The itinerary for the next three days had us continuing to descend into the valley, getting as low as 2100 meters (7000 ft). We stayed in three villages, Chhomrong, Bamboo and Deurali. As Chhomrong was one of the last places on the route where meat is available, we gorged ourselves on delicious Nepali chilly chicken and scrumptious chicken dhal bhat. Just before Bamboo, we saw a sign that stated if you were to eat chicken, pork or buffalo, then personal calamity or harm may befall you. The Annapurna sanctuary is considered a holy place, and no slaughter of animals or eating of animal flesh are allowed. This meant that we were going to become vegetarians for the next four days. Thankfully, the vegetarian food at both Bamboo and Deurali was tasty!
We left Deurali very early in the morning because the trail to our intended highest sleeping point, Machhapuchhre Base Camp (MBC), was littered with avalanche zones. When the sun hits and melts the snow, there is a higher chance of an avalanche happening. To get through these zones we had to walk uphill quickly which was a little difficult at high altitude and I was promptly tired. Fortunately, we didn’t run into any avalanches. We heard that an hour after we had passed through one zone, an avalanche occurred, closing this part of the trail.
Two exhausting hours later, we finally arrived at the lodge where we were planning to stay. After eating a delicious lunch of momos, a traditional Nepali recipe similar to a Chinese dumpling, we decided to go for a short hike on the lateral moraine next to our lodge. I had expected there to be a plateau at the top, but after walking up to it, I found a 150 meter drop off. I scrambled back from the edge as our guide shouted at me. The edge of the moraine was eroding, leaving open space under the dirt and my unexpecting feet.
Soon after, I got the idea to have a snowball fight. I picked up some snow and threw it at Matthew, hitting him in the middle of his back. Right away, he attempted to throw one back at me, and just missed. We continued our fight until we had reached the bottom of the hill, where Matthew threw a snowball that hit my cheek. I repaid him by lobbing one directly at his bottom. He shrieked, and I couldn’t help but buckle over in laughter at his dramatic reaction. Soon everybody had joined in, but we were abruptly stopped by the approaching clouds. We quickly made our way back to the lodge as it is very easy to get lost in the thick fog. We had an early dinner, and went to bed at 7 pm because we planned to wake up very early the next morning.
Nooooo! I mentally groaned, as my annoying alarm blared. It was 4:00 a.m., and I did not want to get out of my toasty warm sleeping bag. I eventually dragged myself out of bed and was instantly met with –10 degrees Celsius air. After putting on 5 layers of clothes, while doing jumping jacks (I must have been a sight to see), I was much warmer and ready to start the hike to ABC.
The next two hours would prove to be grueling as the air is thinner at altitude and walking is much more difficult. This time was made even more difficult once the sun had risen as is much more powerful the higher up you go. Add that to it reflecting off the snow, and you’ve got a UV of more than 15. It seemed weird that morning to have to slather 50 SPF sunblock on when it was so cold, but I understood the reason once we reached the long snow field we intended to cross.
As we got higher, I began to notice that the altitude was taking an even greater toll on me. Each step was exhausting! There is less oxygen at higher elevations. Therefore, your brain gets less oxygen making you feel sluggish and tired and some people experience altitude sickness. More severe signs of altitude sickness include dizziness, vomiting, and insomnia. Fortunately, no one in my family exhibited such symptoms.
Though I was exhausted from the lack of sleep and oxygen and from what I’ve been told I was very irritable, I was extremely happy to finally reach the sign for Annapurna Base Camp. We made it!!! Then, I learned that we had to walk further to get to the viewing hill. There were so many Buddhist prayer flags strung, that we almost had to crawl to get past them! The panorama was indescribably amazing. Straight ahead was the magnificent Annapurna I, to the left and right were some snowcapped foothills, while behind was the sunrise over Machhapuchhre. It was incredible to be so close to some of the highest mountains in the world!
Our next challenge would be descending these mountains…Down, down and more down. My knees were dead by the time we had reached Himalaya, the tiny village in between Deurali and Bamboo. The last three days of our trek were the most difficult. We were walking 7-8 hour days, and my legs were seriously sore from hiking for so long. It also didn’t help that Matthew wanted us to move at the pace of Kumar and Mila, our porters, who were moving double the speed of Mom, Dad, Jaget and Khol. The last day of our trek though was the hardest. It took us 8-9 hours of fast paced hiking to reach our final lodge in Pothana. I was just about ready to drop. I was so happy that we had an attached bathroom rather than a public one that I actually jumped for joy! Let me tell you, jumping when your legs are about to crumble is a feat. After washing my hair for the first time in 6 days, I settled down for a nice cup of hot chocolate, and a plate of delicious Nepali chilly chicken. Khol, one of our guides, who used to be a cook, made what was some of the best food I’d eaten in Nepal.
Amazingly, the next day I got to sleep in until 7 a.m. instead of the usual 6. Pheti, the town that we were going to hire a taxi in, was only a 2-hour walk away. We gladly walked at a much slower pace. My legs were way too sore to go any faster then the turtle speed at which we were moving.
Once we reached Pheti our trek was over and it was hard saying goodbye to Jaget, Khol, Kumar and Mila. The four of them were going to the local bus station, where they were going to immediately take a bus back to Kathmandu, while we were planning to stay in Pokhara for the night. I felt sad that the guys were leaving. This meant that the trek had come to an end and this was one of my favourite parts of our world trip so far!