Day 4 – Nepal Diary: Let Me Introduce the Boys in the Band

(No connectivity in last location so I’m a day late and a couple of Rupees short)

First, thank you for all the wonderful responses I’ve received from those who are following this adventure. I feel I have your company as I travel to places unknown.

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Annapurna South

We leave Chomrong, but not before getting this great photo of a sunrise over Annapurna South – simply awe-inspiring.

Let me officially introduce our crew, hopefully with pictures that heretofore I’ve not been able to upload. Dom our guide, I have come to find out, is not a Sherpa. Sherpa is an ethic group from high in the Himalayans. Dom is a Tamang, which is a group from the Himalayan foothill region; he speaks very good English and has been a guide in the Himalayan for 15 years, doing many treks around Everest, although he has not summited it yet. He is extremely accommodating and a really good guy. He is 35 years old, married with 2 children who live in Kathmandu. His parents live in eastern Nepal and in order to see them he must take a bus that takes all day to get relatively close and then he must walk for another full day to get to their home. So they don’t stop by for Sunday dinner that often. We have nicknamed him, ‘El Hefe’ – the boss.

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Our porter, Kirin is 25, married with one child and they also live in Kathmandu. He is Magar, another ethnic group from the Himalayan foothills. Both Magar and Tamang are Tibetan influenced and Buddhist by religion. Kirin is about 5’3” and honestly does not weight more than 110 pounds, yet he is carrying a huge pack with most of our stuff in it weighing between 60-70 pounds with only a strap he places on his forehead. He is amazing; we have nicknamed him, ‘The Stud’.    

Today was a short trek, as we went almost straight downhill from Chomrong to Jhinu, a distance of only a couple of miles, all on thousands of stone steps, not great for old football knees. I was thinking if Linda would have given me this trip for my 80th birthday she probably could have same money and bought that one-way ticket.

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After lunch we headed to some hot springs that are adjacent to the Maudi Chola (river) about a half mile away. Large rock pools have been built to trap the natural hot water coming up from the ground. The warm water felt good on some tired muscles and sore knees. On our hike back to our ‘tea house’ (which is what they call the small hotels we stay in) it started to rain. Then it started to really rain – we experienced our first monsoon. We sat outside our room, had a Nepal Ice beer and watched the rain. In bed by 7:30 . . . again.


Day 2-3 – Nepal Diary: In the Mountains

Tuesday, June 3 – A Change of Itinerary

When we awoke this morning, the clouds had cleared and we had an amazing view of Annapurna I. I’ll have pictures at some point, but they won’t do it justice. We left Ghandruk at 7:30 this morning feeling better than we should have. I liked Ghandruk a lot; it is a small village built on the side of a mountain. The trail we are on, which is a 5 foot wide stone path, would be considered ‘Main Street’ here. There are no cars, no motorbikes, no motor anything. There is a school somewhere in the village, but other than that, no central gathering place. Many of the homes that line the path offer food and drink for sale for hikers. While their life seems dull and meager to us, every villager I saw had a smile on their face. As we traveled out of the village we ran into young kids coming down the path we were going up, headed for school. They were neatly dressed in uniforms and I watch a group of boys about 9-10 years old stop along a creek and were laughing and having the greatest time throwing rocks a something in a tree. Not a bicycle or video game in sight. They walk 2-3 miles, one-way, to school everyday . . . with smiles on their faces.

We received our second dose of ‘ass-kicking’ today as we left around 7:30 and trekked for 7 hours with some significant ups and downs, the ups being more significant than the downs. I’ve come to understand the real definition of ‘trekking’ here in Nepal. What Patrick and I have done is ‘hiking’, we tend to meander, our trails up a mountain have switchbacks to lessen the degree of incline. In Nepal there is no lessening the degree of incline, when they build a path they use the ‘shortest distance between two points is a straight line’ theory and build a stone ‘stairway to hell’.

Exhausted (again), we ended our trek today in Chumrong, an even smaller village than Ghandruk and even closer to the Annapurna mountains. After we arrived we got a short thunderstorm and thus the clouds have covered our view, so we’re hoping that the morning is clear.

Due to the last two ‘ass-kickings’ we’ve received, we asked our Sherpa, Dom how these first couple of days compare to what is ahead. The news was not encouraging, the trail gets steeper and the air gets thinner. Dom tells us that we can actually get better views if we take a different route down the mountain rather than continuing up. That was his way of saying, “There’s no frickin’ way you guys are making it to Annapurna Base Camp and I don’t want to be carrying one of you out of here on my back (I felt him looking right at me!). We concluded that the views were the most important thing and who were we to argue with a Sherpa. Whew!!! So we changed our itinerary to something that we think will be more fun and less . . . life threatening.

We awoke this morning to beautiful views of the sun rising over the Annapurna Mountains, and with smiles on our faces we head DOWN the mountain.

