Annapurna Circuit - DAY EIGHT

looking back on the journey up

A gist of the amount of stars there
I woke at 0400 hours. I washed up and prepared my gear to see the sunrise at the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). I thought the base camp would be like Poon Hill. One... Two hours max of hiking but it wasn't. It was much further than my expectation. If I had known the difference, I would have delayed my departure. The sky was filled with constellations! Nothing like I had ever seen. The wonderful sight was like shown only on TV or Nat Geo magazines. I never thought I could ever see a sight like this. I was stunned by it's beauty and I just sat there for a few minutes observing it's wonder. It was like this sight alone was worth the trip. I always loved the sight of stars though I have never seen anything that abundant. Although I observe it for minutes, it seems like seconds as I type this now, I would have stayed to admire it longer if I had known my next destination would have not a single star when I reach it. I tried taking photographs of the starry sky but I hadn't enough time. All this time, I was waking earlier than my alarm had told me to but these past few days has got me so tired that I have forgotten all about the stars! I only woke enough to get started on the hike. I really felt silly for this... for forgetting the stars. I woke my guide and porter in the dining area. When they were ready. Our day of magnificence started. That day I will reach... the base camp.

It may not look like much, but the thin air and uphill is actually very difficult

Altitude... shallow breaths... cold... darkness... All the things that will try to break your spirit. I still kept eying the stars from time to time. It kept going uphill and it showed almost no mercy. Up and up we went. The experience was quite different when you see the uphills slope from the rest houses. It always look nearer than it actually is, well, for me at least. But when you start walking, it's a lot harder and further. That lymph node I told you about in my previous post, was really acting up. Every attempt I took to lift my leg, it hurts a lot. But fortunately for me, it doesn't retard my journey entirely.

This was the hardest part of the hike for me because I thought we could reach the destination in time before the sunrise. I didn't expect my leg to hurt so much. But what hurts the most was that one by one, everybody started over taking me and it was really demotivating. My porter was a nice man. He kept telling me that it wasn't far and that we can see the base camp right in front of us (of course, it only looked as small as an ant in our vision right now!) and he kept telling me a little bit more. One half hour... One hour more... I really appreciated that. However, my expectation was high, I traveled over 3,200 kilometers to get a good photo but time and tide waits for no man! When I had the expectation to take a really good photo, a starry sky with mountains in the foreground, something to really capture people's hearts and it crumbles in front of me.. It gets really emotional. The sun was already rising at 0615 hours, and the stars disappearing. I felt like crying right there and then. I'll most likely never get to see a view like this for a very long time.

Still, more and more people were over taking me and I got to the point where I literally kept asking myself "What's the point of walking anymore??? The sun is up, getting high in the sky... You're walking as slow as a snail at this point.. The people have reached the base camp. Why even bother?". I could tell you the amount of times I wanted to give up, to throw in the towel and have shown the white flag. I could feel the searing pain of my right hip (the groin muscle) and the throbbing of my heart in my head and the cold going through my whole body and the shortness of breath and the rapid, hard beats of my oxygen deprived heart. Just stop and turn around!!!

As loud as the demotivated voice was, there an even softer voice but I could hear it enough to have kept me going, it said, "it does not matter that the others have reached before you or if you have failed to reached before the sun risem what matters is you made it despite all the odds.." I walked, ever so slowly, looking down to the ground because if I ever did look up to see how far left, I would cry. So I kept my eyes on the ground and took baby steps until I finally reached! Mr. Shiva congratulated me, saying I finally achieved my dream to reach ABC.Boy, was he right! I took a photo with Mr. Shiva, Noma and myself in front of the sign board. Gosh, without them, I would have never made it to the base camp. I took plenty of photos all around. It has been a surreal experience. We are not tecnically at the top of the mountain, mind you. It is Annapurna BASE CAMP after all so perhaps it's to your disappointment that it's not a photo of looking down from the peak. On the contrary, it was more of a bowl, it's walls surrounded by mountains as shown below. All the hardship, all the pain... it was certainly made it worth while within a heartbeat when you have seen this for yourself. You'd think with the amount of pollution in the world, places like this only exist in the CGI's of movies. Fear not, my fellow friends, it still exists and we it can still be maintained or improved, even! I still have hope.

It came to that point while I was resting there that I realised I finally made it and now, I would have to return and leave this surreal fantasy-like place and back to reality. I had enjoyed my independence this time. To actually hike on my lonesome (sort of although I very much enjoyed and loved the company of Mr. Shiva and Nama). Well, it pains me to say this but all good things must come to an end.

