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Friday, December 2, 2011

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek : Days 1 and 2 "Dreaming of Annapurna"


Tolka Annapurna Sanctuary Trek
on the way to Tolka

Background: As I've mentioned previously, we were supposed to go to Lukla and do the Everest Base Camp Trek but the weather was not on our side. We waited for two days and decided to just go to Pokhara and do the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek instead. We wanted to do the Annapurna Circuit but we didn't have enough time for it. I've read and watched Michael Palin's Himalaya where he also did the Sanctuary Trek, but the images of the Annapurna Base Camp was never really retained in my memory. Which I think was a good thing as I had no expectation of what the trek or the base camp would look like.

Day 1, Nov 17 : Phedi (1130 m) - Dhampus (1700) - Pothana (1990 m)

We left Pokhara at around 11am and made our way to Phedi, the starting point of the Trek. The guy at our hostel in Pokhara, who used to be a guide, suggested a different itinerary (to start in Naya Pool) from the one in Lonely Planet (LP). It's easier since the one in LP is all uphill and very steep. Justin (a friend we met in Delhi) and Paul wanted to do what the guide suggested. But I really wanted to do the LP version because it will be along small villages, more challenging and it has two suspension bridges to cross. :) (Paul and I agreed that it was a good idea to have started from Phedi as the trail going down to Naya Pool, at the end of our trek, was mostly going down an unfinished road.)

Phedi Annapurna Sanctuary Trek
Phedi - take-off point of the trek

Phedi, a one-hour cab ride from Pokhara, was just a stop on the road. And you can see the start of the trail from there. The trail, more like a stone staircase was very steep. Along the way, we passed by small villages and the view of the rice terraces was great. I'm sure it would have been better if the sky was clear.

Phedi Rice Terraces Annapurna Sanctuary TRek
rice terraces along the trail

After almost two hours, we made our way to the lower part of Dhampus. We stopped a bit and met some young Nepalese and had a good chat with them. I had masala tea to fight the cold weather. After half an hour, we started walking again. It was flat for only five minutes, and everything's uphill again. Along the way we met another man with his father. After discovering that I'm a Filipino, he told me he knows a lot of Filipinos because he worked in Dubai. Now I know why Nepalese like Filipinos. Most Nepalese, just like us, are overseas workers. His favorite Filipino word is "Pare!". And this is just one of the many encounters and warm small talks we had with so many Nepalese who like Filipinos. :)

After ten minutes, we stopped at a checkpost to have our TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card checked. Gave the two people there some Snickers mini-bar and the old man wished me "Good luck and good riddance to you!" We just finished a 550m ascent. So proud of us!

We're now on our way up to Pothana where we're supposed to spend the night. Along the way we saw a signage that said 'Australian Camp' to the left and 'Dhampus' to the right. Justin and I had a different understanding of the map. He went straight to Australian Camp. I waited for Paul. Eventually, he agreed with me that we're supposed to go right. I put down my bag and went on to the Australian Camp Trail. After almost ten minutes, I stopped and shouted Justin's name. I decided to go back after that since it was already getting dark and I didn't have my headlamp with me.

After less than ten minutes we found Pothana! I felt relieved that at least the Australian Camp had three lodges so we knew Justin would at least find a place to stay for the night. We checked in at the first hostel just right across another checkpost where they checked our trekking permit. After another ten minutes, Justin showed up!

Had dinner and we were just cracking up the whole time. Must be the higher altitude, or hunger because we haven't had lunch yet, or maybe just pure exhaustion. We were laughing at how bitter we were. Because we were supposed to have seen amazing views of the Annapurna Peaks at Dhampus and in Pothana. But we didn't because it was too foggy. At the dining hall there was a large sized photo of the Peaks at the wall. We made sure we had photos with it.

