed dry and brown. The walls of the canyon were occasionally broken with beautiful cascades of water.

waterfall on the way to MBC

Dry flower

The elevation gain made us constantly climb although at different grades. So in other words, we were always going up. Considering that we started at 3200m the air was a bit thinner for climbing but my body seemed to be doing alright albeit I was always breathing heavily.

Avalanche Risk Area

[A comforting sign]

The river was a constant companion on our trek up to MBC. We had to cross it at least four times using little metal bridges that did not look all that sturdy or stable but they did the job.

bridge over troubled waters

flowing river

Damion and waterfalls

[Damion attempting to get a good waterfall photo]

a group of cairns

[A set of cairns by the river]

I took a picture of Monika taking a picture of some flowers.

IMG 4349

some pointy mountain

IMG 4351

A pile of snow and ice below a waterfall

[Snow and ice below a waterfall]

The day was pretty comfortable as it was overcast and a slight breeze. There was one spot where we stopped for a break and the sun broke through the clouds and started to heat us up. It actually became a bit uncomfortable because there was no shade and I was wearing warmer clothing. The sun was still out as we started back up to MBC but then we turned a corner on a stone outcropping and a cloud blocked the sun and the wind, and I mean wind here not just breeze, picked up. The temperature dropped 30 degrees in seconds. Without a doubt I was cold but I also didn’t want to stop to put on another layer of clothing just to have the weather change immediately afterward. After a couple of minutes I relented and stopped and put on a jacket. I instantly felt warmer and I continued up the path. Of course, just as I had guessed, the weather improved within a couple of minutes as the wind dropped almost completely away. Between my exertion and the jacket I started to get a little too warm. Now I’m in the same pickle, do I remove my jacket just to have the weather change again. I took a gamble and removed my coat and I immediately started to get back to a normal temperature. Luckily, the weather cooperated and didn’t make me feel like a jackass. Well, at least not more of a jackass that I already am.

I had been at the back of the group with Chris and Karma like usual. We had all stopped in order to remove clothing and take a short water break. We started up again and about 10 minutes later Chris twisted his ankle. This is the second time on the trek that Chris had sprained this particular ankle. The three of us stopped as Chris and Karma discussed what should happen. Well actually first Chris brought out his little handheld video camera and documented the emotions that he was feeling at that moment. And I documented (photographed) him.

Chris and his sprained ankle

The decision was made that Chris would not continue up trail and instead would turn around and head back down to Deurali or Bamboo and meet up with the group the following day as we headed back down. This meant that Chris would immediately stay where he was while Karma ran (yes actual running) up the path and tell the rest of the group and in particular Tendi what had happened. Then Karma would return to Chris and assist him down the path. This left me without a sherpa. Now typically I am pretty diehard about doing stuff on my own but I had some trepidation as I wasn’t familiar with the terrain and I too have a propensity to sprain my ankles and this situation would leave me without a sherpa. Basically I was told to walk slowly and very carefully up to the group which we had no idea how far up the trail they were. I continued on up and luckily the group was relatively close as I think I only walked for about 10-20 minutes before meeting up with them.

After meeting up with the group I helped describe what happened to Chris to the other trekkers. After a short break we continued on.

IMG 4354

[A look back the way we came]

IMG 4355

[Waterfalls and snow in the cracks and crevices of a hill]

weather station?

[I think this was a weather station]

We had hiked for about another 45 minutes since our last break before MBC was in sight but what a wonderful sight it was.

IMG 4357

Here Shaun and I took a picture of the vista that we came from.

from MBC

I’m not certain what this shed was for but it was kind of neat so I snapped a picture of it.

small shed outside of MBC

in the clouds

Right when we arrived at the campsite at MBC, 3700m, we had little time to drop our gear before we were called to lunch. Lunch served around 12:30pm consisted of noodle soup, french toast, french fries, salami, and garlic sweet corn. After lunch I headed to my tent to take a short nap. I guess my body decided a short nap was not in the cards and I slept off and on for 3 hours.

I was roused around 4:30 to 5pm when pre-dinner tea was served. Between tea and dinner I decided to explore around MBC and in particular find the western toilet that was touted on a sign near the entrance to the guest houses. I did not find this mythical creature so I headed back to the campsite. Dinner was served around 6pm and was composed of mixed vegetable and bean soup (mostly beans) followed by dal bhat, mixed vegetables with meat, curried vegetables and we finished up with mixed fruit for desert. I can’t imagine that I was super hungry as all I had done since lunch was slept. And what did I do after dinner? I went directly back to my tent and slept. I knew we were going to have an early morning the next day and apparently I was still pretty tired.

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Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 7 – April 26th, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I awoke the next morning around 5 to 5:30am due to a strong urge to evacuate my bladder. I got clothed enough to brave the morning’s cool air. We camped in a valley gorge so we the sun was still hidden this morning and I had to use my headlamp to navigate to the toilet tent. Thus far at every stop we had the use of the facilities attached to the guest house that was adjacent to our campsite but this campsite in Bamboo was different. I guess the sherpas hadn’t made the agreement with the property owners to let us use those facilities or the sherpas thought that the walk to the restrooms were too far. Anyway, they erected a toilet tent. Basically they dug a hole in the ground and then erected a slender but tall privacy tent over the hole. It was an interesting experience.

