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Jebel Toubkal and High Atlas

6 days independent trekking across High Atlas, ascending the highest peak in North Africa- Jebel Toubkal in winter.

Prologue
Souks, Sahara Dunes, Beaches and hot Sun - those are the words that come to one's mind when planning their holiday to Morocco. Well for me it's more like snow, ice, Alpine peaks and high passes.
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The plan was to spend 7 days in High Atlas doing something like Himalayan tea house trekking that you experience in Nepal. The dates 17-25th of March 2017.

The planned route was: Imlil-Refuge Toubkal-Jebel Toubkal-Azib Tamsoult-Tizi Mizik-Imlil-Oukaimden-Imsker-Asni.
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The funny bit was from Refuge Toubkal to Azib Tamsoult via Aguelzim Mountain pass at 3,560m. It was after I booked my tickets I realized that March was a bit of a funny month to trek High Atlas, it's too early for the snow to melt while it's late enough to accumulate all the snow that fell during the winter. If that was not enough in itself just as was getting on a plane a forecast showed 45 cm of snow fall over two days including the day of summiting.

It also might be worth mentioning that it was my first time wielding an ice axe and the second time wearing crampons. Well there is nothing like learning by doing!

Day 1
London - Imlil
After landing at Minara Airport I took an airport bus straight to Jama el Fna, with a plan to take a bus to Imlil via Asni from Sidi Mimoun Garden. Firstly the buses leave from a slightly different place than marked on a map. I guess it must have moved, as I remember buses leaving from a different spot 5 years ago.

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After hanging out at Sidi Mimoun for about 15 minutes and asking around for Asni some boy turned up and took me to a place a few blocks away. The guy by the bus quickly quoted my 50 dihram to Imlil and asked to pay before I got on the bus, which did sound dodgy but I was way to weak and bargain after having to wake up at 2 am in London, so I just accepted and payed up.

After getting on the bus I had to wait for about half an hour for it to fill up like a can of sardines and off we were.

Upon arriving at Asni I was wondering if I had to pay again to transfer to Imlilm, but the bus man got me on a grand taxi (shared taxi) and slipped 10 dihram coin to the driver. in abot 1,5 hour I was in Imlil, right at the foot of High Atlas!
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I stayed at a place called Dar Atlas, a small guesthouse across a stream from Imlil that I booked on Booking.com. Room with breakfast was only 75 dihram and I was the only one staying there.

As soon as I dropped out of a taxi I was surrounded by a bunch of scruffy-looking locals all claiming to be guides as well as being able to help with everything else. I quickly brushed them off and proceeded to my guesthouse.

On a way there are a few places renting equipment. I was going to trek for 4 days before coming back to Imlil and than onward to Asni, hence I decided to rent Ice Axe and crampons for 4 days - 300 dihram, and buy one walking pole for 100 dihram. With that I was all set for summit.

Day 2
Imlil to Refuge Toubkal - 11km; from 1800m - 3200m. 6 hours.

This may seem like an easy day as it's only 11km. However, 1400m of altitude gain is no joke.
I left Imlil heading in direction of Arnoud which is the next village south and in the direction of Toubkal. It might be difficult to figure out the pass due to a bunch of local trails leading in all sorts of directions. I used Maps.ME app, but anyone will point you in the right direction.

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It takes about 2 hours to reach Sidi Chamharouch which is an isolated market village that lives of the trekkers. It's a great place to break up and have a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice - 15 dihram.
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After Sidi Chamharouch it is another 6km and 900m of altitude gain. This is where it starts getting tough and I found myself moving slower and taking close to 4 hours to reach the refuge.
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At about 3000m I hit snow line, the snow was fresh and powdery. I didn't need to put my crampons on and just followed the trail broken by a bunch of guys caring skies on their backs.
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There are two refuges I have picked the further one, which was managed by French Alpine Club, and I heard it was better than the other.
I checked-in by about 2 pm. Unsurprisingly enough they didn't have my booking, but that wasn't a problem I got a bed in dormitory and a full board for about 300 dihram. Dormitory is the only option in winter, in summer it might be a better and cheaper idea to pitch a tent.

Here is my simple but nutritious lunch.
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I spend the evening chatting with fellow trekkers, one of whom was a crazy English guy leaving in Austria, who once skied cross-country from Lake D'ifni and approached Toubkal from the other side where there is no trail. He also bivouacked on the ridge. He had his skies and was planning to ski right down the summit...

Day 3
Refuge to Summit and back down to Imlil.
19km-1000m of altitude gain and 2400m of descent. You may a change of route here. I was planning to return to Imlil via a loop crossing Aguelzim pass at 3,560m and staying at Azib Tamsoult. But the guardians at the refuge said that that pass was no longer open due to recent snow, and frankly I was relieved as it looked scary on the map and I had no idea of what was on the other side of the pass.

As we were sitting in the common room and chatting with fellow trekkers from around the world a few expressed surprise when heard that I was on my own. I don't think you really need a guide on Toubkal. Firstly the trail to refuge is like a highway, secondly from refuge to the summit is kind of obvious, and you are starting with about 30 other people who are heading the same way, and there is always a GPS (I use Maps.Me on my mobile-free). I kind of felt some negative vibe from the guides as I was casually blabbing about their jobs being pretty much redundant. No harm was intended.

I woke up to have breakfast at 5am. As forecaster it snowed as hell all night. After breakfast we all cramponed-up and went for the summit.
The snow was knee-deep, but it was dry and powdery snow so didn't cause much trouble and wasn't snowballing my crampons.
15 minutes in I met an american guy with his guide descending, apparently he was struck down by altitude sickness, his sight went dark and he decided do descent. That was quite surprising as we were only at about 3300 or so, but my position always was - don't mess with altitude, it gets bad before it gets terrible, so don't let it get to that.

As you leave the refuge you have to cross a small gully and head straight up. I guess when the snow is off there is a trail, in winter you have to break your own trail every time fresh snow falls. I let a few people ahead for the glorious task of breaking the trail and humbly followed them on. In about an hour I noticed that I was letting more and more people through. Clearly I wasn't in my best shape or maybe just rusty and altitude didn't help either. A half way up a crazy British guy on skies taken me over, oh man that guy was like a machine.

I used layering system for closes. 1 woolly t-shirt, 2-synthetics, 1-soft shell and waterproof windbreaker. It was cold, but luckily for the most of the climb you are shielded from the wind. Couple of times I sat down to break up and took my gloves off, the fingers would freeze in a matter of minutes.

about 3,5 hours later I arrived at this coll which from below looks like a summit.
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You get a brilliant view towards Anti Atlas and Sahara, and it's amazing to see where the desert ends and the snow begins.
The real summit is just over an hour away, here you are looking at it. It is much closer than it looks.

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It'a steep ascent from the call to the summit and there is one point where you traverse along a narrow ledge that could be a bit hairy if it's iced and the trail is not broken. Luckily a lot of people walked before me and shredded the ice with their crampons. You do start feeling the altitude on that stretch, it didn't cause altitude sickness, but you feel yourself getting weaker and slower, having to break every 5 minutes or so.

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From the top it only took me 2 hours to come down. The sun was high, the snow was getting soft and you just slid through the snow, sometimes following somebody else's trail and sometimes just making my own.
In hindsight I should have taken the crampons off. They are no good on soft snow, tent to get clogged up and actually make it far more dangerous since you loose all the grip.
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I summited at 11 and was back down by 1pm.

After grabbing a quick lunch at the refuge I set off for the 11km descent back to Imlil.
It is a very pleasant walk down, the weather was perfect and without uphill struggle you really enjoy the views.
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I managed to get back to Imlil just before 6pm. I gave back my crampons and ice axe two days earlier. Than grabbed an egg sandwich and went to my guesthouse, I was so exhausted that I couldn't even eat.
As if my day wasn't hard enough I decided to take short cut on a way to the guest house and got lost ended up scaling up a hill while burning my last fumes.

Day 4
Imlil - Tizi Mizik - Tizi Oussen Gite - 8,8km. 750 m of altitude gain and loss.

The plan was to get over the Mizik pass and descent to a village in a valley that runs parallel to Imlil valley.
I was tired in the morning so I decided to have a lay in and start to trek at about 10:30. It was going to be a relatively quick and easy day.

There a few trails marked on a map leading to the Mizik pass. They all start at the end of Mizik village which is a village adjacent to Imlil. I picked the one that runs along the stream. In a hindsight it would probably be better to take the pass that traverses the mountain on the right hand-side.
The pass that runs along the stream wasn't as obvious and would appear and disappear on both sides of the stream. In short it made it a difficult task to navigate as I had to keep being on a lookout. Still it's kind of impossible to get lost as you see Tizi Mizik right in front of you.
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One our into a hike I realized that I forgot to bring sunscreen with me. I saw some tourists ahead of me, I thought I would catch up with them once they take a break on the top and ask for some sunscreen for damage control.
It's a very steep climb over a short distance to Tizi Mizik, I believe it took me 3 hours to reach the pass.

Here is the view towards Imlil
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and here towards Tizi Oussen
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I savored the views, had a glass of freshly squeezed Orange Juice sold by entrepreneurial locals and seeded downhill totally forgetting about the sunscreen.
On my way down I was taken over by a group of Dutch trail runners...
In just under an hour I was down in the valley. I was fairly certain that there was a Gite (basic guesthouse) as there was market on the map and also the presence of other tourists looked reassuring.

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Once I was down I could see the other side of Aguelzim pass, and it was clear while crossing it, as in my original plan, was a bad idea, it was steep and covered in heavy snow. Taking into account my limited experience with ice axe it was definetly not a place for "learning by doing".

