One last time “Namaste!"
After three weeks in the highest country in the world, our Nepal-adventure is ending. I am ready to pack my things, put on my backpack and slowly leave the atmospheric Pokhara behind the wooded hills. We are not departing yet but heading towards Annapurna Himal one last time – this once, not just to go around but right into the middle: to the Annapurna Base Camp ABC.
After having spent three hours in a Jeep on a bumpy road, I am literally standing at the entrance to the jungle and I am already struggling with the blazing morning heat. In order to get to Jhinu Dandaix, where I have been told to see the famous hot springs, there are six more hours to go. Even though the sun is still burning on my face at first, soon the trees give shade and more and more clouds approach. We make our way from hilltop to hilltop – either over suspension bridges or by taking detours through the valleys.
Rain as a constant companion
From now on, there is rain everywhere. It is raining every afternoon – you can almost set your watch by it. Unfortunately, I am a bit late for Nepal because in May, the rainy season starts. At the beginning, the rain is wonderfully cooling, but the higher we are, the colder and darker it gets. Here, the light-intense SIGMA 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art helps me tremendously, so that I almost only seek subjects that permit a 1.4 open aperture; and there is certainly no lack of subjects in the jungle!
Having arrived in Jhinu Danda, I immediately jump into the hot springs at the glacial river. However, the peace does not last long since the first ascent of the next day consists of climbing 600-metre steep steps to the top in the blazing sun. The village Chomrong is the next stop and the last of its kind on the way to ABC. What is insidious about Chomrong is that one also has to descend 600 metres at the other side of the mountain – and we all know that each step that you are going down now later must be ascended with the complete camera equipment of 16 kilograms.
During my whole journey, I am accompanied by the "Filmemacher Deutschland", an excellent film team that is making a documentary about Nepal, which is why I was actually hired as a behind- the-scenes photographer (more impressions of the trip can be found here). In Chomrong, we go our separate ways: the filmmakers start their hike back to take pictures in the earthquake region and me and my guide are taking the route to the Annapurna Base Camp ABC that is two and half days away from here.
It goes downhill, uphill, downhill, uphill through the densest jungle and over more and more steepening stone staircases. Today, the rain came early and is now making it difficult for us to ascend – but since a few drops of rain will not do us any harm, we finally make it to Bamboo at 2,150 metres. Unfortunately, we have not managed to surmount many metres because up to this point, it was more like a ride on a roller coaster. On our way, we eat Dal Bhat, the most important food for trekkers and Nepalese in general. "Dal Bhat Power - 24 hour", as an old saying goes. Afterwards, we are ready to continue a 5-hour walk further upwards.
The forests are thinning, the mountains are getting more angular and nature is getting steeper. Here, every year dozens of people die in snow and scree avalanches. In this area, the mountains are in charge.
Every step hurts
It is raining constantly and everything is soaking wet. In this moment, I can feel the altitude. We have already surpassed 3,000 metres so that my heart is pumping and my back is feeling sore. I cannot stop asking myself: “Did I really get that old?”. The answer is no, I am just not well trained and tend to walk too fast. It usually takes some time to get used to the height. Now, I am paying the price for it: my eyes start watering due to my immense back pain. I somehow manage to ignore the pain and we finally find ourselves above the cloud ceiling and, hence, away from the heavy rain.
The Machapuchare Bascamp, which is 400 metres in front of the ABC, is our destination for today. The enormous back pain does not allow me to walk any further. Luckily, I meet an experienced Indian mountaineer there who gives me a slightly less painful injection to lower my back soreness. I am actually happy that he did not tell me what was inside that injection, I was just happy to have the opportunity to experience the following sunset:
I cannot wait to go back down since I could not sleep for a second because of my back pain. I put on my wet clothes and start walking. This time, we are planning to do a kind of record walk: 35 kilometres, including 44,000 steps and 2,000 metres, within half a day. Usually, such a trip takes at least two days. My guide tells me that when he informs people that we are just about to come back from the MBC, they are not sure whether we are resilient or simply stupid.
Maybe we are both – by all means, my guide has to stop me when we are only about two hours away from the initial starting point of our journey because of his damaged shoes. We eat Dal Bhat, have our first shower since the hot springs and a stunning view at the mountains that compensates for everything we have been going through. Also the SIGMA 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM has never let me down on my way and I am thankful for every gram I have taken with me because I fell in love with its sharpness and speed. At least I can say that it‘s focal length allowed me to visit the ABC. ;)
Thank you all for being with me on my journey! I hope to see you again on one of my next tours on Instagram. I am planning to embark on some more exciting adventures in autumn!
This blog was initially published here: SIGMA BLOG (German version).