I returned to my tent and started to pack my gear and get ready for the day. The sun came up quickly and the tent had plenty of light. I was stuffing my sleeping bag into its stuff sack when I caught the sight of something in the corner of my eye. I gave it my attention and I noticed that it was moving like an inchworm across the top of one of the duffels. Except that it wasn’t an inchworm it was a leech. I was awestruck as I don’t recall ever seeing a leech in the wild and especially seeing it move over dry goods. It was move very quickly straight for me. I used my little notebook to pick up the creature and flung it outside of my tent. Not a second later I thought to myself “Why didn’t I take a photo?”

We were served morning tea around 6:30am and I was being very laxidasical and taking my time while I packed. I guess I spent too much time writing in my notebook or listening to music. I finished packing just after the call to breakfast. I actually didn’t hear anyone tell me that breakfast was on the table. It was between 7 and 7:30am and I ate toast and a fried egg. I guess I wasn’t super hungry that morning.

After breakfast we mulled around campsite as the sherpas and porters broke down the camp and got organized.

Dawa and the porters

We struck out on our hike for the day between 8 and 8:30am. Today’s theme was waterfalls. The entire day was in a mountain valley with the Modi Khola river below us on the right. The terrain started out as very rainforest like up until about lunch time.

IMG 4299 forest trail a common bridge

waterfall in bamboo

Everything was really green from the abundance of water. Some points of the trail had a lot of hanging moss on old trees and I felt like I was Indiana Jones in search of a small golden statue. The terrain wasn’t that difficult to navigate nor was it easy but at least the vertical climbing wasn’t too bad in the beginning. I was expecting a lot more climbing but I guess that would come later.

As I stated before there were tons of waterfalls and streams crossing the path. At one point we were crossing streams about every 10 meters or so. All of these small streams fed the waterfalls that fell to the river below. Now and then the path would descend a little bit so that we could cross a much more substantial stream across a rickety bridge like the one pictured above.

As there was only one trail to and from the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) there was a lot of traffic heading in both directions. This caused quite a bit of frustration as the path was not suited for bidirectional traversal. This meant that groups going in either direction had to stop a lot and in particular those going towards ABC had to stop more often. Sometimes it was a nice respite but many times it was just annoying.

A stream crossing the river below

Modi Khola river The path ahead

Even with this stopping and starting we were making great time to our lunch destination. We arrived at the Himalayan Hotel, 2900m, around 11 to 11:30am. Our sherpas had attempted to get us a table that was in a shaded area but there were many other trekkers and trekking groups and the choice spots for lunch were taken. We were sat at a table directly in the sun and the sun was high in the sky and unrelenting. As you can see from the previous picture the vegetation was a little more sparse and starting to brown out a little and therefore the sun had already been cooking us for a while. Lunch was served and we ate beans, bow-tie pasta, julienned vegetables, rice (which I did not eat), and Spam®.

After completing the meal I decided to explore the “hotel”. The Himalayan Hotel was just an oversized guest house with many rooms. The sky became overcast and I decided to attempt to take a short nap on a small patch of grass. I wasn’t really able to get any sleep but I rested my eyes and listened to the cacophony of chatter between all of the other trekkers that were giving the “hotel” their patronage mixed with the Nepali workers chatting and washing dishes. I wasn’t resting for 5 minutes when I felt a droplet hit my arm. After the second one hit me I got up and hurried to my gear to take it under cover and also get out my rain jacket.

As the rain picked up, although it did not turn into a full out downpour,  I became acutely aware of the international representation of all of the trekkers as they all donned their rain gear and huddled under whatever cover could be found. There was one huge group of either Japanese or Koreans. There were also many small groups of Europeans and Americans.

The rain stopped almost as quickly as it started. That was our cue to start hiking again. We all still wore our rain gear as the weather seemed to be rather unpredictable. One problem with rain gear is that it is typically good at keeping in heat. So as we hiked I started to get a little bit overheated. I think the rest of my fellow trekkers came to the same realization and we started to shed our outerwear.

The terrain above the Himalayan Hotel was much rockier but there was also a lot less traffic coming down the the path. My assumption is that the trekkers coming down from ABC or Machhapuchhare Base Camp (MBC)  had already traversed this section earlier in the day. The ups and downs were a lot more numerous and there was very little “level” walking in between them. In fact it was mostly ups. I was trailing in the back of the group with Chris and Karma again. The altitude and climbing were definitely not being friendly to me but I was better suited to this kind of activity than I was just a few days earlier.

plant unfolding the bleak beauty porter train IMG 4319 IMG 4320

As you can tell from the above photos it was overcast and a bit foggy. Also the trees were barely surviving. I guess during monsoon season this area will green up a bit. Here’s one with Chris talking about the area while Karma took the video.

Chris and Karma

At one point Karma pointed out some buildings off in the distance and stated that they were our destination for the day. This gave me a little boost until I saw what laid between our position and the destination. There was a huge climb up to a landmark named Hinku Cave followed by a descent and another big climb before reaching our destination at Deurali. Regardless I had a couple of goals set in my mind and I took one step at a time to conquer those goals.

The climb up to Hinku Cave was a little more treacherous than I expected. The path consisted of quite a bit of loose gravel as well as oddly shaped rocks that didn’t provide nice stable or flat footfalls. I was constantly thinking of where I was stepping because one wrong step and I would have twisted the hell out of my ankle.

I eventually got to the top of the climb that ended at Hinku Cave. My breathing was labored and while I rested my body decided to take the opportunity to have a coughing fit. Hinku Cave wasn’t really a cave as much as it was a large rock outcropping. It looked and smelled like it had been used for many years as a rest stop for pony trains.

Tendi guarding Hinku Cave IMG 4324

We waited until we saw Chris and Karma coming up to the cave. After a short break we headed down to a snow pack that we had to cross. It was above a fast moving stream and about halfway across there was about a foot wide hole that showed the rocks and flowing water below my feet. Let’s just say that I had a little bit of trepidation walking on this crossing.

