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Good day everyone :)
If you checked up on my last blog post, you will know that I have recently been away on a 7 day trek through the Annapurna range. This was a big trip, involving 5 of us volunteers and 25 other ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) staff, with particular targets: to work out and trial another tourist trekking route, consider conservation options along the route and also observe the wildlife found in the new environments. The main point to trying to promote this new hiking path is to allow the local Nepali people to earn a living through tourism, a more sustainable and environmentally friendly income than that earned through their current lifestyle where jungle, woodland and wildlife is destroyed. It also means that tourists will have the option to explore a beautiful, refreshing route through the Himalayas!
So, how did I find it? Well, as many of you could probably guess, it was very difficult for me – I have never trekked before, and this was a challenging one for most! Over the 7 days, we walked (and scrambled) for around 6 hours on average, and made an ascent to 4100m! The first couple of days were a little easier, as the route was well trodden, the weather held up and there was a welcoming guesthouse at the end of the day. However, for the most part, it was gruelling thereafter.
Come day three, I don’t know how I managed it, but I pulled a ligament in my hip, which was really debilitating – I could barely lift my foot higher than a couple of centimetres from the ground. On top of that, my knees were very sore from all the climbing (everyone suffered from this problem). Raj kindly crafted me a bamboo staff though to help drag myself along. I must have looked like such an old woman. That afternoon, we arrived at a yak farm and our highest altitude, where we would spend the night. Fortunately, the Nepali guys got a fire going in the yak shed, so we were able to keep warm for a while, dry our sopping wet clothes and enjoy goat (freshly slaughtered) and dahl bhatt. I tell you, we ate very well on this trek! We had to bear a cold and wet night cramped in a tent (and I swear I had a boulder under my back), but I was glad that we were there all the same – we would not have been able to see yaks otherwise, and they have such characters!
The day after, to avoid having to endure such a night in a tent again, it was decided that we would make a long journey to Chomrong Village. I mean long. 12 hours. I was exhausted and in so much pain by the time we finally reached Chomrong, but I did it! Our ACAP friends really thought I would not make it because of my injury (there had been talk, yet again, of getting a helicopter for me), so when I arrived with Raj and another companion at 10pm, there were cheers! Pretty embarrassing, but glad to know I was ‘appreciated’. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, on the way to Chomrong, while treading along a narrow path on the side of the mountain, the wet soil broke beneath my foot and I fell a few metres down the mountain. Raj literally leapt off the edge to come and save me – such a hero. ;) I was fine, but I think Raj suffered a minor heart attack.
Chomrong was a lovely village with scenery to match – certainly a comfortable end to a hard day’s walk. We got to spend the next day resting there, which I very much needed, and the day after, we headed off on our last short trek back to Ghandruk. On the way, we stopped off in Jhino, where we enjoyed the hot springs and a good lunch. The last hour of our journey practically drowned us with a torrential downpour. You should have seen the stairs – they had turned into waterfalls! But alas, we made it back to Ghandruk in one piece!
Here’s a map, courtesy of Raj, of the route that we took:
Wow, I’ve written a bit of an essay here… even now I haven’t managed to tell you everything. Tell you what, if you can bear to keep your eyes open for a little longer, you can take a look at my photo album, ‘7 day Annapurna trek’, to get a better picture of what we got up to. Go on, it’s worth a look!
Until next time, Namaste! x
Again, it's been a short while since I've been on here. In terms of conservation work, I feel as though I don't have much exciting news, but I guess that's because I've been here a while, so it's becoming the norm. I did another trek into the jungle to check the camera traps a couple of weeks ago, and we caught some videos of different birds and barking deer (unfortunately no bears or leopards this time). Actually, I was pretty excited when, on the way back from the jungle, two barking deer bounded infront of Emilie and I. They looked like they were playing, and that was the first time that I had seen the deer live! Very unusual for them to get so close to humans. The trek itself to the jungle was not so great. I must have fallen over around 50 times (no exaggeration) and was hurting all over by the time I got back. My boots were made for flat walking, NOT hiking. And I got majorly attacked by leeches. :(
Fortunately, we managed to take a break in Pokhara last weekend, so I was able to buy some new hiking boots as well as other supplies. It feels great to eat properly there and escape the leeches! Although, trust me to get food poisoning the day before we headed back - the fish tasted so good but did evil to my stomach. I'm getting quite used to being ill now. Have to say, we had a great time while we were there though. We had a good night at The Busy Bee where I finally got the gin and tonic I had been craving, and we all smoked a traditional asian shisha pipe.
We have done much besides, such as bird watching (with more luck on the last occasion), waste management surveys, school environmental protests and gardening! I have added new albums and pictures to existing albums for you to take a look at which shows a bit more of what we have been up to. Most recently, we have not been able to do a lot of conservation work, simply because the weather has been so terrible. The monsoons has definitely hit now - it has been raining non-stop!
