Monthly Archives: November 2014

Annapurna Circuit Trek : Day 2 : Tal – Timang

Woke up the next morning, went up to the terrace. The sky was just starting to brighten up. Being low in the valley, the sunlight reached Tal quite late. Our plan was to set off early and stay overnight at Timang. Lila said that Timang would offer a good view of Manaslu, which wouldn’t be seen elsewhere. So, Timang it would be. I don’t have much memories of this day, dunno why.

 

We walked on the riverbed after leaving Tal, and up the rocky trail as we hugged the cliff to our right. We then crossed over a suspension bridge across the Marsyangdi. After a while, we passed a few tea shops at Karte. Being on the trail, set me free. Initially, I was singing to myself, then the music started playing from my phone. Old Hindi classics.

 

I do remember getting my ACAP permit checked at Dharapani. I glanced at the list of trekkers who went ahead of me and saw someone from China had just passed earlier. There were a few trekkers that we saw in that area and Lila told me that people doing the Manaslu circuit end up at this place, with an option to either complete the trek and return to Kathmandu OR to continue with Annapurna Circuit.

 

After Dharapani came Bagarchhap, where I bumped into a little kid who wanted to speak to me in English. After talking for a few minutes, I gave him couple of sweets and bid my goodbye to him.

 

Lila and Yuva had surged ahead and were waiting at a lodge at Danaque, where lunch was declared. The weather was excellent, clear blue sky and I was feeling reasonably ok with the walk, even though I hadn’t had much exercise before embarking on this adventure. There was a good view of Manaslu from there.

 

Beyond Danaque, the trail started to climb steeply, we would cross the dirt road at a few places and I wondered why was I not taking a jeep ride… But it was good exercise and we reached Timang almost around 430-5PM. The sun would set soon, but then out of nowhere clouds came and the sky turned white. WTF !!! All day, the sun was beating down on us and just when it came for witnessing a good sunset and last light over Manaslu, the clouds came and spoilt the party.

 

The first lodge that we encountered was called Prasanna Hotel and the moment I saw that it had a rooftop, I declared that this is where we would stay. Lila went and found out that they had a room available, probably the last (as its quite a small lodge with limited rooms) I asked for a cup of coffee, even as I got ready to setup shop on the rooftop, just in case the clouds would clear and we would get a glimpse of Manaslu in the last light.

 

It was a good decision. I had the best coffee of the entire trip at Timang. After I setup one tripod with the 6D and 17-40mm combination to shoot timelapse and the other tripod with the 7D and 24-105mm to get close up views of Manaslu, the clouds went into a frenzy. The last few minutes before the last light hit Manaslu, the clouds settled down to rest, and I was treated to a spectacular sight.

 

I bumped into Pisang Lama and his Chinese client (whose name I had seen at the ACAP checkpoint at Dharapani). They were a very friendly bunch and I learnt from them that iOS 8 had come up with a timelapse feature with the inbuilt camera app. I had been fairly ignorant about such things and I wondered if I would get a chance of free wifi, so that I could upgrade the iOS to the latest version. So much for coincidence…

 

I think I ordered dal bhat for dinner, and afterwards, went up to the rooftop to shoot the beautiful night sky. There was a Japanese guy who was trekking with a guide and porter. He too came to the rooftop, mumbled something and went back to his room. I set my alarm to coincide with moonrise, and even while the cameras were doing their work, I drifted off to sleep.

 

Lila was having a good time drinking Rakshi. It would be a frequent affair, I thought J

 

When my alarm rang, I got out, stopped the cameras, put in freshly charged batteries and set the cameras to work again. After being in solitude, I decided that I should get some sleep or else the next day would be a torture. So, off I went to sleep after setting the alarm for 2 hours later. When I went up 2 hours later, I found there was a thick mist and there was condensation on my lenses. WTF !!! Anyways, lesson learnt. I decided that in future, when shooting at night, I would attach the heatpacks that I had carried with me, to the lens barrel.

 

I woke up an hour before sunrise, and got ready for another round of shoot. It was a wonderful feeling to be amidst the mountains and the first light hitting the peaks. Pisang Lama and Qi Xing Bo came to the rooftop too, to shoot the sunrise. The Japanese guy came over too. It was a party that morning, as Lila joined in the show.

Annapurna Circuit Trek : Day 1 : Kathmandu – Besisahar – Tal

We took off early in the morning, probably left the hotel around 645AM. This time around there was no customary photo taking before the trek.

We had a car that would take us all the way to Besisahar from where we would find a jeep/local transport that would take us as far in as possible that day.

The drive out of Kathmandu was pretty uneventful. We reached Dhumre around 11ish, took an “exit” from the hightway, and then the road tapered to a typical mountain road in Nepal. Just one lane, and sometimes I wondered how two buses would pass each other. We might have reached Besisahar around 1230PM. Lila and Yuva grabbed a full lunch of Dal Bhat and I settled for half a plate of fried rice. I am not too comfortable with travelling on dirt roads and I didn’t want to risk vomiting a full plate of dal bhat – not a pleasant thought at all…

 

The prices are irrelevant (they are different for locals and foreigners), but Lila went an negotiated a deal where we would block one row in the jeep for the three of us. Uusually, 4 people would be crammed into that space, but we paid for one “extra” seat, so that we would have our day packs and my camera bag etc in that space, so that we wouldn’t be too uncomfortable. It turned out later that the jeep was quite empty after we passed Chamje.