Upon entering the village I have asked around for a Gite and was quickly approached by a man called Hasan, who was running a Gite on the left handside of the village. If I carried on walking along the main street I would have bumped into a more developed Gite just pass the "hole in a wall" shop. But I guess that Gite gets all the business anyway.

Hasan spoke only French, using my limited extent of the language we have quickly agreed on 200 dihram for bed, dinner and breakfast. After having an obligatory welcome tea I have gone to the other Gite where I have found the Dutch guys to ask for some sunscreen as the skin on my face started to really shrink...

Here is the best I had in Morocco
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Day 5
Tizi Oussen - Aguersional back to Imlil (not via Tizi Mizik), 15,5 km. 600 m of altitude gain and loss.

This was going to be an easy day. The only thing I had to do is to get over a semi-steep pass, descend into Imlil valley and come back to Imlil along the asphalt road.

I have woken up at about 7 am had a quick breakfast, payed my bill and was about to get on my way, when Hasan volunteered to take me to the start of the pass. Sure as hell, and well expected, before saying goodbye Hasan asked me for baksheesh. I thought it was uncalled for, but I decided that it's best to start my day with positive emotions and gave Hasan 20 dihram which made him really happy.
I descended from the village to a dirt track and headed north (towards Marrakesh) about 2,7 km until next village.
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From this village (which also has a Gite) I turned right and started to climb up. The pass might not be as obvious but GPS and friendly locals will point you in the right direction.

At this point the sun rose high and my sun burn reminded about itself. Below is my before and after...
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This was a bullet-proof solution!
I was just thinking how reckless and stupid I was yesterday when I didn't simply cover up my face.

I riched the top of the pass following a quite well walked pass at about 10 am (2 hours after the start).large_20170322_105139.jpg

From there it was all the way down. Very pleasant walk for about an hour until I riched this village. large_20170322_110439.jpg

This is where trail stops and a jeep track starts. I followed the jeep track in scorching heat and with hardly any cover for about 4 km until I riched the
asphalt road. I was gonna stop and grab a drink, but I really wanted to get home (or rather to a pharmacy) so decided to brave another 3 km to Imlil.
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I reached Imlil at 1:30 pm

This day wasn't technically difficult and 9 out of 15 km where on a track/road, but I still felt very tired and I think sun burn played its part. I went to a pharmacy and bought all they had for "before" and "after".

Day 6
Ilil to Oukaimden, 19 km, 1200 meters of vertical altitude gain.

I was quite looking forward to this day as this trek would take me away from Imlil and hopefully show the other side of Toubkal massif.
I left the house at 8:30 and started a steep climb to towards a cafe which I marked as a waypoint located on the motorable road to Tacheddirt.
It was only 3,3 km but involved 440 m of altitude gain. The trail ran across pine forest and crossed asphalt road several times, it got me to the cafe at about 10 am.
This the view looking back at Imlil.
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The cafe was open, I grabbed a coke and sat down to rest and savor the views. I so one couple with a guide who appeared to be on a day trip and another guy roaming the mountains on his own. From the cafe I could see the range I had to cross to get to Oukaimden and it looked a bit intimidating...

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I could have technically descended into the valley in front and ascent to Tamguist as I could clearly see the trail. However, I didn't have this trail on the map, also it seemed mode demanding than my original plan which was to follow asphalt road down to Ouanesekra and than switchback to Tamguist.
Cafe to Ouanesekra stretch is about 5,5 km and descend of 200 meters. I am not a big fan of asphalt roads of course, but I new that the most demanding climb was ahead. Luckily there were only 2 or 3 cars in the whole time. And the views of the other side of Toubkal were amazing!
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I got to Ouanesekra no later than 11:30 and found a small shop. I was going to get myself a drink, but when the owner offered me Tajine I thought it was a good idea to break for lunch since I had enough time. I negotiated for 60 dihram and sat down on a terrace overlooking the village.
The owner told me that it was about 3-4 hours to Oukaimden which matched my expectations, my plan was to be there no later than 5 pm.

It took way over an hour for Tajine to arrive, which I didn't expect, but in hindsight it wasn't a restaurant and the lady of the house must have had to cook it from scratch.
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I payed 90 dihram for the meal including Tajine, Coke and Tea which I didn't ask for, felt like was ripped of somewhere, but probably not by much. It was nice to have some hot food in belly.

From there I had about 1 km to Tamguist on a relatively flat path and than the fun would start. To reach the top of the pass I had to climb 700 vertical meters over 2,8 km, im my books anything which is more than 150m/1km is seriously steep.

On a way to Tamguist I met a local guy waking back from Imlil who was very surprised to hear I was on my own and of course offered me his services as a guide. To which I replied that I have GPS for a guide and added Je ne suis pas un turist, je suis voyageur to make my point!
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The pass is not immediately obvious, but with a few fingers pointed by locals and GPS it's quite easy to find. More over this is the only marked trail in Atlas mountains! At least the only one I found. See this pink marking? Not the obvious choice of color. They probably marked the trail by walking from Oukaimden, you could see it as the markings were all on the same side of the rocks. In fact the only way I could spot any of these markings was by looking back :-). Still beggars can't be choosers.
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The climb itself wasn't as hard as I expected. I guess I must have shaped up over the last 6 days and was moving up the hill like a machine. large_20170323_133744.jpglarge_20170323_141835.jpg

2,5 hours later I have finally reached this pass at 3,000 meters above sea level.large_20170323_151142.jpg

Once I was over the pass I knew it was a job done. Mostly because from there it was all the way down and because there was motorable road leading from the pass down. My guess they are building that road to connect to Tamguist and other villages on that side.

I choose to take a shortcut following this time blue markings!large_20170323_155347.jpg

It took slightly longer than an hour to get to Oukaimden, probably could make it faster if I did follow the road.

A few words about Oukaimden. This place is located at an altitude of 2700 m and is Africa's the highest and most famous ski resort!
When I entered it looked really weird. One hand you could see abandoned ancient villages and shepherds' huts on the other newly build hotels and ski lifts. It was made even weirder by the fact that the season was just over and the place was abandoned. Well at least it will be easy to get a room, right?large_20170324_080957.jpg

There is a French Alpine Club refuge where I was planning to stay the night. To my surprise they told me they were full! Apparently they had a group from British army, Moroccan police and a school group. The hotel next door was closed for the off-season. This is just what I needed after 10 hours on the trail barely dragging my feet.

On the way to CAF refuge I saw a hotel called Chez JUJU that claimed to be open all year round, it looked like it was my only option.
It was open, but there was no one except for some very sleepy workers. It turned out that the cheapest, most basic room there was 900 dihram (€90), and of course cash only.
Before leaving Marrakesh I have withdrawn just enough money for my journey + an extra day. This was the end of my journey and by spending less than I expected I ended up with about 1000 dihram, just enough to pay for the night and get a bus ride back to Marrakesh. Breakfast was 200 dihram extra so that was out of the question.

Somehow I think the boys binned my registration form and split the money as soon as I left.

I don't have a picture of the room, but it was not Hilton I can tell you that much! There were 2 beds one single and one double, and the fun part is that there was no door for the toilet, i mean it had a curtain for door! I would get it if it was a single room, but it was made for 3 people: 1 shitting and 2 listening?

I ate my last nuts and the final Snickers and was off to bed.

Day 7
Oukaimden-Imsker-Asni-Marrakesh. 19 km, 1500 meters of descent.

This was going to be a cake walk. 20 km all the way down...
Of course not having a dinner or breakfast didn't make me any stronger.

I had left at about 8 am, was beautiful day. The only disruption was the British army team, they left just before me and I have caught up with them really quickly.
The plan was to descent down to Imsker, have some lunch and be off to Asni.large_1893983BC15BC463728EC6D7F97533D9.jpg

At first I started steep ascent cutting the corners and crossing a jeep road several times. I was following GPS route, but soon found some markings, this time green and decided to give it a try.
Moving down was definitely much easier, but wasn't hell of a lot faster. Shortly I noticed that the markings were deviating me from the GPS trail, but I wasn't too worried as there wasn't anywhere I could go that would take me totally off track. It was the same valley after all.
I figured out where I had to go as I could see a village on my and worked out that if I get to a field it should connect to a village somehow. and Surely it did, I was down at the first village (halfway between Oukaimden and Imsker) just before the Brits, could see them up on the hill.

It's a much more demanding descent to Imsker that I imagined and definitely was not the cake walk. There are a few steep descents, villages and point where you have to walk along the mountain stream. It's amazing how quickly scenery changes; I left that morning in a freezing cold, and now I was walking under the scorching sun.
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It took me 5 hours to descent 11 km to Imsker. Much slower than 3 hours I though it would take. I lost the British army team at Imsker where they were picked up. They had 3 guides, yes - there were 15 of them but still how come you need more than 1 guide to lead a group? Well I don't wanna take anyone's job away...
Getting a lunch in Imsker clearly wasn't gonna work. As soon as I entered the village all the local kids swarmed around me. I was a local celebrity! I got through Imsker without spotting a shop which meant the lunch was delayed till Marrakesh.

From Imsker to Asni it's about 7,6 km, where first 2,6 are on a trail and the rest is on a proper road. where the trail end the fun ends. I was happy to get make the road though, I just wanted the journey to be complete and I could see Asni stretching below.

Once IO got to the Asno bus stop, which was more like a bus stretch I was swarmed by a bunch of entrepreneurial bums who really wanted to help me to get on a bus. The advantage of departing a destination is that you can act as if you know it. they were delighted at my donation of a walking pole, and kept asking if there was anything else I wanted to trade. That included swapping my waterproof coat, softshell and even fake Oakley shades! I return I was offered a lot of "silver" junk. I did fell like an Indian being cheated by Columbus and his conquistadors back in 16th century.

