Manaslu Circuit: Tsum Valley

After some much needed rest and relaxation in Pokhara, including a second mountain bike trip up to Sarangkot, it was time to embark on the Manaslu circuit. The Manaslu trek is similar to Annapurna in that you go around an 8000 meter peak. The main difference is that there has been far less development and there are no roads running up the circuit.It’s also mandatory to hike with a guide on this trek.

With the help of the internet I found some trekking partners to split the cost of the guide with. I worked with Shree, whom I’d previously meant on the bus ride to Pokhara, to obtain permits and hire a guide. On October 10th at 6 AM the five of us, plus our guide Prim, set out in a jeep from Kathmandu. At first we were told that the ride to Arughat, the starting point for the trek, would take around six hours. We were also going the long way around as the last stretch of road was supposed to be better than the direct route. We reached Gorkha before noon and grabbed an early lunch. The locals said it would take a minimum of four more to do the last 20 kilometers to Arughat, which shed some light on the 6 AM departure time. The road was muddy and we spent the entire time in four-wheel drive. We made it to Arughat just before sunset, grabbed a beer at our hotel and then some some sleep.

The next morning we officially started trekking. I don’t think any of us were prepared for the heat. Arughat sits at only 530 meters in elevation which means the climate is fairly tropical. We fought through it, drank tons of water, and hiked all day to Lapubesi. We stayed in a nice teahouse which we shared with the most boring German couple in the world. On the plus side, their guide was the Nepali version of Cosmo Kramer and provided loads of entertainment. There was a local festival going on so the locals had built bamboo swing sets in the villages and were doing some traditional dance in the evenings.

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When we set out the next morning we quickly realized we were going to be battling for space on the trail with a Czech group that had approximately one thousand members plus two million donkeys to pack up their 1 liter bottles of shampoo and daily pair of clean underwear. On the plus side, we did learn that they would not be doing the Tsum valley side trip, so we would lose them in a couple of days at most. The second day was as hot as the first and we cut it a little short, stopping for the night in Tatopani, which was basically just a couple of buildings sandwiched between the cliff and river. Since we had some time to kill we started drinking Raksi, the local “wine”. Thankfully they only distill it to what I would guess is somewhere in the 15% to 20% range. Our guide got us the local price so we drank more than our fill, and I promised myself I would only drink at low altitudes on this trek (more on this later).

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A Himalyan still, where Raksi comes from.

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One of the countless waterfalls we saw while hiking up the lower Buri Gandaki river.

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The next day was much like the first two, sweaty hiking up the river valley. We spent the night in Philim and drank more raksi of course. The day after Philim is where things really started to get interesting, a couple hours in we veered off the main trail into Tsum Valley. We had all heard that Tsum Valley is very different from the other trekking in Nepal and I would have to agree. After hiking through a tunnel of bamboo for an hour we reached Lokpa. We stopped in Lokpa for lunch and spent a good while stretching out in the sunny grass. It was a good thing we stretched because we had no idea what the afternoon hike would entail.

Less than an hour after lunch the trail descended sharply and then split. The old trail had “under construction” signs at its head. The other fork went down to the river bank and disappeared. Prim instructed us to go down to the river and cross the rickety bridge. The group stopped for a short break, partially because there was some confusion over whether we were really on the right track. From the riverbank it was obvious the old trail was impassable. A big swath of it had been taken out by a landslide and you could see the trail workers bamboo ladders’ high up on the hillside. While the others rested  I carried on up the river a bit and spotted the makeshift bridge back across the river. I really enjoyed this part as it was the first time trekking in Nepal that I felt like things weren’t completely on rails.

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Rickety bridge number two, it was bouncy and awesome.

Once we’d crossed the bridge we quickly found the path to rejoin the old trail. It was a massive climb back up to the trail, followed by countless more descents and ascents of the same hillside. The valley is extremely narrow and steep in this area which makes the trekking grueling. Eventually we came to another sketchy bridge, this time of the suspension variety. Every suspension bridge I had crossed thus far in Nepal felt indestructible. The cabling and footings for this one were the same, but instead of steel for the the floorboards there was rotting wood. All in all it didn’t feel terribly unsafe.

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Sketchy bridges all day!

From the other end of the makeshift suspension bridge it was a steep climb up to Chumling. We chose to stay at the tea house which was situated on the biggest hill around. The last fifteen minutes of hiking that day were probably the toughest of my entire time in Nepal. In Chumling you could tell that things were starting to get more Tibetan.

