Early to bed, early to rise

One of the tea houses where Sari stayed. Picture by Sari MacKenzie
Sari attempting to carry porter Arjun’s load the way he does it — with a strap around the head. Picture by Sari MacKenzie
Rhododendrons, the national flower. Picture by Sari MacKenzie
Prayer wheels on a mani stone wall in a village. Picture by Sari MacKenzie
Sari on the trail above a sheer drop. Picture by Sari MacKenzie
A bridge over a river on the trek. Picture by Sari MacKenzie
The kitchen in a tea house. Picture by Sari MacKenzie

Gisborne physician Sari MacKenzie shares her adventures while trekking the Annapurna Circuit from Besisahar to Pokhara in Nepal, considered one of the best treks in the world. Here’s the second of a series about her 17-day, 273km expedition which took her over the 5400m-high Thorung La Pass.

Today we went from Gyunche to Chame which is at 2660 metres. The landscape changed from rice fields to beautiful forests of pine and oak. Unfortunately we had no views of major peaks yet due to cloud cover and light rain.

The temperatures changed from a hot 25 degrees Celsius to 0 degrees so my down jacket and gloves came out.

We passed through traditional villages with long mani stone walls with prayer wheels, porters carrying heavy loads of construction material and rhododendrons which are the national flower. Wheat and barley fields and apple trees were in bloom.

In this remote village it takes a year to build a 1000-square-metre house, which would cost about $80,000 USD or $122,132NZD. Multiple families live in such dwellings and pay rent to the wealthier owners.

I felt good on the track today with no achiness anywhere yet, but I was tired by 7pm. I was doing 30 minutes of yoga each morning which I think helped keep any muscle stiffness at bay.

Sleep became very disturbed the higher we climbed so I tried to get eight hours even if it was interrupted.

For dinner, I had the national dish, momos, which are steamed dumplings along with lots of good ginger tea to keep me warm.

Off to bed by 7pm for an early start.

Next day was another fabulous day. We hiked about seven hours ending up at Lower Pisang, around 3200 metres. It was sunny and about 10 degree C. I also hiked up to a centuries’ old stone monastery which was beautiful. The electricity and solar power were turned off at 4pm so I rested up, read my book and had another early night.

Some useful information about the trek:

My guide Niraj had a set plan for the whole trip and advised me each day about the distance and degree of difficulty. He made sure I was drinking four to five litres of fluid a day. He also advised me on good food choices. People can get local ‘Everest’ beer or really expensive wine on the trail but I didn’t drink any alcohol — just a lot of tea!

We had breakfast at 7am, (three eggs and a pancake or toast), lunch (dahl bhat, the national dish) at noon, and dinner (usually dahl bhat again or a vegetable curry) at 6pm. We did not snack in between.

As we got to higher elevations, hydration and nutrition became even more important. Signs of altitude sickness start with headache, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite then vomiting and shortness of breath. It is life-threatening.

Niraj, in his 11 years as a guide, said he only had to do one rescue of a Swedish couple. He didn’t take any chances and was always checking on how I was doing. When we get over 4000 metres, I’m sure he will be doing 15-minute checks.

I learned many things on the trek. The average doctor makes about $500 USD or $764 NZD per month. Healthcare is free but scarce especially in the rural areas.

The average life expectancy is 68. The major causes of morbidity and mortality are COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease),not just from cigarettes but environmental smoke and pollution, heart disease, pneumonia, diarrhoea illnesses, suicide, TB, diabetes, road injuries and pre-term labour. Maternal morbidity (complications at birth) is high as 95 percent of births occur at home. Malnutrition is rampant with iron and vitamin A deficiency being common. Immunisation efforts are well received and paying off apparently.

This is a poor country but the people are very kind and hardworking. Though the villages looked ramshackle, the people take pride in keeping them neat and clean and as colourful as possible. I didn’t see lots of litter or junk lying about in yards.

The local people don’t want you to take their pictures and it is rude to do so without permission so I tried to get volunteers. They also expect modesty in dress and to never use your left hand to handle food.

When giving or receiving goods, as a show of respect you should have both hands lightly clasped. Namaste is used like the Maori word Kia Ora in that it can mean hello, thank you or welcome or goodbye. If said respectfully, it is done with two hands in prayer position. The children yelled Namaste to us as they ran past.

