Photos from the Shoebox: Annapurna Trek, Nepal 1990
If you had a 35mm camera you probably have a shoebox full of pictures that you never got around to sorting and putting in an album. In this series “Photos from the Shoebox” I take them out of the closest and shine light on them once more.
The Annapurna is a section of the Himalayas where many trekkers of all skill levels find their nirvana. They say about two-thirds of all trekkers who Nepal visit this region. My friend and I were no exception.
Before our trek we had gone on an rafting trip so this was our second time going to Pokhara from Kathmandu. The bus ride was as rough as ever but at least we didn’t break an axle. Along the way we picked up about 35 white water rafters and changed to a bigger bus. It gave me the opportunity to ride on top of the bus and is something I’ve always wanted to do. We still had about 100 km and three hours to go but I was excited. We rolled into camp around 6:30pm and the view from the top of the bus of the setting sun over the Annapurna range was so unbelievable I forgot how cold I was.
We camped beside beautiful Pohkara Lake and settled in as dusk arrived. Our motley little group is made up of a young ‘left of centre’ Swiss guy, an Englishman and Dutchman in their early 30’s who we think are old geezers and our guides Jo from the Solomon Islands and Leroy a Kiwi. The next ten days are going to be hell.
We take a breather and enjoy the view overlooking the Modi Khola valley.
We make it to Forest Camp. We’re sitting in this frigging tent and it’s bloody raining outside. I’m freezing, tired and damp – a splendid combination. We’re at 2,600 m and the climb was not as bad as I thought it would be. At least there isn’t many leeches although one did land on my boot.
It’s only our second day and I feel horrible. Last night I indulged in a little too much Khukri Rum and now I’m paying for it. The porters broke out the cards and the rum started to flow. It was all too easy to indulge. Before I knew it I was waking up in a freezing tent without any recollection of the previous night. Oh, my aching head!
At High Camp Mt. Machhapuchhare looks awesome.
It’s a hard climb up a steep trail but we reach the base of Mardi Himal. We started walking at 6:30am so we could get a good view of the Annapurna range. We are up around 4,500 m and damn it’s cold. The sound of silence is incredible. Occasionally the silence is be broken by the crash of an avalanche. I don’t feel any effects from the altitude but others feel light-headed, complain of headaches and have a little trouble breathing. To celebrate reaching the highest point of our trek our Swiss companion, Oliver, blows up a condom.
With our low-tech, rented and borrowed gear we make it!
Upon return to High Camp from our trek to the top, thick clouds move in and it snows heavily for 2 hours. A snowball fight erupts first between us trekkers and then with our guides, cooks and porters. Good fun!
On our descent we hike through a gorgeous valley to get to Mardipul.
We have to cross bridges of all kinds – from bamboo lashed to rickety plank suspension bridges.
The average life expectancy of the Nepalese is around 49 years old. My travelling buddy, Janice, pointed to a woman and asked me how old I thought she was. Her face was deeply lined. I guessed she was somewhere in her 30’s but I found out she’s only 22!
We pass through a village and get absolutely mobbed as women and children practically force flowered garlands on us and chase us down a hill. We also pass through a school and a field where literally hundreds (a little exaggerated) of school kids surround us.
On our last day we had a long, hot hike back to Pohkara. At the end of a gravel road a jeep was waiting for us. This jeep was probably meant to carry 6 passengers but we managed to squeeze about twice that amount plus all our gear. The road was mostly downhill so the driver never started the jeep until we got to an incline. To add to the challenge the road was blocked in several places by stones, boulders and speed bumps so the driver had to weave back and forth. It was a fitting end to an amazing trek.