Overwhelmed with excitement, we all woke up at 6am to get ready for the one and a half hour ride to Nayapul.
Nayapul is a small little village where the actual trekking will start.
Located at an altitude of 1000m, Nayapul is the gateway village to Annapurna Base Camp.
Dawn is just breaking.
The son came out to enjoy a breath of fresh, cool air..
This young man is pretty tough. Apparently he has less of a fear of the cold than me.
Well, let's see how he does over the next few days.
I stood at the balcony and looked towards the rooms on my right.
The star above in the sky flickers, like signifying the starting of a new day.
Yupe. This will be a view which I will not be seeing for the next 5 days.
Looking ahead, Annapurna South peak and Hiunchuli peak smiled down, beckoning us to climb closer to them over the next few days.
It's interesting that now, in retrospect, I realise that over 6 days, I will see these mountains from a different foreground with a slightly different angle.
Even as we had breakfast, each of us had different thoughts in our mind..
I think many of us forgot that Penguins love toast with jam... LOL..
Of course, SereneXMM's mind is never far from the fact that not all the guest lodges up in the mountains have hot water shower,
and the fact that many of these guest lodges are simple thin-walled wooden houses with no form of heating facilities,
thus we would find ourselves sleeping in sleeping bags with fleece sleepers and all wrapped up in our base layers, middle layers and outer shells,
and all gloved and socked with heating pads applied all over our bodies...
Wow.. the mere thought of that could really be pretty daunting for some of us in the family.. Haha...
An Overview of our trek...
Our 5 day trek will see us hike from Nayapul (1000m) to Ulleri (2070m) on the first day,
and from Ulleri to Ghorepani (2870m) on the second day,
and to ascend to Poon Hill (3210m) to see sunrise on the third day and thereafter to trek to Tadapani (2660m),
and to trek a descending route from Tadapani to Ghanruk (2060m) on the forth day,
and a final descend to Nayapul on the last day of the trek.
This is the actual GPS track of our whole 5-day trekClick on the above picture for a larger version...
Back to the story...
Meanwhile, we were on the minibus.. and on our way to the starting point...
Well, as we quietly watched the scenery changed outside the moving bus, we start to catch glimpses of what is to come over the next few days.
The winding road keeps teasing us with sights of the Annapurna South.. one moment rising from behind houses...
Another moment peeping out from in between some branches...
First Day of Trekking
Objective: to trek from Nayapul through the small villages all the way up to Ulleri.
The last steep ascend from Tikhedhunga to Ulleri is a sharp 500m cllimb.. 3200 steps it has ever been counted..
Hopefully the children (and ourselves) will be able to overcome this to push all the way up to Ulleri on this first day of the trek.
Why? Because if not, then we will have to spend the night down in Tikhedhunga, a notion which I do not really relish.
Because that will mean that on the second day we have another siong stretch to add on to.
"We will try to go all the way up to Ulleri," said Mahesh.
"Mahesh," I spoke from the bottom of my heart. "Let's just plan to go all the way up. I am quite sure the children can make it."
My mouth said. But I am not really that sure.
"Children, we are going to give this Ulleri a shot, OK?" I reassured the family.
"We can make it one. It's really better to spend the night up at Ulleri than to be at the foot of the mountain."
Off we got.
Last minute adjustment of the height of our trekking stick and checking of daypack straps and water bottles...
.. and the girls just cannot fathom the idea of pee-ing behind the rocks..
So die die must have one last pee before starting to walk...
LOL.. Q 姐姐 a little Sua Koo, isn't she?
This is merely a gentle downslope leh.. Haven't even started the real trek...
[Translation: Q Jiejie: "Aiyoh.. this kind of road, how are we to walk?"]
This is a shot by SereneXMM of yours truly in my true-blue Nepali topi (hat) embarking on the trek.
I think I must have looked quite silly in my topi. Where on earth are there people trekking in topi?
No wonder I get funny gazes from the locals and porters as I trekked..
From Nayapul to Birenthanti
It's a short walk to the Check point at Birenthanti... about half and hour.
It felt like a walk through Orchard Road. Really not much of a climb.
The Nayapul we saw was a small village with small shops selling some trekking stuffs..
