Monday, June 2, 2008

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

Friday, March 22

Another cloudy morning and fresh snow is covering the mountains closer to us. This is the third day of fresh snow following us down the mountain. Sean did not want to get up this morning. We had to dump him out of the sleeping bag and he cried that he wanted to go back to sleep. The thought of eggs and pancakes for breakfast got him up.

We started our hike to Landruk via New Bridge at 7:30 AM. It was warmer than previous days, but not as hot as it was when we hiked in. Everyone's knees (except Sean's) were very sore. Sean spent a lot of time getting carried by Wandi. He tried counting the steps in Chomrong - but got tired after counting 100. I'm not sure he could have counted high enough! The guides are teaching him how to count in Nepali. He can count from 1-5 and knows the number 10.

After the steep climb out of Chomrong, it was mostly downhill. We crossed 3 bridges and went under one. Lunch was served by the river and we had French fries, chappati (unleavened bread), yak cheese, salad, and orange drink. It started raining lightly and continued for a while.

We arrived at our campsite in Landruk at 1:00 and Sean played Frisbee with the guides and remaining porters. Natang maintains that one of the porters is 18 or 19, but I suspect he is probably 15. The Nepalese are quite short, but this porter doesn't even have facial hair yet. It rained off and on for the rest of the afternoon. Sean had no trouble working on his journal (for a change).

For dinner we had noodle soup, tuna and yak cheese pizza, popcorn, curried potatoes, fried rice, and pineapple. The Nepalese put slices of tomato (or a dab of ketchup) on their pizza instead of sauce. Then we played Hearts and went to bed around 8:30. A dog has been standing guard outside our tent - probably waiting to howl all night. The guides went into the wooden building on the premises and are having a grand time. A young Nepalese woman and her family have been entertaining them.

Sean was up most of the night complaining of an upset stomach - "like someone punched him". I wasn't sure if it was hunger pains or something he ate. The only thing that made him feel better was rubbing his belly, which I did for most of the night. At 2:00 AM I gave him some granola, thinking he was just hungry. It helped slightly, but at 5:00 AM he threw up. Then he felt much better, but didn't go back to sleep.

Considering that every family has many children (they don't practice birth control according to Natang), I find it strange that we haven't seen any pregnant women. Starting at 3 or 4 years of age the children from the smaller villages are usually sent to boarding school. Nepal has a literacy rate of 26%, among the lowest in the world. Girls are often kept home from school to help in the fields. Education has recently become more valued and is viewed as the only way to obtain a better standard of living. Primary school (up to age 11) is provided free by the government. High school (up to 10th grade) is expensive and is followed by 2 years of college. There are 2 universities for college students to attend.

Public displays of affection between the opposite sexes are considered inappropriate. However, it is not uncommon to see men (and occasionally women) walking together with their arms draped over one another or holding hands. Nepal is very conservative with regard to acceptable clothing. Shorts are frowned upon (especially for women), but accepted along the popular trekking routes. We did not feel we were offending anyone by wearing shorts along the trek, but we did wear long pants in the cities.

Saturday, March 23

Sean has little appetite for the scrambled egg with onion, porridge, and toast for breakfast, and he had no energy. Pharendra had to carry him for a good portion of the day and he almost fell asleep in the basket. Bill had to invent adventure stories with Sean most of the day.

We left Landruk and had great views of the mountains we were leaving behind. It was a beautiful clear day. Most of our hike was protected by trees so we stayed cool. We stopped for lunch in Deurali after hiking for 2 1/2 hours. We feasted on water buffalo (or buff as Sean calls it), salad, pita bread, French fries, and yak cheese.

Gene bought some trinkets from a Tibetan man. At one of our rest stops Sean got to hold some chicks and we watched a woman weaving cloth. It took her 2 weeks to complete a strip 1 foot by 10 feet. She wanted to know how old I was. She told me she was 39 and had 5 children and 1 grandchild. She brought out pictures of her family and I recognized her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild. They were partying with our crew the night before in Landruk. Everyone is amazed that I only have one child and they have difficulty telling whether Sean is male or female.

We camped in a different site in Dhampus. Watch dogs adopted our tents and they would not let other dogs get near them. Two of the dogs entertained us by wrestling with each other. Water buffalo live above our camp and keep "moo-ing". Sean spent the afternoon playing Frisbee (until it went over the barbed-wire fence) and watching the crew play cards. They play a game similar to Spades, but their version requires you to throw the cards down onto the table as hard as you can. A nap for Sean was futile, since he was enjoying sitting on the laps of the crew while they played cards.

We had tomato and onion soup, fried noodles, hash browns, eggs, vegetables, and apple fritters for dinner. Sean stayed up to play Wild Joker with "the guys". Later that night, Bill played cards with the staff and let them win their version of Spades.

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