Monday, December 17, 2012

A Family's Trekking Travellogue to Nepal ~ Day 5

Day 5: The third day of Trekking
To Poon Hill and to Tadapani

This third day saw us moving out at 5:15am from our guest lodge
to move in the dark to Poon Hill.
And after the return to Ghorepani,
we set out towards our destination for the day - Tadapani.
What a trek this day brought.
What a trek.

Clickable on the image below to see the larger version

Poon Hill

The highlight of this very trek, is walking up Poon Hill to see sunrise.
Yes, it was just so simple.
Poon Hill has been described as the perfect spot for the best view of the Annapurna range, where one can see:

  • Machhapuchhre
  • Hiunchuli
  • Annapurna South
  • Annapurna Fang
  • Nilgiri
  • Dhaulagiri range

The magical moment would be when the sun rises just above one of the lower ranges on the east and its ray first hits Annapurna South.

Expecting a freezing cold climb, we had all the three or four layers of our trekking wear on.
Haha.. what a climb this was.
Early in the morning...
No light. Freezing cold.
... and some of us don't know why were having stomach pain..

[This series of shots were all taken with my rangefinder which I had to grapple with estimating the distance in the dark and hazzarding the shots.
Thus please pardon me for the out-of-focus shots and those with movement blur. But just to demonstrate the moment, I thought they should suffice.]

We walked in the deep dark with our torch lights.
Among 7 of us, only our son and I carried daypacks because we wanted every body else to walk easy.
We started the climb on a even flat walk, which very soon became flights after flights of steps with high intervals.
Often we had to lift our legs high to put our feet onto the next step. Not easy.

We rested momentarily at a lighted hut..

Here, there was a rotating gate through which we enter and from which we started another climb.
Q Jiejie clutched her stomach and asked: "Haiyoh... why ah? Why are we doing this ah?"
I laughed and laughed and said: "Ok, give me three days. In three days' time, I might be able to answer this very good question."

Climbed and climbed we did.
Again, SereneXMM and I did our usual few steps and rest to take a breather.
Although we were the first group to start the climb up to Poon Hill, very soon we were over-taken by some of the later starters, trekkers from other parts of the world. The narrow trail became more crowded as more people walked with and ahead of us.

For thus far, I have personally been quite optimistic about the trek.
But this morning, this very moment, for the first time, I actually cursed and swore and questioned myself.
I was genuinely worried about the safety of the children, walking in the dark in the uphill climb.
Knowing how the mountain treks were, a misstep in the dark could easily mean a fall off the edge of the cliff.
Sh*t. If anything were to happen...
"This is CRAZY," I muttered quietly inside my heart.
Really, it was really crazy doing this insane climb in the dark. Nearly 400m of ascend in one hour. In the dark!
Aiyoh eh...

A video of darkness... of SereneXMM's legs and of our climb up to Poon Hill.

For some strange reasons, in between trying to catch my breath and trying to negotiate the climb, I still had the presence of mind to whip out my digital point and shoot for some video taking. Although it was still of pitch darkness.. LOL..

... finally. Finally.

If this tower atop Poon Hill could laugh, it would certainly be laughing its rooftop off looking at us panting and trying to catch our breath as we tried to near it.
For the first time on this trek, we have broached the 3000m altitude.
Our Pengiun was feeling nausea and Q Jiejie was still having stomach cramp.
On that morning, I didn't think much of these.. but it was later that I kicked myself in the butt.
Why? Because though not severe, these could very well had been slight symptoms of altitude illness.

And as first light dawned, and we could begin to see.
I could certainly see quite a crowd of trekkers gathered at the clearing atop Poon Hill, eagerly awaiting sunrise.

At first, it was still pretty dark around.
And we were all a little disoriented.
I couldn't find where the children were because they were all over the place.
But I though aiyah.. just relax lah.
We were just here to enjoy the sunrise.
So.... slowly the first light became a first and a half light...

