The silent one
Hitting the trails
Two weeks ago
The second night
Under the hot water
Ang Phurba Sherpa
The up and downhill
Annapurna Base Camp
The frozen shoes
Sliding down the trails
Finding a room
Back to the books
For dust I have Kathmandu no?
The second last day
The journey back home
“Everyone has a thing”
Everyone has a thing, some are good at music, some at arts, and some are good at cooking or for being on time. My thing is; I am always late. No matter how hard I try to be on time I always end up being late. I knew I had to pack the night before, but I didn’t. I waited for the morning light to pack and one thing led to another and I was late yet again. The message that was sent to me the night before clearly read “Please be on time” and I did reply “I surely will be”, but I wasn’t. The first problem is I had to take my bike, because taking a public vehicle that early in the morning would be a bad choice, so I decided to take my bike and leave it at Lainchaur instead. The problem was/is that my bike doesn’t have a kick start, and it was a cold morning and it took me a long time just to get my bike started. No kick means, I had to drag the bike along to get it started and that’s not an easy job with a bag-pack on your back. Finally after few minutes of hustle I managed to get it started.
Few meters ahead of the house and I realized I forgot the gloves, but it was too late so I decided not to go back. The handle itself was cold and wet with the morning dew even with the drapes around it, plus the cold in the morning felt like a sharp razor piercing though the skin as I speeded along the road of Budhanilkantha. Dust joined in with the cold as I reached Gangalaal hospital with the ongoing road slaughter of Kathmandu, the dustiness of Dust-Mandu as people have started calling as conquered the well paved and relatively dust less roads of Narayan Gopal Chowk-Budanilkantha section. I speeded thereafter. With one hand on the handle, I took my left hand and dragged the phone out of my left pocket, pressed the small button on the side of the phone and the screen lit up and read “6:38 Am”. I had to be there by 6:45. I seemed like I was going to be on time, but the problem is, once I had left my bike at Lainchaur it would still take me roughly about 10 minutes and I would be late for the rendezvous. I was at Lainchaur shortly but I decided not to look the watch because I knew I was way out of time, so I just parked the bike and started to walk as fast as I could. Few minutes after I had started walking, my phone rang and I knew who it was. I walked even more hurriedly but a ringing phone has to be answered right? That’s what Collin Farrell and Phone Booth has taught us. I answered the phone and told the person on the other end that I was right around the corner, which I almost was and he seemed to be fine about it. Few minutes after that, I did reach the destination and it was almost time to leave.
The Silent One
I don’t talk much. Outside of my group that is. I remember most people telling me that, he doesn’t talk unless you give him a topic to talk about. Well that does happen when I’m around strangers. But give me the people I know or I am comfortable with and they will tell you otherwise. In this context it was the first scenario, I was amongst strangers, among 17 people around me I didn’t know anyone. So I just kept quiet and sat on the last seat of the bus.
The silent one at the last seat, with a camera strap around his shoulder and a camera in his hand and a Go Pro on his forehead. There was a silence around the atmosphere that I was in and it had a small thread of periphery compared to the whole bus. Each and every one of the people inside the bus knew each other prior to that instant, whereas me, I stood there, well technically I was sitting in silence, gazing out of the window out on the streets of Kathmandu. The dusty streets of Kathmandu, there was a certain invisible dust of silence inside the bus which subtly spoke to me; it said “It’s going to be a long ride”.
The destroyed roads of Kathmandu and the morning traffic meant reaching Kalanki was a tough thing let alone crossing the Nagdhunga border. Reserved with my own thoughts I looked outside the window thinking about how the trip was going to be. Annapurna Base Camp was supposed to be my first time, completing the base camp trek would mean I’d have completed most of the trek in the Annapurna Region. Reminded me of the first trek into the Annapurna Region. It must have been about 5 years ago, the thought ran into my head. Ghorepani-Gandruk trek- It was one of the memorable and fun trek for so many reason. For a moment I was lost in the memories of that trek, the events swung across my thoughts like it was yesterday, but a sudden jerk of the bus brought me back to the streets of Kathmandu. The bus had moved finally almost nearing the Kalanki chowk. A quick turn from here and we might avoid the traffic, I thought to myself. And as my assumption, after the turn we weren’t stuck in traffic at all, though it took a very long time to reach Nagdhunga because of the state of the road.
It was only 2 weeks ago that I was heading off to Pokhara from Kathmandu. The fun and crazy trek to Mardi Base Camp, and here I am again 2 weeks later hitting the Annapurna Base Camp. Back at the high camp I had wondered, right on the other side of the South Annapurna lies the Annapurna Sanctuary.I had no idea I’d be heading there 2 weeks later but here I was. I imagined the view from Mardi high-camp and thoughtfully took myself to the other side of the mountains and imagined the view from the other side of the mountains. The view seemed to be amazing, there were mountains all over, it looked amazing.
Lost in the memories of Mardi trek I hadn’t realized that we had passed the Nagdhunga border point already and were swirling down the highway. I could see the snake-y roads of Prithivi Highway far into the distance curving at the edge of the hills. Few trucks and microbuses racing to their own destinations. Everyone’s set on a journey and has a destination, my destination is few days ahead of me and I have barely started the journey. Few hours into the journey and with my thoughts occupied, at times in trekking and at times on work, the bus stopped again. TEA time. I wasn’t in mood for the tea, but then the bus stopped and I had to kill the time. Since it was a proper tourist bus, it stopped at this beautiful small hotel called “Hamlet”. Beautifully decorated and looked good, I went in a looked around. Right then I saw the “Today’s menu” on a black board with scratchy handwriting, the first thing on the menu was a hot lemon . Well I would love a warm cup of Hot Lemon, I thought to myself and then shortly I ordered one. It was one of those Pay first self-service kind of thing. I paid and waited for the hot lemon to get ready, then I walked around the hotel and found a quite chair under a tree far from the crowd. I sat there sipping the lemon tea, which was good.
