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 12 - May 1st, 2011

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here. I slept well through the night and didn't even wake up before the morning tea was being served at around 6am. I roused and began the morning ritual of cleaning and packing before breakfast. Breakfast was served around 7am and it consisted of omelets, toast (which I skipped) potatoes and spam. After breakfast I snapped a few pictures.

Annapurna Mountain

Here Tendi is getting his day started with some hot tea.

Tendi and tea

A dog patiently awaiting whatever scraps are leftover.

Dog looking for scraps

We geared up and headed on the path again around 7:30 am. The morning was relatively cool and overcast but was really humid. We had stayed in a village called New Bridge so this must be the Old Bridge.

Old bridge

The porters passed us quickly and here they are ahead of me on the trail.

Porters on the trail

Here is just an interesting set of air plants attached to a dying tree.

Air plants

And here's Thilo crossing a small creek.

Thilo crossing the creek

This was almost a vertical wall with trees and grass growing out of it. The photo doesn't do it justice as to how steep it was.

Grassy cliffside

I thought these shoes would make an interesting photo. Although I probably should have removed the yellow leaf. What do you think?

Green on gree

Our first stop was at Kyumi, ~1330m, and we took a nice break there. Upon heading out from there we went through a handful of small agricultural villages. The path was nice and either well maintained or well used but probably the latter. The cloud cover disappeared and we were mostly trekking on a path that cut through large fields of grain, probably corn and wheat. So now the sun's heat was beating down on us and the humidity became stifling. Now and then we would experience a short gust of breeze but the lack of shade  made the breeze ineffective in cooling us down. We kept coming across baby animals, such as goats, that were way too cute.

Here Damion is attempting to photograph one of those really cute baby goats but I think I caused it to run back to mommy.

Damion and the kid

Here is my last mountain shot (well at least for the day). I can't recall if the clouds were just clearing away or rolling in.

Cloudy mountains

We made it to Sylan Bhat but we didn't stop. Tendi got way ahead of Thilo, Damien and myself and this almost got us lost as we were traversing through a small village that seemed to have multiple paths in and out of it. Luckily we worked out the correct path and were rewarded by seeing Tendi on the path about 200m in front of us. I have no idea what we would have done if we took the wrong trail.

The way became even more open and the heat became more oppressive but we endured. The path curved around the edge of the mountain and we came to a rockslide area. The path here was very faint as we had to hop from rock to rock. It was like playing a real life version of Qbert.

This isn't the slide area as it was much more treacherous but this might give you an idea of what it looked like.

Rocky Trail

After the slide area the trail joined into a road. I doubt there has ever been any cars on it but it seemed to be the right size. A goat herder passed in the opposite direction and I got lots of shots of goats but this little black kid with really floppy ears was my favorite.

Floppy eared kid

We continued on this road until we hit a small village. There were a ton of people constructing a new guest house using materials they were creating right there. There was one person whose job was smashing small rocks into smaller rocks to be used in the cement. There must have been 50 people in and around this worksite although most seemed to be having lunch. Tendi directed us down some steps where we took a short break away from the throng of people. While we were just sitting there resting I noticed this little swarm of insects on a rock. Not only was it interesting but I think the picture came out pretty neat.

insect swarm?

After the break, we took a "short cut" which involved taken a huge quantity of stairs down almost to the level of the river. Once at that altitude, we pretty much didn't change elevation in relation to the river for the rest of the day. We continued down on the lower trail until we got to a crossroad with a small snack shop/restaurant. We took another break and chatted with other Trekkers.

There was a group of Trekkers just starting off that seemed to be way out their league. They didn't seem to have the proper clothing, were not carrying water or any gear that would be recognizable as pertaining to hiking, and they were already having issues with the heat and exertion based on the tone of their conversations. I couldn't understand what they were saying but I was chuckling inwardly at what lies ahead for them. Not that I was thinking mean thoughts, it's that I was knowledgable about what they were about to encounter.

Anyway, we hung out in the shade attempting to relax a little from the oppressive heat. I enjoyed a cold Fanta as did a few of my fellow trekkers. Once we felt rested enough to continue we loaded up and made our way to Birenthanti. The way was relatively level and traversed through various guest houses and snack stands. At one point we passed a small creek that the road passed over but a cow decided that this was a good place to drink.

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As with a horse that smells it's stable after a long journey I quickened my pace knowing that the trek was almost over. I also became very focused on getting to the destination and all of the sights around me blurred in my memory. As we continued on there were more pedestrians going in both directions. Sometimes there would be groups of men or women, not mixed groups that is, that seemed to be all cleaned up and dressed nicely. I never quite figured out what they were up to but my assumption is that was some sort of social gathering like a wedding.

Short while later we arrived in Birenthanti. We crossed the pedestrian bridge that we had crossed 11 days earlier and met up with the sherpas and porters. They were starting the preparation of lunch so we all relaxed in a small blue dining building between a rather large guest house and the river. I had just run out of water and I was rather thirsty so I attempted to purchase a liter of water from the shop underneath the guest house. The problem was that I only had large denominations of Nepali rupees and the proprietor of the shop didn't have enough change. So I had to wait while he had a family member run around the area to get change. While I was waiting he got into an argument with one of his patrons. It was entertaining but I just wasn't in the right mind to stand around while this escalated. Luckily the family member returned with my change and I rejoined my group in the blue building.