SereneXMM's first shot showed there to be some Ang Mohs who were all relaxed and sitting on the clearing waiting for the magical moment to come..

[Shot taken by SereneXMM]

Aaaaawww... sunrise
~ the first magical moment of the morning.

There was muttering all over the clearing. And the inescapable glow of the sun peeping over the range to the east captured everyone's attention.

I looked around and found the Rabbit and the Kitten seated side by side watching very intently their very first sunrise over the Himalayan ranges.

Q Jiejie was still suffering from her stomach cramp as she sat grouchily all covered up.
LOL.. she must be cursing and swearing her unlikely stars for making her climb all the way up just... to watch this?!

Aaaawww... the Rabbit and the Kitten.. and the little Teddy bear.
Man, this is magical. To me at least.

Sun-lit peaks...
~ the second magical moment of the morning...

Some more muttering, and this time round we turned our attention to what was behind us..
And yes, the ray of light from the rising sun was just beginning to hit the peaks.
And in SereneXMM's first shot of this the taller Annapurna South peak was the very first peak to be tangential-ed by the golden hue.
Hiunchuli peak, which was to Annapurna South peak's right, was still shrouded in darkness, as well as the twin-tiny-peaked Machhapuchhre (fish tail) at the far right. Annaurna Fang peak was just starting to catch the fire, on the left...

[Shot taken by SereneXMM while everyone else was dropping their jaws over the magnificent sight.]

My shots?
Yah, fortunately I had the presence of mind to change my lens to the 90mm.
Well, atop Poon Hill was the second time i used my 90mm lens. And after that, for the rest of the trip, it was put into cold storage. Haha..
Here I merely trained my lens onto Annapurna South Peak which was catching fire.. leaving enough space on the right to frame in Hiiunchuli.

And the Penguin?
Well.. she had her own point of view, and her own idea. And I could see why.
She was more fascinated by the clouds than the mountain peaks..

[Shot taken by Fann the Penguin.]

Teddy bear Yi-Mao also wants a memory of the moment...

AhLiXMM: "Papa, take a picture take a picture for her too.."
Well, that was what we climbed all the way here for mah, right? No?

Summit of Poon Hill..

Haha.. Poon Hill is not called a hill for no reason.
In Himalayan term, Poon Hill is no where near as high as the mountains.
Thus in the eyes of Nepali, 3210m is merely a little pimple.
But for us Singaporeans, 3210m is many times our 163m Bukit Timah Hill.
Thus, it is a proud group of Singaporeans who brought our National Flag ALL the way here to mark the moment.

Poor thing, a nauseous Penguin and a Hair Dryer with stomach cramp don't make no good companionship.
Haha.. poor things.
But what is even more poor thing is us, SereneXMM and myself.
How on earth are we going to motivate this group of punctured-tyres to walk the next 6 hours... Jiak lat ah...

Now I have also to deal with a punctured SereneXMM..

Hehe.. never summit mountain, summit the Hill also considered not bad lah...
Thus, the Singapore flag must also come out and accompany her people in recording this moment.

Haha.. those who have gone up Poon Hill before would be laughing their rooftops seeing us taking shots like these.
But hey, it's a momentous moment for the family mah, right?
So whatever makes it more significant, we will just do it lah...
Here is SereneXMM and me on our Victory Round, shot taken by none other than our AhSing who was the ONLY one who could operate the rangefinder.

And here, another momentous moment of the Kitten, the Penguin and the Rabbit , all of them Pooning the Hill together.

Of course, how can a good trekker forget his porters and guide?
Here, for the sake of memory, were:
Ram-Ali, Dipa, Rajkumar, Ramesh and of course Mahesh.
A powerful sight of a very powerful people with their powerful native peaks ~ conjuring a picture of nothing but Power.

One last look from The Hill of the Poon...
Yupe. The sun has risen high enough.
And the time has come to bid farewell to Poon Hill.
We looked to our left at the majestic mountains...

... and we looked right towards the layers of the eastern ranges...

