Sunday, January 15, 2012

Annapurna 100: Ride to Pokhara

Kathmandu valley

Descent after passing hills surrounding the valley..

Annapurna range...

 Range right of Annapurna
 Stopped for fuel.
 The bridge where we had to walk to get to Pokhara.
 Machapuchare up close.
 View of the blockade.
 It's a festive atmosphere in Pokhara for new year's eve.

 Registration for the race

Woke up around 4:30am. It was freezing as usual. I had the bag packed last night. The bus, coordinated by Roger, leaves Summit Hotel at 6am. Using the Hotel's request, I got a taxi to get me there. That cost 600nr.

Not many were still up when I reached. The runners who stayed there had breakfast before the ride. It seems like many participants who were joining this race have strong credentials. The french guy Sylvain Bazin, had done UTMB, and said there's harder mountain races in France apart from that. Tori, had climbed Aconcagua, a peak of 6962m in South America. Then there's the italian couple who lives in the mountainous northern region of Italy. In terms of altitude, I have yet to even reached the highest peak in Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu.

I secured a right view seat, just to get a closer look at possible mountains & valleys. As the bus heads westwards & up above Kathmandu valley, the scenes of locals minding their own morning life came into view. The outer region of the city has a few brick factories, with tall chimneys spewing up smoke, which was another source of pollution.

After reaching the top of the hills, it was descent, most of the time. It was a clear day, and some snow caped peaks were in view. They seemed distant. On the right of us, were deep vertical drops of a few hundred meters the least.

It took at least 6 hours to get to Pokhara. We've had some hiccups at a small town. Seems like the Maoist internal faction were creating trouble by blocking the main road. At one moment, a guy stormed the bus, and asked 2 locals who were in the bus, runners I assumed, to get off the bus. Tourist were actually exempted. But Roger quickly brushed them off saying they were guides.

As we reached Pokhara, the same group, this time created more blockade with some buses, parked diagonally across the streets just before a bridge. It was a ruinous moment. So, we all left the bus and proceeded to walk the next few km. We hardly walked a few hundred meters, when we boarded another bus from the other side to Pokhara. Our bags will come later.

From Pokhara, the Annapuran Massif, and Annapurna II & IV views were impressive. This was the first time for me looking at snow caped mountains up close. The idea of running there was tantalizing, yet I am still worried if I could stand the cold or the altitude.

Upon reaching Pokhara, we have to get off just before entering the city, as it was geared for new year's celebration the next day. Finally, after some walking, we reached Barahi Hotel.

I met up with Mr Yong Yuen Cheng from Singapore at the venue during registration. He wasn't the only Singaporean. Katja Fink, who stayed there, was also in the race. She was the first lady in TMBT 100k in Sabah.

The briefing was conducted by Roger Henke and Ramesh Battachan. Race starts at 5:30am There will be 2 cut off times. One at 12pm at Gandruk, and another at Tadapani at 4:30pm for the 100k runners. For 70k runners, one must reach Gandruk before 2pm before being allowed to continue up to Ghorepani.

We were given maps as well. The course were designed such that you can sign up for 100km, but if you decided to do 70km, you can just cut across to Tadapani, and if you want to do 50km only, a descent to Birethati from Gandruk for 10km will complete that. Gandruk is only 40k into the race, and according to Roger, most of runners will ultimately decide the next due course, upon reaching there. The race ends at 12midnight

After the briefing, we still have to wait for the bags to arrive. I haven't booked the hotel in Pokhara, and was a bit worried. I have met with Dana, a fast talking Australian doctor, who was doing his housemanship in Kathmandu. I managed to get a booking at the hotel (Three Sisters) he's staying.

While walking there, even his pace was fast. Upon reaching the hotel, I found out the room was given to someone else. Luckily, Mr Yong has mentioned he had a spare bed. Finally I stayed there, which was a better idea, as it was real close to the starting line. Three Sisters is a 20 minute walk.

It had been a long day, with the bus journey & briefing. Sleep wasn't easy with the sounds of new year's celebration in Pokhara's street.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yip. reading ur entries makes me want to go international, and long. haha.. first feel was in Sundown 100km. more to come. all the best in all ur future endures (races). just stay away from unwanted injuries!! eid mubarak dear friend !