People like to tell other people what to do because we all mistakenly believe we’re someone else’s expert.But what is true is regret. You don’t want to spend the rest of your years wishing you had a second chance at life.Steve Alaniz & Francesco Marciuliano. (Sally Forth comics)
Denali Highwaythree days biking the Denali Highway, one of my favorite roads in Alaska. I first drove it in 1974 after a successful trip climbing MountDrum, my first big mountain climb.Since then I have driven it maybe a dozen times usually in the fall when the colors are in fulll glory. Mountains rise up to 13000 feet above the road paralleling the Alaska Range. For those who have been to Alaska this is the road which goes into Denali National Park, although that is not the section we rode. We road from near the entrance of Denali National Park east 134 miles (215 km)
Hence Jeanne and I, hopefully nicely, invited ourselves along with the Irving family bike ride across the Denali Highway.The real problem is the shuttle.That is why a invite with Irving was nice. Ken and JanLeeare our friends and head of the Irving family. Their daughter Bonnie has two kids 9 months and 3 years hence would be driving the van with the boys.Her husband Matt would ride along with Bonnie’s sister, Brita and her husband David.They had a friend, Garywho came along with his camper truck.Thus the two vehicles to carry stuff.They live in Fairbanks which is a 4 hour drive to either end of the start of Highway.Our problem is we are in Anchorage and it is a 4 hour drive from Cantwell at the western end of highway the highway at the old roadhouse of Paxson. It is a 6 hour drive to Paxson from Anchorage on the eastern end.Whatever, we have wanted to do this ride on bicycles for years. Here was a chance for a supported ride with friends.
Hence we drove each in our individual car for 250 miles (400 km) to Paxson, left her car in a gravel pit beside the road, and we drove the 4 hours 134 miles (215 km) to Cantwell, where we met the Irvings and camped a few miles in beside Joe Lake. Camping is awesome along the road with pullouts and creeks and lakes and views all along.
Thus we rode for three days and it was great riding, gravel a fair amount of up and down as the road parallels the mountains and lots of stream and river crossings, (all bridged).
Cars are interesting as some would stop or at least slow down so as we did not eat their dust, but several did not bother to slow and just flew by, us coughing in the dust. People are weird. But for the most part not much traffic, 3-4 hour maybe.
The heart I am not used to and it was clear and sunny hence the wondrous views. But the second day we were stopping behind any little tree for shade, and drinking massive amounts of water. The last day, on the last 20 miles (32 km) I just had to put my head down, and grind it out. For me, it was ridiculously hot in the upper 80’s and lo 90’s (29 to 35 C)
It was a kick seeing the hundreds of kettle lakes from old glaciers and riding the eskers from old glacier moraines.
Basically it was a treat to be back on the bike. Sometimes I forget how awesome it can be just cruising along, good friends, camping, enjoying life.
We got to our car at Paxson, departed our friends to return drive the highway for the third time. Had a most wonderful camp near McClaren Summit with a sunset making the kettle lakes brilliant orange. Unfortunately, I could not get my lazy body out of sleeping bag at midnight for a decent photo.
Of course the ride was eventful with a flat tire requiring a 20 mile return drive to repair as cannot trust the modern emergency donut tires, put in cars. Only extended the drive home by 3.5 hours. Amazing trip.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time
Since returning from Steamboat Springs in Colorado, the streak of sunshine here in Alaska has continued. Awesome feeling to see and feel the sun returning. In a few days we will again have more daylight than darkness. The winter has been one of the better ones in many years due to the return of snow and cold. As I have said winter consists of three things, snow, cold, and darkness. If only 1 of three it can be”what’s the point”. This finishing season we have had an abundance of all three.
Hence after the great trip to Steamboat Springs we returned and I got a email wondering about the Knik Glacier. It is a glacier about 45 miles away (72 kilometer) and one can ride bicycle or snow machine to the face of it, if the conditions are right. The past years it has been too warm and the river and lake were a bit dicey to cross. I have wanted to do it for years but only tried once having to turn around after 10 kilometer because of thin ice and open water.
But the traveling is awesome, especially when traveling with companions who know how to deal with the cold and are great bicyclers, and are as excited as I am to be there. I will let the pictures speak.
As for the cold one just learns to work with it. Gloves and mittens are a necessity and sometimes a challenge if there are small things to work with (like a camera). One learns and it is awesome.
While there we discussed how if this area were down south it would be mobbed with people as it is spectacular. When I got home and looked at some of the pictures on the phone which gives location it said they were taken at the Lake George National Natural landmark. Wow who knew, I had never heard of it but having flown over it, I knew it was spectacular.
Then the next day wanted to ski some valleys which are often good in the spring. Natasha (ski jumping coach) and I went out to see what we could find. Alas, it has not snowed in weeks and the wind has been blowing over the gully we wanted to ski and it was a bit bare. Could have skied but the breakable crust and scattered rocks did not entice us further. We opted to return a different way making it a delightful tour. It is difficult to go wrong when the sun is shining, and the tracks are good. (or it is just plain crusty snow and you can go anywhere)
On day three Jeanne and I drove down Turnagain Arm just to see it as we never get tired of this drive. Turnagain arm was named by Captain Cook on his third voyage supposedly while looking for the northwest passage and he had to turn his vessel again.. (it was actually his first mate Bligh (of later fame elsewhere) who explored up the valley and had to turn again). Or a second version is the waters reverse course with the tide every 6 hours forcing one to turn again as the current reverses. When in full flow the waters, and ice flow at 9 knots) Either way Australia and New Zealand do not have a lock on Captain Cook history.
