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Annapurna Circuit: Blood sweat and tears (and and Brittany’s account)… Part 3 and final

This post is a narrative with two voices Brittany in the RED, Sean in the BLACK.

Also, another way you can tell who is who – Brittany has a much more pleasant disposition.

Day 8: Braga to Yak Kharta – Woke up on this day with weird bumps on my hand… not really sure what they were but covered my hands (and later feet). As much as I had been loving Nepal it was here that i came to the opinion that Nepal doesn’t love me back. It was trying to get rid of me and by god it was throwing everything it had. I decided to stop taking some medication i started (thinking i had an amoeba) with the thought that i might be allergic. * I wasn’t allergic and I didn’t have an amoeba, I still don’t know what all was wrong and probably never will, BUT I’m alive and well now so c’est la vie *

Now This day I was actually feeling MUCH better (minus the weird hands) so the hike was beautiful. It was about 4.5 hours and had some of the greatest scenery. We really started to get into more Tibetan-esque territory during this day and I have to say it was amazing, Seeing the Nepalese prayer flags with the snow capped mountains in the distance. Un-real.

Also on this day was when I turned into a baby. The altitude hit me HARD… Not having any problems with altitude sickness just my inability to breath/catch my breath. I had to stop every 10 minutes or so while Sean was champing on the whole time! Sean 1 Nepal 1 Brittany 0

 

Pardon me while I take the keyboard from her. Day 8 begins as such:

Brittanys feeling worlds better – the color is returning to her cheeks, and her face is looking better too. She has finished her Ciprofloxicin and has begun taking Diamox for altitude sickness prevention, unfortunately I cannot take it as I have a sulfa allergy, lets hope I hold up on the red blood cells the galactic overlord Xenu gave me.

Lookin good champ

We hike up to Yak Kharta without any issues, in fact we get there in the amount of time described in the map for the first time, Brittany and I being on time anywhere is a HUGE accomplishment. Brittany’s feeling the altitude, having a lot of trouble catching her breath. The lack of oxygen is having the opposite effect on me. I feel untouchable, I have boundless energy, I’m euphoric, I’m singing rappers delight as we hike causing the locals to look at me very funny and laugh.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0IGepU7ICc

I shout “I now have the Gastrointestinal tract of a god! I’m Andy Dufrain, wading through a river of shit and coming out cleaner than a virgins honeypot on the other side” (Shawshank, I love that movie). I’d had the old leaky gut so often before Nepal, we theorized that if a leech bit me, it’d probably get travelers diarhea. The thought of this still makes me laugh like a crazy person. Just desserts and all that.

 

This is what someone with less than optimal oxygen in their blood may look like

 

We stay in yak karta and have the best food ever, yak burger and yak steak, it probably wasn’t real yak but it was real delicious, it is even served with real fresh vegetables, we still don’t know how they managed that (revising this now, since we’ve been in Thailand, its amazing to me the lack of vegetables and fruit on the Trek). Oh, btw, this is one of two times having an attached bath is horrible. Imagine your bedroom attached to an outhouse, yes, that’s the smell. For those of you fancy folks who have only experienced indoor plumbing during your lives and haven’t ever been sick in a public bathroom (why else are you on your knees George Michael), you may now fart in your hand and smell it for 12 hours – sleep well.

Yep, this is the whole town

 

Day 9: Yak Kharta to Throng la high camp – Today we started trekking early and ran into a Nepalese boy named Norbu heading to India to finish school. He pointed out the blue sheep and HUGE vultures eating a carcass in the distance, its amazing the things we never would have seen without a trained eye.

The last hour of the day was basically straight up hill. We had Norbu in the front just schooling us with the hiking. He could basically run up the mountain while me and Sean were stopping every 10 minutes, gulping down water and cursing Noble for his Nepalese genes.

 

Brittany’s feeling whole again, we head out early in the morning. We want to make it to the high camp today, figuring If we make it to the high camp that’s an hour climb we don’t have to make on day 10. The hike to Throng Pedi is fairly easy, we meet a Nepalese guy named Norbu, he says I hike very slow, I’d like to challenge him to an arm wrestling match or a game of “who can reach the stuff on the top shelf” since he clearly isn’t familiar with the genetic component of performance at altitude.

