Nepal

Approaching the Himalayas was a bit like riding a roller coaster -- up down, up down, over and over and over. Of course, the general trend was up. Pokhara lies at about 1,000 meters, where I stored my bicycle at a local "hotel" and rented a backpack. I wanted to see if hauling a bicycle over the mountains was even possible, and the best way to do that was on foot. 
Sarangkot lies 1,000 meters straight up from Pokhara, where I got my first glimpse of the Annapurna masif. I had a permit to trek to Annapurna base camp, at almost 5,000 meters, and my plan was to spend about ten days getting there and back.
Things got, well . . . pretty high pretty quick! I had bought some cold weather gear in Pokhara, and I needed every last stitch. Even the sunglasses were an absolute necessity.
I was surprised to meet several other trekkers along the way, and I learned that more than 100 people had started the popular trek to Annapurna base camp that week. A couple of professional rock climbers from Japan snapped these shots.
Things got sort of ugly at the 3,500 meter mark. I later learned it was one of the worst avalanche seasons on record, and nine trekkers died that week on the Annapurna trek. This is a French woman being carried back down by sherpas after breaking her leg.
The crowd thinned out fast. Someone was breaking trail ahead of me, but no more than a few people made those tracks.
And here they are -- three ski instructors from Germany, along with a sherpa they hired to lead the way. They wanted me to know how lucky I was that they broke trail for me.
We stopped for the night at Machapuchare base camp, an altitude of about 4,000 meters, where we were soon joined by the Japanese rock climbers. When I started out the next morning, the others had already begun the last leg up to Annapurna.
I could see their tracks in the snow below me. When I finally caught up to them, they gave me the "breaking trail" speech again.
But . . . upon closer inspection -- that's the sherpa in the lead, followed by the Japanese rock climbers, and the ski instructors are last!
Finally, Annapurna base camp at 4,100 meters. I later learned that, aside from sherpas, only six people arrived at base camp that dreadful avalanche season: three German ski instructors, two professional rock climbers fromTokyo, and one American cyclist.
But the trek showed me the folly of trying to make it through the mountains with a bicycle. Thankfully, I learned of another way. The Karakoram Highway stretches through northern Pakistan, over the Karakoram mountains, then into China. And you don't even need three Germans to break trail!


On to Pakistan