I wonder how long before I get to sip one of these again.
Thoughts over thoughts, and sips over sips of hot lemon went on for some time, right before the honk of the bus brought me back to reality. Under the lonely tea and a small table of the Hamlet restaurant. I sipped in the last drop of hot lemon, which wasn’t hot at that instant, I recorded a small video for my Vlog and headed to the bus.
My thoughts weren’t constant, they were changing, and skipping from places to places, the only thing that was constant was the silence inside the bus, which remained for the rest of the journey.
Hadn’t still crossed Muglin and had to reach Pokhara and then off to Koramukh and a short hike to the village of Lwag! It was going to be a long-long journey.
My thoughts were interrupted again, this time, surprisingly it was one of the foreigner inside the bus. May be only he saw the “Silent one” sitting at the back seat staring out of the window and not saying a single word, which had been going on for a while.
You want one? He said with a huge smile on his face, and possibly a French accent, offering me a packet of something, I assume it was biscuits.
Thank you so much, but I’m fine. I said with a smile.
Are you sure? Take one
I thanked him again and said I’m fine. He smiled at me and looked away. At that moment I felt like I should have accepted his offer of the biscuits.
What was wrong with me? He was insisting and it was just a biscuit! You could have taken one like a normal guy!
After few hours the bus stopped, this time for lunch and by that time I was hungry and I had to eat something. I don’t usually eat Dal-Bhat on the highway but that particular hotel seemed to have good food, so I decided to eat the Dal-Bhat and which turned out to be a good one! Shortly afterward it was time to hit the road again. Hopefully it won’t stop again. And it didn’t, not until it reached Pokhara, from where I had to change the bus to Koramukh.
The local bus with “Only Tourist” sticker on the front end of windshield was a big one. And the young driver seemed to be in a hurry to drop the people off at Koramukh. He speeded off in that manner. The bus took a turn of the Hemja, the same way I had returned 2 weeks ago from Ghalel-Lumre. This time I was headed to Lwang. I had seen the place- Lwang, Ghalel written on one of the sign boards while returning from Siddhing. At that point my thoughts went back to the place and started imagining if I was headed to the same Ghalel. But after a while the bus took a different turn, instead of crossing the river it continued through the sketchy roads along the hill. It wasn’t long before the bus reached Koramukh. The long bus ride had finally ended, it was now time to start the trek.
Off to Lwang!
With a loud crowing of the Rooster, I woke up in a small bed in one of the houses in Lwang. I pressed the home button on my phone and the screen lit up with 6:13 am. Well I slept well, I thought to myself.
The trek from Koramukh to Lwang was a short one, a steep climb at the first half of the journey until the trial met the roads and then it was just an easy walk into the home stays. A woman had come to receive us and took us to along with her to show the room. For me, she had found a small room at her sister’s home. Which had only one room for the visitors, may be for the single travelers like me. I hadn’t had much to do, I looked around the village for a while, then returned back to the home and drank a cup of tea and after about an hour of sitting quietly on the front porch of the house, it was time for dinner. It was good, the Youghurt was especially good. A cup of tea some 10 minutes after the dinner and it was bed time. Well so as I remember.
The room was small, there were plenty of medals hanging on the side of the bed. More than 10 I assumed, there were a lot. Few shields and certificates were lying on the floor, the dust on the table suggested that it hadn’t been used for a long time. The door was very small barely enough to fit someone who’s just 4 feet tall. You had to crouch to your knees to get out. As far as I remember, last night when I had entered the room there wasn’t light, yet somehow I managed to get inside the room without knocking my head on the door. Bending my head as low as I could, with my eyes fixed on the outside, I crawled through the door into the balcony. It was a small house overlooking the hills right in the distance. To the left of me there was a small ladder, small and narrow, it was almost as if a 10 feet vertical drop was adjusted with a ladder of 2 feet of width at an angle of almost 80 degrees. Holding tightly to bar on the right side I climbed down the ladder.
How the hell did I climb this ladder with my bag without light last night?
I headed off to the tap, to wash my face. Right when I had finished, an old woman peeked from the small door of the house.
Did you sleep well? She said with a smile
Yes I did, Thank you! I said with a smile.
Sorry if it wasn’t good enough, all we have is a small house and we try to keep our guest as comfortable as we can.
It surely was comfortable, you don’t have to worry about that, I said wiping my face with a handkerchief.
She offered me a cup of tea and I gladly accepted it and sat on a small wooden chair on the front porch of the house. She asked me where I was from
Kathmandu! I said
Where in Kathmandu?
Budhanilkantha! I replied
She nodded and said, Oh! As if she remembered the place. I didn’t ask her if she has been there or if she knows the place. Thought it would be rude. We continued talking until my tea was over, once it was over I told her I had to start packing and then leave. She said, I should get back to make you a breakfast as well. We both smiled at each other and headed of in our direction. Me to my room, she; to the kitchen.
