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 7 - April 26th, 2011

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

I awoke the next morning around 5 to 5:30am due to a strong urge to evacuate my bladder. I got clothed enough to brave the morning's cool air. We camped in a valley gorge so we the sun was still hidden this morning and I had to use my headlamp to navigate to the toilet tent. Thus far at every stop we had the use of the facilities attached to the guest house that was adjacent to our campsite but this campsite in Bamboo was different. I guess the sherpas hadn't made the agreement with the property owners to let us use those facilities or the sherpas thought that the walk to the restrooms were too far. Anyway, they erected a toilet tent. Basically they dug a hole in the ground and then erected a slender but tall privacy tent over the hole. It was an interesting experience.

I returned to my tent and started to pack my gear and get ready for the day. The sun came up quickly and the tent had plenty of light. I was stuffing my sleeping bag into its stuff sack when I caught the sight of something in the corner of my eye. I gave it my attention and I noticed that it was moving like an inchworm across the top of one of the duffels. Except that it wasn't an inchworm it was a leech. I was awestruck as I don't recall ever seeing a leech in the wild and especially seeing it move over dry goods. It was move very quickly straight for me. I used my little notebook to pick up the creature and flung it outside of my tent. Not a second later I thought to myself "Why didn't I take a photo?"

We were served morning tea around 6:30am and I was being very laxidasical and taking my time while I packed. I guess I spent too much time writing in my notebook or listening to music. I finished packing just after the call to breakfast. I actually didn't hear anyone tell me that breakfast was on the table. It was between 7 and 7:30am and I ate toast and a fried egg. I guess I wasn't super hungry that morning.

After breakfast we mulled around campsite as the sherpas and porters broke down the camp and got organized.

Dawa and the porters

We struck out on our hike for the day between 8 and 8:30am. Today's theme was waterfalls. The entire day was in a mountain valley with the Modi Khola river below us on the right. The terrain started out as very rainforest like up until about lunch time.

IMG 4299 forest trail a common bridge

waterfall in bamboo

Everything was really green from the abundance of water. Some points of the trail had a lot of hanging moss on old trees and I felt like I was Indiana Jones in search of a small golden statue. The terrain wasn't that difficult to navigate nor was it easy but at least the vertical climbing wasn't too bad in the beginning. I was expecting a lot more climbing but I guess that would come later.

As I stated before there were tons of waterfalls and streams crossing the path. At one point we were crossing streams about every 10 meters or so. All of these small streams fed the waterfalls that fell to the river below. Now and then the path would descend a little bit so that we could cross a much more substantial stream across a rickety bridge like the one pictured above.

As there was only one trail to and from the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) there was a lot of traffic heading in both directions. This caused quite a bit of frustration as the path was not suited for bidirectional traversal. This meant that groups going in either direction had to stop a lot and in particular those going towards ABC had to stop more often. Sometimes it was a nice respite but many times it was just annoying.

A stream crossing the river below

Modi Khola river The path ahead

Even with this stopping and starting we were making great time to our lunch destination. We arrived at the Himalayan Hotel, 2900m, around 11 to 11:30am. Our sherpas had attempted to get us a table that was in a shaded area but there were many other trekkers and trekking groups and the choice spots for lunch were taken. We were sat at a table directly in the sun and the sun was high in the sky and unrelenting. As you can see from the previous picture the vegetation was a little more sparse and starting to brown out a little and therefore the sun had already been cooking us for a while. Lunch was served and we ate beans, bow-tie pasta, julienned vegetables, rice (which I did not eat), and Spam®.

After completing the meal I decided to explore the "hotel". The Himalayan Hotel was just an oversized guest house with many rooms. The sky became overcast and I decided to attempt to take a short nap on a small patch of grass. I wasn't really able to get any sleep but I rested my eyes and listened to the cacophony of chatter between all of the other trekkers that were giving the "hotel" their patronage mixed with the Nepali workers chatting and washing dishes. I wasn't resting for 5 minutes when I felt a droplet hit my arm. After the second one hit me I got up and hurried to my gear to take it under cover and also get out my rain jacket.

As the rain picked up, although it did not turn into a full out downpour,  I became acutely aware of the international representation of all of the trekkers as they all donned their rain gear and huddled under whatever cover could be found. There was one huge group of either Japanese or Koreans. There were also many small groups of Europeans and Americans.

The rain stopped almost as quickly as it started. That was our cue to start hiking again. We all still wore our rain gear as the weather seemed to be rather unpredictable. One problem with rain gear is that it is typically good at keeping in heat. So as we hiked I started to get a little bit overheated. I think the rest of my fellow trekkers came to the same realization and we started to shed our outerwear.

