Day 47 – Location: Tolka, Annapurna Base Camp Trek; Nepal
We started late from Tolka, knowing we didn’t have too far to go to reach Dhampus, and worked our way uphill back into the forest, another hot day but there was a welcome breeze. The trail was busy today. At one rest stop the guys chatted to a porter who for some reason was completely soaked.
There were a lot of cicadas in the forest and I managed to spot one on a tree. It was about half the size of the monstrosity we’d seen in Thailand.
We took a break at a touristy village with lots of handicraft stalls. A big cannabis plant was growing next to our restaurant.
In one section of forest, the sky was full of swallows swooping around, eating the many beetles which infested this area, like the ones we’d seen a few days ago in their mating frenzy. The ground was littered with them.
We reached the valley ridge and in the forest found some older local men sat around chatting. One guy was breaking mushrooms apart which he’d picked in the forest and agreed to a photo. Shiba said that it’s very hard to tell the poisonous mushrooms from the safe ones, they look the same and the bad ones even grow in the same spots that safe ones have previously been found. Only he experienced locals can safely find the good ones.
After lunch in another touristy village we started down the other side of the valley through some nice open woods with a grassy floor scattered with flowers. Shiba asked me how I felt and I said physically fine but mentally tired, for some reason. He felt the same. It’s a bit strange as you get a lot of time to think but don’t need to tax your brain when walking at all, so really the brain should be alert.
We came out of the forest and passed lots of millet fields and people collecting rice. We passed some very muddy buffalo that must have been having a good wallow. The path soon widened into a rocky dirt road. Back into civilization!
We entered a village and outside a building a woman was weaving a scarf on a big cotton machine, similar to the ones I’d seen in museums in England. A young guy outside started chatting to me, saying I could watch and chat, no need to pay money. We chatted for a bit and he seemed very friendly, I learned about his cloth business. Of course then he invited me to look inside his shop and tried to persuade me to buy something, having already sweet talked me and presumably trying to guilt trip me into a purchase after his kind words. I explained my policy on souvenirs and made an exit. I thought it was a bit sly of him to act so friendly and say he wasn’t interested in money to begin with, only to try and get a sale afterwards. Still, his local business was a nice idea, giving local ladies work and being able to see them outside the shop.
We passed a few jeeps and entered the village of Dhampus. It was a quiet place and we stopped at a hotel in the middle, a modern building with real walls in the bedrooms! This building stood in contrast to the surroundings though, nice little long stone buildings connected by narrow stone paths.
Shiba took me up a grassy knoll where there was a nice view down into the Pokhara valley past some little shrines. A river stretched into the distance and the hills were layered. Down in the valley was a small town.
I took my camera for a walk around the village. It was really nice exploring and I seemed to be the only tourist in town. A little boy asked for chocolate and when I said no, he said “photo”. This I could do, so I took some pics for him which he was really eager to see. His father looked on from a porch in bemusement.
The narrow paths wound around stone walls and people went about their daily life as hens fluttered out of the way. Old men watched from the shade of their porches. I saw one building with clumps of dung in rows outside. They use this to smear over the floors of their porches – I don’t know why. The final result is a light brown and dusty finish.
I passed a public water tap where a guy was shaving and he spoke to me in English, we chatted for a bit. He was a farmer. On the edge of Dhampus I found a little temple with a pool in front, where the houses gave way to millet fields. Down a side path I terrified a cow shacked up in a shed, who strained to get away from its tether, clearly not used to seeing white people around its house!
Back in the village I passed another guy who chatted to me. He had a shaved head with bandages wrapped around the lower part. It transpired that he had come from Pokhara to be with his family, only a few days ago his grandfather had died in the village, so as the eldest grandson he was in charge. His father had died only three months ago so this was a double whammy of tragedy. Now the family would have five days of mourning. The sons and grandsons customarily shave their heads when an elder dies. It also turned out his brother worked at the hotel I was staying at. We chatted for a while; he was a very friendly guy. I gave him my condolences and went back to the hotel, where the man’s brother was playing the guitar.This chap was in his early 20s and called Kumar, and spoke really good English. He took me on another tour of the village, including a little restaurant he opens on festivals, when they get lots of locals visiting.
We arrived at the grassy knoll I’d climbed earlier, and a guy came up and started speaking to me, initially seeming genuinely interested until he produced a backpack of handicrafts to sell! We said we weren’t interested and ignored him as he persisted. We watched the sun setting from the hill, very peaceful and with no tourists spoiling the atmosphere. As dusk came I went for another walk to scope out good locations for photography for the sunrise the next day. Unfortunately it was in vain as where-ever a good shot would have been, there were always cables in the way.
Thanks to a power cut we had dinner by candlelight as Kumar played us songs on his guitar. He’s a big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan and even saw them when they came to Nepal. We chatted through the evening and him and the family working there took a lot of pleasure in seeing my trekking photos on the computer.
I learned Kumar’s father had died of an unknown illness, he had a problem with his arm and just got weaker and sicker. I guess they couldn’t afford medical care, like many people in Nepal. It really makes you appreciate the NHS and western medical services, where at least you can be medically insured. Here if you get ill it can be a death sentence. Kumar’s brother appeared later in the evening and was very happy to see me. He said “You are my very best friend ok?” and left saying “Goodbye, I love you”! I suspect it was a bit of a mistranslation! We called it a night for an early start in the morning.