Day 1 – Nepal Diary: The Ass-Kicking

By Bob Sparrow

Nepal: Monday, June 2, 2014

NOT the Four Seasons

NOT the Four Seasons

It was a long day yesterday, I guess it was two days, but we arrived on time and in one piece. The Kathmandu airport was strangely bustling at 10:00 last night. After clearing customs we looked for ‘our ride’ outside – it’s strange to see your name on a sign half way around the world, but there it was. It was not raining, but it had been most of the day, so the streets were muddy and filled with potholes. Our hotel, The Shakti Plus would not be mistaken for the Four Seasons. We climbed to the fourth floor (no elevator) and settled in to our small room. The bed had all the comfort of a pool table, which one might have slept on during college when over-served, not that I could relate to that. Given the cacophony of noise coming up from the street outside and the squadron of dive-bombing mosquitoes on the inside, sleep didn’t come. But reclining and closing my eyes was a relief from those cushy airline seats. After a hot, invigorating shower, OK cold showers are also very invigorating; we’re back to the airport for more flying. Oh boy!

We board a twin-engine prop Shirik Airline plane – I think Shirik is Nepalese for Rickshaw. The flight is actually quite smooth as we pass the Himalayan Mountains on our right. This is the first that we’ve seen them and they are magnificent! We land in Pokhara and are met by our Sherpa guide (Dom) and our porter (Kirin). We are then driven through the lakeside village of Pokhara and head up into the foothills. The scenery changes from bustling ‘city-life’ to one of spreading farms. We see cows, horses, goats, chicken, corn and lots of dry rice fields waiting for the monsoons to fill the patties terraced on the hillside. In about an hour and a half we reach our trailhead town of Nayapul.

We ‘saddle up’ our packs and the ass-kicking begins. The first part of this hike is basically straight up for about 7 miles using rock steps. Did I mention that it was ass-kicking? Six hours later we wearily stumble into the village of Ghrandruk with a spectacular view of the Annapurna mountains. Patrick and I agreed that we had never been on a more exhausting hike, not Half Dome, not Whitney – this was serious!

We get nice accommodations, for the area, take a shower and our plan was to get something to eat, but we both laid down and didn’t get up until morning to the crowing of a rooster at 3:30 – I resolved to have chicken for dinner that night.


Going to Kathmandu

by Bob Sparrow

“If I ever get out of here, I think I’m going to Katmandu”                                                                                                

                        Katmandu, Bob Seger



If Saturday’s Air Canada Flight 55 out of Los Angels to Vancouver was on time, I will indeed be ‘out of here’ and in Kathmandu by the time you’re reading this. No, LA to Vancouver didn’t seem like the most direct way to me either, but it actually was the first leg of the shortest (time-wise) that I could find . . . and afford – 26 hrs 33 mins (My back hurt just writing that). From Vancouver to Guangzhou, China (which is about 95 miles northwest of Hong Kong) and from there into Kathmandu, Nepal. Why Kathmandu, you ask? It was a 70th birthday gift from my wife. No, it was not a one-way ticket! Like most things she buys, she got a ‘deal’ on Groupon – a 12-day trip for two to Nepal, which included a 5-day trek into the Himalayas. Not being a hiker herself, she is not part of the ‘for two’. So I’m with my hiking buddy, who I’ve done lots of hikes with, including Mt. Whitney and Half Dome, Patrick “Trail Boss” Michael. He’s a good friend & neighbor, a good hiker with a quick smile and an engineer by trade, so we have checklists for our checklists. We had both been looking forward to this trip for several months, when after we told a 70+ lady our itinerary, she said that she and several of her friends did that same trip last year. We thought, ‘This may not be quite the adventure we were looking for’, so I contacted our travel agent and asked if there was a little more challenging trek we could take. She answered in spades. We’re now spending 8 days trekking in the Himalayas, with a Sherpa guide and a porter (we’re not sure if that’s a person or an oxen) and reaching altitudes of just under 14,000 feet.Pokhara We should have arrived in Kathmandu around 10:30 Sunday night and be flying out of Kathmandu early Monday morning (because we needed some more flight time!) into the city of Pokhara (photo at right) where our trekking will begin that afternoon. Over the next several days we will be working our way up to Annapurna Base Camp at an elevation of 13,500 feet. Annapurna, at 26,545 feet is the 10th highest mountain in the world, but ranks #1 as the most dangerous to climb – it has a summit-to-fatality ratio of 38% (By contrast, Mt. Everest has a 9% ratio). That’s only one of the reasons we’re only going to Base Camp, no fatalities there unless it’s from the dal-bhat-tarkari soup. We’ll also be visiting the beautiful Chitwan National Park, doing some river rafting, taking an elephant ride safari, where we hope to see the elusive Bengal Tiger as well as traveling by ox cart through an elephant breeding camp to our hotel. I’ll be used to the oxen’s pace having driven in LA commute traffic.


Bengal Tiger

Nepal is 12 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Pacific Daylight Time (Yes, 45 minutes, just another oddity of this part of the world), so I’ll try to sum up my activities at the end of my day and post so you’ll get it that morning. I’ve read that wifi can be very dodgy over there, so if you don’t hear from me I probably just can’t connect . . . or had a very boring day. We’re crossing our fingers that the monsoons don’t come earlier than expected . . . oops, wait a minute, I just checked the 10 day forecast for Nepal: Rain and thunderstorms everyday for the first week.

It’ll be an adventure!