The real cost for a bus was 15 dihram and 20 for a grand taxi. So I was ripped of by a factor of two which I rated as acceptable. In less than an hour I was in Marrakesh. All the buzz and hustle of the city, it was so different from serendipity of the mountains...large_20170325_115221.jpg

Posted by dima.safr 13:31 Archived in Morocco Tagged snow winter trekking morocco imlil march tagine independent crampons high_atlas jebel_toubkal oukaimden tizi_mizik giti asni tizi_oussem Comments (0)

Atlas Mountains - 6 days independent trekking in Morocco

Video report on concurring Jebel Toubkal - Africa's highest peak in winter and exploring valleys and passes of High Atlas mountains independently.

snow -10 °C

The route: Imlil -Refuge Toubkal- Jebel Toubkal (4186 meters) - Imlil - Tizi Mizik - Tizi Oussem - Imlil (via a loop) - Oukaimden - Asni.

Posted by dima.safr 11:39 Archived in Morocco Tagged mountains snow winter trek imlil gite independent tizi high_atlas jebel_toubkal oukaimden tizi_mizik oussem Comments (0)

Exploring Myanmar by Train

Myanmar Railway: tickets, experience, best routs

Being a big fan of railways and having a rule to travel by rail as much as possible I couldn't wait to come to Myanmar. And I wasn't disappointed.
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The Network
Rail Network in Myanmar is actually more developed that you would expect in a way it's as extensive as in Thailand, nothing comparing to Indian network of course. I guess this is a part of British heritage.
You can reach all the main cities that are visited by tourist and although infrequent and slow trains usually run on daily basis.

The tickets
This is by far my favorite part. You can't book them online (daa). You can't buy them for the following day (Yangon might be an exception). You have to show up at the station about 20 minutes before train departure, skip the main ticket window and just pop your head into the station office. Someone will invite you inside sit you down and write a ticket. You get a special ticket which looks as if it was for West End show, while everyone else gets a scribble on a small piece of cardboard. Foreigners pay in Kyat same prices as locals, first class normally twice cheaper than taking a bus and a second class is next to nothing.
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The Trains
The trains look like they were delivered by Her Majesty's Rail back in royal times and are still running. There are two classes, first and second. Second class is the picture above. Basically flat plastic benches, perfectly fine for a couple of hours. First class - you get individual seats which look more like barber's chairs with armrest and everything. Just like barber's chairs these spin left and right and can recline far back - sound comfortable right? Wrong! They'd be comfortable if any of them worked. 99% chances that all levers are broken, which in best case means the chair is stiff fixed, worst case it has a mind of its own and spins out of control every time when train rocks and those trains rock alright.
We decided to be brave and took a night train in first class from Bago to Mawlamine. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, when double dose of valium has worn off, and seeing everyone in the carriage spinning around as if they were on a carousel.
The night was horrific, but experience priceless!
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Only when you experienced Burmese trains you start to fully appreciate comfort of Indian trains. And this says a lot...
The trains shake big time, you can properly appreciate the extend of rocking when you look through the passage that links two carriages as you see how they rock one against another.
The Accident
We were taking a ride from Pyin U Lwin to Kyaukme when we heard a loud bang like an explosion and the train got engulfed in ashes. After a second we realized that the train just derailed. The ashes were in fact concrete from the rail frame being sliced by wheels.
All the western folks jumped out in fascination while the Burmese hardly blinked an eye. They said not to worry this happens all the time...
And indeed no one including train guys worried. They got out a mega sized wrench which had two levers one to lift and lower and another one to shift it right or left. While two guys were spinning the wrench one was counting so they could spin it from both sides simultaneously. Within an hour we were back on tracks. More in this video.

About an hour before Kyaukme we reached the famous Gokteik Viaduct. As the train has to descent to reach the Viaduct it makes a few switchbacks so you see it from both right and left. The train slows down to about 5 km/h and crosses the Viaduct at a snail place, the views are breathtaking.

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Posted by dima.safr 06:43 Archived in Myanmar Tagged train burma railway backpacking video independent gokteik_viaduct myanmar_railway derailed Comments (1)

Motorbike Trekking in Shan State - Myanmar

2 day Independent village motorbike trek from Kyaukme


More on our Myanmar trip
Most of the village trekking in separatist Shan State of Myanmar is done out of Hsipaw. We heard that a town just before Hsipaw - Kyaukme is a viable and less touristy alternative.

Kyaukme itself is a very lively town on the Mandalay - Lashio trade route from China. There is a buzzing market where you can get all sorts of Burmese street-food and one Beer station that we found by following this instructions from Wikitravel:
(From A yone oo guesthouse turn left, then left again at the end of the street. walk for a few minutes til you go over the canal and the take another left, a few meters along is beer and BBQ!).

We quickly found Northern Rock hotel, which is made up of few large colonial rooms being partitioned into small, cozy and windowless box rooms. We got a double for $12. A charming house and a nice family, but cheep and cheerful rooms. However, since you won't be staying there any longer than a day it's not a big of a deal.

They guesthouse owner said that they can help us with a trek and put us in touch with Jay. Jay is a 20-something chap, who sometimes works as an English school teacher, grows corn to sell to China and doubles up as a cultural trekking guide.
Jay came back at 7ish bringing 2 girls back from a trek, who were very happy with their experience and highly recommended the motor-bike trek! Until this point we never heard of moto-trekking, and were more in favor of using our legs as you do.
There are a couple of options where you can do a fairly short overnight trek along tea growing villages ($20) being dropped off and picked up in the hills, or to take a motorbike a do a much larger loop visiting several villages ($25). The second option sounded more adventures!
Jay asked us about how confident we were on semi-auto motorbikes, by that point none of us had any motorbiking experience and driving it on steep mountain trails sounded like a suicide. For $10 we got drivers who were effectively Jay's students and grew up in highlands riding motorbikes since they were 5.

Next day we all met up, stocked up on water and petrol and hit the road.
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Very quickly we left the road and hit a dusty trail, and when I say trail I actually mean quite literally a cattle trail! Our first point of call was a fairly large village sporting a local school.
Out first point of call was large_IMG_4070.jpglarge_IMG_4073.jpg

All the adults were away away, either in field a working elsewhere until the dry season ends. A guy showed up selling ice lollies from the back of his motorbikes, Jay bought a whole bunch for all the kids, who were needless to say, happy to have their lesson interrupted.
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And as a gratitude they sand us a song. I included it into this short video which should give you an idea of what we encountered on the road.

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And in case you wonder - it's dusty - very dusty!
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After riding for another hour or so we arrived at a small roadside village to grab some Shan noodles for lunch!
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Than we arrived at a more substantial village featuring a pagoda, school and communal hole.
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It's worth to mention here that Shan is a separatist state, there are still occasional skirmishes between Shan army and the government troops. In fact Jay had to adjust our route as there were some reported fighting on one of roads.
People are quite open about supporting independence, in almost every house you will see pictures and calendars featuring Shan army Burmese opposition leader - Aung San Suu Kyi, who at that time was still under house arrest.

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Us having an afternno nap through the sticky March heat.
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Our moto-drivers having a tea break
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We were very happy that we decided to take drivers and didn't try to wing it and learn riding a semi-auto on this mountain trails. Most trails are as narrow as the one below, plus a lot of them pass along steep cliffs and sharp turns.

As we were approaching our overnight stop, one of the motorbikes broke down. large_IMG_4149.jpg
These were unbranded Chinese 125 semi-auto bikes, a brand new one costed only $300 and could be bought in any town. Apparently they were not half bad, to be ridden by two people up and down the hills on nothing more than a hiking trail is a lot of punishment to take. Next time I'm in Myanmar for a month or so I may just buy one for me.
The kids spend about half an hour trying to fix, than Jay took a second Argentinian girl on his bike and we left for the village leaving one of them behind. After dropping us of at the home-stay and introducing to the hosts Jay with one of his students went to his man's rescue.

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The home-stay was very basic but comfortable enough, we had a nice vegy dinner and a couple of Chinese beers for $1. My favorite moment when I told our host that this is beer from China, and he said it wasn't. I was like common it has Chinese written all over it, it's from China to what he responded - no it's from Lasio!

Later on the guys brought back the broken motorbike. Turns out that one of the kids forgot to top up oil and the engine simply burned out. So one more point for the Chinese bile, after all it hasn't simply died on us.

As a way of entertaining themselves and us, Jay and his kids engaged into improvised karaoke performance. It's so popular over there that every self respecting Burmese teenager has a Karaoke up on his smartphone.

Next morning we left one of the kids with a broken motorbike, the plan was for him to push it downhill to the next small town where there is a garage. He told Jay if I haven't called by end of the day please come and find me...

We rented a really shitty, oil leaking bike from one of the local guys. That guy wouldn't rent us his good bike even if it was for a half of a day, instead he gave us the shitty one and asked for $20. Jay said it was a really dick move, as the guy new we were desperate and in Kyaukme you could buy a used bike like that for $50.

We were off to the tea plantations...
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In the next village we visited Jay's family. He sent one of his cousins to drop off the rented bike and got the the other one to take a position of substitute driver with his good bike.
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After that we came down towards rice fields, which gave us a very welcome change to lush green from the gray dusty hills.

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By 5 pm we were dropped of at the highway bus station to catch a bus for Inle Lake.

Great trip, great value for money, the fee we payed included everything we had on the trek (except $1 beer obviously). Jay and his kids are very keen and sincere and I would definitely recommend them.

More on our Myanmar trip

Posted by dima.safr 04:17 Archived in Myanmar Tagged trek tea plantation myanmar backpacking costs independent village_trek motorbike_trekking kyaukme shan_state Comments (3)

3 weeks in Myanmar - Independent backpacking

Sample Itinerary, top highlights, transportation, accommodations, costs

This is my 3 week itinerary around Myanmar. We aimed to fit as many as possible sites which provide for variety of activities, while deliberately avoiding beaches (this because we had plenty of that on Tiaman island.)

