Unsung Heroes

This morning I fetched water – six six liter jugs. Suffering from “Peter Pan” syndrome, I figured I can carry all 36kg the 16 floors up to my apartment. I brought a backpack to carry said liquid load. After I had paid, I loaded my back pack and raised it on my back…….holy f…ing smokes, Batman, this is heavy. After about five steps, I remembered the porters w saw in the Himalaya.


Like these two guys, who carried plywood boards from Lukla to Görak-Shep. We met theem early in the morning on a breezy high valley. They carried each about 50kg of boards not to mention the sail effect in the wind. To ease the burden a little, they bent theonupper body forward so that the baords on their backs were horizontal. Needless to say, I gained perspective on the comfortable 36kg on my back in a backpack. Then I reached the staircase. I conside myself to be in pretty good shape, but after the first half storey, the prospect of 15 and a half more storeys had my utmost attention. I started to think about the loads I had sampled on our way from Dugla to Lobuche – they almost snapped my neck, I am not kidding.

The porters are scrawny, sinewy men and they lug insame loads through the mountains, just so toursits can have a familiar candy bar or three-plied toilet paper at 5000m above sea level.


These loads were sets of lawn furniture, consisting of tables and assembled chairs, each pack weighed between 40kg to 50kg. That memory, powered me the up the stairs where an AC cooled room and a lemon juice were waiting for me. quite posh compared the reality of a porter on the Himalayan trekking trail. The porters are truly the unsung heroes – try walking for fifteen minutes in their shoes, should you feel the need to gain perspective.

This little post morning workout experiment reminded me once again, that hardship voluntarily chosen ends in comfort, while hardship imposed by circumstances stays hardship. The question is are we fine about it, do we care or are we not bothered by mostly faceless misery. 

Alright, we all need to be able to sleep at night and I am not here to judge. Having said that – Stay Sharp.

Cheers Markus \m/

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Annapurna Himalaya – Visual Summary Pt5

Hm, amazing. We are on our last leg of this trek’s visual summary.  Jomson is the last destination we walk to. From here on it is driving, flying, horse, yak, donkey, piggy-back or jet-pack, but no more walking. So, let’s get on with it.

Jomson itself, as I have written before is forgettable. The citizens are rather full of themselves, the value for money is lousy and the stores way over promise and under-deliver – overall verdict: DISAPPOINTING! But, being the eternal optimist, there are silver linings. For example, when you walk around Jomson, as we did, you discover beautiful crop fields and gardens.

JomsomGardenOfEdenI have mentioned the phenomenally tasting apples and Himalaya Rocket Fuel 2.0 (Himalayan Apple Juice….[droooooool]), this is where they grow – good stuff.

JomsomTreeIn the fields around Jomson, I found this old and weathered tree. After two days, however, we moved on from Jomsom. By now you now that the flight was cancelled and that we took a dependable and rugged and punishment-tolerating Mahindra Bolero Camper.

B4Beni-1Due to the late arrival and the early flight out of Pokhara, I have nothing from Pokhara – you have already seen the images from the lake. So on we move on to the plane from Pokhra to Kathmandu. We see Manaslu.

Manaslu-PlaneThe biggest peak slightly to the right of the center is Manaslu, one of the 14 8000m peaks in the world. Once, I Kathmandu, I switched into street photographer mode – very unusual or me and a little uncomfortable. But I figured:”What the heck, this is vacation.”

KTM-PigmentSalesStreet vendor selling super saturated color pigment.

BikeTransportThis gentleman, was navigating and incredible amount of packages miraculously attached to thus bicycle through the traffic.

GroceryLadiesKTMThese two ladies were selling fresh vegetables…in a visibly casual and comfortable manner.

RikshasKTMThere were very active Riksha drivers underneath a cable chaos that proves that the 2nd law of thermodynamics MUST be true (disorder always increases).

RikshadriverNapThere was at least one Riksha driver who said “screw it all” and napped instead of pedaling.

LadiesChattingKTMThere were women chatting and taking it easy, while the works of art in their shop spoke for themselves. There were Fetishes and masks waiting to be purchased and haggled for by knowing tourists.

HouseOfFetishAnd of course there were people passing by and going in and out the famous Bong House.

BongHouse-ColAnd with that beautiful luminescent view of Kathmandu’s Bong House, I leave you for today. It’s been a great ride and was a lot of fun revisiting the places we saw on this trek.