 

the snow pack

There was another stream with falls, sans snow pack, that we crossed before our climb up to Deurali, 3200m. We arrived a little bit earlier than we had estimated but I know I was very happy to arrive regardless of making good time by arriving around 3:20pm. That was just the icing on the cake.

The next stream stream crossing

Tea was set up for us rather quickly after arriving. The temperature up here was a bit chillier but bearable. After tea Monika gave us a demonstration on how to develop film at altitude. I had never seen anyone develop film except the scenes of a dark room in movies. So this was pretty interesting and it seemed to be relatively simple and straightforward. I don’t think I’ll get into analog photography or at least anytime soon but if I do I think I will probably develop my own pictures.

After the demonstration I retired to my tent for a nap. It was a rather short nap and when I got up I decided to take a stroll around Deurali. There wasn’t much different in this village than the others that we had come across. I just had time to kill before dinner which was served around 6:40pm.

Dinner consisted of mushroom soup (I think this was the second or third time on the trek) followed by the main course of chow mien with egg, mixed tuna spring roll, chicken sausage (which I skipped), and mixed vegetables. I had seconds of the vegetables. The cooks and sherpas love to give out seconds. In fact while I was distracted Karma decided to give me a third helping. He really is a funny guy. Desert was pears and mango pieces.

After dinner I didn’t stick around long. I excused myself and went to my tent and crashed.

People: Clarence Chiang

Clarence and Dogfella

 

[Clarence and his buddy, DogFella]

Clarence Chiang was our lone Chinese trekker on this adventure as he hails from Hong Kong. His photography is absolutely awesome as you can tell from his site. He aspires to becoming a professional photographer and in my opinion he is there. He had a great sense of humor with a quick smile. An avid runner and scuba diver he was in the best shape of anyone on the trail excluding the Nepalis that is. I really hope to keep in touch with Clarence even if he does shoot with a Nikon. You can also follow Clarence on twitter or check out his great photos, especially his HDR pictures, on his flickr account. Here are some photos of Clarence although I didn’t seem to have many with his face. I actually had quite a few with the back of his head but that’s because he was always in the front of the group.

The front of the pack

Clarence and Tendi must have become good buddies because Clarence was ALWAYS in the front of the group. I think he actually pushed Tendi to go faster.

The group at the top

[At the top of ABC]

Clarence and Damion after breakfast

[Before breakfast]

Clarence

Even the Super Athlete Clarence needs to rest some times.

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Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 6 – April 25th, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I began to rise around 5:30am as the sun was just starting to brighten the new day. I removed myself from my tent in order to stretch and use the facilities.

Fishtail

Annapurna

Chommrong Guesthouse

Volleyball court below camp

crow in flight

solo flower

Afterwards I was amazed at how nice the day and how superb the lighting was so I decided to take a few shots around camp. The assistant cooks arrived outside my tent around 6:30 with tea and washing water so I knew it was time to stop procrastinating and pack my gear before breakfast.

Fast was broken around 7:30 on the the dining table outside of the dining tent which had already been taken down. We had porridge (of some sort) with pancakes. I ate more pancakes than porridge but all of the food was welcome and delicious.

Camp was broken down for the most part around 8:30 and so we left and began our hiking for the day. Chommrong is situated at the top (or near the top) of the hill and so the first order of business of the day was a long downhill path to the river valley. We passed through quite a few smaller guest houses and villages. It took us just about an hour to get to the bottom of the gorge where the river cut through the area.

There was a really neat cable bridge crossing the river.

bridge

We took a break at the bridge as we would be climbing on the other side. There were a ton of stone steps as we had to regain the altitude that we lost on the way to the bottom of the gorge as well as a little more. We passed through some small villages and one had this cute sight that I had to capture.

cow and goat

At one point during our uphill journey we were almost run over by men carrying bundles of bamboo downhill. They were running at almost full speed with twenty foot long bundles over a shoulder. It was a bit scary as they rushed downhill. It seemed as if they weren’t in complete control.

bamboo porter

We were also passed by pony trains moving in either direction. I think I have described these pony trains before in a previous entry but I’ll do a quick summary. Basically because the locals can’t drive motorized vehicles up or down to the various villages this is the only method of getting supplies up the mountains and trash back down. There is typically a single man driving the train from the rear. He uses shouts and whistles and small rocks to direct the ponies although they seem to know where they are going. Here’s a video of one such pony train.

Here’s a neat shot of some peppers being dried.

Peppers

Rather shortly after that photo we hit the outskirts of Sinuwa. We passed through a few more guest houses before we got to Sinuwa proper, about 2320m in altitude, and then we stopped for lunch. Lunch was a cheese and carrot sandwich with beans, mac & cheese, and some corn. Just after we finished eating while we were relaxing, the weather took a turn for the worse and it started to drizzle. The rain stopped fairly quickly but then the temperature dropped and I started to get chilled.

We all noticed that there was a phone in this particular guesthouse because it kept ringing. There was a rather cute Nepali woman working the counter who would answer the phone and chat with the caller. We all guessed that the reason the phone was so busy was because she was on the receiving end. She must have been one of the most popular girls on the trail. We all had a good chuckle each time the phone rang.

We all were getting tired of chilling around Sinuwa but our sherpas were hidden from sight. After a quick reconnoiter I found Tendi watching so Nepali soap opera on a tv in another dinning area of the guest house. It was pretty funny. We got his attention and then proceeded to don our gear and strike out on the trail again.

