One of the items on my bucket list has always been to see the Himalayas. Swing by my humble abode and you will find no shortage of books on mountaineering, and most of those seem to center on the Himalayas. I, at least, can't keep reading and seeing pictures of something without wanting to see them in person. Thankfully my long tenure with my current employer qualified me for a month-long paid sabbatical, so I had the chance to go to Nepal. (And yes, I did consider spending the month skiing somewhere, but my desire to see the Himalayas won out).
Googling "Himalayan Trekking" brings up a wide range of options. I spoke to a friend who had gone trekking with KE Adventure and she thought they had done a good job, so with a vote of 1-0, I decided to put my fate in their hands. Next step was deciding which trek to go on. I decided on the Annapurna Circuit Trek since it provides the "complete Himalayan Trekking Experience". Once-in-a-lifetime trip to Nepal... might as well see everything the country has to offer!
So, after a summer which included a lot of cycling, hiking, one broken hand and two surgeries to fix the broken hand, I finally got on a plane to fly to Kathmandu, Nepal. There might be places on Planet Earth that are farther away from Boston then Kathmandu... I don't want to ever go to those places. It takes FOREVER to get there.
Kathmandu is an absolutely filthy city with very narrow streets and a questionable (at best) power grid. Note how the power lines are strung:
My taxi from the airport to my hotel was driving down narrow dirt roads through this impossible maze of streets. I was pretty convinced that he was going to rob me blind, and dispose of the body in some alley, but he suddenly popped out at my hotel. Did some sight-seeing in Kathmandu for a few days while overcoming the jet lag. Are you ever going to complain about the crowds in your shopping mall again? In a city of about 1,000,000 people, it seems that there are about 5,000,000 people doing whatever you're doing.
Finally met up with the group that I would be trekking with. There were only five of us, three from the UK and two Americans. Add the two guides, nine porters, kitchen staff, etc. and it wound up being a pretty decent sized group though.
The first step was getting from Kathmandu to the start of the trek which is in the small village of Jagat. This involves a long (~14 hour) bus ride. If there are road rules in Nepal, I was not able to discern what they might be. Theoretically they drive on the left (opposite of America), but in reality, they drive wherever they feel like. Passing around hairpin curves while leaning on the horn seems to be the national past-time. Use of the brakes is apparently considered a character flaw. Road surfaces change from pavement to dirt to "this is a road?" without warning.
Eventually we did have to switch buses as we we needed a 4WD bus to navigate the next stretch. So everything was switched from one bus to another:
And then we started bouncing down a "road" which I would have previously considered to be a "hiking trail". The "road" was one bus wide; I have no idea what we would have done if somebody was coming the other way. Very slow going, very bouncy and basically the most uncomfortable I've ever been on a bus. It was getting dark and the driver wasn't turning on the headlights, which made me wonder if the bus HAD headlights, but eventually he did turn the lights on. At one point the driver got out and went to work with a shovel to fill in a ditch in the road. I guess he was afraid the bus would get stuck.
Somehow we made it to Jagat though without the bus breaking down and without the bus teetering off into any of the rather large gorges that lined the road side. I have rarely been so glad to exit a vehicle in my life.
To be continued...