Friday, 16 November 2012

Still The Adventure Capital for Me!

Somehow 8 years have elapsed since I was last lucky enough to find myself here in Nepal. Life rolls along, and we have been riding through most of Europe, trekking in the Atlas Mountains, and blasting out the UK mountain challenges.We have even in the intervening years developed and grown fond of our close to home multi activity events, where challengers can blend everything from Open Canoeing to Caving , Orienteering to Rock Climbing, and even Abseiling and Mountain Biking. Our events have taken us from the wildest peaks of North West Scotland, to the backroads of Albania, and from the caves of the Mendips to the Sea Cliffs of Cornwall. Indeed, we are fortunate and blessed to have all of these amazing places to count as our playgrounds. But although time may have dulled some of the memories, the Himalayas still offer the real deal, and they remain, in my mind, the true Adventure Capital of the World.

This last 2 weeks has seen a lucky group take up on what has to certainly count as one of my all time favourite adventures. We have spent 2 weeks, exploring the religious and cultural sites of the Kathmandu Valley, then putting our best foot forward on the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, and reaching the crystal clear air of the Base Camp at a lofty 4130m. From the moment we arrived, I wondered whether the team would share my complete and utter (some might even say obsessive) fascination with this country! I watched as we bumped our way throught the dusty unsurfaced roads of Kathmandu. I wondered as people were served with Dhal Bhat, and Noodle Soup for meal after meal. I feared the worst as the temperatures plummeted high into the sanctuary, and our breath steamed forth from our mouths in the lodges each night. But last night, as we ate our last celebratory meal together, and the team relived their experiences, it was obvious, that even for this well travelled team, the tried and tested recipe that Nepal offers, still has the old magic.

The best big Adventures always start with a bang. Coming to Kathmandu even the flight in is very special, with the snowcapped Himalayas glistening behind Nepal's capital city. And once the group had assembled, we were straight off, directly into the melee of the city centre - the team immediately struck by the energy, colour, and frenzied chaos of Kathmandu rush hour!

Within 24 hours of touching down, the team had flown to Pokhara, transferred to Naya Pul, and were well on their way up towards our first overnight in Ghandrung. And then within a couple more days, we had trekked through beautiful forests, amongst lush green rice paddies, and up to the entrance to the narrowing valley that leads to the Annapurna Sanctuary itself. Life has changed a fair amount here in the last 17 years since I started coming to Nepal, and the lodges have become in the lower parts of the valley like hotels in the mountains. Each major stopping point on the trek now has hydro electricity, and the trails are beautifully maintained. As it turns out, the inhabitants of Kathmandu with its dusty unsurfaced and dirty roads are probably somewhat jealous of the Gurung folk from the Ghandrung Valley!

As we reached night 3 of our compact trek, some of our team were starting to feel the pace. Having by now climbed to 2950m, we were perfectly positioned to head up into the higher part of the trek. Himalaya Hotel for us marked the start of the more challenging part of our trek, as the temperatures were by now dropping steadily, and the air had started to thin. And added to this, the lodges by now have become simpler. The virgin trekkers in the group were starting to find out what Himalayan trekking is all about! Simple living, plenty of Lentils, and incredible scenery... but dwindling creature comforts!

As we continued higher the night at Himalaya really paid off, as we were comfortably able to ascend to 3700m at Macchapuchre Base Camp, with all team members reporting no headaches ! Hurrah! But most team members feeling very chilly... as the temperature dropped to a bracing minus 7 degrees (est.)...

At four forty five on morning 5, we all leapt out of bed, ready in our trekking gear, gloves, hats and headtorches poised, and strode forth into the chill night. Beneath a blanket of stars we climbed slowly towards our final destination, excited chatter filling the night air. Around five thirty, we were able to descern the beautiful turning of the sky's edges to a lighter shade, and the first brightening of Hiunchuli up ahead. Just a few minutes more, and the torches were off, and fiery sunshine hit the snowcapped peaks of Annapurna South. We took our final steps into a bustling Base Camp, and enjoyed hot porridge and lashings of lemon tea. Photographs will never do this place justice, memories will burn brightly forever... I can't wait to be back again...

This trip was 13 days from London to London - please call for more details on 01460 249191 - and we shall be very happy to arrange your very own amazing adventure to the Annapurnas!

Happy trekking


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