The dining building had windows on all of the walls but for some reason even though they were open there was little to no air circulation. It was really stuffy in there. We all enjoyed the cool (not quite cold) Fantas that were purchased for us and we attempted to relax. Lunch was served shortly after we finished off the Fantas and it consisted of beans with garlic, corn, french toast, french fries, and sausage. I think this was what was left of what the porters were carrying around for the entire trek. Anyway, we ate and when we were done we watched the local construction workers create cement, pass the cement on metal platters, and then splash the cement into place on a new bridge that was being built. This new bridge seemed like it was built to allow vehicular traffic to cross it but there was a problem that I could see. One side of the bride butted right up to the rock cliffside and atop that cliffside was the rather large guest adjacent to the blue dining hall we were in. There was no way a small car let alone a truck would be able to maneuver around the cliffside onto the bridge. Maybe motorcycles and scooters could do it but it seems kind of crazy to build such a strong bridge for two wheeled vehicles.

After finishing lunch we were just relaxing in the building when the wind began to howl and the sky grew darker. Tendi gathered us up and had us don our gear to finish out our hike to where the bus was going to rendezvous with us on the far side of Naya Pul. This was supposed to be about a twenty minute walk through the shops and housing areas around Naya Pul. We had to dodge taxi drivers that were dropping off trekkers and were touting their taxis to us in order to gain our business. We diverted off the main road and traversed a twisty walkway through the residential area with a lot of pedestrian traffic going in both directions. We then crossed a short foot bridge and emerged back onto another road that was lined with shops of all types. We had been walking for about fifteen minutes when the skies completely opened up and we had a mini monsoon. Luckily we were near a small building or shed with a sheet metal roof that had enough of an overhang for us to take shelter. The rain got steadily heavier and then hail started to fall. Hail is extremely loud when smacking into a tin roof. After a few minutes of us all huddled under the loud banging the rain let up and almost completely stopped. Chris got brave and stepped out from the shelter and stood in the street. A couple of minutes later I joined him and sat on a small wall on the opposite side of the street. Not seconds later there was a huge ominous crack in the sky. Then we heard a thud somewhere to my left. Chris was in the middle of saying something like "I think a piece of ice just fell from the sky" when there was another big thud. This time I saw the hailstone that was just a bit smaller than a golf ball. I sprinted back to the shelter of the tin roof overhang just in time to not get hit by the barrage of hail that rained down. This new wave of large hail lasted for a good five minutes and it littered the street with chunks of ice. There were two dogs that had just come to realize that they should be seeking out shelter like the people around them and they started to run around. I was admiring how they weren't getting hit by any of the hail when one of the dogs got pegged squarely on the head. Luckily the hail had gotten smaller and the dog shook it off and darted underneath an empty parked bus.

The storm ended but we were all hesitant of exiting the shelter of the overhang until we knew the coast was clear. A couple of minutes later Dawa and his assistant cooks were walking up the road that we came from. Then from the direction we were heading we saw Karma beaconing us to get back on the road and follow him. We all piled out from the shelter and hurried after him hoping that we wouldn't get caught in another storm. In another five minutes or so we were standing outside of our bus as the porters and sherpas got all of the bags and gear in or on the bus. All of the porters loaded into the bus as they were going to be driven back to Kathmandu after dropping us off at Pokkra. Then we got on the bus and the real journey began.

Let's just say that the rules of the road are negotiable at best in this area of the world. The road itself is typically barely wide enough for one bus but utilizing the pot hole covered shoulders can pass each other by basically dancing around each other and hoping that the road doesn't give way. The ride lasted about an hour and there wasn't one single accident.

We arrived at our new hotel, Hotel Trek-o-tel, which looked to be a significant improvement over the last stay in Pohkra. We quickly dismounted from the bus, acquired our room keys, used the facilities and then ran back down to the hotel's garden for a farewell ceremony for the porters and most of the sherpas. Chris made a speech and thanked all of the staff for their awesome service. He then handed over a nice wad of cash in order for the sherpas to distribute the tips across the porters and staff. This was followed by a lot of applause and laughter and then the group disbanded. I said my goodbyes to Tendi and Dawa as they were also going to be taking the bus back to Kathmandu.

I went up to my room to relax and get clean. My first shower in over eleven days was awesome. The dirt, sweat, dust, grime, and general nastiness washed off with relative ease. The hot water was exactly what my body needed and it refreshed and relaxed me. I emerged a new man except for one thing. Back before the trek began, while we were in Kathmandu, I had purchased a small bottle of shampoo in anticipation of having clean hair after the trek as I didn't know if I would be able to purchase any while on the trail. So while I was showering I washed my hair three times. I figured that it would take at least two to get all of the sweat and dirt out of my hair and I was really surprised when even the third attempt didn't lather up that much. I ignored it and after donning some clean clothes I relaxed on my bed and wrote in my journal for a bit.

After a while we all met in the hotel's dining room and Karma joined us for a team dinner. The food was so so but the company was excellent. We laughed a lot. I was able to get back into my one habit.

IMG 0039

I ended up eating sweet and sour chicken and a vegetable spring roll.

After dinner a small group of us went out and stopped at a local t-shirt shop and then we went on the hunt for an internet connection somewhere. We decided on a small outdoor Korean restaurant and all four of us (Damion, Shaun, Thilo, and myself) all got out our smart phones and connected to facebook, twitter, and email while enjoying cold beverages and the nice evening. We were all very quiet as we were engrossed in technology and catching up on what our friends and family on the other side of the world were up to.

At around 10pm the Korean restaurant closed and we paid and headed back to the hotel which was about a block away. As soon as I got to the room I hit my bed and was asleep in minutes.

Himalayan Photography Trip - Pokhara and the end of the trek

Health Kick Update