Must admit I always find the first day of a hike like the Annapurna just a bit of an ordeal but this one hasn't been too bad. Still suffered from the usual disorientation you always get from the combination of a long haul flight, dropping into a strange country, lack of sleep, different diet, and suddenly finding yourself with a new group of people - but nothing too bad.
The group of people you find yourself with on a trip like this can make or break the holiday. For the next 18 days I'll be spending a lot of time with the same ten people only one of which I know (that's Christine, my wife). Hanging around waiting for people who struggle to get ready on time or who just get on your nerves can be a real issue.
Well so far it seems like a really nice group. Christine and I are the only couple and there are another three women and five men. Mixed ages, ranging from late twenties all the way through to early seventies. Most of the group seem to be fairly fit, keen walkers back home, but few of them have been on a trek like this before.
We are being looked after by three Nepalese guides and six porters. I've been with one of them before on an earlier trip to Everest Base Camp and all of them know what they are doing and are nice people - typical Nepalese. The lead porter, Jangbu speaks good English, has a great sense of humour and is an easy going relaxed sort of guy. He lets everyone find their own feet, makes it clear he is there to help but has a quite authority - a natural leader. He is also an experienced high altitude guide and, amongst other significant climbs, has summited Everest. As well as this trip he will taking me up Mera Peak in three weeks time.
Today was as much about travelling as it was about walking. After a night in a teeming and painfully polluted Kathmandu (although we thought Kathmandu had improved - the airport had certainly got slightly less chaotic) there was a six hour bus journey to the start of the walk.
I have done the bus journey down towards Pokhara before and to be honest once is enough. It's slow, very bendy and I guess a little dangerous. Still it is interesting, hardly any private cars, just ancient lorries and buses heading between the towns and to and from India. It was a fairly hot and misty day and apart from the traffic there wasn't a lot to see. We left the "main" road at Dumre and headed to Besisahar, a trekking town full of shops with stuff for walkers about to embark on a 17 day trip around the circuit. The place was full of trekkers, people of all shapes, sizes and nationality with teams of porters assembling loads for the first time - there was a real buzz and a tangible sense of a journey anticipated.
After the six hour journey we grab a bite to eat before setting off up the trail. Everything feels scruffy, a bit dirty and chaotic but after a couple of hours on the trail things start to settle down and very soon we arrive at our first tea house and the trip has well and truly started.
|Besisahar High Street|
|First wobbly bridge|