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 3 - April 22nd 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 assistant cooks knocking at the door of our room with tea around 7:30am. They also brought wash water to the room was was a nice touch. I was feeling better than the day before because I wasn't completed stopped up. Anyway, I washed my torso and brushed my teeth and then started to re-organize and pack my gear. We were told the previous evening that today was going to be a rather short 2-3 hours of hiking and would basically be a rest day. Basically we would be heading to and stopping at the destination that we should have hit the evening before.

We had a relaxing breakfast around 8-8:30am although I know I ate well I don't recall what we had. As we ate a local merchant displayed his jewelry and knick knacks for our shopping pleasure.

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Apparently anything you buy will bring good luck.

Right around 9am we got ready and hit the trail. We were still in the temperate jungle area but it was a rather cool morning. I'm not certain exactly what altitude we were at but my guess is that it was around 2500-2600m.

Something that I have been asked a couple of times is what are the colorful banners that seem to appear strung all over the place. These are Buddhist prayer flags. My understanding is that the idea is that there are prayers and blessings written on the cloth flags. The flags are hung across breezy areas and as the flags flutter in the wind their messages float along in the air and spread the prosperity. The flags stay strung up until the cloth deteriorates on its own.

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This area of Nepal isn't very Buddhist. Most of the people in this area are Hindu but many of the people that come to this area are Buddhist and bring along and hang the flags. Typically I saw them around the bridges and in the villages.There were some locations where the flags were so numerous that they couldn't flap in the breeze. I'm not certain what that means but I guess the intentions were valid.

While we were at the lower altitudes in this jungle like ecosystem we would see these weird snake looking plants. They almost looked alien as they just popped out of the ground without any leaves other than the main stalk. Here is a picture of a couple of them.

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Sometimes there would be a cluster of them and sometimes there would be a solitary plant. At first we thought they might be a pitcher plant but it doesn't seem to have the same look as the family of pitcher plants that I found while searching. I have no idea what it is but it was neat and eery at the same time.

As we continued our hike I kept noticing that many of the trees and plants were blooming and new growth was budding on some of the plants. I wasn't the only one to notice the pretty rhododendron flowers.

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As we walked we came across this interesting creation.

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It's some sort of Hindu shrine as I assume based on the trident on one of the wooden posts. The trident is a symbol for Shiva. I took this picture because I found it interesting that a religious shrine would have an empty Coke® bottle hiding behind the tablet. It just struck me funny. Here's a photo without the bottle.

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As we approached Lower Ghorepani I just happened to look up at one of the hilltops nearby and to my surprise there was a huge communications tower.

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You'll also notice that there are a ton of prayer flags up there as well. I guess maybe they believe that the prayers will catch a ride on the microwave signals and travel even further. Just a little aside, I pass within feet of this tower the next morning.

We reach Lower Ghorepani and take a rest on the outside of one of the guest houses. Thilo decides to pull out of the super bounce balls that he had brought and play catch with a young Nepali boy. They would bounce the ball back and forth but most of the time the boy wouldn't catch it and then he would have to chase it all over the stone walkways and sometimes down the hillside if it bounced wrong. The boy was probably four years old and his little sister was probably a year or two his junior. The sister was just happy to watch. Here they are.

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These two were both cute. Everyone was taking pictures of the action including Karma who had Jon's video camera.

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At one point the siblings' older brother, probably 8 or 10 years old, came by and seemed a little bit jealous that he couldn't play. He was in the middle of doing chores.

I took the rest period time to look around for interesting and creative shots. This is what I found.

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After our short break Tendi and Karma both said that we just a little while longer in order to get to our stopping point. About 30 minutes of hiking (climbing stairs mostly) and we made it to Upper Ghorepani (Ghorepani proper) and our camp. It wasn't even 11:30am.

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Here's one of the dogs around our campsite when we arrived.

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Shortly after we arrived at camp the weather started to turn for the worse. The breeze picked up and the temperature dropped. Then it started to mist. It had been overcast for almost the whole day but now it seemed as if the clouds were dropping to our elevation. It started to drizzle and we quickly stowed our gear as well as grabbed some coats and ducked into a meeting/dining room. The assistant cooks provided us with tea to warm us up as the room that we were using was not well insulated at all. It did keep us dry and kept most of the wind out but it still got rather cold. The sherpas brought in a propane lantern to attempt to provide some heat to the room but I don't think it was all that affective. It started to rain pretty hard and then it turned into sleet. Finally it decided to snow. It wasn't the flaky kind of snow because it was still raining. Also the snow didn't stick on the ground but it was there.