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The view back  down the valley from near Chumling.

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The view from our Chumling tea house in the morning.

The next morning we trekked onto Chokang Paro and made it a short day. The day after was a long one, we trekked until the early evening eventually arriving at a monastery called Mu Gompa. The monastery was high up on a mountainside and very exposed to the weather. It was only a few miles from the Tibet boarder, and the Chinese were actually working on a road to connect to Tibet. They had a backhoe up there for the roadwork and the driver was living out of a tent just below the monastery. He was an enterprising man and had yak meat and Tibetan beer for sale. The beer was a steal at $1.50 a can so we loaded up and drank in the kitchen of the monastery while our guide curried some yak meat. The monks found it hilarious that we were drinking in their kitchen, but don’t worry we did ask permission before cracking the beers. The yak meat was tasty, and a bit of a delicacy considering where we were. It’s forbidden to kill animals in the Tsum Valley, so the only time you get any meat is when an animal dies naturally, in this case the yak we were eating had been gored by another yak during a fight.

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Some picturesque Mani walls.

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Exposed trail as we continue up the valley.

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The village of Nile, just before the final push up to Mu Gompa.

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The view down Tsum Valley from near Mu Gompa.

The next morning we decided to descend from Mu Gompa, it was a bit too cold and there wasn’t much to do. The trek back down the valley was a bit easier than the trek up, although the sections at the bottom of the valley were still quite strenuous. In a couple days we were back in Lokpa, where we rested up and prepared to rejoin the main circuit and head towards the pass.

 

 

 

Annapurna Circuit: Thorung La

After Tilicho lake Filipe and I walked back down to Manang. We spent a rest day there and visited a 500 year old monastery in the next village over. Once we were well rested it was time to head towards Thorung La, the pass that takes you around Annapurna.

There were hundreds of Buddha statues at the monastery.

From Manang we hiked through yak pastures to Letdar. We stopped for tea midday and were rewarded with some excellent views and live Russian music. 

We spent the night in Letdar where we ran into Ryan and Vlad who we’d meant earlier in the trek. The next morning the four of us set out for High Camp which sits at 4900 meters. It’s quite desolate up there and some folks were really struggling with the altitude. Fortunately we were all feeling quite well and were jumping around for some silly photos.

After a cold night we woke up to a cloudy morning and some flurries. Filipe decided to hang out for another day in hopes of clearer weather. The remainder of the group decided to push on. It took a few hours but we made it to the pass without any issues. I did have to use my giant yak-wool socks as improvised mittens, which I’m sure looked hilarious but wasn’t captured in any photos. 

The descent from the pass was grueling downhill. Descending into the cloud filled valley made for some interesting views that were hard to capture on film. We took our time going down and eventually made it to Muktinath where we treated ourselves to a room with a western-style toilet.

Muktinath is home to large temple complex and there were countless pilgrims coming up the road to visit it. Some were walking and others riding horses. When Vlad and I set out down the road the next day we saw a pilgrim get bucked off his horse. The horse wasn’t content just to shed his rider and starting galloping down the road. After a few steps it changed directions and started coming right at us. My flight instinct kicked in and I quickly scrambled up an embankment. Vlad played chicken with the horse and narrowly avoided getting trampled. After regaining our composure we carried on into town and met up with Filipe who had just come over the pass.

The next day we departed Muktinath for Kagbeni, which is a medieval-style Tibetan village. It was a few hours walk through very deserty terrain. The next morning we went to morning prayers at the Buddhist monastery. We had to show up at 5:30 AM and walk around the temple three times in the clockwise direction before we were admitted. Watching the ceremony was quite interesting, and definitely worth giving up some sleep.

Its windy in the desert.

Kagbeni.

This guy guards the entrance to Kagbeni.

After visiting the monastery we walked to Jomson and bought a bus ticket to Ghasa. A major Nepali festival was just getting started and the already chaotic public transportation had devolved into complete fucking chaos. We boarded an overcrowded bus and exchanged some heated words with folks saving seats and/or refusing to put their luggage on the roof. Eventually the eight people without tickets were kicked off and we embarked on the bumpy ride. The bus situation in Ghasa was even worse, with hundreds of people standing around in the parking lot. Everybody you talked to said something different about when the next bus would come and if it was full. I eventually got fed up and convinced Filipe we should just hike from there.

