Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nepal Day 7: Annapurna Base Camp

24 Dec 2009  Christmas Eve

Our 7th day on the trip was Christmas Eve.  We woke up early in the morning to a cold day of 4.5 degree Celsius.  The air was so cold that our guides decided to set off half an hour later than usual, to wait for the sun to come up and temperature to rise to a more comfortable level.  In the mean time, I caught a shot of our two handsome guides as commented by Tingting.

Haha...Who is more handsome?  I will leave that to the girls to decide.  Too bad, there are no lady guides or porters.

You can tell the temperature must have gone down to almost 0 degrees as water is frozen even in the running streams along the route.  I hate ice on the trek, it makes the trek slippery and treacherous.

As we walked, the sun quietly went up and shining warmly over our head.  It gave everything on earth a beautiful look.  Fascinated by the beautiful views, Y started to aping around...
While I was pondering about life, at 3000m above sea level, a level where life gets very tough, and no other flora can survive except the fittest.

This cheap wild grass was dancing gently in the morning breeze.  This type of grass is so common, so ordinary, so unnoticed, but it is a winner over the bigger trees, more colorful, more expensive flowers.  Their survival and existence at such high altitude makes the almost barren land more lively.   

The road to MBC, Machhapuchre Base Camp, is long, but with very gentle slope.  However, it was a very difficult walk for me, I don't know why.  Probably it was the cold weather which consumed the energy in my body way too fast.  At around 10am, I was already very hungry, and starving.  Luckily WJ still had some snacks such as chocolates to help me survive till lunch at MBC. 

We arrived at MBC at around 1pm, it was about 1 hour behind schedule. 

 MBC is just one row of single story guest houses.  Our Singaporean friends stayed at MBC for the night, before their ascend to ABC tomorrow.  For us, we had our lunch at MBC, and then continued our climb to ABC.

The view at MBC is beautiful.  The world is so big, so grand.  It is more grand than any human construction ever on earth.  I couldn't help but to admire mother earth's powerfulness. 

The clouding wrapping around Machhapuchhre, don't they look like a lady's veil?  They are magnificent.  Well, but later, I would be cursing about the clouds, which brought heavy snow fall. 

We finished our lunch at 2pm.  Then the unexpected happened.  It started to snow!  It was only a few snow flakes at first, but then as we walked and walked, the snow got heavier and heavier.  I quickly put on my rain coat and the rain cover for my backpack.  Wah, it was the very first time I walked in the heavy snow at such high altitude.  WJ, Resham and Y walked fast, they were way ahead of me.  Abi was about 30m ahead of me, and our distance never seemed to be narrowed.  From MBC to ABC, it was only a 400m climb (vertically), but it took me almost 3 hours to complete. 

I was walking alone as the last person of the group.  Snow was piling up everywhere.  Wind was strong, snow flakes hitting me at my back with big noise.  My upper body was still warm, but my jeans was kind of getting a bit wet, and a bit cold.  My Columbia trekking boots, I couldn't tell whether it was my sweat or my boots also getting wet too, and it felt cold.  The sky was dark gray.  You could see nothing but snow flakes and the shadows of the mountains.  Luckily for this section of the trek, it was very gentle, and there is no cliffs nearby.  Everything is laid out flat.  I kept walking and walking.  Some Caucasian trekkers walked past me.  I turned my head back, nobody was behind me anymore.  If anything happens, I might just be buried by the snows.  So, of course I couldn't let that happen. 

Finally, I reached Annapurna Base Camp (South) at around 5pm.  I was so relieved.  The guest houses there setup a welcome 'gate' to the base camp, and everybody took photos there as evidence to their own achievements.  By the time I arrived at that gate, there was not a single soul there to help me take pictures.  And I was too exhausted to take out my camera from my backpack. 

As I passed the gate and walked towards the guest house, a Korean college student came down, and asked me about the other Koreans.  I told them I saw the two Korean boys, and two girls plus two porters at MBC.  They should be on the way up soon.  Guess what, by then the snow on the ground was already like a foot deep. 

When I reached the guest house, WJ was already there waiting for me.  He helped me clean off all that snows on my body and backpack.  Most probably I looked like a snow man when I arrived.  Then I was told we had to share a room with Y tonight, and I had to share a bed with him too.  Never mind, I think I was so smelly that I didn't want to get close to myself. 

Our room was too cold to be any sane person to stay there.  We spent our time in the dinning hall, which had a heater keeping the temperature to about 15 degrees.  Everybody stayed there for the warmth.  We had quite a big group.  There was a group of French, a few from Britain, and one guy from America.  Sounds like they are from Europe and US, right?  Hahah...right.  One British guy lives in Pataya, Thailand, one lives in Egypt, the American is a science teacher in an international school in Bangkok.  We are all from tropical countries, and not used to such cold temperatures.  

As the night fell, wind was blowing stronger and stronger outside.  The Tibetan prayer flags outside the guest house was flagging viciously.  That was no sign of the snow stopping.  It only got heavier and heavier.  The corridor was filled up a thick layer of snow, making it difficult to even go back to our room.  Going to toilet is another challenge.  The ice in the toilet was slippery and you couldn't tell where that ice was.  There was no light.  No light in the toilet, no light in our room.  Everywhere was dark, except the dinning hall. 

There was nothing that we could do up there.  Neither did we want to go to bed so early in the freezing cold.  What to do?  We had conversations to kill time.  The British guy living in Pataya spent about 3 years in Singapore also.  He could still name Holland Village, and places in Singapore.  My reaction was:  Wow, this guy must be rich, living in Holland Village.  Then the rest of the night was between me and Y.  We couldn't really 'talk' to each other, as my Japanese and his English are both just elementary at best.  Most of the time we communicated by writing Kanji's or Chinese characters.  And sometimes we don't know what each other was talking about. 

So I had my very first WHITE Christmas eve, and WHITE Christmas at 4120m above sea level.  A once in a life time kind of experience. 

You can find a complete list of blog entries about my Nepal trip here.

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