10 minutes later, with a packed bag, I squeezed through the small door and slide through the small ladder and climbed down with a struggle. Back down, the breakfast was ready. A Gurung bread! My favorite!! And an egg and some beans and potatoes!! I love Gurung bread, especially with jam on top of it. I requested another Gurung bread and refilled the beans as well. She offered me some milk but I asked for a black tea instead. Few minutes later she came with a mug of black tea. A good black tea with ginger and other species, I love the tea they make, well that’s same for most of the trekking destination. I’m not sure if it’s the environment of the way the make it but nothing is better than the tea in the tea houses or hotels or homestays in trekking destinations. After the breakfast, I was about to start the trek up to Landruk, but then she came out with tray with some Tika and garland made up of Junipers. I had almost forgotten the farewell ceremony of Homestays. Back when I was in Ghalegaun few years ago, we had a similar ceremony. Thoughts travelled back in time to that instant and raced back to Lwang when the old woman asked me to come near her. She put on the tika and then the garland and thanked me for coming, she asked me to return again and handed me a visting card and said, Do call before coming next time! I will cook local chicken for you!
Thank you Aama! Farewell!
Hitting the Trails
The trails from Lwang was cool, right through the narrow alley of the traditional Gurung style houses, I climbed a small hill that over looked the beautiful village of Lwang. This was a good place to shoot a video, so I started recording some shots, well that’s why I was doing this trek! To make a video! And here it started!
The trail headed up gradually up the stone steps, a good view point on the top of the hill right above village was a good place for the view of South Annapurna. Most probably Machchapuchhre too but everything else was obscured by the clouds. I passed a small tea farm on the way, I plucked in a leaf and rubbed it against my hands, the smell wasn’t too distinct but it did smell like tea! Ha!
After a while the trail stopped looking too distinct and slowly entered a forest with no signs and trails whatsoever. Thankfully there was a guy who had done the trail before, and I had tagged along with him and his team, that meant I’d not get lost at all. But at one point even he was confused but thankfully we managed to find the two color flag of sign on one of the trees. The trail seemed to go forever through the thick forest. Well I was headed to forest camp, so Forest it was indeed.
Two weeks ago
I had been to forest camp just 2 weeks before and here I was heading to the same place again. I’m not sure how long it took, but I finally reached forest camp. Had to go to the same hotel. Even before I had entered the hotel, the hotel owner came out and said, you’ve come again brother! Yes I did!
No, I’m headed to Annapurna Base Camp this time!
Why did you come this way then? He looked surprised.
It was obvious, it did seem awkward to head to forest camp to go to ABC but the shoot that I was supposed to do meant I had to follow a trekking group and that group had decided to do it that way. And so it meant for me, I had to do it that way as well. I was there on a work! To make videos, to take photos! I didn’t have much of a choice.
Because I loved this place, the last time I was here!
He smiled but didn’t look convinced and didn’t actually believe me but still managed to laugh and said you’re always welcome brother!! Sit down! I will bring you a cup of tea!
After a cup of tea and a quick rest it was time for the lunch! Dal-Bhat- something we Nepali never get tired of!
Do you have that Lapsi (Hog Plum) pickle you had the last time?
Yes we have! The owner smiled and brought me the pickle.
That was one of the best Lapsi pickle, it wasn’t too sweet, was spicy in the appropriate way and had the most unexpected thing in it which actually made it so good. The first time I ate it, the last time I was here, I had mistaken it for a ginger and spit it out quickly but later realized it was something else, something unexpected to have in Lapsi pickle. It was a coconut piece, not sure if that’s a thing but I didn’t know that worked but it actually works quite well.
After the meal and a rest of about 20 minutes it was time to descend down to the village of Landruk. The descent was fun, the hill was steep at times and the trail was cool as well. Before too long I reached open terrace from where I could see the shinning steel roof of the hotels of Landruk.
The second night
Landruk- sitting almost opposite to Ghandurk is a beautiful small settlement but with less denser houses than Ghandurk- beautiful none the less. I reached the hotel- The Hungry Eye. And I was hungry myself, so ordered a bowl of noodle soup and a cup of tea. Stayed out in the porch, it was kind of gloomy and cold, I could feel the warm noodle soup swirling down my throat! It was too good, nothing beats a warm cup of tea and noodle soup during a trek.
After the lunch, it was time to go look around the village. I went back to my room grabbed my cameras and headed off to roam around the village, to take some shots and make few videos there. When I returned back to the hotel, it was pretty late and the dinner was almost ready.
I wasn’t really hungry but then it was ready and they asked me to come to the dining hall since it was already there. Well, I had to eat. I did ask the lady to take some rice off my plate because I wasn’t as hungry as she thought I would be with the rice on the plate. Strangely enough I managed to refill the rice anyways, may be it was because the Dal was especially good. Refilled it multiple times. A cup of tea and the day would be over for me. The warm cup of tea had barely travelled down my throat when I was on my bed.
The already “light switched off” dark room lit with faint light as I pressed the home button on my phone to check my email once. A cup of tea before I sleep and a refresh of “Gmail” for new emails are daily routine of mine before sleep. Also a quick visit to the toilet! A tiring journey waited in the morning, all the way to Chhomrong. Plus a quick bath at the hot shower in Jhinu Dada, it would be a long time before I would take bath again, if not in the hot water of Jhinu dada.
Under the Hot water
The warm water of hot-spring sprung up my legs as I slowly entered the small square hot-spring. I was cautious to enter assuming it would be as hot as the one in Myagdi, surprisingly my slow entry into the hot-spring didn’t matter much as it was lukewarm compared to that. But it did feel good, after that long walk it felt good to take a bath. I laid down on my back on the hot spring as if I was resting, almost as if I was sleeping in a comfort of a couch.
I had started the trek this morning from Landruk. The descent down to the river of Naya pul and then the continuous climbing up the hill to Jhinu. It wasn’t that tiring, but I had stopped at a hotel and ordered lunch before heading down to the hot-spring and I also kept my backpack at the hotel since there was no point in carrying it down to the hot-spring and then carry it back up to the hotel. But almost close to the hot-spring I realized that I had forgotten the extra clothes and had to return back to the hotel again. So I was kind of tired by the time when I reached the hot-spring for the second time. Apart from a single Gurung bread in the morning, I hadn’t eaten anything and I was beginning to feel hungry.
