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Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Day One – No more crap tunes. Please!

I’ve just returned to civilisation after ten days trekking in the Annapurna region of the Himilayas. Surprisingly, my legs aren’t actually sore. I seriously find that really weird. I’ve just spent five hours a day climbing up and down stairs, for a week and a half, and my legs feel fine. What the jelly is going on?

The other thing that’s weird at the moment is that I haven’t seen Bec for eleven days. Unfortunately, her dodgy knee meant she couldn’t come on the trek, so I was accompanied by Abs, another Melbournite who is volunteering with Umbrella. Bec has been back in Kathmandu with the kids, she arrives here in Pokhara (the main town near the Annapurna region, from which all the treks in the area begin, and where we’ll be hanging out for the next few days) in a few hours, so forgive me if the words that follow on this page make no sense – my mind is a little distracted!

Now, let me just say, if you’re ever speaking to someone about travelling, and they casually mention trekking in Nepal, (“Oh yeah, Nepal, I went trekking there for three weeks back in ’02.”) as though it was as simple as nipping out to get a pint of milk, let me assure you that that person is a wanker. Because trekking in Nepal is really really really, bloody, hard!


(Although, I am a bit of a pansy, which if you’ve read any of this website over the past couple of years, you’ve probably worked out for yourself.)

So anyways, on to the trekking!

Abs and I were tackling the Annapurna Sanctuary trek, ten days of walking which would take us up to Annapurna Base Camp at 4100m. There are only 14 mountains in the world over 8000m; Annapurna is one of them, although it only just scrapes in at something like 8020m (Everest is somewhere around 8800m)

We began at the village of Naya Pul, at 1050m, about a half hour’s drive from Pokhara. The trail meandered gently alongside the Bhurungdi Khola (river) at the bottom of a valley. Small villages dotted the path, with each building a restaurant / guest house / cafe selling essential trekking items like Pringles.

The path crossed through the river, and we hopped from stone to stone like young boys out exploring. Which we were, in a way, just without Mum calling us in at dinnertime. After an hour or so, we climbed steeply up the side of the valley to the village of Hille, where we stopped for lunch. The climb up was tough, only made worse by the sun beating down. Lots of stairs, lots of sweat.

After lunch, we descended back down and crossed over the valley floor, past gushing water falls, and began the long climb straight up the other side to Ulleri, where we would spend the night. It was a ridiculously steep climb, for an hour and a half with no respite, each step taking you another eight inches higher. The sweat poured off me. The word profusely doesn’t even come close to describing how much I sweated going up that hill. I’m only a skinny guy to begin with, and if I was gonna be sweating this much over the next ten days, there’d be nothing left of me for Bec to hug when I got back.

We passed packs of bell-toting donkeys (like Swiss cows, except, well, they were donkeys) carrying enormous loads of supplies. Porters ran down the stairs the other way, carrying two or three huge backpacks tied together by rope, making me feel even more weak and pansy-ish than ever, given all I was carrying was a camera and a bottle of water (Abs and I had hired a porter to carry our gear).

But you know what made that hour and a half climb most difficult? It was the damn song that somehow entered my head. Some crap tune I hadn’t heard for years, I think by Smashmouth, something about walking on the sun. Damn, I hate that song. How the fuck it got in my head I don’t know. Right now I can’t even think of how it goes. But it got in there, and spun round and round driving me crazy. And from that day on, I made a conscious effort to put a decent song in my head, which thankfully paid off. Didn’t work so well for Abs, who for two days had the jingle from an Australian lotto advertisement (“If life could be a dream…”) stuck in his head.

We eventually made it to Ulleri, after four and a half hours of walking, and relaxed with a cup of tea and a Snickers bar (which would become my ritual at the end of each day). Our room had 180 degree views, including looking straight back down the valley from where we’d begun.

The sun had disappeared, and the clouds began to swallow the tree covered hills like a snake devouring a mouse. And once the darkness took hold, we slept.

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