Another observation. I read that public displays of affection between the opposite sexes is a no-no but it is not unusual to see men holding hands. I saw this in Kathmandu and noticed Niraj and Arjun doing it as they chatted away and laughed. I have no idea what they were talking and laughing about but it made me happy anyway. Namaste

• To be continued

Gisborne physician Sari MacKenzie shares her adventures while trekking the Annapurna Circuit from Besisahar to Pokhara in Nepal, considered one of the best treks in the world. Here’s the second of a series about her 17-day, 273km expedition which took her over the 5400m-high Thorung La Pass.

Today we went from Gyunche to Chame which is at 2660 metres. The landscape changed from rice fields to beautiful forests of pine and oak. Unfortunately we had no views of major peaks yet due to cloud cover and light rain.

The temperatures changed from a hot 25 degrees Celsius to 0 degrees so my down jacket and gloves came out.

We passed through traditional villages with long mani stone walls with prayer wheels, porters carrying heavy loads of construction material and rhododendrons which are the national flower. Wheat and barley fields and apple trees were in bloom.

In this remote village it takes a year to build a 1000-square-metre house, which would cost about $80,000 USD or $122,132NZD. Multiple families live in such dwellings and pay rent to the wealthier owners.

I felt good on the track today with no achiness anywhere yet, but I was tired by 7pm. I was doing 30 minutes of yoga each morning which I think helped keep any muscle stiffness at bay.

Sleep became very disturbed the higher we climbed so I tried to get eight hours even if it was interrupted.

For dinner, I had the national dish, momos, which are steamed dumplings along with lots of good ginger tea to keep me warm.

Off to bed by 7pm for an early start.

Next day was another fabulous day. We hiked about seven hours ending up at Lower Pisang, around 3200 metres. It was sunny and about 10 degree C. I also hiked up to a centuries’ old stone monastery which was beautiful. The electricity and solar power were turned off at 4pm so I rested up, read my book and had another early night.

Some useful information about the trek:

My guide Niraj had a set plan for the whole trip and advised me each day about the distance and degree of difficulty. He made sure I was drinking four to five litres of fluid a day. He also advised me on good food choices. People can get local ‘Everest’ beer or really expensive wine on the trail but I didn’t drink any alcohol — just a lot of tea!

We had breakfast at 7am, (three eggs and a pancake or toast), lunch (dahl bhat, the national dish) at noon, and dinner (usually dahl bhat again or a vegetable curry) at 6pm. We did not snack in between.

As we got to higher elevations, hydration and nutrition became even more important. Signs of altitude sickness start with headache, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite then vomiting and shortness of breath. It is life-threatening.

Niraj, in his 11 years as a guide, said he only had to do one rescue of a Swedish couple. He didn’t take any chances and was always checking on how I was doing. When we get over 4000 metres, I’m sure he will be doing 15-minute checks.

I learned many things on the trek. The average doctor makes about $500 USD or $764 NZD per month. Healthcare is free but scarce especially in the rural areas.

The average life expectancy is 68. The major causes of morbidity and mortality are COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease),not just from cigarettes but environmental smoke and pollution, heart disease, pneumonia, diarrhoea illnesses, suicide, TB, diabetes, road injuries and pre-term labour. Maternal morbidity (complications at birth) is high as 95 percent of births occur at home. Malnutrition is rampant with iron and vitamin A deficiency being common. Immunisation efforts are well received and paying off apparently.

This is a poor country but the people are very kind and hardworking. Though the villages looked ramshackle, the people take pride in keeping them neat and clean and as colourful as possible. I didn’t see lots of litter or junk lying about in yards.

The local people don’t want you to take their pictures and it is rude to do so without permission so I tried to get volunteers. They also expect modesty in dress and to never use your left hand to handle food.

When giving or receiving goods, as a show of respect you should have both hands lightly clasped. Namaste is used like the Maori word Kia Ora in that it can mean hello, thank you or welcome or goodbye. If said respectfully, it is done with two hands in prayer position. The children yelled Namaste to us as they ran past.

Another observation. I read that public displays of affection between the opposite sexes is a no-no but it is not unusual to see men holding hands. I saw this in Kathmandu and noticed Niraj and Arjun doing it as they chatted away and laughed. I have no idea what they were talking and laughing about but it made me happy anyway. Namaste

• To be continued

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you agree with the Government’s new guideline for police, to not prosecute drug users when a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial or there is no public interest in prosecution?