Aaron Martina is an Florida based programmer and an international man of mystery. Well, he's not all that mysterious but he does travel the world now and then taking photos, eating interesting foods and diving the depths.

Himalayan Photography Trip - Pokhara and the trek begins

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

I awoke around 5am. Although I woke up easily I did not feel rested and I couldn't go back to sleep. I took the opportunity as the sun was coming up to snap some pictures around the hotel. I think this first one is Annapurna South, which is one of the smaller of the Annapurna peaks.

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This next two I believe are Machapucchre (Fishtail)

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Around 7am we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant which I think consisted of eggs and toast and maybe some sausage. I don't recall but I also don't believe I was all that hungry. Sometime while we were in the restaurant Ben joined us and we found out that he had a crazy night. Basically his illness got to the point where Jon and Sonam took him to the hospital and the doctor their immediately put him on an IV drip. He also got a stack of prescriptions (wrapped in folded newspaper). He seemed in a little bit better spirits than the last time I saw him the day before but he definitely wasn't 100%.

After breakfast I packed whatever I hadn't packed earlier in the morning and brought my bags down to the lobby and waited as everyone else filtered in.

Trekkers gathering before the bus ride

Just after 8am our bus arrived and we started to migrate towards it. I saw something really neat in the garden right before hopping onto the bus so I took a quick snap. Can you see what I saw?

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It's not the flowers, or the buildings, or even the wrought iron fence. Let's zoom in a little.

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I have no idea how I saw this guy but he is pretty awesome. It seems to be an Oriental Garden Lizard but as I didn't get a profile picture I can't be sure. Anyway, I hopped on the bus and away we went.

The ride was pretty much what we had come to expect of driving in Nepal. It was rather early when we left so there wasn't much auto or pedestrian traffic but that didn't mean the driver hesitated to use his horn whenever he did come across another vehicle or person near our path. As we got outside of Pokhara the streets became bumpier and narrower which means that passing vehicles that are traveling in the opposite direction becomes even more perilous.

At some point early during the trip, Jon made his way to the back of the bus, re-arranged the duffels into a make-shift bed and immediately passed out. I guess he had had a long night hanging out with Ben at the hospital.

I lost track of time as we traveled to the trailhead at Naya Pool. I snapped a dozen or so pictures along the way attempting to capture something interesting but most came as a blurry mess. Here are some that survived the cut.

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The bus finally made it to what seemed to be a very popular area for trekking. There were lots of foreigners either getting into or out of vehicles. But our bus ride was not over yet. We continued down a rather narrow road crowded with people, parked vehicles, and loose animals. We made it down to a turn and the assistant driver (a.k.a. the guy banging the side of the bus) stepped out and attempted to help navigate the bus through the tight space. At some point a dog decided to duck under the bus and everything was halted until the dog ran out. We continued down a bit further and then we stopped to greet our sherpas, Tendi and Karma, and our pack of porters. We got off the bus and quickly all of our gear was unloaded and assigned out. By assigning out I mean to say that the porters discussed, argued (with smiles), and finally to what looks like compromises.

We trekkers donned our packs and situated ourselves for the hiking for the day.

getting ready for the hike

A playful dog decided to interrupt our preparations and get some attention from Jon.

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Jon had a little fun playing back with the dog.

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Shortly after this we began our walk. Here is a parting shot of what we left behind including the playful dog.

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At the beginning of the hike our elevation was approximately 1030 meters. I'll be pretty much doing everything in metric as that is how everything there was written. This one time I'll say that the conversion rate between meters and feet is 1m = 3.3ft. Therefore my starting elevation of 1030m was approximately 3400ft.

As we hiked a little bit I noticed one of our first views of the peaks from the ground. This is Macchapuchhare (I know I spelled it differently, welcome to the wonderful world of Nepali/English transitions) again.

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I just liked how the picture had the Fish Tail peak along with the Fish Tail restaurant.

We quickly made it to Birenthanti and crossed the river on our first bridge of the trip. Here is one of the only times I was in the front of our trekking group.

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Of course I was still behind the porters (notice the one on the right has a purple duffle, mine, as well as other bags). The porters who were all relatively small but all carried about their body weight. I have much respect for them.

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As we hiked on the first day we were typically near a river. Here are some waterfalls.

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The day was hot and we didn't have much cover.

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Our first stop was at a guest house right around noon. It's the place with the orange tarp in the distance. This was such a welcome sight as all of us wanted to get out of the oppressive heat. Even though most of the hike so far had been on relatively flat land, it was extremely welcome to have a goal in sight.