Yangon

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Get To
Fly in from KL with Air Asia for next to nothing. A $10 taxi ride from the airport.

Top Highlights

  • Yangon itself - a great place to get a sense of Myanmar. Get accustom to pollution, street food and buzzing nightlife around the pub street.
  • Shwedagon Paya- the biggest and greatest Pagoda complex in Myanmar, a good place to visit at the beginning before you become totally sick and tired of Pagodas. $8. Make sure to cover your legs (man and women) otherwise you will be pressured into buying a Burmese skirt. I got one which made for a nice souvenir, don't see myself wearing it around London though.
  • take a circular ride around Yangon. $1 from central train station (site to behold!).

Where to Stay
Mahabandoola Guesthouse, Cnr of 32nd st and Mahabandoola Rd (directly opposite Sule Pagoda) - $12 double.

Bago

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Get To
Take a train. No need to book, just turn up at the ticket office an hour before, someone will see you take you into the station chief's office and write up a foreigners ticket - first class $1. Foreigners now pay in Kyat and the same fairs as locals.

Top Highlights

  • Reclaining Budhe - believed to be the longest
  • Shwe mawdaw Pagoda (Golden God Temple) - believed to be the highest

Both cost $10 - but actually free after 5pm.

Where to Stay
San Francisco Hotel, No.(14), Main Road, S/Zainganaing Qr - $14-25 double.

Mawlamine

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Get To
Nerve-wrecking night train from Bago. Don't remember the cost, but no more than couple of $.

Top Highlights

  • Pa Auk Taw Ya Monastery - 15km south of town, ask in your hotel about where to pic up a truck.
  • Kyaik Tan Lan Pagoda. Up on the hill, this is great place to see the sunset over town.
  • Rivera for a nice meal after the sun set.

Where to Stay
Breeze Guesthouse - 6. Strand Road $15-20 double

Hpa-an

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Get To
5 hour boat ride - $12, or Bus - $2.

Top Highlights

  • Biking around the cliffs
  • Bat Cave - be there at sunset for an unforgettable show of nature.
  • Shweyinhmyaw Paya - a pilgrimage site, for great views and authentic experience watching locals and pilgrims.

Where to Stay
Soe Brothers Guesthouse, No.(2/146), Thitsar Street - $12.

Golden Rock

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Get To
5 hour bus ride from Hpa-an to Kyaiko - $5, and a 30 min pic up truck to Kinpun where you spend the night.

Top Highlights

  • Golden Rock (surprise)
  • Ride to the Golden Rock (my personal favourite)!

Where to Stay
Once you get of the pic up truck there will be hoteliers offering rooms, they shout out prices so it's quite easy to spot the cheap one. I believe we stayed in a place at the end of the main road (it's a one road town) for $12.

Bagan

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Get To
An overnight Bus from Bagan (10-12 hours) - $15 and a $5-$10 for a taxi to take you from the bus stand on the highway to the ticket gate at Bagan.

Top Highlights

  • 1000 temples of Bagan, quite obvious
  • Sunrise view from the top of a Pagoda
  • E-biking around ancient temples!

Where to Stay
Plenty of places all along the main road. Prices higher than elsewhere in Myanmar. 20 fan double, 25 AC double.

Mandalay

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Get To
A 6 hour bus ride from Bagan - $8 from door to door.

Top Highlights

  • Snake charmer by the main Pagoda!
  • Not many other...

Where to Stay
ET Hotel, 83rd and 23rd/24th Street - $20 for fan double. Pay an extra $5 and get AC - really worth it!

Pyin U Lwin

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Get To
2 hour pic up ride from central Mandalay, ask at your hotel and they will easily explain where to get it, also confirm the price. I believe we paid 1500 Kyat.
Top Highlights

  • Anisakan Falls - make sure to take a dip in the ice freezing water.
  • The night food market - all sorts of stuff!

Where to Stay
Cherry Guesthouse, next to the clock tower on the Lashio Road. $20 for a double

Kyaukme

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Get To
Only the train! Well there is a bus of-course, but you must take a train which takes best part of the day and in the general class costs around $1.

Top Highlights

  • Motorbike village trekking, what a great alternative to reportedly overcrowded Hsipaw.
  • Train over Gokteik Viaduct - I'll have a separate post on this point!

Where to Stay
Not a lot of choice. Northern Rock, Shwe Phi Oo Road - $12 per double.

Inle Lake

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Get To
12 hour excruciating bus ride from Kyaukme - $15, the bus leaves from a station on the Lashio highway, your hotel will arrange a ticket and call a tuk tuk to take you there. You will need to take a tuk tuk from main road to the town - $1.

Top Highlights

  • Boat ride on the lake. Make sure to include further side of the lake where monastery is.
  • A bike ride around the lake to hot springs!
  • Trek to Kawar (we haven't actually done it)

Where to Stay
Diamonds star guesthouse, Yone Gyi Road, a short walk from the pier - $15 for a double.

Kalaw

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Get To
3 hour painfully slow train from Inle or a 1 hour bus.

Top Highlights

  • Circular village trek - can do on your own with a GPS map
  • 3 day Kalaw - Inle trek

Where to Stay
Pine Land Inn - main road, $12 for a double

After researching the web and reading a lot about high accommodation costs and inflated attraction fees we have set ourselves budget of $70 per couple per day. In fact $50 was more that sufficient.
ATMs- plenty
USD - if binning cash, make sure it's brand new - literally brand new!
Language - English is widely spoken
Internet - widely available, cheap and slow

Posted by dima.safr 11:05 Archived in Myanmar Tagged accommodation hotel bus train bagan mandalay golden_rock pagoda transport inle_lake yangon backpacking viaduct kalaw independent bago bat_cave myanmar_rail motorbike_trek e-bike Comments (0)

Planning your Everest Base Camp trek

What you need to know to do EBC trek independently

We have completed EBC the long way: Jiri-EBC-Salleri. Below are some useful tips on how to plan your itinerary, budgets, etc.

Read about our EBC adventure here

Permits

TIMS card (need a picture) - 2000 npr
Everest National Park permit - 3000 npr
Both permits can be acquired in tourist office in Kathmandu or at a checkpoint in Mojo (Just before Namche Bazar)

Cheese Circuit Conservation Area Permit - 2000 npr. If you are planning to walk in from Jiri you will need this one too. Cheese Circuit captures a small section of Jiri-EBC trek between Shivalaya and Bhandar, literally 3-4 hours. There is a permit office in Shivalaya which opens at 8 am, if you avoid it or pass through Shivalaya when the office is closed you won't be asked for that permit again, and you will be out of permit area within a few hours anyway.
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Transport

Airports: Lukla - up to 20 flights from Kathmandu
Phaplu - 2 weekly flights from Kathmandu

Bus/Jeep
To/From Jiri - 1 bus a day leaving 5 am from Purano/Old bus stand in KTM downtown. Takes about 10 hours. Get tickets at least 2 days in advance. We had to ride on the roof and it's not as fun as it sounds! 550 npr
From Phaplu/Salleri - 1 jeep leaving Salleri at 5 am, takes about 14 hours to reach KTM. It doesn't go to downtown and will drop you on the circuit road. Any guest house in Salleri will be able to book you a ticket for it.
I don't know how to book a ticket for this jeep in KTM, my guess is that you will have to use a travel agent. 1200 npr.

Trail

From Lukla to EBC the trail is quite obvious, it's not marked, but it's impossible to get it wrong unless you stray of for side trips.
From Jiri to Lukla it's much less obvious, there some markings but they are sparse and faded. There are a lot of villages on this stretch and your biggest danger is picking up a trail leading you to a near by village or a farm. Be prepared to stray of course a few times, as always friendly locals will see you heading in wrong direction and will point you to the right pass.

Maps/GPS

GPS is only useful to track your progress and occasionally checking where you. You don't really need it for navigation.
I would advise to buy a large-scale map of Everest from Jiri, which is available from any shop in KTM for 300 npr. It's a good map with a lot of additional information such as distances between the villages in walking hours. A really good way of planning your trek based on the number of hours you would like to do a day. We planned to do up to 10 hours in the lower sections, than reducing it to 5-6 when we get over the 3500 meter threshold in Namche.

Guide/Porter

We didn't take neither a guide nor a porter, and I can't see why would we want one. The trails are obvious, there are no technically difficult places, you only carry your personal possessions (leave the rest in KTM), it gives you more freedom, keeps your costs really low.
Having said that, if you are planning to deviate from the main trail and go on exploring the places where there is no lodging, need to cross glaciers or attempt summits, having a guide/porter is a good idea if not necessity.

Costs

Putting transportation and permits aside, food and lodging are your only costs.
To give you an idea:
Jiri-Lukla stretch:
Room: 100 per person or free
Noodle soup: 100-150
Dal Bhat: 250-350
Tea: 30-60
Momo: 200-300

Lukla-EBC stretch:
Room: 100 per person, (200 at Gorak Shep).
Noodle soup: 200 - 300
Dal Bhat: 450 - 650 (650 at Gorak Shep)
Tea: 80-100
Momo: 400-600

I excluded things such as biscuits, chocolates, bottled water, beer etc, you could buy those at more affordable prices in places that are connected by road, all prices go up the higher you go. You can save a lot of money by buying water purification drops (20-50 npr) and they will last you for ages.

Our budget was 3000 per couple per day. I think we hardly ever went over 2000.==

Internet/Phone

Local Ncell sim card will give you connection in some areas, signal quality really varies. Lukla and Namche seem to be connected by cable, and generally have good and affordable wifi.
From Namche to EBC almost every place will have a satellite phone and satellite internet. Internet costs go as high as $10 per 10 min.