We immediately hit another grueling uphill. There were quite a few trekkers heading in the downhill direction. Apparently after you get to the end you can basically run downhill. I, on the other hand, was sucking wind as I climbed and had to take a very slow and steady pace.

We crested a set of stairs and then we were on relatively flat land for a while. I took the opportunity of actually being able to breathe normally to also take some pictures.

bird in a tree

small red spider

trekkers

Thilo on the trail

trail and flowers

We had a long downhill trek over lots of wet and muddy rocks as the little bit of rain we had was still dribbling through the cracks and crevasses of the mountains. This made the trail a little bit more treacherous but I didn’t have any major stumbles or twisted ankles. Then came a section where a bunch of Nepali men were actually improving the trail by building a long set of stone stairs. They only had a small portion completed but the stairs were wide and well done. Some of the trekkers gave donations to the workers. I didn’t have any cash available but I figured the others gave plenty :-).

After we got out of the construction we had another short uphill and downhill and then we hit the outskirts of the village of Bamboo, around 2300m in altitude, which was our destination. As we went through one of the guesthouses there was this cute baby goat standing on a chair near a table eating pea husks as his owner was removing the peas from the pods. I took a few pictures but this is the best one.

goat and peas

Chris and I were trailing the pack when we came across this cute goat. Anyway, we continued on to the camp and arrived just before 4pm. Around 4:30 we had tea in the dining tent. During tea Chris explained the ins and outs of tilt-shift lenses and let us play around with the one attached to his camera. Around 5pm Chris held a workshop on how to use Lightroom. I really got a lot out of this workshop but I should have taken notes as I know that I have forgotten about half of what he went through. I’m kicking myself.

I think dinner was set around 7pm but maybe it was 6:30. We had Dal Bhat with curried vegetables, green beans, mushrooms, stewed tomatoes and cabbage salad with carrots. The food was good and filling. As dinner was wrapping up we were informed that the following day we would be gaining about 900 meters in altitude in 6 to 7 hours. My legs were sore but I had no doubt that I would survive the next day. Although I also had no doubt that I would probably be hating life while climbing that altitude.

People: Ben Murray

Benicio in Nepal

[I’m “borrowing” this image from Ben’s own blog as I don’t have a good one. Thanks Ben!]

Ben comes from down under. Our only Australian on the trip was an infrastructure technician by trade and enjoys mixed martial arts when not behind a camera. I enjoyed the limited amount of time that I was able to spend with him and I felt horrible for the all of the stuff that happened to him at the beginning of this trek. I’ve explained most of what happened to him on the trip but here is a spoiler. He didn’t stick around Kathmandu therefore we didn’t get to meet up again. Instead he attempted to get an earlier flight back to Australia after hanging out in Kathmandu for a while. His trip back made a stop in Thailand at which point he was stranded for a few days. This guy just can’t get any breaks. Anyway, he did make it back home and his health is back to normal.

Ben napping at the airport in Pohkara

Ben has some absolutely gorgeous photos on his site and flickr account. Ben even blogged his Nepal experience. You can also follow him on twitter.

Gear: Pants

I bought and brought a whole bunch of different pairs of pants for the trip. I knew that I would be wearing them for multiple days and possibly getting rained or snowed on. I also knew that they would need to be comfortable for long sessions of hiking. So here is my roundup of the pants that I had.

Patagonia Duck Pants

This pants are comfortable. I actually saved these for the last day in Kathmandu and the flight home. I wanted to be comfortable as long as possible. The pants are orangish brown and I need to wear them more often but I definitely recommend them. I’m not certain how well they would deal with regular hiking wear and tear.

Gander Mountain Expedition cargo pants

Hated these. I wore these one day! Basically, they didn’t fit right, constantly fell down, and rubbed in the wrong places. Maybe I got the wrong size but I don’t recommend these. I guess you get what you pay for and these were relatively cheap.

Columbia olive convertible trekking pants

I’m not certain what the name or model of these pants but I really liked them. They are nylon and light. I wore these for multiple days and was completely comfortable in them. I did have to use a belt with them as they did not include an internal belt or any other waist cinching mechanism. My only complaint was that I bought ones that were slightly too long and the bottoms of the pant legs would sometimes get caught below my heel. I did take advantage of removing the pants legs on the second day of trekking as my legs were getting quite warm from the constant exercise. There are buttons on the belt loops that I couldn’t figure out where their purpose is. If anyone knows please let me know.

Mountain Hardware Runout pants

These slate grey pants are cotton and very hardy. I was told that I should have had only synthetic as they are lighter and dry faster if they got wet but these pants were great. I wore them for multiple days and didn’t have any major issues. They fit well although there are lots of seams and those seams could be felt when walking or bending. I wore these on my trip to Kathmandu and for a couple of days afterward. Regardless I totally recommend these.

The North Face trekking pants

I have two pairs of these pants. One is khaki while the other is dark grey/black. I wore both of these pants for multiple days each and they were very comfortable during the hiking. As with the Columbia pants above there was no internal belt but there is a little bit of elastic. The elastic would be fine if I was wearing these casually but as I was hiking and in particular going up and down mountainsides therefore I used the belt to keep them from slipping down. Again like the Columbia pants I purchased pants that were just a tad too long and had the same issue with the pant legs catching on my heels every once in a while. I would recommend these highly.

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Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 5 – April 24th, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I awoke around 5:30am and the sun was already starting to rise to the point that it was already light outside. I decided that this would be a great opportunity to switch the clothes that I had been wearing for the last few days. Yes, that is correct that I had been wearing the same clothes for multiple days. That is just the way it is done when trekking or backpacking. You just don’t have space to carry a new outfit for every day.