From tomorrow, a group of us will be heading out on a 7 day trek to test out a more uncommon trekking route for ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project). This will also give us a chance to do some more conservation work in different areas and altitudes (we may go higher than 3500m!) and even see if we can spot the rare red panda. If the route is okay, it may be used in the future by ACAP for regular conservation work.
So, I will be out of reach for a week at the very least, buy I will try and get pictures of our travels - hopefully they won't just be of rain and fog!
Goodbye for now!
I'm back in Ghandruk now and I am pretty much back up to 100% health. The medicine for my legs has worked miracles! And it meant that I got to have a nice break in Pokhara with good internet, food, hot showers and even a spot of fishing on Phewa lake... I'm happy. :)
It's a good thing that I can walk now as well, because today we had a looong and difficult trek up into the jungle at 2500m altitude to set up some camera traps. It took us roughly 5 1/2 hrs there and back, which included a lot of scrambling, falling and many, many leeches. Luckily, we put salt in our boots and went armed with little pouches of salt to do battle with them. I think we were victorious this time around. Hopefully, we may get some videos of Himalalyan black bears or common leopards like we did in the last couple weeks - I have already shared a leopard video on facebook for you to take a look at, and I will see if I can upload them on my blog too.
So right now, I'm feeling quite tired - it's the first time I've walked properly in about 5 days, and this was a tough one. plus, to be able to access internet, I had to do a half hour walk up here to the German Bakery, since our wifi has packed up in the guesthouse. >:( I will sleep well tonight, I'm sure!
I will add a few more pictures to 'Pokhara' and 'Jungle', so have a look at them too :)
For those of you wondering what has happened to me over the last few weeks that I have not blogged at all, let me explain: I have been very ill, and the internet connection has been crap and non-existent most recently.
So, to catch you all up properly... I got to Ghandruk Village the day after I sent my last blog post (just over 2 weeks ago) after a short trek up the mountain. I am staying in Namaste guesthouse with my fellow conservation volunteers and we are situated at 2000m high.
All of the volunteers here are really lovely and makes things a whole lot better when things get a little tough. Here I will explain the 'tough' bit. As you may be able to imagine, our location is pretty remote up in the mountains, and resources are limited - there is no hot water, food is hardly nutritious (mostly carbs and if we're lucky, meat and one fruit once a week), there is a constant battle with bugs of all sorts (including leeches) and of course there is a lot of climbing. To top this all off, I got ill with food poisoning soon after I arrived, with the unwelcome nasties of vomiting. fever and so on, to the point where on the fifth day, the doctor said that if my health didn't improve, I would have to be air-lifted down to the city hospital! Luckily, things did start to get better the next day. And fortunately, the other volunteers looked out for me, especially my roommate, Bridget, who was forcing me to take medicines and electrolyte drinks (which are disgusting). Not so pleased at the time, but I appreciate that she helped me to get better. Ah, this is life up in the Himalayas!
As you have probably worked out, I therefore haven't done too much conservation work yet - just bird and butterfly-watching twice in Ghandruk. Although what little I have done, I have enjoyed - it's brilliant to see the diverse and new wildlife in comparison to the UK. And of course, everywhere you look, you are met with stunning scenery.
Over the last week, all of us went on a week-long expedition to Bhujung Village in another mountain. There I got to do a bit of bird-watching in the new environment, as well as experience the old, traditional Gurung culture of the village and take part in their yearly festival celebrating the birth of Gautama Buddha. The locals were so welcoming and our home-stay family actually felt like family by the end of it all! So glad I was lucky enough to visit.
On a down note, while I was there, I managed to get badly bitten by flies and then suffered a bad allergic reaction to the bites, making it painful to stand and walk due to the swelling around my calves. Quite honestly, my legs look really gross. However, after going to the hospital yesterday and be prescribed FOUR lots of medication, I can feel the swelling starting to reduce. So, I have finally arrived at the present, and I can say that I am still in the city of Pokhara and the rest of the volunteers having returned to Ghandruk Village, leaving me to recuperate here for a few days. At least I can enjoy a bit of luxury while I'm here (like this good Internet connection)! And I slept much better than the night before, when Bridgit sleep-walked to the door, opened it and then screamed as though she was being attacked by an axe-murderer. Can safely say, I had a real panic attack after that. And then a lizard fell on my back when I was getting back into bed, just to complete the moment.
Sorry, for the long essay and complaints - I've had a lot to say and I can fairly say that I have been pretty unlucky. But you know, I can laugh about it, because it is all just part of the experience! Bring it on! ;)
Will try and upload more pictures tomorrow, so keep an eye out.
Bye for now!