Video of moving ice in Turnagain arm. It is not bike able or boatable.
I have been trying all winter to get a video of the incoming bore tide with the ice as it is incredibly dramatic. Timing is difficult and it must be at full or new moon for maximum tide and I have not succeeded but will hopefully try again later this week. If I succeed I will try and post.
Sometimes the best travel is in one’s own backyard. Often that is the best of all.
To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, sometimes we must be willing to get rid of the trip we’ve planned so as to have the trip that is waiting for us.
And so as you may have detected I was quite disappointed in leaving the trip. I was depressed at my body failing, depressed at my thoughts. I was making up excuses blaming lots of things, feeling I had been abandoned not only by me but others, of which none was true and I knew it, but being human was trying to place blame anywhere but me. The above quote came from a dear friend who wrote me and it made me realize we do not always know our path, but it is our path and the choices we make determine future paths. Not much reason to get upset over the natural flow of things.
Anyway I had a good time while the group was gone, and I was alone, and as noted usually I like being alone, but this time I was not prepared for it.
Jeanne had wanted me to come home as obviously the trip was over for me. But I felt I had come all this way there was something here. When Rien came in after injuring his shoulder he left soon as he wanted to get his shoulder checked at home in the Netherlands. He had good reason to get home. I felt good having once descended I was fine.
And I am so happy I stayed. Not only did I get a good trip bicycling up to Tatopani and return, but when the group returned the day after I returned, they immediately came to my room and checked on me. It was like I had never left the trip despite having skipped 16 of 24 days. We shared stories and compared notes. I felt a part. It felt good. Up until then I had been unable to listen to stories of the Mustang area, or even read their Facebook accounts, it hurt too much. But when they returned I wanted all their stories.
Turns out their stories included my episode at altitude, and having listened to them I realize I could not have gone on. It was a horrible decision but the right one to depart and descend. I was sick. Apparently not only could I not breath although my oxygen saturation was normal for that altitude(84%), but I could not walk a straight line heel to toe.
For a different viewpoint read Buck’s blog Buck’s blog not only is he a very good writer but his perspective is different which is often good. The one entitled high country riding is his version of my demise.
But a great dinner together and then people depart. The trip is over and a memory.
I was unable to get reservation for flights out until Friday night when setting up this trip, so have hung out in pokhara, as it is more pleasant than Kathmandu. Michelle, Chad, James, and Paul left Monday morning leaving Buck, Bridget and myself. Buck and Bridget left this morning Wednesday for a 8 day trek to Annapurna base camp.
Tuesday Bridget, buck and I did a great trek up to world heritage site of world peace Buddhist stupa,which was great and impressive. Glad we had seen Junga the night before, as he said we could take a boat across lake and trek rather than taxi in car around and up (Junga was our bike guide on the trip) we left about 8:30 am but still sweat rolled off us as we ascended through the jungle. It seems there are no flat trails here.
Talking with Jeanne today. (Wednesday) we were reviewing my schedule and realized I leave Thursday nite not Friday nite. Am very glad I do not schedule tight connections as I would have shown up Friday night at Kathmandu airport and discovered my flight left the night before.
Met a fellow Anchorage traveller this am, got a haircut, tried to find glaucoma medicines at pharamcies here but that seems a first world medicine and no one had any medicines for it here. Alas. I must go back and pay first world prices.
And so it has again been a grand adventure. The future has moved into the present and the present has moved into the past. It is a constant ongoing process, never ending.
Interesting couple of days. Mentally and physically. Hopefully I have not bitten off more than I can chew. My permit goes as far as Jomsom at the upper end of road on this side of Annapurna circuit. Jeanne and I trekked in from Pokhara in 1992 in just over a week, hitchhiking the road out of Pokhara with construction trucks. But only rode maybe 10-15 kilometers. Now there is a road, all the way to Jomsom, but before Tatopani it winds to the west and away from main trekking routes which are more direct. The road connects with trekking routes at Tatopani and both road and trail then wind up through the Kali Gandaki (one of the deepest canyons in world if you consider on one side is Annapurna I and the other is Daulagiri, two of the 14 8000 meter peaks. We are at about 1000 meters here) ok I am impressed.
Left Pokhara ready to get out of town and face the world again. And it was incredible. Between keeping an eye on traffic, Annapurna South and Machhapuchhre were out in their glory. Rising nearly 6000 meters above town. (20000 feet)
The town became less dense, then more rice fields, then what one would call country, as the road slowly rises at a 3-4 % grade. Then the hill began about 10 k out of town switchbacking at a doable 6-8% grade. I was back on bike, traffic was not bad and it was nice. Got to what I thought was top and stopped for break. Proprietor of store invited me in back and showed me view looking back down valley to Phewa lake and Pokhara. The lake still exists!
And a very pleasant fellow also at break stop asking this and that in reasonable English. Said he was Tibetan. When my break was done he wanted to show me some of the jewelry he had made. Have not seen any hawkers of wares as in past visits. Without being forcefull he pulled out pieces telling me about each one. Some were real turquoise from Tibet others plastic he pointed out. Had well over a hundred pieces just thrown in a bag. Ok I confess I bought one!