Electricity/Charging

All the places on EBC trail are supplied either with hydro or solar power.
Until Lukla the electricity is generated by hydro-power and it is usually free to recharge your stuff.
From Lukla to EBC you are normally charged about 100 npr per our to charge your stuff, and the charging rate is really slow.

How are the crowds?

Well this depends on the season. We did our trek early October. General impression: Jiri to Lukla - hardly anyone (Lukla to Jiri no one at all), Lukla to Namche - a bloody highway (horrible), Namche to EBC - OK actually, few people but well space out.

Altitude

Hard to comment on this one for 2 reasons:
1-we did EBC straight after Annapurna Circuit and Base Camp and were well acclimatized.
2-the Jiri-Lukla stretch takes you over three 3500m+ passes, hence providing some acclimatization.
We were also taking Diamox...

A general rule of thumb is that you should not pic up more than 500m of altitude gain a day. You also should plan for at least 2 acclimatization days: one at 3500m and one at 4500m.
Also there is another rule to follow which is -DO NOT BE STUPID. It gets bad before it gets terrible. If you feel it getting you don't try to suck it up! Just descend!
See this post for an itinerary Read about our EBC adventure here

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Posted by dima.safr 11:13 Archived in Nepal Tagged trek bus everest lukla namche salleri kala independent ebc pattar bazar jiri phaplu Comments (0)

Everest Base Camp - Independent Trekking

Doing Everest Base Camp (EBC) - walk in from Jiri and walk out via Phaplu/Salleri - no flights

The Plan

Normally when you do an Everest Bace Camp trek the plan is simple. You take a flight to Lukla hike up to Namche Bazar then to EBC and back to Lukla to catch your flight to Kathmandu.

Well this looked far to easy. We decided we just take a bus... The way sir Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did! Well to be fair some people still walk in from Jiri, but then they take a flight back, Hillary and Norgay didn't do that and neither would we!

Practicalities

Permits
You need: TIMS card - 2,000, Everest National Park Permit - 3,000. We got ours in Kathamandu, but you can get them at a checkpoint an hour past Lukla. For TIMS card you need a picture, so make sure you have one.

Transport There is one bus to Jiri leaving from Old (Purano) Bus stand, best to go at least 2 days before to get a ticket. The bus leaves at about 5am. When you get to the bus stand you will realize it's a hell on earth nothing like relatively organised Naya (New) Bus Stand or Swiss rail-type bus stands in India. Yes I do think that transport system in India is well organised. You have to ask around at different ticket stalls before someone points you to Jiri.
We found our guy fairly quickly and were told that the tickets for the next day were sold out due to a festival, but not to worry we just had to show up at 5 am and they would get us on the bus somehow, easy!

Ticket Price is 550 npr

Day 1

Kathamandu - Jiri - Shivalaya, 188 km on a bus and 11 km hike.

We showed up at 5 am as prescribed, were told that we will have to stand until we get out of town then we can get a seat on the roof, simples!

To say that we piled up in the bus like sardines in a can would be a classic British understatement... but I can't describe it any better...
When we squeezed in we literally filled in all the empty spaces on that bus. Two kind Nepali girls let Dovile to share a quarter of their sit with so she found herself hanging halfway in the air. Still better than me being a 5-way sandwich. The key was if you breeze out you take less space!

One thing you realise really quickly is that Nepalis have weak stomach... Every 10 minutes you here someone yelling "PLASTIC!!!", a well prepared conductor would swiftly pull out a plastic bag and pass it on, a second later a puke-filled bag will be passed on to the nearest window. That system worked like a clockwork! Empty and full bags would pass back and forth right by your face.
6 hours later (once we leave the town my arse) they finally let us to get up on the roof. Oh what a treat!
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While riding one roof was refreshing, to sit on a luggage rack you need an iron arse, my advise have your Lonely Planet ready, this is the best service it'll give you on this trip.

We arrived to Jiri at about 3 pm after the most enjoyable 10 hour bus ride of our lives (so far..).

We had to choose if we stay in Jiri or push on to Shivalaya. I was set on going, so I asked Dovile for second opinion and she said it was a good idea. The whole point of asking for second opinion is the chance that a voice of sanity would stop you from doing something stupid... So we pushed on.

We walked for about 1,5 hours until we joined a dirt road, I knew that Shivalaya was connected by road so that must have been the right way. Luckily soon enough we bumped into a group of 4 Americans who had the same idea until local told them otherwise and turned them around. So we decided to join the forces and find our way together.
The American guys were a funny bunch. They were from Colorado, now... why 70% of all yanks that I met on the road were from Colorado? It must be the most populous state i guess...

We had to bushwhack for a few hours, soon it got very dark and we were only saved by decent headlamps of our Yankee friend. Do not buy a £5 ebay head torch, not if your life may depend on it.

We managed to get to Shivalaya by 7pm in a pitch dark, after getting lost about 7 times and almost breaking our legs on slippery rocks.
We dropped at the first lodge, and went to our room for a mandatory "leach control". This is not a code word for something, literally means pulling leaches of each other. Some of them were more like blood balloons...

Day 2

Shivalaya - Kinja - 27 km - 8 hours

Our first full day of trekking started with a nasty surprise. There is a conservation area called Cheese Circuit which captures Shivalaya. This means that to be in Shivalaya you need buy a 2000 npr permit. The permit office was still closed and I thought for a while if we should just go, but than I didn't know if there were any further checkpoints on our way and it was better be safe then sorry. So we bought the permits. Turns out there were no checkpoints and we left Cheese Circuit area in a matter of few hours. We should have just bounced before 8 am.

It'was a very steep climb up till Deurali, then you descend all the way down. It looked like you could take a bus or a jeep all the way to Bhandar. Since it was late September we had to deal with a bit of a funny weather. The mornings are cold, the sun comes out mid afternoon - you get really cold and sweaty , than sure as hell it starts raining by 3pm. Everyday is the same and repeats itself to the minute. I had a bit of a sniffle when I left
This is one part of the trek where it's easy ti get lost, mostly because there a bunch of villeges around and a lot of trails crisscrossing, but not to worry every local knows where you supposed be going and will turn you around if you stray of course.

We got to an empty village of Kinja being socked in rain, tired and hungry.

The first lodge we asked offered us to stay for free on condition that we eat our dinner and breakfast there. Happy days!
Our bill next morning only came up to 1100 npr - yes $11 for doing something that amazing.

Day 3

Kinja - Jumbesi - 17 km

This probably wasn't the hardest day in my life on a trail, but it damn sure comes close.
Kinja is at 1600 m and Lamjura La (the highest point) is at 3530 m, this means almost 2000 meters of vertical gain. You have to kick your knees up a lot, and it gets tiring. Also you have to deal through the whole cold-hot-wet cycle again.
We managed to get to Lamjura La by 3pm.
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This is me looking down on Lamjura La towards Jumbesi behind me.
We really wanted the next town just to come. Every step down seemed like ages. It's a funny feeling when you finally have fought your way to the top and now you just want to roll down. We thought it took us ages to get down to Jumbesi (maybe two hours..).
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What a beautiful sight!

Day 4

Remember me telling you about the whole COLD-HOT-WET cycle, and the sniffles that come with it. I decided that it was a perfect recipe for pneumonia, or at least it didn't feel like it was going to get any better. So we decided to stay for a day or so until I get better.
We stayed at a place of a local Medical Center girl. The Medical Center was supported bu NGOs and there were quite a few European folks coming down every couple of years. Hence the girl spoke very academically correct English.
Jumbesi is a large village, it was one of the key points on EBC trek and now is one of the biggest victims of Lukla Airport. In old days flocks of trekkers would pass and provide much needed income to the locals. These days there are hardly any trekkers, we saw only two other couples. There are plenty of lodges which are almost entirely empty.
Jumbesi is also connected by road, you can grab a jeep to Kathmandu, although this is something that you may need to arrange a couple of days in advance. Goods can be transported by road and not carried by porters, hence food prices are relatively low. There is a huge difference between places connected by road and not. The roads brings a lot of development and make everything twice cheaper.

Day 5

Second day we decide it would be better to stay put, and recover from the cold before it turned to pneumonia. Our hostess's dad has recently decided that life in Jumbesi was far too much and enrolled into Jumbesi monastery. She was going there to visit him and offered us to join.
this is one of the most respected monasteries in Nepal, this becomes clear when you see a helipad, a well honored monk wouldn't travel otherwise wood he?
Sorry we couldn't take any pictures here...
We were invited in for a tour and a lecture. We set through about 2 hours of Tibetan chanting, and I saw a couple of monks recording the lecture on their IPhones. Than we made a donation and managed to get out of the room. When I asked our girl about the lecture she said: "I was getting a bit bored, I don't actually speak Tibetan, but if you do than it's really powerful" Well, at least we got our fully legitimately blessed scarves!
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Our 3 day stay only came to just under 3000 npr.

Day 6

Jumbesi - Kharikola - 25km

Today we decided to push forward and get over the Taksindu La. I was quite looking forward to this day as this is where you get your first glimpse of Everest. It took us just under two hours to get to Salung, literally a bunch of spread-out lodges one of which was called - Everest view Point. A perfect place for a cup of tea.
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You see a few old lodges which gone out of business after the airport was built. Which is a real shame as this is a beautiful part of journey.

We reached Taksindu La by mid-afternoon. The push to the pass is very steep and it's made more difficult by endless caravans of donkeys carrying supplies to Namche and upwards.
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We stayed at a little guest house by the river. It is run by a lonely grandma who spoke no English and simply had to guess when we were ordering food. Both dinner and breakfast we just some random combination of potatoes, eggs and noodles. At the end of the day it didn't matter we just wanted our calories.