Busy, busy day today!! Had a nice early start at 3.30am (yeah, I know) to catch the sunrise at Sarangkot with Sarkuna and Mary-Anne from Malaysia, which involved a 1 hour climb up the mountain. That was a nasty wake up for my legs at so early in the morning. However, from the top, there were breathtaking views of Phewa Tal and the snow-capped Himalyas - as always, the pictures can't quite capture what you can see with your own eyes, but here you go...
Also made a little goat-friend on the way back down - he was hilarious! Just like a puppy, bouncing around and pressing up against my leg for a stroke :)
After a quick breakfast back at the hotel, we went to see the Hindu temple at the top of another mountain just opposite the sunrise view point (luckly we could take the Jeep this time).
En route back to the hotel, we visited Devis Fall, a waterfall that has managed to dry up since last week (lucky me) and an underground cave close by which also housed a hindu shrine.
I took a much needed nap back at the hotel, and then set out to see Phewa Tal again (this time from ground level), only a 10 min walk away. A young man named Dil offered to take me onto the lake in his boat for just 325Rs (something like £2.50) - still cannot get over how cheap things are here! Again, I saw some amazing sights.
Another lovely moment was as I walked back to the hotel: this guy, Kumar, who had tried to get me to look in his shop on the way to the lake, asked me to sit down with him, and we talked for half an hour and drank Nepali ciya (tea)! That would never happen in England!
So, after a long day, here I am writing this blog, when I really should be getting some sleep - I've another long journey tomorrow to Ghandruk Village (finally!). Please take the time to see the rest of the pictures from today in the album 'Exploring Pokhara' - could not fit them all in this blog!
Subha ratri =)
As expected, the bus ride took about 7 hours to get to Pokhara. Wasn't all so bad though, because the views were amazing - we were driving through the valleys of the hills and mountains. Only problem was, the journey was seriously bumpy - kept smacking into the window, almost completely slid off my seat 4 times AND my arse ached real bad at the end of it all. TMI? hehe ;)
I finally arrived at hotel Middle Path (still not my final destination) and was pleasantly surprised. It's much nicer than the last place. I will try and get some pictures of the hotel later. Overall, I much prefer Pokhara - it's more relaxed, greener and far prettier. I'm going to be here for one more full day before moving on to Ghandruk Village, where I will comence on my project, so in the mean time, I'll see if I can fit in some more exploring!
Subha ratri x
Cindy left for her teaching placement this morning after our induction, leaving me to explore Kathmandu alone :O. Well, I wasn't going to waste an unexpected extra day in Thamel, so after Skyping with the family (and seeing pudke Muffin, ma rabbit :D), I decided to head out to see the monkey temple!
I grabbed a taxi to take me to the temple - journeys on the road are far more pleasant if you close your eyes to miss all the potential fatal accidents. The monkey temple itself was very beautiful, though I'm not sure how much I like monkeys now after one of them snatched my water just as I was about to climb 200 steps to the top >:(. What can you do? They were thirsty.
Just before I got to the top, a youngen, Prakash, and his brother, Kiran, offered to guide me round the temple. They did an excellent job! Have a look at my photo album to see what I saw.
On the way back down, I chatted with a wonderful lady who was crafting jewellery from Annapurna rocks - don't know her name, because even she didn't know how to spell it. This was also my first go at bahtering in Nepal. She wanted 900Rs for a necklace and asked for it for 200Rs - of course she declined - she wasn't about to sell her living for peanuts! We met at 500Rs - bargain for me, great for her. Everyone's happy.
Taxi dropped me back to Kathmandu Hotel (land mark that all taxi drivers know), and as I expected, I got lost. No problem though, because a friendly Nepalese guy stopped me for a chat (and I'm thinking 'crap, he wants to sell me something'), then walked me to my hotel. Of course, all he wanted was a chat, and with a 'namaste' and a hand shake, he left me with my purse no lighter. Great people.
Going to get some rest now, ready for my early 7hr trip to Pokhara tomorrow morning.
After a looong journey (haven't slept for more than a day), I have finally arrived in Kathmandu. Flights were alright - Qatar airline treats you like royalty! Though I didn't appreciate the guy next to me snorting for 5 hours straight on the second flight. No manners. ;)
So, I'm breaking in 'Hotel Excelsior' for tonight, with the delightful company of an ant colony on my floor and a lovely French girl opposite, Cindy. After a tibetan buffalo noodle soup thing (sounds strange, but was yum), we both took a wander round Thamel. Apart from the crazy road-ragers trying to run over your tootsy (that is ANYONE who drives a vehicle), I'm loving the people already. They were stopping us as we walked, but they weren't even trying to sell us anything - they simply wanted a chat . If only everyone could be like that.
Haven't got any pictures to post yet - it's 9pm here and way to dark to get anything good. Hopefully, next time I'm on here, I'll be at my final destination, Ghandruk. Just a night with the ants and a 7 hour bus ride to go!! Woohoo
Over and out.