Phill Hunsberger - October 1996 - 16-day trek around Annapurna - Nepal

Having a relative living in Kathmandu is a great motivator to design an adventure in that part of the world. In early October Phill, his 26-year-old daughter Robbin, and two of her friends met in Kathmandu, Nepal where they took care of business (obtaining trekking permits and bus tickets) as well as seeing the sights of many tiny shops, rooftop restaurants, temples, and shrines.

The trail head is a full day's bus ride from Kathmandu over winding mountain roads, the last of which was unpaved and deeply rutted. At dark the bus came to a stop, and after an hour it became obvious that it was not going to proceed. Knowing it was only three km. to the nearest village with a lodge, nearly everyone decided to get off the bus and walk the remaining distance. No more than 100 yards around a corner they discovered two trucks nose to nose, unable to pass, and unable to back up in the dark! Arriving in the village an hour later, they were immediately surrounded by children wanting to take them to their parents' lodges. Finally one was selected and rooms were obtained for the night. Two days later they heard news that a bus, unable to make it up a hill, had backed down and went right off the cliff into the river. A number of people were killed.

They carried their own packs (no porters or guides) and relied on a guide book to explain the trail and tell them the best places to find lodging. There are no vehicles here: just foot travel and occasional pack trains of donkeys or yaks. Crossing suspension or "hanging" bridges became a common occurrence as the trail led up one river valley, across a 17,000 foot pass in the Himalayas and down another river valley. Walking through several villages a day, sights of entire hillsides terraced in rice paddies, the snow covered peaks, numerous waterfalls, hot springs, and the villagers going about their daily tasks were all fascinating. Tea breaks were common, as every village has a tea shop. Food was your choice of rice, noodles or potatoes with various vegetables, egg or sometimes chicken mixed in. As long as food and beverages were hot, they were safe to consume. Cold water must either be filtered or treated with iodine tablets.

The hiking portion of the days was not particularly long -- 4-6 hours, because it is important to adjust to altitude by not gaining more than 3-4,000 feet per day. Crossing the pass on the 10th day was indeed the highlight of the trek. About 100 trekkers crossed the pass this day. It was snow covered, but the trail was easy to find. Temperatures were about 20-something degrees and a good wind was blowing. Really needed those heavy Tibetan sweaters to keep warm under genuine Gortex (not the fake stuff that is sold in Kathmandu)! Two days later it snowed, leaving the pass buried in 4-6 feet of it. Thus no one crossed the pass for a week!

The other side of the pass is more highly traveled, as there are pilgrims making their way to a sacred site, and the Jomsom airport brings in many trekkers who do not have the time to make the entire loop.

Six days later brought them to the end of the trail where they bargained for a taxi to take them the one hour ride to Pokahara, a resort town by a lake. Here there are many restaurants offering much variety in food and some provide cultural dancers for the evening.

If you are interested in taking such a trek, there are many web sites that tell you the details. Phill likes to share his knowledge too, just call him at 610-759-7067. He has an exact record of expenses, if cost is something you want to know. He took 1200 slides, but managed to select only 300 to show! His wife, who was working on a writing assignment in Kathmandu during his trek, has learned to prepare some Nepali dishes. Do you need an evening to "get away from it all"?

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