Tag Archives: Nepal

Foto Friday: Wild Strawberries

Annapurna Range, Nepal
May 2010

Wild Strawberries

Wild strawberries lined the tracks of the Annapurna sanctuary. One could literally walk along, pluck some fruits, and pop it right into one’s mouth like a snack. These round strawberries were small, no bigger than a centimetre in diameter, but boy were sweet, juicy and very refreshing, a perfect treat for a walk under the harsh afternoon sun.

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Every photograph we take contains a story, but we often do not spend enough time sharing that story with others. Hence, Foto Friday was born to give some recognition to these forgotten photographs and the memories they hold. Taken over many trips (2004-present) using my crappy cameras and whatever minimal photography skills I have, these photographs serve to give you a little insight into my travels. And if you haven’t realised by now, they’ll be out on Fridays.

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Poon Hill (13 May)

One of my favourite parts of the Annapurna Base Camp trek was the day we trekked to Poon Hill (3210m) to catch the sunrise rising from behind part of the Annapurna mountain range – Dhaulagiri (8167m) , Hiunchuli (6441m), Machapuchare (6993m) etc. We were apparently quite fortunate to get clear skies that day and a panoramic view of the Annapurna range. Here’s how the day went:

I stumbled out of bed at an ungodly hour of 5:15am. On a regular day in my life, I’d never be awake at that time, or if I were, it would probably be because I’d hadn’t even gone to bed yet.

It was a cold morning and I was already well-prepared for the expected chill, having gone to bed wearing my thermals under my trekking pants and teeshirt. I put on another thin fleece and my goretex jacket, slipped my neck scarf over my head, donned my red wool beanie, grabbed my gloves just in case and got ready to step out of our lodge into the cold.

The sun was already making its journey past the horizon the time we were all ready and started our trek. I personally felt that we should have left approximately half an hour before to actually catch the sunrise. This would be the first of about 6 missed sunrise opportunities I would experience over the next 2 months – mostly because of bad weather, though twice would be because I was too lazy to get up to watch.

The trek up to Poon Hill wasn’t particularly difficult, but given how most of us wished we were still in the comforts of our beds instead of climbing the 300m of elevation worth of stone steps from our lodge at Gorephani (2874m) up to the top of the hill, it was still quite a challenge. But by the time we finally made it to the top, we realised that the trek up was well worth the 5:15am wake up call, 45 minutes trek, and cold morning breeze.

My words will never be able to do justice to the beauty of the place, so why not just let the photos do the talking why don’t we?

So it turns out, the whole world was already there by the time we got to the top of the hill. We didn't meet anyone else whilst going up. Photo Credit: Lek

Some of my friends admiring the Dhaulagiri Himal Subrange

Some of us at the top of the viewing tower

Big Pasang (left) and Tenzeeng (right)

One, two, three.. FIGHT!

JUMP!

Laying eggs?

HX practising her Muay Thai kicks on Lek

The Team

Special thanks to ‘Small’ Pasang for the ‘tour’ of the range in the following video. Too bad Pasang’s voice for the second half of the video isn’t that clear as the camera captured the voices of these two Korean girls we keep meeting along the way instead. I wonder what they are saying though:

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Missing Nepal Already

Written on 30th May, 11pm, in Shigatse, Tibet

It’s amazing how fast three weeks has passed by just like that. I remember starting the trip pretty apprehensive as I didn’t know whether I was physically fit enough to complete the trek and also since I barely knew the other Singaporeans besides my friend and travel companion for the two months, HX.

And here I am lying on my bed in my Tibetian hotel room thinking about the events that have taken place over the past three weeks and remembering how much fun I had with my new-found Singaporean and Nepali friends and how the trek really wasn’t that difficult (though admittedly, I had a lot of help from the porters along the way).

Today, while on our 10-hour bus ride through the highlands of Tibet, HX and I spent a great deal of time recounting all the funny events and happenings and saying how much we missed the people we’d left behind.

It’s quite hard to summarise all that happened in Nepal into a single post. After all, my time on the ABC trek already takes up 13 full pages in my journal, and that’s just mainly in point form.