The village we planned to spend the night at was across the river from where we were hiking. Upon cresting a massive hill a local told us we had about twenty minutes to go to the bridge and that we’d find it at the bottom of the hill. Forty minutes later we still hadn’t found it. We were out of water and there was lightning further down the valley. We decided to turn back, after going back over the giant hill we found a sketchy teahouse. The food was good but the accommodation was a musty spider-filled shack. Just before going to bed we noticed the saucer sized spider on the wall next to my bed. After five minutes of gaping at it we grabbed some locals who helped us flush it out with some barbeque tongs. They had a few laughs and claimed it wasn’t a dangerous spider.

The next morning we carried on with the hike, passing the bridge we couldn’t find the night before about 15 minutes past the point we turned around at. A couple hours later we were in Tatopani. We checked into a very nice teahouse which seemed to be free of man-eating spiders. Tatopani has a nice set of hotsprings where we spent the evening. The next morning we took another terrible bus ride to Beni, followed by a van ride back to Pokhara. I spent the next few days unwinding in Pokhara and gearing up for the next trek.

Annapurna Circuit: Chame to Tilicho Lake

Trekking from Chame to Tilicho lake.

Chame is where the trek really began for Filipe and I. The guidebook suggests a 6 to 7 hour day of walking to a village called Upper Pisang. On this stage of the trail there are two options, stay on the road, or gain some elevation and take the high route, which is a proper trekking trail and free of jeeps.

Prayer flags on a suspension bridge and our first little glimpse of the peaks above.

Most of the morning was uneventful, we crossed a few suspension bridges and walked the road for a bit. After lunch we crossed the river again and had our first big uphill stretch. Eventually we reached Upper Pisang which lived up to the hype in the guidebook. It’s a proper mountain village with narrow paths between stone buildings built into the hillside.

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The interior of Upper Pisang.

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Upper Pisang from further down the trail.

Since it was still early afternoon we had a cup of tea and decided to try to get to the next village. After a bit of a traverse and a long bridge we were at the base of a massive uphill section. I bet Filipe it could be done in 30 minutes, he said it would take at least an hour. After fifteen minutes of hiking too fast I stopped to talk to some familiar faces. The guide with one of the other guys from our jeep said it could be done in 30 and that we were just over halfway up. I figured that was enough to prove my point and took a nice long rest with them and let Filipe catch up. In the end it was well over an hour before we reached the village of Gheryu  at the top, although we did stop for tea about 90℅ of the way up.

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We were rewarded with some nice views mid climb.

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Random tea shop towards the top of the hill.

We finally rolled into  Gharyu in the late afternoon and were accosted by the village children. They kept grabbing our trekking poles, my solution was to hold mine sideways. They took this as an invitation to use them as monkey bars. I ended up swinging them around while they hung onto the sideways poles. When it came time for the littlest ones turn I went as easy as I could. His friend tried to help him by holding him up by the waist. The kid doing the holding stumbled and ended up suplexing his buddy into the rocky ground. Many tears were shed, and that was the last we saw of the kids. On the plus side, I got to tell everyone at our lodge that night that I made one if the village kids cry, which elicits fun reactions when spoken with no context.

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The one in red left in tears.

Gharyu ended up being my favorite village of the trek. We stayed at a lodge run by a mother and son and met many other trekkers we’d see again and again on the trail over the next couple weeks. I also got to try some of the 1 year old wheel of yak cheese our lodge owner was bringing to market in the morning. Aged yak cheese is delicious.

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Looking back at Gharyu on our hike to Manang.

After a restless nights sleep at 3670 meters we set out for the hub of Manang. We stopped in Bragha for lunch and got to try the local Sea buckthorn juice which is quite tasty and supposedly chocked full of vitamins (and sugar). After another 30 minutes of walking down the road we were in the town of Manang. We took the next day off and just hiked around the valley.

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The Gangapurna glacier as seen from Manang.

From Manang it was time to head towards Tilicho lake, the highest lake in the world. The hike to Tilicho base camp comes with many disclaimers in the guidebook. The last stretch of trail is cut through scree slopes susceptible to landslides. We stopped for lunch a few hours out from Manang and inquired about the condition of the trail. The boy working the lodge said the trail was fine and we decided to push through the last three hours to Tilicho base camp.

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The view back down the valley during the hike up to Tilicho.

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The view towards Tilicho. You can see the sections of scree the trail traverses in the center.