... and we bid a quiet farewell to these rocks.
It has been an exhilarating experience.
One which I am sure will be etched in the memories of every single one of us.

What goes up... must come down...

At least now we could see our steps as we descended.
The air was still as cold.
And nobody was ready to remove any layers of their cold wear yet.

Looking down, now that we can see clearly, I thought to myself:
"Siao ah... these rocks, how did we ever climbed up here in the dark? Sheer craziness!"

.. and AhSing descended painfully and slowly as she must have banged her knees hard when she climbed up earlier.
shucks... looks like a tough day ahead.
The stomach cramp, the knee pain... aiyah, what more is to come?

We arrived back at Ghorepani as breakfast awaited us...

Good bye, Ghorepani...
pani, here we come.

Click on the image to see the larger version

A quick breakfast at Greenview Lodge in Ghorepani,
and off we went, embarking on the long trek for the day.

... another tough day of trekking...

Trekking in the Nepali Himalayan is just so interesting.
You can read the map and the reviews on the internet, and all the Lonely planet and Trip Advisors you can find.
But when you are on the ground, you never know what you will be expecting.
Only when I looked back, with all the GPS information in my hand, did I realise that this day's trek is really pretty tough.
Why? Look at the map below again...

Click on the image below for a larger version

Yes, studying the total elevation gain of 1033m and a total altitude loss of 1250, I only discovered much later how much ups and downs the whole family went through on this day. Thus although the horizontal distance wasn't much, the climb and descend was pretty significant. No wonder we all were really tired at the end of the trek.

For most part of the trek, we were hovering around 3000m.
Some parts of the trek was along trails of frozen ice, some along permafrost.
From what Mahesh said, some parts that are permafrost were not only so because of the altitude, but also because of the trees that kept the sunlight out, and the ground became frozen permanently hard, with ice deeply embedded in them.

Soon, our trail became icy, as we entered the Rhododendron forest...

... trekking on the Ridge of the Mountain...

I found it so exciting, for from Ghorepani to Deurali Pass and beyond, we found ourselves literally trekking on the very ridge of the mountains.
Again and again, we found ourselves entering Rhododendron forest, only to walk out into a clearance and when we looked left and look right, we can actually see the slopes of both sides of the mountain.
The children were amazed. Really amazed.

This is the kind of scene in movies when a small group of people trek on top of a ridge and the director instructs the movie camera mounted on a helicopter to move closer to the movie characters trekking, and following them and then moving out again, zooming out to capture the whole scene.
Fancy ourselves also having the chance of a lifetime to walk like this.

[Shot taken by SereneXMM of us trekking]

Again.. entering another Rhododendron forest...

Mahesh said as we walked, that during the blooming season, the Rhododendron trees will blossom.
But now it was winter, the flowers were not out.
All we could see, of Nepali's National Flower, were the trees and the branches.
Welcoming us into the embrace.

[Taken by SereneXMM]

Poor Q suffering...

I asked Q: "Is your stomach cramp better?"
"Yeah. I am feeling better now. But I really didn't enjoy the climb up to Poon Hill," she replied.
"Now still a little bit of discomfort. But i think I can tahan," she continued.
"Ok, Q. Watch the symptoms. We still have a long day's walk ahead," I comforted her.

Poor girl, I know the feeling. Imagine having to grit your teeth and climb while the stomach was churning.
But she did us proud. As the eldest Jiejie, she really REALLY took the lead and made sure the younger siblings followed her.

Poor AhSing suffering...

And as we trekked, I started seeing AhSing limping.
"How are you?" I asked.
"My right knee is very painful. And both my ankles are also very painful," she replied.
"Ok AhSing. At the next rest point I will re-bandage your knee. And I'll give you a pain killer to make it feel better," I comforted her.
"Ok, Pa."

This young one here has real determination.
I knew her well. And I see her limping and limping, with every step up she would dig deep in with both her trekking stick, and push herself up.
Not easy for a young girl.
Not bad. Not bad.

The marvellous Guide, Mahesh.

