Nepal Trip Day 3, Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 1
We slept very well that night, well we did, Jenny got woken up by a bunch of noisy tourists who were leaving early in the morning. HAHHAHA.. That’s two nights in a row now. After breakfast, we took a 90 min drive to Nayapul.. and then we started our trek for real (or so we thought).
It turns out, the first bit of the trek was to Birethanti which is not considered part of the trek. And there we were thinking, this isn’t too bad. HAHAH. Little did we know, the trek only begins at Birethanti after you’ve checked in with the tourism office.
The real beginning bit of our trek looked like something out of the Lord of the Rings set. It felt like we were walking in the shire in Middle Earth. I couldn’t help humming the shire theme as we walked here.
Unfortunately Jenny’s shoe fell apart while we were walking and we had to wait for our porters to catch up to grab our repair kit out of the bags they were carrying. Au Chew Travel Tip: Always bring a shoe repair kit with things like super glue and duct tape on these trips.
Then it was time for lunch. Jet had mixed fried noodles, I had mixed fried rice Jenny has chicken fried rice and the boys had dhal bat..They were telling us that they eat dhal bat for every meal (excluding breakfast) and we couldn’t figure out how they didn’t get bored eating the same thing over and over again. We would soon come to understand this.
This is quite amazing, the place we had lunch had a school nearby, but the houses were nowhere in sight. Lama explained that the kids had to walk up and down the trails that we’ve been walking to get to school and back home, EVERY DAY. We were gobsmacked.
Lama told us at our nightly after dinner briefing that we’d face 4000 steps on this trail and after lunch we soon found out he wasn’t kidding.. It was steps after steps after steps! and very steep too! I had to stop so many times, it was embarrassing and when we got overtaken by some local old ladies, I just wanted to crawl into the ground and stay there.
About mid way up the stairs, the mules / donkeys we had seen earlier had caught up with us. Lama had warned us earlier that if we were to see donkeys / mules / horses etc, always hug the wall or at least walk on the inner side of the trail. People have been pushed off by them and it’s a long way down. The good thing about donkeys / mules / horses is there you’ll always hear them coming cause the owners always put bells on them. The bad thing is, it’s really noisy when you’ve got a herd of them near you!!
So with this herd of mules, we decided to try to stay in front of them, and that worked for a while but soon, they started walking with us which wasn’t great cause the path is quite narrow. We decided to let them pass first, but we soon realise walking behind them wasn’t a good idea either. The mules will find any opportunity to stop and eat. Walking behind them means we have to wait for them to graze or their herder to hurry them along. And because they keep eating.. well, what goes in, must come out. YEAH. THE SMELL OF FRESH MULE POOP IS NOT SOMETHING I’D EVER NEED TO SMELL AGAIN. OMG. Not to mention we now had to watch every step so we didn’t walk onto it.
Lama explained that as it was already the tail end of the climbing season, quite a number of the locals that live along the trek had gone back down to the towns etc and would only return when the climbing season reopened. This explained a number of closed hospital / medical center and guest houses along the way. One of the strange sights we saw along the way was a closed church with the words Merry Xmas on the window.
Somewhere around this point of this climb I was so hungry that I could not go on. We were told we were going to reach the guest house soon (like 10 mins) but I was so exhausted that I was like no just give me food now. Jet took out my snack pack which contained my trusted Jacob’s crackers and Toblerone chocolate. Once I had some food in me, I felt revived and got my second wind. Au Chew Travel Tip: Always have your snack pack with you and eat when you’re hungry!
When we got to this 10 min away guest house (located in Uleri), we were told they didn’t have any space!! I was so glad I had my chocolate earlier. We were also quite thankful not to have stayed there as it was full of noisy tourists with kids.
30 mins later, we finally reached our lodge (located in Banthanti) and saw some crazy people playing volley ball. Strangely the first thing we heard was a Singaporean accent in the midst of all yelling.. Loo and behold we meet a Singaporean couple staying there. We also met a Japanese girl travelling alone and a motley crew of Ang mohs from various parts of Europe. I love the name of our lodge Heaven View Guest house! I think it’s quite apt.
As Lama put it, we deserved a hot shower after that crazy hike. He also managed to get us rooms with attached toilets (not showers) with is a real bonus on these treks. As it was quite late, the clouds had already descended so there wasn’t much of a view. But the rooms were really nice.