The trail was interesting, but after a few long hours we rolled into base camp at 4140 meters. Since the weather had been cloudy for the last week we made no plans to get up early for the hike to the lake. I woke up a little after six the next morning and let out a little shriek when I looked out the window. It was crystal clear out for the first time in the trek.

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It took a few hours, and might have been the most difficult stretch of hiking on the trek for myself, but we eventually made it to Tilicho lake. A little before the lake you crest a hill at over 5000 meters, or 16,400 feet. It was a lot of work to get up to the lake but completely worth it. I saw two avalanches and also saw a chunk of ice calve off the glacier and fall into the lake.

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Annapurna Circuit: Besi Sahar to Chame

Jeeping from Besi Sahar to Chame for a shotgun start on the Annapurna Circuit.

The Annapurna circuit is a 12 to 20 day hike around the Annapurna massif. The massif features one 8000 meter peak and many 7000 meter peaks. The traditional circuit runs counterclockwise from Besi Sahar to Birethani, but roads now penetrate  into both sides of the trek. The road construction has lead to many trekkers opting for shorter or alternate itineraries.

On the morning of September 19th Filipe and I travelled from Pokhara to Besi Sahar. Our plan was to find a jeep the next morning to bring us to Chame, which is 4 days into the traditional itinerary. We wanted to avoid walking on the road and leave more time for side trips at higher attitude.

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We splurged on our hotel the last night before trekking, $16 for the room, but it came with a nice pool.

The morning after arriving in Besi Sahar we walked along the main road and negotiated a ride to Chame. We figured it would be a 3 or 4 hour ride. Shortly into the jeep ride our driver informed us that it’s closer to 7 hours, and that’s on a good day.

The first few hours winding up through the Marshyangdi river valley were uncomfortable. We had seven people crammed into a jeep cab meant for six. After playing some musical chairs we found a few seating arrangements that were bearable. You might be wondering why we opted for a jeep at this point. The “road” to Manang is more of a 4WD track by Western standards. We spent a lot of time in first gear with four-wheel drive engaged.

We stopped for lunch after a few hours in Syange. While lunch was being cooked the locals pointed us up a huge set of stairs to a nearby waterfall, it was definitely worth the hike. The mist coming off the falls felt great after several sweaty, dusty, and bumpy hours in the jeep. In retrospect, this would be a great place to ditch the jeep and start trekking.

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The waterfall was a nice lunch time side trip.

Full of dal bhat and tea we hoped back into the jeep for the rest of the ride. We made it about 25 meters before getting stuck. The right rear wheel had slipped off the road and the Jeep was balanced precariously on an embankment. After some unsuccessful attempts at pulling it out with another jeep we started unloading all of the cargo that was being transported. With all of the rice, ramen, whisky, and kerosene tanks out of the bed the jeep quickly climbed out of its hole. By this time quite a traffic jam had developed behind us so we loaded up quickly and took off.

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Our unloaded jeep stuck in an unfortunate spot.

The road got even sketchier after lunch, with sheer cliffs and no guard rails becoming the norm. It didn’t seem to phase our driver who spent half the time texting or fiddling with the radio.

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Another waterfall along the road.

We eventually made it to a bridge where traffic was stopped. The jeeps coming up in the opposite direction couldn’t make it over the hill. We waited for close to an hour for them to finally succeeded. In this time, two of our jeep mate’s decided they had had enough. They paid the full fare and started walking. I was excited for a minute, thinking there would finally be breathing room in the backseat. My hopes were quickly dashed when the two locals who had ridden on the back bumper all day hopped in.

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The jeeps coming from this direction couldn’t make it up the hill to the left.

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If you look closely you can see how the road is cut into the rock.

In the end we arrived in Chame only a little worse for the wear. We found a teahouse across the river from the main city. An hour and forty minutes after ordering dinner I started to become concerned that they had forgotten my order. The other trekkers informed me that this was normal, most of the lodges on the trek make all the food from scratch. It was worth the wait, the momo I ordered was delicious. After dinner we soaked in the hotsprings below our lodge, which felt wonderful after the gruelling Jeep ride.

Pokhara

A quick glance at the city of Pokhara, my first stop in Nepal.

After 30 hours of travel I landed in Kathmandu on September 14th. The guide books call Kathmandu an assault on the senses, I’d say it’s more of an artillery barrage. Its colorful, crowded, dirty, loud, and chaotic. I got out of the city as quickly as I could. I plan to see a few sights there before my flight out of Nepal, but chose to start my stay in the lake town of Pokhara.

