Chris' 1994  R100GS/PD ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650

Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Feb 12, 2000

NEPAL - Trekking in the Himalayas

-- Story by Chris --

We departed Kathmandu on Feb 2nd and headed 200kms towards Pokhara.  Nepal and the Himalayas are most famous for the 29,026ft high Mt. Everest, but most trekkers head the opposite direction from Kathmandu (east) to the more scenic Annapurna Range.  The most common trek for tourists is about 5 days, but the route to ABC (Annapurna Base Camp) can take as much as 3 weeks.

Halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara, as we (our new friends Tom and Kirstin, Erin, and I) left the small town of Mugling, I had a small problem.  Approaching a right hand curve at about 30mph/50kph, I hit an oil patch in the road and the bike immediately slid out from beneath me.  I didn't know what was happening, but as I rolled across the pavement I kept thinking "roll, roll, roll, Erin is right behind!"  Erin was in fact about 2 seconds behind, so she had plenty of time to pick a path away from both me and the bike.  Kirstin and Tom were behind Erin, so they were able to stop well before the oil.

Damage to my body would be felt the following day in the form of a stiff leg.  My AeroStich pants have a small hole in the kneepad for which I'll get a patch.  The bike came away with a few scratches on the Jesse bags, a broken zipper on the right tank pannier, a bent front fender, and the oil cooler got pulled off the crash bar.  We replaced the oil cooler, but discovered a large leak by the oil filter cap where the lines run to the oil cooler.  A few bolts were tightened, oil was added, and away we went.  Maybe not "as good as new", but fairly close.  We arrived in Pokhara later than expected, but managed to find a pretty nice hotel by the lake for 175 rupees/night (just under $3.00).

Feeling better after the accident

The following day, we investigated a few trekking companies and decided on doing a 5-day trek.  Since Tom has "bad knees", he opted to stay in town and do some motorcycle maintenance while the three of us took off for the mountains.  At the Tourist Information Center, we arranged for a guide/porter to accompany us.  We rented a large backpack for him where we put our sleeping bags, books, and raingear, and a daypack for Erin (Kirstin and I already had ours).   We each packed our spare socks and underwear, waterbottles, and miscellaneous items.

Thursday morning, we climbed into a tiny taxi with our guide/porter Chakre (silent "r").  One hour and 40kms later, we arrived in the small village of Nayapul, the main starting point for the Annapurna trekking range.  We were giddy with excitement as we strapped on our packs and descended to the river crossing -- a bouncing suspension bridge.  About 20 minutes later, we came to a checkpoint in Birethanti where we had to show our trekking permits and sign in.

Erin, Chakre, Chris, and Kirstin

After about 2 hours of trekking, we stopped at a small tea house for lunch.  The trekking trails were created by villagers who would travel between villages for trade.  Thus, there are small villages (and tea houses) scattered along the trail, no more than an hour apart.  Food prices are set by the local councils and pretty reasonable, but the price for mineral water and candy bars increases with the altitude.  Each day, we crossed paths with human porters and/or donkeys carrying goods between villages.  We arrived at Tikedungha (1,525m), our destination for the first night, and Chakre showed us to our double room which cost 80rupees/night ($1.20).  The rooms were sparse but immaculatly clean, the walls paper thin and without insulation, but all had hot showers (solar panels) readily available.

Typical KitchenWe unpacked our gear and headed to the dining room/building were Chakre was waiting for us.  We ordered a couple of beers and broke out a deck of cards.  Chakre taught us a great new game which we played all night, even though he seemed to be on quite a lucky streak.  We met 3 Aussies: Emma, Matt, and Tony, who we would later spend more time with, and become friends.  Dinner arrived and was quite good.  We were concerned about the food as we got to higher elevations, but all our meals on the trek would prove to be quite tasty.

Friday, day 2, we were packed and out the door by 7:00am.  Our journey would begin by climbing some 3,000 steps to Ulleri (2.075m).  The views were fantastic, but our lack of breakfast and energy made our assent relatively slow (we should have eaten before departure).  Two hours later we reached Ulleri and plopped down to eat while overlooking the valley we just rose from.  Seven hours later, the day would end at 2,775 meters in Ghorapani, just as the first flakes of snow were collecting on our shoulders.  We huddled around a wood burning stove, playing cards and talking to the other trekkers from Canada, Japan, and Taiwan. 

We wanted to take a warm shower, but the walk to the shower shack in the snow was not especially inviting.  Several hours and 6 inches of powder later, the storm finally subsided, making visibility crystal clear -- the views of the surrounding area covered in a blanket of snow was spectacular!  Our plan was a 6:00am attack on nearby Poon Hill, at just over 3,150 meters, which is renowned for it's gorgeous sunrise over nearby peaks.  Chakre, the other guides, and our Innkeeper conferred at around 5:30am, decided it was overcast and not worth the trip, and told us to sleep a bit longer.  As it turned out, our Aussie friends made the attempt from a different lodge, and were rewarded with spectacular views for about 3-4 minutes before the sunlit peaks in the distance were blanketed by the clouds.