I changed and it felt so nice to be in fresh clothes. The accumulation of sweat and dust on my previous clothes wasn’t horrible but it was definitely nice to change. They didn’t smell that bad either. Or maybe I just reeked so much that I couldn’t tell the difference. Either way no one had mentioned anything.

The assistant cooks came around to the tents at around 6:30 with morning tea and washing water. Somehow I messed up my drink request and I ended up with hot milk tea. But I drank it with the minimal of fuss. I then proceeded to pack my gear albeit slowly. I’m not certain why I was being lazy but I just didn’t rush into things this morning. While packing I found a little critter crawling around the tent.

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I wasn’t sure what kind of spider or if it was poisonous so I just collected it on something or other and flung it outside of the tent.

Breakfast was around 7:30am. The sherpas had broken down the dining tent but set up the table for breakfast out on the lawn with a scenic view. Of course the sun was coming up from that direction so I decided to sit facing away from the view so as to not blind myself. The food served was pretty typical for the trek. We ate Spam® and potatoes with toast and curried vegetables. I ate a very decent amount. I guess all of the hiking from the previous day had increased my appetite. I had mustard on my spam and snack dressing (thin ketchup) on my potatoes.

After breakfast we milled around and chatted for a bit.

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[Ben, Jon, Clarence, Karma, and Chris]

Chris and Jon

[Chris showing Jon his analog camera]

Analog Camera up close

[Analog camera up close. You can see Jon’s face in the right top lens]

Chris then gathered us for the group photos since Jon and Ben had rejoined the party and we had everyone there. We took a few of all of the trekkers, the organizers and participants. Then we took a few with all of the trekkers and all of the staff; sherpas, porters, cooks, etc. Chris had us do different poses or facial expressions.

Afterward we broke apart and Ben, Jon, and Sonam said good bye as they were going to be heading back to Naya Pool in order to head back to Kathmandu. Ben’s health had deteriorated to the point where it did not make sense for him to go further. Their plan was to hang out in and around Kathmandu until we returned from the trek.

We left camp around 9:15am for what was determined to be an “easy” day.

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The first couple of hours were all downhill and I have a distinct feeling that the mountain was telling us something.

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The weather was nice and cool and a bit overcast. This made it really nice for hiking. Well for a little while at least. We had crossed over to the more arid side of the mountains and so we were not in the rainforest type of ecology. In fact it was mostly terraced with small villages and farms. For some reason Karma and Tendi had us break quite a bit as we were going downhill. One long break, seemed like fifteen minutes, was followed rather quickly by another long break with only about 10 minutes of walking in between. We don’t usually question the sherpas as they are the experts but this seemed excessive. I took some pictures while we were on break. There were a couple of teenagers hitting a volleyball back and forth on the lawn in front of the guesthouse that we were taking the break at. I guess you have to do something to break up the monotony during the days when there aren’t any people residing the rooms.

Fishtail

valley

landslide

[You can see the path way down below as well as the rockslide on the other side]

Bee Hive

[This is a bee hive in a hollow log]

Eagle and raven

[eagle and raven]

stupa on the path

[Buddhist stupa near our path]

The cloud cover started to become more sparse and the heat started to increase while we were on one of these breaks. And there was no real shade. We all urged the sherpas to continue and so down into the valley we went. It was really dusty as the trail going down was mostly a dirt path, in other words no stone stairs, and it was really dry. The descent into the valley didn’t take that long but the path was different than we were used to and it was the longest continuous downhill that we had happened upon. At the end my I was starting to get a slight twinge in my knee that I know from experience meant that I was not hiking downhill correctly.

We stopped for a break within sight of the bridge that would take us across the river at the bottom of the valley. There were stone stairs on the opposite side that meant we were going to be climbing a lot.

We got going again and we saw some porters with another group traveling in the opposite direction with colorful balloons attached to their backpacks. It took me a while to figure out what the significance of this was. Apparently it was Easter Sunday and someone had decided to decorate the porters. I’m not certain they were happy about it.

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Here’s the bridge that we had to cross.

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After the bridge we started climbing the stairs. We passed through a few clusters of homes without the obligatory guesthouses. There were women out beating some sort of grain from whatever they harvested out on the stone areas outside of their homes. This was in the path that we were walking on so we didn’t have much room between the grains and falling off the ledge going down the hill. I’m not certain what kind of grain it was as I’m not versed in what different grains grow in different regions of the world. It looked similar to wheat but was the seeds were black while the stalks were gold.

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After seeing these women at work we came upon a really shocking surprise. A volleyball court! Granted it was just a flat dirt area but it had a large bamboo cage around the field used to keep the ball from rolling down the mountain side.

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This one threw me for a loop. I just never expected volleyball to be a popular sport in the mountains. I guess this explains the kids hitting the ball around earlier. They were practicing. As the trek continued up to higher altitudes we came across other volleyball courts with lot’s of off-duty Nepali playing. By the way, the trail went right through the volleyball court. I guess it’s similar to playing street hockey or stick ball in a street. It’s more about the convenience of the location than the intermittent interruption by car or in our case trekking group.

We stopped for lunch a short while after passing through the volleyball court. Lunch consisted of bow-tie pasta, rice, beans, and this canned fish in a red sauce. I ate everything but the fish. They just did not look good in the least. I’m usually a pretty adventurous foodie but I just didn’t feeling like pressing my luck while on this trek. We took a rather long break after lunch.

