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 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.



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.


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.


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


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.

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

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