Village elders sitting around warming themselves and children having fun..
Like a kampong...
I don't have the figures for the temperature at that time on that day.
But.. I remember it wasn't really that cold at 1000m. A baselayer, and a middle fleece layer.. and we were all 'walking' comfortably.
The children here must have seen plenty of trekkers along their ways.
They were quite oblivious to our presence. In fact, they were all having such fun playing their own games... I don't even know what they were playing.
Lots of laughter and action...
A lot of mischievious looks.. Haha..
Crossing the Modi Khola River...
The Modi Khola River flows down the Ghorepani Birenthanti area and feeds this lovely land.
It originates from Annapurna Base Camp and along its way, picks up several tributaries.
Thus, we found ourselves crossing the Modi Khola time and time again on suspensions bridges as we trekked.
Sometimes we would be walking the mountain tracks, with the Modi Khola roaring just below us.
Other times we would make a turn, to come into full view of its splendour right ahead of us.
Here is the first suspension bridge we crossed right after Nayapul..
Mahesh is just right ahead of me...
Our lungs are still expansive,
our legs are still fresh,
our brains are still alert.
And we crossed the huge metal bridge and saw the check point at Birethanti...
Mahesh said: "Ok, this is the check point at Birethanti. Now we are going to trek up from the track on the left side. When we come back we would have made one round and will be trekking down along the track on the right side of this village."
At least now I know where we are going up, and where we will be coming down to.
But honestly, I still didn't know how the track conditions will be for we have only been walking for half and hour, and so far the path has been nice and smooth.
We heard sounds of crying as we made the turn, and we came upon this young little toddler boy being washed up by his father.
The children jokingly made a remark that they would cry too if they were to bathe like this for it was really cold.
Finally! Some steps.. warmly welcomed by the newbies...
Huh! Wait until later when more tougher and steeper steps present themselves!
Very soon, we started to feel a little bit of strain on our cardiovascular system as the gradient of the track took a turn northwards.
Still, it was a wide track which we were walking upon.
Mahesh explained that this is the motor track, which can be driven on by vehicles, thus the width.
But this motor track would end shortly and abruptly converge into a narrower trekking path with rocky steps and stony pavements.
That's when the fun will really begin.
Meanwhile, we enjoyed the wide track with all its nonsensical ups and downs..
The porters were just beginning to warm up. We could still see them.
Soon, they would forge ahead and disappear into nowhere with our hair dryers and makan, leaving us far far behind.
[Shot taken by Fann the Penguin.]
Up the track we went...
And Ya Ya Kapong the Queen SereneXMM went...
Here she was still happily plodding her trekking sticks here and there, left and right...
Her daypack was still feeling light on her back..
I quietly wondered how long more it would take before she started to kao beh kao boo...
Still, a man has got to do what a man has got to do.
The son has surged ahead with the porters somewhere along the track.
The walkie talkies, which every one has one strapped securely to their day packs, came in useful...
[Shot taken by SereneXMM]
I didn't have a chance to see this shot until I reviewed SereneXMM's pictures.. And wow...
Man, Don't I just look 'sat-sat' with that Nepali topi and my trekking stick?!
[Translation: Sat-Sat = steady poon pee pee = very smart-looking]
... As the hours went on, and the gradient got steeper, and the sun started beating down...
As expected, some time into the trek, we started feeling the heat, as our bodies became warmer with the exertion, and the sun started smiling BIG BIG at us.
Most of us started taking off our middle fleece layer or the outer shell, and just trekked with the base layer and/or T shirt.
The Modi Khola kept coming into view and disappearing out of sight as the curvy wurvy track turned left and right.
For those of us here who wonder how the Modi Khola looks like, here is a shot by Fann the Penguin...
[.. and I am not referring to the trekking shoes...]
OK, OK, Penguin. Stop that nonsense about taking pictures after picture of your feet and let's get going..
The track really started to tekan [translation: press, or in a more literal meaning, punish] us with an ever increasing gradient.
I began to feel a little breathless, but heck.. what is a little bit of exercise, right?
We didn't come to Nepal to do shopping mah, right?
The gap between ourselves widened.
The son is certainly nowhere to be seen by now, leaving the girls and myself behind...