We struck out again on the way to Chommrong. Most of the next hour was uphill until we hit the outskirts of Chommrong. We took a nice break to allow Chris and Karma to catch up with the group before continuing on.

After the break as we were going along the path we came across a couple of water buffalos. I have no knowledge of the demeanor or temperament of these animals especially when encroaching on their personal space so I attempted to give them as wide a berth as possible. But I also decided that I needed so up close and personal photos.

Water Buffalo on the path

This buffalo decided to stand up and look agitated. Probably because he was resting on the path that we walking on.

Agitated buffalo

This buffalo didn’t mind us walking by as much.

lying buffalo

After another 30-45 minutes we were in Chommrong which is a huge collection of guest houses and supporting businesses. There were restaurants and bakeries as well as a clinic and some other government installations. This was by far the biggest village we had hit since we walked through Bharenthanti on the first day. We made our way through the myriad guest houses and to our campsite. The campsite was on a cliff ledge that overlooked a volleyball court and had Fishtail and two of the Annapurna peaks in the distance.

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I was in such a need to drink something other than tea or water that I purchased a cold Sprite. It was so good. I didn’t care that there was a little bit of an off taste due to the Diamox. My only problem was that it was too little.

We relaxed around camp until dinner. It started to threaten to rain and even sprinkled a little. It cleared up before dinner which was pizza with cauliflower, beans, and chow mien with mozzarella. We finished up with peaches. We chilled in the dining tent while the weather outside turned to light showers again.

People: Shaun Chemplavil

Shaun

It’s a small world after all. I wonder if Disney will come and attempt to sue me for saying that. Anyway there is a reason I bring that saying up and that reason is named Shaun Chemplavil. A Las Vegas native he moved to Florida and in particular to Orlando. That’s right he lives within minutes from where I reside. I don’t know exactly how many minutes as I don’t know exactly where in Orlando he lives but having someone from the same metropolis on the trip was a big coincidence. But wait there’s more…[I think I can get sued for that too]. He is a member of a photography meetup group that I am a member of and we had actually met at one event. I know, crazy, right? He’s a great guy with a great sense of humor. And he definitely looked out for me along the trek.

Check out his flickr account to see his great photos.

Here’s Shaun prepping for a shot.

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Here’s Shaun at the only sign signifying the Annapurna Base Camp. He wanted proof that he was there.

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On our return trek Shaun was nearby with his blue trekking poles.

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Some days just take the smile away.

tired Shaun

But then it returns.

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[I had to make blurry subjects in my pictures as part of an assignment]

Gear: Various Head Coverings

I brought a wide variety of head coverings for everything from sun protection to keeping my noggin warm. I also brought items that I was going to try in order to keep the dry dusty air from bothering me too much. I’ll go through all of the items.

Baseball Cap

I had a standard baseball cap that I had bought at a UCF football game because I had forgotten to where one and the sun was killing me. This cap had served me well for a couple of years and so it deserved to be brought to the ends of the world as well. Overall it worked well protecting from the sun and helping to keep the sweat from my face. After a while the cap became saturated with sweat and stopped it’s function of keeping sweat out of my eyes. It also became hot and uncomfortable after extended use. One other negative is that the brim gets in the way when taking pictures so the hat must be turned, lifted or removed which can be annoying.

OC Goretex brimmed hat

I have had this hat for quite a few years but rarely wear it in Florida because it gets hot really quickly. It provides the most sun protection of everything I brought and folds up nicely. The lining would tend to get saturated with sweat and always stayed quite warm. I think I only wore this one day and it worked well but then I ended up shoving it into my backpack.

Buff®

This is one of those things from Survivor® that the contestants have. It’s basically a tube of cloth that can be used for many different types of clothing but mostly on the head. I initially purchased this to be one of the things that I tried for a dust guard to cover my mouth and nose while in Tibet. I ended up using it as a headband or just some sort of head covering. It did an awesome job of sopping up sweat and when one end of the tube would be saturated I could reverse it and use the other end of the tube. Now that I have written that out I have realized that it probably doesn’t make much sense. Oh well. I really like this item and when using other head covers I would sometimes switch them out for this. I usually kept it tied to my backpack in an easy to reach location so that it could dry out but be handy. One negative is that it didn’t provide any sun protection for my face.

Bandanas

I brought along two bandanas and I used them just about as much as I used the buff. I had brought these along as general purpose gear as well as having the special purpose of dust guard as I described for the buff. I never did use them for that purpose. They weren’t as versatile as the buff nor did they sop up as much sweat but they did well for a while and then were swapped out. Just like the buff these did not protect my face from the sun.

Skullcap beanie

By far my favorite cold weather headgear. This maroon beanie I always keep with my winter clothes for when I’m traveling outside of Florida. I don’t think I have had much use for it in Florida. It’s soft and comfortable and keeps my head warm. It does tend to soak up the sweat over time and definitely had that issue on this trip. I wore this anytime it was chilly enough or my ears were too cold.

Fleece headband

I brought a fleece headband that I had bought when skiing, because I had forgotten my aforementioned beanie. I wore this one time when we were on our way back from ABC and my beanie was too wet from sweat and rain. Everyone seemed to think it was funny. But it kept my ears warm and that made me happy.

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Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 4 – April 23rd, 2011 (part 2)

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I split this day into two posts and here is the first one that dealt with the hike up to the top of Poon Hill and the return to my tent to pack my gear before breakfast.

I finished packing rather quickly because I had time before the hike to get a lot of my stuff in order. I broke out of the tent and started to take pictures around camp.