Bright and early on my first morning in Nepal I boarded the bus for Pokhara. Before departing one of the employees handed out some candy to celebrate their new bus, it was the maiden voyage. Pokhara is about 125 miles from Kathmandu and the bus ride is usually 7 hours. Think about that for a second.

When your “new” bus breaks down 4 hours into the trip it takes even longer. Fortunately, we broke down about a kilometer from a large roadside restaurant. After walking to the restaurant I grabbed a beer and chatted with an Australian ex-pat, Matt, who lives in Bangkok. Matt introduced me to his friend Shree who owns a trekking company in Nepal. I ended up getting dinner with Matt and Shree the next night in Pokhara, and Shree hooked me up with a guide for my Manaslu trek in October. All in all, the bus breaking down was a net positive.

After sleeping for 14 hours, I spent the morning wandering around Pokhara. The lakeside district is geared towards tourism and is quite nice. My eight dollar per night guesthouse room was also surprisingly good.

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The north end of Phewa Tal in the morning.

With two days of short hikes around the lake in the bag and my trekking permits aquired I was ready for some excitement. I signed up for a cross-country mountain bike tour the next day.

I’ve always known I don’t do well in the heat, and I learned this lesson yet again mountain biking. A few hundred meters into the first big climb, in direct sunlight and 30+ Celsius temperatures, I had to hop off the bike for the first of many breaks. I definitely was suffering from some heat exhaustion most of the morning.

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The view from a spot about halfway up.

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The hill on the left is our destination, the top of Sarankot.

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Paragliders picking up altitude in the thermal.

After what felt like a year we made it to the top of Sarankot village, which is 600m higher than Pokhara.

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The view of Pokhara and Phewa Tal from the observation tower.

The downhill was very fun, but also really challenging because I was already exhausted. I took one small spill and miraculously sprung back to my feet no worse for the wear. After a stop for some delicious chow mein at a local place we pedalled back around the lake to the shop. Overall, biking was very fun but probably not the best choice two days before trekking.

On my last day in Pokhara I met up with my trekking partner Filipe. We got dinner and then headed to a local bar with live music. You haven’t really lived until you’ve heard a Nepali cover band play Michael Jackson and Rage Against the Machine in the same set.

Sorry about the sideways video, I’m posting from my phone and can’t be bothered to fix it.

Pictured Rocks

Hiking the Lakeshore trail at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

With four weeks to fill between my last day of work and my flight to Nepal it didn’t take long to scheme up a stateside backpacking trip.  My supervisor from work tipped me off to Pictured Rocks on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a few years ago.

The Pictured Rocks lakeshore section of the North Country trail is 42 miles long. It’s a very popular kayaking and backpacking trail.

My friends Travis and Darcey were already in the mitten porting of Michigan, so we decided to meet up for the hike when they headed back towards Iowa. Ideally, you’d reserve camping permits for this trip well in advance. With our plans being last minute we had to try to acquire ours the night before we wanted to hike.

I planned to get to the visitor center an hour before it closed, but didn’t account for the time change to the Eastern Time Zone, whoops. Luckily my friends arrived just in time to get some last minute permits. The downside was less than ideal variation in the distance we would hike each day: 12, 12, 18, and 6 miles. Also, some extra distance was added to our total hike since one of our campsites was a few miles inland.

Day 1

On the morning of day 1 we broke camp at the Hiawatha National Forest campground we landed at the night we drove in and headed to Musining to catch a shuttle. After a 45 minute shuttle ride we were dropped off at the Grand Matais visitor center and hit the trail. The first 6 miles were not too exciting, just a trail through the woods and some walking along a road.

For lunch we stopped at ‘Log Slide’, a 200+ foot sand dune that goes down to the lake. I went about halfway down it before turning back, the walk back up in the sand was rough.

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Looking back at the dune from farther down the trail.

A few miles after lunch we walked through Au Sable point which is home to a historic lighthouse.

From there we walked the three longest miles of the day to our first campsite, Benchmark. The campground is just inland from the dunes that run down to the beach. After setting up camp I walked down the beach in search of a place to string my hammock up and enjoy the sun and lakeshore views.

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Day 2

We set out on our second day headed for a campsite that was a couple miles inland next to a lake. A lot of the hiking was inland and through the woods. We took a dip in the lake once we got to camp.

The most interesting site of the day was an abounded car in the woods off the trail.

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Dude, where’s my car?

