rose about 5:00 a.m. The Israeli women, whose room was across
the padded hallway from mine, seemed to have gone in the night.
Krishna, Rob, Andy and I left about 5:30 to climb Poon Hill.
I wore my headlight and carried my day pack but we left everything
else at the guest house. The hike was steep, with big steps,
and no way to find easier footing in the dark. And Krishna
set a fast pace, as usual. As we climbed, we got above the
clouds and could see the stars. At the top the wind was blowing
and it was very cold. There was an observation tower already
crowded with people and a lot of people on the ground. To
one side was a little shed from which they were selling hot
drinks. We got some hot chocolate and I opened the Hob Nobs,
which were quite welcome. There were no Maoists checking receipts
as I had expected.
It was a beautiful
dawning with a spectacular view out above the clouds to the
color show that preceded the sun, and the Annapurnas in their
white coats waiting in shadows. To the west, the darkness
receded in dim pastels. To the east, sky color graduations
progressed until the sun shot its brilliance towards us over
the clouds, and the rays kissed the white peaks. We lingered
and took photos and watched the other people, especially a
very enthusiastic and large group of Japanese.
We headed back down
the steep steps and quickly reached the hotel, where I shared
the Hob Nobs with the waiting brothers Bira and Lila. We had
porridge with apple and Nepali spiced tea with milk and were
The Jomosom trek,
when done one way, generally takes 9 days. We had planned
7, because we had flown in and were trekking out instead of
the other way around, which is somewhat more uphill. But Krishna
had shortened it to 6 days and I felt that we were rushing
it a bit, whereas I would prefer taking my time. But here
we were on the last day of the trek.
Upon leaving Ghorepani, the day was a descent. Andy and I
had a brilliant fast hike down along a river gorge, ahead
of the others. We stopped to rest on some rocks by the trail
and the others caught up. After that, they were moving too
fast for me. I was slipping on the stone steps and knew that
sooner or later I would get hurt if I didn't slow down, so
I let them go ahead. For the rest of the day, they would pull
away but eventually stop for a drink. I asked Rob to order
me a lemon Fanta at the first one, and it was waiting for
me. I shared the last of the Hob Nobs instead of the packaged
biscuits (cookies) that we usually bought, drank my cold Fanta,
and headed out ahead of them. Later they passed me and when
they stopped for a rest, I passed them and kept going at my
own pace. By being slow but persistent, I was pretty much
keeping up with them.
alone was sweet actually. I would exchange a few words of
Nepali with the children who would approach me and try to
beg money or sweets. I soaked in the views along the river.
The morning was a cool forest with mostly trees, some covered
with ferns and lichens. Later there were terraced farms, and
the trail was down to the elevation where even banana trees
were growing. It was warm. There were farmers plowing with
water buffalo and domed stacks of dried straw and fields of
straw drying. On the farmhouse roofs were shallow baskets
of grain or mushrooms or other foods drying. There were stacks
of pine firewood. Once when I was walking with the others,
we passed a beautiful waterfall that plunged into a deep pool,
which looked so inviting. If we had not been hurrying, we
could have stopped to swim.
All through the trek I had
been careful with my feet, using band aids whenever I developed
a hot spot. Up until that last day, I had no blisters at all.
But the last day got me. The constant climbing down stone
steps produced a very hot spot on the inner wide spot of each
foot, and when I stopped to put band aids on, they had already
become blood blisters half under the callous. But I later
learned that even with these, I had the fewest blisters.
We followed the river, arriving
at Birethani about 12:30, when Krishna made us stop for lunch.
None of us wanted to stop because we were less than an hour
from the end. We sat in a pavilion overlooking the river.
I had cornbread and honey and a lemon Fanta.
After lunch it was anything
but an easy hike to the highway. We crossed a non-scary bridge
(rigid instead of swinging) and hiked along the other side
of the river, along village streets, and then an exhausting
steep climb to the road. I was fatigued, wasted. The taxi
van that Krishna had arranged was late, and I sat there by
the side of the road on a stone wall, in a daze. The trek
was over. I don't think that I would have been physically
capable of another day.
It was a long ride to town, but I started gathering energy
again on the way. It was great to get back to the Hotel Nirvana.
It really was nirvana. We each got our own room and there
was plenty of hot water for showers. I suspected my jeans,
which I had worn the entire trek, were toxic and it was great
to be washed and get a clean change of clothes.
I had brought some Constant
Comment tea and Rob and I sat out in the garden, ordering
some hot water and biscuits. We had tea English style, with
milk, and unwound. Later that evening the three of us went
to a very good Indian restaurant for a feast that did not
include dahl bat. Rob gave me a book to read, Into Thin Air,
about the disastrous 1996 climbing season on Mt. Everest.
I was struggling through Cold Mountain. I read awhile before
going to sleep.
travelogue is part of the subside