Then back in bike, But after only a kilometer road again went up, rising another 250 meters totaling thus far at 950 meters of climbing (3100 feet) in 20 kilometer (12 miles).
Stopped at top for lunch. Dahl baht again. (Rice and lentils, and eaten at 90% of Nepali meals.). Very pleasant people particularly one who was asking in reasonable English where I was from and pleasantries. Engaging several other people in restaurant in conversation. Turns out she is Tibetan but was born here in Nepal. Her mother came here in 1962. She has a small business selling jewelry she has made. After I finish eating she would like to show me some, and she wanders off. I finished eating and she returned and directed me to table out front where she had a bag which she began pulling out necklaces, beads, charms, and I could not tell little difference from the stuff seen a few kilometers badck. I began my departure but she said I should buy something as that is how she lives. I just left without buying anything but lunch.
Then the descent back and forth and the road surface is more torn up. Got to bottom then some small up and down but getting quite hot now. And the road began to climb again, nothing serious but the heat in the high 80s (high 20s C) with high humidity was killing me. Even though only about 2 pm I began looking for a place to stay. The road here though is not part of tourist route other than buses and taxis coming back from trekking and only driving through. Basically I was alone amongst thousands around me who had their own lives to lead. Passed one hotel but did not look promising. Onward and upward finally reaching Kusma some 62 kilometers from pokhara.
Found only one hotel in the somewhat large town (guessing 10000 people) and pulled in. Several women and girls sitting around lobby and had to wake up fellow sleeping on couch. Yes they had room (building was 6 stories tall) he called his son from somewhere and he appeared to take me to second floor (third by U.S. counting) it was fine although a bit dirty. I have my sleeping sheet. And a overhead fan. I laid down and let the fan blow with the window open as sweat continued to roil off me. I do not do humidity
Finally figured I best walk about town. Not a single westerner to seen which is interesting having been several weeks in the thick of tourism.
Back for dinner about 6 but told to come back promptly at 7 for dinner. No worries back at 7 enjoy a beer but by 8 still no food and no one in kitchen. I seem the only person in hotel other than family. About 8 the fellow comes over and asked if I would like dinner tonight? Yes please and his son and another go into kitchen and begin serving up food. Dahl baht.
Morning and breakfast at 7. I ask for black coffee and get a pot of milk coffee. He says will be 15-20 minutes before cook arrives. About 7:50 his son arrives and goes into kitchen. 8:15 he comes out and asks what I would like. I order scrambled eggs and toast. About 9 a plate of eggs wrapped around the bread arrives. I ask for a receipt for hotel bill and that took another 45 minutes as he itemized each meal, beer etc so much for leaving early and avoiding the heat.
Descent to 800 meters elevation (200 lower than Pokhara) and entered the Kali Gandaki river drainage). The road continues to deteriorate. Thought Tatopani would be too far today but Beni only 20 kilometers. It is a holiday of some sort and every store was closed and the few hotels also boarded up. And people out walking in their finest outfits. The normal red tika worn by women was a full on red rice pasted all over forehead of everyone, men and women, and all had some grass sticking out of hair. I felt like it was Christmas holidays back in states except without commercial aspects. Later I learned the holiday is 5 days long and this is day 3. A Hindu holiday as this is Hindu country.
Some kids enamored with my bike said Tatopani would be a easy 3 hours for me. Guide map says it is a 5 hour walk and I thought hmmm maybe I could do that. Another 25 kilometers and only 11 in the morning. But the heat was kicking in. I stopped to eat and was feeling a bit down so thought maybe I am tougher than I thought and ordered a soda instead of mineral water with the Dahl baht.
Generally I am tough but not tough enough for a soda. It did me in and I was miserable, having to exit the road once to evacuate the system. Something I have not had to do once on this trip. Felt better but heat and humidity back. (This is jungle after all)
The road is now a mud fest. With puddles the entire width. I rode one puddle and was hub deep. Waterfalls flowing. Had to help push one car which was stuck in mud. Decided I would not make Tatopani, and kept looking at map for potential villages with hotel. One looked promising but on arrival only one house and a boarded up hotel. Guess it will be Tatopani in 8 kilometers. A major creek crossing, fast current and looked two feet deep. Looked dangerous by foot, and no way to ride a hike through that current, even by vehicle it looked precarious. Found some logs a hundred yards upstream which allowed a rather wet dicey crossing. Figured I would make Tatopani as only 8 kilometers away.
Then a village of Tiplyang appeared although first two hotels were boarded up. Decided ok I can do this but as walking up hill out of town the Namaste guest house appears. I just go in and here I am.
Laid in bed for an hour thinking of altitude sickness and if you cannot recover in 10 minutes something is wrong. Here it is the heat and humidity getting me. I was on the bed for over an hour, finally forcing myself up to walk through town. That took 5 minutes of which 2 was watching a volleyball game. Back to hotel and invited to watch dinner preparations. It appeared I was the only guest and definitely only westerner.
Wow despite the language gap, I got a lesson in cooking. Had bananas as appetizers with a bread I equated to eskimo doughnuts. Hearty! And good!
Grind the garlic and I believe it is cardamom on rock. Then grind garlic, peanuts, salt and a few peppers. Peel potatoes and stir fry with fresh cut onions. Oh my gosh it was amazing. Definitely not the fastidiousness of western cooking, then time to eat. The lentils and rice appear from pressure cookers and enjoy. Another meal of Dahl baht. Everyone is different, and I refer to the Dahl baht.
