Monday, June 2, 2008

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

Saturday, March 16

Another beautiful clear morning with great views of the mountains! Sean had his hair washed in a basin - like the rest of us. We ate a breakfast of crepes, porridge, and hard-boiled eggs while watching the sun hit the peaks.

The very shy woman porter and her husband were sick - so they were sent back with a 100R tip each. The other 7 porters carried heavier loads since replacements were not available.

We hiked from Ghandruk (6,362') to Kmrong Pana pass (7,382') and purchased tea for the crew that was resting at the tea house (10 cups for 50R). Sean played with a puppy the whole time.

We passed several corn mills along the streams. The running water spun a large rock grinding wheel. A hanging basket funneled corn kernels to a spout. The kernels slowly fell from the spout and the rock wheel ground them into flour.

From Kmrong Pana pass we hiked down to the river (Kimrong Khola - 5,938') for lunch. We took our shoes off and Sean threw rocks into the water. Gene was feeling pretty sick (between a cold and diarrhea) so he rested on a large rock. Lunch consisted of grilled yak cheese sandwiches, salad, French fries, sardines, oranges, and lemonade.

Along the trail we saw lots of cows and water buffalo being herded. One man was carrying the plow for his cows. We also saw lots of school kids climbing the mountain on the way to school, plus stick and grass people (as Bill called them). Adults and children alike would gather piles of sticks, leaves, or grasses and carry these piles on their backs. The loads were so large you could not see the person underneath.

Each dwelling seems to have several dogs, chickens, water buffalo and/or cows, and lots of kids. The Nepalese are very good to their children and seem to spend lots of time with the little ones. Sean played hide-and-seek with a child (~ 1 year old) who was playing contentedly with her only toy - a coke bottle.

After lunch we had to climb 1,800' to Kaji. Pharendra got to carry Sean for a good portion of the climb. It was quite warm in the sun which made the climb harder. We passed a mother and her daughters carrying baskets of water buffalo dung to the fields for fertilizer and we started to see the red rhododendrons in bloom. Once we reached the top we descended 800' to our campsite in Chomrong (6,726') . Most of the descent was down hundreds (it seemed like thousands) of rock steps. Dev took one hand and I took Sean's other hand and we were the first ones to arrive in camp. Sean's shoes barely touched the steps.

Eight children came out to play with Sean as soon as we entered camp. One boy who was close to Sean's age brought a 10 inch diameter rubber ring for them to play with. They rolled the ring to one another and the other children chased it when it rolled down the multiple terraces. Sean began entertaining the kids with dramatic slide tackles, intentionally falling down, and attempting to use the ring as a hula hoop. The kids thought Sean was a riot, which only encouraged him more. After playing, he gave the kids some kazoos and tiny marble maze puzzles. It took a while for them to learn how to use the kazoos and they would only shake the marble puzzles to make noise.

Each village has a faucet or PVC pipe built into a cement platform used for fresh water, bathing, and laundry. The men often strip to their underwear, but the woman wear a full length wrap when they wash. Nudity among children is accepted until they reach approximately 8 years old. They were washed in the middle of the trail, out of pots of water in the "front yard", or anywhere else it was convenient.

For our 7th wedding anniversary Bill bought beer (90R or ~ $2 for a Tuborg - 650 ml). We ate mushroom soup, vegetable and tuna momos (dumplings), mashed potatoes with a vegetable sauce, green beans, and apple fritters for dinner. Sean couldn't stay awake until dessert.

Everyone decided we would hike into the sanctuary - based on other trekker's accounts and our guides estimation of our hiking ability. Some of the food and fuel

will be left at the Annapurna Guest House (where we are camping) awaiting our return in 5 days.

Gene is pretty sick and can't eat much. He was up most of the night. My sore throat and ear have cleared up, but Bill's cold is getting worse and his stomach is unsettled. Sean continues to be the healthiest and he has not hurt himself yet, much to our amazement.

Sunday, March 17

The morning wasn't as clear as previous mornings, but you could still see the mountains. Gene started antibiotics and seemed to get better as the day progressed. We had eggs and toast for breakfast. Sean gobbled up his and Gene's portion. He was hungry all day and very tired. Poor Dev had to carry him a good portion of the hike.

We hiked from Chomrong (6,726') to Kulditigar (8,202') and stopped for lunch. The trail was not as steep, but definitely went up! We spent more time protected by trees so the hiking was cooler. Sean is a little congested and almost fell asleep in the basket.

Hiking out of Chomrong we examined the "hydro-electric plant". A highly pressurized hose directed water towards a metal wheel approximately 8 inches in diameter. The wheel turned a small electromagnet, which created electricity for the town. The entire contraption was enclosed in a small metal shed on the side of the hill by the river. To prevent additional wear and tear on the moving parts, someone went to the river every morning and moved the hose away from the wheel. Each night someone would replace the hose so electricity would be generated for lights. It was quite an operation!

Lunch consisted of hot lemonade, water buffalo salami, spiced potatoes with cheese, pita bread, and salad. I was the only one eating! A little girl hung out and gave Sean some mint leaves to eat.

After lunch we hiked through the Bamboo Forest to Dovan (8,530'). It sprinkled in the forest and the trail became quite muddy. Luckily Sean was in the basket most of the time. The rhododendrons changed to a pink color and we saw lots of waterfalls along the trail. Sean found several 4-leaf clovers (very appropriate for St. Patrick's Day) along the trail. He gave them to Gene so Gene would feel better.

We camped at the Tip Top Lodge and saw lots of trekkers coming from the sanctuary. None had camped there (they stayed at the tea houses) because of the snow. Sean added some of the porter's names to his journal: Nima Dorgee, Kamshsun, Dawa Durge, Ranhabadur, and Thambahadur. One of the porters sprained his leg and was sent back today. We're down to 6 porters, and not much of the load has lightened.

Sean was a hit writing his journal. Too bad he doesn't enjoy writing it as much as the Nepalese enjoy watching him write in it! He took a short nap and we had to put on lots of layers of clothes before dinner. We ate lentil soup (a real Nepalese dish), spring rolls, macaroni and yak cheese, and fruit cocktail. Sean couldn't make it through the meal - even though he took a nap. Since the macaroni and cheese did not contain Velveeta cheese, Sean didn't like it.

We stayed up playing poker and trying to keep score in our heads, since we had nothing to bet with.

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