The terrain above the Himalayan Hotel was much rockier but there was also a lot less traffic coming down the the path. My assumption is that the trekkers coming down from ABC or Machhapuchhare Base Camp (MBC)  had already traversed this section earlier in the day. The ups and downs were a lot more numerous and there was very little "level" walking in between them. In fact it was mostly ups. I was trailing in the back of the group with Chris and Karma again. The altitude and climbing were definitely not being friendly to me but I was better suited to this kind of activity than I was just a few days earlier.

plant unfolding the bleak beauty porter train IMG 4319 IMG 4320

As you can tell from the above photos it was overcast and a bit foggy. Also the trees were barely surviving. I guess during monsoon season this area will green up a bit. Here's one with Chris talking about the area while Karma took the video.

Chris and Karma

At one point Karma pointed out some buildings off in the distance and stated that they were our destination for the day. This gave me a little boost until I saw what laid between our position and the destination. There was a huge climb up to a landmark named Hinku Cave followed by a descent and another big climb before reaching our destination at Deurali. Regardless I had a couple of goals set in my mind and I took one step at a time to conquer those goals.

The climb up to Hinku Cave was a little more treacherous than I expected. The path consisted of quite a bit of loose gravel as well as oddly shaped rocks that didn't provide nice stable or flat footfalls. I was constantly thinking of where I was stepping because one wrong step and I would have twisted the hell out of my ankle.

I eventually got to the top of the climb that ended at Hinku Cave. My breathing was labored and while I rested my body decided to take the opportunity to have a coughing fit. Hinku Cave wasn't really a cave as much as it was a large rock outcropping. It looked and smelled like it had been used for many years as a rest stop for pony trains.

Tendi guarding Hinku Cave IMG 4324

We waited until we saw Chris and Karma coming up to the cave. After a short break we headed down to a snow pack that we had to cross. It was above a fast moving stream and about halfway across there was about a foot wide hole that showed the rocks and flowing water below my feet. Let's just say that I had a little bit of trepidation walking on this crossing.


the snow pack

There was another stream with falls, sans snow pack, that we crossed before our climb up to Deurali, 3200m. We arrived a little bit earlier than we had estimated but I know I was very happy to arrive regardless of making good time by arriving around 3:20pm. That was just the icing on the cake.

The next stream stream crossing

Tea was set up for us rather quickly after arriving. The temperature up here was a bit chillier but bearable. After tea Monika gave us a demonstration on how to develop film at altitude. I had never seen anyone develop film except the scenes of a dark room in movies. So this was pretty interesting and it seemed to be relatively simple and straightforward. I don't think I'll get into analog photography or at least anytime soon but if I do I think I will probably develop my own pictures.

After the demonstration I retired to my tent for a nap. It was a rather short nap and when I got up I decided to take a stroll around Deurali. There wasn't much different in this village than the others that we had come across. I just had time to kill before dinner which was served around 6:40pm.

Dinner consisted of mushroom soup (I think this was the second or third time on the trek) followed by the main course of chow mien with egg, mixed tuna spring roll, chicken sausage (which I skipped), and mixed vegetables. I had seconds of the vegetables. The cooks and sherpas love to give out seconds. In fact while I was distracted Karma decided to give me a third helping. He really is a funny guy. Desert was pears and mango pieces.

After dinner I didn't stick around long. I excused myself and went to my tent and crashed.

People: Clarence Chiang

Clarence and Dogfella


[Clarence and his buddy, DogFella]

Clarence Chiang was our lone Chinese trekker on this adventure as he hails from Hong Kong. His photography is absolutely awesome as you can tell from his site. He aspires to becoming a professional photographer and in my opinion he is there. He had a great sense of humor with a quick smile. An avid runner and scuba diver he was in the best shape of anyone on the trail excluding the Nepalis that is. I really hope to keep in touch with Clarence even if he does shoot with a Nikon. You can also follow Clarence on twitter or check out his great photos, especially his HDR pictures, on his flickr account. Here are some photos of Clarence although I didn't seem to have many with his face. I actually had quite a few with the back of his head but that's because he was always in the front of the group.

The front of the pack

Clarence and Tendi must have become good buddies because Clarence was ALWAYS in the front of the group. I think he actually pushed Tendi to go faster.

The group at the top

[At the top of ABC]

Clarence and Damion after breakfast

[Before breakfast]


Even the Super Athlete Clarence needs to rest some times.

Himalayan Photography Trip - Trekking day 8 - April 27th, 2011

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