(2,630m - 2,860m)
Well, bright and early again. Clouds mill about the visible range of mountains (Machhupuchhre et al) that stand before the Grand View Lodge. Some rays of morning light fight their way through to warm my stammering diary-scribbling hands. Outside large black rooks caw and sit atop autumn-stripped trees. Even in such meagre light the marigolds burn bright and blaze out at my hungry camera lens, offset by the blue-painted lodge walls. Today, at their kind acceptance, I will accompany Begonia, a pleasant lady from Zaragoza, Spain and her guide Karma and porter Raju, as we are all destinned for one of the largest towns in the region, Ghorepani
Hotel Grad View Tadapani (abstract)
This will also pretty much be the first point at which I will join the 'Annapurna Circuit' trail. The largest walk in the region. 14 - 21 days (depending on your fitness) circular trekking around the Annapurna region, usually in an anti-clockwise direction, crossing the Thorung-La pass at the circuits high point of a little over 5,000 metres.
The early stages of todays trek again are proving physically quite challenging for me. My legs are yet to recover from their former 9 hour ordeal (a constant, salutary reminder that there's no need to rush ever, when you're in no rush to begin with) and having picked up their first blister or two my feet have now announced that they will sulk and hurt with increasing vehemence for the remainder of my trekking experience.
Hotel Grand View, Tadapani.
The smelly little buggers! :)
We swiftly enter very heavily forested surroundings. Heading down and down again on familiarly challenging stoney steps we are being enveloped in vines and creepers and fantastical, phantasmagorical networks of trees and branches and undergrowth. They all entwine together. The eternal competition for sunlight creating their intimate, slow, decades-long shadowy dance towards the skies. Living within the vaulted boughs of the forest here again the presence of the Langor monkeys. There black faces, offset by the large 'maines' of white hair visible at quite a distance. We stop for a bit of nature watching. There are several largish looking adults. Once they have spotted us (which is invariably before we have clocked them) they tend to choose a sturdy vantage point and sit stock still not taking their eyes of you at all.
The sentries. Protecting the clan; the community; the kids who (as with humans) as yet oblivious to concepts such as fear, danger and responsibility just continue to dive, swing and fall about from branch to vine in the trees around their parents. Photos are attempted but with me relegated to my P.O.S. 2000 wonder-camera with -1 X optical zoom it's hard to clock a worthy snap. Karma explains that the monkeys timidity is owing to the fact that in certain more rural communities of Nepal they are still hunted and killed for food by the locals. In other communities they are more revered and protected.
The scenery remains varied and very interesting throughout todays hike. In fact if the latter half of the day, once higher climbs are regained, if the surrounding panoramas had not been nearly smothered in their entirety by stubborn afternoon mists hanging disppointingly low I would imagine it would have been one of the most visually engaging days of the trek in some ways.
Snapping and viewing of Langor monkeys from Karma and Begonia.
By the time I have reached the higher ridge walk that forms a pleasant easy final stretch towards Ghorepani I have again been walking solo for quite a few hours as unable to retain any semblance of a constant pace with Begonia and Co. I have long since politely bid them farewell and sent them on ahead at their preferred pace. Again, whilst watching the mists, quite literally pour up and over the top of the hill crest like a smokey-white river flowing up from one side of the valley up and over down into the other is quite an experience in itself it feels disappointing to have the panoramas obscured. This - I think I'm correct in stating - is the only relatively flat ridge-top passage of walking that occurs in my 14 days of trekking. Next time maybe.
I catch up with Begonia, Karma and Raju at their chosen bolt-hole, the Dhaulagiri Lodge.
I sit now in the large dining room. It's pretty cold although I don't suffer this as much as most. Begonia, I think, is living in fear of losing the tips of her fingers and it's barely 15.00. Still, writing this now is a little hard. The fingers seizing around the pen just a little as I too hope for a few rays of sun, that will not come, to warm the knuckles and joints as they did over breakfast. The misty fog-like soup decanted from the atmosphere into the valley around Ghorepani today apparently held fast yesterday too and does not bode well for the dawn ascent of the famous Poon Hill tomorrow morning :(
A large wood burner in the middle of the dining room, regularly fed, attempts to breathe warmth into the atmosphere. I paid 50NPR for a 'hot' shower 20 minutes ago that was anything BUT
Bare feet chilled through to the bone on the cold stone slab flooring. I've finished my book ('Slapstick'
by Kurt Vonnegut Jnr) and need another badly but my trek budget dictates that this is not a luxury I should really afford myself at this time... so I start Slapstick again. In my rush to join Begonia and her guys this morning I have failed another 'idiot check' and managed to leave my handy windup torch on a shelf in Tadapani
. This was going to prove indispensible on the 5.00am start for Poon Hill tomorrow. It has now been proven dispensed
My legs hurt now an awful awful lot.
Getting toasty toesby the wood burner at the Dhaulagiri Lodge, Ghorepani.
Only 1 Snickers bar for lunch today. Rationning out. Awaiting dinners arrival. I really, really shouldn't buy a book. It's the former student in me. Almost always tempted and willing to nourish the mid before the belly. Oh well. At least I'vce been reintroduced to the concept of the shower. No matter how cold. Could do with a shave. Can't be bothered. I sit, reading Slapstick. People warm their feet toasty once more, close to the sides of the wood burner. Plastered around the dining room walls are an incongruous bunch of the cheap laminate posters expressing largely 'Chrisitian' sentiments tacked to the walls that are a comon feature within these trek tea-house lodges I have noticed. I often kill time trying to see which has the most inexplicaly bizarre marriage of word and image.
Many lodges I visited had lots of cheesy posters with 'life affirming' Christian sentinments or statements accompanying the images... this one made me giggle LOTS. Spot any irony here anyone?
Nothing too comedic usually. The usual aspirational texts : 'While unconditional love is not always bound to succeed, conditional love will always fail' ... that kinda stuff. Today there's a real doozy. A poster happily chiming 'O Lord! Carry Us Across The Ocean of life.' Only problem being the boat being used for this great journey is the White Star Liner, Titanic. Go figure :) Dinner is served. The power shorts out so I end up having a candle-lit dinner for two with a pretty, engaging South Korean lady. No romantic overtones though. Just necessity in darkness with hot soup and rice.