Saturday, January 14, 2012

Nepal Photo Post 2 of 4

And now it's time for album number two from Nepal.  These pictures were taken between October 22 and November 24, 2011.  During this time, I crossed the 5426-m (17,764 feet) high Thorong La Pass, finished trekking the Annapurna Circuit, got strep throat and had the most boring Halloween of my life, spent roughly 2 weeks in Pokhara and Kathmandu, saying goodbye to numerous new friends, and began the Everest Base Camp trek.  I began this trek from Shivalaya, roughly one week below Lukla, home of the most dangerous airport in the world and the typical starting point for the Everest Base Camp Trek.  Katie and I made it to Dingboche, 2 days above Namche Bazaar, and celebrated Treksgiving with as close to a Thanksgiving feast as we could get while on the trail.

As with the last album, this album is a mixture of pictures that are artistically good (I hope!), have some kind of interesting story associated with them, reflect something unique about Nepal, or are just interesting from my perspective. I hope you like pictures of mountains...


On November 22, after a night of foolishly heavy drinking in the bustling metropolis (population 391 as of 2001) of Manang, Katie and I decided to go on an acclimitization walk to Ice Lake, at 4620m, about a vertical kilometer above Braghat, where we'd spent the night in the awesome Hotel New Yak.  Every lodge up here seems to have the words "Yak," "Annapurna," "View," "Himalaya," or "Yeti" in the name.  Katie puked twice on the way up.  Here's a view of Braghat and the Annapurna Range in the background.

The Annapurna Range of the Himalayas, seen from something like 4,500 meters.

We made it to Ice Lake (behind the photographer) at approximately 2 pm.  Katie used the opportunity to use an "outhouse," which only had 2.5 walls, at 15,153 feet.  After a week of trekking with annoyingly large packs (mine was 80L, and I think Katie's was 60 or so), it was really nice to do a day hike without giant backpacks.

I don't know the names of these mountains, but I really wish I did, as this ended up being one of my favorite accidental pictures of the whole Annapurna trek. 

Another mountain that I don't know the name of.  But all the mountains in this area are pretty goddamn high, and the wind really whips at them in the afternoons.  The wind and blowing snow create a kind of halo around many of the peaks, which is a pretty cool effect.

A bit late or a bit early.  Take your pick.

And after going to the work of making the sign and taking the picture, I spaced sending this picture to the intended recipient.  Sorry, mom!  I love you!

Yak sighting!  This was about it for large "wildlife" on the Annapurna circuit.

Bath time.

The trail to Thorong La, the pass on the Annapurna Circuit.  Everyone builds the 8-hour crossing of the pass into some insanely difficult undertaking, but with a week or so of proper acclimatization and an early start (Katie and I got up at 3:43 am), it wasn't nearly as difficult as I'd believed it would be.

Success!  We made it!  From left to right, we have Ido (Israel), Glenn (Colorado), Katie (Washington), Tal (Israel), and Christy and Natalie (Alaska) at Thorong La, 5416 m (17,764 ft) above sea level.

After completing Thorong La, a large group of us stayed at Hotel Bob Marley in Muktinath and partied our dicks off.  I think some of us made it until 10PM, which is pretty damn late on the trail, especially considering what we'd put ourselves through during the day.

I think this is the village of Raipauwa, which we only passed through en route to Kagbeni. The scenery on this side of the pass was vastly different than that leading to Thorong La.  And there's now a road that goes up a huge portion of this side of the Annapurna Himalayas, which means a good bit of the time you spend "on the trail" is actually spent on a dusty road populated by trekkers, goat herders, mini buses, 4x4s, bicycles, etc.  Generally, once you pass Thorong La, the trek becomes much less enjoyable.

This is why it was scary to ride buses in Nepal.

A plane, undoubtedly full of day- or weekend-trekkers, flying into Jomsom.

