Salt, please?

Trip Start May 28, 2010
Trip End Aug 02, 2010

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

My first chance to blog in a week, and I have so much to share! I'm settled down in my room in Kathmandu with a box of Just Bunches cereal (much cheaper here than in the US), a playlist of great music, and a fully charged computer. I will try to keep the narrative focused on the most entertaining and/or educational parts of the trip...but who knows what will happen. I tend to ramble.

Day One

On June 17th, Haylee, Mathew, and I set off on our adventure. We got up early to take a taxi to the bus area and find a suitable ride to Pokhara. We were searching for air conditioning...and the guy catching people for the bus said that it had air conditioning. He lied. But no matter. Windows work too. We stowed our bags in the back and hopped aboard. At 7:30 we departed. An hour later, we were stuck in a traffic jam. Someone had run into someone, or something. Traffic was stalled for miles. Every 15 minutes or so, things would start to move...the driver would start the bus, we'd drive for maybe 50 feet, and then stop again.

Suddenly, a loud cracking noise punctured the musical happiness provided by my noise-cancelling headphones. Turning off the quiet, I looked to the front of the bus. Our windshield had shattered. We had been apparently something hit us. The bus started up again and the driver maneuvered slowly to the side of the road, where he and the 3 other guys working (it's amazing how many people can work on one bus) proceeded to grab sticks and bash out the broken window. After about 10 minutes, the broken glass had all been swept off and out of the bus, and we continued on our merry way, minus windshield. Traffic had freed up! At the halfway point we stopped for lunch and exchanged buses with a group headed the opposite direction, back to Kathmandu. I wonder how they felt about that.

We arrived in Pokhara with no further difficulties. It only took about 8 hours to travel roughly 120 miles. Bus trips are fun. We settled into a nice hotel and went out for dinner with a girl named Julie from Switzerland. We met on the bus. The restaurant, Moondance, was recommended by the oh-so-lovely Lonely Planet guidebook. It was pretty tasty. And we got to watch some World Cup games...Korea vs. Argentina and Greece vs. Nigeria!

Day Two

Woke up early to catch another bus, this time to Naya Pul. It took about an hour and a half. We were instructed to get off the bus at a teeny tiny village in the mountains. We wandered up and down the street looking confused, got a cup of milk tea, and then were directed by about 5 different villagers towards the start of the trail. I love Nepali people. We happily began our journey, heading first to Birethanti, where we showed our passes and were officially stamped into the park, and then through a few other small towns to Tikhedhunga. At Tikhedhunga, we ordered some food. Fried rice and fried noodles were to become the theme. Cheap and delicious! We consulted the Lonely Planet trekking guidebook before pressing on. The book described an "unrelenting stair climb". We peered out of the windows of our little dining room...there did appear to be an extraordinarily large hill in our near futures. We were optimistic, however. How bad could stairs be?

A hour later, a mile further, and 510 meters higher, we realized just how bad stairs could be. Unrelenting was pretty accurate. And it was also mid-afternoon. A little toasty. I burnt, a tad.

We stopped at the first hotel in Ulleri, too tired to walk further. We were required to climb upstairs to get to our room. Torture. The lady was so proud of the view though...we had to do it. We sank onto our beds and laid there for a bit. Then took showers. Then went in search of food. We had a pre-dinner dinner. And later, a real dinner. At dinner, amidst our laughter (exhaustion leads to hysteria) we discovered that if we kept having pre-dinner dinners we would run out of money. We needed to ration the apple fritters.

Day Three

Early morning. Up more stairs. Up and up and up. Arrived at Lower Ghorepani for lunch at noon, and then continued to Upper Ghorepani to find a hotel. We found a really nice hotel and moved in. Showers and food. Lovely! We encountered our first leeches on the hike up. Mathew proved to have an affinity for them. I didn't get one on this day. They waited for me.

Day Four

We set the alarm early, at 4:30 AM, with the hopes of hiking Poon Hill, a mountain, to catch the sunrise. Luckily for our sleepy selves, it was pouring rain and pretty chilly, so we decided to skip it and hit snooze a few times. We woke up with the sun shining and clear skies, to some beautiful views of the mountains we could barely make out through the clouds the day before. We had a wonderful breakfast and started out. We hiked up some more (and were getting pretty sick of it) until we reached a clearing on one of the higher points of the trek, around 3200 meters. We took photos, and a video of all of us dancing to Live Your Life. Then we hiked up some more...and finally, after many days of ascending, we began to go down. We went down for the next 2 hours. The mileage for the day was between 6 and 8 miles. The guidebook suggested we do this portion of the trek in two days...we did it in one. The result? Very sore calf muscles. We arrived in the rather large town of Gandruk, found our place to stay the night, and went on an expedition to find Snickers bars. Unfortunately, Gandruk is on a hill. We had to go down to find the Snickers, which wasn't so bad....but the going back up was a little slow. Needless to say, we enjoyed our dinners that night immensely.

