Nepal journals continue with mine (will be some overlap in the story since Ryan & I are writing about the same trek!) Again, the tense varies from past to present similar to the writing in my journal. Dates are followed by village names–usually where we ended up that night & where I wrote my journal entries.
April 10 Soti Khola
Kathmandu to Araghat. 7 hours on a chartered bus (“chartered” was a weird experience). Loud Nepali music/the road morphing from bumper to bumper to small one-lane (with buses) blacktop to remarkably narrow dirt/rock. There was some sort of confusion in Araghat and then we took another bus to Soti Khola with about 50 Nepalis in a 15-passenger bus. I’m guessing this is “normal”–although the Nepalis on the side of the road were laughing & pointing at the bus. All 6’4″ plus of Ryan was contorted into some bizarre position with a woman’s elbow on his head. (Not our first wild bus experience together…Ghana, Thailand…)
Jen immediately started art projects with the lodge-owner’s children on the cement near our guesthouse.
Then two Swiss-Germans showed up and we watched their Nepali staff organize all the gear for their Manaslu climb. Reading mountain climbing books is one thing, but actually seeing the incredibly complex process of “preparing” is still somehow shocking.
April 11 Khorla Besi
Long walk today: 8 hours with stops. We were walking through jungle-like trees with rice patties next to the Budi Gandaki (old woman) river on the right. Imagine the Highline trail in Glacier with a mighty high-volume river flowing below. The trail is, of course, quite narrow and we are forced to stop multiple times due to “strings” of mules. “String” is not quite the correct terminology as the mules are not tethered together here. Tethering, in fact, might prove fatal if one lost their footing near the sheer cliff faces. The mules simply “go” and a herder follows behind with a stick or whip.
Hot. Hot. Hot.
We finally made it safely to Khorla Besi for more impromptu art (after a much-needed frigid shower). The kids here are shy about attempting art. An older man draws first–prompting hysterical laughter from a now-growing crowd of men, women, and children. We communicate through miming and laughter and the conversation flows like that.
We drink an abundance of ginger lemon honey tea.
There is an ancient woman with missing teeth wearing a faded pink cardigan. She is tending to the goats and treads barefoot on the rough earth. Across from her, women are pounding large rocks into smaller pebbles. They continue this process for at least one hour. Then, a woman pours the fine pebbles into her basket. She lifts the red cloth headband attached to the basket and places it on her forehead. This is the way of carrying here. Then she walks 20 feet towards us and dumps the pebbles into a hole in the path. There was something moist and glue-like placed in the hole prior–although I can’t recall watching this process. The path is mended.
April 12 Salleri
We met this beautiful woman named Tatiana. She was originally from Columbia, but living in Germany. She was trekking with one Nepali guide and one porter. I remember traveling “alone” (as the only foreigner in a group). That experience is so vastly different. You meet and interact with more people that way–although the experience can also feel isolating. Tatiana certainly interacted with everyone and described so many groups as “just lovely.” Her enthusiasm was contagious.
Rajbir harvested fiddlehead from the side of the trail. We ate it for lunch and the thick, squishy greens tasted delightful.
We were disturbed (at least, Ryan and I were disturbed) by a huge U.S. group on a yoga/Thai massage trek. The group was mostly white & all wearing threadbare cotton clothing. Several of the men were shirtless and several women had short-skirts. Normally I wouldn’t be bothered, but this seemed out of place and impolite in rather-conservative Nepal. Judgmental much? Probably. Jen & Tatiana enjoyed their company. But Ryan and I felt this was a psuedo-hippie takeover and the chanting made us trek quickly away!
There were so many stone steps today. There must be some sort of ultra-trail race. A foreign woman with noticeably muscular calves half-jogged by us up the steps–weaving through trekkers while she balanced on precarious edges. She was followed by a Nepali man carrying a pack and first-aid kit.
We reached the Manaslu Conservation Area. There are bright red Maoist signs everywhere here.
We stayed in a 1/2 finished guesthouse. There was a corrugated tin roof.
Stone houses. Stone steps. Stone walkways. Salleri is quiet and beautiful.
It is raining on the roof and I am so discouraged despite the beauty of this place.
I had chapatti and boiled egg for breakfast. Chapatti with honey too. I tried our Starbucks instant coffee, but it tasted all wrong. I am now completely transitioning to ginger lemon honey tea. This time, with real ginger slices at the bottom.
Mee-toe-sah is delicious.
Suun-dhar is beautiful.
Tato-pani is hot water. Tato is “hot thing.”
(These are not necessarily the correct spellings. Just my somehow phonetic spellings).
April 13 Chesopani (cold water)
Today was shit. It rained most of the day. I am feeling suffocated by having two guides. We are stuck between them and Jen says “I feel like we are mules.” Many would be comforted by this “safety” but I am fiercely independent and walking/hiking is not something I need to be told how to do. They are only doing their job. We did get to hike “alone” a little bit today at least.
I have a horrible head cold (likely from the 1/2 open-air guesthouse last night). It is wet and cold and miserable and I feel terrible. I am worried we will never see the mountains, much less cross Larkya Pass. We’ve seen so many people walking back down this way without crossing the pass or seeing the mountains.
The Nepalis eat after the foreigners. This is unsettling, but it “just is this way” according to the staff. Eating is always a challenge in other countries. Food and the act of eating is so deeply cultural. I can’t let this bother me. It “just is this way.”
This was problematic though because we waited about an hour for the guys to eat. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but it was damp and cold. Damp and cold. We discussed this later & they quickly agreed we should not sit in the damp cold again. All of this made worse by grumpy moods and head colds.
(Just a “typical” view on the trek during the lower-elevation days).
I washed a few clothes in the rain and hid in the down sleeping bag. I have no desire to be part of this busy world at the moment.
But…there is something light. I can hear a foreign man playing guitar singing Simon & Garfunkel but I can’t understand the words. Simon & Garfunkel in Czech?
To be continued…
Featured image: A Gurung woman I met along the trail. We conversed for a while with Rajbir as translator. She graciously agreed to allow me to take her photograph. She thought it was hilarious that I hoped she would smile, as she had few teeth. She was excited to see her own photograph. Digital is wonderful in this way. I’m sorry I did not write down her name!