The ever-present Mahesh was really hard working.
He was always up ahead and in the middle and sometimes right behind, always keeping an eye on all of us.
It's really not easy, because within a group, there will always be difference in physical fitness and you will forever have those who lag behind.
And as a guide, he will need to constantly manage our expectations and give us the encouragement.

And his mind will always have to be one and a half step ahead of everyone, planning the next rest stop, the next lunch break, the guest lodge and the food order.
And the porters will always be looking towards him for the next instruction.
We have the honour, of having just such a wonderful Guide with us.

Mahesh in deep thoughts, taken by SereneXMM.

... Forging through to Deurali Pass at 3100m...

The terrain was pretty undulating right early in the trek.
And it was constantly up and down.
Again, it was only upon hindsight, and with the data from the GPS, did I realise that we were pushing towards Deurali pass.
The ground alternated between soft soil and hard frozen permafrost.
And at some parts, there wasn't a clear path to walk.
We encountered a few steep slopes which had no well-defined trails and we literally just jacked ourselves up the side of the slope with our sticks and pure brute strength from our trekking sticks and legs.

Different Path, same Destination..

I still remember this one.
Here we came upon this slope and every one was confused.
I stopped and observed how every body walked and was utterly amazed to find that Mahesh would take one path, AhSing another, and Q yet another path.
That's just so interesting....
A valuable opportunity for sharing arose...

I told the children: "Hey children, haven't you all noticed something interesting?"
"Each of us would find our own path. And they are not always along the same route. Some of these paths would have more obstacles than others. There is not a right or wrong path. Just the best path that is the BEST for you at that point in your journey."
"But whichever path we choose, we will always end up at the same destination."
"That, my dear children, is how life is."

Very soon.. the younger girls surged ahead and were no where to be seen again.
I could only keep in touch with the son and the two younger girls via walkie talkie.

At the pass...

It was really terribly tiring for me and SereneXMM.
I knew it was a little taxing for the children as well.
The morning climb to Poon Hill, and now right after Ghorepani, lots of icy climbs of steep gradients.
Honestly, despite the toughness, they were still pushing on.
The son was constantly our scout in front, giving life reports of the situations he encountered with the porters on the walkie talkie.
It was really good to have that young man as our forward.

What I saw was a group of highly determined young adults and teenagers who were willing to bear with whatever physical pain to accomplish a common goal.
I arrived at the pass just right after the son and AhLiXMM and AhSing.
As I approached them and saw them standing there, I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.

I walked up to each of them and gave them a hug, a pat, and an encouragement.

"Papa, my right arm is aching," said AhLiXMM.
"Don't worry, AhLiXMM, it must be because you have been pushing too hard on your trekking stick."
Son said: "My back also feeling painful. Don't know why."
"No problem, let's just bear with these pain first. Let's look forward to some more rest."

Turning back, I saw Fann the Penguin and Q Jiejie walking up from behind.
These two girls are fit, but they love to go at a more leisurely pace and enjoy the scene and to take photos as they walked.
It had been tough on them, but they also really pushed on.

Both SereneXMM and I felt so proud of these lovely children.
They have the spirit in them.

... interesting what a child would do...

Haha.. this AhLiXMM ah, she was so totally in love with teddy bears such that she would even draw out her bear on the ground..

A record shot of the pass..

And a memory of our shadows lining the ground of the pass.

... after Deurali Pass, and heading for that steep slope...

Walking along the Ridge always give us surprises after surprises.
Full of surprises. Really full of 'em.
One moment we were in the Rhododendron forest, another moment we were out.
And suddenly looking to the right we caught sight of a breathtaking scene.
And SereneXMM just had to stop in her track to take a shot of the view...

Here is that shot of hers:

I was equally intoxicated by the sight. And spent a tad longer to take it in.
By the time I turned my attention back to SereneXMM, she had already leaped up the steep climb...
Just like a Mountain Goat!