I stayed there for a long time, took some underwater photos with my Go Pro, made a view as well. It was fun but I had to go up and eat something and then head off to Chhomrong as well, so I left the hot-spring changed my clothes and started walking back up to the hotel. It surely is a long walk after a relaxing hot water bath for a long time. Back at the hotel I hung my wet trousers on the bars and headed off to the dining for the Dal-Bhat. The meal was good, a cup of tea followed afterwards and then a quick bask in the sun for about half an hour. Then it was time to leave Jhinu for Chhomrong. The trail from Jhinu to Chhomrong is kind of tiring in a sense that it goes up directly, but it’s not that long though!
The thing with me is, there hasn’t been a single trek or a trip where I haven’t forgotten something! With that consistency in regard, I had made a checklist this time, which meant every morning I would gather all the things in the room, cross it off the check list and then check the room and leave. I had been following that strictly. But, there’s always a “But”, I forgot to do that during the day, almost when I had reached Chhomrong, I realized that I left my trouser back at the hotel. I just decided to head to Chhomrong, who would return all the way back to Jhinu for a trouser? It was my favorite trouser but well, it was just a trousers. No harm would come from leaving it behind, only “I knew you’d forget something” from my mother would be on the line.
Chhomrong is cold!
It was very gloomy and cool, soft breezing hitting the pinna made me realize that I had to put on my jacket, but it was way inside my bag, and the hotels seemed pretty close so I decided to face the keep on walking. I reached Chhomrong way too early, but it was completely covered in clouds and looked as if it was already evening. Went to a hotel, got a room, drank a cup of tea and it was then that I realized that I had nothing to do. I could have possibly reached Sinuwa if I had continued the trek but I had to follow the group for the videos so I had to stay at Chhomrong.
I take books with me everywhere I go, and strangely I forgot to take on one this trip. Plus this trek turned out to be the most relaxed trek I have ever done. Not taking a book with me turned out to be the worst thing I have ever missed out on packing during a trek. But then I had a phone and thankfully there was good internet connection at Chhomrong, I managed to download few books there. The first one I started reading was “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The book starts off in an interesting way and keeps you going till the end. I was expecting it to be a scientific book based on the title but instead turned out to be a different kind of book, a simple one with a story that’s too good. It didn’t take me that long to finish the book, by the third day, well third evening of solitude on the teahouse I had completed the book. I had planned to start “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami. I had heard a lot about him but hadn’t read any of his books so it was a good start to Murakami with 1Q84.
Ang Phurba Sherpa
The group I was following had a guide. I used to talk to him constantly on the road. Since the first day of the trek. He seemed like a nice guy, with even few days of occasional talk, I had realized that he was this humble and respectful guy. He was very modest, simple, extremely helpful and energetic guy with a calm smirk on his face all the time. He had a typical Sherpa face, I knew he was a Sherpa as soon as I had seen him. We had talked about trekking in other regions, I had asked him where he was from and of course he was from Solukhumbu.
I was drinking a cup of tea and overlooking the dark night sky from Chhomrong awaiting my dinner, he came and sat next to me, with a cup of a tea of his own.
So you said this is your first time in Annapurna Base Camp?
Yes! I replied with a smile.
The view from Chhomrong is good, if the sky clears up in the morning.
I just nodded as if to say “Okay” as I had a mouthful of hot tea when he said that.
I wasn’t going to ask him if he had done Annapurna Base Camp before, since he had already said the view from Chhomrong is good. Instead I asked him,
You must have done it many times?
Not many sir, just few! This is my 3rd trek to ABC and I have done the ABC marathon before.
Oh what? Marathon? I was surprised, not that I should have but I was!
Yes sir! Marathon!
So you run on Marathons? I asked with a certain tone of excitement.
Yes sir, he said with a typical Sherpa tone
Have you done the Everest Marathon as well?
Ha! Yes sir, I actually was 6th during the Everest Marathon.
That came to me as a surprise, well not that I didn’t think he could not do it but I wasn’t expecting it. He just seemed so simple to me but 6th on Everest marathon is not a joke!
And what’s not a joke is what he told me next! Which was something obscure to me that day, but still something respectable but I had no idea of the scale of it but still I knew what it meant, but when I returned back to Ghandruk after ABC trek I realized what his accomplishment meant.
Sitting under the cold night sky of Chhomrong, he went on to tell me about the ABC marathon he has participated in.
How many days was the Marathon for? I asked
No sir, it was for a day!!
What?? For a day? I thought to myself. But the bewilderment in my face must have reflected back on his face and I didn’t even have to speak, he went on to continue his tales…
Yes sir, we started at 8 am in the morning and by 3:30 we had reached Pokhara!!
What? Pokhara? Bloody hell! I thought to myself with utter amusement.
This guy is a Legend! Yet he told about his achievements like it’s nothing. I brag about doing Gosaikunda trek in a single day, this guy was 6th on Everest Marathon and told it to me in the modest way possible. Thoughts were running crazy in my head. He had to be the simplest of guys I have ever met! And at the end of the trip I did know he was one of the simplest, most humble and one of the nicest person I have ever met.
Over the period of our trek I found out that he had done almost all major peak climbing in Nepal. Sarebung peak, Pisang peak, Mhera peak, Island peak! You name it, he has done it! He could have out-walked us by miles but never did so, his feet were as swift as a Gazelle’s. The way he talked was so respectful and there was always a sense of calm on his face, a tone of happiness with that enormous smile that he wore almost all the time!
What a guy!
This guy!! I definitely have to write about him as well, I thought to myself!! He is such an inspiration.