Day 7

Kharikola - Chaurikharka - 19km

Another day that involved a lot of ups and downs and shearing the trail with endless caravans.
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When you get to Surke, the trail splits. The upper trail takes you to Lukla, and we took the lower one down towards Namche.
This was the last place where we got to enjoy solitude, free electricity and cheap food. The next day we were going to enter a trekkers highway, with crowds brought in by 20 flights a day from Kathmandu.
Jiri to Lukla part is fairly cheap - price of Dal Bhat is 250-300 npr which is fairly good indication.

Day 8

Chauriharka - Namche Bazar - 16 km

This was a very difficult day, you move constantly up having to cover 1500 m of altitude gain.
We quickly realized how lucky we were to have a whole trail for ourselves over the past 7 days. Suddenly the trail turned into a tourist highway. Flocks of clean and cheerful tourists, fresh of a plane were passing by, hi-5ing and greeting everybody, such a contrast to the two of us being washed up, tired and dusty.
Additionally a lot of overexcited freaks thought it's be a good idea to stop and block the entire pass for photo-session, seriously? As this wasn't enough, you get a bunch of scary Yak caravans which threaten to rum you of the road. We thought that if this how it's going to be for the rest of the trek, we may as well turn around and just go home.
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We reached Namche by 3pm. It's a fairly big town complete with numerous lodges, German bakeries, shops and trekking agencies.
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Day 9

Namche Bazar - Rest day.

The general rule of thumb is that you do one rest day at 3500 meters and another one at 4500 meters. I don't think we actually needed an acclimatization day as we have just crossed 3 passes going over 3500 meters, and were still acclimatized from the Annapurna trek we completed a week before starting EBC. However we had the time so decided to spend a day exploring around Namche.

We decided to explore surroundings and visit Khumjung and Khunde villages.
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While still being fairly cheap Namche is considerably more expensive then villages where we stayed previously. Cost of room is 200 npr and a Dal Bhat - 450.

Day 10

Namche Bazar - Shomare - 15 km
Luckily our worries about massive crowds didn't came true. Lukla to Namche is very busy indeed, however, then people seem to spread out, perhaps some trek to Gokyo lake.
This was one of my favorite days. You start by going towards Everest with a number of 7000-8000 meter peaks towering right over you.
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You descend some very steep steps towards the river bottom at Phunki Tanga, than you have a very steep climb up to Tengboche. A beautiful village with a view of snow-caped mountains and an impressive monastery.
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Trekking to Tengboche is a good alternative to spending a rest day in Namche. We decided to push on and descend to a small village of Shomare (4000m) just an hour past a major village of Pangboche.
There are only a couple of lodges in Shomare one of which happen to be closed.
At dinner we met two other guys (Indian and Dutch) who were trekking from Jiri, although they were smart enough to hire a car and spare themselves a horror of bus ride from hell.
It was their second crack at EBC. The first time was 2 years before when they got as far as Lobuche, than got snowed in for a couple of days and had to abandon the trip.
Their plan was to push the next day all the way to Lobuche with an altitude gain of almost 1000 meter. I told them that it sounded too ambitious and that picking up more than 500 meters in a day is pretty dangerous. They said that they have done 1000 meter gains before and were alright. Well there is a big difference between ascending from 2000m to 3000m and ascending from 4000m to 5000m. Well best of luck guys.

Day 11

Shomare - Dukla (via Dengboche)- 10 km
This was going to be a quick day. Dukla is literally a guest house at a trail head. It's located at altitude of 4600m and is a good place for a second acclimatization day.
We were going to take a lower trail via Periche, however, somehow we managed to miss our turn and ended up in Dengboche.
We decided to cut a corner here and take a higher trail which passes right above Periche.
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In a couple of hours of easy walking we reached Dukla. And guess who we saw there? The guys from the night before... Both of them got cut down by altitude sickness and they decided to take a rest day. What did I told you? Don't mess with altitude!
There are a lot of people who get in trouble on EBC trek, mostly because Lukla Aiport allows you to get fairly high fairly quickly and do the whole thing in a space of a 2 week vacation. And this could really let you down. We saw about 6-7 helicopters a day flying towards Gorak Shep to pick up tourists who underestimated the effect of altitude and had to be brought down to Lukla.

Cost of Dal Bhat - 500 npr

Day 12

Dukla rest day.

Today we decided to go Dzonghla at 4900 meters for an acclimatization trip. It's a beautiful hike, there aren't any people apart from occasional porter hauling supplies. And you get to pass by some amazing scenery.
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Dzonghla is a base for a trek to Gokyo over Cho La Pass. This trek involves crossing a glacier, hence you are highly recommended to take a guide even if only for the 2-3 days needed to reach Gokyo.

Below is a view of Dzonghla from a ridge above.
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Day 13

Dukla - Gorak Shep - 7,5km

This is a short day, but altitude makes it fairly strenuous. First you have to get over the pass right above Dukla. This is a very strange place as it acts as a memorial graveyard to all those people who have died on the mountain over the years.
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Shortly after the pass we reached Lobuche for a quick cup of tea moved onward to Gorak Shep.
You get to walk parallel to mighty Khumbu Glacier, admiring mega-tonnes of ice slowly moving a few centimeters a day.
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There are 2 large lodges at Ghorak Shep. If you would like to stay at the newer one which is more solid it's 400 npr and a cost of Dal Bhat is 650 npr. Which if you think about it should only come to $15-20 for staying at the top of the world at 5200 meters altitude.

Day 14-15

Day 13 finished with me falling sick (again), this time I came down with a nasty stomach bug. I spent these 2 days laying down and not eating anything but tea and sugar. Not the highlight of the trip.
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Day 16

Gorak Shep - Kala Pattar - Lobuche

After spending 2,5 days laying down and not getting any better we have decided to abandon the trip and descend to a lower altitude for recovery.
I was really gutted at the thought of us having to give up when we were literally a few hours away from the EBC and Kala Patar peak.
We packed our stuff, payed our bill and were leaving when I decided - now or never! EBC wasn't such a big of a deal as there wasn't any expeditions at that time. Kala Pattar a top of the hill towering over Gorak Shep at 5550 meters was the real prize.
We decided that it had to be done.

Normally it takes about 2 hours to hike to the top, altitude may make it harder though.
A few minutes after we started to hike I realized that I was running out of steam. I simply couldn't make my legs move. My first reaction was- it must be the altitude. However, I was well acclimatized, spent 3 nights sleeping at 5200 meters, and haven't gone much higher than Gorak Shep. It couldn't have been altitude... Than it downed on me... I spent almost 3 days not eating, normally it's not a problem if you don't exercise you can go for several days without food just by burning your reserves. However, at an altitude of 5000m + your body burns calories at much more accelerated rate. My best guess is that, while lying down, I simply ran out of energy. We went through our backpacks and pockets trying to find anything that I could use to refuel my tank. We scored 2 dry breads, and a hand full of Halls cough-sweets, sweets - great! Than I saw them proudly stating on the pack - "Halls-sugar free only 1 calorie"! Sugar free - bastards. Well 1 calorie is better then nothing - I swallowed a whole hand-full hoping it would make any difference.
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I worked out a system where I would count 20 steps than stop and count till 20. After 100 steps I'd stop and count till 100, and every 10 minutes i'd take a 5 minute break. It was very odd feeling, I didn't feel tired, didn't feel dizzy or nausea, I just simply had no energy to go as if I just finished a marathon just before that.
It snowed the day before and the track was covered in fresh and soft snow. I was doing the whole thing wearing my summer trainers. Not a good idea... But with a bit of inventive engineering every problem can be solved. I got 2 stiff plastic bags, put them over my socks and tied around the ankles. And Voila! what you can see on the picture above is my improvised water and snow proof socks.

4 hours later we finally managed to get to the top for some stunning view on the Everest range.
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After taking few pictures and getting our breath back we walked down to Gorak Shep in under an hour. We popped back into the guest house for a bowl of soup and some hot tea.
In Gorak Shep it's very common for groups to leave some sort of memorabilia. Usually it's a signed T-shirt or a scarf, my favorite was the one below - Wexford Strawberries for Sale.
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Day 17-19

Over the next 3 days we have retraced our steps back to Lukla. This time we decided to make a detour and visit actual Lukala Airport just to see why is it being called most extreme airport on the planet.
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Watch this little video. Next time I'm taking this flight.

On this day we pushed all the way back to Bupsa, it was a bit too ambitious and we had to walk the last hour in twilight stumbling over rocks, which is not the best thing when you tired and just want to get get some of that Dal Bhat.
We stayed in a house of a professional mountain climbing guide. He came back home from an expedition as we were having dinner, they just had an attempt at one of the 7000m peaks, unfortunately they didn't manage to summit that time. He had a bunch of pictures with him on the summit of Everest, Annapurna and some other peaks. It was amazing to meet someone who actually been to the top of the world.

Day 20

Bupsa - Ringmu - 17km
This is a hard day because you have to get over Taksindu La at 3500m. Prepare for the trail to be quite busy and for numerous donkey caravans that you will have to give way to.

We have reached Ringmu by late afternoon, and asked a guest house owner to call his mate in Salleri and check if we could book a Jeep.

Day 21

Ringmu - Salleri - 14km

Just over 3 hours. The road actually stretches all the way to Ringmu, however there were numerous landslides which made it impassable. We had to climb over several trees and climb up and down a hill to negotiate our was around the landslides. Once you out of the forest it's a straight pass to Phaplu airport (2 flights per week to KTM) and a couple kilometers further to Salleri.
Salleri is proper town with all the standard amenities and civilization. We stayed at the place recommended by the GH owner in Ringmu, but were told that because tomorrow was Dewali there might not be a Jeep for the next couple of days. It's been long 3 weeks on the road and we were well set on going back to Kathmandu and preparing to our next adventure - India.