When we were packing for the trek, we packed 2 pairs of socks and underwear, 2 T-shirts,  1 pair of "convertible" pants, long underwear, micro-fleece top, fleece jacket, fleece gloves and hat (we bought in Kathmandu for 75ruppees each/$4.50 total), baseball cap, rain gear, and low-top hiking shoes.  We had anticipated rain and maybe cool evenings, but snow was the furthest thing from our minds.  HELLO -- Himalayas in February, what should we have expected?!?

YahooooSo we were wearing all but one T-shirt when we headed out up into the snow covered hills at around 8:30am.  Chakre led us up a path used fairly recently by 2-3 other trekkers.  Even with existing footprints to step into, we slipped occasionally and our shoes absorbed the surrounding dampness.  We finally reached the ridge crossing (about 3,100m) where we were exposed to some bone chilling winds. OK, it wasn't like we were trying to summit Everest, but for former unfit city dwellers who've been travelling the past 8 months in relatively warm weather, we were unaccustomed to the effects of the cold and exercise at altitude, and we were fatigued.  The good news is we slept very well each night!  Throughout the day, the gray curtain of clouds would part briefly, granting us with spectacular views of the Annapurna peaks, only to have the curtain drop a few minutes later.

Day 3's trek was supposed to take about 5 hours, but we didn't arrive in Tatapani (1,180m) until about 4:30pm.  The course, which was similar to an active electrocardiogram with it's ups and downs, normally would have been fairly easy to traverse.  However, as we were trekking through the rain forest, the underlying streams merged with the fresh snow to form a slick layer of ice.   Slipping on the ice would not plummet the victim thousands of feet to their death, but repeatedly falling on one's bumm tends to hurt.  As much as we "suffered" throughout the day, it was very rewarding when we were finished, and many beers were shared with Chakre and the Aussies in the toasty-warm lodge.

We woke at the crack of dawn (a bit sore and achey) on day 4 and were rewarded with a crystal clear sky and an awe inspiring sunrise.  We watched silently as the peaks reached up to grab the burning morning rays, the streaks of orange flame gently swallowed the peaks.  The view, as you can see below, were spectacular.

Day 4 was scheduled to be a leisurely 2-3 hour decent to the large village of Ghandruk.  The early part of the day was much slower as we were descending through the woods over ice patches and mud.   When we arrived below the snow-line, the trail became substantially easier.   The early afternoon sky prevailed and we were rewarded with more fantastic views of the peaks.  We met the Aussies at the lodge (our guides had sorted this out) at around 2:00 in the afternoon, and took some badly needed hot showers (although there were showers in the other lodges we stayed in, trudging through the cold and/or snow to the shack was not very inviting).  We spent the afternoon lounging around, sharing stories and experiences, and basically unwinding.

L>R: Chris, Chakre, Kirstin, Tony, Erin, Matt, Emma, and Kiru (Aussie's guide in front)

Day 5:  Again we woke with the sun, and again we were rewarded with great views.  We headed down the trail back to Nayapul, said good-bye to our new Aussie friends (we will see Emma, Matt, and Tony again in Sydney) and watched them get into their cab.  We then climbed atop (yes, on top) of a local bus for our 2-hour ride back to Pokhara -- This was recommended by the tour agents as a worthwhile experience.  And what a rollercoaster ride it was.  The bus bucked and bounced over the broken pavement like a vehicle without any suspension (hmmm),  leaning over to some harrowing angles in the switchbacks, and was similar to a 5-star rollercoaster ride with spectacular mountain views.

At about 30kph, we're being passed by a bus doing 33kph

We arrived back in Pokhara, and immediately took a nap.  Our first trek was a wonderful experience, and one that we can't impress enough on others to do.  Although the snow made the trek more challenging than we expected, it was certainly within our abilities and far better then coming during the "high season" when lodges were overcrowded and the trails are a series of bottlenecks and congestion.  Do it, do it, do it.  You can arrange for a top shelf trip from just about anywhere, but at a premium.  We used WWJT&E, a guide-owned company.  We split Chakre's cost ($10/day--all inclusive) 3 ways with Kirstin, lodging averaged $1.50/night for a double, food was about $12/day (supply vs. demand), and tap water was available all along the trek, so we just added purification tablets.  We're looking forward to doing some more treks in Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia.


PO Box No: 87
Lake Side, Pokhara, Nepal

Tel:  +977-61-21 520
         +977-61-31 823
Fax:  +977-61 31 823

We're heading back to Kathmandu to crate the bikes, then we fly off to Bangkok to meet my parents on Valentine's Day.

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