Dog at camp

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I believe we ate around 8 but I don’t completely remember. I don’t even remember what we had that morning but I’m pretty sure I ate well as my body was quickly getting back into a normal state.

I’m pretty sure that we struck out on the day’s hike before 9am as we had quite a few hours of hiking ahead of us. We had already done 2-3 hours in the morning to get to Poon Hill but I was still invigorated. The first few hours were all climbing. We were on a connector trail and so there weren’t stairs or any other signs of improvement other than the footpath. Well that’s not completely correct. There were some stone rest areas along the path. We quickly gained altitude even to the point of being above the tour planes.

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At one break I took the following picture of a stone path that seems to just go off to nowhere. It does point towards the cellular tower that we had passed on the way to Poon Hill.

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There were also some nice prayer flags in the trees at this rest area.

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As we hiked along this trail I couldn’t help but notice that it was as if spring had sprung. Everything was flowering or new buds were popping out.

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We kept hiking and we took a break at a store resting area which is basically a large square store table just high enough to sit on and rest your gear (look at the picture with DogFella below). On the way up to this hill’s summit we had to walk in one of these deep grooves that have eroded the top of the hill. The blue topped buildings in the distance is Ghorepani where we stayed the night before.

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In this photo you can see Ghorepani as well as the cell tower and the tower on top of Poon Hill. You can also see that within a couple of hours all of the snow has disappeared from the top of Poon Hill.

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This stone resting area was at almost the same height as Poon Hill. I believe it was around 3100m.

This is also were we met a new member of our group, DogFella.

The story of DogFella

DogFella

Just as we were just getting back onto the trail to continue our hike after resting and we were passing another stone resting area, probably 10m from the one we stopped at, when a dog from out of nowhere hopped on top as if he was the king of the mountain. We had seen many dogs like this one along the way but this one immediately took an interest in our group and in particular it liked Clarence.

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As we continued to hike this dog decided to join us. He would trot along with us and sometimes go to the front of the group or trail behind. Every now and then he would run off into the woods and then return a few minutes later. Chris mentioned that this reminded him of a character from an iPhone game named Sword & Sworcery. That character’s name was DogFella and thus this dog that joined our group was named. For the better part of the day DogFella was with us. When we started to entry Deurali where we were going to have our lunch DogFella took off up the hill above the village. I was certain that was going to be the last time we saw him but he surprised us all as we were finishing lunch when he came in from the opposite side of town and laid down by our table and took a nap. I guess he had a bad experience when going through this village and therefore takes an alternate route.

Apparently DogFella is good at taking naps.

DogFella napping

Sometimes he’s not the only one (That’s Tendi and Karma our sherpas).

DogFella and Sherpas resting

But most of the time he was hanging around us. This is him scouting the way for Monika.

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He provided all of us with some entertainment as well as amazement throughout the hike. As our hiking for the day was about to wrap up I believe that DogFella sensed that we were almost done and he sought out a new group to follow. He found three very attractive female trekkers that were resting near a stream and we never saw him again. Although he wasn’t with us physically, he stayed with us in spirit for the rest of the trek as we compared the other dogs or puppies to him. Here’s to you DogFella.

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Here are some interesting photos from the day. This first one I decided to go a little artsy with.

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I couldn’t pass up taking a picture of this schnoz.

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Here are some photos from the village of Deurali where we had lunch.

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Here are the porters looking at a local map. I figured they should know this by heart. The top left with the yellow/gold cartoon bubble is the “You are here” marker.

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This tree was growing in the center of the village and was covered with dirty/dingy prayer flags.

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And one just for fun.

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The rest of the hike we were next to a small stream and sometimes there were critters near the water like this bird.

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And this rodent. It’s actually pretty small about the size of a chipmunk.

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I could be mixing up the days here but I believe this was when we climbed up to this amazing overlook. There was a small level area that basically had a sheer cliff down into a valley. It was a bit nerve racking if you went up to the edge and looked down. Someone with vertigo would definitely have issues from this place. I took a couple of pictures but they just don’t do justice to the scene or the feeling. Oh and there was a shop (a.k.a. a guest house without rooms) adjacent to this scenic outlook area.

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This second photo I was trying to get part of the bottom of the valley in to attempt to convey the scale or height of this perch.

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The rest of the hike was “Nepali flat” which means that we stayed at the same basic average altitude but continually descended or climbed along the path. Here’s the proof.

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[That’s Shaun and Thilo if you were wondering.]

About 10 minutes from where we stopped were going to stop at Tadapani who should we meet on the trail but Sonam coming from the camp in flip flops. It was a happy site as it meant that we would see Ben and Jon again. We had a hint earlier in the day that we would possibly see them if all went well so this was a great sign. He met us at a fork in the trail with one fork going down and the other going up. Guess which one we had to follow? That’s right the one going up. Anyway, it was only about 10 more minutes and we arrived at camp.

Jon greeted us as we arrived and Ben came down a little later. They were both staying in the guest house adjacent to our campsite because they had arrived the previous day. It was great to see that Ben had been feeling well enough to make it as far as this. They had hiked two pretty grueling days to catch us here. Well it was grueling for them but it was probably similar to what we had been doing. Ben had gotten better but then his health was going down again. Therefore they decided to not to continue the journey with us and instead head back to Kathmandu. But we were able to break bread with them for dinner and breakfast and then they were going to head back to Naya Pool and take a taxi back to Pokhara.

As we had arrived at camp I noticed a group of kids around a game board. It looked to be about the size of a ping pong table and they were playing a game that seemed to be a mix of billiards and shuffleboard. Chris told me that it was carroms. Apparently Chris was quite adept at the game and as soon as he was able to relieve himself of his trekking gear he was at the table playing with the kids and porters.