Luckily we got some good news! There was one Jeep going and we could get 2 sits! A ticked guy showed up at our guest house, wrote us two tickets (1200 npr each) and told us to be outside on the main road at 5am.

Day 22

Salleri - Kathmandu - 272km

This was the most beautiful and most horrible ride I ever took. And that is a lot...
The whole journey took us 14 hours. There was another French couple and a bunch of Nepali guys who were picked up and dropped off at various points along the way.
It seemed like a new road was in process of being built. But in a sort of a funny fashion... you would be driving on a dirt track than a good road for kilometer or so than back on dirt and so on. A few times the road takes you up on a ridge and drive along the ridge with a void on both sides. I think that by now they must have finished the road which should make the journey shorter and way more pleasant.
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Somewhere halfway trough the journey we came to a foot bridge where we ditched our jeep, crossed the bridge, had lunch and were picked up by another jeep. You have a guy looking after your group all the time so there is no chance you will miss a jeep.
They dropped us off at Patan just on the main road to Kathmandu we were far too tired to haggle and took a first taxi to Durban Square (600npr) shearing it with the French guys.
Getting to our hotel in Kathmandu was like coming home, it was so strange to hear all the noise, having warm nights and not having to dress up when going to bed. We missed civilization... 2 days later we really wished we were back on the mountain...

If you liked it please comment so I know how much effort to put in!

Posted by dima.safr 10:52 Archived in Nepal Tagged trek bus everest lukla namche salleri kala independent ebc pattar bazar jiri phaplu Comments (0)

Annapurna - Circuit and Base Camp (Chapter 1 Circuit)

17 days independent trekking in Himalayas

After spending a night in a freezing-AC Shardjah airport we finally made it to Kathmandu.
First surprise was that Air Asia have lost Dovile's luggage with most of her trekking gear. We have made a report and were told to wait for the call, luggage should come on the next flight that evening, well that didn't happen. We called airport several times trying to find out what was happening and if we should wait for it at all or just get on with our trek. Finally we went back to the airport and spoke to the Air Asia rep who told us "why didn't you come to me right away?" well next time we will.
Not hoping to get Dovile's gear back we have decided to withdraw some money and buy some knock-off North Fake. In Nepal you are charged for using a foreign card in an ATM, the trick is to find out which bank rips you off less. Namib bank charges 400npr and allows to draw 35000. So we went to an ATM in Thamil and as I have keyed my PIN and pressed Withdraw, I could hear the cash being counted, and than – a power cut! ATM went dead than sometime later came back to live but no cash. I have called my bank and they said that yes transaction has been processed and I need to start a dispute. Just what we needed a day before setting off.

On a positive note, the Air Asia guy called and told us they found the luggage and Dovile won't have trek in flip flops! First thing in the morning we went to the airport, than poped into the bank to file a dispute with them (the guy was very casual about it, apparently happens all the time). And we were off to Pokhara – 8 hours on a local bus listening to the best Bollywood music.
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Day 1

Pokhara-Bessisahar-Bahundanda – 15 km
after 4 excruciating hours on a back seat of a bus we have arrived at the starting point of the Annapurna Circuit – Bessihsahar. Here you need to stamp your permit and TIMS card. I believe you can take a bus further to Bahundanda, but we decided to walk to Nadi Bazar. You do walk a lot along the jeep track, having to stop a few times to let the jeeps pass. There is a massive building side where Chinese build a new damp. Not the best day all in all, Nadi Bazar however has some pretty views. Here we had our first Dal Bhat!
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Not the worst view out of our window

Day 2

Bahundanda-Khorte - 23 km
Ok, this is a big one. On the second day we decided to push! The idea was that while we were at the lower altitude (under 3000 m) we should be covering maximum distance so we could go slower once we reach Manang. Important point - we were trekking in mid-September, which is monsoon shoulder. This means less people on the trail, more beautiful views to ourselves, but it rains... it rains to the point when trails turn into rivers... and almost forgot - leeches, leeches are everywhere, a lot of leeches!
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Here Dovile is doing mandatory leech-control session.
They do piss you off and I'm not kidding. They get on your shoes and under the trousers, get on hiking poles and climb up right to your hands and higher. Basically you have to stop every hour and do a leech-control session.

It's a long but not a terribly hard day, a few hills to climb, but mostly you walk along a gorge with some beautiful waterfalls along the way. Like this one
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And you cross a lot of suspension bridges
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We left at about 8 am and arrived at Khorte by 6 pm. You should really plan to arrive by 5 pm, as it gets darker and way colder.
You pass a village which is guaranteed to have at least one lodge every 1,5-2 hours, so it's easy to pace yourself. Most villages are not more than a few huts and fields along the road, but there are a couple quite substantial-like Tal on this picture. Based in a very beautiful valley.
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We stayed at Khorte which is not more than 2-3 houses by the gorge. The lodger made an unwise mistake by leaving a honey jar on a table when we asked for honey pancake. We put a spoon-full in our tea and than swallowed a few tea spoons. You do need your calories!

Day 3

Khorte-Dhikur Pokhari - 28 km

Ok, now this was a big one. The plan was to get to Chame and have an easy day. The day was really shitty (hence no pictures), it was pissing with rain, the trails turned into streams, on a few occasions I thought I'd get a trench foot (don't trek in trainers, seriously a bad idea!). Hence we decided to keep our head down and just keep moving. We got to Chame by about 2pm. Chame is a proper village with shops, pharmacy and a hot spring. We decided why not to hike to Bratang, it was only another 1,5-2 hours and 150m altitude gain, no bigy.
On a way to Bratang we saw a massive red writing on a rock - YAKATTAK. Well sounded like a village name or a guesthouse or something, than we saw it again and again. Than a few local guys turned up and they were shouting - yak attack, yak attack. Turns out it's a stretch of a road where they run yaks, and those are not your friendly caravan yaks. You have to climb up the hill or they throw you right of the cliff.
We were walking for quite a while and uphill, I kept saying bloody 150m I know what 150m altitude feels like... Well we missed Bratang and got all the way to Dhikur at 3100m. You could feel it was over 3000, as this is where first signs of altitude kicks in, steps become harder to take, have to take rest every 10 minutes etc.
28km-not exactly an easy day. But on a plus side we got to have a hot shower free of charge! And a free room, all on condition that we would eat in place we stayed in.

Day 4

Dhikur Pokhari - Manang via Upper Pisang - 22km
Quite a challenging firs half of the day, you have to climb a lot of stares all the way to Ghyaru, but the view is worth it.
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This also supposed to be thre best view of the Annapurna massif, however, over the last 3 days we had low clouds covering everything above 4000m.
On the left hand side you can see Humble airport, I believe there are a couple of flights a week from Pokhara.
Manang is a local capital complete with lodges, bakeries, video bar, shop, and a map of day trips which you can do during your mandatory acclimatization day. As it gets colder the lodges get more solid, almost all of the buildings are stone made and well insulated. We quickly picked a lodge with a double room and an en-suit for $1.
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Day 5

Mandatory rest day in Manang. There was a plan to go for a day trip to a frozen lake (4200m), following the map in the village center. But it's been 4 days without anything going wrong, so something had to. I got knocked down with the weirdest ever stomach bug. I would feel nothing until a couple of hours after eating and than it would start hurting like hell. An easy way of avoiding this is not to eat. Easily said than done, at an altitude your body burns twice as many calories, you want to eat and lots. Well, garlic soup is good for me, and wide range antibiotics (picked up in KTM) in case it's bacterial.
A short hike to the top of the hill across Manang and the first glimpse of glacier.
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Day 6

Manang - Yak Kharka - 9,5 km
We paid our bill which over 2 days for two people food and room came to some 2500 npr. The best thing in this world that they are either free or really cheap.
A quick day only 3,5 hours walk, accending 500m to 4000m at Yak Kharka. The general idea is that you shouldn't pick up more than 500m a day after passing 3500m mark.

Day 7

Yak Kharka - Thorung Phedi (base camp) - 7 km

Another short day, only 2,5 hours and 400m accent.
Thorung Phedi is the only place, but it's very large and fully supplied.
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This is the first clear day with real views of Annapurna snow peaks!
A lot of people start the big hike to Thorung La from here, but it does make it for a very long day. We have won a lot of time by going fast at the lower stages, so we could afford to take it slow now. And this is my 3rd day on barely any food.

Day 8

Thorung Phedi - High Camp (4850m)- 1km only!

Yes, but it takes one hour! It's almost vertical, 450m accent. Well judge for yourself
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This is the view of Base camp from High Camp, I told you- vertical!

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And this is a view of High Camp from the nearby hill.
This was the first day when we really felt the altitude. A good way to acclimatize too.
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Day 9

High Camp-Thorung La-Muktinath-Jhong- 17km-aka the big push.

We started really early in a morning at about 6am, put literally everything we owned and joined a line of mostly Israeli trekkers. It's only 3,8 km to Thorung La but it took us almost 3,5 hours to cover that distance.
Altitude sickness feels like nothing else. You don't feel tired, your muscles don't ache, but you simply can't go. It's like a muscle car filled up with piss-diluted petrol, have all that horsepower but still can't go uphill. Now and again you forget about it and make a couple of rapid high jumps over a rock or something, it knocks you right down with a massive headache, spin and heart pounding.
My technique was to count 100 steps, stop and count till 20, repeat. Eventually it goes to 50 steps 20 sec rest, 20 steps 20 sec rest. You walk at a very slow and steady pace, and there is absolutely 0 reserve of stamina.
And here we are, the highest we ever been!
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There is a little tea shop on the pass, it's a good idea to warm yourself up and enjoy your accomplishment.
From there it's a long but easy walk down to Muktinath. You can feel getting stronger with every meter of descent. Muktinath is a city by Nepali standard, it's connected by road to Jomsom, has a bunch of 3-store buildings and a medical center where I got some more antibiotics and stomach pills. We had an apple pie in Bob Marley cafe, and used free wifi! By the way, remember the ATM that went dead on me and kept my money? I got a refund, twice! This was a welcome break of luck!

