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 10 - April 29th, 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 I spent the next hour writing in my journal about the previous days' events. Morning tea was served around 6:30am so I turned my focus from my journal to getting cleaned up and packing my gear. The call for breakfast was around 7:30am and the food served was rice pudding (which I did not partake), cheese omelets, and fresh bread (which was in the shape of a B or 8).

We loaded up and started walking on the trail around 9am. The terrain was pretty typical but surprising there was a lot more climbing than descending. There were also a good handful of fairly level sections that were a very welcome break from going up or down. That was until we hit the stairs from hell again. I just don't recall descending this many stairs when we were heading in the opposite direction a few days before. I thought the stairs would never end. There would be a flight of stairs and what looked to be a plateau or maybe a descent at the crest but it would just be a short jot around a boulder or a change in direction before more stairs.

small shrine on the trail


I was given a reprieve when we stopped at Dovan, ~2286m, for a short break. We just took a little time to catch our breath and suck down some water and then we were off again. We hit the section of the trail where we were crossing small streams and creeks every 10-20m. We were also getting into the more tropical forrest region as everything got really green. We made it to Bamboo, ~2190m, after a little while hiking and took another break. Chris purchased a bunch of different juices for all of the trekkers. I think I had a mango drink which was alright but not great. While we were sitting around a picnic table someone pointed out a monkey in a Chhomrong nearby.

monkey in a tree

monkey 2

monkey 3

After taking a bunch of pictures of the monkey I went over to Karma and asked again what the name of that particular monkey was and he responded "dil-do". If you go back to the second day of my trek you will see where I had talked with Karma about another encounter with a similar monkey and I walked away from that conversation with the assumption that the monkey was named a "dil-der-do". So now with the name corrected this caused many crude jokes.

I looked up this monkey when I returned home and it's a gray langur.

Having enough of the monkey and the monkey jokes we geared up and headed back on down the trail. On our way to Sinuwa there was a lot of construction to improve the path. This included the stairs that were being constructed as that we had passed when hiking in the other direction. Here's a guy moving some very heavy wood along the path.

Nepali carrying wood

Speaking of stairs, we hit a ton of them on and they all seemed to be going up. Just when you thought there were no more stairs another set would appear. I kept asking myself why we were gaining elevation when we were supposed to be going down. I guess this is a Nepali joke on trekkers.

tree with blossoms

Here's Sinuwa from a distance.

Sinuwa in the distance

There was a bird that came up in discussion many times along the trip. Chris had a long name and story behind why he had named it thus but I'm not going to go into that here. I'll just refer to it as Chris's bird. The goal was to attempt to identify this bird as we could always here it but we never saw it. That is until I captured this one make it's tell-tale song.

song bird

Now you can see why it is so difficult to find in the woods. Here is a neat light fixture that I saw hanging in a guest house at the edge of Sinuwa.

Budha eyes light

Eventually we made it to Sinuwa proper, ~2340m. This is where we stopped for lunch which consisted of beans, curried cauliflower, peas, french fries, slices of cheese, and chicken sausage. Lunch was alright but I think the cooks were running out food stuffs and were just unloading whatever they had on us. Not that it was bad just that it seemed like something I would eat when I haven't gone to buy groceries for a while.

After our typical post-lunch rest we continued our journey to Chhomrong where we would be stopping for the evening. The next two hours were extremely arduous. I thought after all of the ups and downs on the way to Sinuwa were going to be the hard part of the day but boy was I wrong. There were a lot more climbs and descents and in particular there was one climb and descent in order to go around the side of one mountain that was just killer. After that we descended all of the way down to the bottom of a river gorge. Long periods of going down can be very difficult on the body. I wasn't out of breathe but my muscles would definitely start to ache. Once we got to the bottom we crossed the neat bridge that we had crossed before.

porter on the bridge

That's my purple bag on the porter's back with a bunch of other gear. My bag probably weighed 45lbs alone so I have no doubt he was carrying about 100lbs worth of gear.

We rested near the bridge because we knew that there was a very long climb up the side of the mountain to get to our campsite in Chhomrong. The porters arrived just after us, it wasn't typical of them to be behind us on the trail, but then many of them decided to go for a swim in the river. Although it was really warm I did not really want to go for a dip in the glacier fed river. I just wanted to do the huge stair climb between the bridge and the campsite and conclude this day of hiking. I was already very tired of climbing steps but I got up and continued at a relatively slow pace.

water buffalo tilling

Eventually our group split up as those with more energy seemed to race ahead which left me with Thilo. Frankly, I think he just stuck around me in order to keep an eye on me which I very much appreciate. About a quarter or halfway up the climb to the campsite we encountered...

