11.01.2011 - 13.01.2011
The Trek: Day 1
Having packed all our essentials in big red duffle bags the night before, we headed downstairs, where a whole heap of men were waiting. Surely they're not all our porters? The blokes grabbed our red bags, and we followed them down the road to a bus. A classic scrappy but well loved type Nepali bus. We assumed it was a public bus, and that all the people on it were just locals, getting from A to B.
Turns out that all THIRTEEN people on that bus were coming with us! This was going to be a party! We seemed to have employed half a Nepali village by booking this hike. There were wives and daughters, and I don't know how many of the others were related too. Anyway, they were having a great time.
We were dropped off at some little town with our guide and a Sherpa, and we wandered down through the foggy forest to a lake. The lake that we couldn't even see, because everything was so white!
One of my favourite images of the whole trip was looking out across the lake, and seeing two specks appear through the white. They were rowboats, their drivers taking three strokes on one side, then 3 on the other. As they came closer, it became clear that they were actually racing, and laughing like crazy.
We then boarded boats ourselves, Bron, Joss and myself on one, and Philip, Susan, our guide and Sherpa on the other. We watched the sparrows skimming across the water and then weaving up in the air, mist rising in sheets and swirls from the lake.
After I'm not sure how long, we reached the other side, having passed a lot of silent forest and a small cluster of pale houses. We climbed up a little peninsula, and then up some more, into forest, through a tiny ridgetop village, all swept out immaculately as they all are, and down into a different valley. This one was filled with rice fields, only being winter, it was more just some fairly unexciting cattle pasture. The bottom of the valley was rice fields, and the slopes were forest, and we walked between the two, following the curving path around the fields past women washing clothes, boys building something wooden, baby chicks, goats tied up, tucking into some fresh fodder, and a heap of sarees, all laid out on a grassy bank to dry in the morning sun, when it finally got there.
Across the field, we walked past a school, a fairly noisy islanded building surrounded by dead rice stumps and silence. The kids inside were chanting something after a teacher, who, unlike her pupils, could actually sing. It was a sort of nursery rhyme, our guide explained.
We stopped for lunch on a terraced paddy on the other side of the valley. When we arrived, our food was already half cooked, pots puffing out steam, women scrubbing away at plates, and men making a big clutter of pots and pans, to allude to the amount of effort and skill that was going into our meal's preparation, I suspect.
The food was pretty carb-loaded, white and oily in style. I think there were some interesting coleslaw sandwiches, chips, pasta, and bananas. Deericious. They kept topping up our drinks, and gave us about 25 peoples' worth of seconds.
After a bit of a nap, we headed up, up, up, about 1,200 metres or so, through incredibly steep, but damp and cool forest, the noisy schoolchildren still echoing along the whole valley. Closest to us were Fishtail (Machuppichchu) and some Annapurnas, further around, some Ganeshs, yes, the same ones that I had seen from my hike 2 hours on the other side of Kathmandu. They are pretty big mountains.
Circling the mountain peak, we passed another huge primary school (where are all these kids coming from, the trees???), and a whole heap chased us about 20 minutes along the village path, as school had just finished for the day. The main three phrases used were 'Thees ees a .....!', 'What is your nem?' and 'Give me ....!'. Annoying, but so incredibly cute. The girls wear gorgeous navy dresses, all with red ribbons in their hair. The boys seem a bit more casual about the dress code. The uniform may have included red jumpers, or perhaps that was just a trend?
Up the hill and into the pine forest on top, we reached a clearing, where masala tea was, once again, all ready for us. As was our 'lounge room' (3 mats in a U shape) and 'dining room', a big white tent, and bedrooms, 3 spacious orange tents looking out over the mountains to the west. Gorgeous.
Bron, Joss and I sat/lay on the lounge room from whenever we arrived until sunset, before taking refuge from the cold inside our candle-lit dining room for dinner. There was a HUGE bowl of popcorn and pappadums, and they were just appetisers. OM NOM NOM. So much food. More momos than could be poked by any stick, as well as a whole heap of traditional dishes. Scumptious.
We got up for sunrise, my dready hair hidden under a white beanie, and the rest of me hidden beneath many layers because it wasn't a warm day. All the valleys were filled fog, so as the sun rose, they all lit up in the golden light, like a big golden doona. The mountains soon followed, gleaming white against a dusty blue morning sky.
That day, we wanted to get from one side of the valley to the other side, so it was more or less down lots, then up a fair bit, then along a bit. Our legs were wrecked after so much down hill, and pretty much everyone slipped at some stage, but eventually, we got to the bottom. Then some old woman started chasing us, maybe just yakking excitedly with our guide, but she sounded pretty heated up over something. Anyway, we were all fairly impressed that while we were gasping for breath, she was able to climb the same still, and talking so much that she wouldn't have had time to breathe! We passed ANOTHER school, this time a high school, halfway up, in a forest clearing. Kids must walk a very long way to school, here, because there very are few roads, but so many kids all attending the same school. We suspect this is why they start at 10am, not 9.
After lunch in a little terraced village, we wandered around the mountain, passed some suspicious buffalo, half-baby-half-chicken type chickens, and some very baby-sized goat kids. We camped on a sort of ridge-side peninsula of sorts, a fairly flat bit of land with a house hanging off the far end of it. There were more kids there, which Bron, Joss and I watched for about a thousand hours because they were ADORABLE. Our circus of porters, cooks, cleaners, entertainers and associates were already cooking up a storm near the house. They were also laughing quite a lot. More than I knew people who were working could.
Another lovely sunset, followed by a western dinner, and CAKE (how do you make cake the Himalayas? I don't know, but apparently anything's possible with these guys), we were off to bed, much to the disappointment of our entourage, because it meant they had to tone their party down.
Another cold morning and pretty sunrise. And those crazy big pancake bread sort of things they make here. I still don't really know what we did that morning, but we again, went down lots, across lots, up lots, across lots, ate despite being fuller than a kid on Christmas afternoon, then down some more. There was a lot of pretty forest, terraced rice fields, villages and villagers, and finally, a LAKE. Turns out we had actually done a perfect full loop over the last 3 days. After taking a happy snap of our crew, we all piled into a bus of similar ilk to the first one we took, before rolling, swerving and coughing our way back to Pokhara.
That afternoon, we made ourselves pretty, caught up with emails etc, napped, and recovered. Food. Sleep.