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 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.

tiny spider

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.

middle finger

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.




[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.

porter with balloons

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


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.


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.


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.

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

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