Here’s a brief overview:

– Two weeks on the ABC trek
– One day in Pokhara
– Almost one week in Kathmandu
– Visited three Sherpa friend’s houses and even stayed in one of their houses for two days
– Two day/ one night visit to Nagarkot, the land of Sunrises and Sunsets
– One day of rock-climbing

in other words, a hell lot of fun.

We’ll meet again Nepal someday I’m sure.

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Going to Nepal after all

Just a quick note:

As some of you may know, the general strike has been called off and life in Nepal has somewhat resumed. So, I’ll be leaving for Nepal tomorrow morning as planned.

I hope that things won’t be too messy when I get there.

And in case I’m unable to blog here from behind the “great firewall of C****a”, you can catch my posts here: http://deafknee.ycool.com

See you in two months!

Off to pack. Haven’t started packing yet!

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Nepal: the shutdown (updated)

[UPDATE: 08 May 2010, 2120]

The general strike was called off almost 24 hours ago.

I’ll be going to Nepal after all.

~

[UPDATE: 07 May 2010, 0110]

Looks like Nepal is a no-go for me.

The violence seems to be escalating and the worried father is saying that it’s not worth it even if locals I’ve been speaking to say that the situation is not as serious as it seems. I understand where he is coming from, but the irrational, adventurous part of me is itching to just heck it and go.

In any case, the team will be meeting up this Saturday to discuss the situation and decide if they are still making the trip and trek.

Time to think of alternative plans. Any suggestions?

~

When news of the Maoist peaceful protests broke out over the weekend, I started to get a little worried about how this would affect my trip. The timing couldn’t be worse; I’m supposed to arrive at my first stop, Kathmandu, the heart of where the action is, this Sunday.

Owing to the general strike (known as the Bandh), the whole country’s on a shut-down. This means that everyone’s expected to stay home, shops aren’t allowed to be open (save for about 2 hours a day), public transport has been disallowed, among other restrictions. This has resulted in major problems around the country, such as food shortage, loss of daily wages to support one’s family, and in some cases, even death.

For the past few days I’ve been keeping up with the news for the latest updates on the situation there and hoping that the political unrest would ease in time for my trip. But as expected, the situation has not quite been all that rosy and perhaps even getting worse.

My dad forwarded me a news article a couple of hours ago about how tourists are being evacuated and urged that I really ought not to go. I sought advice from a friend who spent a good six months in Nepal last year working as a journalist, where he was often in the crowds and chasing stories of such strikes, as he probably could have made better of the situation. He said that strikes happened all the time, and that it really is quite safe, so I really should not be worried. He did recommended, however, that when I reach Nepal to get out of the mess in Kathmandu immediately and fly to Pokhara instead.

Prior to this news, I was pretty damn certain I would not change my plans at all. After all, the protests were supposed to be peaceful. But I just spent the past two hours reading up in greater detail, and I think I might really need to start thinking of Plan B. Some news agencies have already started to report violent clashes and I really won’t be surprised if this violence escalates. And even if I still wanted to go, I have a feeling that no convincing will be sufficient for the parents to let me go.

I’m now waiting for more news from the ground (our agent and my friend’s friends who live there) and I really really hope that things turn for the better. If not it maybe byebye Nepal and perhaps even Tibet, and just hello China.

Gosh, what a way to start my trip.

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As easy as ABC

ABC trek

Photo credit

Annapurna Base Camp Trek: Schedule

Day 00, (10 May): Kathmandu-drive to Pokhara (7 hours) and overnight in hotel
Day 01, (11 May): Pokhara-drive to Nayapul (1 hours) and trek to Tikedhunga (4 hrs) and overnight in teahouse.
Day 02, (12 May): Tikedhunga trek to Ghorepani (7 hours) and overnight in teahouse.
Day 03, (13 May): Ghorepani hike early morning to poon hill (View point) (1 hrs), trek down to ghorepani and trek to Tadapani (6 hrs) and overnight in teahouse
Day 04, (14 May): Tadapani trek to Chhomorung (7 hrs) and overnight in teahouse
Day 05, (15 May): Chhomorung trek to Himalaya (6 hrs) and overnight in teahouse
Day 06, (16 May): Himalaya trek to Machhapuchere Base camp (5 hrs) and overnight in teahouse
Day 07, (17 May): Machhapuchere Base camp trek to Annapurna base camp (2 hrs) and overnight in teahouse.
Day 08, (18 May): Annapurna Base camp trek to Bamboo (7 hrs) and overnight in teahouse
Day 09, (19 May): Bamboo trek to Jhinuwa Danda (Hot spring) (5 hrs) and overnight in teahouse
Day 10, (20 May): Jhinuwa Danda trek to Ghandruk (5 hrs) and trek to Kimche(2hrs) overnite
Day 11, (21 May): Kimche trek to Nayapul (2 hrs) and drive to Pokhara (1 hrs), End of the trek