Day Five

We woke up to find that our bodies didn't really work the way they were supposed to. I maneuvered my sore self out of bed and tried to stretch...the typical up on your tip-toes, hands-in-the-air-with-a-yawn sort of good morning stretch...only to discover the simple act of a calf raise was impossible. My calf muscles were one mass of ouch.

We ate breakfast and began to hobble downhill. We were buoyed up by the fact that today was going to be an easy day. We were hiking to Landruk, a mere 2 hour jaunt from Gandruk. Half would be downhill, and half would be uphill. Easy! However, we had to navigate out of the town first. We wandered, focusing on the steps in front of us, gingerly stepping down each step with the hope of loosening up our legs. The town seemed to be very vertical, so we just assumed that continuing downward would put us on the path to Landruk. It made sense at the time.

Two hours came and went, and we were still descending. It was a nice walk. We were passed by several groups of donkeys, and by several groups of schoolchildren (it seems that neither group contained individuals with sore muscles). Finally becoming worried, we asked a man if we were on the path to Landruk. He looked confused. That is the worst possible response when you are asking somebody directions.

We had taken the wrong path. But no worries. A very short backtrack and we would be on route again. So we thought. We walked down another long stone staircase which brought us to the town of Syauli Bazaar, which is about an hour's walk away from Naya Pul, a place we could exit the park. We thought we could catch a path from Syauli Bazaar to a town a little further down the path between Landruk and Phedi, where we wanted to exit. We were informed that that path didn't exist by a Nepali woman while consulting the posted map. She gave us our options: we could stay the night in Syauli Bazaar and do a short hike out tomorrow, or we could backtrack a little ways and take a path to Landruk, which would take us about 3 to 4 hours. A Nepali man walked up to the map and advised us to stay the night in Syauli Bazaar, with the attitude that we weren't cut out for the path to Landruk. It was about noon, so that made a bit of sense.

Hayley and Matt began to discuss the possibility of hiking to Landruk. Hayley was optimistic, and Mathew wanted to keep hiking. I was tired and sore and thinking that staying in Syauli Bazaar wouldn't be so bad. The lady walked back up to the map and traced the route to Landruk with her finger, shook her head, and said somewhat quietly, "Very steep...very steep...", at which point I was thinking...shoot. If a Nepali lady thinks the path is steep...the path is STEEP. I was under the impression that Hayley and Mathew had heard her say this when they cast their votes to hike to Landruk. Outvoted, I went with it and we started the hike to Landruk.

The first half hour or so was really pleasant, actually, besides the scorching heat. We were on a less traveled route, that we later found out is used by porters mostly, not trekkers. I put in my headphones and took up a somewhat slow pace, conserving my energy like a good little long distance runner, expecting to climb a "very steep" slope at some point. Hayley and Mathew were having a blast...hiking fast and loving the landscape.

Then we hit the hill. They were still going fast. I trudged. I was a little peeved that we were hiking a steep hill on our easy day. I was hungry too, which didn't help matters. An hour or so later, they started slowing down...confused as to why the hill was not ending. Another hour later, when we reached the "top"....we realized we were almost out of water. Hayley and Matt started getting a little worried. I was still peeved. We got some water from some little girls at a farmhouse. All along the rest of the way to Landruk, we were guided by random Nepali people shouting at us from their houses, and even from a tree at one point!

We stopped for a trail mix and gatorade break...and the truth of the matter was revealed. Hayley and Mathew had not heard the key "steep hill" phrase. They thought it was an easy, if long, hike to Landruk. We laughed a lot at this...and decided that Hayley should work on her perception of the future, Mathew needs to listen better, and I need to talk more. =)

In the end, we made it to Landruk. It took a while. We were very tired. But we got there, and finished our evening with the usual: shower, laying in bed, and good food.

Day Six

We hiked out! It was another long day...maybe about 6 miles, and mostly downhill, besides an hour or two of stairs (which killed) at the beginning. The last bit was the perfect hour of hiking down another unending grand staircase. We were just glad to not be going up! We grabbed the bus back to Pokhara and spent the afternoon lazing in our room and eating delicious foods. Mmm.

Trekking is fun. Can't wait to go with Mom and Dad in a few weeks!

Miscellaneous additions: Leeches are fun. We brought a little tin of salt with us...and the tin proved very hard to open. Someone would get a leech, and then a few minutes would be spent just trying to open up the container. And for the record, I don't get many leeches, but when I do...I don't feel them. So every once in a while one of the others would just let me know my foot was bleeding. My response, "Oh. Look at that..." Mathew was the leech master. His count was 27 on his shoes, and 15 on his skin. Hayley and I both had 3.

Our trail names: Mathew = Native, because people mistake him for a Nepali. It's funny and awkward when someone starts to talk to him in Nepali...and he doesn't know how to respond.
Hayley = Hobo, for the way she was wearing her raincoat over her bag in a rainstorm. And I am Geo, because I apparently look like a National Geographic reporter. Something about wearing lots of North Face and Columbia gear, carrying a bit camera, and having nice posture? That's what they said...

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pianogranny7 on

I really love your narrative style. If the art and/or medicine things don't work out... consider travelogue. Goes nicely with Geo... :)

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