Day 3

Travis was having some problems with his boots the first couple days and walked most of day 2 in 5 finger shoes. On the morning of the third day his feet revolted and he and Darcey had to call it quits. Fortunately, there was a carpark a couple miles past camp they were able to catch a ride from. For that short hike he wore a hiking boot on one foot and a 5 finger shoe on the other, it was hilarious looking and I still regret not snapping a picture.

With a solo 18-mile day ahead of me I set out from camp in the rain. After passing the carpark the rain let up and the landscape started to get interesting. For several miles after the car park the trail ran through woods filled with interesting cliffs and rock formations. After that it met up with the main trail and the scenery was amazing. This stretch of the trail is where the park gets its namesake. Its an array of cliffs, arches, waterfalls, and coves all along the lakeshore.

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I tried to stop as much as I could to enjoy the scenery, but with so much distance to cover the stops were brief.

The campsite for that night had “no water” marked on the map. Not wanting to backtrack for water after reaching camp I filtered 4 litres of water from a river with about 6 miles to go. I caught some funny looks from day-hikers while doing this. About 3.5 miles down the trail I realized why. There was a large, road accessible lookout complete with gift shop and tap water. This is where having time to go over the hike with the rangers before departing would have really saved me some energy!

After grinding out the last few miles I reached the Cliffs campsite. I quickly pinched my tent and set up my hammock. After lounging in the hammock for a while it started to rain and I got to test out the new tent in the rain for the first time. It kept me plenty dry and I was able to cook dinner under the vestibule during the storm.

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The rain eventually broke and I sat around the fire into the evening with some friendly campmates. During the night a tree fell in the woods about 30 feet behind my tent, a little too close for comfort.

Day 4

I blew through the last 6 miles of muddy trail through the woods, hopped in my car and hit the road home.

Overall, it was a great trip. Next time I would plan in advance to get some of the prime campsites. I also would consider kayaking a good stretch of the trail as it would allow you to really get in close to some of the rock formations.

The Plan

An overview of my trip around the eastern hemisphere.

In 2010 I spent a semester abroad in Newcastle, Australia. Despite the stresses of my course load – with Quantum Mechanics at one end of the spectrum and Introduction to Drama at the other – I still found plenty of time to explore all around southeastern Australia. The Mountaineering Club at the University of Newcastle equipped me with all the gear, skills, and friends needed to backpack, rock climb, or boulder nearly every weekend. Ever since returning from that semester I’ve wanted to take a long term backpacking trip. After many years of daydreaming, and over a year of planning it is almost time to depart for Nepal.

Nepal

On September 12th I fly from Chicago to Kathmandu. Here is a little geography booster for those of you saying “Kathman-what?”Nepal_Map

Nepal almost the same size as Iowa by area, but has a population of over 24 million. It is sandwiched between India to the south, and China to the north. Nepal’s border with China is dominated by the Himalayas, the tallest mountains in the world, and the primary reason I am travelling there. I will spend almost all of my six weeks in Nepal trekking, first in the Annapurna region, and then in the Khumbu region (which contains Mount Everest).

Thailand

Once I am done trekking in Nepal I will fly to Bangkok to meet up with a friend who is joining me for a month. You can spot Thailand on the map above, start from Nepal and work your way southeast. We’ll be trying to see as much of the country as we can in the month allotted. First, we’ll head north into the jungle, to Chiang Mai. After a week of exploring in and around Chiang Mai we’ll head  south, to the islands of Koh Samui and/or Ko Pha Ngan, which are in the Gulf of Thailand. After some time in the Gulf we will head across the isthmus to the Andman coast.

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A trip to Railay beach and some deep-water soloing will certainly be on the itinerary

Bali

Somewhat on a whim, I decided to include Bali in my travel plans. I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, and Bali is one of the best surfing destinations in the world. It also happens to be, mostly, on the way from Thailand to New Zealand. With this in mind I added a three week stint in Bali to the itinerary.

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Bali is an island in the Indonesian archipelago. It is slightly bigger than the state of Delaware and has a population of approximately 4.25 million

Middle Earth

…Also known as New Zealand, is the last planned stop on this trip. It isn’t necessarily the end of the trip, but it is as far as I have planned. Besides meeting up with my parents over Christmas, I have no set itinerary. I plan to spend at least three months exploring both islands. I’ve spent an immense amount of time researching and acquiring new backpacking gear over the last year and this is where I will really put it to the test. I plan to spend the vast majority of my time here backpacking and camping.

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Hobbiton