A sense of respect for him, even more than I had previously appeared in me. From that conversation onward we started talking quite a lot.
The Up and Downhill
The irritating ringtone of my alarm woke me up in the morning. It’s me who picked the ringtone, and I know it’s irritating but it does it work too good. It just wakes you up in a way that you can’t fall asleep again. It was 6:00 am. Had slept in quite late last night, after the long talk with the Marathon runner, I had returned back to my room and read for a while and fell asleep during that period. I just stared at the ceiling for some time, then gather up the will to walk out of the warm blanket. I opened the door which over looked a small balcony of some sort which was the passage way to other rooms. The balcony looking passageway had a front view of the landscape in front of it and I bent in low to look up and saw the Majestic South Annapurna painted in the gold of the suns first light. I rushed back into my room grabbed my camera and started talking shots after shots. The Sherpa dai was right, the view was Awesome, though the peak of Machchapuchhre was hiding behind the clouds I knew it was Machchapuchhre, which did gave a way after few minutes. It was a fine morning. I went down to the kitchen, my breakfast was almost ready! Gurung bread, eggs and beans! I asked for an extra Gurung bread, beans and refilled my cup of tea almost 3 times.
After the breakfast, a quick packing and then I was descending down the stone steps along the old village of Chhormrong. The trail goes directly down from Chhomrong to the river and then back up to the village of Sinuwa. Just like the morning before, there was a downhill at first and then a steep uphill.
This trail is quite different to other routes, goes up and down a lot!
I thought to myself as I crossed the suspension bridge and started climbing up a steep stone steps. The trail was fun though, small stone steps and a harsh smell of mule droppings, well that sounds stinky and crazy but it gives essence to the trekking trails, makes you feel at home or trekking home. A herd of mules carrying gas cylinder had just passed me few minutes ago pooping along the trails to welcome the trekkers I think.
The trails continued upward even after Sinuwa but then near to Bamboo the trails dropped rapidly again, and I knew for sure that the next morning a long and steep climb was ahead of us! When you go down a trekking trail when you’re about to head to a base camp of a mountain! You’ve got to climb back again! And so it was the next morning!
Right when I reached Bamboo, almost 40 meters away from the hotels, it started raining. Though I had forgotten raincoats, I had bought rain plastic back at Chhomrong so I wasn’t worried about the rain at all. I went to a hotel, asked for a room and changed, washed my face and headed to the dining for a cup of tea. The hotel seemed to be freshly renovated, a big dining hall, quite spacious and fresh paints. With a cup of tea in one hand and my phone on the other hand I started reading the book again. Aristotle had just discovered a crazy fact about Dante!! The book was definitely getting more exciting.
My concentration on the book was interrupted by a high pitched sound of the hotel owner’s daughter. She seemed like one of those fun and jolly kind of person who are always excited about everything.
What will you have for dinner brother? She asked with the biggest smile I have ever seen on anyone’s face
I’m not sure, I replied with uncertainty, I definitely don’t feel like eating Dal-Bhat today! What else can I have?
I definitely don’t feel like eating Dal-Bhat today! What else can I have?
You can try our Pizza! She suggested
I had no intention of eating a pizza during the trek but then she mentioned a pizza and the softness of the crust and the cheese in the topping melted in my mouth, I could smell the pizza in my nostrils and taste it in my tongue. There was no returning back now! I had to order the pizza and I did.
Well I definitely wasn’t expecting the Pizza to be as good as the one we’d get here but she reminded me of one and I had to eat one! But to my surprise it turned out to be quite good. I’m not sure how they made it but the crust was soft and the cheese was properly melted, it smelled good and tasted very good. I was genuinely satisfied with the Pizza.
Right at the break of dawn, the trek had commenced again. As I had expected the trails did go up, not steeply but still it did. But the trails from there onward was kind of a proper “Trekking trails”.
Nothing much happened during the trails, in no time I reached a place called “Himalaya”. I have no idea why they call it Himalaya because you can’t actually see “Himalayas” from there. But still it’s quite a good place. I had my lunch there, yet another Dal-bhat! After that my trek continued to Deurali. I had heard that the trail actually goes into proper mountain scenario after Deurali. When I reached deurali the sky wasn’t clear and I didn’t see anything, it was almost about to rain. I hurriedly entered the hotel and asked if they had a room.
All of the “Rooms” are already occupied, but we have extra room at the end of the hotel if you’d be interested, the hotel owner said. I was already inside the hotel and had ordered a black tea which was almost ready, and it had already started raining outside, so going outside to find another hotel was not an effective thing to do, so I decided to stay there.
The “Room” wasn’t that bad though. It was just an extension on the side of the hotel, which did look like a proper room with two beds and a door. But I could see that it was barely used or maybe it was the room that was given to the guides or porters during the trekking seasons. But it didn’t matter much to me, I can compromise when it comes to such things. So I took the room. Later I learned that it was in fact the rooms that was given to guides during trekking seasons. The rooms allocated for porters was outside of the hotel which looked more like a barn. I felt bad about that, it was cold and it had started to rain very heavily after I was in the hotel. The room that I was in was very cold, I could only wonder how cold the barn-y looking room would have been!
Why can’t they just expand the hotel and make a proper room for the Guides/Porters? Just because they are porters doesn’t mean you can push them away from the hotels into the cold of the outside in a barn! Whoever brought them will definitely have to pay for them as well, so why do that? I felt very bad that day.
I was tucked right inside the warm blanket of the “Room” and reading the book. I was almost done with the book, the plot was getting very interesting. A knock on the door was followed by “Your dinner is ready”.
