The Trek (Part Deux) – B

(CONTINUED FROM “The Trek (Part Deux) – A”)

That night, we ate another fabulous dal bhat dinner, and I had a little chuckle about the “Snakes” section on the menu (instead of “Snacks”). I normally don’t like to poke fun at people’s mistakes with language (especially now that I am making many of them myself in France – I can relate!), but I just couldn’t resist posting at least one of the many that I found while in Nepal…

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We went off to bed, tired and completely satisfied with our long, but incredible day. We didn’t fall asleep right away, though, because we had all kinds of visitors: first, a huge cockroach and then an even bigger spider – both which Drew handled expertly (this in combination with his handling of the land leech has me convinced he is some sort of all-around ‘Bug Ninja’).

But that wasn’t all – oh, no! After we finally climbed into bed, ready to drift off into much-needed sleep, we heard… drums. And cymbals. Wait… what?! Drums and cymbals at 10 p.m. in a tiny mountain village? Ummm… okay. Some sort of local celebration nearby, perhaps? But the banging and clanging was getting louder and louder, and after a few moments, we realized the noise was coming from downstairs, moving through the patio area of our guest house! Of course, we left our room to investigate, and found a group of young men in the dining room banging and clanging away for the family of the house and the Nepali trekking guides (unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera). Everyone just sat there calmly amongst the deafening noise for a few minutes, and then the woman of the house gave the group some sort of donation from the kitchen (a bag of rice maybe? or money?). After that, the noisy group left, moving on to another part of the village – BANG, CLANG, BANG, CLANG! It was all just so unexpected (at least for me)! Dorche told us that the group was “chasing away ghosts.” Drew elaborated on this and explained that the older man who led these young boys was probably a shaman, and these young men helped him perform this ‘cleansing’ ritual in the village from time to time. A-ha. Well…. okay then! Nepal este ho! (“Nepal is like this!”)

FINALLY after all of the excitement of our evening, we were able to go back to our room for blissful, deep sleep… I don’t think I’ve ever slept better than after rising at dawn and hiking for SEVEN HOURS!

The next morning we rose at dawn once again. Of course, this was no Poon Hill, but our view was still lovely from the guest house patio, and we couldn’t resist the opportunity for one last Himalayan sunrise…

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Feeling incredibly lucky to have seen the sun rise over the Himals FOUR times at this point (don’t forget Nagarkot!), we went back to sleep for an hour or so, and then were up again preparing for our last day of trekking. Another hearty breakfast (more yummy Tibetan bread), and we were off – through the last of adorable Ghandruk and onto a stone path that went along a ridge with beautiful views…

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As we were entering a more densely populated area (this is rural Nepal, so please keep that word “densely” in perspective), we saw many porters walking along the path, hauling interesting cargo between the neighboring villages…

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Yes, that is a large pipe on his back…

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… and a ladder…

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Look closely, and you’ll see some feet under that pile of corn…

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And then there were chickens!

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These men and women are incredible – they haul probably three times the weight I can bear in my pack (which is designed specifically for carrying weight comfortably, I might add), and hike through these mountain paths in flip-flops, as you can see above. Seriously, FLIP-FLOPS. It’s truly astounding…

We also saw an interesting snippet of the daily commute of villagers on this path – young teens on their way to school in uniforms and wearing backpacks, women walking along together, carrying umbrellas for shade, some even talking on cell phones! Here they all were, navigating these stone stairs swiftly and expertly (most wearing some kind of sandal), as if it were the smoothest, flattest pavement. I couldn’t make my way down these stairs half as fast as them, even with all of my fancy hiking gear – they absolutely put me to shame! And how surreal it was to see such every day, ‘urban’ activity in such a rural and remote setting – just another surprise from amazing Nepal…

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After walking along this path for an hour or so, the route changed and led us through the gorgeous, green terraced fields of rice that I’ve come to love so well. Simply beautiful…

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We passed through a few small villages…

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Some cute little kiddos we met along the way (and yes, they also asked for chocolate!)…

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…and then arrived in a larger village along the main road where several jeeps were waiting to take trekkers back to Birethanti and Nayapol. We refused their offers for a ride, though, because we were determined to finish our trek to the very end. Our plan was to make a loop on the Annapurna circuit that began and ended in Nayapol – we were so close, why give up now?!

