Recalibrating the compass

It’s been a very busy Summer and Autumn for us. We had a great time in Bulgaria taking folk out in the mountains who both challenged and enjoyed themselves.

They were from across the age spectrum and ranged from complete novices to seasoned mountaineers. What they all shared was the common goal of exploring the Pirin with us.

A highlight was putting together a multi activity trip for Hexham Youth Initiative. A group of 12 young people and 2 Youth workers came to Bansko. Some of the young people had never travelled out of the UK before. They embraced Bulgaria, rose to the challenges of hiking, rock climbing and Mountain biking. All off set with a trip to the Bear Park, a BBQ in the forest and a trip to the hot mineral pools in Banya.

It was a great opportunity for us to work with others on the trip. The group were well looked after by Stephen Dainty at the now named, Le Retro Hostel and cafe and Niki Shatrov at Le Petit Nicolas in town. Trailsystem helped with the mountain bikes and the Bulgarian Mountain Rescue Service with the climbing.

After the Pirin, we went to Greece and spent 3 weeks fullfilling  a long time goal of ours. Both Jacqui and I qualified as yacht day skippers.

It was then time to get our heads back into the mountains and not just any mountains, but the Himalayas of Nepal.

…the chaos of Kathmandu

We joined a group in Kathmandu, made up of people with mixed trekking experience and all brought together by James Hughes, a well known Bansko hotelier at the Avalon and all round mountain man, who had visited Nepal many times, before heading off to the Annapurna Himal, with the intention of reaching both Machapuchare and Annapurna base camps.

This time, we were handing over the guiding to Bire Tamang and his very professional Nepalese team.

…Machapuchare base camp

The route wound its way up the valley and through numerous remote mountain villages. Predictably, as we climbed higher the weather became both colder and wetter. Early afternoon brought heavy rain, luckily on all but one occassion we’d completed the days walk and were ensconced for the remainder of the day under cover. We stayed on the way in Tea Houses. The food was great, plenty of choice, very tasty and plentiful. I recommend the Mo Mo’s, a boiled or sometimes deep fried dumpling, filled with vegetables or meat and Dhal Bhat, a traditional Nepalese Thali. The

…our guides Bire and Sonan

Accomodation was, on the whole, simple but fit for purpose. Don’t expect a room to yourself and definitely not a turn down service. I feel I should make a short reference to the loos – if you can’t squat, then don’t go…

Our evenings were spent reading and playing games. UNO was a particular favourite which even brought strangers to our card school.

The group coped well with the altitude and we all made it to Annapurna Base Camp.

Nepal was a fantastic country to visit. It had two separate identities. Still in a period of rebuilding following the devesating earthquake of 2015, Kathmandu  was manic. Roads had mainly no tarmac on them. They were heavily congested with traffic, from horse drawn carts, to lorries and buses rammed full of people. Progress was desperately slow.

Contrast this with the remote mountain regions, beautiful, well cared for towns and villages. Populated with people who always seemed to be smiling and happy to see you.

… sunrise over Machapuchare

This is a country desperate to rebuild. The numbers of  trekkers and travellers is on the rise following the earthquake. I for one have no hesitation in telling people to visit. The Nepalese people we met were eager to work on our behalf, which only served to make the trip even more memorable.

Definitely a trip which caused us to re evaluate our lives and recalibrate some of it… Namaste