Thursday, 27 March 2014

Annapurna Base Camp


My friend Helen, who is visiting Nepal, and I trekked for 6 days, up the steep valley to reach this spectacular place. It had snowed the night before we climbed up into the Annapurna Sanctuary, so the path was slippery and hard work. Avalanches had blocked the original path and so a new one had been established, crossing the river and then walking through a boulderfield.

We stayed two nights at Machhapulchhre Base Camp and walked up to Annapurna Base Camp on the day in between.  On that morning the sun shone and the mountains in the snow looked sparkling.
Looking down the path that we had climbed from Machhapulchhre Base
Camp to Annapurna Base Camp in the deep snow.

Looking up, with Annapurna South and Baraha Chuli (Twelve Peaks) in bright early
morning sunshine

Huin Chuli (6434 metres) with Annapurna South (7219 metres) behind
One of the other big mountains that surround the Annapurna Sanctuary.
The sky was not quite as deep blue as this. It is the effect of
the contrast of the snow.

Machhapulchhre, Fish-tail mountain (69997 metres) is a holy mountain and
no-one is allowed to climb to the top of it.
We could hear the glaciers rumbling and cracking loudly
all around us.
Helen feeling happy despite the altitude.

Snow had blown onto the roof at Annapurn Base Camp,
but the windows had been dug out.

At 4130 metres, this was the highest I have ever been on earth.  No need for many words on this page - I think the photos say it all.

The chorten above Annapurna Base Camp decked in prayer flags. What a
special place. You can see ABC buildings in the background

Monday, 3 March 2014

Mountains in the sun

After three failed attempts to visit, (no bus, jeep full, jeep broke down on way), our fourth attempt to get to the school was successful.  We travelled by jeep, 12 people squashed in like sardines, for two hours up a steep unmade mountain track. At times the track was very exposed, with a huge drop down the mountainside; if the vehicle skidded there was no barrier to stop us rolling down the steep slope. I couldn't stop myself from watching the road and the verge in horror.

Classrooms with the mountains as a backdrop.
This was another school perched on a ridge; I have yet to discover why the schools are so sited, often with only a very small village around them.  It was a clear day so the views were immediately apparent.  Mountains reared up beyond the nearby hills to both the north, the Annapurna range and east, the Manuslu Mountains.   

There were other western visitors at the school that day; some teachers and pupils from the British partner school had arrived and a special welcome ceremony had been prepared for us all. 

Firstly speeches and flower garlands; then beautiful young girls dressed in the clothes of their local ethnic group, performed traditional dances of greeting.  They danced barefoot on the hard earth in front of the classrooms, with the school pupils and some women from the community sitting on the ground watching the performance. We, as visitors sat on chairs.

As we needed to stay in the village overnight, and catch the early morning bus back to Besisahar, I was able to explore after school finished. Lots of traditionally designed houses, many painted blue and a terracotta colour made from the local clay. Interestingly, many roofs had small solar panels to supply electricity. The street through the village was laid with stone cobbles, and was narrow so no motorised traffic could pass through. 

This village was tidy and well ordered, with toilets and washing area for all to use.  That afternoon there had been a mother and baby health clinic in the village, and it was very encouraging to listen to some of the young mums and hear how important they considered education will be to their growing children.

The small hill, just above the village gave the most splendid views of the mountains, so I loitered around there watching, as the sun set.  The photos I have included don’t really do justice to the breath taking panorama of the mountains and the sky as the sun dropped below the horizon.  It was a “good to be alive" moment!!

Early the following morning I was again to be found climbing the hill, determined to watch the sun rise.  I wasn’t disappointed!  How exciting to witness such a beautiful start to the day from this place.
Annapurna catching the rising sun.

The school has a hostel attached, so that students living a long way away can board there on a weekly basis, returning home at weekends. At 6.30am I was surprised to see a stream of teenagers leaving the hostel and arriving at school for the coaching session, taught by the Headteacher, which started at 7am.  The date of the School Leaving Certificate is approaching, a government test taken by all, and these young people need to pass this exam in order to continue their education.

I paused to wonder how many teenagers from the UK would get up so early for coaching.