Three days trekking out of Pokhara, Nepal. Flew in Sunday, October 26th, 2003. Permit office just before closing, wandering around town, food shopping, dinner with friends.
Trekking on 27th through 29th, flying back to KTM on afternoon of 29th. Back to PracticingInNepal
For information about trekking and other travel in nepal, contact Indra at [DamaruCulturalToursAndTravel], Kathmandu Nepal, 977-1-417032 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. He and his family will be glad to help you plan your trip and will take very good care of you while you are in Nepal. And to tell them I said hello!
DAY ONE: Phedi to Tolka, 7 miles, 4.5 hours walking (climbing), 3650 feet gain, 2250 feet descent
Woke at 430am for pre-trek sunrise outing, cancelled due to rain. Back to sleep then to one of many gear stores for rain pants. Had all but given up on trekking (for knees, logistics and political/security reasons) when I left KTM, so now have no gear with me in Pokhara. No sleeping bag, just nylon and light fleecy liners. No sun block, hat, shorts, bug goo, warm bottoms… not even a stuff sack for food or clothes. Pokhara was to be no adventure at all! So with the rain coming down I got the pants and caught a ride to Phedi. When we arrived at that place, a bustling little roadside market and apparently nothing much more than that, my driver points to a rough stone staircase winding up the mountainside, zig zag zig zag… and so it began. Here are some of the thoughts and events that passed with the miles (crossed), and feet (gained and lost)
…hundred rupees hundred rupees, a half dozen kids holding hands blocking the trail just 100 feet up this first staircase… chanting… hundred rupees hundred rupees… a plate of bills in front of them… sort of hindu halloween festival, all the kids in this mix of trick or treating and carolling in the towns, and demanding payment for passage here in the hills… this happens every ten minutes or so for two hours, each stop costing me my smallest bill… finally I have nothing smaller than a fifty and I’m not sure I’ve brought enough for food and lodging and taxi back to town… at the last of these festival extortion booths I say ‘no change’ and look helpless, and one kid goes and gets change… this is last day of festival, and blocked route, but the rupees-sweets-shoes-no-parents-help-me requests go on all three days from children of all sizes.
…just past the kids a woman holds up on of many walking sticks… forty rupees forty rupees… seems like a better deal than I got with the kids, at least I’d have something solid to show for my money… so I buy the stick… later I think she’s probably saved my life for forty rupees… I count only 200 steps down in three hours of walking… the rest is up up up… mostly stone steps… and it really does seem like it could go up forever… through jungle and rice paddy and jungle pasture… but how do they know who’s cow is who’s? and how do they find them once they’re out here wandering in the jungle?
…after 3 hours, lunch of dal bhat, heaping plate of rice, lentils, beans, and hot pickled goo, for 90 rupees, at trekkers oasis atop the ridge, 3000 feet above where I started… view of pokhara far below and beyond… eventually I give up the view and walk another 1.5 hours…much of it down, steeply… knees hold out and sun is much hotter than expected… not sure what water I can drink… or what food is safe… gotta wonder about the live chickens in the kitchen… but how do they get the bed sheets so white? I stay at first guest house in Tolka, with a clear view of hulking, snowcapped annapurna south… wait for more than an hour for another way-too-big helping of dal bhat and not enough water… over sunned but not feeling particularly overworked… belly a bit unsettled in a heat exhaustion sort of way… having arrived one hour faster than predicted by maps and trekker boards along the way… brushing my teeth in the dark, watching two porters come up the trail with giant baskets of stuff on their backs and a single torch to cut the moonless pitch.
…3:22am music, singing, drums, talking, CD on a boom box blaring… outside my door… my hosts last words were “use the bolt on your door” so I’m not even sure I can go out and see them safely… just days earlier it was not even safe to come out here, so there’s really no telling just now what this is… my hosts are not the partying sort and they don’t seem able to end this racket… so I lie awake making peace and trying to appreciate this strange loud music… glad that at least they have a really good boom box, so this horrible racket was actually a pretty decent quality of sound… which went on unbelievably until 4:49am… (the starting and ending points were just that clear and memorable!) …I learned from some others that these characters had started at the other end of Tolka at 7pm and worked their way all through the village… talk about being on the wrong side of town… slept well for another couple hours… in a dream I met madonna working in a burger king in some shopping mall… I remember feeling sorry for her… go figure.
DAY TWO: Tolka to Ghandruk, maybe all of 4 miles, but 1850 feet down then 2650 up, in more hours than it should have taken… maybe 4.5, including an hourlong stop in the middle, to hide from a searing sun.