I will be right out!! I said, and got back to my book, completed a page and then headed off to the dining hall. It was only then that I realized that it had snowed like crazy! The pavements right outside the hotel which was clearly visible when I had reached there was now completely covered with snow! I didn’t worry about it too much, I rather went back to my room grabbed my camera took few shots, before I was called again by the hotel staff!!
Your dinner is getting cold!
I’ll be right there! And so I was! After the dinner I stayed back at the dining room.
A group of foreigners were playing “UNO” and having fun! I had been looking at them, well their game, I was quite enjoying their game, and suddenly, may be if she realized that or something along that line, one of the girls invited me to come and play with them. Without any hesitation I agreed and sat beside them to play UNO.
We used to play UNO some 8-9 years ago, back when I was in college, we used to sit in one of the café near my home and play UNO endlessly, it had been years that I had played UNO and I did want to play it so I joined. I do have UNO cards at my home but I don’t have anyone to play with. I’m not sure how long we played the game for but I had fun that night! We did play for a long time, until we were asked to stop playing by the hotel staffs who were supposed to sleep on the dining tables. The game stopped and I headed back to the room after a quick stop at the toilet.
The blanket was super cold and it took me a long time to warm it off, while doing so I managed to read few chapters of the book but then I had to sleep. So had to call it of a day.
A certain cold sensation woke me up in the morning, I had been moving quite a lot to maintain warmth inside the blanket, as the morning was very cold. I looked at my phone and it was 5:51 am, I looked outside the window and it was kind of dark outside, but a thick layer of snow covered the floor. I stayed in the bed for a long time reading the book, by the time I stepped out of the book it was already 6:37 am. I went outside my room and into the dining and ordered a cup of tea, and went outside to see the view. Right outside the hotel door there was a bulk of snow that had dropped off from the slanted steel roof and on the floor there was almost 5-6 inches thick snow. It looked absolutely stunning though!
I returned back to the dining where my tea was waiting for me. I knew I had to drink it soon enough, 2 3 sips and then it would started getting colder. While I was drinking my tea, I overheard few foreigners talking about how bad it could get if it snows heavily in the base camp. One of them was telling the others his experience about his visit few years ago when it snowed heavily and he was stuck for few days that in the end he had to call in a chopper because they just couldn’t clear off all the snow. He went on to say how the trail from Deurali to Machchapuchre base camp could be vulnerable to small scale avalanche after the sun rises properly and it starts getting hotter.
A chill ran down my spine! 2 weeks ago when I was at Mardi high camp a similar situation prevented me from going to the Mardi Base Camp, I was so close yet I had to return and there I was, a day apart from ABC and they were saying it might not be wise to go ahead. But I was in no mood to repeat the Mardi trek again, so I ordered few Gurung bread and headed off, I remembered what he said,
“We have to cross that part and reach MBC before it gets hotter”
I was walking on my own pace when I heard a voice behind me,
You can come along with us, it may be dangerous to wander of alone in the next section, it’s very prone to avalanche, you can tag along with us, we can go together!
I was relieved and I tagged along with them.
The trail was completely covered with snow, from Deurali to ABC, one could barely see the soil of the ground, at least 6 feet of snow stayed between the feet and the ground. By the time the sun was up and it was hot we had reached MBC, the snow was shining so bright that you couldn’t look at it for 3 seconds, thankfully I had somehow managed to bring Goggles this time! I’m not a big fan of them but while walking on the snow, you definitely need one and I had packed one with me this time around.
The struggle had begun, the sun was up and it was getting hotter with time. The snow on the trails had started to melt, which meant only one thing! It would get slippery with time. While I was struggling to climb up a steep hill that was very slippery, a Tibetan Mastiff ran past me very swiftly, it was a very good breed, with a shiny fur, looked perfectly groomed. I love dogs, and I just happened to call all the dogs I see, wherever it is, and I did call the dog, it just excitedly ran towards me as if he had known me for a long time. I played with the dog for a while and then started the trek again. But soon I realized that the dog was now following me. If I stopped it would stop and if I walked it would walk. I would walk along and then walk slowly, the dog would walk past me but few feet ahead and it would look back and wait for me to start walking again. If I stopped for too long it would just sit on the ground as well.
Playing along with the dog I headed to MBC, I ordered the lunch, and while I was basking in the sun outside the hotel, the dog waited for me on the trails. I took a photo of the dog right in front of the Machchapuchhre. After the lunch as soon as I started my trek the dog joined in. It would walk past me and then look around as if searching for something, but if I was too slow it would wait for me. Dogs are awesome! The dog didn’t even know me and was treating me and playing with me as if I had been his master forever. The dog really made that part of the trek memorable! It did follow me to Annapurna Base Camp.
I didn’t see him the next morning though!
Annapurna Base Camp
The Final Destination
The final destination and the highlight of the trip. Before too long, I had reached Annapurna Base Camp from Machchapuchhre Base Camp. From distance, it looked as if the hotels of the base camp were right on the base of the South Annapurna. The sky was clear, few clouds wandered far away from the mountains, as if intimidated by the mountains and too scared to get close to them. The view from Annapurna Base Camp was absolutely stunning, almost a 360 degree view of snow clad mountains. The massive South Annapurna right in front of you and the 10th highest mountain the Annapurna I right on the side of the Annapurna South. Machchapuchre peeking in from behind with that massive prominence.
The blue steel room of the hotels were the only dots on the white canvas of snow. The most satisfying scene a mountain lover could see.