Pothana Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

Pothana Annapurna Sanctuary Trek Nepal 2

Photos of Justin and Paul pretending as if the view was right outside our window. haha

Talked about Justin's crazy stories - the public squat toilet in Chiang Mai and reminiscing about the rooftop nights in Nirvana Hostel in Delhi. And of course the 'Greenland Joke':

Juan : Where are you from?
Me : Philippines. Do you know where that is? (I was just curious since not everyone we meet know where Philippines is.)
Juan : Is that near Greenland? (with a sarcastic tone)
Me : Yes, it is! Greenland has a lot of good beaches too!

So whenever there are new backpackers going up to the rooftop and asking where we're from. Everyone else would answer for us and say "Near Greenland." Fun times. :)

It's now 8pm, very very cold, and 1700m in elevation.

We've trekked up (90% of the time) steep stairs and trails for six hours including rests and stops. We've made a 800m ascent from Phedi. We made it, we had fun. It was tough especially with our backpacks on, mine weighing 11kg. But it was worth it. I came to Nepal for this. With stomach full of garlic soup, momos, fried rice, and masala tea, I'm going to sleep and rest now. Still hoping and praying that weather will be better tomorrow, and the sky will clear up.


Day 2, Nov 18 : Pothana (1990m) - Tolka (1790m) - Landruk (1620 m)

Breakfast. Had a good chat with the woman who owns the teahouse. I told her it was going to be my birthday in two days. And I really want to see the Himalayan peaks. She told me she was going to pray for the sky to clear up for my birthday.

While I was about to get finished taking a hot shower (after 2 days of not having any) for 70 NPR, I hear Paul shouting "OMG! OMG! There's the mountain!" I quickly put on clothes and rushed out the restroom and saw a peak of a snow-capped mountain. As I rushed into our room to get my camera, I can hear them saying. "Oh it's gone now." And as soon as I was about to take a photo of it, it was gone. It still was not the time.

Tolka Annapurna Sanctuary Trek 2


It's a 20 minute ascent again from Pothana. Then everything is downhill from there and very steep. We met some women from London during a rest stop. One of them said she fell on her ass while going down. One had a black eye because she tripped over. And I've always preferred going up than going down, just because I have a hard time controlling my weight when I go down.

Prayer Flags Annapurna Sanctuary Trek
prayer flags :)

Tolka Annapurna Sanctuary Trek 3

Tolka Annapurna Sanctuary Trek 4
suspension bridge! yey!

We passed by a suspension bridge over a stream (Yey!) on our way up to Tolka.. Ate at the first teahouse because the old couple were really nice. Then the old woman saw Justin's shirt with a "Nature's Medicine" symbol. She asked Justin if he would want some of it. She came out with a roll of "Nature's Medicine" and said "Just pay whatever you can." The whole thing was very interesting. lol.

DSC_0177a
"Nature's Medicine"

Landruk Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

Then it was downhill again from Tolka to Landruk. And we can now see the rice terraces, mountains filled with them. I wondered if this is how it must be in Banaue. Couldn't take a photo of it properly since it was still foggy. Met a father-son-guide group at one of the rest stops. They told me that when they were in Annapurna Base Camp, they had four hours of clear skies. Then it snowed for two days after that. But some of the people we met along the way have been telling us that the sky clears up for two hours in the morning. We just really have to wake up early. There's hope!

Landruk Annapurna Sanctuary Trek 2
Landruk

After four hours of trekking, we made our way to Landruk where we stay for the night at Super View Hotel. I asked the owner, who again likes Filipinos and worked in UAE, if he can wake us up the next day if in case the sky clears up. Hope I get to sleep better tonight. And I have a room to myself for 100 NPR!

It's going be a tough day again tomorrow. Going down the mountain and up steep trails again as we make our way to Chomrong, the village on top of a mountain.

Texted my parents. And they told me that they're out for dinner for an advanced celebration of my birthday. Next year, as I turn 27, I'm going to be with my family. I'll just do something crazy/adventurous again after that. :)