Stay sharp and take here easy.

Cheers Markus \m/

 

Annapurna Himalaya – Visual Summary Pt4

Our last entry ended with the crossing of Thorung La Pass at 5450m altitude. The view was quite magnificent and a just reward for the walking, ascending and rising early of the days preceding.

ThorungPeak2-colA last look across the prayer flag covered pass towards Thorung peak and we started our 1600m (one vertical mile) descent. Our knees and legs were screaming in agony just thinking about it. I think, packing a paraglider is the healthier option. Yes is it bulky, but ascending is so much easier and more comfortable than descending on foot. Thus, on top, you’d unpack the paraglider, lay it out, strap in, raise it and then it’s “Sayonara dudes, see you at the bottom.” You’d enjoy the flight, the views, catch a few thermals in between  – badda-bing-badda-boom. But that was just me mental gazing, so down we walked to Muktinath. Muktinath is a quaint little mountain village without any surfaced roads. We stayed there for an extra day, before we moved on to Jomsom.

MuktinathReflectionsWe really only recognized Muktinath’s beauty when we left it and we looked back up to the village. There are many terraces fields used for small agriculture. Life in this region is hard and agriculture in particular is a fight. Each crop and harvest must be fought for without industrial help. It’s muscles, a strong back and elbow grease that provide food from the fields. However, on this nice Fall morning, thoughts of toil did not come to mind.

Muktinath-TerracesInstead, thoughts of peacefulness and serenity came to mind – well, my mind at least.Muktinath-LookbackAs we moved farther away from Muktinath, we approached the main valley, which extends from Beni some 80 kilometers away in the foothills to Jomson and then further into the restricted region of Mustang. And man, what a treat that valley was. We came in high above the valley floor and the entire valley stretched out before us in all its beauty.

JomsomValleyNELooking north towards Kagbeni and into Mustang.

JomsomValleySWLooking south towards Jomsom – although all you can see is the team house on the bottom of the valley, where we’d have lunch. As the others descended, I stayed a little bit longer to look for more opportunities to soak up this view and to capture it with my camera.

TreeInBreeze

If you have followed this blog for a while, you know that I have a soft spot for trees. They are usually older than I am and they have seen a lot more that I have. Although, I have not met a talking tree, their appearance tells the great story of their life – the great silent story tellers.

I think this tree, can also act as an exclamation mark to this entry and close it. (not my smoothest transition, to close an entry)

Alright, stay sharp, and seize opportunities to stay back and enjoy your surroundings all by yourself.

Cheers Markus \m/

 

 

 

 

Annapurna Himalaya – Visual Summary Pt3

After the semi-destroyed outhouse it is a few more minutes to Ledar. Ledar is a great base for an acclimatization day, for ascents towards teh Chulus and to continue on towards Thorung La pass and Thorung Peak.

CWBc-ApIII-Ggp-colView from near Chulu West Base Camp towards Annapurna III (left) and Gangapurna (right). Behind the ridge in the middle extends the glacier tongue from Chulu West.

From Ledar we marched on past small tea houses with juniper fires via Thorung La Base Camp to Thorung La High Camp – where the weather turned bad.

Ledar-ThLBC-JuniperfireThorungHCStormAbout one hour after we had arrived at Thorung La High Camp, clouds moved in quickly and it started to snow. A beautiful and adventurous sight, when you sit in the teahouse dining hall cozied up to you neighbor under a blanket, sipping on a hot milk-tea. The next day, we ascended early in the morning under the light of our headlamps to Thorung La Pass. The reward for rising at some god-forsaken hour was well worth it.

Sunrise-SouthEastThe view to the South-East shows to the left is Chulu West, in the distance is Annapurna II and IV. Turning around and looking straight West, we saw parts of the Dhaulagiri range, another range that exceeds the 8000 meter threshold and is home to the 7th highest mountain in earth: Dhaulagiri at 8167m.

ThLP-WestwardAnd although these were great moments with phenomenal landscape – man is insatiable, so I had to look up, too, in the hopes of seeing even bigger and better sights.

ThorungLaNow this testament of visual greed ends our third installment of the Annapurna Himalaya trip.

Ashamed, I humbly request for you to stay sharp and exercise humility and restraint when it comes to look at the world’s wonders, don’t be a glutton, enjoy them !-)

Cheers Markus \m/

Annapurna Himalaya – Visual Summary Pt2

We left Upper Pisang a little in a hurry. That’s why we have to go back, so I can show you this picture.