The cute snotty girl

Thilo and I were passing by a house when a little a Nepali girl came out onto the path to greet us. She was cute but very dirty with dried snot congealing below her nostrils. Apparently the snot thing is common among Nepali children that I witnessed. When she made eye contact with us she repeated one word "sweets" and held out her hand in a very overdramatic child-like way in order to receive whatever sweets we had to offer. We attempted to explain, in English of course, that we did not have any sweets. I expected that this would discourage the little one and that she would go on her merry way. Instead she dropped one hand and held out her other hand to offer a piece of plastic like those that surround toys or other small items to keep people from stealing them in a store. Basically she was trying to give us a piece of trash. When we signaled to her that we didn't want the trash she dropped that hand and raised the the and repeated the inquiry "Sweets?" After Thilo and I both replied "no sweets" she switched hands again. This went on for a couple of more iterations but then she got distracted by a colorful, braided charm that Thilo had hanging from his camera. She began to admire and fondle the charm and with the little girl distracted I made an attempt at a getaway leaving Thilo to deal with her. I know I'm a bad person. Thilo saw my escape attempt and quickly followed in an attempt to get away from the little girl as well. But alas she was quick and she caught up with us and she grabbed a hold of a couple of fingers on Thilo's left hand. It was adorably cute but I could tell that Thilo was very uncomfortable. She only held on for a dozen steps before losing interest and running back down to the house. As soon as we turned a corner and were out of line of sight of the house Thilo whipped out his sanitizing gel and used a bunch on his hands and the braided charm. I just chuckled.

We continued up the steps. Between the climbing and the heat I was constantly sweating and out of breathe. Thilo and I cheered each other on. Well really Thilo was mostly cheering me on. It just seemed like these steps were never-ending. When we finally reached the outskirts of Chhomrong the steps became more manageable as they were shorter and deeper and well made. We saw our campsite as it was the same one we stayed at the last time we were in Chhomrong. This gave me a goal which helped but I was extremely tired so it didn't help that much. And then I finished off the last of the water that I was carrying. Even though we were close I would still need water as Chhomrong is rather larger. Because of its size it has more amenities than most of the smaller villages and so I began to think of purchasing a very cold soft drink once I reached camp. This spurred me along.

steps counted

Yes, it says 1585 steps!

Thilo and I made one final push and we arrived at camp. I dropped my gear and fell to ground to gather some strength and get my breathe back. After a minute or two I returned to my backpack, snagged some rupees, and then went on a search for a cold soda. I didn't have to go too far as the guest house that was adjacent to our campsite had a little store with a refrigerator. I purchased a Sprite™ and it was probably one of the most refreshing drinks I had quaffed in a long time. The taste was still obscured by the Diamox™ but it was so good. I took the bottle back to the campsite and sat back down in the grass. We all relaxed and watched as a group of Nepalis and some foreign trekkers played volleyball on a court below us. I savored every sip of my soda but the bottle was small and went quickly.

Tea was served around 5:30pm and followed by dinner around 6:30pm. Dinner consisted of mushroom soup, mashed potatoes with some sort of red sauce, chicken, egg fried rice, and vegetable chow mien. Dessert was a fresh apple pie that was purchased from a local bakery in Chhomrong. It was alright but it wasn't like the apple pies that someone would get in the USA.

The weather had changed some from when we arrived at camp. There was a slight bit of rain that hit us between tea and dinner and then the clouds really rolled in after dinner. I didn't hang out in the dining tent for long after dinner and I went back to my tent. Sleep came very quickly but was not very deep and I tossed and turned through the night.

I was awakened in the middle of the night when I heavy storm passed through. The rain and wind were really strong but the lightning was really impressive. Even with my eyes closed I could see the light produced by the lightning and sometimes I could make out its shape. I always expected the thunder to quickly arrive after each lightning strike but the rumble seemed to always arrive much later than anticipated.

For the rest of the night I was in and out of sleep even after the storm was long gone.

People: Thilo Schumann

Thilo (Pingu) Schumann

Thilo is a very funny guy from Germany although I must admit that I didn't get all of his jokes. Maybe something was lost in translation. He is a veteran on these Himalayan treks and a great photographer. He carried a lot of extra gear with him including a full tripod but that didn't seem to hinder his ability to make it up to ABC and back. He was going to be Ben's tent mate for the trek but due to Ben's illness Thilo ended up spending almost all of the nights on the trek in a tent by himself. I'm not bitter about that or anything ☺. Anyway here are some pictures I have of Thilo.

Thilo and bamboo man

Thilo at Chhomrong

Thilo crossing a gate

IMG 4550

Thilo maintains a few sites including a blog, one for photos, He is also on facebook, twitter, google+, and flickr.

Himalayan Photography Trip - Trekking day 11 - April 30th, 2011

Why I personally can't switch to Google+ completely yet