Caitlin’s Post: Gittin’ Outta Dodge

Back in K town since yesterday afternoon. Currently sitting listening to an unintentional mash-up of Mumford and Sons and some traditional Nepali Festival music. It’s a little busy..

Spent today working on our many projects as we continue to set up the PT room at the hospital. We are also currently working on getting some intake forms written up – if anyone has any Paed’s assessment forms that they would be willing to share with us, that’d be great! Any ideas would be helpful. Things are currently slowed right down in the city has the locals celebrate the festival of Tihar. As we understand it, it is a celebration of a good many things. It started on the 13th which was evident as while we were trekking we were stopped at innumerable paediatric road blocks. Kids were linking arms and singing songs of success and good fortune as they discretely (or not so discretely) requested money in turn for our passage. After about 5 hours of trekking through, we were cleaned out of all of our small bills and both had red red foreheads as a result of all the Tikka’s we were given- red powder smeared between the eyes which is meant to bring luck and good fortune. Apparently tourists also get it along the jaw line too. Extra luck? Phil’s beard was especially highlighted by a sunscreeny-tikka-ed glow- we were both in major need of showers by the time we got back to town which brings me back to the starting point for our last 5 days.

Due to the festival, we had a little extra time to work with this weekend so we decided to get out of Kathmandu and head to the mountains. Originally, we were planning to wing it and to manage our way around by asking here and there but somehow.. along the way… we were suckered into hiring a guide and booking what looked to be a pretty great trek that should have covered the eastern side of the Annapurna circuit. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we’d been pretty well had but we did our best to stay positive about the whole situation, its supportive of local economy after all.

Friday morning, we woke up bright and early and met our guide before heading down to the local bus station to jump on a tourist bus to Pokhara, the town from which all of the trekking down around Annapurna is more or less orchestrated. The bus was a wreck and we definitely got some mad air on some of the potholes. The roads are incredibly narrow and any error to one side or the other (and sometimes to both) would be fatal as the hillside drops away into hundreds of meters of nothingness. In spite of it all, I am a narcoleptic on the road and slept for most of the 8 hour trip… With a few stops along the way for food and toilet we finally arrive in the late afternoon. We went straight to our hotel to find beds and a private bathroom (such a treat) waiting for us. The mattresses were a lot like that green oasis foam that you make flower arrangements in. Kind of weird. We Did some kicking around in town before turning in for an early night. An early flight up to Jomsum was scheduled for the next morning.

Little did we know that this flight is OFTEN cancelled due to high winds and other sketchy weather conditions. And sure enough, after waiting for 3 hours for a flight that was never going to leave, we finally admitted defeat and began to revise our game plan. After discussing our options we settled on a small loop in the south east section of the circuit which would allegedly still get us 4 good days of trekking. Off we went on another local bus and 2 ish hours later we were in Nayapul- a small village and the jumping off point for this area of the circuit. Finally, some reasonably fresh air and some exercise. This initial leg was estimated to be a 4 hour afternoon (but ended up being 2) and took us to a village called Tikhedhunga (1480m). After the first hour or so, we were off the dirt road and onto trail. The surroundings were beautiful. Terraced hill sides and tucked away villages. The trails were much different than we expected, however, as they were well landscaped with flat rocks and steps for all of the inclines… So so many people and a weird realization for both of us to see how many people hire porters to carry all of their crap. We were the ones getting weird looks for having our big packs on…. Come on yo! We’re sleeping in beds… Eating hot meals every night.. The least we could do is carry our ginch and woolies. Nights were chilly but food was good and the 4 litres of tea we accidently ordered with an American bro we met at the hostel the night before was warm and tasted a lot like hay. We were lucky enough to taste a little homemade millet wine- strong to say the least.

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Next day we were up and on the road early for an estimated 7 hour day (actually 4). Little bit hilly at the start but we caught our first glimpse of the Himalayas. Annapurna south (7219m) and Machhapuchhre or Fish Tail (6997m) were the first two we saw after a long climb up (if I remember it correctly). Pretty cool to finally see peaks that you hear David Attenborough talk about your whole life. Not too much in the way of wild life. Mostly domesticated animals and loads of people along the way. Our second night was spent in Ghorepani at around 2800m. After arriving at noon we spent most of the chilly afternoon inside playing cards with a fellow Vancouver Islander (www.ronperrier.net). An eclectic retired physician who is spending his retirement travelling and trekking around the globe. Learned a great new Israeli card game (yarive?) as well as brought back one of the backpacker essentials – shithead. Happy to be inside for the rain and clouds over night. Up early for a sunrise trek up Poon Hill (3210m) for a real view of the Aunnapurnas. The 45 minute hike up in the dark felt like we were on some kind of creepy pilgrimage… Hundreds of chumps just like us hiking up face to ass in the dark to catch the view. Was pretty hilarious as the clouds began to clear, the “oohs” and “ahhs” that I definitely caught myself contributing to. After snapping a few pics we descended back to Ghorepani for breakfast before heading off towards Ghandruk.

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A little bit of a climb to start the day but a whole lot of descent after that. The quads were a burnin’. Took lunch in a village called Tadapani where Phil’s 24 hour best friend may or may not have come from. Made it to Gandruk a few hours later and we weren’t there half an hour before he had disappeared into his massive sleeping bag feeling a little off. It proved to be a terrible night for P Shep that neither lemon tea nor garlic soup could help him shake. By the morning however, he rallied and pulled out of bed for some OJ and dry toast. He managed the last 5 hours of our trip out like a champ putting up with all of the singing and dancing road blocks we faced. Not sure if we can attribute it to the orange fanta or the drunk self proclaimed medicine man on the bus who kept trying to hold his hand in between bouts of falling asleep on his shoulder, but by the time we made it back to Pokhara Phil was feeling substantially better and was ready to attempt some pizza though he passed on the beer.

Lots of festivities taking place into the night in Pokhara but we laid pretty low, enjoyed hot showers and some cards. Early morning bus back to Kathmandu was uneventful and had us back in town with enough time to check in at the hospital for the afternoon. Apparently Tihar is more important than treatment, however, as nearly all parents had checked their kids out for the week’s festivities. We took the opportunity to do some shopping for supplies for the PT room. Looks like the rest of the week is going to be equally slow!

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