After a nice hot steaming shower, it was time for dinner, Jet and I had dhal bat with chicken. Jenny had dhal bat with vege and we ordered a portion of sukuthi to share. While waiting for the food we snuck into the kitchen to see them prepare and they allowed us to take a photo.
The Ang Mohs sat next to us during dinner and we found out they were trekking without a guide and all 4 of them had different trip lengths. The Ang Mohs then tried to play citadel. Well one of them tried to teach the other 3 how to play and took so long to explain it that I think they eventually gave up. They asked if we wanted to play as well but after listening to the instructions the first time, we decided not to.
Then Lama came over to give us our nightly briefing for the next day’s trek, we realised we had climbed about 1000m vertically today. We started at Birenthanti which is approx 1100m above sea level and heaven view which is at Banthanti is approx 2200m above sea level. During our briefing, you could see the Ang Mohs perk up and one of them started asking Lama a bunch of questions. It was around this time I think they gave up playing Citadel and we decided it was time for bed!
The Au Chews went to Nepal in end April – early May 2013. This is day 2 of our Nepal adventure!
Despite being extremely tired, we all slept badly on our first night in Nepal. It started with some annoying guests who came back at 1 am then there were the dogs and more dogs and then the birds (yes BIRDS!!). All of us gave up and woke up at 5 am although we still had one more hour to sleep. We (esp Jenny) would soon learn that this would be a regular occurrence).
Breakfast was a giant box of bread and croissants which we packed along with us and then it was time to get onto the bus to Pokhara. TZ and Lama came to pick us up and brought us to the tour bus street? it wasn’t exactly a bus station and more like a bunch of tour buses parked along a road. The tricky thing is to make sure you get on the right bus. AU CHEW TRAVEL TIP: Most tour buses to Pokhara leave at 7am so getting there early is important.
While waiting for the bus to set off, we saw lots of hawkers walking up and down the street selling bread, fruits and even hot tea. One of the guys was selling berries and I was so tempted to go down and grab some cause they looked so good. Then Jet reminded me about the incredible dust on the street and how the berries were likely to be coated in them as well. With no place to rinse them, I gave up on the idea.
It was an 7plus / 8 hour uneventful bus ride with some break stops in between. Seeing how we had such great sleep the night before, most of us quickly knocked out on the bus.
As we moved further away from Kathmandu, the scenery got greener.
About one hour away from Pokhara, it started to rain heavily, and then it HAILED! That was a pretty amazing sight. Little did we know (again!) that is was a sign of things to come. Thankfully it stopped by the time we reached Pokhara and all we got was the nice cool after rain effect.
We stayed at Hotel Meera in Pokhara. Like our other hotel, it was nice and clean, spacious with our own bathrooms. I don’t know what Jenny is doing here.. or why she is doing it, I blame the long bus journey.
These Buddhist prayer wheels can be found all around Nepal and we saw them mainly at entrances of buildings. We knew it was good luck to spin these wheels when walking past them (and Jet was really enthusiastic about it) what we didn’t realise was that like most things in Nepal, you only spin it on the right side and with your right hand, not with the left! When La Ma explained it to us much later, we all had a *facepalm* moment. DOH!
We had some R&R time before meeting La Ma for a short walk about and dinner. No surprizes what we did! Shopping!! It started to rain again so we ducked into a cafe for a snack. Notice the shopping bags next to Jenny!
Then it was time to head back to meet La Ma and our porters. La Ma introduced us to one of our porters of the trip Chandra (the other guy, Dil couldn’t make it) and then it was off to see a bit of the touristy sights and DINNER!
Lama brought us to see Phewa lake which had a temple in the middle of it which you can rent boats to get to. There were a few options for boat rental including rowing there yourself (!!). As it had started to drizzle again, we went off to get some dinner!.
Lama brought us to his aunty ‘s shop got some authentic local food. Ladies and Gents, consider this a public service announcement. FISHTAIL MOMO RESTAURANT IS POKHARA’S HIDDEN GEM. YOU MUST GO THERE IF YOU ARE EVER IN POKHARA.
We started with some Gorkha brand beer with some roasted soy nuts,
Followed by buffalo mo mos,
Sukuthi – smoked buffalo cooked with spices. I still dream of this dish!!
Buff chilli and chow mien.
