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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The Unpublished Story II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.

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