Day 1 Stats:
Starting elevation: 2,790 at Ngadi
Ending elevation: 4,480 at Jagat
Net gain: 1,690
Total hiking ascent: 2,675
Total hiking descent: 985
Leech bites: 1 (Lacy)
Bee sting: 1 (Rob)
Dal Bhat meals: 2 each
Cost for teahouse (board, dinner breakfast & tea x 2): 1,000 Nrs ~$9.10
Namaste’s and free smiles both given & received: countless
Rob: What we have later decided to call Day Zero was two bus rides totaling 6 hours in the bumpiest, squeakiest busses ever. It was cozy and what other time in my life do I have the chance to have a small Nepalese family snuggled all around me. Our second bus must have had the lowest gearing ever because we crawled up muddy mountain roads at about 5 miles an hour where only Jeeps should have been allowed to go. Our hike was a short one. Basically just enough to get our gear situated, shoes tied the way we want and posture acclimated to a 20lb pack again. The real Day 1 was next.
Dal Bhat has been and will be our staple meal along the trek. As of this writing, we are 4 for 4. Rice (Bhat), lots of it, a bowl of thin Lentil soup (Dal) accompanied by one or two kinds of stewed vegetables (Tarkari) which may mostly be greens and a yellow curry of mostly potatoes. So far, it has all been nice and satisfying with just a little saltiness to the greens, spice to the curry and white fluffy rice. Yummy, but can I do this for 20+ more days? In one of the bigger villages, a chicken may need to be roasted for us. That will likely cost us far more than $9 total we are paying for the room, dal bhat for dinner and breakfast the last 2 days.
Our accommodations are minimal but perfect for the environment. Our room has 2 walls of windows (front and rear) with unbelievable views of the river valley. It has a full time sound system piping in the sound of a small waterfall behind us and the churning and swollen river below. The 2 small twin beds actually have nice mattresses. 2 heavy blankets will help snuggle us into a good sleep while we are inside of our fleece sleep sacks. There is power to charge our phones and we might get WiFi if we are lucky. Most places you stay overnight here in the mountains are called Tea Houses. That could mean a small simple cabin with a tin roof to a little hotel like ours that clings to the side of the hill. Almost all of them let you stay for free (or $1) as long as you eat dinner and breakfast in their small family restaurant.
Rain. Last night I woke at 3 am to the sound of a pounding rain outside. After all, it is the Monsoon Season here. We chose to come outside of the peak trekking season so we would have to trails mostly to ourselves. We have only come across a few other hikers so far. I bet we will criss-cross with them quite a bit more. Much of the upper part of the Annapurna Circuit Trail falls in a “rain shadow” once we are above the tree line. Since we also chose to start at a low elevation and enjoy the foothills and river valleys, we will certainly get a little wet. Maybe a lot wet. Today was a good example of hiking in and out of clouds and showers for most of the day. We made it to our target village and Tea House by 3 pm just as the much stronger rains came in for the afternoon. The rain today soaked us through but it was also refreshing and just part of hiking on this part of the trail at this time of year. The pluses are that all through the valley, everything is at its greenest point of the year, uncountable waterfalls cascade down each side of the foothills into the river which is also full to the brim and raging.
Lacy: It’s an absolutely wonderful feeling to be hiking again in my skirt, pack on my back and Daddie Gizmo by my side. Ascending through the valley that begins the circuit we are hiking upstream of the Marsyangdi river as we pass through villages and continue to be more amazed at each bend in the trail by the stunning scenery surrounding us. Tall mountains bursting with bright green grasses, ferns, moss, trees with bright green leaves and flowers. Everything is so green because of the monsoon season. We can’t raise our eyes to take in the view without seeing at least 2 waterfalls. In the first day we have already seen a hundred cascading from the mountainside. The sound of the falls, the thunderous river and rain are enveloping us as is the scenery. I don’t think either of us thought we would be in an environment like this to begin the trek. So full of life. It makes it very easy to continue putting one foot in front of the other.