I struggled half way up that steep climb, and I looked back to see Q and Fann the Penguin far away behind me.
There was two paths up ~ one short, but steep and required big climbs, the other longer but more gradual with steps.
I'd better warn the girls about not doing that steep one.
Impossible to shout, I walkied talkied them:

But knowing Q and Fann, they are one kind of relaxed trekker, very different from me.
The sky can threaten to crumble and they would still be standing there appreciating the view.
So here was Q doing just that...

[Shot taken by Fann]

... into the thick forest of Rhododenron yet again...

I really can only imagine during the blossom season, the whole forest would have been a canopy of red.
But now, we found ourselves trudging into the shade of the tall trees.
And the very frequent climbs were no less painful.
AhSing Jiejie was really strong. Her drive continued despite the pain.

After the ups, came the down...

... and AhLiXMM and AhSing were taking a little breather in the middle of the track, waiting for us...

And I was so impressed when I found an arrow that was drawn by AhLiXMM!
Both AhLiXMM and AhSing had the presence of mind to make sure they directed those of us behind the correct path, or a better path to take.
Very thoughtful of them...

... of Two-legged tree and Prayer flags...

The walkie talkie crackled. It was AhSing and AhLiXMM..
"Bzzzz... Papa, Papa.. there is a tree with two legs ahead of you.. you can see it when you walk upwards some more."
"Ok, thank you for telling me. I will keep an eye out for it," I replied.

And hahaha.. indeed there it was.
I did what a typical Nepali man would do.. I went round and round and round and round the tree...
And I poke my head through the two legs.. And gotten SereneXMM to take a shot of me to keep it as a record.

The climb was still tough, with ups and downs..
But at least we were in the shades and it was nice and cold.
Then, suddenly we came upon prayer flags.
Until now, for as long as we have trekked, we haven't seen Buddhist prayer flags yet.
Understandable, the first two days of our trek we were trekking in Margar territory.
The Margars are Hindus. And now, as we approach Gandruk, we are entering Gurung territory. Gurungs are Buddhist tribes.
Aaaaah.. thus explained the Buddhist prayer flags.

.. hehehe.. me and my mischievous self. What else is new?
I quickly walked up to the prayer flags and hoped for blessings...

[Shot taken by SereneXMM]

Jokes aside, the trek was only half way through. There was more to come.
Hopefully with the second half, there would be not too many surprises.
Or even if there were, please let us all go through them with no harm.

[Another angle by SereneXMM]

... the last time I saw the son.. until we came to Tadapani...
Yes, you people must be thinking that I was crazy.
But indeed this was the truth.
Right after the prayer flag, I caught sight of that young man.
After that, for the rest of the trek, he was way ahead with the porters, constantly keeping in touch with us via the walkie talkie and keeping us informed of the dangers ahead..

What danger?
Trekking in Nepal has danger one meh?

"There is a very very slippery slope ahead!" came the son over the walkie talkie.
"It's so slippery, I slipped and fell a few times together with Ramesh. And he helped me up," continued the young man over the walkie talkie. "Be very careful!"

Hmmm... slippery slope?
The impact of his message didn't hit me until we suddenly found ourselvesstepping onto ice....
Yes. Frozen ice.
Shucks.. where were all my shoe-studs?!
I brought everyone's shoe-studs just for this very purpose.
But now they were all packed in the big backpacks and were with the porters all the way ahead liao.
Goodness. I totally didn't expect this. Otherwise I would have distributed the shoe-studs to every one and it would be easier.

[Shot taken by Fann. Her favourite shot of her own feet.]

Looking back, we have unknowingly entered the permanently frozen part of the forest.
Mahesh: "It's above 3000m here, and the ground is forever in the shades of the Rhododendron trees. So it is forever cold here."
"And the ground is always frozen hard."

Goodness me. Goodness me.
The son was way ahead and had slipped a few times. Thankfully Ramesh was with him.
The two younger girls were slightly in front and were gingerly walking. Thankfully Mahesh was with them.
And here I was with SereneXMM and the two elder girls. And we were all ice-skating.