Every one started to drift into their own thoughts...
Some kao-beh kao-boo-ing...
... and some, forever thinking about their hair dryers...
... Huh? What you saying? Obstacles along the track...?
Seasoned trekker will tell you that anything can happen along the treks.
Like on a motorway, you will have either road hogs, or speeding bullets posing as challenges..
So it came as no surprise when at one moment Q was admiring herself with the mountains...
.. the next moment we hear Mahesh shouting in front...
Nonchalantly the four legged obstacles walked by us, throwing Q a look as though asking her:
Kua Si Mi...!!??
[Translation: What you look at..!!??]
Well, here we are at around 1000+m altitude. The commonly encountered domestiated livestocks are buffaloes, horses, ponies, goats, ducks, chicken and such.
There aren't any yaks at this level.
The yaks can only survive at higher altitude of 3000m and above.
So the question that I kept asking myself was: "Will we see yaks at the higher altitudes?"
Well, let's see how the answer comes.
... Some more obstacle..?!?!
Man, this track is beginning to feel like some kind of an SOC (Standard Obstacle Course) liao...
Suddenly my walkie talkie crackled:
"Pa, a big water puddle ahead..." It was the son.
He is beginning to be like some kind of scout for the whole team.
He would walkie-talkie to the whole group about anything he comes into contact right in front, giving us prior warning.
That was really good. I am beginning to like the walkie talkies..
And here, a big water puddle...
How to cross?
Only a thin slither of rocks on the side allows for stepping space...
Well, after this video, every yak in the mountain can hear SereneXMM screaming her lungs out as she struggled to find her footing on the rocks..
I can't help myself laughing my a** off when she screamed like that... LOL.
Young kids can go trekking one meh...?
[Singlish. Translation: Can young kids go trekking?]
Yah, that was what some of my friends asked.
Well, until this moment in the trek, I didn't have the answer yet.
But now, in restrospect, my answer is a strong affirmative.
Of course they can. And mind you, they may even do a better job than you and I put together.
Look at them. They are just children only.
What is the mountain? What is a steep slope with rocky step haphazardly arranged?
What is freezing cold without heater and only your clothes and your sleeping bag to keep you warm?
What is frozen icy tracks so slippery that one misstep and down you go the cliff centimetres away from you?
They know nothing of that.
And they probably fear none.
"Papa, are we there yet? How long more to go?"
Well, I really don't know leh.. I only know that the most siong part hasn't come yet.
And here we walked through a lovely tiny village with terrace farm...
I can't help but admire the serenity of the place. Hmm.. a nice place to retire in, I thought..
My reverie was broken by the son's words:
"We are now at Ramghai. Not even one thrid way yah! Our lunch destination will be at Hille."
Ok, so looks like there is more suffering to come.
But for some, the suffering process has already started.
SereneXMM was not her usual fit and extremely fast self. Today something funny leh..
She only walked a while, but she started feeling breathless and complained of feeling syncope (fainting).
No, it cannot be acute mountain sickness yah. We are only at most 1300m and AMS does not occur at this altitude.
Must be MANJA lah...
So how? I ended up carrying two day packs - one mine own behind, and one hers in front.
Man, I could just have been a porter...
So we walked and walked and came to a rest point..
Are we tired yet?
Very honestly, at this rest point, both SereneXMM and I were a LITTLE tired ~ she tired from the steep slope, and me tired from having to carry both hers and mine own back packs. LOL..
The children are so far doing ok.
The elder Jiejie's - Penguin is really no Lasa one. She is a real fitness freak.
The Hair Dryer Q jiejie - she will walk. But she will complain and complain - not outside. But inside. LOL..
So when Mahesh says, we are getting close to Hille which is our lunch destination, we were all pretty relieved.
Thus we gave the steps some last burst of fire...
Didn't know since when, the track has narrowed into small paths with stony and rocky climb...
.. and we took one more turn, pumped out thigh muscles up a flight of rocks.. and we came to...
Heng ah.. lunch time!
Well, and it's just about high time.. my energy was about to run low already.
Any lower, I will need to be portered up myself.
I heard someone in the audience asking quietly.. LOL..