Ok morning and on to Tatopani. Maya here tells me it is expensive. Here in Tiplyang I have found the Nepal I remember. No menus, smokey kitchens, simplicity beyond simplicity.
But pondering return. The group comes into Tatopani Saturday eve and then jeep to Pokhara. The idea of a jeep ride out of here does not entice me. Think I will ride out at least until road is better, but then things get very crowded. Maybe ride all the way back but then some climbs. Decisions decisions.
And the adventure continues. Now Friday day 3 at Tatopani. Jomsom is 56 kilometers, which is as far as my permit goes, but not feeling the need. Just enjoying the time although might be a bit easier if I had a set schedule. I keep thinking of Paul’s statement: it had been shown one loses IQ points on vacation.
Yesterday went for a nice trek up the canyon wall. Map said a good viewpoint of Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, and Annapurna South. Hotel owner said could not see Dhaulagiri but nice views and a good waterfall. Did not matter as clouds encased the high mountains anyway. I did try taking butterfly pictures with the iPhone. Not very successful. That is price of going minimalist, I cannot carry bigger camera.
Awoke this morning and magnificent view of Nilgiri from lying in bed. Maybe not a good day to return to Pokhara. Can ride to Beni in morning and catch a bus from there. Thus I find myself sitting beside road listening to roar of river, motorbikes, jeeps, cars, buses, and trucks go by.
The road continues with technical mountain biking, finding a route through rocks, puddles, creeks, and traffic. Traffic definitely adds a dimension to route finding.
As I ride I have come to appreciate the horns. Nice to know something is near and do not swerve. Funny as in the states horn is not nice, as obnoxious, and one knows they are there, but here cannot always here as so much else going on. Also back home one gets the feeling when someone honks they are saying get out of my way. Not so here, but to let you know they are there. Each has an equal right.
Pushed upward until my demons were saying why are you doing this? I was pondering why is it I am always the slow one (ok I am alone so who is slow). Why do I do these trips, what is the point? And the questions go on. Self doubts!
Then finally turned around having climbed about 500 meters in 9 kilometer, after seeing the narrow portion of Kali Gandaki gorge. 4 kilometer to Ghana and I could get a stamp on my permit. Whooppee skippee! I turned around then on way down at a narrow section of road police had come out to direct traffic. There was definite congestion where a stream was running down the road and vehicles were having a hard time climbing. Was talking with some Israeli trekkers on bus from Jomsom, who as I was cleared to ride through they said. “Keep living my dream”. Words again can mean a lot. Suddenly I felt better.
And I made it through the very rocky section, sliding and dropping off rocks as it was a major stream flowing down the 15% slope. And about a hundred people filming it as buses disgorged passengers to await their buses turn to climb or descend.
Talked with a couple from India who are taking a three week vacation to motorcycle this route to Muktinath at the edge of Mustang area. They said it far rougher than they expected. I am amazed at abilities of the motorcycle riders. And that does not mention the passenger of which there is almost always one.
Apparently since the road went on this has become a motorcycle vacation destination. And they stop me to say they are amazed at what I am doing. There is always somebody tougher out there.
Descent from Tatopani to Beni was great but muddy. Left same time as jeep with trekkers from Victoria, Canada. We arrived Beni same time but I had stopped and taken a lot of pictures. Arrived Pokhara covered in mud.
And made me feel good when this morning as I left Trekkers hotel, the owner and daughter came out to say goodbye. And stopped by Nepali guest house in Tiplyang and Maya thanked me for stopping by and telling stories of time in Tatopani.
Thus I think I must post this. Internet is acting weird. One time says ready next it discombobulated Sorry if not finished. But will have to correct after. Writing on an iPhone is a pain.
Ok pokhara. Another tourist town but I have become part of hotel here. Eat breakfast lunch dinner here they know what I want and is pleasant. Have just been chilling out. Did ride up to world heritage site yesterday eve but only the parking lot. Did not walk last hundred or so meters to the world peace stupa. Just a nice bike ride. Hoping for the great views of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna range but very cloudy and of course hazy. Maybe on return. Has been wonderful to just do nothing, just relax. Been thinking if this article written in 2011 about Nepal tourism. Bad things about Nepal tourism. It is true and this is a developing nation undergoing major upheaval. The government changes every 9 months and never can be established to actually see things through. But as in most places the people are separate from the government and only suffer the consequences. ( How many people actually got to decide whether Clinton or Trump would run for president of the U. S.?) We all eke out a living doing the best we can given our circumstances.
Yesterday planned on riding to stupa but was told I needed a blood pressure for doctor who signed my insurance form that I had altitude sickness. (I never saw the doc, the hotel just took form to hospital and it was filled out. Should have done it in Manang at Himalayan rescue clinic as would have only cost $45, but who pays that much for a doctor visit? Cost 10000 rupees for doc here in Pokhara, about a hundred dollars). But was told to rest after breakfast as relaxation needed for BP. Ok time went by and time for lunch but needed to rest again and hotel would take me. They wanted to know why I had not ridden to stupa. About 2 the proprietor of hotel said he had neck pain and would have to wait a bit longer. About 3:30 he said time to go but we were taking the moped. What happened to the relaxation? He put on his helmet and off we went I thought to hospital for BP. (Passengers do not wear helmets). We drove maybe a kilometer to a pharmacy where blood pressure taken. I could have walked there in 15 minutes. The hotel said they would notify the doctor my BP was normal. Cost 100 rupees as apparently normal to pay for a blood pressure. Different worlds. After I went for bike ride and felt great.
