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 - Trekking day 2 - April 21st, 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 by the sherpas around 6am. They were providing morning tea. Tea as I described before could be any number of hot drinks and I think I had hot chocolate on this particular morning. We also got hot wash water in a bowl which I used to brush my teeth.

The order of things in the morning is wake up with tea and wash water. Followed by about an hour to get ready for the day and pack your gear. Then breakfast while camp is broken down. Then after everything is ready to go we don our trekking gear and head off for the day.

This morning it didn't take me too much time to get my gear packed. I guess I was just ready to get going with the knowledge that it was going to be a long and difficult day. After I packed I had some time to take some pictures. This picture shows the camp being broken down before we sat down for breakfast.

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Also, a local Nepali brought out a bunch of jewelry and accessories for purchase.

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I purchased a yak wool belt (the very bottom right) because I needed a belt as my pants liked to ride downward as I walked. It's really neat in that it can be tied in many different sizes although untying can be a pain in you are urgent to use the restroom.

We broke fast at around 7am. I wasn't hungry at all but I knew I had to eat something. I consumed a fried egg, some chopped potatoes, and half a piece of toast slathered in Nutella. I didn't really finish anything but I had my fill. I was still full from the previous night's dinner.

We started hiking around 8am and it started out pretty easy. We walked through a couple of small villages/guest house clusters. I guess I should explain this a little bit better as this is something that comes up often along the trip. The villages weren't typically a cluster of houses together. They were more of a generalized area that didn't have any type of defined borders. There were houses all around the hills in these areas and along the trekking path there were small clusters of guest houses. These were typically two story structures with about 6 rooms for rent, an associated dinning area/restaurant, a little store with drinks (soft and hard) and other sundry items. The guest houses were typically white and blue with blue roofs and they had a central water faucet that seemed to be fed from some mountain spring uphill from the village. Most of the time the path going to/through the guest house cluster was paved with nice flat stones and stairs. Here is an example that I saw shortly after leaving our campsite.

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After passing through this guest house cluster we started to climb lot's of stairs. I always seemed to be out of breathe. At our first break I gave my spare water bottle to Tendi, the sherpa at the front of our group, in order to help lighten my load. We continued our trek. I rather quickly dropped to the rear of the group with Chris and Karma as we were taking our time. Taking our time was the only way to keep moving without being out of breathe every 2 minutes. I felt so slow but it worked.

Well, there was one good thing about being slow. Sometimes you see stuff that the rest of the group missed out on. For instance can you tell what I took a picture of here?

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Give up? Here's a little bit of a better picture.

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And then he launched...

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And he was gone.

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I asked Karma, the sherpa at the back of the group, what they call that type of monkey and he said "dil-do". I did a double take as I thought I misheard him. I asked again and he repeated the name. You have to understand that Nepali people when speaking English tend to speak the syllables rather quickly so I thought I might have still misheard him. So I asked Chris if I heard right and he said that Karma said "dil-der-do" and not "dil-do". And so that is how I referred to this monkey for many days on the trek.

We continued to climb stairs for the next couple of hours. In this picture you can see the terraced farms as well as some paths. We hiked on the lower path earlier in the day. I hope that gives some idea of how much altitude we had gained.

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The blue building to the bottom left was a school and we heard the children doing some sort of drills out in the courtyard as we were going along. The sound just travelled throughout the mountains.

I started to see stairs as being evil. Every time we hit a new set of stairs I was thinking to myself that these were stairs to hell except that they went up. Chris was also having a tough time but he still had concern for my health and would check up on me quite often. He also provided some trekking hints which I graciously accepted. Well as graciously as I could concerning the state of mind I was in. He also kept telling me to take my time which did help out.

One of my thighs decided that it had enough climbing stairs and started to cramp on me. It wasn't serious but it was annoying. During our next break I mentioned my condition to Karma and Chris and Chris provided me with a packet of salts and minerals (electrolytes)  to mix with some water to drink. I drink about half a cup of warm water with the "strawberry" flavored mix. It went down but not easily. After resting for a couple of minutes we decided to continue our stair climbing activity. I took about 4 steps and then my stomach told me that it had had enough. I proceeded to spew for everything from my stomach. Luckily I had the presence of mind to move my camera to the side or else it would have been covered in vomit. I coughed up everything that I had eaten that morning and I think most of what I ate the night before. That ruined my taste for Nutella for the rest of the trip. In the process of bracing myself for a set of heaves I stuck my hand into a thistle weed. So I was hot, out of breath, constipated, vomiting, cramping and now I had sharp pains in my left hand. This just wasn't my day.

