Great thanks to the awesome: www.bolivianmountainguides.com. I was very happy and impressed with their service and professionalism.
The ancient ruins of Tiwanaku are located in Bolivia, near Lake Titicaca, at an altitude of almost 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level, making it one of the highest urban centers ever constructed. The city reached its peak between roughly A.D. 500 and A.D. 1000 and had at least 10,000 people living in it. At this point only a small portion of the city has been excavated.
Some remarkable artifacts have been discovered and examined at Tiahuanaco, not the least of which was a large monolithic Sun Gate which must have been an important part of the Kalasasaya, the chief temple of the ancient city. Its upper part is covered with an intricate sculpture that has been described as a calendar almost as long as the monolithic gateway. In fact, the Sun Gate has also been called the Calendar Gate. This calendar sculpture depicts a solar year, but not one that fits into the solar year as we know it.
The Grand Brazeau
See photos of the Annapurna Sanctuary taken from a helicopter flight
October 31, 2017 Marfa Tatopani 1,190m – Shita 1,935m
We hired a jeep in Marfa to take Walid, Diana, Kumar and me to Tatopani and to take David and Gilles to Pokhara. We left Marfa early in the morning and arrived in Tatopani around 12.30 pm. We drove through the Kali Gandaki gorge, which is the deepest gorge in the world. We had fantastic views of the Dhaulagiri east face and the spectacular icefall that I saw from the Mesocanto Pass in 2011. We also had dramatic views of the gorge with steep drop-offs to the raging river below.
We reached the dusty and dumpy Tatopani where we had a good lunch and some decent pastry. After lunch, Diana, Walid and I hugged and said tearful goodbye to David and Gilles, then started our Annapurna Sanctuary trek. I was not in the mood for more walking as my body was in the “relaxation mode” already. Without doing any prior research, I was anticipating an easy stroll to the Sanctuary, 3 days max on a flat trail, as it was one of the most popular treks in Nepal. No problem! I could do it in my sleep without trying. Just a side hop to the Sanctuary and back. Right…
My naïve assumptions were shattered fast. After lunch we started walking up to Shita. It was hot, shirt-drenching humid, overcast and muggy. We walked passed the really dumpy Tatopani hot spring (Tatopani in Nepalese means hot water). We walked up some shortcuts between the twists and turns in the road for 700 vertical meters. I was drenched in sweat. The walk was rather boring but some of the late afternoon views were nice. We could see higher peaks obscured by the afternoon clouds. We arrived in Shita in late afternoon to a busy teahouse. The teahouse was packed and the place had a completely different feel from the Dhaulagiri circuit that I just finished. It was a busy, commercialized and very touristy part of Nepal. Kind of Shitty, Shita style.
November 1, 2017 Shita – Ghorepani 2,900m
We walked up for another 900m on a stone staircase all the way to Ghorepani. Step after step, stairs all the way. There was not much to see, although we did walk through some nice villages with friendly locals. Overall the place was very clean and well-marked. The beautiful Dhaulagiri massif dominated the skyline. Had this been my first trek in Nepal, I would probably be very impressed. Given my recent experience though, it was just a place to walk through. A good example of hedonic adaptation.
The walk to Ghorepani was very fast for me as I was well acclimatized. I covered the distance in 2.5 hours and had to wait for Walid and Diana for almost an hour. In Ghorepani we passed the time by sitting around in the crowded teahouse with a couple from Spain and watching Walid entertaining the patrons. Ghorepani is a collection of modern large teahouses or hotels targeting mass tourism. The village is only a one-day walk from the road to Pokhara and thus it is very popular.
In the teahouse, I made a mistake of eating a fresh salad and got quite sick. Since I did not feel well, I did not have the energy to walk up to Poon Hill for the fabled sunrise view. It turned out that it was a good thing, as Poon Hill was crawling with people like an anthill. There were hundreds of people in a small space competing for a photo of the same view. So far this trek had too many people but it was to be expected.
November 2, 2017 Ghorepani – Torapani 2,710m
I got up this morning to walk to Poon Hill but I could not do it. I turned around and walked back to the hotel against the mass of humanity making their way up the hill. The stomach affliction drained the energy out of me completely. After Diana returned from the Poon Hill, we set off to Torapani, 5 hours away.
I was wondering how on earth I would be able to do it as I was operating at 15% capacity. First, the crowds heading out of Ghorepani were overwhelming: shoulder to shoulder in a long lineup of hikers so tightly packed that it was impossible to pass any of them.
It was horrible walking up the hill feeling sick and weak. I had to stop often as I was completely drained of energy. The views were nice and pastoral but compared to what we saw in Dhaulagiri, it was nothing special. I was hoping that the Annapurna basecamp was worth the trouble of getting to. I wanted to do this trek for a long time to cross it off my list. I started to realize that it was not really a wilderness experience but an experience in crowd walking with crowded teahouses, souvenir stalls and so-so views.
We arrived in Torapani in late afternoon. In Torapani we stayed at the Annapurna Guest House, a dumpy place but with a bed and that was all I needed. I slept well all night and I regained most of my energy.