Monday, September 5, 2011

Preparations


The Nepal trip is fast approaching, and I am now in preparations mode.  I've wanted to trek the Annapurna Circuit for roughly 13 years now, ever since my last trip to Nepal, when the second half of my travel plans got waylaid due to the loss or theft of my moneybelt and passport in Lukla. There's nothing quite like being half a world away from home--without any identification, credit cards or cash--in a country where you don't know the language. My parents love telling this story about me.

I'm headed over with a couple good friends, also ultrarunning trail fools. Our plan is to go fast and light, making tracks as best we can, and basically fastpack the loop through the Himalayas in about half the standard trekking time. The Circuit is set to see some changes, as a road is being built into a remote section. When I learned this, I realized I'd always regret not pushing to get over there now.

My research on this trip is weak. There are so many details I'm not sure about, and haven't had the time or inclination to really figure out. I do know the Circuit is very well traveled, with tea houses all along the way, and so the trek will not at all be like going deep into the North Cascades. I've seen a few different numbers as to the distance, but I think 130 miles is in the ballpark. These are a different type of miles, of course, with a few days at the higher altitudes.

Nights will be spent in guesthouses, with dinner of rice and lentils, aka "dal baat", at a price of probably $5 to $15 per night. I'm probably on the high side with that cost estimate. The greatest expense is getting there, and finding the time to get away from day-to-day life here in the States.

Altitude will be one of the big challenges, with a high point approaching 18,000 feet. A different culture and language to contend with, and admire, as the case may be. I'm not sure where things are politically in Nepal right now--a Communist movement was starting the last time I was there, and I think they took power. I'm really looking forward to the trail, which will include deep gorges with waterfalls, long bridges, terraced agriculture, and the highest mountain range in the world. Also, there's this one place in K-du which makes really good tandoori. I'm hoping it is still there.

Visas are acquired, both for Nepal and India. Had to send the passports to the U.S. consulates; took some time, cost some money. We'll be lucky to get some naan in India, with only a 12 hour layover there, but who knows when I'll be back in that neighborhood again, so it's worth having that door open.

I joined the American Alpine Club, as they have an arrangement with the Mountain Fund for members to stay at the Kathmandu Club House, and support their worthy cause. AAC also offers a bit of rescue insurance if things go too wrong.  Both organizations seem really great.

I've talked to my doctor about vaccines. Fortunately, last time around I took care of Hepatitis A for life, and so the only one I needed to update was Typhoid. Water quality is pretty bad in many parts of Asia, including Nepal. The last time I was there I shaved my head so as to avoid getting sticky hair from washing in brown water. This time I have a little less hair, and so I'm a bit reluctant to get rid of what I have. I also have some altitude sickness pills, which I don't know what to think of.

Electronics. Last time, in the late '90s, this wasn't even a consideration. How the world changes. I'm not sure how cell phones work, either in the city or on the Circuit. I bought an extra battery for my camera, and an extra film card, but I don't know about charging them. I will probably buy a disposable camera, just in case. This blog may be offline for a little while. Or maybe I'll email a post or two. However it goes, so it goes.

This weekend my mind has turned towards the backpack. We want to go light, and I will, but "How light is right?" is the question of the hour.  I know people obsess about such things, but I won't have a chance to do that. I picked up two different packs at REI's Labor Day Sale, seen in the picture above, and have loaded them up. It looks like I'll be going with REI's Flash 65, described as an ultralight pack, but with twice the volume capacity of the one by Deuter, and at close to the same weight. I've also picked up a few other things, such as some Black Diamond hiking poles (an essential, I think), a puffy, and a water filter. If I had a little more confidence, I might go without certain things, but a middle ground seems right.

So much to think about, so much to do.

6 comments:

Mike said...

I can see why you are excited! Sounds like the trip of a lifetime.

Mike said...

Hiking in Nepal. I can't begin to imagine the adventure that will be!

Scotty said...

Thanks guys! Adventuuuuuure!!!

Charles Yuen said...

Scotty, I am so excited for you!! Assorted items.... Get the guide from "Bryn Thomas". I have an old edition that I can give you if you don't want to buy one. I have seen it at the Seattle library so you can even borrow it. It has got good hand drawn maps + walking times between villages. You can most likely recharge your batteries in some of the guesthouse but they might charge you $1 or something. DalBhat is still available but you can get pasta and all other good stuff at most places now. There is an alternate start if you go counterclockwise. I recommend the start in Begnas Tal. I think that's high season you are going. Don't get caught without a room if arriving late in a village.

Wishing you blue sky and sunshine.

Scotty said...

Hey Charles! Good to hear from you! You know, I think one of the guys bought that book--he showed it to me, and it was small, with handdrawn maps. I was thinking I'd wait until Thamel for a guide, but I bought the bigger Trekking in Nepal Mountaineers Book, which I don't want to pack, but it reads well and has info through 2010. Just read up on the politics. --Very good to hear of recharge opportunity! One extra camera battery should be fine then. Also, glad to hear the tip on not arriving late. A little concerned about rain--I've seen a chart re: monthly precipitation. If you have any other tips, please post!

Charles Yuen said...

More tips? When you get up to higer elevation and going to stop for the day...leave your bag and go higher and then come back for dinner. Order lemon tea. If you can't finish it, bring it to bed with you and it will keep your feet warm at night. For that reason, I should have brought a steel bottle instead of plastic one. I know it's going to be very cold at night but if you get a chance, go outside to check out the stars in the middle of the night. There should be a beautiful lake below Manang that is worth the trip down. I was sick...missed it. If you worry about the rain, bring a poncho instead. I have one that completely cover me and my pack. I think there is still a doctor in Manang at the Rescue association. That would be the best place to get treated if you have tummy problems or others. I had Giardia there. I hope you have allotted time for the Base Camp also in addition to the circuit.

When you get the Thamel, the smell will bring back those memories for you.