|Today I met the nine other people who will be on my Annapurna Trek. There is an older German couple, 2 Swedish men, 2 British women, a Swedish woman(who I will end up sharing a tent) and 2 young British guys. All but one woman came alone and the guys all came in pairs….it’s a good group…Most of us are in our 40’s or 50’s..the German couple is probably 60ish and 2 britguys are 30ish. I am the only American. 9/11 has definitely had an impact on International travel…and I’m sure being as close to Pakistan and thereby Afghanistan is not on most Americans travel schedule these days…But I have wanted to hike the Himalayas for awhile so no one, not even the worst of the worst, will scare me…Oddly enough, 9/11 seems to have cured me of my fear of flying…I got on the plane to fly to LA and felt no heart palpitations, which had always been my traveling modis operendi …Even the normal bumps that usually sent me into deep breathing didn’t cause any reaction…I have had 4 flights so far and will have 6 more before this trip is over and I feel no fear…I guess my only weapon against those Terrorists is NOT to be afraid.
The 10 of us had breakfast and decided to go around the table and introduce ourselves and tell a little of how we prepared for this trek. Let me backup a bit to say that I am a flatlander and was quite concerned how I would handle altitude, especially with such exertion. I asked the company how best I could prepare and they recommended climbing stairs…So off to the local hotel I went…I climbed their 12 floors over and over again…I seriously wasn’t sure how this would help but hey, they are the professionals…Now back to our breakfast…As I listened to everyone discuss all the different ways they had trained by climbing the Alps, Hiking the Hills of Scotland, going to hike Karakoram in Pakistan!!! By the time it was my turn, I was definitely scared…finally it got to me and I shyly announced how I had climbed stairs …at a local hotel! Yep, the reaction was what you would expect…I am sure they thought “oh God, this American is going to hold us up”…I was determined not to be the slow one.
Later that morning we were met by a guide who was going to take us on a tour of Kathmandu. We first visited 2 Temples. The first was a Buddhist Temple nicknamed the Monkey Temple. The name says it all. The Monkeys run the place. There we got to enjoy a hazy view of Kathmandu Valley. Our guide gave us a bit of background on Nepal. He explained the caste system, the Royal Family and their recent murders and he answered any question on Nepal that we asked. I learned that the per capita income in Nepal is 280.00 a year!
After the Monkey Temple, we went to a Hindu Temple and watched a Cremation Ceremony next to the river. I have to say that the Hindu way of cremation makes more sense to me than the way we cremate…although, it is very up close and personal, it felt OK to watch…we walked in the funeral procession while they carried the body from their village to the river and then they performed a very ritualistic ceremony and then they placed the body wrapped but face uncovered onto the wood, poured river water into their mouth then do some more rituals and light the wood. It’s very different and I was surprised that I was able to watch…I found it very moving.
We met our Guides and they were very clear about explaining the difficulties of the trek and gave us very detailed information about Acute Mountain Sickness. They explained that if they determine we have Altitude sickness, we will be taken down the mountain for our safety. AMS includes serious headaches, insomnia, vomiting, swelling and a belief you can do more than you are able to do. This is a big fear of mine and I guess all of us.
Off tomorrow to start my Trek. So PLEASE pray for stamina for me…I already feel my muscles hurting.