Buy today, bye bye tomorrow. It’s a good time to be a chicken.
– Pat Bunyard.
POKHARA NEPAL, 2700ft, 11 Oct: You can tell the difficulty of the day’s trek by your porter’s shoes. If barefoot or flip flops, it will be an easy day. If wearing tennis shoes, prepare for a demanding day on the trail. If you spot hiking boots, prepare for the worst, get a good book and stay at the lodge.
The mountains are ever changing. Last night is was flames of sunset lighting the peaks. Today, I awake to the sound of rain and gusting winds. Emerged at 4:30 to retrieve laundry and discovered winds were warm but snowing in the mountains. The Annapurna Range to the north have several of the highest peaks in the world and seem close enough to touch. Fishtail to Annapurna South are visible and have snow falling. By 6:30 the sunrise is spectacular while clouds and snow drift among the Annapurnas, possibly dusting as low as 15k feet.
Today we are warned of a steep descent of 3000ft back to Sanctuary Lodge for lunch. It was sad to depart the Himalaya Lodge; we all agreed we could stay there longer. Hiking out through Ghandruk, we see lots of activity as villagers prepare for the festival. This is a sort of Christmas for them and we see many people in transit. Lots of goats and buffaloes, chickens, donkey caravans, porters, horses and families are on the trail. Bells alert hikers a caravan is approaching, we squeeze next to walls to make way for the donkeys conveying goods to and from the Gurkha settlements. I see lots of children with foreheads painted and women in sparkling new clothes and jewelry. These are festive days for family celebrations and the sacrificing of goats and buffalo. It’s a good time to be a chicken.
I descend via countless steps for 3 hours. There are those who say it is more difficult going down steps than up. No way do I believe that! I have never tried to count the steps as sheer numbers and exhaustion prevent me from even trying. I follow the same path down as when I came up and I can say definitively that going down is a joy compared to going up. We reach Shauli Bazaar for a little shopping where I find a painted leaf. Then follow a road along the Modi River until reaching the Sanctuary Lodge, where we stop for lunch.
After lunch and our eagerly-anticipated Kit Kats, we walked above the Modi River for another hour or so until New Bridge where the activity, honking of horns, local shoppers and market stalls remind us we are back in ‘civilization’ and our trek is almost over. We met our bus above town and gladly climbed in for transport to Pokhara. Along our route were many goat markets. People were buying their dinner for tomorrow, loading the unfortunate animals into backseats of cars, on top of buses and trucks, even onto motorbikes. These goats will be sacrificed for tomorrow’s festival. We also stopped at a site where children were playing on a giant bamboo swing, soaring as much as 15ft into the air while standing on the swing seat. The children asked us “to play” so a couple of our group tried it. A little too risky for me.
We made a short stop in Riverside, beside Lake Pokhara, and spent 30 minutes shopping. It is a great looking town and everyone agreed it was well worth the stop. My purchases included a couple bottles of Everest and free wifi to download a library book. Then we drove the short distance to Pokhara. There we turned in our walking sticks, duffle bags, and said goodbye to our wonderful porters.
Mr. “lied about leeches” Prim talked about efforts to preserve the Annapurna Mountains. Unfortunately, we were so tired it was hard to enjoy it. We ate a quick dinner and headed for bed.
It has been quite the achievement for me to have trekked the Annapurnas. I have trekked over 41 miles and scaled what feels like a quarter million steps. I have never been so physically challenged. Certainly it was an experience I will never forget.
Tomorrow? I am off to the jungle in the south, hoping to see some wildlife.