Here, click on the map for a bigger version and you will see Hille at 1495m.
Looks close to our final destination, right?
But wrong. Still very very far away..
Along the trek, we have met and lost, and lost and met again and again the same individual/group trekkers from South Africa, Korea, London.
And they range from fit, muscular young man to petite Asian lady to really old Englishman.
Along the way we found ourselves giving each other words of encouragement and checking on each others' progress.
Here at Hille, the South African young man decided to spend his night here with his girl friend.
When told we were going to be heading for Ulleri, he said:
"Oh, you guys are good. I've had it for the day. This lodge here is lovely.
We're just gonna rest here for the night. You have a good climb up to Ulleri!"
Siao liao lah.. Even the Ang Moh also stop at Hille and not progress towards Ulleri.
For a moment it made me reconsider my decision...
And how can a Nepali lunch be without my favourite.. Dal Bhat!
Relaxing in Hille...
This Mahesh was very clever.
He knew that this was our first day of trekking. And he knew that the BEST has yet to come.
So what did he do?
He allowed us a little bit more time to eat and recuperate in Hille.
Almost a little too much, I thought.
But seeing how the children were enjoying themselves.. I thought aiyah, heck it lah. Just enjoy and relax lor.
Anyway, we were not in a rush, were we?
Hey no. We were on holiday.
So here, is a totally relaxed, totally Singaporean-turned-Nepali trekker wearing his Rudy Project.
... and I kept looking at the Jiejies' Kathmandu-acquired trekking pants and I just couldn't help thinking how good a quality they were of.
And the green looked very nice with the mountain and the sky as background.
So I made them stand side by side like young little girls and shot nothing but the trek pants...
Sigh.. of course.
AhLiXMM and her obligatory teddy bear shot.
What have I gotten myself into?
Who have EVER heard of people bringing Teddy Bears on trekking trips?
"Hey Sing!" I called out. "Eh I kept taking photos of you all."
"How about you helping us take a shot of both of us?"
So this very young lady, who happens to be the only child out of all of them who can operate a Rangefinder, obligingly took a shot of us sitting and smiling and relaxing just at the doorstep of this lodge in Hille.
And I would say she did a pretty good job.
Well done, Sing!
And Penguin Jiejie and Hair Dryer Q Jiejie both a little bit sianz already.
Must have waited a little too long that their lunch have digested completely and have passed down their digestive tracks.
They must be raring to cheong mountain again liao...
Yupe. I am quite sure now, seeing how Sing is starting to do her Tae Kwondo kicks.
Their energies are coming back and they are ready to go...
And SereneXMM just cannot help herself disturbing the girls with her own Taiji kungfu...
"Ok OK.. Let's quickly take a group photo here before we start the last siong siong climb," I ordered.
And Mahesh helped us take this picture. How to shoot, he asked.
I thought for a while.. hmm, it's a little too on-the-spot to explain to him how to use a Rangefinder.
So I just set it at "f/8-and-be-there" and instructed him to just frame and shoot.
And I think he did a great job, for a first time Rangefinder shooter...
So, how long more to trek... really?
I pulled Mahesh over and quietly asked him as we trekked.
"Mahesh, hey how long more from Hille to Ulleri ah?" I asked.
"Not far lah," again, his Singlish reply. "To Tikhedhunga maybe another 20 minutes. And then the 500m steep climb another mabe.. one and a half hours.. maximum 2 hours for the climb."
Me: "....... wah lau eh.. like that another two and a half hours..."
Very encouraging, this Mahesh.
As we neared the end of Hille, we passed by the last few houses.
I understood from what Mahesh told me that this area around Hille, Tikhedhunga, Ulleri are inhabited by the Margar people, a Hindu tribe.
But this house here certainly looked Gurung in the design.
The Gurung are another tribe of mountain people who are Buddhist.
I looked up and saw rows and rows and rows of some yellowish thingy hanging on the veranda.
"Wah, girls! Look! Chicken chicken!" I cried.
"No lah!" they nonsensed me. "Those are corns lah!"
Wah lau eh.. really hor...
My eyesight must be damn bad. Must be the high dose of ultraviolet light up here in the mountains lah..
Ok OK OK...
