Monday, June 2, 2008

Hiking in Nepal: Annapurna, Dhampus, Pothana, Deurali, Ghandruk, Kmrong Pana, Chomrong, Kulditigar (Part VII)

Wednesday, March 20

It was 25 degrees at 7:00 AM. Bill's wash rag and socks froze within minutes! We ate breakfast in the lodge - even though the heater wasn't going. Breakfast was apple pie, eggs, and granola.

The trail down the mountain traversed frozen snow and ice until it began to thaw into mud. Bill slipped on an icy rock and stepped into a stream. Gene fell head first into the stream, but Dev dove to the rescue. Gene stayed dry, but Dev got his feet drenched. Eventually the trail turned to solid mud and I stepped into a huge puddle. Unfortunately my boots lose all traction when covered with mud.

On a very narrow portion of the trail along the edge of a cliff my foot slipped off a rock and I started falling down the exposure. Luckily for me a tree was growing at the edge! My left arm grabbed the tree as I dangled over the edge. I have no idea how far down I would have fallen, since I decided it wasn't a good idea to check. Pharendra was carrying Sean in the basket ahead of me and Bill and Gene were well behind me. The slick rocks and mud prevented me from getting back up on the trail. I didn't want Pharendra to endanger Sean attempting to rescue me, so I just hung there waiting for the rest of the group to come along. I considered dropping my backpack down the cliff to give me a better chance of getting back on the trail by myself, but it contained our water, rain gear, snacks, and first aid kit. Someone would have had to retrieve it. Besides, I wasn't tired of hanging there yet.

Pharendra noticed that I was no longer behind him and came running towards me with a look of sheer panic on his face. I think Pharendra was more scared than I was! He was able to extend an arm for me to grab while still balancing Sean on his back. That's all the leverage I needed to get back up on the trail. A rib and my left leg were bruised but it didn't hamper my hiking. Bill and Gene missed all the excitement and Sean didn't seem the least bit phased after seeing me fall over the edge.

We descended 4,000' to Bamboo where we camped. The last hour of hiking it rained heavily with some hail mixed in. The bamboo forest protected us somewhat, but everything was damp and Sean was exhausted. He napped from 2:30 - 5:00. For lunch we had water buffalo salami, orange drink, salad, pita bread, baked beans, and French fries. A troop of Langur monkeys played in the trees above our campsite. You didn't need binoculars to see them clearly - but they were too far away to get a good picture.

One of the porters badly sprained his ankle. We gave him some Tylenol with codeine for pain. He was barely limping in the morning! Sean was back to his normal self again - only he had more energy. He talked the entire day and entertained the guides with his antics and stories. I'm not sure they understood what he was talking about. They just smiled and nodded occasionally. Sean created some of his own inventive stories today and they were very entertaining.

For dinner we had tomato soup, pizza, cauliflower tempura, rice, and fruit cocktail. Because Sean napped, he was still awake after dinner. We went into the tea house to warm up. Sean worked on his journal and played some cards. The mountains behind us were getting covered with fresh snow. It's a good thing we left the sanctuary when we did!

Sean got to see the stars before he went to bed. Orion was clear and you could see the Milky Way. He was impressed by the vast number of stars you could see and wondered why you couldn't see them in New Jersey.

Thursday, March 21

It was a cold (39 degrees when we started hiking) and overcast morning - but everyone slept well. We have a short hike today, from Bamboo to Chomrong, that will take less than 3 hours. Breakfast was French toast and porridge. Sean got his usual hard-boiled egg, as well.

The hike was very easy and we arrived at camp before 11:00. Along the trail we met another Journeys' trek going to the sanctuary. One man from Boston was going with 9 support people. Unfortunately he didn't make it - due to the fresh snowfall that was following us down the mountains!

Dal-Bhat - traditional Nepalese lunch
We ate a traditional Nepalese lunch with the staff, by our request. Lunch consisted of Dal Bhat, salad with tuna and tomatoes, and curry potatoes with greens. We were taught the correct way to eat with your right hand and how to scoop the food with your thumb. Sean got into it after a while and seemed to enjoy the meal. The staff definitely enjoyed watching us struggle to get the food into our mouths.

The sun was out so we washed some clothes and Sean found some kids to play with. While working on his journal, the proprietor of the Annapurna Guest House climbed onto the roof to get some spiral rice noodles that were drying there. She came back with a plate for Sean. They were quite tasty.

The porter who sprained his ankle and his friend, the "complainer" according to the guides, were let go with a 500R tip each. The "complainer" did not want to leave and it took lots of coaxing to get him to go. The guards seemed more diligent at night. Now we are down to 4 porters!

Sean played volleyball and soccer (with his inflatable globe) with some kids returning from school. Then the "ring boy" came and everyone joined in the fun. Two girls started chasing Sean until he became too tired to run. They didn't want to stop. Two of the younger boys decided it would be fun to climb on me. Sean handed out lots of stickers. It was interesting watching how the Nepalese children played. Some of the girls used larger rocks to round out smaller rocks. After collecting 5 similar-sized rocks they played a version of jacks. Some other girls took clumps of grass and used them as hacky-sacks to practice their dribbling abilities. Just about any object can be used as a toy!

Dinner was mushroom soup, somosa (potato and broccoli in a pastry crust), macaroni and cheese with peas, cauliflower and carrots, and chocolate layer cake. It's amazing what they can do with a kerosene stove! We bought beer for the staff to thank them for taking us to the sanctuary. We showed them pictures of our house and different parts of the United States that we have traveled to. They were most impressed that Gene had 5 bathrooms in his house! Gene got sick again and suspects the beer.

It was a warm night, which was nice for a change. Sean couldn't make it through dinner. He used up too much energy playing with the kids. The staff was commenting on how much they are going to miss him. He thinks he is one of the guys and hangs out with them whenever he can!

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