After I stopped heaving I was actually feeling somewhat better. After a little bit more of a break I told Karma and Chris that I was ready to continue on. We ascended another 50m or so and everyone was waiting in a shaded patio at a guest house. Shaun bought me a warm mango juice which I gratefully drank although I can now say that I am not a fan of warm mango juice.

We continued on up the path for a very short while, maybe 20-30 minutes, and then we stopped at the next guest house and had lunch. I drank plenty of the "juice" that was provided but I barely touched the food. Although my stomach was feeling a bit better, I had zero appetite and when I attempted to eat something I just felt like I was forcing myself. I don't even recall what we had but I do know that mine was relatively untouched.

As we relaxed and had tea after lunch the sky began to darken and it started to rain. Lightly at first and steadily increasing in intensity all of the way to having small hail stones falling from the sky. The porters and sherpas scrambled to get tarps to cover the bags and gear. Our group just stayed dry in the dining area. I decided to take some pictures.

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Almost every guest house cluster had some sort of variation on the following map. Most were hand-painted and didn't look anywhere close to as nice as this one.

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Karma and Tendi came to us after the rain had basically stopped and informed us that because of the weather that we had to change our plans. I think it was mostly because we had slow people (me) in the group and we wouldn't make it to our original destination before nightfall. So we continued on our way after donning our backpacks.

As we started hiking again I was feeling a bit better but my legs were still sore especially the one that had been cramping. I stayed at the back of the group with Chris and Karma but we were able to keep a decent pace. Frankly I don't remember the terrain between lunch and our stop for the night but I do know that I was extremely happy to reach our destination.

We stopped for the night at a guest house and we were informed that we would be staying in a room and not in a tent. Before we grabbed rooms we relaxed in the dining area. Karma and Dawa were working out the details with the guest house owner so we just relaxed and had tea. Eventually we were told to determine which room we wanted and our bags were brought up. We had a short rest period where we were able to get settled into our rooms before we were called to dinner.

Dinner was dal bhat, also known as "Sherpa Fuel", with curried vegetables and chicken. I don't think I ate much as I was still constipated.

After dinner I think everyone was pretty wiped out from the day's activity and we all retired to our rooms. The night was still pretty warm so I used my sleeping bag as a blanket. As the night continued the temperature dropped so I used more of my "blanket" to cover myself. I also woke up in the middle of the night and used the toilet for my first semi-success. After that I went back to bed and slept through the night.

People: The Sherpas

The word sherpa is a lot of things. It is a job description, a last name, a tribe, and a caste. On this particular trip we had a handful of sherpas helping us out from the Mountain Tribes trekking company.

The big man at Mountain Tribes, at least that I met, was Babu Sherpa. He organized the trip with Jon and provided the pre-trip logistics. He worked magic when the Chinese closed the Tibetan border and created the Annapurna trip within hours of the other trip being canceled. Babu was great and I wish I had spent more time to get to know him. I highly recommend his company to anyone wanting to trek or just explore Nepal and the surrounding areas. Babu is on twitter.

Babu's assistant in Kathmandu was Depan. Depan helped with things like attempting to get our Chinese visas and making sure that we got to where we needed to go. He was also the last sherpa to communicate with me has he handed me off to a taxi driver for my trip back to the airport (and back home).

The first trekking sherpa that I met was Sonam. He met us in Kathmandu and flew with us over to Pokhara and stayed at our hotel. I believe he assisted Babu in planning the Annapurna trek. Sonam stayed with Jon and Ben when they had to leave the group on the first day of trekking. He also helped Jon and Ben to catch up to us a few days into the trip and then helped them back to the start of the trek when Ben's illness relapsed. Sonam was always quiet when he was around the group so I didn't have much interaction with him.

The next two trekking sherpas were Tendi and Karma. I'm writing about them together because they were always with us with Tendi leading the group and Karma tailing the group. I spent a bit more time with Karma as I was typically at the back of the pack but I had plenty of time to speak with both of them. They were both happy and had great sense of humor. Anyway, I got a few good pictures of these two.

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Karma on the left. Tendi on the right.

The final sherpa that I met on the trek was Dawa. He was the head chef and also made arrangements for our campsites. He was also in front of our group and typically is was way in the distant front. He always had a great big smile on his face and he surprised us a few times on the trek which I'll explain later.

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He's the one in the grey ball cap. I guess he wasn't smiling as he was dealing with the porters this morning.

Himalayan Photography Trip - Trekking day 3 - April 22nd 2011

Himalayan Photography Trip - Pokhara and the trek begins