My rare glimpse of the Himalayas.
Along the way.
Day 1 – September 6, 2006
I am now in Pokhara which is the home base for where my trek takes off from. I actually feel quite lucky to even be here…
We had an early start from Kathmandu only to be stuck in complete gridlock about fifteen minutes on our way. But this was no ordinary traffic
jam. This had to do with some Nepali drama that was taking place. Apparently a police officer killed a taxi driver yesterday (I do not know the
specifics as I was getting my info from a lot of broken English). Today all of the taxi drivers have come together to initiate a strike-of-sorts.
What they did was completely block the one (and only) main road out of Kathmandu with their taxi cabs. After hanging out there for almost an
hour, Hari (my trekking guide) told me that there was a possibility that we might have to make our home in Kathmandu for another night if the
taxi drivers weren’t going to budge. This wasn’t the news that I wanted to hear…
Only minutes later I heard the bus revving its engine. We were moving – though nobody else was. It turned out that the head honcho of taxi
drivers got on our bus and saw that it was comprised of mostly tourists. For this reason, we were given the green light and could maneuver our
way through the chaos. But there wasn’t an easy way to get out of town with so much congestion of the roads. Because of this, I can now say that
I have been four-wheeling in a bus. We (along with the other buses that were given the go-ahead) would go off-roading through ditches, rocks,
mud, etc. We reached the end and made our way up to the city road with no flat tires. Ahhh… We were finally on our way.
After six hours, we got to Pokhara – a nice little town that is much more peaceful than Kathmandu. It is still very touristy as most people use
this as a starting and ending point for their treks. I have to say that I now sometimes find myself appreciating ‘touristy’ towns as I know that
certain things come with the territory – a selection of places to grab a bite to eat, potential shopping and being able to check internet (which was
necessary in my case in order to finalize a few things for when I arrive back in Delhi).
Before the sun went down, Hari and I went on a boat ride in the lake. It was a beautiful evening and made me appreciate the beauty of Nepal far
more than just seeing it through the eyes of Kathmandu.
It is now time for some shut-eye as an early morning awaits me tomorrow…
Day 2 – September 7, 2006
Houston, we have a problem. Or maybe I should be saying ‘Pokhara, we have a problem.’ It is pouring rain right now. Hari just told me that
there is a chance we will have to spend the day/night in Pokhara and leave for the trek in the morning which will, in turn, cut it a day short.
I am not lying when I say that my prayers have been answered. I literally spoke with the rain gods earlier this morning and now the rain has
ceased. We are now leaving to head on our way…
We are now in Dhampus. It was a pretty short day of hiking today but still oh-so-beautiful. The one thing I can thank the rains for is how lush
and green everything is. I have always just thought of mountains when I have thought about Nepal – I now see that I was totally wrong. In fact, I
have yet to even see a mountain. Hari has ensured me that the Annapurna range exists behind the huge blanket of fog that I am looking at. I
guess I can compare this to the numerous times I would look at the Golden Gate Bridge from work and see it completely covered in the fog. I
have always felt bad for the tourists that came from all parts of the world to see it yet there were literally no traces of it at all. I feel like saying
‘Welcome to my world’ right now as I am in Nepal and unable to see any signs of existence of the Himalayas.
I still find the scenery gorgeous but Hari is not as impressed without the backdrop of mountains. I guess it is good as I have no idea what it looks
like otherwise. Personally, I was just really happy about the absence of rain as just hours ago there was the chance that we would not have even
been able to begin my little baby trek (which is what it is since the entire Annapurnca circuit is 21 days).
It also appears that mosquitoes aren’t the only things after my blood. The leeches actually dig it as well. I was clueless about this until Hari saw
blood coming down from my ankle. I would have just thought that I cut my ankle but Hari informed me that it was a leech-related injury. Okay…’
injury’ is a bit strong. I’ll just call it a ‘leech-related loss of blood’.
Hari and I played cards tonight. When we were figuring out what to play, we were thinking about games that we both might know. I suggested
poker. He said he was not quite sure how to play and I told him not to worry…I could easily teach him. He suggested a game called ‘seat head’. I
told him that I did not know that game. So we proceeded to play poker. After we were done with that, he brought up ‘seat head’ again. He was
telling me some of the rules: you want to drop multiples of the same card, the two card is the highest. Then I stopped him. I realized what he was
trying to say: ‘sh*thead’! He said ‘yes’! I told him that we call it ‘as*hole’ back in America. Because that game is too difficult to play with two
people, we decided on rummi. He was kicking my butt – practically beating me every round. But then I came back with a vengeance. This is
when I told him ‘Payback is a b*tch’. He looked confused and repeated it: ‘Payback is a beets’. I told him it was not a very nice thing to say but it
was okay when playing cards with people.
Before going to bed, Hari told me he would wake me up at 5:30am if it was clear outside to see the sunrise. If it wasn’t clear, he would not wake
me up. I am going to bed hoping to get the wake-up knock on my door…
Day 3 – September 8, 2006
No wake-up knock on the door. Shoot. The Himalayas still remain a mystery to me…
While eating breakfast, the tops of the mountains made an appearance. While this was far from seeing the mountain range, I would take it – a
sneak peak was better than nothing at all. This lasted for roughly twenty minutes before more clouds came in to wipe out any traces of the
Himalayas. Now it was just up to my imagination to figure out what they might look like.
