Many of you, like me, read in the Travel Section of the NYTimes this week that they’re building a road into the beautiful Annapurna Circuit, which I traversed in 1999. Here is the link if you wish to read it. The lead photo is exactly like one I took on Poon Hill facing the magnificent 26,795 ft. Dhaulagiri peak.
I must say, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, that I’m glad I laid eyes on Nepal and on Kathmandu, and trekked into Annapurna, Kangchenjunga, and Everest Base Camp before it turned into an out-of-control haven for tourists. Those were the days when you went there to be IN the mountains, not just to look at them from a jeep. There were the broken-down buses with their hangers-on that labored over treacherous mountain passes to get you to a trailhead, and there were well-worn trails to get you into the wilderness. You struggled, you huffed and puffed, and you grooved on the excitement of a possible snowstorm as you climbed up the Thorong La (17,500 ft) at 3 AM and ran down the other side like a mountain goat, so relieved to have made in over the top and survived.
The only way you got to Muktinah, the Kandiki Valley, Manang, Chame, or Tatopani was on foot, just as the Nepalis did. This was even more so on the difficult 30-day Kangchenjunga trek where you could look down on the Jannu Glacier from Kampachen and risk a “yak attack” from thundering mountain herds at sunset. Sometimes our small group walked on paths the width of a single foot, tamped into the side of mountains, right after the original trail had been washed out by an avalanche of falling rocks. We walked through isolated villages and used the footpaths of the locals. We slept in our own tents, since there were no public teahouses at that time (1996). We made friends with local policemen and children and grandmothers. It was joyous! We felt part of Nepal, not an isolated group of tourists.
As Ethan Todras-Whitehill, the author of the disturbing Times article put it: Trekkers want places where only their own feet can take them.
Here, just for old times sake, are some of my happy memories of Annapurna and the pristine Himalayas in days of yore.
Children greeted me with Namaste and took me to their home
Tibetan woman with her child, living in the valley. This was her first photo, she told me.
M/P., Kalu, and Denise kicking up our heels on top of Poon Hill
Leaving Manang and heading for Thorong La (the pass)