Obviously I was either completely insane or a colossal moron to be attempting this trek to Annapurna Base Camp. The attachment of my achilles to my heel was dubious, I still had plantar fascitis in the same foot, and my left knee still hadn't recovered from my January surgery. But I was here, in Nepal, wasn't I? I couldn't just put my tail between my legs and retreat. I had to try. However stupid climbing 4000m in 6 days on bad wheels might be. (Yeah, I know. I have issues.)
|Annapurna South luring me forward|
Which is why I had originally intended to do the Annapurna circuit, which takes you all the way around the entire massif, through the dry Mustang plateau, over the Thorung La pass at 5416m (17,800'), and back down the other side. But with my bad wheels a 3-week trek going up and down mountains obviously was beyond stupidity, it bordered on delusion. I settled for the much easier 2-week trek going to Annapurna Base Camp!! And I had a secret weapon.
When proper trekkers, loaded with packs tromped by, they smiled at me. I knew it was a smirk, 'Look at this kook, he's in Nepal and instead of doing a real trek he's cheating on a donkey!' I looked like a douche. But it was OK, I usually look like a douche back home anyway. After several more staircases, the pony was really breathing hard and I could feel its little heart thudding. I read too many stories about horses going until their heart burst and dropping dead. So I got off, and walked for a good part of the day. But at the end, we were faced with a staircase of 2000 steps (according to our guide). It took an hour to climb for regular folks. I did my best, but about halfway up I felt a sharp stab in my ankle. Visions of a ruptured achilles spun in my head, followed by the idea of being hauled by donkeys for hours all the way back to the road. I got back on Kalu.
Little Engine that Could
And that's when he turned into Super-Pony. That little guy trudged up and up and up, it was steep enough to give people pause, but somehow my mountain goat-horse kept at it. It started to rain, the steep stone steps became slick. He slipped a few times, which is freaky when you are looking at thousand foot drop-offs, but I knew the old boy had it in him. Sweating, panting, heart thudding, on he climbed. I was in disbelief.
Finally we reached Ulleri, a little village perched on the top of a mountain. Super-pony had done it. Even though my achilles was burning, maybe I had a chance after all. And then it hit me. Kalu can only take people up steps. Not down. Doh.