Now awaiting permit for Annapurna circuit as coming down from manang closed out my Annapurna and mustang permits which cost about $575. Hence the insurance. This is a solo unguided permit and I will be self supported. Glad I brought a little bit of packs to carry stuff. It will be a minimalist trip though.
And so it goes. I figure I will post this as have Internet now and probably none ( or at least half decent) until I return in a week. Packed up, amazing how little one really needs, but we shall see in a week. I realize I may not have needed the trekking permit because trekking does not start until tatopani, 75 kilometers up the road. Used to be one started in pokhara.
The road has made a difference the locals can easier move about now but the trekkers do not like it. Ruins the “pristine” trekking Nepal was famous for. Alas progress comes at a price. They are trying to build trekking trails apart from the road, but amenities are now available.
Prices are similar to western prices for commodities. Not once have I seen or heard any bargaining, although I did hear one lady get mad when she found a north face jacket for more money than in the states. Hotels are still somewhat cheap. I am paying $20 for this place which is nice. In the mountains I paid $2.00. But one is expected to eat at hotel which is where the money is made meals are $7 to $10. Beer is about $5 a bottle but 500 ml. bottles.
Ok arose yesterday morn packed and ready, but a bit of a headache. Weird as rest day yesterday and this headache was a bit different but whatever. Took a diamox for potential altitude sickness although feeling no ill effects. Off we went through the alleys and narrow paths between buildings and began climbing. Up up and up. Rose 300 meters (about a thousand feet) in 5 kilometers: in other words we all pushed a lot. I did practice carrying bike which I had porters build me a special head strap for the bike.
Then got to ride intermittantly, but I began to slow and my demons began to emerge in my thoughts. Why am I doing this? What the heck is the use of this. I mentioned the thoughts to Bridget who I was walking with and she agreed. We said we felt we just wanted to get this trip over and two weeks later begin planning something more horrendous. Paul though said it has been proven that when one goes on vacation one loses several IQ points. Oh the human mind.
But I began to slow and cough more. I had been coughing at night, blaming it on riding in Kathmandu pollution. (Horrible and dumb to not wear a mask) at least it was green and not red. But it worsened and I was slowing more. Once Junga came back and offered to push my bike. Normally I would resent that, but I gladly accepted. Then I pushed over some very rideable fun single track. Then climbed and slowly 7.5 hours after leaving and 15 kilometers came near Thorong Phedi one of the highest camps before the pass. Paul came down and pushed my bike. I was done in but then we all were. I went inside building and all our group face down on table.
I rested a bit, helped the porters put up tents climbed in and laid out futzing with gear. After about 45 min call came for soup ready and I began to climb out of tent trying to put on shoes which were proving troublesome. I had one on and Buck came over saying he had a doc with him to just check on me. I sat there and gave my story he said normally one should be breathing more normal after 10 minutes rest. I was as exhausted as just after the ride and breathing at 36 per minute. He said my lips were a bit blue. I finally got my other shoe on and he had me walk heel toe straight line which I definitely had trouble with. He recommended I go down
I sort of expected this because I felt miserable, but the words kicked me. Buck asked Kami about delays and he said not really possible. Sometimes I hate commercial trips, no room for change. The decision was mine: I asked about in the morning as 4:15 and dark at 6:30. Doc said decision mine but that would be bad as altitude sickness can progress rapidly especially at night. Basically I could die overnight.
I asked for help from the group and again words even the simplest and not profound words sometimes have the most meaning. Michelle said “I would rather have you alive than dead”
I thought ok then said oh this will be a great downhill ride. Immediately the doc, Buck, and Kami said absolutly not. A porter would push my bike carry my duffle bag and his stuff, and probably be out of a job when we got down.
Thus I threw gear together as now 4:15 and time to go. I felt lousy mentally and physically. Tears were held back amongst many of us. My planned Nepal trip was over.
Only maybe 50 meters done and Michelle yelled down something and all I could do was barely raise my trekking pole in acknowledgement. I was exhausted and starting a 15 kilometer trek which I had just come up. 2 hours til dark.
But amazing every step down felt better. Headache had worsened during the day and still very painful and continuing to hack up a lung, but every meter down felt good. By 7 pm we had made about 9 k and was very dark. Passed s hotel still open and I decided best to stop. We got some rooms and I felt a bit better. I was still coughing but much less, and headache diminished.
Morning came and began the steep descent into Manang and I felt good but tired. Gangapurna rises above us 3000 meters above with its magnificent hanging glaciers, ridges, icefalls with Annapurna 4 just to the north. Guess I won’t see Annapurna 1 this trip.
trek outThen as we descended going below 4000 meters I realized I was feeling a lot better, but legs were quite sore. Also the morning rush of trekkers was coming up; questioning why I was going backward. ( the circuit is usually done in a counterclockwise direction). I began to now realize I was on a new trip. It is over two weeks before flight home. Why rush home just because I have no plan here.
Rakees ( my porter) speaks only a few words of English so was difficult to figure out anything. But we managed. I was thinking riding back to besishahar where we started, but had a big bag, porter and exhausted legs to deal with. A couple from Norway suggested a jeep out (there is a road now, which we rode in) duh but I had ridden 15 kilometers at the start in jeep and it was wild, and took 4 hours. This is over 85 kilometers and well I will just say scary.
