05 July 2014

Annapurna Base Camp Trek - Day 3: Trek to Tadapani

To read all posts on my Annapurna Base Camp trek, click here for the complete series.

the view from Tadapani
The view from my Tadapani teahouse: South Annapurna, Hinchuli and Machhapuchhre

Day 3: April 19, 2014

Yesterday being Good Friday, I reckoned that I had done enough penance for my sins after going up those damned Ulleri steps. When I woke up today at 4:00 am, I was feeling extremely sorry for myself and was not in the best mood to do some trekking. Along with my battered knees, my ego seemed to have shrivelled up and died and would probably only resurrect on Easter Sunday.

Madan said that the sky was very cloudy that third day of the trek and he made the executive decision of not pushing through with the sunrise hike to Poon Hill (3,210 m). A
fter he did a quick once-over of my sorry state that early morning, I think he kind of knew that I was not in such great condition and he was just trying to make me feel better by using weather as the main excuse (although it really was cloudy). Poon Hill was considered by many as one of the highlights of the whole ABC trek, and I did struggle internally for a bit if I really wanted to go there and see the view or not.

But my guide pointed out that there would be better views of the Annapurna range as we moved closer to our final destination. And so I wasn't totally heartbroken over the idea of resting some more that morning and regaining strength. I breakfasted on oat porridge with apple bits at 7:30 am and managed to get on the trail 30 minutes later. Our aim was to reach Tadapani (2,710 m / 8,891 ft) that day, which would take 6 hours excluding lunch hour.  

photo by Gina Sales
An hour after leaving Ghorepani, we reached the top of a steep hill.
Tadapani was lower than Ghorepani in altitude, so there weren't any acclimatization issues at all. In fact, I barely had problems adjusting to altitude throughout the trek. What really bothered me were the cruel trail paths. That morning alone, as I left Ghorepani, I found myself doing an hour's worth of steep steps (what else was new?) up a hill. The trail was full of trekkers during that overcast spring morning, and I honestly think the majority looked really weary and feeling pressured to keep pace with everyone else.

I knew I was feeling the pressure. Was out of breath most of the time, but I just kept mumbling to myself to go on--especially during those times when there was a gaggle of people behind me. We were all kinda walking like zombies. If I had less pride in myself, I would have stopped and allowed some to overtake me. But I had skipped Poon Hill that morning already, and I felt I had no excuse to give myself a break.

After reaching the top of the hill finally, I took a good look around--and again, I wasn't totally surprised that the ascent looked challenging from my high viewpoint. Because it was.  Back in my country, this would have been a day's climb to the top of a high mountain already.  (Had to remind myself I was only on Day 3 of this 9-day trek. Groan.) 
The rough forest trail heading to Tadapani
The rough forest trail heading to Tadapani. It was all mostly descent.

After that climb, it was mostly a series of knee-battering, continuous descents that day. While many trekkers continued to rest on top of that hill, I was determined to press on. Told Madan I wanted to go ahead, and he acknowledged my wish with an approving smile.  He and Hari followed me from a considerable distance, which gave me enough space; it felt good to walk ahead of everyone else and have some semblance of solitude as I made some pretty painful descents on the rough trail.

Made it to Tadapani at 3:00 pm; I was so pleased to have been right on schedule that I felt nearly redeemed from the misery that was Day 2.  Tadapani is a quieter settlement than Ghorepani. Had time to relax, write my notes, charge my phone for Rs 100, go on unlimited Wi-Fi for Rs 200--and take a shower only for Rs 100!  The low prices were unbelievable, considering how everything in the Everest region cost thrice as much. 

Teahouse owner warming up the stove inside the dining hall
Teahouse owner warming up the stove inside the dining hall
My teahouse is called Super View and lives up to its name. It has some fantastic views of South Annapurna, Hinchuli and Macchapuchhre--the sight of which did not make me that sad anymore for missing out on Poon Hill. 

I sat in one corner of the teahouse's dining hall right beside the stove, and watched as the owner started to light the fire. The sun hadn't even set and it was already very cold. It was going to be a chilly night, and I didn't intend to give up my spot near the stove (which, incidentally, happened to have the best Wi-Fi signal).

When I finally went online, I was surprised to get what seemed like a hundred notifications from people on Facebook, Viber, Instagram, etc. I heard on that same day that an avalanche had occurred above Everest Base Camp and that more than a dozen Sherpas were killed somewhere in the Khumbu Icefall area while they were preparing the ropes and ladders for that season's Everest summit expedition.

Before I went online, I had no idea that people back home were freaking out over my safety. Most of them didn't have a clue where Annapurna was, and assumed I was just a stone's throw away from Everest Base Camp when the avalanche happened.

Hello. I mean, really.

I suppose I can never really convince people like my sisters (who don't make it a point to know their geography) to go check the distance between Annapurna and Everest so that they can realize that these are two separate regions. But it was sweet to get messages from everyone anyway; I just had to spend considerable time answering all the messages to assure everyone I was alive.  I was in good hands with Madan and Hari, and there was always Naba of Himalayan Planet Adventures in Kathmandu who knew what to do and had a copy of my travel insurance policy should things go wrong.

I was horrified over what happened to those poor Sherpas.  Because I had done the Everest Base Camp trek last year, the Khumbu region was indeed very close to my heart. Sherpas are one of the most hard-working, nicest people I know, and they are the true, unsung heroes in every Everest expedition. All those ropes that Everest summit climbers use from base camp to the summit were prepared in advance by Sherpas, and the latter certainly put their lives on the line year after year to ensure everyone else's safety. When I think of words like bravery, dedication and true grit, these are words that come to life in the form of Sherpas hailing from the Everest region.

The avalanche was the topic of the night over dinner in Tadapani. The locals were discussing amongst themselves if they knew any of the Sherpas who had died from the disaster. I still didn't have much of an appetite, but the garlic soup and the several forkfuls I had of garlic cheese macaroni were comforting. I felt like I had done well that day, and could only hope for the best in tomorrow's trek.      

One of my favorite forest trails on the way to Tadapani. Hari and Madan right ahead of me.
One of my favorite forest trails on the way to Tadapani. Hari and Madan right ahead of me.

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If you want to do an Annapurna Base Camp trek, do consider visiting the Himalayan Planet Adventures website and check out their 16-day Annapurna Base Camp trek package.