We decided to get a taste of what Upper Mustang valley is like and decided to go further to Jhong. Jhong is the furtherst place you can go without entering restricted zone, where you have to pay $50 a day for a trekking permit. Only an hour from Muktinath but it does look very different, and feels being right of the beaten track. Only one lodge in Jhong, and we had go and look for the owner around the village.
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Day 10

Jhong - Jhomsom (via Kagbeni) 17,5km-Tatopani (by Jeep).

This was a long day.
The first part was relatively easy, we had to walk quite level track to Kagbeni, which is right before a turn north that takes you to Upper Mustang.
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Kagbeni is a lively village, full of civilization brought by proximity to a road, and one of the largest monasteries in the area.
Plus some unique fast food joints!
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And here is Kagbeni from above
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Oh yeh, forgot to say, today is the first day I woke up without a massive stomach ache! I guess I deserve an award for doing Annapurna Circuit while fasting through the most of it!!!

4 hours lates we arrived to Jomsom. A ward of warning - it's a very exposed pass, you walk in the sun occasionally have to cross a road and deal with all dust from jeeps and trucks.

Jomsom is a city. You have 2 bus stations - one for Muktinath and one to take towards Pokhara. There is a shop and a pharmacy, and also you can fill up with purified water for about 50 npr, that is if you are sick of drinking chlorinated water.

We got our tickets at the office (800 npr for foreigners, somewhat less for locals) and where told to wait for the buss to come. The bus leaves when full, hence it worried us that there weren't may people besides us. You have to take a bus to Ghasa where you change for another Jeep/Bus to Tatopani or wherever else they feel like taking you that day.

Eventually it did come, and it was full of people. Apparently, it's a good idea to get on a bus at the bus stand (parking lot) so you are guaranteed a seat. Needless to say we got the very back seats.

I do have to say something about the road... Well, it's not built. It's carved out of the rock, it took us about 3 excruciating hours of breezing dust, swallowing own sick and praying to Buddha not to throw us of the cliff.

The entire ride I was thinking, why didn't we just walked it....?

By the way, we were told that it's not worth it hiking beyond Jomsom, mostly because of the road. Mostly by people who haven't actually done it themselves. This is not entirely true, the trail is on the other side of the gorge, and it hardly ever crosses the road. Besides you'd be very welcomed by locals who now get hardly any trade.

This is the end of chapter 1 - Annapurna Circuit, tomorrow we will commence Chapter 2 - Base Camp or as it's also known Sanctuary!

FAQs:

Do I need a porter/guide?
You definitely don't need a guide unless you are planning to deviate from standard Circuit or Base camp route. The trails a wide and well market, they are used as supply lines by the villages, hence there is a lot of traffic. If you happen to wander off friendly locals will point you in the right direction.
Having a porter could make it far more enjoyable walk. We had a backpack each 5-7KG plus water. Most hotels in Pokhara will store your luggage for you.

Costs:
Room normally costs from 0-200 npr. The idea is that they normally don't charge you much for the room on the basis that you have at least 2 meals in your guesthouse.
The food prices are fixed by the village and tend to rise the higher you go. In a lower areas dal bhat (ultimate mountain food that comes with a free refill) costs about 300-350, and this goes as high as 550 in the base camp. Most of our bills were 1500-2000. So I guess you can have a trip of your lifetime for $10 a person a day.

You can save a lot by purifying your water. A bottle of water can cost upwards of 100 npr, a small bottle of purifying drops is only 20 npr, and it will last you for months.

Maps – buy a good trekking map for about 300 in any bookshop in Pokhara or KTM. Don't really need it but it helps with planning your next day.

How long does it take.
Well that depends... Most of the guide books say about 14 days Bessihsahar-Jomsom. However this is based on a 5-6 hour day. We have trekked 8-10 hours and got to Jomsom in 9. My advise is to cover more distance in the first days until you reach Manang and than take it easy with a mandatory rest day in Manang.

Altitude sickness
Less common than in Everest region, mostly because of a very gradual altitude pick up. The big day is when you get over Thorong La at 5450m this will be hard and slow, just pace yourself and move slowly. We took Diamox, it must have helped too.

Internet
Available pretty much everywhere until Thorong Phedi, at a cost though. You can get a free connection in Muktinath. In other places will have to pay from 100-500 npr.

Electricity
Everywhere, most places in the lower part are supplied by local mini hydro power plants, literally small waterfalls captured into a pipe. As you go up places switch to hydro. The going rate is 100 npr per hour. Bare in mind solar doesn't charge as fast as hydro-powered.

Any more questions? Just drop me a message and I will add to the post.

Posted by dima.safr 06:41 Archived in Nepal Tagged trek camp base bath circuit nepal annapurna dal altitude jomsom independent Comments (0)

Annapurna Base Camp

A second leg of a 16 day independent trek - Annapurna Circuit (to Jomsom) & ABC from Tatopani

==This is a chapter 2== We have just completed Annapurna Circuit in 10 days, and decided not to loose any time and head straight for base camp!

Day 11

Tatopani - Ghorepani - 15 km

This was the best start of the day on out trip so far. Why? Because Tatopani has hot springs! Broken into a few pools and showers of different temperature. It's a pleasure that can't be explained... to have a hot bath after 10 days on the road and finally feel clean. The pool costs 200 npr for foreigners and they also sell Beer and Pop Corn for 400 npr.
Actually we came across the Beer + Pop Corn package several times, weird combination. I don't know that came about. I guess someone just came up with the idea that western folks like Beer and they also seem to like Pop Corn,and than everyone else just copied it.

It was one of the hardest days on the trail. You have to consistently pick up altitude. Overall 1600m altitude gain. You pass through some really nice villages, great views and a couple of waterfalls. Unfortunately I have lost most of the pictures of this day.

One thing I can say - this day will kill your muscles! It will hurt and you will be glad it's over.

The other thing that was killing me were my hands, thumbs if to be more precise. Two days ago when we were getting over Thorung La at 5400 m, I have taken my gloves off on the way down. Man, you can't underestimate sun intensity at that altitude. I didn't even realize that the top of my fists (as you hold waking poles) got sun-burned as hell. How can your hands burn, this just doesn't happen, well @5400m it does.
If this happens there is nothing you can do but suffer through it. If your burned-hands exposed to even week sun they will hurt as hell. If you put gloves (or socks) on, they will warm up and hurt even worse.

Well that was our day...

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Day 12

Ghorepani - Sinuwa -18 km

We decided to skip Poon Hill as we were quite tired from the day before and had a long way before us.

This day has a lot of ups and downs as you have to get over the hill at Deurali to the valley below and than up to Chomrong and back down and up to Sinuwa.
The first part of the day you pass through some vert humid forest, than you hit a well populated area with endless rice paddies.

Chomrong is a solid town with a proper shop where you can buy biscuits, chocolates and drinks at reasonable prices. Beyond Chomrong is a plastic-free zone, you can only buy boiled water for about 100 npr.

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Day 13.

Sinuwa-Machhapuchhare Bace Camp -14 km

This is much longer than it looks. It took us 8 hours to cover just 14 km, mostly because you are moving constantly up picking up 1500 till MBC. You pass a lot of bamboo grows and thick forests. By the time we got to MBC the mountains around us were engulfed in fog, we couldn't see further than few meters ahead. If it wasn't for the fog we could have pushed to ABC. You shouldn't gain that much altitude in a day, but we were well acclimatized from the previous leg and didn't struggle.

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Machhapuchhare - this is what we have woken up to!

MBC was the most expensive place so far. We have payed 300 npr for a room and 550 for dal bhat.

Day 14

MBC-ABC-Sinuwa - 20km.

The thing about ABC trek is that you actually don't see Annapurna until the very last moment. Some 1,5-2 hours and we got to this!
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It's so close, so big and so white. ABC is only just over 4000m hence you see 4000m rock towering right over you. This is probably the best view of the trip!

The rest of the day we had to retrace our steps back. It's long day but walking down does help. A good 10 hours later we got back to Sinuwa for Dal Bhat.
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I look really washed up in this picture. It also looks like I have lost about 10kg, this is what not eating at the 4000m+ altitude does to you (this is covered in the chapter one).

Day 15

Sinuwa - Tolka 15 km

This is another day full of up's and downs.
The highlight of the trip is of course Jhinu hot springs (50 npr). We have actually debated if we should do the hot springs as this involved walking down from Jhinu to the hot springs and than obviously back up. Well we have decided that we won't get another chance to lase in hot springs hence...

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In few hours we have reached the New Bridge (a very old bridge) and crossed over to Landruk. In Landruk we saw jeeps, hence I guess you could take one down from there. They also were busy building the road and it might be that it will be properly linked to civilization sometime soon.

Day 16

Tolka - Kande - Pokhara - 9.3km

You can feel civilization creeping in, garbage, shops, jeeps. However, I can't deny I was happy to Jump on that Bus and onto Pokhara!

P.S. the bus drops you on outskirts of the town, taxi drivers will take you lake side for 200 npr - take it! Getting a local bus/walking is not a good idea as we learned :-)

Posted by dima.safr 06:15 Archived in Nepal Tagged mountains trekking himalayas nepal annapurna altitude independent Comments (1)

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