The first real danger on the trek...

For the second time on this trek (the first being up Poon Hill) I felt a sense of helplessness.
"Shucks. What have I gotten the family into?" I questioned myself. "This is no joke. Really."
"Even for myself, every step I take I can feel my shoes slipping. How can I expect the children to walk without accident?"

SereneXMM of course as always, was the first to make noise.
It wasn't easy for me to walk, and what more for a young and weak little lady like her.. Hahahaha..
But she was brave.

Fann was just walking behind Q. And at this moment it just hit them that the ground is super frozen hard.
It would have been easy to walk in fresh snow, for that would be soft and tread-able. But frozen ice was another thing all together.
The dangerous thing was, the edge of the slope was just, as always, centimetres away.
Thus if any one was to slipped, it would have meant a free one way ticket down.

And what else was to come?
Yes, the ground was root-bound. And it was still undulating a terrain that we were walking in.
So many times, I found myself having no anchor to step onto, on my way downslope.

"Childen, children..." I buzzed over the walkie talkie. "Be very careful. If you cannot walk down the slope, just use your butt."
Silly advice. Didn't know if it would even work or not.

The progess was painfully slow and scary.
We were hoping only for flat ground on which we could one step by one step swhished our way ahead.
But unfortunately this terrain presented us with slopes after slopes.
And the frozen ice just didn't relent.

... A Mesh of Roots and Ice ...

Yeah, it was all just like the photo that Fann shot below..

It is hardly possible to step on the roots or in between them without slipping.
We literally had to look for either dungs from ponies or patches of mosses (although slippery in themselves, were relatively less slippery) to step on.

Going up slope, I personally found no anchor at all on my feet.
And time and time again, I had to dig deep in with both my trekking sticks and use all my arm strength to push myself up.
The dig would have to be deep enough, if not, even the stick would slip.
Sounded really crazy right?
Yeah... but it was just so crazy.

... and trekking sticks are good for pulling people up icy slopes too...

Yah. Didn't know that.
Until we reached this slope.
Again I carefully and slowly pushed myself up with only my sticks.
Then looking back, I saw Q swishing around.

"Aaaaaaahhh... can I crawl towards you?" she exclaimed.
"Or can I step further up the slope on the right side?"

Huh? What you talking about, Q?
Haha.. she was really in a fix. Cannot move backwards nor forward.
She was very very happy with her trekking shoes. First time I see her shoes failed her. Haha..
Anyway, at that point in time, the urgency was to get her over.

I found the mosses very important for when I stepped on them at least I could move forward.
But until today I could not explain if these patches of moss where stable or not, meaning that if I were unlucky, would the patch itself slip from under my foot and bring me down too?
I didn't know, and would never know.

Finally, I was able to pull her over with the trekking stick.
Useful. For what they were worth, the trekking sticks were MOST IMPORTANT on this day at this time.

A video of our ice skating...
Can hear SereneXMM KB KBing in the background.

Really this unexpected turn of ground condition caught me totally by surprised.
Aside from the photos that I have taken and the little bit of video I managed to capture,
I wasn't able to achieve any more pictorial documentation,
because I was more frightened myself
and trying my hardest to overcome the obstacles.
Thus this was my only set of videos.

... Is this the end? Or are there more icy slopes to come?

"Son, how are things over your side in front?" I buzzed him on the walkie talkie.
"Papa, Papa... more slopes. Wow.. there is another big icy slope.. I also slipped here. Luckily got Ramesh." he replied.
"Ok OK.. you be careful. We are way behind you. But we are walking slowly. Over." I instructed him.

I guess as much. When one is at 3000m and above and covered by shades within a thick forest, the air is expected to be freezing cold, and the ground frozen hard. Haiyah.. I should have known. But this is what I meant by no amount of preparation would prepare us for this.