I don’t know why we don’t have any photos of the chow mien but it looks and tastes like our fried noodles. Au Chew Travel Tip: Pokhara rations the use of electricity in town by having scheduled power shut downs everyday. Your hotel should have the schedule available at the front desk. This is important so you know what time the street lights will go out etc. That day, the power shutdown was from 6pm to 9pm so we had a romantic dinner by candle light.
So sometime last year, we (read: Jet) decided to go Nepal for a trek. yes just like that we decided to do it. Our friend Jenny who was also keen to go, told us it would be fun.. FUN! we just needed to train a little bit before we went (read: go climb bt timah hill or walk from bt timah to and back every week for the months leading to the trip –____-). So on 27th April 2013, after about 6 months of “training”, it was time to fly to the land of the yaks and mountains.
The trip started with us flying into Kathmandu in the early afternoon. First impression: OMG it’s so hot!!.. And dusty too! Met Jenny’s friend, Tenzeng (who was also the owner of the treking company we had booked with) outside the airport and he brought us to check into the guest house. We stayed at International Guest House and it was super nice and clean!
While waiting for the hotel porter to bring up our bags, we realised we forgot to do one important thing. WE DIDNT HAVE ANY LOCAL CURRENCY ON US. We ended up giving him 5 usd as a tip –_____-. Lesson one of the day: always change money first!!
We had some R&R time before meeting TZ and our guide in the evening so we quickly went out to change money (HA!) and do some shopping at the touristy district Thamel. The shopping expedition did not start off too well as we were harassed by a local when we were at the money changers. He wanted a “commission” for “bringing” us to a money changer even though we walked in to the outlet ourselves. Jet told him to bugger off but he continued to follow us. At this time, Jenny showed her dark side and gave him a stern warning, telling him that if he kept it up we were going to go back to the money changer and demand a refund. He left us alone after that. Lesson two of the day: never piss off Jenny, esp when she’s on holiday!
We wandered into a bookshop cause Jen and Jenny both wanted to get postcards. Jenny was sending two back to her friend so I decided to do the same.. sent one the Mom since her’s was the only address I could remember. haha.
We continued walking along the touristy shopping district as Jenny and Jet were also looking for some trekking pants. After going to a few shops, it dawned on me that the two of them did not know the exchange rate even though they had just changed money earlier on. So basically they were going around asking how much this and that were without any clue how much the shop keepers wanted to charge them. -_________-. And when they attempted to calculate the rate, they both got it wrong cause according to them, the shop keepers were selling a pair of pants for 680 sgd.
Luckily the shop keeper realized what they were doing and told us he would help us check the papers for the rate. At the same time, I decided to calculate the rate myself and realised the rate was 1sgd to 68 rup.. Jet’s calculation was the opposite.. And he works in a bank! Then it dawned in us how cheap things were. One “genuine” North Face pants was about 20sgd. I also found a shop that had dresses in lovely prints like Desigual.. Guess who went mad in there. Lesson three of the day: calculate the bloody exchange rate before going shopping. SIGH you’d think this was our first time travelling anywhere ever.. SERIOUSLY.
Then it was back to the hotel to wash up and meet our guide, Lama and TZ. Guide is very young and good looking! asked Jet if I could do a one for one exchange. Cause he was also clearly as cute and young like the guide. He wasn’t too impressed with my idea.
Lama had a climbing competition at the Astrek Climbing Wall before dinner so we went along to cheer him on. The climbing wall is housed at the Belgium Consulate and there’s even a cafe there as well. OMG those people are mad crazy. The way they went up the wall, you think they had all been bitten by a radioactive spider or something. The climbing community also had a very island life / carefree feel to them. It felt like I was back the dive shops in Tioman.. Then it was time for dinner!!
Dinner was fantastic! We had a traditional Nepali meal Dhal bhat (which literally means rice and lentil / bean curry) but with all the bells and whistles. it even came with a cultural performance during dinner. Dinner started with an appetizer sample set consisting of a really spicy chicken dish, millet rice, mo mos (dumpings), pickles and nuts.
the dhal bhat consisted of Aloo Gobi, chicken curry, wild boar, spinach.and of course rice with dhal! It was really yummy. And I think I liked the wild boar the most.. Wild boar fat is damn nice..mmm. They also had is drink a shot of raksi which is some potent liquor that tastes like vodka and sake. that is supposed to keep you warm in a cold night. We also had some local beer which made Jenny and Jet very happy. HAHHA