- 1 - Besisahar to Khudi: Most People Walk Further to Work
- 2 - Who Says Trekking in Nepal Has to Involve Lots of Walking?
- 3 - Conquering the Annapurna Circuit’s First Hill
- 4 - Trek to Jagat and a Rant Against Guides on the Annapurna Circuit
- 5 - Jagat to Tal: Our First Real Day of Trekking
- 6 - Tal to Chame: Falling into a Trekking Routine
- 7 - Chame to Pisang: Just Takin’ the Goat for a Walk
- 8 - A Well-Deserved Day Off in Upper Pisang
- 9 - Pisang to Ngawal: A Hard Climb to Beautiful Views
- 10 - Drinking Yak Sewage in Ngawal
- 11 - Arriving In Manang…Two Weeks Later Than Most
- 12 - Trekking On Our Day Off From Trekking in Manang
- 13 - Annoying Trekker Abuses Friendly Guesthouse Owner
In the first part of this series I covered our record-setting start on the Annapurna Circuit Trek in Nepal, in which we became the first non-wheelchair-bound people ever to stop for the night in Khudi, after setting out from Besisahar about 2 kilometers up the road. On our second day, we proceed to set the bar even lower.
We got up early, before 7am, because that’s what one does when trekking (it’s a good thing I didn’t hear that when deciding to do the trek or I likely would have missed out on the whole experience). We had our first of many mediocre egg and toast breakfasts before setting out. After ten minutes of walking, we officially reached Khudi.
It turns out, we hadn’t even made it all the way to the first town on our pathetic first day—we pretty much just collapsed in the entryway of the first guest house we saw. As I mentioned last time, if we had walked just ten minutes further, we would have seen the town’s main guest house, where much nicer rooms were going for the exact same price we’d paid. Not only that, this place also had a hot spring, a better view and what looked to be a better restaurant. That judgment is based on the fact that it appeared to have a restaurant, whereas our place had two tables and an old guy with an open flame and a rusty frying pan.
Our goal for the day was Bahundanda, the town where most people end up after the first day. So basically, we would be taking two days to do what everyone else does in one. Except we didn’t even make it that far.
After around two hours of walking along a relatively flat path next to the raging Marsyangdi River, we reached Ngadi, where we planned on having lunch. Naturally those two hours of walking included a good 45 minutes of break-time. Most of that was spent on a large swing by a waterfall.
The other guy in our trio was feeling pretty horrible on this day and basically collapsed in the grass next to the swing, forcing us to wait. Obviously I would have loved to continue on and was actually getting ready to break into a light jog for the rest of the day, but unfortunately I had to relax on a swing and enjoy the beautiful scenery instead.
When we reached our lunch stop shortly afterwards, the guy collapsed again and he and his girlfriend decided to call it a day. It was around 11am. I took a look around at the turquoise river rushing past us, the lush green hillsides surrounding us and the snow-capped peaks in the distance and decided that this would indeed be a great place to spend the afternoon.
More than that, I noticed how nice it felt to not have a pack strapped to my back and decided that not carrying anything and not walking anywhere would indeed be a great WAY to spend the afternoon. It’s amazing how sore your shoulders get lugging weight around all day (or in our case, 90 minutes), when you’re not used to it. And I say that having carried the smallest and lightest backpack in trekking history.
Seriously, it weighed well under 10 kilograms. People who had hired porters to carry their bags were still carrying more weight in their day bags than I was shouldering. Speaking of porters, as we were sitting around in the garden waiting for our lunch and complaining about the weight of our backpacks, these guys decided to make us feel appropriately pathetic by strolling past with three large bags each strapped to their heads.
If Nepalese porter is not high on the list of worst jobs on earth, then that list was clearly written by Albert Camus’ version of Sisyphus. These guys carry up to 70 kilograms (cargo porters; the tourist porters aren’t supposed to have more than 30kg) from 800m above sea level over the Throng Lo Pass at 5400m and back down the other side.
The lucky ones do so in ill-fitting shoes provided by their employers, the unlucky ones trudge through the snow in flip-flops. For their efforts, they get one meal and a few dollars per day. But anyway, back to my bag—I can’t believe I had to schlep all 5 or so kilograms for a whole two hours (including breaks)….
On this day, our choice in guest houses turned out to be much better than the first. It had a great view and the food, served in a quiet and peaceful garden, was pretty good too. Two of us enjoyed our lunch immensely; the third was slowly dying in the grass at the foot of our table, trying to stay upwind from the food, as the smell was making him more nauseous than he already was.
Seeing his discomfort and his intolerance for even pleasant aromas, the owners of the guest house naturally assumed he would want a room next to the garbage dump. Seriously, with every single room free, they chose to give him the room right next to the hillside where they had been throwing their garbage since sometime in the 1960s. As you can imagine, it smelled horrible and it also attracted flies by the millions.
Of course they let him change rooms when he asked and many of you know that this is simply standard practice in Southeast Asia, Nepal, India, China and many other countries—you show your worst room to your first guests and all subsequent guests until some idiot takes them.
Apparently, you follow this practice even when you know you will never fill all of your rooms. So I guess I can leave you with some useful advice for once: always ask to see at least one other room and know that they are probably lying when they tell you no others are available.
Series continued in part 3: Conquering the Annapurna Circuit’s First Hill