The big difference between the mountain people and us city-dwellers..
People would ask: "Wouldn't Mahesh been able to warn you all before hand?"
Good question, I would say.
But there is one big fundamental difference between a Nepali mountain person and a tropical city-dweller ~ the mountain people would walk this trek like there is no big issues.
Why do I say that?
Because even as we were skating on ice on this trail, we saw groups after groups of Nepali porters and locals climbing up and down these very slopes that we were walking on, with hardly a blink of their eyes.
And they were wearing those normal rubber boots that we see so often worn by fish-mongers in the markets.
And what more, they were having heavy weights strapped to their forehead!
I really could not believe - to these people, the ice was nothing.

Moving on...

So we struggled on. Trying to muster whatever little amount of friction the sole of our trekking boots could grip.
... grit our teeth and groaned when we took on icy ascends and frozen descends, and heaved a sigh of relief when we have some good grounds..

... and we were constantly on the look out for slippery parts that could be deceptively misleading.
After a while, we could tell which was a good ground, and which was not... Haha...

.. the family trudged on, hearts in throat, knees bent at all times to absorb whatever shock the ground would send upwards.
And we crossed freezing streams on equally icy and slippery wooden bridges... to find another icy slope just ahead of us.
What an adventure for a group of Singaporeans!

As abruptly as the permafrost came, they went..

Yes, the frozen ground below us just went away as we descended to a slightly lower level.
Just like that.
Sigh... so unbelievable.
And we were back on gravel track and soil again... and the surrounding just went passing by, as though nothing had happened earlier on in that Rhododendron forest. My goodness.
Whatever it is, some form of blessings and protection was in action.
And we all made it out of that Rhododendron forest in one piece.

Click on the image below for a larger version...

Yes, we went on trekking, as we looked forward again to Tadapani.

Yes, down to the bottom of the valley before the last climb...

As can be seen on the GPS map, we would do one last descend before we head up to the last climb up Tadapani.
And we could begin to see the drop.. steps after broken steps downwards.

Never a stretch without seeing a local porter lugging a heavy load up to the next village.

.. and here, we came to the bottom of the valley.
And AhSing was so cute, she instinctively grabbed several stones and made a Longda while AhLiXMM looked on.
"Just for blessings and for good luck," AhSing said. "We saw some of the small Longdas along the way, stacked by the local villagers."
"Ok AhSing. That's a good idea. Who knows, maybe years later when you return to this spot, you will still see your Longda standing there," I teased her.
"Yah, maybe hor.." laughingly she agreed.

The Longda at the bottom of the Valley...

And here is her creation...

Lunch time, no?

By now, everyone was tired.
And desperately in need of some infusion of fluid and glucose.
Lunch destination which Mahesh planned, was just over another hill...

Exhausted, SereneXMM and I stumbled into the little village where the front party were awaiting.
Don't ask me what we had for lunch. Because after all the excitement, my brain could register nothing any more.
And if I were to hazard a guess, it would be nothing else other than my normal hot lemon tea and Dal Bhat.

Here, just to put things into perspective, was Lunch Point.
At the bottom of the last ascend.
Ok lah. After lunch we will all give it our BEST shot up to Tadapani...

We were all secretly hoping that the guest lodge in Tadapani would be.. good.
Why? We all had been wearing the same Base layers for the past three days, and we desperately need a good hot shower, some warm food, warm drinks, a good wash up and... sleep.

The Home Run towards Tadapani...

Yeah.. it'd been a long, tiring day. And we had all outdone ourselves, especially SereneXMM and the children.
It was time for a last burst of fire towards our destination, Tadapani at an altitude of 2660m.
After descending to the bottom of the valley, we were now gearing ourselves for the last ascend.
Here, looking down from the view point at Tadapani, was the track up of our last ascend, from the goal keeper's vantage point.

Click on the image below for a larger version.

It was 2:30pm already.
And the sun was going down below the mountains.
The chill of the cold air was starting to get to our tired body.
As exhausted as my body, was my operating of the rangefinder... LOL.. I had no strength to do the usual manual focus, nor the shutter speed estimate.
Everything was aga-aga already.
Thus these shots were all the best record shots my shagged brain and hands could muster at that point in time.
Still, they recorded the moments of our hike up..