UpperPisangOldWomanI know it has a little creepy, peeping Tom quality to it. But it is such an intimate picture of the matriarch of the tea-house as she is sitting on her rug performing chores.UpperPisangSunrise-ColNo, we can leave Upper Pisang. A final look back and Upper Pisang bids us farewell with all its hoisted prayer flags waving in the morning breeze.

AP3GGP-colThe view from the rock dwelling where the Aani lives towards Gangapurna and its glacier lake. Yes, I immersed myself in that glacier lake, in an effort to teach. To teach the meaning of conceiving your own “He-Man” event, trial and tribulation. And yes, it was freaking cold. Th worst part was about 5 seconds after I had come out of the water. It feels like my bones are fracturing from the thermal expansion. Anyway, you never see the tear of a true “He-Man”…because true “He-Man” know when to look away or blink or cause a diversion.

LoneUrinator

After two days in Manang, we ventured on towards Ledar. On the way to Ledar is a tiny tea-house with an abandoned outhouse. I love this picture. I call it “The Lone Urinator”. My runner-up name for the image was. “The silhouette Of Heavenly Relief In The Wild”

Alright, this ends our part two of the visual summary.

Stay Sharp.

Cheers Markus \m/

Annapurna Himalaya – Visual Summary Pt1

Alright Y’all, it is time for a summary or at least to start a summary. I am trying to follow chronology, meaning we start with the first day of proper trekking, the one where we walk and then move on day by day.

ChamePrayerwheelsLeaving Chame shortly after sunrise, the trek now really starts. Trekkers leave Chame, by passing by and along the long Mani (wall of prayer wheels).

Annapurna-II-IVOn the way to Upper Pisang towards Annapurna II. On the bottom, you guessed it, Lower Pisang.

Annapurna2-4Sunset-ColSunset over Annapurna II and Annapurna IV seen from Upper Pisang.

OldLadyNBasketOld lady carrying loads the traditional way – Upper Pisang, around sunset.

Manang-Aani

In Manang, the next stage village after Upper Pisang, the trekker has two choices to acclimatize. Either one can ascent 1100m to the glacier lake or ascent up to the hermite temple, hewn in the rocks above Manang. The place is inhabited by an Aani (female buddhist monk). She lives a very spartan life up there, but she is very war and welcoming to visitors. She spoke very softly and we hared a cup of team. With the compassionate eyes, I will leave you for today.

Stay sharp

Cheers Markus \m/

 

Day 16 – Pokhara To Kathmandu

We walked around Pokhara today with our guide and porter. Sort of a farewell stroll. These two guys have been good friends and very dependable and caring. I want to use the term friend carefully, but when you have spend so much time so close together you either dread each other or you become friends – even if only for a limited  time. 

 Maybe sometimes  with real friendship it is like with theae boats. You get together, you spend time together, things rub off on each other and then you drift apart again  for a while because you need to follow different currents and winds. But while you were together you made common memories, you were there for each other and no one got hurt.

 
Although, I wonder if the boat analogy was really the right one for friendship. Just look at what happened to the two boats with the yellow bows – that looks more like betrayed love or Romeo and Juliet. So the boat analogy stands.

But I need to show you the beauty of Pokhara and the view you have from that lake onto the mountains.

 
In the middle you see a green pointy  hill. From there tourists can do tandem Paragliderflights. To the lett of that hill is Nilgiri. To the right of the green hill from leftvto right are: Machapuchre (pointy tock pyramid), Annapurna III, Annapurna IV, Annapurna II. All of these mountains are solidly above 6000 meters and when trekkers walk the Annapurna Circuit or the Annapurna Base Camp trek, the mountains get very close and are constant trekking partners, although stationary and quiet. Think of them as a much older and very cool big brother.

And that catches up fully with the live blog part of this great vacation. Tomorrow, tomorrow we fly back to Bangkok to see a factory about toy cars. I will do a visual summary of the while trip as soon as I have sorted through all the images. And I will write one more Sidenote entry about Klaus, a 77 year old  true traveller in the foot steps of Marco Polo, who we met along the way and with who we chatted extensively for the travel duration from Jomsom to Pokhara.

Alright, I will now go to bed and let you stay sharp by yourself.

Namaste dear readership.

Cheers Markus \m/