‘Your boyfriend. He very slow. Hah hah hah”

As we’re walking, Norbu looks back and abruptly shouts at me, about a half second later a rock the size of a softball, traveling at about the speed a burly flannel wearing softball pitcher would throw it, impacts the side of my jaw, throat, and clavicle and speeds off just as fast. I’m a bit stunned , and Norbu shouts to me to run as more rocks continue down the slope. I got extremely lucky, had it impacted my nose or mouth, I probably would have been knocked off balance and off the rocky ledge we were walking on not to mention the damage to my nose or teeth. This incident reminds Brittany of a blog she read where a girl got hit right at that same spot and broke her jaw in 3 places. I am sure to thank Brittany for the timely conveyance of information. Later, anytime Brittany complains of being sore or her neck hurting, I ask her if she too was hit in the throat by a boulder today. She takes issue with my use of the word, I think it’s appropriate.

Simultaneous strike locations of the boulder with approximate size

Ooooooo a Horsey! I-hate-my-life-right-now

 

The hike from throng pedi to the high camp can only be described as hell. It’s straight up for an hour, and for the first time, the altitude is sapping my energy. I can simply walk about 10 steps before heaving for breath. The wind starts whipping up making the slow arduous trek astonishingly cold. We reach the high camp and are deposited in our room which is the most dungeon like room we’ve stayed at yet. The walls are dirty stone, the corners damp, the beds are hard and the blankets dirty. We nap, shivering as we snuggle on my bed for warmth. I, who has warn short sleeves and shorts this entire trek, am under a sleeping bag and heavy blanket, with wool gloves and hat, fleece pullover, T-shirt, and long sleeve shirt, with pants and socks, spooning with Brittany and still shivering. It’s cold.

Annapurna in the background, a rock structure resembling a mountain in the foreground

We go to the dining area and sit around a big table, and very few people are in here as its the offseason. A headache begins to manifest itself in my head, and the thought of acute altitude sickness begins pervading my thoughts. I’ve neglected to read much on this prior to the trip, as the internet has been abysmal in Kathmandu and subsequent villages, I worry about stroking out. I guilt Brittany heavily. Brittany and I begin playing Yanif, an israeli game taught to us by our friends Ben and Nicky from England in the Andaman Islands. We get a few games in when an islraeli girl siting near us tells her bf, they’re playing Yanif! He inquires where we were taught the game, and they begin to play with us. We order some very expensive food, not expecting anything good considering the rooms, but damn the food was awesome. We got mushroom pizza and spaghetti tuna cheese tomato sauce. How is it that the best meals we’ve had have been at the highest places? We go to bed and my head is throbbing, I’m concerned.

 

Day 10: Throng la high camp to Mukinath VIA Throng la pass – Hardest. day. trekking. ever. Both me and Sean were exhausted by this point. We both had little signs of altitude sickness that we knew weren’t severe but that we needed to get the other side of the mountain STAT if we wanted to feel human again. So we woke up early and started the ascent to Throng la pass. After 4 hours of uphill climbing, beautiful scenery, and slight misery we arrived. The point where we had been looking forward to for the past 10 days. We looked out at the mountains and were so happy that through everything we made it. It was hard and it was challenging, but that’s what made it so sweet.

The part that almost killed me however was the grueling 4-5 hour hike straight downhill. When you hear downhill you may automatically think easy… this is not the case. I would have hiked up that mountain 3 more times over the hike down. By the ends our knees and joints were KILLING. The entire last hour of hiking I was cursing the town Mukinath for not being closer. When we finally got to the town i collapsed and was only revived after a 30 minute HOT shower (thank god!), a yak steak and an ice cold beer. It was a hell of a day.

 

We awaken and my head is still throbbing, we stare at our food with no appetite – symptom two of altitude sickness. Norbu had arrived last night as he was unable to make it over the pass, said his legs simply stopped working. I contemplate staying another day to acclimate or turn back. In the end I begrudgingly continue on the trek. To say this was the hardest day of the trek is an understatement on the order of magnitude of saying hitler was kind of a bad guy.

Norbu continues his usual “you are very slow” and on our 4000th attempt, we think he gets the hint, and continues on his own. The views are fantastic. I mean, I can’t emphasize this enough. The blisters on my feet. The digestive tract that has only encountered a trace amount of fiber the last 10 days. The lack of breath. The cold. The throbbing head. The sheer exhaustion. It was all worth it, this one leg.

What were always snowcovered distant mountains became the ground under our very feet. For the first time we’re walking through snow, slipping on ice, putting snow down each others shirts (ok that didn’t happen because I was very focused on not dying). But to do a 360 and see nothing but towering snowcaps is one of the more humbling experiences I’ve had. It really makes you  feel small, much like being in an NBA locker room (because they’re tall, pervert)

Annapurna - Jumping for Joy

Annapurna – Jumping for Joy, We’re almost there!

