Day 46 – Location: Nepal, Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Jhinu
After a bad night’s sleep (this time people were talking loudly through the paper-thin walls), we set off after a leisurely breakfast, leaving Jhinu and passing up and down through the forest, skirting along the valley. There were lots of trekking groups on this route and after I got into rhythm with my iPod I stormed along at a rapid pace overtaking lots of people. We leapfrogged the British girls a few times. Mid-morning we reached another Deurali (the third village with that name that we’d encountered!). At one rest stop was a baby basket hanging from beams. From time to time its father swung it strongly rocking it rapidly side to side. It wouldn’t pass any health and safety laws but I saw this setup a few more times on this day.
Down at another village, “New Bridge”, a big metal suspension bridge crossed the rushing river we’d seen at the hot springs. A troupe of long tailed macaque monkeys scrambled across the girders as we approached and ran off into the jungle. We began a long climb in the sun up steep steps, passing very thin terraced rice fields. On rocks sticking out of the fields people perched. Shiba told me they were on guard against the monkeys.
You could see patches of fields where the monkeys had wrecked everything, breaking the plants. Half-way up we stopped for a rest and my companions chatted to a boy on guard. His days were spent perched under a tiny shelter watching the fields for the naughty simians. It must be mind numbing!
Further up we passed an old farmer ploughing with two buffalo. You could see he’d done a lot of fields already that day, and his buffalo seemed tired and un-responsive, loads of flies were clustered around their eyes. All the way up the steps, flutters of movement burst from the path and the fields as grasshoppers jumped out of our way. Some of them had blue wings which were only revealed when they flew.
We reached the start of the sprawling village of Ghandruk, the biggest settlement in the area. It stretched for about half an hour’s walk with scattered clusters of buildings.
We stopped for a break at a rest stop where the owner, an old woman had bees living in her house – they swarmed out of the door right next to her kitchen. I asked Shiba if she minded and he said they don’t bother her!
The terrain here was open and we were quite high, offering views down the valley full of terrace farming and forests. We passed a stream by a small building with water blasting from its bottom back into the stream. Inside was a spinning grinding wheel powered by a water wheel, which was being fed millet from a funnel above. The room was filled with millet dust. As we exited a family thrust themselves upon us, wanting a tip for seeing their mill, a little girl was holding a tray with flowers and money. I gave them 5 rupees thinking it was a bit cheeky of them. This pattern repeated further along the path, with kids holding trays of flowers trying to give them to you for money, or clapping songs and expecting money as you passed them. You could tell we were nearly back to “civilisation” with the kids plying gullible tourists for money.
We went over a very dodgy bridge where a man with one leg was begging with a sign. Shiba said he had been a porter and had lost the leg to frostbite.
Further along we passed a woman outside her house who was making cotton clothing with a device in her lap. It looked quite intricate.
We passed terrace fields where people were collecting rice which had been laid out to dry, collecting it into piles and stacking it into a round tower. Shiba said it would sit there to dry further.
We soon arrived at Tolka, another large village, and finished at a nice lodge with a great view out over the valley. It was only 3:30pm so we had lots of time to relax, and the day had been quite leisurely, with the guys chatting a lot to the locals along the way.I munched on popcorn and sat in the garden area, watching a lady filter through a big pile of rice on a mat. She put smaller piles of it onto a round tray, held it high diagonally and poured the rice back to the pile. As it fell the wind blew the empty husks to the side and the good rice fell back to the mat.
As the sun got lower some very nice sun rays peeked out through the clouds. I’ve never been anywhere that you get so many great sunrays, almost every day. As I chatted to some Germans, I tried some Mustang coffee, which is coffee mixed with the local homebrew, rakshi. It smelled and looked like gravy. Unsurprisingly, it tasted awful – although separately I like the ingredients!
When the dark came I had a nice hot shower, which actually worked (still cost 100 rupees though), and went into the restaurant which was pumping out modern tunes from big speakers. It was quite bizarre up in the mountains. After some photo work my back was killing me so I retreated to bed and read.