Sunday, April 22, 2007

The flight from hell.

I should have known that the vulture sitting on the airport fence was a bad omen.
The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla departed on schedule at twenty past six in the morning and while the cloud cover worried me a little everything went as planned for the next fifteen minutes. It was then that I noticed that the pilots were peering out of the cockpit window and pointing at the ground the plane suddenly veered left and descended through a hole in the clouds just when we came out from there a rock wall appeared right in front of the aircraft the pilot jerked the plane violently to the right and straight towards another rock face. He then tried going left and up and while this avoided an immediate slamming in the mountain this maneuver caused the plane to run out of airspeed and the stall alarm started going off. We virtually looped back down and managed to get up enough speed to stay airborne and depart this valley for the next one. This was again a dead end requiring the plane to turn so sharply that the G-force pushed on me so hard I couldn't lift my arms to go in a brace position. By this point the locals on the flight were crying or praying as indeed were some of the tourists and the rest of us tried to remember what to do in an air crash. Then as sudden as it had all started it stopped again the clouds parted Lukla airport came into view and plane bounced down.
When we came to a halt and got off the plane the airport staff applauded when I got on my knees and kissed the ground

Thursday, April 19, 2007


One of the things that has changed over the years is the amount of noise pollution in Thamel. It used to be that whatever bars there were pretty well shut up shop around ten in the evening. People came to Nepal to hike or climb and while they might have a few drinks after a successful trip in the mountains they didn't specifically come to party.
This has changed with Kathmandu well and truly established on the gap year circuit there are now a rising number of people who arrive and do nothing more adventurous then getting drunk buying a few tie-dyed T-shirts and then moving on to Bangkok for a rinse and repeat.
What this means is that high volume sound systems will now blast out music until two or three at night and if you have a hotel anywhere near one of them you wont get any sleep before then.
Yep you're right I made that mistake. Can't wait to get back to the mountains tomorrow and will look for a place away from Thamel on my return.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Looking good.

While I already know what a good looking fellow I am it always helps the ego if someone else tells you.
I was having lunch this afternoon in the garden of the Pumpernickel bakery when to my surprise Marie a very good looking twenty three year old student from Germany showed up. We had last met just before Manang on the Annapurna Circuit.
I must have told her at some point during the hike that one of my aims is to lose some weight while I am here because totally unsolicited Marie commented "You have lost weight, you're looking good!"
Now I don't think I have lost all that much weight but I am happy to take any compliments as they come.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


This morning I have bought tickets to fly to Lukla and return.
The plan is to leave on 20th of April and return on the 8th of May. In between those dates I hope to walk to Gokyo, Climb Gokyo Ri then traverse the Cho La to Lobuche and Kalar Patar and if there is any time left after that walk to Island Peak or Ama Dablam base camp.
As always time weather and general mountain conditions permitting.

The Annapurna Circuit

Here is the long delayed report on my trek around the Annapurna.
It was my intention to start the trek from the village of Besisahar on the East side of the circuit then follow the trail anti clockwise crossing the Thorung La and eventually finishing in Beni.
Unbeknown to me quite a few things had changed on the Annapurna Circuit in the last few years. For starters the road now reaches as far as Kudi although the section from Besisahar onwards is unpaved. My bus actually stopped still terminated in Besisahar and rather then spending an hour or so lurching from pothole to pothole I decided to walk. It only took me to hours to walk the distance saying something about the speed of the bus or more to the point the lack there off.
The first real days walking took me first gradually then more steeply up the trail to Bahundanda then a plunge into the valley to Ghermu and Jagat. By the time I arrived in Jagat I had walked nine hours with only a single break for lunch I was knackered.

Farm houses just on the way down from Bahundanda

The second day I took a bit easier took longer rests and made sure that I had a good breakfast before setting off. The trail now starts to steeply climb towards Dharapani and then in the following days to Chame and Pisang where it flattens out into the Manang valley and eventually to my acclimatisation stop at Braga.

Some of the first mountain views on the trail.

More great scenery.

I spent three days in Braga to get my body used to the altitude. It's almost 3,500 meters high and even small hills seem like an effort. Braga is a typical Himalayan village with flat roofed houses that blend into the hillside and with only the Gompa and Chortens having any color on it.

Chorten between Braga and Manang

Interior of the Braga Gompa

View from the top of Braga Gompa

From Braga it's a short almost level walk to Manang and then a steep climb to Yak Kharka. Then the next day it's on to Thorong Phedi Base camp at 4500 meters altitude. As I didn't fancy the long hike up to the pass from there I spend another night at High camp which is close to 5000 meters before getting up early next morning and making the final ascend to the pass.

Preparations at Base camp

Hikers slowly making their way to the pass.

I have made it to the top yet again!

The way down the pass is steep and hard on the knees but once in Muktinath you know that all the hard work is over. The trekking is now in the rain shadow of the mountains so there is far less snow and ice to contend with and the scenery at times looks as much as a stony desert as it does like the Himalaya.
Unfortunately on this side of the mountain is also a massive road building project going on and already you have to share what once was a track with motorcycles and tractors. In another twelve months when work looks likely to be finished up here you can take a bus all the way to the foot of the Thorung La. So enjoy it while you can.

A desert with realy pretty views.

New Year

It's New Year in Nepal or maybe it has been New Year a few days ago. People are a bit hazy on this as the reckoning is by lunar calendar and observation of the new moon is different depending on location.
Anyway in Pokhara this is celebrated by among other things something between a fair and a carnival. After paying twenty Rupees you can ogle at the stands of generators, water purifyers and organically grown coffee or as most people do go to the ferris wheel, the hand powered Merry go Round or the House of horrors. However by far the most popular attraction, certainly with the kids, is the elephant.


After a week of R&R in Pokhara where I didn't do anything more strenuous then eating chocolate pancakes and drinking coffee I finally got up enough energy to buy a bus ticket and yesterday afternoon around four I arrived back in Kathmandu where it rained, hailed and thundered.
Ever get this idea someone is trying to tell you something? Anyway I am here and ready to start a new adventure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Return from the Annapurnas

I am back in civilisation after my hike around the Annapurnas. In the next few days I will post a full account and some photos