One of the many goodbye parties that took place in Kathmandu.  I was the last of our Annapurna friends to leave Nepal (by a long shot), so I didn't get my own party.  Lame.  Photo credit: Katie

This was weird.  An excessively drunk Nepali woman came and hung out with a group of us that were on the streets in Kathmandu.  At first, it was funny.  Then it got annoying, like when she sat on my lap and then wouldn't get up.  This went on for way too long, and I could only understand about half of what she said.  Before she finally left, she gave me a little amulet thing (that I tried repeatedly to decline, but ultimately accepted, hoping it would encourage her to move along).  I hope this doesn't constitute a traditional Nepali wedding. Photo credit: Katie

I figured I should include at least one picture of Thamel, the tourist area of Kathmandu.  It's nothing but restaurants, cafes, gimmicky-tourist shops, and outdoor equipment shops filled with knock-off North Face jackets, sleeping bags, etc.  Even in the most touristy area of Kathmandu, you could get a good meal for maybe $3.  Photo credit: Katie

Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu.  One of the most holy sights in Hinduism, it lies on the banks of the Bagmati River, Nepal's equivalent of India's Ganges.  It felt strange to watch the funerals taking place along the shore of the river, but far from being discouraged, this practice seemed, if anything, to be encouraged.  I wouldn't drink the river water... Photo credit: Katie

Of course there are monkeys at Pashupatinath Temple.  These are rhesus macaques, and they traveled around the Temple grounds in big groups.  Photo credit: Katie

Awesome picture, Katie!  Rhesus macaques at Pashupatinath Temple.

I can't believe how long it took Katie and I to learn about this particular drink.  Called "tongba," it's quite unlike any drink I've had before or since.  A big mug is brought out that contains cooked, fermented millet, which is a grain that looks like tiny red seeds.  Boiling water is then added to the mug, and after sitting for a few minutes, it becomes alcoholic.  It's drunk through a straw that has tiny slits cut into the end in the beverage.  These little slits allow the liquid to come through, but keep the seeds out of your mouth.  It has a slightly sweet taste, and is generally quite pleasant.  Many restaurants serve it, but it is rarely on the menu, so you have to know about it to order it.  The really nice thing about tongba is that it comes with a big thermos of hot water, so it's a great way to warm up without buying cup after cup of tea.  And the other really nice thing about tongba is that it's alcoholic.  Photo credit: Katie

From left to right, this is me and a Chinese man I met over some tongba.  My beard was starting to look pretty good about now, after exactly 2 months in Nepal - this was taken November 11, I arrived on September 11.  Photo credit: Katie

The U.S. has it's share of problems, but one thing we do right is to put trash cans all over our city streets, so we don't have garbage-related issues like Nepal.  Garbage in Nepal ends up wherever it ends up.  An night, cows and stray dogs can be seen rooting through the piles, which line many of the streets, for leftover food.  Sometimes it's burned, like in this picture.  A good way to stay warm, and not at all disgusting.  Although the streets can look pretty disgusting some nights, workers come through in the morning and haul much of it off somewhere, without the use of garbage trucks.  Photo credit: Katie

I can't believe my first picture from the Everest Base Camp trek is of garbage.  Oh well.  If you are on the trail, instead of in a city, the trash often ends up in piles like this, which are also burned periodically.  It's really a shame and takes away from some of the atmosphere, but people are spreading the word that littering's bad, mmkay?

Another one of my accidental favorite photos.  Terraced rice fields near Kinja, one of the small villages on the pre-Lukla section of the Everest Base Camp trail.

You won't see it unless I point it out: There's a dog on the bed on the left in this picture.  He was a sneaky guy, and I didn't notice he'd snuck in and gone to sleep on Katie's bed for quite some time. This is a good representation of a typical room on the Everest Trek.  2 Beds, a window, and a light bulb.

Donkeys are assholes.  Wait ... these asses are real asses.  That's better.  The ass leading the ass-parade knocked Katie on her ass and then another one farted on her face.  I smelled it from 20 feet away.  It was unpleasant.  It smelled like ass ass.

Obligatory baby chick picture.

One of our more memorable nights on the trail took place in Dagchu (elevation 2820 m, 9250 ft) on November 15th, only our third night on the trail.  We'd intended to stop one town later, but it had been raining on us for hours when we made it to Dagchu and decided we'd had enough.  There were no real lodges in town, only places where porters usually stay.  There was no electricity (fairly common, actually), no lights, no running water, and our "room" wasn't supposed to be a bedroom.  But we decorated it with "hippy prayer flags" - our clothes which needed some drying, and it felt like home in no time.  Wait until you see the bathroom (next picture).  And it was here that we discovered "sherpa stew."  Mmmm ... sherpa stew.  Photo credit: Katie

Don't you ever complain that your bathroom is too dirty.

Is that you, Katie?  The woman who ran the lodge we stayed at in Dagchu had 2 little girls that were too cute.

Katie decided she'd had enough of my company, and traded me for a 4 year-old Nepali girl.

Too cute not to include.  Photo credit: Katie

Lamjura La (3530 m, 11,578 ft), the first Pass we had to cross en route to Everest Base Camp.  November 16th was the only day on either Annapurna OR the Everest Trek in which we had to walk in a snow storm.  Fun because it was a new experience, but it did make the actual process of walking a bit slow and difficult.

I think there's an unwritten law that says something about it being required to stop for group photos at the passing of each Pass.  Lamjura La (3530 m, 11,578 ft) on November 16, 2011.

The scenery changed quite a bit as we ascended, descended, and then ascended again.  The Shivalaya to Namche Bazaar section of the EBC (Everest Base Camp) Trek was nothing but up, down, up, down etc.  Hardly a step on level ground.  This forest of incredibly tall trees - the tallest I saw in Nepal - was only a couple kilometers from Lamjura La.

This is proof that some people are just crazy.  A regular marathon not tough enough for you?  Fine, go run one in the Himalayas.  What?!  And I guess Katie is hoping to do just this in 2013.  What?!

A butcher shop.  We saw the head of the "buff," as they call water buffalo here, on the ground outside the shop.

Yup, there are flowers blooming in the middle of November at 3,000 meters above sea level.  Weird.

In Nepal Album One, I mentioned something about not being able to tear myself away from bees and flowers.  I stopped for a bit to take pictures of bees and flowers, and lost Katie for the rest of the day.

Just one of the many Buddhist temples along the route from Shivalaya to EBC.

For the most part, the trail was perfectly fine.  Here, not so much.

Lukla.  See the airstrip?  It's one of the (or maybe just the) most dangerous airports in the world.  Planes don't fly in if it's cloudy, of course, and it had been cloudy for the week leading up to Katie and my arrival here.  We didn't actually go through Lukla, but we heard it had transformed into a bit of a madhouse in the preceding flight-free week.  Katie put it well when she said something to the effect of "What do you think is going to happen if you take some of the most active people in the world and stick them in a tiny village with nothing to do for a week?"  We heard rumors of fistfights.  Everyone wanted to get out and go home, but was unable to do so.  Lots of people gave up waiting for the weather to clear and walked out on the same route Katie and I had spent the last week trekking in on.

Have I mentioned that porters are the toughest people in the world?  This picture is further proof of this fact.  A five-foot-nothing guy was carrying this ridiculously-oversized mountain of goodies in the traditional Nepali way, without straps for his arms or waist, and using only a strap that went around his forehead.

I've seen some unbelievable night skies in the middle of the Australian outback, and in the mountains of Colorado and Utah, but nothing like this. Yup, that's the milky way.

Remember how I just said something about porters being tough?  Yeah.  Everything up here is carried up by donkeys, yaks (at the higher elevations, anyways), and on the backs of people.  My guess is that someone was constructing a new lodge up the trail.

Mature Katie, real mature.

Really?  I know there are some dirty fuckers up here, myself included (I went 27 days without showering during this trek, for instance ... don't think less of me), but REALLY?  Who the fuck washes their feet in a toilet?

Consumer paradise, Namche Bazaar.

Namche Bazaar, with 6,623 meter (21,729 feet) high Thamserku in the background.

Another view of Namche Bazaar.  With a population of 1,647 (2001 census), it was by FAR the biggest city I'd seen for a week, or that I would see until I returned to it about 2 weeks later.

Ama Dablam (6,812 m, 22,349 ft), one of the most beautiful mountains I've ever seen, as viewed from Tengboche (3,860 m, 12,661 ft).

I think this was my first attempt at a star-trails photo.  Obviously, I have a lot to learn.

A cool lens effect at Tengboche Monastery. 

Everything is built by hand.  These guys didn't use a single power tool to make whatever it is they're building, probably a new lodge.  Every single square rock used is carved by hand.  Impressive.

Ama Dablam again.

Ama Dablam, yet again.  There are stupas like this all along the trail.

Another mountain.  Surprised?

Don't worry, we're about to get to some pictures of Mt. Everest.  

Two down, two to go.  The next album is mostly pictures of mountains.

No comments:

Post a Comment