25 March, 2009

Upwards Over the Mountain

It had been 10-days since our last shower. But now Shira and I feel so lucky to be back in our home away from home, Hotel The Wood Pidgeon in Pokhara, Nepal. We just got back from our trek, and we're a little sun-burnt, quite blistery on the toes, and truly exhausted after having spent the last week and a half walking over and around hills, amongst Himalayan mountains, and inside the forests of Central Nepal.

Before we really understood the reality of trekking, we thought we'd try the 3-week Annapurna Circuit trek, but luckily our nobel guide, Prem, talked us out of it (mainly because in his experience, those that walk the circuit usually have issues with the high altitude ((5400 meters)), and persuaded us to tackle the much more accessible, and visually stunning Annapurna Base Camp trek).

We had heard from travelers in Pokhara before we left that the ABC trek was amazing, and really not that physically demanding, so we were confident going into it... The basic premise of the trek is to walk/hike/trek to the foot of the Annapurana mountain range (4100 meters). To get there it took 4-7 hours of steady walking a day for 6-days. But to just call what we did walking would be a vast understatement. The majority of the movement was drastic upward ascents and downward descents, mostly on stone steps, and forest floors. By the end of our first day, we feared that we were in over our heads, and that we weren't strong enough to make it. On our second day, we had to walk up 4,000 steps, then walk a bunch more to reach our destination. Eventually we learned to take it not really one-step at a time, but more like one hour at a time.

Ok, one more hour and we'll eat a snickers, two more hours and we'll have lunch, four more and we''ll be done for the day..!

By the end of the first day, we were able to see the mountain peaks, and from there, we kept getting closer. Some mornings we'd wake up to a stunningly clear view of the mountains that were so big and pristine and overwhelming, they became almost unbelievable to comprehend. "How are they so huge, I've never seen this before, Is it close enough to touch, How do people actually climb these monsters!?"

The path we walked for the entire time was well worn and established. People have been doing this trek for decades. It's hard to go more than an hour or two without passing a guest house/restaurant that serves everything from dal bat to cheese pizza. Interestingly enough, all guest houses have almost exactly the same menu, and are required to charge a pre-set amount for each item, depending on where they're located. The higher the places are, the more the food/drink/toilet paper/filtered water, etc. will be. The only way for restaurants/guest houses to get items to their doors is for porters or donkeys to bring them up themselves. Apparently, there didn't use to be any type of regulation for how much weight a porter could carry up or down, but now there are. However we wouldn't have had any idea because these guys were carrying MASSIVE loads on their backs. Everything from gigantic cans of kerosene, to cases of beer, to a dozen live chickens!

By the beginning of the third day, my right knee started to give me some real trouble (it might have been a pull), and ten-minutes into the hike I was hobbling along desperately. I wanted to give up and turn back, but Shira wouldn't let me give up! She was able to motivate me through the 5-hour hike with words of praise and confidence. The thing about trekking is, you can't really give up. Once you've walked for a few days, the only way out is to walk. There are no roads for a car to rescue you, so once you're in it, there's really no turning back.

After the grueling limp-fest, we decided to take the next day (my b-day) off. We slept in (till 6:45) and took in the much needed r and r. I was ready to go by the next day, and that's when we finally started to believe that we'd actually make it to the base camp. To pump each other up we'd ominously whisper to one another, "in a few days we're gonna summit." or "The ascent is upon us..." Then we'd see a 65-year old Korean woman move diligently past us, as if the trek was no big thing for her! And then finally we found ourselves, on the sixth day of the trek, moving up and toward the Annapurna Base Camp in sub-freezing temperatures. The final leg of our ascent to was so dramatic and like nothing i've ever felt. For some reason, Shira, Prem and I we're the only ones climbing from the Machhapuchre Base Camp to the Annapurna Base Camp at that particular time in the afternoon. It was just us, heaps of untouched snow, and the mountains surrounding us from all directions. We were too tired and too spread apart to talk, and the solitude was staggering. All we could hear was the chilling wind and our thudding hearts. And then, finally after two-hours of walking uphill in the snow, we had made it!

We were and are so proud that we did this, and both agreed that we haven't ever challenged our bodies like we have for the last 10-days. We agree that it was an incredible trip, unforgettable really. And we agree that we have no desire to ever do it again!


Blogger LB said...

Wow Zak...this sounds truly amazing. I am so impressed that you and Shira pushed yourselves and were able to do this journey. I can't wait to hear all about it in person in 10 days!!!!!

Love you,

10:25 AM  
Blogger milly said...

how did you have the appropriate clothing? did you pack that?

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow . . . what a journey! I think I may have finked out . . . I am so impressed at the stamina and determination you both showed! The trip of a lifetime! Thank you for sharing your beautiful words with us! we love u!

Love Auntie b. and Uncle r.

5:35 PM  
Blogger DeDe said...

Too cool !! What a great accomplishment, see you soon.


6:18 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

Whoa man, what a coincidence...I just did a 10 day DESCENT - into MADNESS!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH. (jk). That sounds like an AWEsome experience, can't fucking wait to see you in all your glory in just a few days.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Hy said...

calm down...the mountains are not monsters you idiot.

10:05 AM  
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