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With Jirka halfway to Annapurna Base Camp

Second major trekking area: Annapurna, half of Annapurna Sanctuary Trek with Jirka

As usually, arrival of Jirka meant arrival of alcohol :-) As I almost quit drinking in India I asked him not to bring any booze with him, but that was really absurd request and of course that he brought a bottle of ultra delicious Zacapa XO Rum, which we downed in Pokhara and as a result, instead of starting our trek in the morning like normal people, we only started to hike at 13:30, most idiotic time for start of a hike, as Pokhara lies in subtropical climate zone and the trek started with 400m ascent right up infinite flight of stairs. Well, to be honest it was not only alcohol which delayed us, we also had to buy our trekking permits in the morning but I can tell you that after so much rum I did not feel awesome climbing those stairs toward Annapurna. But luckily then we managed to do quite serious hiking so until the sunset we managed to get quite far and almost completed the whole section usually scheduled for the whole day. We finished the day with amazing apple pie and yak cheese. In the morning we woke up to wonderful view over Annapurna South (~7200m) and Machapuchuram (~7000m) hiked and hiked and hiked until we caught up with the schedule for 2 days, ending up in Chomrong. When we got there all we could see was omnipresent mist, as in Himalayas the weather is good always only until 11:00 or so and then everything disappears in clouds. When we woke up next morning we were amazed by the nearness of Annapurna South, it was right there in front of us. Although the trek to Annapurna Base Camp continues for maybe 4 more days, the mountain was just in front of us, that gigantic piece of solid rock. This was as far as we could get in the time we had, so we turned around and took alternative, longer path down. As on this day, to get back to Pokhara for the night, we wanted to do a hike normally scheduled for 2 days we started early and walked until we dropped dead 11 hours later, but we made it and finished 4 day trek in 2 and 1/2 days, not even mentioning the hangover which we, or at least I, started with.

This trek was very different from Langtang Valley. We didn’t get to any serious altitude, the highest point was around 2200m, but the trek was pretty tough. Unlike Langtang Trek, which simply climbs up and up, this trek goes up and down, up and down and all of that in pretty hot weather. But it’s not only the topography that was very different. Also the landscape and overall feeling of the trek was completely unlike Langtang. On this trek we were not surrounded by mountains, no glacier valleys between 6000m tall peaks, but instead we hiked through most idyllic and bucolic rural area with wonderful villages, rice paddies, everything clean (almost 40 years of tourism in this area obviously taught these people that it pays off to take care of the environment), forest and jungle, birds singing – simply pastoral paradise. As I knew that Everest Base Camp Trek basically runs above any real settlements I was very glad that I saw this idyllic Nepal countryside.

The last section of the trip to Annapurna Sanctuary Trek turned out to be the most adventurous one: we rode from the Nayapul, which is end of Annapurna Sanctuary and Annapurna Circuit treks to Pokhara on the roof of bus. Because from Pokhara to Phedi, where we started the trek 3 days ago, it only took 30 minutes by taxi, and Nayapul and Phedi are close to each other I thought that the ride would only take some 40 minutes and persuaded Jirka that instead of snobbishly taking a taxi it will be much more fun to ride of the roof of the bus (the standard seats were all occupied) – traditional Nepalese way of transport, but whoops, I made a slight mistake. I did not know that from Nayapul with elevation around 1100m, we first have to climb up to more than 1600m and then go down again. When the bus started all the Westerners on the roof (there was 6-7 of them) put on their jackets, and soon also all the Nepalis put on their jackets. When Nepalis put on their jackets, it means it’s going to get cold. Me and Jirka wore only shorts and T-shirts and I started to sense that it would not take 40 minutes. When I asked a Nepali guy next to me when we arrive to Pokhara (we started from Nayapul at around 18:00) he replied: “Night, night!”. Holy fuck I thought. But the worst thing was that we were the last ones to join the company on the roof and the bus took off right after we climbed up (actually it took off while we were still climbing up the ladder at the back of the bus), and when the bus started I managed to jump bit forward to the middle of the roof, but Jirka stayed on the very back of the roof, which left him with really shitty place: he was sitting at the end of roof, facing backward, not seeing where we go, looking down from the roof on the road 3m below him. He was pretty scared, holding the railing with all his might, and no wonder that he did so, it really wasn’t good spot for sitting. As I had better seat I managed to get one jacket and one sweater out of my backpack gave the jacket to Jirka, who couldn’t put it on, because he couldn’t let go the railing and I prayed that soon we would stop somewhere to either get off and take a taxi or at least get a better seat for Jirka. Luckily, during piss-stop I managed to switch to another place, leaving my previous place to Jirka who could finally put on the jacket, and from that moment on the ride was OK, and even more luckily, we the ride took “only” 1 and 1/2 hour, so we did not arrive so much at “night, night”.

We celebrated our arrival back to Pokhara with getting completely wasted as Busy Bee Bar (recommended by Hanka, who did Annapurna Circuit Trek last year), spent all our money on cocktails - good old Roman way of entertainment - and next morning we zombied for late breakfast, and flew back to Kathmandu.

2 out of 3 treks in Nepal completed, now only the final destination remains: Everest Base Camp Trek.

PS: It seems that Jirka is becoming my regular trekking buddy, in last few months we hiked in Tatras, Caucasus and now in Himalaya. What’s next Karakorum? :-)

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak