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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Unpublished Story III

...If you're planning to catch sunrise at ABC (why wouldn't you?) wake up at around 4AM; this should be easy if you dosed off early the previous evening. Leave everything except your walking stick and camera in MBC and slowly ascend toward ABC, don't hurry, there is a high chance you'll fall sick if you do. Then bit by bit, it'll start to brighten up. Look ahead and you'll see Annapurna South, it's a jaw dropping sight; the mountain will appear so big that you'll literally be able to make out the glaciers and the crevasses. At the bottom lie the hotels of ABC, enclosed by the Himalayas. A few steps and you should be there just in time to indulge on nature's show, something that can't be expressed in either words or film.

On the right is Annapurna I, behind Machhapuchhare, on the left is Himchuli and gloriously in front rests Annapurna South. Just a few minutes, and a dazzling scene will unfold… the sun starts to rise from behind Machhapuchhare, the first rays of the sun steeps the mountains, and slowly the peaks start to change colors.
Savor each moment like you're never going to come here again (fat chance!), bask upon God's glorious creations and even order the food to be sent outside. You'll soon realize that the camera isn't enough to capture the moment, not only because the mountains don't fit into your humble digital camera, but also because the brilliance cannot be captured; there are a million and one details that cannot be included in a print. Trust me, you just can't get enough of ABC but 10AM should be a good time to say adieu. If it seems like someone in your team will have to be dragged – tell them, but if you stay, who will brag about the trip to your folks?

After you get past that, descending is easy. You may feel a little ABC sick, but you've seen so much mountain and snow that you'll dream about it for another week. Skip, hop or run to MBC, clear the hotel bill and set for Bamboo or Sinuwa or even Chomrong if you're really ambitious. A good trip back can be a night in Bamboo then the next day to Jhinu via Chomrong. Jhinu or the Hot Springs is just an hour from Chomrong and en-route to Syauli Bazaar through the recently opened trekking route. There is nothing that beats a hot spring swim after a tiring walk. By six in the evening, you should be back in Pokhara, fresh from the springs. It's also a great idea to end the trip on top of a bus from Naya Pul to Pokhara, with the goats. If you manage not to fall off, it has the potential to wrap the entire expedition fabulously."

So that ends my journey to the valley within mountains. I hope you enjoyed it. Now, while you think about your trek to ABC, I'll be eyeing EBC - Everest Base Camp.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Unpublished Story II

...If you've decided that you want to stay the night at Ghandrung, start early for Chomrong. Among all the days of the trek, this one was the most tiring and de-motivating part. To get to Chomrong, you'll have to cross the Kyumrung River and your task is to lose all the altitude you wrestled and sweated to gain the day before and then climb back up again to Chomrong. It doesn't stop there; this route is the most leech-infected trail in the whole trek. If it rains, it's party time for the beasts. So keep the ammo (salt) ready, or you're doomed.

Around five to six hours since you set foot from Ghandrung, you should be breathing in Chomrong's air. But it depends on how many pit stops you make. In our trek, we allocated one hour for leeches: sprinkling salt, pulling them out, and repeatedly glancing at our shoes and screaming. But once you reach Chomrong, you'll soon be laughing about the day and you're trekking enthusiasm will get a recharge. This was also my favorite place in the whole trek: there were numerous hotels with TV and hot shower, telephone service, and an unforgettable zoom-in view of Annapurna I and Machhapuchhare. And this is also the last place you'll see any residences. From here on, it's only the hotels and you. It would be a good idea to lighten your bag at Chomrong if you're planning to return the same way. From Chomrong to the next stop Sinuwa, it's the same old routine of going up and then coming down, although it's not as tiring as the day before. In fact, the trail from here is pleasing – fewer leeches, fewer steps and the feeling of being so close to the mountains livens your spirit. Sinuwa will be the last viewpoint for another day or so, the next will be at Deurali. But when you are in Deurali, you'll be so close to the mountains that you'll feel like you can touch them.
Two hours from Sinuwa is Bamboo and as you might have guessed, it gets its name from the bamboo forest that covers an area that you can span in about four hours into the trek. Along the way, you'll have to descend down a long fleet of stairs for about 30 minutes. As you skip down happily, remember the pain you'll experience when you return and repent. Don't leave Bamboo until you've had some lunch, there are a good many hotels and if you started at 8AM from Chomrong, it'll be exactly lunchtime.

Stop at Dovan from here. There are three hotels there and all of them have their own hydropower generator that provides electricity and a heavenly hot shower. If you've brought DVD's (which I did) – well, watch them!

Next day, start at the same time, and aim for Machhapuchhare Base Camp. Himalaya is just two hours form here and because there is some serious climbing to do, starting with fresh pair of legs always helps. You'll be walking through a dense forest and momentary peeks at the numerous waterfalls on the other side of the river will serve as your motivation. Meat isn't allowed on this route because of a holy temple here, and none of the restaurants here have meat in their menu. From Chomrong even mules aren't allowed to pass; but sheep, dogs and humans are exceptions.

On the way to Machhapuchhare Base Camp, have lunch in Deurali because it will prepare you for the striking change in terrain hereafter. The geography starts to get barren and rockier and the mountains inch closer to you with every step. And the view is all yours to enjoy without any rush – MBC is only one and a half hours, and ABC another two hours from here.

An important point to note, though, is that altitude sickness is a major problem on these trails. Symptoms usually start showing after about 2500 meters, which includes dizziness, nausea and difficulty in breathing. If any of this happens to you – descend! Having heaps of garlic, garlic soup and garlic pizza helps but remember that altitude sickness can get dangerous and can kill.

You should easily be in MBC at around three in the afternoon. As you get closer to MBC, stop looking up. When you get there, get a room, unpack, take a shower and put a blindfold on. When you are relaxed, go outside and take off your blind fold. Enjoy the most spectacular view of Machhapuchhare. If you turn around, you can set eyes on Annapurna I and when the sun is about to set, the sight is even more breathtaking. A cup of ginger lemon tea is always an added bonus.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Unpublished Story

Its October, kind of late, but this has been an exciting month for me. I had my first article posted on a commercial magazine. Something 'cool' indeed.

However, I'm surprised with the editing; A 1600 piece went to a mere 700. I'll be posting the article with never seen rare deleted scenes, errr, text.

I'll be publishing it in 3 or 4 parts and hopefully it won't mess my SAT scrores and wrap my ABC trek, you remember it don't you?

Before the article I'd like to thank my fellow blogger Romsy Pomsy (Roma Aryal), even though you haven't posted any article here, you sure have helped me turn the wave article from shit to gold.

Oh! Do get the October wave issue. If you don't want to buy it, thats ok, just steal one!

Here it goes, never before read, deleted text.

"Trek to the Valley of Mountains (Title changed to meet blog standards; thats poor)
Text and images by Saral Shrestha

Destination: Annapurna Base Camp (ABC), 4130 meters
How to get there: two hours bus ride to Naya Pul, on foot to Chomrong, and Machhapuchhare Base Camp and then ABCDuration of trek: 6-8 days.

Cost: 500-1000 per person per day.What to take: Warm clothes, rain gear, trekking boots, a digital camera and extra memory card, portable music player, a packet of iodized table salt and loads of trekking enthusiasm.

Best time to trek: October-November

What to expect: Long tiring walks, Wet Arm Pits (WAP), all kinds of aches, leeches and a majestic, almost surreal view of the Annapurna range.

Annapurna Base Camp is one of the most frequently trekked routes of the ACAP region. After proper lodging facilities were established, tourists have been trekking these trails throughout the year. However, the tracks can get hostile, especially during the monsoon season when rain floods the trails and in some cases completely erases them. Unfortunately, I took on ABC exactly at this time of the year. My original plan was to traverse the rain-shadow regions of Mustang, but after waiting for hours at the Pokhara Airport and witnessing a failed landing at Jomsom Airport the next day, I had no other choice. But this was not my first time to ABC: I had been there many years ago, when cameras worked on films and I still read Goosebumps.

We started with a one-hour taxi ride along the Baglung-Pokhara highway to the place where most good treks in Nepal start – Naya Pul. After a 30 minute walk to Birethanti, five hours to the right is Ghandrung. There are plenty of waterfalls on the way; just stand right in front of one, and let the crashing waters spray tiny droplets to cool you off. But even the manmade scenery is remarkable. While you ascend step after step to Ghandrung, think about how amazing the stone work is, how each piece of rock was lifted and carefully laid down like a jigsaw puzzle. But once you get over it, and the appreciation begins to fade, you may find yourself cursing the village for being so far and so high up.

One hour up the steps is Kimche, where an enormous landslide had occurred some time back. The locals told us that the make-shift bridge gets flushed away whenever there is heavy rain. A new one had been put into place just that morning. Nature can be cruel as much as it can be beautiful: the landslide swept away a few houses and destroyed acres of fields.

Even the steps do not compromise their cruelty from here, and they just don't seem to end if you don't have anything else to do besides walking. Pulling out your music player would be a good idea, spirits will be low in the group during this time, and there won't be much to talk about, only complaining."

Next post:- Chomrong

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Getting Places with Mampandu; A new era in Nepalese Internet

While I was just done with The Tonight Show and getting ready for bed, I happened to stumble upon something on the local internet. Now, this is something I've been waiting for for a long time...Behold,!

Now, as the name says it, its got to do with the map of Kathmandu city. Better, its a city guide, the very first of Kathmandu valley!

The company behind this is an unheard of firm called Savant Associates; they have truly opened up a whole new pool of information for the Kathmanduites. Mapmandu gives you google like maps and interfaces and allows you to search, restuarants, streets, 'gallis', schools, you name it. While the interface might be a tad less functional than that fo Google's standards, it does what it's meant to do and effectively uses Google's API.

I put a few searches in and it immediately gave me results which included exact locations on the map, phone numbers, addresses, short descriptions about the places and in some case, pictures! I had trouble finding a place some days back and when I put that in Mapmandu it promptly gave me results and pointed me to the right location. Bravo!

Go digital Kathmandu.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Its surprising, I have the word 'business' in front of everything in my description but I haven't actually posted anything concrete that concerns the economy, yet. I'm doing it now.

You might have/not noticed or heard about the US economy (which has a major global effect) is going through some pretty rough time. While the NEPSE (Nepalese stock market) might stay immune to the instability because its so far off and so small, all the other world economies experieced ripple effects after the US stock markets slipped.

The US economy has been troubled ever since George W. Bush took over (not true, I just like to believe that); maybe its because of his War of Terrorism or maybe its because he just doesn't know **it about the economy. Oops. No Cusing.
After 9/11, 2008 has been the worst years for the economy; rising cost of food, sky rocketing oil prices and stock market 'crashes'.

Just few days back, Wall Street or the Dow Jones experienced the sharpest fall in a day, a total of 777.68 points. This might not sound so big since the down is above the 10,000 points mark but if you convert that into cash, it amounts to over an astonishing USD 1 Trillion! Just minutes after the Congress started to vote for President Bush's $700 billion, the Dow started plunging; investors started to sell shares like crazy. It didn't matter what they were selling, they were selling! Five minutes after the vote was over, the dow was already down by 700 points (a trillion dollars within minutes). 10 minutes later, the brokers had sold all their belongings, inlcuding clothes.

The stock market is an interesting place. You can't imagine was happens here or what fuels the changes in the stock prices- rumours, scandals, natural disasters, sneezes, PMS. One of the most prominent incidents in the stock market happened in South Korea when the rumour of Bill Gate's death lost billions. Now, this is what I don't understand, just one person can disrupt a whole market?
Its nice to be in a market which is high on antibodies and where Rs 1.60 Nepalese for 1 Rupee IC is all you have to worry about.

But the US economy does matter. Especially for college students.; what would have been an expensive education a fews years back is now a Godsend. College is more expensive, so are the tickets, food, housing and on top of that there are fewer jobs. Sigh.

Now why isn't US a good breeding ground for us and why can't we 'spread our seeds' efficiently; the answers to this question are the reasons above. When the stock market, which defines the economy, is unstable or experiences downturns, the financial institutions lose investors. Now, capital or investment is what fuels the business, without sufficient amount of it, businesses fail. Redundancies, jobs cuts, selling of assets are the only answers.

Getting back to the bailout. There are numerous viewpoints about the plan for injecting the $700 billion to the stock market. While the people in power claim it to be 'the only' option to revive the US economy, doomsayers have claimed that the bailout will destroy the dollar, the general public are just pissed that the American government is using their money to help the Wall Street brokers and make them even richer.

While House of Representatives said a big "No No", the senate, which consists of the lawmakers of the America, however hesitantly passed the economic package. The senate voted 74-25 for the bailout contary to the House which voted 228-225 against it.

Now, you must be wondering what this $700 billion, which can get to a whooping $5 trillion, is all about. Well, if passed, it would allow the American government to spend money to buy bad mortgage-related securities and other dead/devalued assests held my businesses. In other words, disinfect the market with a large dose of expensive antibiotic.

Now while the House of Representatives votes again on the bailout this Friday, its all a matter of watch and get entertained for us. The economy is in peril and that there is no concrete solution for it, Goldman will turn to Silverman and businesses will lose billions. There is no telling what the $700 billions bailout will do if passed or what will happen to the economy is its not. For now, its a good idea of get rid of all you stocks and buy huge stashes of gold and diamonds; its bewildering, these little 'worth for only showing off' amenities are something that has always seen gain.

Photo:- Stocks markets after the vote in Congress. An error in calculation of google's loses. A warning about the future maybe?

Update:- The lower house is debating on the Economic package and will vote on it for the second time in some time. There is positive indication that the vote will pass this time as more and more house representatives who were against the vote are being dragged into voting for the bailout.

Photo 2: Stocks climb upwards after markets open on Friday. The indication that the Lower House will pass the bailout package this time has relaxed the investors.

Update 2: The Lowerhouse just passed the bailout or now know as the 'rescue' package on a revote. The votes were 263-171 for the plan. Now, the drastic shift in votes has got to do with either rechristening of the issue as "rescue" rather than a "bailout" or maybe because that $700 Billion..oops..$800 Billion is the only medicine of a the ailing economy. Man! $100 more expensive in just few days!