So on we went, down the dirt road that followed alongside the river towards the bottom of the valley. It was hot, and the scenery wasn’t that exciting (at least compared to what we’d seen in the last few days!), but it felt good to push through – to finish what we started…

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After an hour or so, we made it to Birethanti and were approached by taxis offering rides once again. Dorche was a bit tired (or maybe bored – he’s walked this particular stretch of road so many times before!), but Drew and I were still determined to walk all the way to Nayapol, only 20 minutes more at this point. So we put Dorche and our packs in a taxi, and they drove on to Nayapol to wait for us. Oh, how lovely it was to walk without those packs. Wow – what a difference! Okay, so maybe we ‘cheated’ just a little in this way, but no matter! We completed the loop, all the way back to the EXACT same spot where the taxi dropped us off three days before when we began. Huzzah!!! Of course, we were incredibly tired, and in my exhaustion, I forgot to take a picture (doh!). But here’s Drew, pack-less and happy, crossing the bridge into Nayapol shortly before we found our taxi…

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What an amazing sense of accomplishment (especially for me, since it was my first trek)! It felt great to be so utterly exhausted – after working hard and pushing myself for four days, it was the best kind of ‘tired’ I’d ever experienced. There were challenges, of course, but none of them were insurmountable, and the rewards were WELL worth it! How lucky I am to have had such an incredible opportunity to see this amazing corner of the world!

After a few cheers and a tiny (tired) victory dance, we collapsed into the taxi and were on our way back to Pokhara. It was wonderful there in the backseat – finally resting our tired bones, the wind blowing through the window, watching the beautiful scenery whizz by. It was in this relaxed state that I got a fun little surprise…

As we made our way out of the mountains and into the outskirts of Pokhara, the road was straighter and wider than in the mountains. A crazy driver that had been following close behind us for some time decided to pass our taxi at a ridiculously high speed, and, Murphy’s Law being what it is, he did this just at a point in the road where there was a large, deep puddle. Of course, this sent a huge splash of water straight into my and the driver’s windows. That’ll wake ya up, for sure! We were soaked, but laughing. It was so funny – like something out of a silly cartoon.

We arrived in Pokhara, and spent the rest of the rainy evening sitting on a restaurant patio by the beautiful lake…

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Dorche met us there for one last dinner together – we talked about the trek and Dorche’s life, and we dined on traditional Newari food (an ethnic group in Nepal that lives primarily in the Kathmandu Valley). It was so delicious – chatamari (“Newari pizza”), roasted soybeans, and more. YUM.

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As we finished eating, Drew noticed a bird’s nest right there inside the restaurant, built near the ceiling right on the wall…

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We were charmed by this little ‘resident’ of the restaurant, and I got up from the table to snap a better picture. (I should stop here briefly to note that my legs were – how do I say it? – not in ‘top form’ at this point. After days of hiking up and down mountain paths, they were stiff, shaky, and a bit wobbly – the word JELLO comes to mind). So, as I wobbled my way to the bird’s nest in the lowly-lit restaurant, I failed to notice the small step down a few paces from our table. Missing the step entirely, my legs buckled, and I fell straight to my knees in an instant– PLOP! Now, I’m sure this was hilarious for Drew and Dorche to witness – I can just imagine how it looked, and it has me laughing too – but in the moment, I was preoccupied with the camera I was holding in my hand that I’d banged against a table while trying to brace my fall. The lens was bent, rendering my BACK-UP camera useless. What was going on here? I managed to break TWO cameras within 48 hours!? Sigh. Double sigh… We went back to the hotel and off to bed, planning to look for a camera repair store the next day.

We woke early without an alarm, now that we were on the ‘sunrise schedule’ from the previous two mornings. The restaurants were not yet open for breakfast, so we took a nice walk along the lake. I took pictures with my original camera (the one with the broken LCD screen) that luckily has a small viewfinder, so I couldsort of see what I was shooting. Surprisingly, it was kind of fun using the camera in this way – it took me back to the days of using film cameras and having to actually WAIT to see how the day’s shooting went…

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“We’re ready for our close-up…”

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After our walk, we ate breakfast facing our favorite lakeside park, and watched two bulls try to mate with the same sow. This was surprisingly entertaining, and Drew and I had a lot of fun making up stories about the various personalities in this little scene. (For example, there was another sow hanging around who wasn’t really involved – we decided she was the best friend of the female ‘lead’ in our story who was always warning her friend against ‘playing’ both of these bulls at once. “It’s a dangerous game!” she’d say. But we knew that this ‘sow on the side’ was also secretly in love with one of the bulls herself. Oooh, and the plot thickens!)…

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(And for those of you that are curious, one of the bulls did finally – how shall I put this delicately? – ‘seal the deal’ with the sow. It took him close to an hour to get around to it, but he was, indeed, triumphant in the end!)

