Thursday, March 14
The sky was overcast when we arrived at camp, so we didn't see Annapurna South behind our campsite. With the clear morning we took lots of pictures of the morning light striking the mountain top while the porters packed. We enjoyed pancakes and porridge for breakfast. Sean had instant soup (which we brought with us).
We hiked from Dhampus (5,413') to Pothana (6,236') and then to Deurali (6,890') for lunch. Dev called Sean's basket the "ambulance basket" and provided the sound effects that went with it, so Sean decided it was fun to get carried. Dev had a workout! For lunch we had Tibetan bread, curried potatoes, sardines (which Sean liked!), salad, baked beans, apples, and orange drink. They even made Sean a fried egg! The staff dotes on Sean, especially the head cook (Balaram) who has a 6 year old daughter and 2 year old son.
The trail to Tolka was very slick and dropped to 5,085'. Our campsite in Landruk was in the yard of another hotel. However this spot was a main passageway through town. Lots of children from the town came to see Sean, who played Frisbee with the guides and porters. Some local children joined the game and the Frisbee ended up on the hotel roof across the "street". Wandi climbed up the balcony and used a long bamboo pole to knock it down.
Sean showed some kids High Hopper, his rabbit puppet. Even the adults loved watching the puppet. We walked through town with the rabbit and some of the kids may have thought it was real. Sean showed real patience letting everyone work the puppet and getting some of the shy kids to pet High Hopper.
While Sean was working on his journal he attracted quite a crowd. Many adults liked to come up and try to read his journal as he wrote. When he got out his math book, he must have had 15 kids and adults surrounding him. They sat there for 1 hour while he added and subtracted numbers! Then Sean joined a small group of boys playing volleyball with a tennis ball and no net. They played well together until the boy who owned the ball went home.
Dinner consisted of: vegetable soup, fried rice, potatoes, chicken (carried live into camp by Balaram and Wandi), an egg for Sean, and mango for dessert. Natang told us that the chickens cost $9 each! They were very tough and scrawny - not Frank Perdue's type of chicken.
It sprinkled a little, but the dogs were quiet. I slept until 6:00 AM - a new record! Sean has been sleeping well. I think the hiking and running around with the kids helped tire him out.
Friday, March 15
The cloud cover lifted and we were treated to another spectacular view of Annapurna South. We ate breakfast watching the morning light hit the mountains. Breakfast consisted of: Muselix, eggs, and toast. Sean had instant soup. He is eating well, which makes the cooks and guides happy.
We hiked 1,000' down to the river and up the next slope to Ghandruk (6,362'), one of the few villages that has electricity. It was a climb of 2,400'. Wandi carried Sean on some of the steep uphill. We had lunch at our campsite, which has a great view of the mountains. Clouds covered them most of the afternoon - but we did get some great views of fishtail! Because we got into camp so early and the weather was warm, we washed some of our clothes and they were dry by nightfall.
For lunch we had water buffalo salami, yak cheese, French fries, freshly fried pita bread, salad, and baked beans. Gene wasn't feeling well and didn't eat. There was lots of food left over! Sean also got a hard-boiled egg.
We spent the afternoon walking around Ghandruk. This was a large village and the kids were more aggressive. They would not let Sean alone and reduced him to tears at one point. Bill started one of his extended fantasy stories and Sean's mood improved dramatically. We eventually found the Annapurna Conservation Agency, but the person in charge was out to lunch. Since we wanted to learn the status of trekking in the sanctuary, we hung out by the helicopter landing pad until someone returned. Sean played with his toys and we watched high school kids play volleyball, soccer, and basketball. Gene took a nap. Bill asked a woman sitting on the steps of the agency if the sanctuary was opened. She said it was but we had no idea who this woman was. I suspect she was a cook that was reading the paper on the steps, but Bill and Gene heard what they wanted to hear. They will be very disappointed if we can't get to the sanctuary!
We will be in the clouds tonight - which has Sean excited! Three Rhesus monkeys came to the edge of our campsite. They were very shy and didn't stay long. Across the ridge a troop of Langur monkeys played. They had very long tails, black faces surrounded by white fur, and were quite large. We watched them climb trees and wrestle with one another. They would knock each other down the steep cliff until their fall was broken by grabbing some grass clumps. A large male ate leaves in a neighboring tree while the others cavorted. There must have been 20-25 members in the troop.
We worked on journals and Sean begged to do his math book. He is not a normal kid! Then we played cards until dinner time. A herd of brightly decorated donkeys came up the trail. They all had loud bells around their necks and the first 3 had huge headdresses on.
For dinner we ate: egg-drop soup, rice with tomato/vegetable sauce on the side, tempura potatoes, garlic/herb potatoes, carrots and green beans, and fruit cocktail. Afraid that Sean was not eating enough (he never eats large quantities of food), the cook made him a hard-boiled egg as well.
The mountain across from our campsite stopped the huge clouds from coming our way. The cumulus clouds were illuminated orange during the sunset. Then we were treated to a spectacular lightning show.
It got quite cold with the wind blowing and we all put on several layers to keep warm. By 7:00 Sean was ready for bed. Because we camped below town there were no electric lights to dim our view of the stars. Sean finally got to see a sky full of stars.