Rakees immediately went to find jeep on arrival, but not available. Whew. I was already beat and might like a rest day. He found one available for tomorrow at 7 am. Will take all day and be prepared to bounce, sway, and get thrown around in an overcrowded vehicle he motioned. Sign me up.
Apparently in peak season in about 3 weeks a thousand people a day cross Thorong la and 1 a day will develop altitude sickness.
Went to Himalayan rescue clinic just to check in. Talked with them and numerous others and one generally never sleeps more the 500 meters higher than night before. We had been doing a thousand.
Turns out the doc yesterday was just a trekker (but also a doc) but when I told story they verified good decisions. I attended the altitude lecture given by the docs at Himalayan rescue center. Great lecture and again learned a lot. They said would probably be ok to hang around here and hike and enjoy Manang but going lower would also be a good decision. These mountains have been around for 500 million years and will probably be around for quite a while. I can return.
We arrived Chame somewhat early about 2 pm. Was 17 kilometer but 840 meters of hard climbing. My GPS showed only 13 kilometer for the day. Today though, I found the setting for pause when stopped. It was set at 5.4 kilometers an hour, a normal walking pace. Hence anything less did not register. We walked a lot and it was definitely slow walking. I changed it to 1 km/ hr today and will drop it further.
Kami our lead guide was unable to find a camping place so we had to stay in hotel. It filled up but our rooms were on the street away from hotel commons and restaurant so somewhat quiet.
Inns in Nepal have progressed from sleeping in a big communal room with smoke stack stopping before exiting roof. Now own room or shared with one other. Still no heat but a sheet and comforter. 1 light and 1 plug in room. Rein and I both worried about the cleanliness of sheets and decided on our sleeping bags. But by morn I only had my sleeping bag over me and I was all over the bed.
Paul and I went with one of Sherpas to public free hot spring and had a great bath with some of locals. We went almost as soon as arrival because it would take a while for porters to make it with our gear. Just went in water with bike pants, but it was still warm and although deep in canyon sun still up.
Others wanted to wait for gear and clothes and when they went a local family had taken over and refused them entry.
Wifi available for 150 rupees (about$1.50) and for duration of stay. Most place are only for an hour. And the owner said he paid extra for good wifi his wifi is better than most which often does not work, especially when numerous people sign on. And this was 150 rupees for the duration of stay, usually only an hour. So I signed on and gushed out that last missive.
But a bit chilled later as cooling off now that we are gaining elevation. Chame at 2745 (9000 ft). My gear finally arrived and we had a great dinner. Momo’s, green beans, peeled vegetable salad, sardines in a tomato sauce, fried potatoes, and boiled potatoes. Seems I am only one who likes sardines but all thought the meal great and finished off with a banana pie.
Kami found a jeep to take kitchen staff and our gear to Manang, a distance of 29 kilometer. That way we would have our gear otherwise we would have to stop part way and cut into our rest day.
They left in the jeep, the remaining porters began trekking with 10-15 kilogram loads. And we cyclists began ascending. View of Annapurna II above us and the Marshyangdi below us. The road continues as a jeep track with some big drop offs.
But entered pine tree forest and I remembered bits and pieces of the trip in 1988. The venders along road with Nepal stuff. And topped out a steep hill with road cut in side of Clif and a long valley. We got almost 10 kilometers of rideable road.
Arrived Manang and all excited about a rest day. Acclimate to the 3540 meter altitude (11700 feet) before the two day push to pass at 5460 meter. (17600).
Rest day yahoo. All tired dirty. Showers or porters brought us all pans of hot water for cleaning, some washed their own laundry, I gave mine to hotel got 700 rupees ($7.00)
And we are camping in the cabbage patch behind a restaurant. Our cooks cook our meals in shed or on ground outside.
Rained hard this morning and was very humid. Expected it to be cooler but warm 15-25 (55-75f).
And bring a rest day one does not want to lose what one has gained so Kami took us on a short trek this morn up to gangapurna glacier overlook, about 5 k.
Worked on bikes I think I have generator fixed. And derailleur cleaned as it has been giving me grief. Paul bled his brakes as the tiny air bubbles will expand at altitude. Mine seem ok. It is the engine which is problem.
Wifi is a bit slow here and may be for some time. One is always surprisedsuffice it to say Nepal is incredible as ever. Manang a gorgeous village sitting below Annapurna III and IV, and Ganggapurna, Tulicho further up the valley. The locals say Nepal mountain do not start until 7000 meters the rest are foothills. I will leave it at this for now as more things to do.
Holy shit ! Yesterday our first full day I the city and beginning the trip we (8 of us) went to the Buddhist stupa, a world heritage site. A spectacular “temple” for buddhists.
Unfortunately it was destroyed in the earthquake but is being rebuilt. Spectacular and sad and inspiring and amazing.
But for its awesomeness the bus ride there and back was the kicker. We all were amazed at the traffic and the driver ability to navigate, and the navigation was not which street but survival amongst the traffic. I was in New York City a few years ago and was scared to death to just contemplate driving there. One had to have an exquisite sense of exactly where all points of your vehicle were. That was nothing compared to Kathmandu if it were not so filthy we wanted to get down and kiss the ground on arrival back at hotel. (One considers the ground totally filthy here)
We’ll progress to today and our first ride about the valley. We thought maybe a bus out of town but no we ride from hotel. Holy shit.
