Monday, May 27, 2013

Trekking wrap-up: Annapurna Base Camp

It has been a few days. We are now into the second part of our journey back to Whitefish, after a week in Chicago, we are in Kansas City for a week to visit our new nephew (!) and family. But, I will continue the ABC saga as if time has not passed! However, a slight mishap with our computer has rendered it unusable for the time being, and I will not be able to attach photos until a later date. Be patient.

~I didn't end up photographing the stars that night at Annapurna Base Camp, as it was impossible without a tripod, but I did take the time to gawk open-mouthed at the moonless sky as I took my midnight trip to the toilet. It was amazing. The faint outline of peaks was black against a spattered black sky of stars, more crystal clear than any night sky I have ever seen. After all, there wasn't much atmosphere between us and the solar system. We woke up the next morning at around 6 o'clock, though we had been mildly awake for an hour and a half already, awoken by seemingly all of South Korea outside our window getting ready for sunrise. Ben and I were kind of over that whole deal after the Poon Hill experience, and realized that if we didn't extract ourselves from our popsicle beds until 6am, we wouldn't be missing anything.

By the time we emerged from our room, South Korea was already eating their breakfast and getting on their way, which we later found out was everyone else at Base Camp's plan as well. As we woke our tired and altitude-weary bodies, we walked about 100 yards from Base Camp and realized that no one else even bothered to venture further than their "photo spot" outside of their guest house. Even more, no one else of the roughly 100 people staying at Base Camp stayed later than 7:30am. Ridiculous. Ben and I made our way, slow step by slow step, towards the highest point we could see that was not snow. We took turns questioning our motives, as every 10-20 steps we found ourselves gasping for breath, and as we approached the halfway point we stopped.

It was at this halfway point that we decided to create a little video. Perhaps not a "little" video, it may be the world's most epic balsa glider flight caught on tape. And by tape I mean digital video. My dad sent us to Nepal with a box of balsa airplanes for the kids at Harka, and as there were only 9 boys and 11 planes, we had to keep two (distributing the remainder at random would incite rebellion amongst the children). So we brought them to the Annapurna Base Camp/ Sanctuary, nestled at around 14,500ft, and decided to throw them off a cliff. Best idea ever. Ben had to do some repair work before the launch, as they had gotten a little smashed in our 6 days of trekking, but we nicknamed them 'The Nepali Rascal' and 'Gary I', and we threw them in honor of my dad's 64th birthday. They soared like no one has ever seen a balsa glider soar before.

After the flights, we continued up to the glacier lookout, where we spotted some grouse scuttling across the snow. We tried to identify them with locals that day, to no avail, as we were unclear as to whether no one had seen it before, or they just didn't know the English word for them. We then sat at the cusp of a cliff, overlooking a glacier, in full view of the entire Sanctuary for about an hour. It may have been less, it may have been more, but when you are in complete awe of your surroundings- enamored with crashing avalanches, crumbing glaciers, and unknown wildlife- you tend to lose track of time. The view was impossible to describe, but I will try to depict in pictures (uhh, later).

We returned to Base Camp later that morning, albeit only about 9:30, to a completely deserted guest house. Everyone had left hours earlier, and as it was still nice weather, we continued to enjoy our time in the quiet. After all, it's not every day you're at the Annapurna Sanctuary, right? We trekked back down to Macchapucchare Base Camp late that morning, only hiking for about an hour (and boy, did we take our time), ate some lunch, took a fabulous nap, and enjoyed good company.

The remainder of the trek went much as that day did (though we did hike about 5-6 hours each day), and we took about 3 more days to get back to Pokhara. We retraced our steps for the first and most of the second day, and with each step breathing got a bit easier. Though our toes would often feel numb, and our feet like clubs from going downhill, we met two friendly Albertan guys on the second day that made the final days quite fun. We also dipped our weary bodies in the Jhinu Hot Spring, a fantastic rock pool beside the Modi Khola that was unexpectedly nice, and induced the most relaxed sleep of the entire Nepal trip! We spent the night near the hot spring, eating all too much food, and, with the Albertans, decided we were done with this whole "hiking" thing, and were ready to get back to Pokhara and have a nice shower. Luckily, there were two ways back: one that took two days, one that took one. We chose the latter. The last day was a beast, a full day in sweltering heat with little shade, but we were glad we hadn't chosen the staircase-ridden alternate route that took two days. We eventually emerged at Naya Pul, sweaty and exhausted, thrilled to get into a taxi to town. The end of our epic trek was celebrated that night by Ben, myself, and the Albertans over a delicious Indian meal in Pokhara- where we toasted the Himalayas, and the fact that we were offered more menu options than "mix pizza" and "tuna spaghetti". Always be thankful for the little things.

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