 

We had agreed that even though the dirt road extends all the way to Chame, we would start our trek from Tal. We did some calculations and figured out that we might reach Taal just about 530-6PM, around the time the sun would set.

 

I can’t remember the exact settlements that we passed enroute, but the distinct ones were Jagat and Chamje. The latter would have been a worthy stop because of the thundering waterfalls opposite, that offers a fantastic view.

 

As it got dark, we started the descent to Tal, the lights of which we saw down in the valley. We were dropped off at the entrance of the village. We gathered our bags and looked at the accommodation options available. Being down in the valley, there wasn’t a great view to boast of. I would have stayed anywhere, but then I chanced upon the Hotel Mona Lisa which had a roof top, as well as a pretty decent garden downstairs. Lila hadn’t stayed here in the past, he told me that he usually stays at a small guesthouse closer to the waterfall further down the village.

 

I decided on Hotel Mona Lisa and that was it. We went and dumped our bags in our rooms, it was getting quite cold, so that jackets came out first, and the we proceeded to the dining hall to order lunch and start the first of several Dhumbal games. We were the only folks staying in the hotel, so dinner was served quite fast.

 

Dinner came and was devoured. Nothing really exciting to write about. We had covered 3 days worth of trekking in that one single day. With that glum feeling, I went to sleep.

Annapurna Circuit Trek : Day 0 : Arrival in Kathmandu

I flew Malaysia airlines from Singapore to Kathmandu via KL. It was the cheapest option available since SilkAir has a virtual monopoly over the Singapore Kathmandu sector and easily charges double the price of what Malaysian Airlines had on offer. However, in terms of flight timings, it was really inconvenient for me to take the Malaysian Airlines flight from Singapore as well as the transit in KL… Nevertheless, I managed to save around 500 odd bucks that would almost cover my food and lodging costs during the trek.

 

I bumped into Mariann at the KL airport in the unlikeliest of circumstances. We chatted for a while before boarding the aircraft, and continued it all the way to Kathmandu on the flight when the seat next to me was empty. We talked about a whole lot of things, and it was nice to see someone so excited about life.

 

Arrival in Kathmandu was quite uncharacteristic. “Where were the long queues at the immigration?” I had prepared Mariann for the worst, including asking her to make a mad dash to the immigration area, once we disembarked from the plane J

 

We cleared immigration quite smoothly, even though we had filled out the wrong form in a hurry… The baggage arrival took ages. Mariann’s brother and her boyfriend Ian would be waiting for her at Kathmandu airport. And the plan was to meet them, before I would go to the Sacred Valley Inn in a pre-paid taxi that I would get at the airport. However, in the melee that ensued after I got my bags and I was paying for the pre-paid taxi, we got separated and I couldn’t find her in the crowd.

 

I reached Sacred Valley Inn, met Bishnu for the first time in all these years, and went to dump my bags in my room. Shortly thereafter, Lila and Yuva arrived from Pokhara. It was so nice to see them. I informed Prasanna that I was in Kathmandu and we made plans to meet later that evening. In the meantime, Mariann contacted me and it became a slightly complicated affair to coordinate with everyone and make plans for dinner.

 

I gave Lila and Yuva, the gifts that I had taken for them. And then proceeded to change USD to Nepali Rupees for the trek. I told Lila that I had plans for dinner and that I would meet them later that night after dinner to work out our plan for the next day and for the trek.

 

Prasanna came shortly thereafter and we had a chat, then went to buy the crampons at Shona’s. I met Shanu and we had a little chat as he showed me how to fix the crampons to my boots. That was settled so quickly. I love Shona’s. I wouldn’t go anywhere else in Kathmandu to buy any trekking equipment.

 

Prasanna and I went to Pilgrim’s bookshop to show them the Langtang Gosaikunda book that I had made. There were a few things to be settled there.

We then went to OR2K for dinner. I wanted to ask Mariann if she and Ian would like to join us for dinner there or we should go somewhere else… As I was telling her the name of the place (OR2K), she replied “Wait, I can see the sign right here where I am…” She was right below the OR2K place on the street. Was it mere coincidence or what ?

 

After that, Ian, Mariann, Prasanna and I had a wonderful time over dinner. I was getting tired as I hadn’t slept even a wink, the previous night. I bade my goodbyes to Mariann and Ian. Prasanna and I went to top-up the local SIM in Nepal that he had got for me, and then I bade my goodbyes to him too…

 

Met up with Lila and Yuva when I got back to Sacred Valley and we decided that we would have an early start the next morning. With the alarm clock set for an early rise, I slept like a log….

Annapurna Circuit Trek – Planning and Preparation

Other than packing my camera gear, tripods, few clothes and the down jacket and a few thermals, my trekking boots, a pair of crocs, and some toiletries, not much went in preparation for the Annapurna Circuit Trek. By now, I have a fair idea of what I would need for a trek in Nepal. I didn’t even have time to read the Lonely Planet guide which details out the trek. So, I photocopied the relevant pages and decided to go with the flow.

In terms of planning, the plan was to meet Lila and Yuva in Kathmandu on my day of arrival and leave for Besisahar the next day. From there, we would set targets as we progressed on the trek.