Basically we were all scared but when we got on the bikes the beauty of biking returned. This was very technical riding and requires 100% concentration with a high degree of situational awareness. There are no bike lanes, you are part of the traffic: buses, autos, motorbikes, hand carts, push bikes, pedestrians crossing, and bikes totally loaded with 100-200 pounds (100 kg) hanging off aides and sticking out. And they drive on left here which one best remember because instinct will take you to the right of whatever comes at you and they can kill you.
One has to be aggressive and as Rein says “brutal” it is like a giant game of chicken sometimes you have to give and sometimes you just move out and hope they stop or maneuver around. There is no one meter rule and if you allow a meter between you and the bus a motorbike will come rushing through hoping its handlebars will fit under yours. As noted earlier traffic rules seem to be general guidelines. But it seems to work.
Then there are the cross streets or just crossing a street. You just start working your way out into traffic. Be brave be strong and if not you will be there all day. And none of this bike to side of road. You go where there is room which is sometimes in opposing lane squeezing between incoming traffic. Buses are scary because they seem to randomly pull over, stop allowing passengers on off, taxis will just do a u-turn in mid street.
And also keep a careful eye on road as this is third world and manhole covers are often not there which means a huge hole without barrier. As in la Paz, Bolivia.
I did not wear my buff today. Always wear a buff even if it is in the high 90s temp. Which it was today 36 degeees c. And humid. The buff one could cover ones nose and mouth and not breath in the dust, diesel and whatever else. Would have been nice even in the sweat I was pouring off.
And when we got back to the hotel we were all excited- we survived and had a great time. It was technical, exhilarating, exciting, and it felt good to be an equal out on the road.
And tomorrow we depart by bus for 6-7 hour ride to besi sahar. For the trip the porters will carry 35 kg per porter which is two people’s gear. This afternoon after coming back changes money getting 52000 rupees for next weeks. ( $500). And deciding what gear to leave and what to take. I have my bag to 16.2 kg. Rein noted how some people have it all (me) and some have none.. I loaned my tool kit today to do adjustments to others bikes. Ok.
Now sitting in restaurant with wifi drinking beer and thinking of tomorrow.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover
Well off again, that was a short stay at home. But then that was the plan.
Last fall I was working on the ski jumps preparing them for winter, when my friend Buck called having just returned from a trekking trip in Nepal. He was excited about a potential bicycle trip there, and was inquiring about interest. He mentioned the devastation from the earthquake in April of 2015. It seems much of the aid is often misused and is short term. The only real way to help, is get their tourism industry back on track. Buck was contacting a few people whom we had ridden the Andes trail with and it looked like a great group of people and a great trip. Sign me up!
In 1988 I trekked the Annapurna circuit. At that time it was very much a trek without vehicle support. 4 of us took about 4 weeks with 2 porters and a guide. We did not understand the inns and such and camped out the entire trip, cooking our own meals, carrying our tents, and setting our own camps. ( often paying an inn 50 cents or so to stay in their yard).
Then in 1992 Jeanne and I spent 2 1/2 months trekking, including 2 weeks on the western side of Annapurna circuit, skipping the 17650foot (5600 meter) thorong la pass. This time we got a vehicle ride for the first part as the Chinese were building a road to Tibet and it was partially completed.
Nepal was very different in those 4 years. In 1988 the black market was alive and well, in 92 the government had begun to figure out money. Also the tourist industry was more developed. Jeanne and I stayed in inns and ate there although we had camping gear, but did not use. And a lot more people were there. Nepal had been discovered.
And so I am returning to the Annapurna circuit, this time to ride on a bicycle. Apparently it is 75% rideable with the rest being hike-a-bike. Exciting. Back to biking at altitude. Thinking the trip to the great divide will help acclimate but we were only at 9500 feet which we will be at on day two or three. Also going to the mustang area which was still closed to tourists in 88 and 92. A friend of Nancy Brady, braught coughtburn (sp.) in Jackson Wyoming, said the road was in, but we would be riding faster than the buses due to rough conditions. Yahoo.
Anyway arrangements made and here I go again. It is a bit too busy for me, but sometimes when an opportunity hits one has to take it. Only a week from getting off the divide which was awesome and feeling bad we did not get to finish. Spent the past week giving the bike some much needed loving care. Replaced bottom bracket, new chain, replace tires with something hopefully more appropriate for the terrain, cleanse thoroughly, and take apart again for packing. This the same bike used in South America which I love. It is a 26″ wheels, a front suspension fork and pulls apart to carry in a duffle bag and the wheels are in a wheel bag. Gear gets packed into the bags for padding and two bags are 16 and 22 kilograms. No extra charge or hassle for flying.
Have been thinking of traveling recently. Why is it some people go and others just like to stay at home. Nothing wrong with either. Sometimes it is nice to develop an understanding of ones home. Jeanne’s mom was one. She had an adventurous spirit, but it was sometimes difficult to leave St. Louis because, well this week is this and that week has this other thing going on. She loved St. Louis although understood there ere other places in the world.
Inertia is another thing. Sometimes one gets settled into a routine and it is hard to break. Sometimes I think though people are afraid of something new and or different. My dad used to tell me before I left on a trip “you be careful out there! They do things different there, not better or worse, just different”.
I remember the first Asian toilet I saw in Thailand. Wow one sometimes thinks we have it figured out and then there was this hole in the floor one squats over. Hmmm
That is part of the adventure, seeing different ways of doing things. Live and learn. Maybe it works better if you allow yourself to realize there are differences and those can be good.