So along the track we trudged.
One moment we were going down slippery wet rocks...
...another moment we were climbing up steps of rocks...
... and when we arrived at the top of the flight, to behold YET another high gradient climb ahead..
The porters, the son, and the ponies were already waaaaaAAAAYYY ahead liao...
... heading towards the last frontier village of Tikhedhunga...
All I knew was, we just got to make it to Tikhedhunga, where we will come to a last and final suspension bridge before we start the ascend.
So with that in mind, we pushed on.
... Cross the second last suspension bridge with the ponies...
... and Tikhedhunga welcomes us warmly into her embrace...
.. The Last Climb ~ Tikhedhunga to Ulleri ...
This is the actual GPS track of our climb up from Tikhedhunga to Ulleri
A few minutes through the small village of Tikhedhunga, we came to the last and the final suspension bridge.
"This is it," I told myself.
"Ok children, remember... take it slowly a step at a time... a Baby step at a time.." I crackled over the walkie talkie.
But somehow, something told me that my advice was not really needed for the children.
It was more of a gentle reminder to SereneXMM and myself rather.
Here is that fateful moment...
One Baby Step at A Time...
Yah. I thought back of our trekking in Namche Bazaar when an Ang Moh man said to us "One Baby Step at a time.".
I kept saying to SereneXMM and myself.. One baby step at a time.
And we both could hardly talk... our lungs were too busy gasping.
I stopped to purposely checked my heart rate. It was about 160/min.
Good. I am in Zone 5 heart rate. Should be burning quite a few fat cells off already.
SereneXMM she was even more poor thing.
She totally couldn't talk.
Every few tens of steps, she and I would stop and gasp for air for half a minute, before we continued our way.
This was really a damn painful way of climbing stairs. How nice if there were lifts to the top. Haha..
Somehow, the words were lost on the babies.
Although they are babies, but they certainly didn't know the meaning of Baby Steps.
They were way ahead of both of us liao... Crazy babies!
And looking at the way AhLiXMM ran up the steps.. I couldn't see anything Baby about her pace..
Yes... the famous stinging Nettle.
Well, yah lah yah lah, the children climbed so quickly that they didn't watch out for this nasty stinging nettle.
And Ah Sing and ZA and even SereneXMM got their forearms scratched by this little plant.
I have never seen these before in my whole life.
But within a couple of minutes, their forearms and scratch marks were all swollen with hives.
And that crazy son.. his eye started to tear.
My goodness, what a reaction these innocent looking plants induce!!
Quickly, we whipped out our first aid kit and applied some steroid cream and popped some anti-histamine into each of their mouths.
"Pa, it is very painful. And my hands are numb already. My eyes tear so much that I cannot see anything..." complained the son.
Ok Ok.. Let's just rest a while.
I reassured them all. Give the medicine about half an hour's time to act, by the time you are up there, it would have set in fully and you will as good as new.
Yah.. so much for Singaporean first aid. Haha..
But from that point onwards, EVERY ONE of us were on the look out for these nasty Stinging Nettle and didn't dare go anywhere near them.
Onwards to Ulleri, Soldiers!
Phew phew phew... panting away, we continued our ascend.
I have totally lost count of the time, and my initial attempt to confirming the total number of steps it will take to reach the top had somehow been aborted somewhere in the middle.. I didn't know where.
All I knew was I was walking like a zombie...
Looking up, I can see all the girls there, making their way slowly.
But where on earth is that son of ours?
That crazy fellow is fit, yes I knew. But don't tell me he is THAT fit?
It must have been at least one hour since we started the steep ascend already.
The children are also showing some signs of slowing down..
They must be tiring already..
Ok, girls. Take it easy ok?
Stop and rest a while before you continue the ascend.
I don't want you all to shagged out yourselves on the very first day.
We have another four more days to go one ok?
Climbed and climbed and climbed we continued.
Until we reached an opening. I looked back and appreciate the few from a high vantage point for the first time.
Whew... we must have climbed quite a bit already. Because the things looked a little smaller below us now.
How long more to go... I don't know.
I only knew.. JUST KEEP ON GOING...
.. Some similarity? LOL...
I was surprised when I saw this photo of SereneXMM climbing up.