For the past 1.5 months or so, I’ve been training real hard in preparation for the first leg of my trip – the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek. By that I mean – weekly runs (a 5km run a week), Muay Thai lessons once a week, and weight-training/’stair’-climbing training at Bukit Timah Hill 3 times so far. Yep, that’s it.

Please tell me I’m not screwed. Hello loads of body aches and pains.

Truth be told, I’m feeling utterly unprepared (fitness-wise) for the ABC trek. To make things worse, I’ll be trekking with 10 other people, all of whom are either experienced mountaineers or NIE PE teachers to-be (read: exercise freaks enthusiasts). In other words, I’m the weakest link. Oh boy.

On a brighter note, we will only be walking an average of 6 hours a day, we’re staying in tea houses (ahh comfort), there are porters to carry our things if we so choose to not carry our own things, and we don’t need to cook our own meals.

Compared to all the other previous trekking trips I’ve done (at least 12 hour-days, 1-3 hour sleep in tents that we pitch ourselves, no porters, cook our own food over gas canister stoves), this sure sounds like a luxury. Hey, perhaps trekking to ABC will really be as easy as ABC after all. Then again, the last time I did such a trip was when I was 18, and trained four times a week.

Unfitness aside, I’m really looking forward to the 11 days in the Himalayas. Imagine waking up to this sight every morning:


ABC a sight to behold

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Sigh.. What a beauty! I sure hope this sight will make all aches and pains go away. Yes it will!

(And you know you’re jealous. Or envious. And you want to hop on a plane to Nepal too.)

6 days to departure

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The packing list

12 days to departure and I’m still far from gathering the items in my packing list.

Here’s how it’s “supposed” to look like:

and this is only for the trekking/Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) leg of my entire trip. (I’m travelling for close to another month and a half after this leg)

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about trekking prior to my trip, it would be that the activity involves a hell lot of preparation. Besides the physical training (which I admittedly have not been most diligent in doing), there’s a lot of coordination with the guide to do (thankfully a friend is taking charge of that) and there’s also of course, the putting together of the items in the packing list.

This packing list is not something that I’m most familiar with. I’ve climbed several mountains and a volcano in Malaysia and Indonesia before, but given the tropical climate of these countries, the packing list for those trips looked very different. Back then, I didn’t have to worry much about keeping warm, so thermals, items made of fleece, waterproof jackets etc were not even something I thought about. In fact, I remember trudging through the equatorial forests in just shorts and tee-shirts, often braving the heavy downpours. Getting wet really wasn’t much of an issue. In fact, I sometimes relished it, and embraced the escape from the sweltering heat.

But this time, taking into consideration that ABC reaches the height of almost 4200m and that the conditions would be harsher, there is so much more I need to pack in in order to keep warm and comfortable. I can’t imagine having any more space for anything else after putting all these items from my packing list into my back pack.

And to make things worse, having not done any trekking trip of this scale before, I don’t own any of these things. So, what to do? Beg, borrow, and steal, erm, buy.

So today I finally got down to buying some of the items in my list, namely my trekking boots and a pair of sandals. Two items down, many to go. And to save money, I’m probably going to have to, in some way or another , borrow most of the other items.


Today's buys: Hi-Tec Trekking shoes and Teva sandals
Today’s buys: Hi-Tec mid cut trekking shoes and Teva sandals.

Hi-Tec isn’t exactly the most favoured brand for most seasoned travellers because the quality’s not fantastic, but at SGD95 (after discount), who can complain really? And SGD49 (after discount) for Teva sandals? What a steal. I think my feet are protected.

And after all, who knows when will be the next time I’ll be putting together the items in my packing list for some trekking trip. Hopefully by then, I’ll actually be more prepared and have the money to invest in better-quality items and not have to beg and borrow everything else.

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