We packed our big duffle bag and our guide picked it up that evening to take with him , he was to meet us the next day in Pokhara, our base for our 6-day trekking journey . The next morning we took a taxi to Kathmandu’s domestic airport. The airport itself was very small and quite in disarray. Despite the auspicious start (2 hours late start due to fog), our flight on Buddha Air to Pokhara was smooth and short. Pokhara is a smaller and cleaner city with better air quality and great views of the Himalayas on clear days.
Below: Pokhara airport
We arrived at our hotel where James was already sporting a fever. Cold and polluted Kathmandu had gotten him! He slept it off and the next morning we squished ourselves, our guide, our porter, our gear, and the driver into a tiny compact Hyundai for our 1.5 hour drive to our trekking starting point, Nayapul, that would take us to the Poon Hill loop of the Annapurna region, climbing to an elevation of 3210 meters. We stopped for great views along the way.
We started hiking on a clear sunny warm day, our guide and porter in tow. Our porter was carrying the heavy load (most of our stuff including clothes, sleeping bags etc – nearly 20 kilos) while we just had daypacks. We passed small villages, crossed many bridges and met all kinds of “wildlife”along the way including monkeys, doggies and lots of mules carrying goods and supplies to villages.
After a good 2 hours of hiking uphill, we were really starting to get tired.
James’ cold was moving into his sinuses and chest and soon the hike was getting even more challenging, along with the altitude and the fact we’d been sitting and eating for the last 4 months of our trip! There were over 3000 rock steps to climb for the last portion of that day’s trek to reach our first tea house in the village of Uleri, where we were going to spend the night. When we finally reached it, we were both completely exhausted. We took a quick dinner and retired to our room. James’ fever kicked back in with a vengeance and Sylvie was now starting to feel the onset of the same bug.
Above: James with Bim (our porter) and Krishna, our guide.
Above: Mule getting a dirt bath on the path. We had to wait for it to finish!
Above and below: we were so tired that we considered hiring a pony service to carry us up. We resisted the temptation though and pressed on.
Above: James going “downhill”.
Above: Finally at our tea house!
Above: Exhausted at our first tea house room, very spartan- just a bed with a thin mattress.
The next day’s hike became excruciating -fever, cough, sore throat, sinus infection, and aching muscles-for both of us, hiking over ice and snow. We almost decided to stop in a small nearby village for the day not all that far from Uleri, our starting point. But we decided to press on to Ghorepani, our targeted destination, and just made it before collapsing in our beds.
Above: those “trees” are actually rhododendron that get quite huge
Above & below: us with our guide Krishna
It was clear we weren’t going anywhere any time soon and would have to “hang out”for a day or so, trying to get better. Mind you, we were at 2800 or so meters in a cold tea house (no heating in the rooms) trying to nurse some kind of flu-bronchitis-sinusitis! Well we ended up being so sick (and the weather wasn’t clear anyway) that we stayed there 3 nights, trying to sweat out our fevers and getting some rest. Thankfully our guide, Krishna took good care of us and brought us hot water and food to our room daily. It was so awesome having him (and also our porter Bim) there taking care of us. They were so sweet. On the last day, we felt good enough to go downstairs and try to take in some heat and check on emails (as basic as the tea houses rooms were, they had wifi in some!)
It became clear that in our condition we would not be able to finish the loop but instead have to backtrack the same way we came. That last morning, Krishna knocked on our door at 5am to see if either one of us wanted to try to get to Poon Hill (which was supposed to be the culmination of our trek) to catch the sunrise -a one hour uphill icy climb to the hill. Sylvie declined but James decided to go for it. In the first 5 minutes, James realized it was a mistake and that his body and lungs were not up to this hike. But tough old bugger pressed on and made it there! The sunrise turned out OK but overall too cloudy to be spectacular. Sylvie had made the right choice to stay in bed!
The hike back down the mountain happened over the next 2 days and took everything out of us. We almost considered calling a chopper to get us off the mountain! We took some forced smiling pictures before heading down in front of our Ghorepani tea house.
Above: our porter Bim waiting for us
Above & below: cute local kid watching her kitty, who’s stalking the chicken under the basket
Above: James sterilizing water for drinking
Below: we had to give way to the mules as they will push you off the trail
Above: James almost at the end of his rope.
We returned to Pokhara and stayed there for 4 nights instead of the planned 2 trying to get better. By that time, James was improving slightly but Sylvie was getting worse (she did not get out of the room for 3 days).
Above: Sylvie peeking over her blanket in the “sick ward”
We tried to self diagnose and medicate. James bought some antibiotic over the counter at a “pharmacy ” near by and we both took it in hopes of getting better fast. At the end of the 4 days, Sylvie could just make it out of the room to go eat breakfast downstairs and James was better. We were both coughing crud out of our lungs though, and our sinuses were still plugged..