It was not too long ago when I last saw her climbing up at around the same angle and kao-beh-kao-boo-ing at the same time...
Now this trek ..................................................2 Years ago Clickable for the link to the old thread...
Hmmm... don't know if there is going to be a third trek... or even a forth trek in the future?
Finally. One last turn. And we see Ulleri.
The feeling is that of both a relief as well as an anti-climax.
Haha.. honestly I was expecting something like.. so steep at the last last LAST stretch that requires me to be on all fours to climb up.
Wahahaha... just joking.
It was good that we arrived for the sky was turning dark already.
Any later we would be walking in the dark.
Here is the video of that last stretch up to Ulleri...
The walkie talkies have been exceptional.
Throughout the whole trek, every single one of us has been communicating through them,
and was kept in tuned with the progress of every member.
I love them, these Motorola walkie talkies.
So happy ah, this AhLiXMM? Haha... steady lah, all the children.
Of course, the Gege 哥哥 (Elder brother) is the most tok gong. He must have been up there for quite some time already.
That fellow arrived with the porters... and the donkeys (or were those ponies?)...
And of course, well done to SereneXMM too.
Like a mountain goat she climbed and climbed and climbed...
Haiyah.. this Gege ah... he has the leg power of a pony, and the appetite of a horse.
And yes, this climb has been taxing on all of us, especially those of us who have weak knees.
That's why we got everyone a pair of knee guards to be used every day on the trek.
We can ill afford to have any injured knees right at the beginning of the trek.
But still, the toll on our knees seemed to have started right on day one...
Hot drinks, boys and girls?
Erm.. hot shower, any one?
Superb, this Superview Lodge.
I wasn't expecting this, but they actually had attached showers for the two rooms allocated to the girls.
We two boys were upstairs on the third floor. That one had no attached shower. But it's ok, we can still use the girls' shower.
But... it was 5:15pm already. In Nepali Winter term, it was sunset and it was COLD...!
I checked the recorded temperature at 5pm on this evening and it was at 16 degree Celsius.
Strange. Really didn't feel like a 16. It felt even colder.
Anyway, I was the first one to grab a towel and went into the shower which was pitch black because I couldn't find the switch to the light.
The moment I finished the hot shower, and tried to dry myself, I was shivering like an old donkey.
Every body looked at me walking out of the shower and unanimously decided NOT to try their luck.
How was the rooms?
Well.. they looked like this.
Really not too bad in mountain lodge's standard.
You just got to make sure you close the windows tight at night while you sleep so that the cold wind cannot seep in.
This one has concrete walls. We were lucky tonight.
"Mahesh, where can I charge my camera batteries?" I asked.
"Aaarrr... you can charge it in the kitchen. There is a common charging point for every one."
Heng ah.. at least still has charging source in this guest lodge. I was prepared for the worst.
Dinner was a warm affair in the fireplace heated dining hall.
Some die-hards were still studying in the dinner area...
First night at Ulleri...
That night, the temperature went down to about 6 degrees.
We slept with our base layers + middle layer + out layer + merino wool socks + gloves + heat pads all stuck to the body...
... all wrapped up in the sleeping bag lined with a inner fleece layer.
Of course for those poor little things who dare not shower, they all had the luxury of a powder bath.
Dinner over, we went up and knocked out.
When you trek, you usually sleep very early, about 7-8pm because everything is dark, and there is no TV to watch, and no computer games to play.
Then suddenly at 3am, I was woken up by the hungry horse...
Yeah. Really. We literally just woke up.
We looked out our windows to see only one light left on.
Crazily we braved the cold and went down. Hoping to do what, I didn't know.. maybe.. to see stars?
It was actually very very dark. My shots all could not make it one.
Had to use very very slow shutter speed, so lots of movement blur and all that.
But I thought that made things a little more real and raw...
We stayed for a short while outside.
And decided that enough was enough.
And we walked back up third floor.
The stairs and floors were all wooden and they creaked like nobody's business..
And at 3am, every single creak became a huge croak..
Yupe.. We came back up to our room on the third floor...
Click Below to continue to the next Chapter:
A Family's Trekking Travellogue to Nepal ~ Day 4