After our breakfast and little episode of cow soap-opera (“All My Calves”? “As the Cows Graze”?), we took another walk through town (which included an unfruitful visit to a camera shop) and through a park that bordered a different part of the lake…

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A “chautari” – or “meeting place” – surrounding a magnificent tree.  You’ll find these “chautari” in villages and towns all over Nepal.  Pokhara has many…

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Wait, what?!  WALMART?  Clearly copyright infringement and not actually a real WALMART, but disconcerting, nevertheless…

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It all sounds and looks lovely, I know, but a description of this day would not be accurate if I didn’t mention my hangover. Not from drinking – oh, no! From TREKKING! I didn’t anticipate having a ‘trek hangover,’ but I did! My legs were JELLO – in fact, just about my whole body was sore and stiff. Pokhara was terribly hot, and I was so badly dehydrated that I started to get a skull-pounding headache. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever felt, that’s for sure. After our walk we spent a few hours in the room drinking water and sleeping, and that helped immensely!

In the late afternoon we took another walk along the lake, past the point where we’d walked that morning…

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It was nearing ‘golden hour’ (that time of late afternoon before sunset where the light is warm, soft, and a deep yellow), and we found ourselves walking along the edge of the lake near a rice field. This area was quite a distance from the main tourist district where we were staying, and we found several men and boys fishing there. It felt a little strange, like we’d crossed some sort of invisible boundary – “No Bideshi Allowed” – so we didn’t stay long. But it was absolutely gorgeous, and I could see why maybe the wanted to keep this spot a secret…

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We walked back the way we’d came, and stopped at a ridiculously kitschy ‘beach bungalow’-esque restaurant for dinner (which served surprisingly good Mexican food, I might add). We dubbed it “The Sad Penguin” because of its funny little sign…

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Darkness fell and we made our way back to the hotel through town. A restaurant, colorful and brightly lit, beckoned to us, so we decided a ‘nightcap’ was in order. It was nearly empty, and as we were choosing a table, a group of bideshi tourists warmly invited us to sit with them. And I am so happy we did – what an entertaining bunch! We talked with them, exchanging stories about travel and our backgrounds. There was ‘Texan Tom,’ as I like to call him, a long-haired ex-hippy type now retired and living in the mountains of India; Becka, in her early 30’s, originally from Boston, but who had spent the last several years traveling all around the world; and Ana from Spain (I know, I know! Ana from Spain! – for those of you that don’t know, one of my best buddies is Ana B. Hernandez who hails from Spain), relaxed and calm with a very kind demeanor. There were so many entertaining stories that night – they are a whole other blog post in and of themselves! Let’s just say we heard snippets about the criminal underworld of the diamond industry, a private ‘trunk show’ (fashion show) with Iranian drug lords, and an indecent proposal from a Nepal villager who saved the life of a bideshi trekker suffering from altitude sickness. After hearing these stories, all I could think was: the world is a strange and fascinating place, indeed!  (Yes, perhaps some of these stories were fabricated or exaggerated, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter – it was entertaining nevertheless!)

Near the end of the night, another American couple found their way into the restaurant and joined us, also from Texas (small world). They’d been traveling in India and had fun stories to share as well. Oddly enough, Drew and I ran into this couple on the street in the tourist district of Kathmandu a week later – small world, yet again!

The next morning we woke early to catch our bus back to Kathmandu. The ride was long and hot, but uneventful – no transportation bandh this time! Hooray! We napped and looked out the window and talked about our trip. And it was a wonderful trip, indeed – one of the most memorable experiences of my life! I am so grateful to those of you who helped me get there!

And that’s it for now… Congratulations on making it through this very long post (and the very long “Part Une” before it)!  We’re almost done with Nepal – just a few more posts to go, and then I’ll take you on a trip to beaux Paris! Until next time, namaste and au revoir!

3 thoughts on “The Trek (Part Deux) – B

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