Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit: The Rhythm of Trekking (Days 5-6)

This is the third of a few blog posts that are after-the-fact transcribed from my trekking notes. Some are more complete posts, some are more thoughts along the road as Sister2 and I take on Nepal for a month!

Day 5
We've now settled into our own rhythm of trekking. Our alarm goes off at 6:15 am and we start stuffing our sleeping bags and packing our packs. At 6:30 we make our way to the guest house restaurant, where the proprietress serves us hot milk tea (add two spoonfuls of sugar), followed by whatever we ordered for breakfast the night before. So far "apple oat porridge" is a total win, as is cornbread, which comes like a crispy round inflated flat bread made of corn flour, slathered in local honey. After breakfast we finish packing, tie on our boots, pay our bill (usually around $12-20 US, including dinner, hotel, and breakfast), and hit the trail at 7:20.

We hike (trek?) steadily all morning, stoping for brief bathroom or photo breaks along the way, sometimes talking, sometimes singing, sometimes silent (things can get VERY silly when you spend days in the wilderness together). Around 10 am we find a nice place to sit and have a packs-off cookie break -- packaged cookies of the sort I would never eat in America, but in Asia we eat them by the sleeve. Preferably dipped in peanut butter with maybe a handful of golden raisins too (if you trek, BRING SNACKS. Trust me.).

An hour or so later we stop at a guest house for tea and lunch -- two cups of milk tea and a plate of potato veg momos (dumplings) dipped in barbecue sauce-like ketchup and green chili sauce. Getting our food can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, which is fine because we're in no hurry!


After lunch we hike for however long it takes to reach our day's destination, dictated by the distance between villages. Some villages are just a collection of clap-board guest houses, clearly created in response to trekker tourism demands. Others are more established, especially later along the trail, built into hillsides of rock and wood. All the guest houses are essentially the same (it's all regulated, including menus and prices, by the Nepal Tourism Board), but we shop around anyways to find the best one. Pros: a clean(ish) toilet near our room, a restaurant with a view, cheap. Cons: potential for loudness, dirty bathrooms, too many stairs, other people (other trekkers mean sharing the shared bathroom...mmmk no thanks).

Pagoda along the trail.

We get a room with two twin beds, and settle in for some napping/reading/writing time. (I am now writing this from such a position, looking out my window at Upper Pisang, a village built into a hillside toothpicked with vertical prayer flags and backed by rocky mountains and fronted by terraced fields. It really looks like something out of Lord of the Rings.)

Around 4:30 or 5 we'll take our deck of cards to the dining room, order two milk teas (our third each for the day) and our dinner of choice from the extensive but simple menu (combinations of veg, potato, pasta, egg, rice, bread, etc.). We sip our tea while waiting and playing Gin, the only/best card game we know. Dinner can take a long time, and whenever it finally comes we get SO excited. So far our favorite (i.e. the most satisfying) is "potato veg egg," which is a plate of boiled then fried (I'm guessing) local potatoes, greens, and scrambled egg.

After dinner we head back to our room to read for a bit, maybe split a chocolate bar, and then go to sleep by 9 pm at the latest. Trekking is exhausting!

Day 6

Today we made it to Manang (a day ahead of schedule because we're champions). We ran into some other trekkers along the way, who were super-social as these sort of people (travelers) tend to be. Talking to them was nice for a bit, but meh, Sister2 and I like each other and are cool with only talking to ourselves...basically we both dread forced social time and potentially awkward or icky interactions, so we tend to keep to ourselves.

It's amazing how much the landscape had changed. We've gone from humid almost tropical rain forest, to lush farmlands, to pine trees and rocks and altitude! On our way to Pisang we passed a huge smooth rock face that I think was created by a glacier, and took a beautiful nap (beautiful for experience and location) at the base of Annapurna IV.

Sister2, Beautiful Nap Time.
Oh and we splurged on dinner in Manang and went for the house specials: a yak cheese quesadilla (that's right, YAK CHEESE), and veg yak cheese fajitas! I'm pretty sure Nepalis have no idea what real Mexican food tastes like, but it was a valiant effort and well-worth the $6 a plate!