Around 12:30pm we had a very surprising lunch. It was pizza. The cooks have figured out a way to cook pizza at altitude and it was pretty good.

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We also had chicken and rice but the main item on everyone's mind and fork was the pizza.

The rain and cold weather continued throughout lunch so Chris decided that we should have a workshop session on exposure. We talked about the basic concepts of exposure and then we got into the details of the zone system and how it can be used with our digital cameras. The rain stopped for a bit and it got a little bit lighter out. We decided to do a practical lesson based on the exposure session.

It was still very chilly out but after a short while it started to drizzle again. We all took shelter back in the meeting room again except for a few that decided that it would be a good time to take a nap in their tents. The rest of the afternoon was spent conversing over various interesting topics ranging from music, television, computers, and whatever else we could geek out about. We were able to watch Himalayan TV, a.k.a. looking out the big windows on one wall of the meeting room. That's where we saw hit show's like the "Chicken Confuser" and the "Chicken Confuser Confuser". We also discussed the "Big Fart" which was an extremely serious topic for the Himalayan Plateau. I can't really go into details about the plots of these shows or else they would just become banal. Although if you ask nicely then I'll describe each. We became masters of trivial discussion and we killed time quite easily.

At one of the lulls in the precipitation, Damion and I ventured out into the village of Ghorepani. This village was much larger than the previous ones that we had visited. There were quite a few foreigners huddled under overhangs or inside dining areas of the guest houses. We went to one shop and I bought a postcard for my mom and a Fanta®. Apparently Fanta and Coke or the only soft drinks that make their way up the mountain paths. It tasted very weird but that is one of the effects of Diamox® apparently.

Since I mentioned ®, the brand name for Acetazolamide, I'll tell you about this drug that I was taking in order to help reduce the possibility or effects of altitude sickness. Basically any time that you increase your altitude rather quickly you become susceptible to altitude (or mountain) sickness. Your body over time will get adjusted to the altitude and change the way that your blood handles the decrease in oxygen but if you ascend quickly you can get really sick. This drug helps your body adjust faster and therefore reducing the risk of getting sick. But of course there are side effects. One is that for some reason it changes the taste of carbonated beverages such as Coke. This is an annoyance but nothing indicative of something gone wrong. Another side effect is that you get "Diamox Tingles". I would describe this as something like a mild case of "pins and needles" that a limb gets if it has fallen asleep and it is being moved again. These tingles aren't just in the limbs. They can be anywhere on the body. For me they tended to hit right after we stopped hiking for 10 minutes or so and usually in my fingertips and heels. It's a really odd sensation but again it's nothing bad just annoying.

After wasting the day away we finally had tea followed shortly by dinner. The supper consisted of chow mien with some sort of red sauce. We also had veggies and probably chicken sausage but that last one is just a guess. The food was ok but we were all still full from lunch as we all overloaded on pizza.

After dinner we were informed by Karma that we would be getting up at 4am in order to hike up to Poon Hill for the sunrise. He told us that it would be chilly and that all we would need is our camera. Karma also told us that if the weather was bad in the morning that we would be allowed to sleep in. We hung around the table for a bit but then all turned in early due to the early morning. It was quite a bit chilly so I actually made some use of my sleeping bag instead of just using it as a blanket. I spent some time listening to an audio book until I passed out.

People: Damion Wilson

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Damion hails from Maryland and this is his second trip to the Himalayas. He was my roommate/tent-mate for the majority of the trip and I thank him for dealing with my B.S. and snoring. His recently acquired addiction to Angry Birds was only fueled by my assistance when he asked for it (and sometimes when he didn't). He was very popular as we trekked because he had a bunch of interesting technology within plain view of anyone passing by on the trail.

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Here you can see his GoPro camera strapped to his forehead that took a picture every 30 seconds and that is connected to a battery pack and a solar panel that you see just behind his right shoulder. Everyone wondered what the device attached to his head was and would accost him and make him explain. To us he seemed like RoboCop or some other cyborg with all of this equipment. Damion also had a desire to get a really good water/waterfall shot.

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He's a very good guy and I hope to keep in touch with him as we both made it to the top of Annapurna Base Camp.

He typically posts his awesome photos on his flickr account.

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

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