I pretty much just wandered around the camp trying to relax a little. I was super tired after the very long day of hiking. There was a lot of noise and laughter coming from the patio outside the guest house where a group of British trekkers were imbibing quite heavily. That’s not advised when hiking at altitude but they were pounding them back like water. The women in particular were quite rowdy and loud. Oh well, I guess they were enjoying themselves even if they paid for it the next day.

The night was chilly but we had a nice dinner in the dining tent. I don’t recall the meal but I do recall turning in rather quickly after dinner. Like I said before I was really tired from the long day. Sleep came quickly.

I was going to do a people or gear highlight but I have already gone more than a week without a post and at this rate I won’t finish for 5 months. So stay tuned for the next installment (hopefully this weekend).

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Himalayan Photography Trip – Trekking day 4 – April 23rd, 2011 (part 1)

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here.

I have decided to split this post into two entries worth because there will be a ton of photos (and they will be larger than standard).

I awoke around 2am and I have no idea why. I guess going to sleep around 7-8pm after such a short hike just made my body want to be up. I listened to some music and attempted to go back to sleep but it wasn’t happening. At around 4am, we were “awakened” by the sherpas with tea. I quickly got a couple of layers on while enjoying a hot tea and grabbed my camera and trekking poles. We gathered and then set off behind some buildings on a path that the Tendi led us up the hill.

As we passed by guest houses everything was rather dark but there was a lot of activity as peopled emerged with headlamps and flashlights and joined the climb to the top of Poon Hill. I was amazed at the number of people that were on the trail. We must have passed by or walked with a half dozen small groups of four to eight people each. It was still very dark but my eyes had adjusted to the point where I really didn’t need to use my headlamp. The temperature was rather chilly but the air was crisp and I warmed up very quickly during the climb. I also got out of breathe really quickly. The campsite that we stayed at was around 2800-2900m but we had to climb to 3200m which was the top of Poon Hill. And we had to do it rather quickly in order to reach the summit before the sun broke the horizon.

The trail was really beautiful. Once we got beyond the guest houses we were on a trail that cut through rhododendrons that were beginning to bloom with frost on the ground. It was too dark to take pictures of the trail. About halfway to the top we stopped for a breather at the communications tower with the prayer flags that I mentioned in the last post. It was already starting to get lighter out but the sun had not peeked out from behind the mountains.

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[yes I made it that strange tint on purpose. I’m not certain I like it but why not put my blunders up here too]

Our journey continued up hill and the frost that was just here and there started to turn into snow covered grasses. The trees also had clumps of snow on them that would fall now and then or would drip. There were even some icicles. After being in the 80’s with high humidity for the past few days this was an interesting change.

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Even with all of these signs of cold weather, I was burning up in my coats. I unzipped everything but I was still sweating a lot. Climbing stairs is definitely a workout especially when you are completely out of breathe. Finally, I saw the destination in sight. The path opened up and there were very few trees. I took one more photo behind me as I rested prior to the final push (it had been a tough jaunt).

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[Yes that guy is in shorts. Not everyone on the trails were sane.]

Then I climbed the last few steps to the top of Poon Hill…

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I was really surprised at how many people had climbed those same stairs that morning to see the sunrise. There were probably 50-100 people when I got to the top. A lot of them were in the tower or in line at the coffee bar. That’s right, some enterprising Nepali built and supplied a coffee/tea/hot chocolate shed at the top of Poon Hill.

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More people streaming in like ants.

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As the sun was creeping up I was taking pictures. Here is Fishtail Mountain.

Fishtail Mountain

I went up into the tower which was pretty treacherous as the metal steps were coated in melting ice. I then took some photos of other mountains in the range. I believe this one is Dhaulagiri.

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Here’s another of Fishtail with the sun beams shooting through.

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Annapurna South and Annapurna I are shown here. Annapurna South is the one to the right but it is actually about 800m shorter than Annapurna South. Perspective is deceiving.

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The sun finally getting above the mountains.

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I decided that I had enough fun up in the tower elbowing people out of the way in order to take pictures so I went down to ground level with the masses. Here’s the Dhaulagiri range and about a quarter of the people on Poon Hill.

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I like the star effect on the sun in this next photo. Thanks goes to Chris for reminding me of this effect. Annapurna South is the peak to the left with Fishtail close to the sun. The guy in the ball cap at the bottom is Karma.

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I really liked this picture, I think mostly because of the unknowing model that is looking toward the distance.

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This next one is one of my favorites. I had to wait quite a bit in order to wait for people to get out of the shot. I also had to help a gaggle of French trekkers by taking a few photos for them.

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Here I was trying to be artistic with my framing.

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Right around this time Dawa came trotting up to our group as we were gathered and he had a backpack full of all types of hot beverages ready to be made and consumed. I had a wonderful cup of hot chocolate and a kit kat bar. It was awesome that he hiked all of the way up to Poon Hill just to provide us with hot drinks. After we were done we all decided that we had enough of taking pictures from this hilltop.

And finally proof that I was there (other than the photos I took).

Aaron at Poon Hill

After that shot we started our way down the steps back to camp. On the way down I took a few more shots and here is one of them. That’s Dhaulagiri and the spiky peak to the right of center is Tukche.

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The hike down was relatively quick. We probably returned to camp around 7:30am. We were told to pack our stuff and that breakfast would be served shortly. So I went to my tent and packed. And with that I was end this post and continue this day’s story in the next post.

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