Bus Surfing to Besisahar
With great anticipation we arrived at the India/Nepal border, got our 30 day visas, and boarded a night bus to Kathmandu. After a rather uneventful bus ride, we arrived early the next morning and checked into a room at the Mountain Peace Guest House in Thamel. The next two days we spent exploring the city and picking up essentials for our trek. The streets of Kathmandu are lined with small outdoors shops eager to sell their brand name goods (such as the Norht Face or Mammutt). We picked up some yak wool scarves, some used boots for Gabe, an awesome yak wool hoodie for me, trekking poles, and other essentials (peanut butter, nutella, honey, and more peanut butter). Searching for a new camera after Gabe accidentally dropped mine in Hampi, we hit up the New Road. Multiple camera stores were conveniently lined up in a row, and miraculously the price of the camera I had settled on, a basic Sony Cybershot, declined with each successive store. Starting at 11,000 rupees, the price then dropped to 10,000, then to 9,500, and eventually settled at 9,000 rupees including a one year warranty. This just goes to show the importance of shopping around in Nepal before settling on a store.
After our second night in the Mountain Peace Guest House, our Kathmanduo had become a Kathmantrio as we convinced Relic, a chill 23 year old Aussie, to join us on our trek. Relic had been planning to visit Mount Kailash to complete a special meditation there, the final of seven on an earth chakra meditation tour around the world, only to find out that Mount Kailash was inaccessible this time of year. So the three of us headed down to the immigration office to pick up our TIMS permits, establishing us as registered trekkers, and our license to enter the Annapurna Conservatory. (It is possible to start the trek without these permits, but it will cost you double if you get caught at one of the many checkpoints along the route. These checkpoints can apparently be avoided if you pass by them after 6:00, but this would create many setbacks so it’s probably best to just go ahead and get everything straightened out in Kathmandu.) After one last meal of thukpa, a tasty noodle based Tibetan soup, and tongba, Tibetan style beer that consists of pouring hot water over tiny grape like balls, essentially creating a renewable barley wine type of alcohol that can make standing up seem like a challenge, we packed all our gear for the next morning’s journey.
Waking up early in the morning, we hopped in a cab to the local bus station. Our cab driver frantically pounded his broken horn each time he overtook a car or made a turn, refusing to accept the fact that no sound was coming out. After switching local buses twice, we boarded our final bus and were delighted to be offered a seat on top of the bus. Climbing on top to the best seats in the house (figuratively speaking as there were no seats, only a small railing on the side to prevent luggage from falling off) it hit us that we were about to undertake the most epic trek of our lives. With the cool wind and hot sun hitting our faces simultaneously, heightening our skin’s awareness, we took in incredible views of the aquamarine river below and the mountains overhead. After a while, Relic was literally bursting with excitement, and had to take a piss off the back of the bus in a very precarious position. Luckily, Relic didn’t fall and no pedestrians were hit by his stream.
Arriving in Besisahar, the first stop on our hike, we grabbed some lunch to fuel up. As we awaited our chop suey, the restaurant owner put on some very provocative music that featured a girl moaning as the beat got louder, climaxing with the music as the bass dropped. Apparently he was trying to get us in the mood as he offered to “rent” us one of his masseuses for the trip. 5,000 rupees for one hour or 1,500 per day to take her on the trail, I don’t think he was the savviest of businessman or a great mathematician. Regretfully declining his offer as we didn’t want another mouth to feed, we caught a bus to Bhulbhule after hearing there was not much to see between the two towns and started our trip.
Throwing on our bulging packs and hitting the dusty trail, we were greeted by a suspended bridge overtop the local river. Carefully crossing the bridge, we reached the other side and immediately stopped. Not only did our legs stop moving, but so did our lungs and our heartbeats, for in the far distance was our first glimpse of the majestic mountains that make the Annapurna Circuit legendary. Manaslu, the 8th highest mountain in the world at 26,759 feet, had replaced our breath with an overwhelming sense of awe and was reluctant to give it back.
As it was nearing sunset, we forced our feet back into action and made the quick hour long journey to Ngadi. Along the way we met a local teacher and trekking guide named Rupesh who invited us to stay at his guesthouse, an offer that we were happy to take him up on. Waiting for our dinner to be prepared, we played cards outside as the sun made its curtain call behind the mountains. As darkness slowly overtook the Himalayas, we ate our dal bhat, the Nepali staple consisting of rice, curry, lentil soup, and occasionally some pickle. With our bellies full, we headed towards our rooms.
“Guys! You gotta come take a look at this!” I exclaimed as Relic and Gabe were about to open their respective doors. For above us behind the backdrop of the universe were millions of shimmering stars. The lack of light pollution allowed us to view the cosmos in their splendid glory. Some points of the sky glimmered like dust passing through a ray of sunlight with the amount of distant stars that were amazingly visible. (The only other place I’ve been to that can even begin to compare with this scene was on the beach of the Daintree Rainforest in remote northeastern Australia.)
Declaring the beginning of our trek a success, we retired to our modest rooms for the night consisting of two small beds and four walls.
With dreams of the upcoming hiking, we drifted off to sleep, knowing a waking dream awaited us in the morning.