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Trekking the Himalayas: Episode 2

By Olivia Pedersen

May 7, 2015

Trekking the Himalayas: Episode 2

By Olivia Pedersen

May 7, 2015

Struck by Travel Magic

My first night in Kathmandu, I woke at the golden hour of 3 am. I was not used to the time change yet, and jet lag was hitting me hard. With five extra hours of free time, my anticipation grew stronger and stronger as I lay thinking about what the trek might be like. Once 8 am finally rolled around, we packed our cab to the brim with our three backpacks, and we were off to the airport.

Packing up the car
Our airport cab loaded to the brim!

Little did we know the massive detour that was in store for us.

We drove to the airport with fingers crossed and positive attitudes only to return several hours later disappointed and stagnant. For two days we were diverted into cyclical restlessness.

Twice we attempted to depart the city, and twice we were rejected.

Driving to the airport
On our way to the first failed attempt to fly to Lukla
Sitting at KTM domestic terminal
Overflowing airport terminal packed with about 100 delayed trekkers and guides

Rain and fog were our nemeses. It seemed the weather was not keen on our flight decisions, and it toyed with our hopes of boarding the plane. Lukla, the starting point of the Everest trek, has one of the most dangerous airstrips in the world. When inclement weather is involved, the already narrow window for take-offs and landings disappears entirely. At the end of the second failed attempt, we were officially behind schedule by two days’ worth of trekking.

Our guide informed us that the Everest Basecamp to Gokyo Ri trek was no longer an option.

It was easy to see that Mia and I were extremely bummed. This specific trek was something we had both been putting a lot of energy into for several months, but now it was out of our hands. The only thing we could do was find a different stomping path; our travel magic had officially kicked in. A frame of mind I had picked up from another traveler, travel magic is the amazing unforeseen twists and turns that fate sends you while traveling. Our fate was now up to the travel gods.

Luckily, Nepal has so many different treks, we weren’t without options. Due to our rigid time frame and budget, we decided to pursue the Annapurna Circuit Trek, because it was about the same amount of time and difficulty level as our original plan. Looping 131 miles around the Annapurna mountain range, a massif extending 34 miles, and host to the tenth highest mountain in the world (Annapurna I), it sounded like quite the adventure. I adjusted to these new plans with excitement. Knowing very little about what it was going to be like, this change of direction was the longing for the unknown I was searching for.

The next morning, we headed west towards Besisahar in a jeep. Usually, Besisahar is where the trek starts, but to make up for the days we lost at the airport, we planned to be driven to Syange. I might recommend doing this even if you are not on a time crunch, because the trek landscape from Besisahar to Syange is a lot of road walking through crowded towns. By shuttling close to Syange, you can get right to the solitude of nature.

It felt so good to finally be making progress, leaving Kathmandu and its very unique rhythm behind. While passing out of Kathmandu, the smog was so bad I had to continually use my handkerchief to wipe it off my face; I'd had my fill of the bustling city. Other than that, the drive was totally worth it. Weaving in and out of lush green hillsides, and passing through smaller and smaller towns, I was beginning to get a taste of the natural beauty that Nepal has to offer.

Driving to Syange
Driving to Syange
View from the car
On the way to Besisahar

Once past Besisahar, the roads turned pretty treacherous – a cliff on one side leading down to the Trisuli River, waterfalls on the other, and gaping potholes scattered with boulders ahead. It got to a point of constant cringe as we heard scrapes and bangs torment the bottom and sides of the jeep.

Rocky Raod
Almost there

After six hours driving windy, bumpy roads, our driver gave us the boot a few miles before Syange, the actual stopping point. I was more than happy to start trekking earlier than planned, as we had been sitting for about 4 days now, including the 32 hour flight to Nepal, and my legs were starting to feel like jello.

Going from a smoggy, busy city and being plopped in the middle of a lush rainforest was surreal.

Ahead, there was nothing but vibrant greens bending around infinite hills; to my right, billowing waterfalls; to my left, a raging silver river; and above, an ominous cloud blanket that locked into the crevasses of the canyon.

These views were something I did not expect. For some reason, I had the idea that we were going to be plopped into raging white peaks from the get-go, which technically we were, we just couldn’t see them yet.

I had never been happier to know that my only form of transportation for the next 15 days was my own two feet. With nothing to do but walk and exchange stories, jokes, and riddles, I was looking forward to getting to know my guide and the strangers around me.

View fo the hills
Blanket of clouds
View to the river
Long ways down to the river
Trekking on the trail
My M.O. for the next 15 days
Misty waterfall
Enjoying the mist
View of the canyon
View from the first night's teahouse dinning hall
Unpacking backpack
What you need is always at the very bottom of the pack, isn't it?
View down the canyon
The ground we covered so far

Review my itinerary here
Continue to Episode 3: Learning the Ways of the Walk
Read the previous post Episode 1: Getting to Kathmandu

***
In regards to the April 2015 Nepal Earthquake:

I am deeply grieved by the many deaths and injuries caused by the devastating earthquake in Nepal. My prayers go out to those lost and to those that have lost friends and family close to them.

It is during tragedies like this that we must come together to help our brothers and sisters that are now at the mercy of the elements. While writing my narrative on trekking the Himalayas, my intention was to bring awareness and understanding to the astounding beauty that inherently lives in every aspect of Nepal. I invite you to join Revant Optics, through Doctors Without Borders or one of the many other reliable relief agencies in providing aid to the survivors and restoring that beauty.

Sincerely, Olivia

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