Right after lunch, we started.

And very soon, the step-ups came.. and they kept coming and coming and coming...
From ascends with rock steps...

... to ascends with nothing more than gravel slopes...
with some stones and rocks any how strewn just to fill up the decorations...
.. to finally arrive at..


Yes, we finally completed the toughest day of the whole trek.
Phew... what a relief.

The walkie talkie came crackling through. It's the ever hard-working son.
"Pa Pa Pa... the porters and I have arrived ahead of you all. We came to our intended Guest lodge. But it was fully taken," he said.
"No matter how the porters talked to the guest lodge owner, they couldn't assign us any rooms.. Now we are heading towards another lodge to see if they have rooms for us."
"Ok, great job, ZA." I congratulated him.
"No worries, any lodge is ok, as long as there are rooms."

Annapurna Guest house... Any Guest house.. also can.
Yes, Tadapani it was. Great. Time to rest liao...

We dragged our limp bodies onto the compound of the Guest house.
A small little lodge it was. But never mind. They had rooms.

Tadapani was a tiny tiny little village, with only a small handful of lodges.
It was a by-the-way kind of village that was in between the bigger villages, thus it was more for travellers to rest before their next leg to the next village.
It had no power supply of its own. And electricity was via generators.
Thus heat and power were premium here in this tiny settlement.
Thus in summary...
Yes, they had a single shower room - but it was OUTSIDE, and we had to walk down the stairs in the cold to the shower and shiver our way back to our rooms. Of course hot shower was chargeable per person.
Power point? Can forget about charging our handphones and whatever.

So how? Do we shower or not?
Haha.. Of course we do.
I think after such a long and tiring day, even if hot shower came at a premium, I would reward each and every one of the family a nice and hot shower.

... that evening at Dinner, after everyone had nice hot shower...

We sat around the dining room, which was heated up via a central furnace burning firewood.
I looked at all the shagged faces.. and I smiled.

Mahesh, who was sitting next to us, smiled broadly and said:
"Today all of you were very very good! It was a difficult trek. But you all completed it from Poon Hill to Tadapani."
Yes, the boy and girls and every single one of us should have reasons to be proud.
Well, of course, compared to many other more difficult treks, this was still nothing to shout about.
But to a family who was trekking together for the first time, I would have nothing to complain about.

I made my usual dinner rounds looking at every body and checking their conditions.
The knee pain was still bothering AhSing, and the calves pain still disturbing Q Jiejie.
AhLiXMM's arm pain and ZA's back pain were still nagging.
SereneXMM was aching all over from head to toe - that one no need to say one. She is the most poor thing.
Fann the Penguin? Nothing bothering her. Of course, Penguins mah..
Haha.. OK, every body looked still tip top.. all the small problems were nothing that some pills could not address.

Needless to say, sleep came very very quickly for the members of the family.
We gobbled down our hot food and drinks.

And before long, were snoring away in dreamland.

Mission accomplished for today?

As for this fateful day, I would echo a loud yes. Mission certainly accomplished.
I think the children have excelled in the face of adversity.
Some had shown their leadership, in forging ahead and keeping everyone behind posted.
Some had put their determination to the test in pushing on despite physical pain.
And every single one of these lovely children, and the lovely Mommy, had displayed a strength of character that could only be distilled to the surface under such conditions.
With the unexpected turn of events, they had overcome obstacles after obstacles.
They all deserved a good rest for the night.

And tomorrow..?

Tomorrow would be another new day. Another new adventure.
But that would be left till tomorrow. After this day's trek, the next two days of hiking would pale in comparison, Mahesh reassured.
Really? Well, knowing how things were in the mountains.. we couldn't say for sure..

But let's see how things developed.

... to be continued...

Click Below to continue to the next Chapter:
A Family's Trekking Travellogue to Nepal ~ Day 6