Breathtaking

We pass this 60ish year old guy who has been doing the Annapurna trek every year for the past 30 years and he tells us the best news a couple can get aside from “Its a healthy baby boy” or “Hanson Reunion Tour”. He says, Its just up ahead, about 15 minutes. Our pulses quicken and we start getting giddy. We see what appears to be smoke off the horizon. We begin fantasizing about a wonderful tea house at the top of the pass, complete with hot tea and breads and cheeses and chocolate. Much like when the stranded desert goer plunges his head into the mirage in the desert and gets a mouthful of sand, we crested the top. The tea shop was closed and no one was there. Just us and about six thousand prayer flags. Man oh man. We made it. Happy Dance!

At the top of the Annapurna circuit

At the top of the Annapurna Circuit

 

From there, it was a grueling downhill walk. I dont know how many thousands of meters of altitude we descended in a single day, and I really don’t want to relive it by telling you. Just know, the descent is hard. Its REALLY hard. It’s really long. And it will make you crave the slow but beautiful ascent as you constantly descend a long winding road made of rocks too large to walk casually, lest you twist an ankle. The town in the distance never gets bigger, it just stays far out of reach. The wind never gets calmer, in fact out in the open now you’re getting whipped constantly. You never get shade from the sun, as there are extremely few trees.  Time to pay the piper.

Are we there yet?

No, seriously, this can’t go on much longer right?

There’s more? Ughhhhh

You better put the small lens on your camera, cause I’m going to shove it up your….

I’m serious, make sure you have your big boy and girl pants on. This day is crushing. But when you finally get to town and settle in at Bob Marley’s (awesome hostel), It feels so good to take off your shoes and socks and WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT

 

Day 11-15 :Mukinath to Tatopani (VIA Jomsom, Marpha, Larjung, Ghasa) – These days were pretty standard at this point. There was no more hiking uphill; each day was a slow descent down the mountain of between 4-6 hours a day. The hiking was easy and beautiful at points. Unfortunately we both agreed that the 1st half was WAY better. Mainly because there is a road that connects the 2nd half all the way from Mukinath to Pokhara and an airport in Jomsom. So everyone that wanted to see the towns for a day or two could take a trip. While that sounds all well and good, the problem is with this many people you get all the pollution, the dirt clouds from the jeeps blazing by us, the [unnamed country] tourists that throw their trash on the ground because that what they do in their country. It was just a little sad with how great the first half was and knowing the 2nd half used to be similar before technology came in.

Saying that, there were also many amazing parts of these 5 days on this side of the mountain. For one we meet our favorite traveling couple that we meet up with at almost every town (and again in Pokhara and Kathmandu). Steve and Dana, two Canadians who were awesome and so much fun… and Sean had a man crush on Steve. We enjoyed the hot springs in Tattopani, much needed for our sore muscles. Also most of the hikers stopped hiking in Jomsom and took a bus or flight back to Pokhara so only a few hikers were still around. So when we found the trails that circumvented the main road, the scenery was beautiful and there was no one around.

 

ALSO apple brandy was a-flowing nightly this side of the mountain. I will never drink brandy again after this trip but when in Nepal…

I stopped journaling after Muktinath because it was just really unfortunate the contrast between the sides of the mountains. The first half was serene, idyllic, and untouched (insert joke here), while the second half was just like getting kicked in the nuts over and over again. Every day was hard, the sights were gone, the wind was FIERCE and as a skydiver I don’t say that lightly, and the heat that I had forgotten about started edging its way back into my life.

Whole body coating of sand from jeeps buses and gale force wind – FREE on the second half of the Annapurna!

 

Beautiful scenery…….get used to it on the second half of the trek

 

Beyond my faux internet rantings, I won’t really complain. I’m a sucker for new experiences, and this was a first for me:

Stampede turned cow sex show

 

Also, I got to drink a lot of brandy, eat lots of food, start drinking again, build rock bridges to cross big streams, meet cool folks, and also we met Steve and Dana – they’re alright (for Canadians). By the end, I was ready for it to be over. My gi-norm-o blister that I had popped every day for 4 days kept getting bigger, my foot began to hurt in ways it shouldn’t (didn’t stop for another 3 weeks), and I was tired of carrying this big ass bag on my back. Ok, so we just need to take a four hour Jeep ride to Tatopani…ugh, I’ll save that experience for another blog.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Scotty Bob says:

    I like cow sex

  2. susan says:

    Love the picture of the “Happy Dance”. What an accomplishment..be proud! Sean, the blister is the size of the boulder that struck you..is it healed, yet? What an interesting account of the circuit. Fascinating.

  3. Melissa says:

    I barfed a little bit upon seeing your foot. Just a little.

  4. What’s up, its fastidious paragraph on the
    topic of media print, we all know media is a enormous source of data.

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