The Frozen Shoes
Walking all day definitely will bring out the sweats in you, especially on the feet. Nothing stinks more like the socks at the end of the day, and while trekking in cold region, it’s not easy to wash your socks every day. I usually take 4-5 pairs and reserve one strictly for the night time, and use others for walking. But just changing the socks doesn’t mean your legs won’t stink if you don’t wash it. What stinks more is your shoes and the socks you wore all day. So during any trek I usually keep my shoes outside the room. It works out most of the time, and funnily enough, which I should have realized, I left the shoes outside the room at Annapurna Base Camp as well.
Back in the morning when I wanted to put the shoe on, I could barely open the shoes to fit my legs in, the shoes had completely frozen. They were wet with all the walk in the snow during the other day. Well I had to wear the shoes, I had to find a way to get my legs inside the shoes. So with a hope of de-freezing it, I started to hit my shoes on the floor. Right when I hit the shoes hard of the floor, the shoelace of broke into half! Ha! It was then, the Sherpa dai came in and said
Don’t hit your shoes on the floor like that it will break! I have seen that happen a lot! Just keep it near the fire for a while and it will be fine!
Gladly, my shoes didn’t break into half, I didn’t have extra shoes. Few minutes in front of the heater and they were back to normal! Cold, but back to normal!
Sliding down the trails
Going up was a torture in the mid-day heat, but coming back down was fun! Though it was slippery, you could slide off the snow down to the bottom. Easy and fun!!
Getting right down from the base camp was fun as well but slippery fun. I left in quite late since I had to take lots of photos and videos. By the time I was back to the hotel most people had already left and the trail was getting even more slipper with the warmth of the sun. But since, you fall down anyways with the slippery ice, why not slide down the hills?
I was almost near to the MBC, when I saw a group of foreigners, sliding off the top of a hill on a Frisbee, I wanted to try that as well so I asked them to lend me the Frisbee for a while and slid off the hill! One of the best thing I have ever done! It was almost as a poor man’s ski/snowboarding. The trip back to MBC from ABC didn’t take long with all the sliding and slipping!
Finding a Room
The slipping and sliding continued till Deurali and from there onwards it was just a fun walk down to Bamboo. By the time we had reached Bamboo, it was almost 3 pm. I had started the trek at the dawn of a new trekking season, there weren’t many trekkers there. By the time I was back to Bamboo almost all of the hotels were occupied. I had told the hotel owner, where I previously stayed to reserve a room for me, but then a group of Korean tourists had arrived and my room was gone. Yet again, right when I reached Bamboo, it had started to rain, gently soaked in rain I wandered around the settlements to find a room. At the end of the search if there were no rooms, I would have to sleep on the dining as well. Not that I had a problem with that but still, a personal room would be better as long as you can find one!
A small hotel on the side of that hotel I previously stayed, had rooms!
Can you wait 2 hours? The owner asked
I knew what that meant! It was only 3 pm and he was hoping to get few foreigners, so by 5 pm or so if there were no foreigners, I’d get the room!
For all that time, I stayed in the dining, well if someone did came along, I’d have to sleep on the dining anyways. I had just finished “Aristotle and Dante Discover the secrets of the Universe” and had started reading Murakami. I was sipping a cup of tea in the dining hall and reading a book when few foreigners entered the room.
There goes my room! I thought to myself. But few minutes later I realized that they had been there before me. So the hope still lingered.
All of them exchanged a smile with me and a typical “Namaste” of the trekking routes. I shook my head and said Namaste, got back to my book.
I was lost in the story, the plot is too good and keeps you exited to know what’s coming. When I looked up, the room was filled with more foreigners. A Japanese guy was sitting right in front of me. He smiled at me, I smiled back.
Where are you from? He said with a broken English and definitely a Japanese tone.
Nepal! I replied, he seemed surprised.
I get that a lot while trekking, most people think I’m an Israeli. Once during a trek to Gosaikunda, a middle eastern man walked up to me and said something in a different Language.
I said “Sorry, I didn’t understand”
With a surprised look he said, “Sorry! Aren’t you from Jordan?”
He burst out in laughter when I said I was from Nepal, and said something in his language and shook his head!
Have a nice trip bro! He headed off to his destination.
I had a nice conversation with the Japanese guy, one, I can speak Japanese and next I love that country and the people. It was fun to practice my already weak and forgotten Japanese.
The conversation was interrupted by the hotel owner, who walked into the room with a wooden key ring with a small key attached to the end of it. The wooden key ring had a number carved in it.
Room number 5.
Back to the Books
It was quite a good room, with two beds and a small table on the side. I changed my clothes and tucked right under the blanket. There wasn’t much to do so I got back to my book.
1Q84 – By Haruki Murakami
I looked back at my phone and pressed on the Ebook reader app, the front library opened up. What looks like a bookshelf on the front end displayed few books and on the top of the self it read
Page 445 of 3112
3112? I have been reading it for few days, have I just completed 445 pages? And 3112 pages? Boy, this book is big!
But the story line was getting more captivating and I didn’t care much so I got back to the book.
Which continued for the most part of the night and the next morning and during the evening and the night in Chhomrong.
For Dust I have Kathmandu no?
The trails from Chhomrong to Ghandurk was fun, a gentle climb at first and then leading on to a descent down to the Kimrong River and a steep climb upto the Komrong dada. The descent was fun but, there seemed to be a small landslide and a new trail had recently been carved, which meant there were dust. I’m used to such scenarios and I knew what would happen if you walked last, so I rushed in in front of few people, I think there were two, and then started walking ahead. Even my own footsteps were blowing the dust right in front of me. There was a thick layer of dust almost 3 4 inches, the feet would thrust right into it, dispersing the gust of dirt into the trails.
A foreigner rushed in ahead of me, looked back, smiled and said
For Dust I have Kathmandu no?
I smiled and said “well yeah! But this is fun isn’t it?
She surely didn’t think it was fun, but she laughed and said, Yes it is!
