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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Poon Hill Express

Can one wake up in KTM at  600 AM; catch a 720 AM flight to PKR landing 20 mins later; hire a taxi right outside of the airport to get to Naya Pool by 10 AM; pick up a guide and a 4 by 4 jeep in minutes time along the way; drive up to Hile lasting 45 mins or so, then hit the trails; stopping for lunch at Ulleri then reach Ghorepani comfortably by 6 PM; go see the sunrise at Poon Hill the next morning; and trace it back to PKR same day; hike back down Ulleri catching the jeep back to Naya Pool and then to PKR; wingin' the hole trek in 2 days that used to take 5 days??? Is it possible. It actually is. I was with my partner and she just wanted to see the Himalayas from Poon Hill - hence!!!!

That is why naming this photo blog "Poon Hill Express" seems fitting. This could open up a whole new trekking idea for a certain group of tourists   (you know who!!!) who just want to get the selfies taken with Himalays in the backdrop and get back to their daily lives of McNuggets, tall Lattes and Snapchats in no time. Instant gratification is the new norm folks. Who has time??  Cable Car directly to ABC or EBC anyone? Just kidding. But Poon Hill with the altitude of  barely 11000 feet makes it possible for such a quick trip for there's little to no risk of altitude sickness. 

I have trodden these trails of Annupurna region before - so in terms of excitement it was not as much as when I was there back in 2011 - but Himalayas are always breathtaking, no matter what. What chronicles below is my photographic journey; what appeared before me as I put one foot in front of another to get there. My journey actually begins a day earlier in KTM.   No day by day account. Just some ramblings on the photos I took. Hope you like it. Click on any of the pics for larger views. 

What remains of once a lush green KTM valley! One can still see some patches of green and yellow  (mustard flowers and rice paddy mostly) here and there like these once you go to the valley perimeters. You can also see the KTM Airport runway near upper middle left of the photo. That was completely unintentional but once I was going through the photos noticed it. It was a misty morning. Hence the photo is not as sharp specially capturing hills on the background.   

Had it been manged well KTM valley could have been the one of most picturesque city in the world. This photo shows south east corner of the valley where it is not totally covered with ugly concrete buildings yet. But sadly  speaking- give another 10 years and ever expanding humanity will have ruined this place as well - with little to no government restrictions on who can build what and where.

A typical Nepalese woman you get to see on the outskirts of the valley. Less jeans and t-shirts and more traditional upkeep. She was chillin' at a temple that I was went to see called Santenswor - which sits on a top of a hill. She was friendly and did not mind me taking her photographs. I took other shots where she was smiling a bit more (and with no shadows on the face) but I chose to feature this photo because it had more character.

 God Dude!!!
Isn't it though?? If there ever was one.☺

I was pleased with this photo - I had forgotten to take along my full frame camera when I decided to visit this Swyambhunath temple at night. I used you my iPhone instead - and did a long exposure shot. For this long exposure to work I needed no monkeys bouncing around on the Stupa dome (which they were just moments earlier) and no selfie taking crowds photo bombing my frame. Notice the colorful prayer flags unfurled in light evening breeze. 

Nope it's not a poor WB setting but a rainbow as I was hiking up the steps of Ulleri. Rain had just stopped (at least where I was) and got to see this as I was trying to look for fishtail (Machhapuchhre) mountain on the horizon. On a hindsight I should have backed up my focal length a little to capture more of the mountains as a backdrop.

And a short while later clouds cleared just briefly enough to capture Mt. Machhapuchhre. Conditions were not ideal at all to capture any better shot than this  late in the  evening.

But conditions were decent for a close up photo. This our porter/guide Dai we picked up at Naya Pool. A humble and hardworking man in his mid 50s. We were happy to have met him and used his services.

People go to Poon Hill to see sunrise over Himalayas. This is Annapurna range with Machhapuchhre at the dawn break. As I would learn looking at my photos later -  morning time is not the best time to take photograph specially on a back light situation and with lot of moisture and fog in the atmosphere. You could own a Hasselblad and not do much with it - as it seemed.

 One might say you went all the way to Annapurna and got this lousy shot of Machhapuchhre?? Yup that morning there was not much option - again with the back light and misty morning. This mountain dominates the landscappe in Annapurna region similar to Amadablam in Everest region.

Start to see sun on Dhaulagiri Peak - world 7th highest mountain and tallest in this region. This moutain with its south face like a broad chest of a heavy weight wrestler looks rather intimidating. It looks a lot bigger than what this Panoramic Scale photo shows. See a photo taken in with 50 mm lens near the end below to get more realistic perception.

Sun started to sparkle top of Mt. Dhaulagiri more rapidly as sun rose through the horizon.
Switched to my favorite 135 mm/1.8 mm Carl Zeiss lens - this lens to me is never disappointing. For a such a low light and misty condition  - this lens would outdoes any so called high end Nikon and Cannon stuff out there.

This is South Annapunra - Himchuli Peak. Look at the color!!  Local sherpas call it  a Hikers Peak or a Day Peak. Sure - sign me up!!!

This is Mt. Dhaulagiri with it's little brother Tukche Peak

Same peaks about an hour later when sun was high in the sky. 

This was in Ghorepani. I saw this Gurung Dai with his little daughter inside a little pub called "Vatti" where porters stop by to "hoist a little". He didn't know I took this shot at first. I showed it to him and he shook his head liking what he saw.

Dhaulagiri range from almost at the bottom of Poon Hill with rhododendron bush in the foreground. I have heard that trekking is spring is really colorful. May be someday!!! This is with 50 mm lens - gives a more realistic perspective of how close this mountain looks.

Himchuli near bottom of Ghorepani as captured with my iPhone.

I tried the long exposure on this mountain stream just below Ghorepani but really didn't have a good angle unless I climbed down this steep stream.

An unmotivated mule - just chillin' on a mid-day sun

I tried to merge two photos taken earlier using PS. Not too bad of a result.

Another unmotivated mule - at steps of Ulleri - an iPhone shot

The instrument he is playing is called "Sarangi" - Nepalese violin that goes back centuries.  He makes them, plays them, sells them, sings along while playing them, sells CDs with his songs on them,  and he carries everything he sells in a big a duffle bag as he loiters on the banks of Fewa lake. It's a one man music industry - a nifty little entrepreneurship he got going. Hope what he earns make a decent living.

Nah - she was not posing for my photo - she was looking at me to see if I would buy her papaya as I sat on one of the outdoor bars  sippin' beer on the banks of Fewa lake  while shamelessly shooting anything that moved with my telephoto lens without moving the butt off the chair after two days of grueling hike. 

Story with this dude is that he is from India and was collecting "donations" so he could make a pilgrimage to Mukinath - near Jomsom between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna range. 

Oh what a cool customer she was!! She saw with my big lens from a far away and blew a kiss as she passed by. Did not have time to adjust - just took this shot in a hurry. 

Shot of Fewa lake, Captures the mood.

Thank you for visiting my page. See you on the trails!!!