From Chhomrong November 8, 2011, our trek took us down a very long and steep set of stone steps that I was not looking forward to coming back on to a river crossing and then a steep climb up through Sinuwa, 2360 m, and then a relatively upwards but less steep traverse until we reached our destination of Himalaya, 2920 m. The weather was much warmer and I was finally able to wear shorts to trek during the day. The timing for the weather to get better was just right. We were certainly approaching the entrance to the Annapurna Sanctuary. The higher up you go as a solo trekker the less likely you are able to get your own room. In Himalaya I shared a room with Jurich a very interesting man from Switzerland who spends a lot of time traveling on his own in the most interesting places all over the world. He had trekked in Nepal several times previously and had just completed a solo venture of the Annapurna Circuit and was now going up to the sanctuary. We had had quite a bit of elevation gain the previous day over a short time period. From Himalaya we had another significant elevation gain to Machhapuchhre Base Camp (MBC as it is known), 3700 m but we had wonderful views of Machhapuchhre Mountain- this is a holy mountain and it is forbidden to climb it. We were having a relatively good hike but I noticed that our porter seemed to be moving much more slowly. He again was quite stoic and did not say anything. When we arrived at MBC he finally divulged to the guide that he was feeling unwell and had a headache. This was likely initial altitude sickness. We decided it was best for him to stay at MBC and gave him a full dosage of Diamox with clear instructions that if he was not feeling better after resting he was to descend back to Deurali at 3200 m. I would proceed onwards with the guide and just overnight supplies up to Annapurna Base Camp, 4130 m (ABC as it is known) that afternoon. The weather was clear and I seemed to be keen on getting up to ABC. The guide felt it might be wiser to stay at MBC and get up early to hike up to ABC in the morning. I decided on the former plan of action but should have listened to the guide. My initial reasoning was to experience both a sunset and sunrise at ABC.
We arrived at ABC at approximately 3:30 PM. From base camp you can walk upwards to view a huge gravel and rock moraine as well as visit a memorial to Mountaineering Guide Anatoli Boukreev who was killed in an avalanche in Annapurna. During our afternoon, the sky was clear and the views were fantastic. The shade was already creeping into the Annapurna Sanctuary valley. Once the sun goes down it becomes quite cold. I was surprised at the number of people at base camp. For some reason I expected this area to be quite wild and remote. It seemed very congested because the base camp is located over a relatively small area. It just didn’t feel relaxed. The food was not very good because so many people had to be served at the same time. This detracted from the experience. Again, the experience was somewhat tempered by lovely conversation with some Swiss and Spanish gentlemen as we talked into the evening. There was also a full moon which was well worth seeing. However, the sleep that night was awful. Because I was solo, I had to share a dormitory room with eight other strangers. Two of them snored loudly, one of them passed gas with gusto all night and one individual screamed out repetitively likely from nightmares. We were also located right next to the shared bathroom and my sleep was interrupted repetitively with sounds no one should hear. It was also very cold.
I thought the next morning the previous night’s experience could be balanced with a lovely sunrise and some photography November 10, 2011. I got up and went out at 6 AM and was greeted by about 200 other people with the same idea. It just wasn’t worth setting up to do any photography when you don’t feel relaxed. I simply enjoyed the sunrise and captured it with my minds eye. At breakfast I was surprised to meet up with Sam and Vanessa, the British couple, again who had stayed at MBC the previous night and hiked up to ABC early that morning. They said it was very quiet at MBC and they enjoyed a wonderful evening looking at the stars and happened to have an astronomer at MBC who educated them about the lovely night sky. I should have listened to the guide. I think he suspected it would not be a relaxing experience at ABC. Oh well, live and learn-what I learned was to listen to the guide’s advice!
That day, we left ABC and had a long and steep descent picking up Krishna at Deurali (who was feeling much better after having followed our advice) and we continued to descend all of the way to Sinuwa, 2860 m. I noticed on the descent that our guide was moving very slowly which was unusual for him. The temperature was quite warm and I had noticed that both the guide and the porter did not drink a lot of water on the treks and never wore hats. They never seem to complain. After some education, I strongly advised that he and the porter consume a lot more water. It is amazing the difference that this made. The only downside was that they got progressively stronger and quicker and much harder to keep up with! I enjoyed a hot shower in Sinuwa and shared a room with a lovely professor from Seattle, Washington. He had what sounded like a pneumonia so I had to do a little doctoring which he appreciated. I also met a lovely woman from Sacramento who was studying the local birds as well as a lovely young Australian woman (who also required some doctoring for absolutely atrocious bilateral posterior heel blisters), her stepmother and her anesthesiologist father. The evening was filled with lively conversation. One of the highlights of trekking in Nepal is the people that you meet at the guest houses. I was shocked at how quickly the time was passing though and this trek was soon coming to an end. Would the final days make up for the experience at ABC?