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And even better was the fact that we were going to be fed. This was our first meal on the trek.

first lunch

That's right, Mac & Cheese. Accompanying the Mac & Cheese were chicken sausages (hot dogs), potatoes, and broccoli in some sort of dressing (I think it was mayo). The process that was typical for lunch was that we would arrive at our lunch destination and we would immediately get "juice" which was a warm to hot concoction of some sort of sugary drink mix such as lemonade, tang, mango or grape. Within a short amount of time prepared plates of food would be passed out to each of the trekkers. After finishing the meal the plates would be cleared and then various teas and other hot drinks would be available.

Now to the bad news. Ben had a difficult time with the short hike that we had so far on that day. His illness was still affecting him too much and the heat and dehydration were taking its toll. After some discussion between the trip leaders it was decided that Ben would go no further today. Ben, Jon and Sonam would stay at the guest house that we were having lunch at and determine what to do the following day. This really sucks that Ben was being told to drop out but he was not doing well and we all felt for him.

As we got ready to continue our trip we said our goodbyes to Ben and Jon and we were hoping to see them all again at some point later in the trip or in Kathmandu. We had hiked for about an hour and half before stopping for lunch and now we had about two to three hours to finish for the day. So we started hiking again.

The rest of the trip that day was grueling. At least the temperature dropped a little and it became overcast. We started to climb and mostly on stairs...

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And more stairs...

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I was so happy when I saw the following sight...

The first campsite

The porters and Dawa's team (Dawa is the sherpa in charge of cooking and camp logistics) had arrived and set up our tents and the dining tent. I was so glad that the end of the hiking for the day was over. We stopped at Tikhedhunga which was at approximately 1480m altitude. This means that we climbed about 450m in the four to five hours of hiking.

Now for camp procedure. Typically when we arrive at camp the tents are erected and we are served tea within 30 minutes of arriving. Tea consists of a choice of hot beverages including black tea, mint tea, hot chocolate, bourn vita++, or instant coffee. Dawa provides both hot water and hot milk to create the beverages. Bourn Vita++, two flavors original and "5 Star Magic", is a Cadbury product that is a nutrient rich drink for children.

I don't recall what I had for tea on this day but I do recall not feeling to great because I was constipated and I went to lay down in my tent. I ended up taking a nap for about an hour with my feet hanging out of the tent door. I awoke and rejoined the group in the dining tent.

Chris decided that we would review our Patan assignments and critique each other's photos before dinner. Just to refresh your memory the assignments were to get a picture of something with a clear subject that was not a human and to take a picture of a stranger after asking permission in some fashion. I had failed latter assignment as I never asked permission. I still provided two pictures for review and had them critiqued. The two that I choose were...



I've done some post processing to these now but at the time I had not. I love the story told by the player-less chess game as well as its colors. The sleeping boy with the pink cast was interesting too although I couldn't adjust the white balance better than what is seen here. I guess it's ok.

Our review session continued almost up until dinner time. Just to kill some time and to explore a little of my surroundings I grabbed my camera and tried to find subjects to shoot. I guess I was too tired to explore too much.

buddhist prayer flag

Another trekker

Dinner consisted of chicken and a whole lot of mashed potatoes and gravy. There were also vegetables. Even though I wasn't hungry I knew I had to eat because I knew we would be hiking quite a bit the next day. I ate what I could. As the meal wound down I did as well. I was having a really difficult time staying awake which was probably caused by my lack of sleep the night before. Anyway, I got up from the table, went to my tent, and promptly passed out.

In the middle of the night I got up to use the restroom and I was amazed at how bright the moon and the stars were. If it weren't for the moon I probably would have attempted to get some night shots. Ok that was a fib, I was just too lazy and tired to get my camera out and fiddle with the settings. Back to bed I went.

People: Monika Andrae

Monika Andrae

[I didn't have a good picture of her so I'm linking to this one.]

Monika rounds out the set of trip leaders. She brought a lot of knowledge in the creativity and composition areas of photography. She also demonstrated how to develop film at altitude. Her quick wit and humor were always welcome additions to the group's conversations. Monika has a blog and podcast that are both in German. I confess that I have only looked at the pretty pictures on her blog without bothering to translate to English.

Monika's twitter and flickr accounts. She mainly tweets in German.

Himalayan Photography Trip - Trekking day 2 - April 21st, 2011

Himalayan Photography Trip - Kathmandu to Pokhara