I was about to ask her if they had such dusty trekking trails where ever she came from. But I kept it to myself. Which made me think about how the trekking trails in other countries are? They should have dirt too right? If someone runs along the trails there should be dust as well?
The roads must have dirt as well? But why aren’t the roads dusty there? Will Kathmandu and our country stay like that forever? How would we get rid of it? May be use a large vacuum to suck the dirt right of the ground and dispose it somewhere? Thoughts were racing along my head when I was interrupted by a voice.
Which way to Chhomrong? An Asian woman was smiling at my face.
This is the way to Chhomrong, I replied.
She was alone, mid forty I guess with a radiant and beautiful face. The smile she wore was perfect as if she smiled for eternity. The funny thing was that she wasn’t wearing any shoes.
No shoes? I asked
No shoes! More comfortable! She replied and turned around and started walking!
Be careful on the dirt, you might step on something, she looked back at me, bowed and said something in Korean, I think she meant thank you! I smiled looked at my shoes, completely covered in dirt and kept walking!
The Second Last Day
The same irritating alarm of mine woke me up at 6:30 am in the morning. I had slept in early last night. After descending down to the Kimrong khola it was a gradual uphill to Komrong dada and then a descent down into yet another river and a gentle walk up to the Village of Ghandruk.
I had been to Komrong dada few years ago, almost 5 if I can remember well. The place looked completely new to me. I had a beautiful photo of that place from 5 years ago and I took a similar shot from the same place but that turned out to be off by few meters.
Like a flashback the memories came back to me from my last trip to the place. Instead of staying at Ghandruk, we had trekked to the small hotel on the top of the hill right in the middle of a forest. A beautiful retreat, with an amazing view of South Annapurna. Running along the stone steps in the morning into the village of Ghandruk- it was one fun trip. But now here I am walking along the same trails yet somehow I feel like I’m in a new place.
Ghandruk looked quite different as well, though I was there just 11 months ago. The last hotel I stayed at wasn’t that good so I looked for new one and found on which wasn’t the best hotel either but was good enough. The room looked nice, the bathroom was spacious and had hot water. Which actually took me about 5 minutes to figure out on how to turn the hot water on. But when I did, I think I stayed there for about an hour. The last time I took a bath was back at Jhinu dada, not sure how long it had been but I enjoyed every single drop of hot water droplets. A mandatory cup of tea after the shower was enough to warm the body from the inside. I took my camera and went around the village, though the mountains were hiding behind the clouds, I took few shots of the villages and people. On returning back to the hotel, it was time to read the book again. Called upon the dinner time I had my meal and went to bed directly setting up the alarm at 6:30. The morning was cool, not very cold and not warm enough. The sky wasn’t particularly clear, South Annapurna was visible but Machchapuchhre hid behind the clouds. Which opened up after a while though. The second last day of my trip, I had a short trek ahead of me, a short descent to Birethanti and then a short walk to Nayapul, from there I would head off to Pokhara.
I ordered few Gurung breads, a boiled egg and a cup of tea. Packed my bags and left Ghandruk. I hadn’t previously done the Ghandruk-Birethanthi walk. I had been to Ghandruk many times but every single time I took a bus back to Pokhara that is why I wanted to talk down to Birethanthi this time and half way through the walk I realized that I should have taken the bus. As I started walking down from the Ghandurk village, I again found myself in a new place, after walking for about 10 minutes the small trails suddenly expanded into these recently constructed large roads with boulders and stones across the road. The trails were barely 4-5 feet wide as I remember but now it’s almost as if a two lane road. Good or bad? That’s a question of debatable subject.
The first half of the walk upto Syauli bazar is fun with stone steps trails leading down to the village but after that it was just a dusty road. It was kind of boring and I just hoped that Birethanti was near, but it wasn’t. But finally I reached Birethanthi, stopped for a while and looked around for a while. The place kind of looked similar to how it was 5 years ago, at least to me or I was just not paying attention to much details or too tired or hungry. A short walk to the Nayapul and I was on the bus to Pokhara.
Less than two hours and I reached Pokhara. Found a decent hotel to stay, took a hot shower and then headed off to the lake side. I met some friends had a good time and headed back to the hotel. When I’m in Pokhara I always go to the 24 hot Sandwich, I had a large sandwich on the way to the hotel and a cup of hot lemon and that was it.
The Journey Back Home
I decided to head home as early as I could, because I wanted to avoid the late night traffic and then the traffic at Kalanki. The last time I was in Pokhara I reached Kathmandu at 10:30 and had to pay twice the amount of the fare for the taxi than I paid to go to Kathmandu from Pokhara. I strictly wanted to avoid that scenario, if I reached early I could get a microbus back to home.
The ride back to Kathmandu was a normal one, nothing much happened, no traffic jams nothing! I just sat on the bus reading the book, at times checking my emails and twitter. Had a good meal at the same restaurant from before and reached Kathmandu in time.
All in all the trek was amazing! Had tons of fun in different way, learned a lot at the same time. Met new people, learned about their experiences. Saw new places and most importantly learned to live alone while trekking. I am definitely not the person who could trek alone or barely walk alone, I need to talk a lot. But during this trek I managed to do it alone, well I had the books but still it was just by myself. The reason I decided to make the title of the story “The Road Mostly Travelled” is when I was in the hotel bored and lost, and when I decided to read a book, the first book on my app’s bookshelf was “The Road Less Travelled” by M. Scott. Peck. There I was on one of the busiest and most travelled trekking destination and yet I was alone. So the title stuck out to be “The Road Mostly Travelled”. Much of the small events has been left out of the story because I wanted to keep it as short as possible but if this story does receive a good response, I might as well extend it in a different way.