Friday, March 21, 2008

Hiking n Stuff

Once we were in the hills and walking through the little towns, it really hit me how ridiculous it was that these people were living in this area at all. We were on the sides of steep hills that would not be arable without the endless terracing that could only have come from many generations’ worth of hard work. And they don’t have many other options other than sell things to tourists or subsist off the land.

Waking up and going out on the deck of our lodge I saw that these foothills were simply monstrous. It felt like I was standing on top of a 100 story building. This path is the only way to get to these places, so if you want something, either a person or a donkey must carry it. Women seem to be in charge of hauling wood and grass. Here distances are measured in hours/days it takes to walk.

We had fun learning a few things in Nepali. Our guide was ADD for sure, so after he taught us a word, he’d sing a song feature that word (and only that word) for a few minutes. He wore an MP3 player with a few hundred Hindi songs loaded on; he liked to mention that “music is friend.” It broke our hearts to see him the morning one of his earphones went dead. He was pretty sullen. On the uphills, Emma goes quiet pretty quick, and I kinda stop talking too, and then he would get a little antsy and swing on a low-lying branch or start jumping off stumps and stuff. On the way down from ABC it was slick and his antics caused him to fall on his ass 7 times. (Em and I both bit it once.) He also tripped once and fell off the steep side of the trail, but did a graceful run-out recovery onto a terrace 15 feet below. A few of his most common sayings stuck with us and cause a chuckle for Em and I.

In many of the towns, the kids are a highlight. My favorite are the two year olds who are wandering around barefoot and dirty, chasing chickens and babbling incoherently.

These trails, as Emma mentioned, do not feature many zigzags, instead taking advantage of the unlimited rock nearby. Aside from the visually awesome stone steps, the slate roofs and bridge supports are also notable. And much of the stone has a glittery effect from the minerals in it, and it looks cool as you walk along the trail. But then you’re rudely awakened to the fact that this cool-looking trail goes straight up for 2 hours. It became the running joke that when Pemba said 1 more hour of hiking, it meant we had to go 1000 ft higher.

We saw tons of waterfalls. For a few towns, somebody has built a small stone building on the edge of town that has a PVC pipe running from a water source up the mountain and a waterwheel and generator inside. I thought it was pretty cool that there’s small scale hydropower in the middle of the Himalayas. If they’re going to have power, this is the way they should do it, rather than rely on coal power from the valleys. These installations appeared to be a foreign contribution.

Sleeping at altitude wasn’t much of a problem. A bigger problem was when I would have to go pee, and I would try and hold it to avoid getting out of my warm sleeping bag and walking the cold journey to the shared bathroom. A few times I would end up being awake for a few hours in the middle of the night because of this procrastination and false hope that it would go away. After a while, my farts usually made it a necessity to escape the sleeping bag.

The lodges always had a simple dining room where most of the trekkers would convene to hang out and eat. The lodges closer to ABC had an interesting heating system that cost 50 rupees per person: the table had a dark, flame-resistant(?) blanket stapled along the edge of the table, and an employee would bring a kerosene stove on high flame and stick it under the table. There it would just burn and burn. There was a wire strung around the inside of the table to hang socks right where all the hot air collects. We were skeptical about the safety of the whole thing, but it made our legs marginally warmer, so whatever.

Some of my favorite memories will probably be in these villages, where we would huddle in the dining room with a plate of French fries and a small pot of tea, and switch off between chess games and Rummy 500. Emma’s definitely getting better at chess. Although I’ve only lost twice, often times I am behind by quite a bit and emotionally exhausted from having to beat off all of her attacks. As for Anapai, Emma’s the ruling champion after our last best-of-nine game.

1 comment:

chelsea said...

i have nothing to say but you wanted comments. how's africa? love you