…unsettled belly… small meusli breakfast… later start… clear blue sky… the way down goes easily and shadily enough… gorgeous views of annapurna south and other big mountains… not in the distance… but able to see the whole of them, bottom to top, and they still are SO far away because they’re just that massive… I notice that I have no desire to “get up on top” …that I’ve reached some sort of limit… finally something I see that I don’t want to go climb… might be my belly rumblings wearing me down or might be that I’ve found something just too damn big to consider climbing… I reckon the latter… along the way the tea stops are just coming to life… like new york city mornings when every building seems to have a guy out front hosing down the sidewalk… getting ready for the day… the west side of the mountain, east side of the valley, still in the shade… the last tea stop I pass has a hand-drawn welcome message posted, signed “-cpn (maoist)” …somewhere I’ve crossed the line between these warring factions, maoists and govt.
…I get down to the river and start up up up and quickly discover that I’ve not gotten near enough salt in me the night before… salt is actually very scarce up here, one of the few things these farming people need to bring in from below… so halfway up I am moving from shade to shade, having to rest and cool each chance I get… no sun hat, but wetting a bandana on my head when I can… people I’d passed the day before creeping by me… finally I take refuge in the shade of a shuttered school building… and resort to eating straight gomashio (sea salt, garlic and sesame seeds)… not really worried here… just not sure at all how long it’s gonna take to get up this wall… by the time I get into a guest house in Ghandruk, I can only nap for a couple of hours… blood pressure feels surprisingly low when I wake and mind wonders (without any worry) what would happen if anything went really wrong here… a giant rainbow plunges into the valley out my window, it’s not until the airport the next day that I realize that it might be the closest I’ve ever been to a rainbow, but at that moment it was a bit of a non-event… first fluids I can take is sips of mango juice, hoping it’s clean… then I eat a plate of well-salted french fries and a little bit of pizza… more nap before watching annapurna south and other peaks turn orange at sunset… the whole scene is a bit beyond comprehension and my thoughts wander… a “nice girl and a house in the suburbs” suddenly starts to sound pretty good…
…returning to bed at 6pm… belly finally resolving a bit, systems seem to be returning to function, catching up on their work… encouraging too that I’ve not had any stiffness or soreness in legs, back, etc. and no real trouble with connective tissue injuries of just two weeks ago…
DAY THREE: Ghandruk to Nayapul, 6 or 7 miles, down 3000 feet then up maybe 250 to the road back to Pokhara, four hours walking and resting, belly still seems to be sapping more energy than it’s generating.
…that could be because I’ve still not putting much into it… straight water doesn’t sit well… a few “glucose cookies” [wheat flour, sugar, HVO(?), liquid glucose, SMP(?), invert syrup(?), salt (yeah!), permitted emulsifiers(?), flavoring, anit-oxidants and leavening agents, etc. (etc?!)] was all i could handle for breakfast and then not much else until I get almost out… then a small pack of pringles, glorious salt! …and then an hour and a half back to Pokhara I a taxi, for the equivalent of $12…
…on the walk out of the valley and drive back into town, there is more time for reflection… marvelling at how these remote farmers and vendor are so closely wired into the movements of the world economy, the steady flow of trekkers and rupees for salt, fuel, and the candies and sodas and other food they sell… marvelling so many times along the way at how old this all feels, sometimes it makes ireland seem just out-of-the-box fresh and new… noticing that I am more of a hiker than a trekker, preferring to come out and be alone with my tent and the mountains rather than bombarded with begging and bartering in a busy but foreign community… having all but bumped into the annapurna range, I think I must really have found the far end of my world, almost exactly 12 timezones from home, run up into the final wall that I will not climb… like I can go home and enjoy hiking around isle royale and colorado that much more for having reached this limit… and noticing that in the end that is why I come out here, to find and test limits… noticing how quickly I move to them, this trip in just a few days it seems to topographical, physical, emotional, and other edges… yes, or maybe i'm just getting older and the limits are closer! ...the magnitude of this landscape and the power and poverty of the people here blow my boundaries wide open… and then there are the guys in pleated dress slacks, black polished shoes and fresh shirts, sometimes walking with women in stunning silks, walking along this barn-stinking pack trail that runs miles up into the hills, but why, how, where, huh? I gotta stop hiking in the jungle.
…on the way into Pokhara we are stopped by the military-police checkpoint… while waiting in the line of cars two guys go past on a motorcycle, the guy in back is carrying a mid-sized goat in his lap… a quick shower and off to the airport… an airline name to fit almost any world view… skyline, gorkha, yeti, buddha, cosmic… there are not flight announcements, everybody just watches to see which plane is on the tarmac… the clock is stuck at exactly seven o’clock, but we all keep looking at it… eventually onto a 15-person plane… feels a bit more at the mercy of the winds than usual, flying over green mountain tops, low enough to count small windows in remote villages, but still far below the great white peaks in the northern distance… back in time for dinner and email at bairoling monastery.
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