Details of Life on the Road: Street eats, cheap sleeps, budget travel experiences

The Annapurna Diaries: Day 10

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“Today was one of the most difficult days of my life. A little mentally draining, but mostly physically exhausting. Ageist and judgmental I am, but there were physically unfit people, older trekkers, trekkers carrying bicycles and, of course, under-dressed porters carrying nearly half their weight. While it was difficult for most, a walk in the freezing and barren park for others, it remained utterly difficult for this slightly-less-than-averagly fit 28 year old. Last night’s sleep wasn’t great at 4450 meters. We chose to stay at Thorong Pedi instead of the 400 meter and 1 hour higher base camp because of the allegedly better change of sleep. However, sleep was interrupted by frigid cold and lack of oxygen. We were up at 3:45am and on our way a 4:55am. Despite it being night, the way was clear, the weather calm, no snow, no wind, no clouds. The first stretch was 400 meters up to base camp. The path was very steep and each step was stepped very slowly. At that altitude there is little choice of rushing. Trekking at such heights is not for the impatient or those in a rush. You must carry on in the face of adversity. One foot after the other. The ascent was physically challenging. I felt like my hands were turning purple due to their persistent throbbing. I would take time putting one hand in one pocket at a time. Similarly, my toes were numb. I worried of frost bite but was assured I would be fine. Thank god for the 3 tea houses along the way to the pass for allowing me to warm my toes. What’s worse is that the upper part of my right sole had peeled back exposing and making my foot a little more vulnerable. A few attempts at trying to tie it on proved largely unsuccessful. It was a 566m accent to Thorong La Pass from base camp, 966m total for today. A few minutes into the hike, the sun not yet visible, a group of 10 or so trekkers were heading back. The porter said it was risky due to recent snow having fallen, a few people were scared and a couple felt sick, all Israelis. There were other sick Israelis at the lower guest house, some planned on being airlifted out. The helicopter made an appearance the night before, too. Sadly, the helicopter made an appearance later in the morning to lift out the victims of AMS. I was a bit scared to continue as I didn’t know how many people were ahead of me – turned out to be many. However, the trail was scary and dangerous, narrowly lining the inside of deep mountains covered in fresh snow. If the small, barely trodden, path hadn’t have been there it would have been completely impossible to know where to go. I quickly became short of breath. I was basically panting. I was taking it slow but I was searching for breath that I just couldn’t find. It was scary at times. The trek was beautiful, exhilarating, however I wasn’t always able to enjoy it. I was tired, worried of developing a worsening headache, of being not able to complete the trek. I sought the end. The ascent kept going, on and on, but finally I made it and with a hot tea and some chocolate I felt much better. It was the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever completed. I was glad to be on the top of the world. My beard frozen, my morale high. I knew that the near future would not be so kind on my morale, though. Going down 1600m was not going to be easy. It wasn’t. For a few hours the hills and paths were completely covered in snow. Walking was nearly impossible due to the steep descent. I fell many times. At the bottom of one hill something felt wrong – my whole right sole had ripped off making the bottom of my shoe a frictionless death wish. There weren’t many more snowy slopes to descend but what was left was difficult. I was near defeated. We rested at every plateau. Gradually, the snow lessened and out came the rocks and muddy trails. We stopped for lunch at the ‘bottom’. 2 hours more to Muktinath. A 19km, 11 hour day, with about 9 hours of trekking. We arrived after 4:00pm at Bob Marley hostel. It’s pimped out. I was glad to have a hot shower. Although I haven’t worn deodorant in 4 or so months, my armpits have never smelled worse. A completely new kind of body odor. Its type has never before entered my nostrils and hopefully never will again. 120Km down.”

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