Before turning back and walking down, I took off all the clothes that kept me warm; my jacket, gloves... I thought to take out my rain coat pants but it felt a little embarrassing for me to take out an outer pants in public, not being able to hide behind a rock or something. I wonder how does Superman do it? I kept the pants on but I regretted it soon after as my legs felt like they were in an oven! I walked really fast down slope, it felt like forever reaching the guesthouse while my legs felt like they were going to be served on a Christmas platter! When we finally reached the guesthouse, boy! Off were the rain coat pants and I went to the dining area to have breakfast. I had a cup of hot tea and a bowl of vege mushroom soup. It was about 0900 hours, my body was aching all over and thought if I took a nap, it would be better.

My alarm rang at 1200 hours. My body felt only slightly better but it still hurt. I really wondered if I should have slept one more night here or start my journey down. At the time, I was worried for my father who awaits my return at the hotel. His last episode really got me frightened and though I know he is a lot better and safer down there and up here, I'm sure he worries about me being alone up here and being of young age. So I decided to start my journey to return home. However, there have been times I wished I had stayed, to see the stars again, and I may even have regretted it but fortunately I didn't stay for I was not keeping track on how much money I had left. When I went back down and passed my dad my remaining money, it was surprising little. Enough to buy one or two more meals up there. As it turns out, napping was a mistake. Only in the morning were the skies clear but now at noon, it is filled with clouds and the view was distorted. What a shame! All my potential photographs... now gone.

On my way down, to my big surprise, I saw the group of hikers that stayed in the same guesthouse as me on our first night hiking! I recognised them and they recognised me. They were as shocked as I was and we waved to each other. Even the porters and guide recgonised me and said I was fast! I did not expect that at all but it really lifted my spirits. After all this time, I thought I was slow. Later on, even the porters before that asked if I was tired on day three of the hike saw me and said I was fast! Wow, I was utterly speechless. I never never never thought I was fast and now here I was feeling like Flash. I felt amazing to say the least! My head was getting big like a balloon expanding!

Today's hike wasn't too difficult as it was mainly gradual and down hill.We had lunch in Dueli again and I ordered the same thing; vege egg noodle soup.More clouds came and all there was to see was a white blanket covering the view. The hot soup was delicious and we continued after our journey. It started to drizzle and later followed by rain. I had to keep all my stuff and cover it with my rain coat. As long as my photography things remain dry, I do not care much of how drenched I am. I love my photography equipment. To me, they are not just a means to take photos. They are a means to share what I've seen and I do wish I could at least tickle someone's heart when they see them. We finally found shelter at Dova. The rain was not getting any lighter so I decided we shall over night there. Coincidentally, the German couple was there as well. I took a nice hot shower after being left under the cold rain. Their toilets was nice, and that's saying something. It was spacious with a seated toilet and the shower had good water pressure along with heat.

I later shared a bar of Hershey that I bought in Kathmandu with my guide, porter and the German guy. We all just chatted a bit under the rain. I joke with them, saying I bought the chocolate in Kathmandu, and I brought it with me to the hike, it melted and once I went up to the base camp, it harden in the cold again. The chocolate didn't look all that pretty. hehe. It got really cold so I entered the dinig area where it was warmer where I read my book until dinner time. I had hot milk and egg vege noodle soup. I think I'mm getting addicted to that stuff. After dinner, I read my story book a little more and went to bed.

more photos:
Finally done with the steep slope and the sun is already up!
The view of the back
At the welcome sign, photographing the mountains
The view around the area
A stone structure
The view is so clear and the colours so saturated!
The beautiful mountains
After a nice break to catch my breath, we start our return journey
From here, it gets a little incoherent as I keep looking back at the majestic mountains while walking back
More views
It even has a stream flowing it's way down. It really looks so serene
Would you call this heaven on earth?
Even the rocks look absolutely beautiful
Red flower
All the little flowers everywhere
The trail and the stream flowing down the mountain
waking up feeling hopeful but was instead greeted by lots of clouds
You couldn't see far let alone photograph it but I appreciated that I had the chance to experience my fill
Rushing of water
The down trail of the journey
Where I had my lunch again. A bowl of hot soup and tea. Yumz!
The map of trails of the journey
simple houses
These people are weaving to make roofs for the houses as seen in the previous photo of a house
The fog certainly gives the forest an mysterious eerie aura
The clouds devouring all the trees that cross it's path
This photo was taken the next morning but just to show you the guesthouse I stayed in. This guesthouse was really nice