Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 15: Chhomrong to Annapurna Base Camp

Ditching our bikes proved to be one of our smarter moves as much of the trail was composed of flight after flight of steep stairs that would have reduced us to a grovelling carry.

Perilously steep steps on the way to Annapurna Base Camp
Michi and I were infact quite the speed trekkers, ditching 15kg of bikes and gear left us with a spring in our steps, and we typically took half the expected time posted on map boards in villages along the way. We half powered through Bamboo, Himalaya, Deurali to Machapuchre Base Camp, then finally Annapurna Base Camp, 2000m above our starting point of Chhomrong.

A waterfall crossing the trail

Lunch in Deurali heralded a delicious cheese and tomato pizza. Plenty of cheese and some herbs made for a delicious treat, here on the southern side of the Annapurnas they don’t seem to hold back on the cheese as they do on the North side. Whilst descending to a river crossing and attempting a hot line I slipped on some steep scree and diced my hand and elbow, but both seem to be healing well already. Funny that after two weeks of the arguably more dangerous act of mountain biking, it took a casual walk for me to lose some skin.

Hiker Ollie looks up the valley to Machapuchre

It seems we are both well acclimatised as I felt no effects like shortness of breath and could smash it up the hill.

The final stretch was in light rain then hail, but through the mist we spotted herds of black and white sheep, the odd struggling trekker and finally the bright blue corrugated iron of the Base Camp guest houses. Apparently the place is booked out so we are double bunking in a storeroom (head to tail). Prices here are ridiculous (500 Rupee Coke) but this is obviously the price of luxury at 4130m.

Prayer flag covered climbers memorial at Annapurna Base Camp
At base camp itself the air is chilly but once clouds had cleared we braved the wind to take photos galore. When the cool proved too much to bear we ducked inside for a game of chess, and even a sneaky chapter or two from a book I found in the restaurant called ‘Hullabaloo on the Guava Orchard’ – Seems good. A book is something that I wish I’d brought along, as a few chapters of reading is a great way to pass the downtime between dinner and napping.

Clouds roll over the south face of Annapurna
Bracing for the cold night we are glad to have brought our winter sleeping bags and have layered up with a couple of polypro layers just to be safe. A light breakfast of porridge (all we can afford on our tight high altitude budget) and then we’ll be off to pick up our bikes in Chhomrong. There is even talk of hot pools at Jhinu. Nice!