I grew up traveling, maybe not exotic places, but going to relatives in different parts of the country. Seeing new sights, new landscsapes. We moved a lot which meant learning to meet new friends.
In 1962 I got to travel cross country with my cousin and uncle taking three weeks. Chicago, Florida, and across the southern United States to California. Whew they had different attitudes in the south. I am still jaded.
Then in 1964 on an afternoon jaunt to Yellowstone (we lived nearby) I saw a group of bikers riding across the United States. Wow. In 1965 I took off on a train alone to philadelphia where I joined 10 other 16 and 17 year olds. The trip leader was 22 years old. We biked for a month in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and washington D. C. Not sure one could do that now as a teenager but I was hooked.
Over the years I did numerous trips by bicycle. Always interesting, sometimes difficult, sometimes I quit, sometimes just a chance to connect with myself. I was reading John Steinbeck “travels with Charlie” one mid November and just got the urge to go, so took off across Colorado in November. A week later I wrote a philosophy paper about the trip for a college class. Good results as a remember, although later flunked as a philosophy major. The point was to just go.
Sometimes it is good to break ones routine. Get out of the rut. Stop being comfortable. Scare oneself. Life is not easy and we as a species are not designed for easy. We are designed to work, figure it out and perhaps that way we can survive. If we sit and just watch the world, soon enough it will just pass us by and sooner than we expect we will be left behind.
It is scary, what happens if something goes wrong. I worry on this trip of a multitude of potential issues. What happens if I get sick, what happens if the bike breaks, what happens if I embarrass myself, what happens, what do I do? On and on. Ok just deal with it, enjoy the journey, there will be problems, enjoy them. There is good and bad in the world and eliminating the bad just removes the ability to see the good. Diversity is good as sometimes memories are created by hardships.
This time around not only do I get to see new things but establish new connections and restablish old connections. One never knows what will happen but we have a group of 8 from USA, Australia, South Africa, Netherlands. That should provide different viewpoints.
And for those who want to follow locations here is the spot address
J. R. Spot location
This site may or may not be useful. I am expecting internet to be very sporadic, intermittant, slow, and weak.
So I still have not answered why some travel and some do not. I guess there is no answer, we are all different. The diversity of life on earth. One does not have to travel. I seem to remember a story of Jules Verne who felt he did not need to travel because he accomplished it in his writings. Sometimes traveling in your own mind is the best.
The nice thing about about riding a bicycle about is you have time to smell the road kill.
Up early (5:30) at Frisco motel and off, Jeanne and I went with James to the car rental place at Denver airport. It seems when we packed to drive down here, we still had a bit of room in the sprinter van so put in some extra stuff. Now we have to deal with it.
James was off in a sad farewell and our trip is over. We managed to get Jeanne’s bike into the rental car, mine was already torn apart and in the duffle bag which went on top of Jeanne’s along with other bags of stuff. Jeanne and I wanted breakfast, wifi, and coffee, so off we went in search of the three essentials. We ended up at McDonalds, sitting there just drinking coffee, had pancakes, sausage, eggs, hash browns for 3 1/2 hours. Just enjoying the quiet down time.
Some folks ridicule mcdonalds but I find their coffee good and less than a dollar as opposed to starbucks which is 2-3 dollars. And starbucks only has croissants, scones and such. We wanted breakfast.
Thus we enjoyed just sitting, catching up and resting. When we started the trip I had suggested riding 3-7 days then a rest day. That is enough riding then I find , for me anyway, a rest day of just for a day or even two of not riding the bike is rejuvenating. We had been riding for 12 days. The tetons was our last rest day. Rawlins was the next town and not exactly the most exciting place to just sit around. (Rest days often consist of hiking, touring the area, fixing bikes, or just toodling around.) Joe and I had taken a rest day in Steamboat Springs and we thought of it but decided to carry on to Dillon, Frisco, Breckenridge as James could take the van in for maintenance easily from there. If I did it again I would take a rest day in Steamboat and again 3 days later in Frisco. Live and learn. But we were tired.
Off to a bike shop for a bike box to ship Jeanne’s bike in. Talked with them about tires a bit, explaining our luck with tires. According to Constance, our keeper of the numbers, we had 14 tire replacements (lots of tires falling apart or side wall blowouts).They tended to commiserate with me but I am not sure believed it. They suggested glitter in the fluid. At first I thought they were joking but they continued to say you can get particles in the fluid which will help seal holes. Most of our holes were caused by sharp rocks either on outside or side wall blowouts. Once I stopped a leak by pushing a small pebble into the hole and it sealed. Glitter!
Met our friend Roy and had a delightful visit, talking, catching up and going into Boulder for food and a bit of a hike.
On to Colorado Springs to visit friends of some 40+ years. A delightful visit and seeing the sights. Jeanne has never been here.
But the urge to get out and ride the bike is strong. Has been 3 days now and I can feel the body saying “am I going to be used or shall I just deteriorate?” I firmly believe the human body is not designed for easy, hence it does better with hard work. Sometimes though the mind takes over and lets one relax a bit too much. I feel that now, but perhaps it is just the inertia of doing something every day which makes me feel like doing something. I am sure in a few days I will come up with some excuse to not exercise. What a dilemma! Alas first world problems.
OK I will figure it out and move on to the next trip.