Hike, pedal, paddle

Trip Start Dec 28, 2004
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Saturday, December 10, 2005

well here i am alive and well after what turned out to be a 7 day trek through the himalayas that covered about 50 miles. now before everyone says what a stud i am for doing this trek in the mountains i need to add 2 disclaimers. the first is that i took a flight from about 5,000 feet elevation to 12,000 feet elevation to begin the trek so i kind of cheated. the second disclaimer is that every 2 or 3 hours there are villages with at least one hostel so its not like i was carrying camping gear and summiting everest. now with those disclaimers out of the way let me tell you what a stud i am.........

i started off by taking a half hour flight up into the mountains and was dropped off at a village called jomsom. it was a fun flight because we actually cruised in and out of the mountain range....if you need a visual reference go watch the second indiana jones movie. upon landing i got my backpack that was 2/3's empty (most of my stuff was left behind at the hotel in pokhara) and i started in on the trek. i actually headed north for one day (and up hill) because there was a holy city and was interesting scenery since i had gotten above the watershed and was now in part of the tibetan plateau desert. i have taken many many pictures but i dont think any of them will convey how big these mountains are ( i know im repeating myself but jesus they are big). i had decided not to hire a guide since the trail was very well marked and the few places that it did split and you were in doubt you just had to follow the donkey crap. So no guide, and i would feel like such a lazy bastard if i hired a porter (about 70% of the people i saw had someone else carrying their bag) so i was by myself with the occasional trekking group or mule train of supplies to keep me company. the solitude was astounding and i had nothing but my mind and my thoughts to keep me company as i strained my neck to see the tops of the surrounding mountains. the first night was spent at about 13,500 feet elevation and it was FREEZING up there. luckily i had the forsight to bring sweats and a pair of socks or i would have been in some deep trouble. the hostel i stayed in provided 3 thick blankets at night and it was still a bit chilly as i lay in bed and listened to the tinkling of the buffalos bells

the second day i turned around and retraced my steps back to jomsom and then a bit further past that town to a village called marpha which is famous for its apple orchards. me and 3 people from holland that i met decided on some apple cider...thinking it was like the american version. well little did i know that it was actually hard alcohol and tasted like apple flavored gasoline. that night i went out on the roof of the building and looked up at the stars and was dumbfounded. 12,000 feet elevation...cold clean air above you and no lights from the village provided the most amazing panorama of stars. you could clearly make out the shapes of the surrounding mountains just from the lack of stars glittering in that particular direction.

the first few days were actually pretty flat as far as the hiking trail was concerned. flat and relatively wide spaced provided for easy trekking. around day 3 or so the path narrowed and became more congested with long mule trains going in either direction. at some points there was enough room for you and the mules to co exist but at others you had to stop and let them pass you and when there was multiple herds going in either direction you might as well sit down for a minute. the places where the bottlenecks really got bad were the narrow suspension bridges that crisscrossed the river. it could take quite awhile for some mules to cross those things.

the path also changed from the flat dirt track along the riverbanks to steep staircases going both up and down the mountain sides. in the long run i was losing elevation but i still spent half the day climbing stairs just to descend their counterparts a few 100 meters later. and when i say stairs i am using the loosest interpretation of the word. usually very roughly hewn stones spaced into stairs that dug into your feet, especially while descending and all your weight coming down on them. the last few days was a contest of pain....which would hurt more, my calves or the bottoms of my bruised feet. if i gained anything i think i have totally overcome any sense of fear over heights. you just find yourself traipsing along this trail that is maybe 3 feet wide and on the other side is a 200 meter drop and it didnt even phase me after awhile. it used to be that if i got near the edge of a long drop my legs would get a bit queasy but halfway through this trek i had half my feet hanging over the edge as i peered down into the churning water of the river that carved that particular canyon.

as i travel i have never been one to really get too into the cultural aspect of the countries i visit. i mean the differences are interesting but im not going to go out of my way to visit some long forgotten tribe. in nepal the treks bring you through villages that are just amazing with their complete lack of modern life. yes all the villages i came through had electricity and i cant really blame them for wanting that but for the most part these people are living off the land, using their buffalo and ox to plow the fields....its all so traditional and unchanged its amazing. yes i suppose nepal is a poor country but thats when you compare it to the u.s. or europe. if a family has their land and some livestock then why do they need the 2.5 cars and the time share? who is better off?

the last day was spent in a village called tratoponi which is nepali for "hot water" as the name lets on, there are hotsprings in this here hills and i cant even begin to tell you how nice it was to sit in 109 degree water while watching the stars come out, feeling the muscles and knots trying to untie each other. the only bad thing was every time i came out of the water to cool off i would almost pass out. not sure why this kept happening and it got bad enough that i finally left the water and got my sweats back on.

this really was an amazing time, i dont think i can elaborate nearly enough to make it clear to everyone. as i hiked and stood in the shadows of these behemouth mountains i just had the constant mental chant of "i love my live" repeating over and over. i must have said that to myself hundreds of times as i kept being confronted with the most amazing scenery on earth. in all my other travels so far ive found you really dont have to put anything into it. you can show up in thailand and sit on the beach and have a good time or take a long bus ride to malaysia and be happy, but in nepal you have to get off your ass and actually put something into it, hike or pedal or paddle.......but man the rewards are the most unbelievable things.
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