We set off from Dhampus at around 8:30am. We hiked through bamboo, streams, poison ivy and marijuana. Yes, marijuana. Hari crumbled
some up and had me smell it. I plead the fifth as to whether the smell was familiar or not.
Hari and I both did not realize it before leaving this morning, but both of us would be blood donors today. Not voluntarily, of course. And not
even to a cause that I deemed worthy – The Leeches of Nepal. Not only did we both get sucked on, for about an hour we were concentrating far
too much on whether or not leeches were making their ways into our socks. We each flicked at least ten off before they could get further than
the outside of our shoes. I used to think that leeches were really big but I was at least happy to learn that I was wrong and that they are pretty
small. That made them a little less disgusting.
After crossing through several Nepali villages, we arrived at our destination of Sarangkot. The view was beautiful as we could see Pokhara and
the lake from high above. The sunrise from here is supposed to be beautiful and I am sure looking forward to it.
Now it is time to have some lunch and just hang out…
The fog has rolled in and it is hard to believe that just minutes ago I was looking at an amazing view as now I am looking at nothing but white. I
watched as the fog dominated the sky and it reminded me of being at a San Francisco Giants game back in the days when they played at
Candlestick. Anybody who had been to a day game back then would remember how one minute you could be sweating from the sun and then the
fog would roll on in and all of a sudden you needed a big jacket. I guess it is at least nice that even on the other side of the world, things are
reminding me of San Francisco. I just wish it was a quality a bit more redeeming than fog that I would be experiencing.
There is a British guy, Luke, who is here at the guest house as well. His guide fell ill and had to be taken off to Pokhara to go to the hospital. Luke
will join us tomorrow in our descent from Sarangkot.
Once again, the deal is that Hari will come and wake me up at 5:30am if all goes well and the sky is clear to see the sunrise…
Day 4 – September 9, 2006
Once again, no wake-up knock. But this time I was expecting it as at 5:00am I woke to the sounds of pouring rain. Even now it is still raining and
we aren’t quite sure when we will leave. As I look outside, it appears as if nothing even exists because I can’t see one thing behind all of the fog.
We have decided that we are now going to leave since the rain has ceased for a bit. We might as well take advantage of this opportunity. We will
just have to take precautions of the slippery factor.
I am now back in Pokhara. Even being the klutz that I am, I managed to not do any damage to myself on the way down. Of course there were a
few slips and slides that were inevitable with someone wearing completely improper footwear attire for something like this. Being the genius
that I am, it escaped my mind to think that the tread on my shoes is virtually non-existent after traveling for 4 ½ months. It would be on this
100% downhill hike that I would realize this.
Much of the time we couldn’t see anything because of the fog. I had to rely on Hari’s watch (which told the altitude) to figure out how far down
we actually were. In addition to being careful about not slipping, we also had to watch to avoid the big mounds of buffalo poop on the trail.
On our way through the forest section of the hike, we heard a noise right next to us coming from the bushes. Hari asked if we knew what it was.
We told him that we didn’t. He then informed us it was a snake. I told him it was time to get a move on. He said not to worry. Then he proceeded
to tell us it was some green poisonous snake. I had to tell Hari that I don’t do well with information like that and he needs to keep that kind of
stuff to himself next time. I live by the motto ‘ignorance is bliss’ in these situations.
We got to the bottom just in time for the rains to come down on us. Thankfully it was then versus on our way down.
I am now in my hotel and just found out that I did a bit more blood donating on this walk. I thought I was in the clear as Luke gave me a pair of
his thick, long socks to wear to avoid the little blood-suckers. Apparently, to no avail. There was a huge circle (at least four inches in diameter)
of blood on the sock when I took it off. And the bleeding is still nowhere close to stopping right now. It’s amazing how something the size of a
needle prick can generate the outpouring of so much blood.
Well, the rain never quite decided to go away today. Nevertheless, I haven’t regretted coming out here for a second. It is so nice to just spend a
week being relaxed. And to be honest, I do not really even mind the rainy weather. It is just a breath of fresh air (literally) from what I would be
experiencing in India.
I ended up meeting Luke for dinner. What an interesting guy – he’s British yet lived with his family in Asia for many years as a child, he’s
traveled to Cuba, Nepal (separate from this trip) and India, he has also lived in India to teach English and now he is doing research in Nepal for
one of his courses…and he is only 22 years old. This was the first dinner that I have had a conversation buddy while I have been in Nepal.
Actually, it was the first dinner I have had with someone since Harriet in Munnar. We are talking over a week!
After grabbing a beer, I said good-bye to Luke as he is staying in Pokhara to interview people for his research. It is time for me to head back to
Kathmandu tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to it as I have not had much time to check it out.
Day 5 – September 10, 2006
My trek is officially over and I am back in Kathmandu.
Since I can’t leave Nepal empty-handed (i.e. not seeing the mountains), I booked an early morning mountain flight that goes over Mt. Everest.
Of course this is weather dependent so I just have to cross my fingers until then…