May 18, 2012

#Nepal #travelogue part 7: water buffaloes and moneychangers

This is the seventh and final of several posts about our recent totally awesome family vacation to Nepal. We worked with the fabulous folks at Geographic Expeditions to plan and book the trip.

Although the view of the Annapurna range from the Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge patio was amazing and made me want to sit there all day just gazing and sipping tea, we had a day hike scheduled and so had to grab our water bottles and sunscreen and get walking.

We sat down the night before with Jalak, our resort manager, to plan out our hike. He offered several options. The long hike would take us across a ridge with fine views, then through a Gurkha village. It looked pretty vertical and would probably be 8 hours or more. We opted for the medium hike, which they pegged at five hours. They were pretty close. It was about eight miles, I'm guessing.

We were treated to the wonderful company of a local man, Harry, as our guide. He lives in the neighborhood and knows many of the people we saw on our walk. He carried our box lunches for us and explained the different aspects of daily life as we wound our way up and down through terrace farms, past trekking tea houses, through tiny village areas, and in and out among haystacks and water buffalo and laundry strung up to dry.

For some reason (maybe the colors) I tended to snap a lot of photos of laundry strung up to dry.

We set off after breakfast, perhaps 9:30. I carried our day pack with full water bottles. Boss, the dog that had adopted the lodge as his home, decided to come with us. Good thing he did, too, because at one point we needed the protection.

Sam watches our guide, Harry, say something insightful that I have forgotten.

Harry's wife sells jewelry at the end of the lodge's long driveway. We bought some at the end of the hike. One of those boys is Harry's son; the other is his best friend, born on the same day at the same time as Harry's son. Cute kids. Lovely family.

Our first half mile probably took the longest even though is was the lease picturesque. We stopped to take lots of photos (most of which don't make it to the blog). The rest of the trip was pretty steady walking, at a reasonable pace. The morning heated up until it was over 80 degrees by midday and moderately humid. It was a sweaty day, but not overly uncomfortable. A good, challenging hike but not what I would call strenuous.

The little buildings all along the way were filled with character and either made of stone or very colorful.

I have no idea what this says (maybe it's one of the many schools we saw along the way but probably not because there's no English on the sign), but I love the mountain behind it.

This little girl was so happy to have her photo taken! She was a real cutie.

See what I mean about colorful houses?

See what I mean about laundry strung out to dry?

As we walked, the views from the ridge of the valley below were almost as spectacular as the views of the mountains, which were visible along about two-thirds of the hike.

This was a gathering area, where in the old days the town would have meetings. There wasn't any official town council. Instead, people would come here to settle disputes or discuss matters of import.

It's also a good place to rest.

The farmers still plow their lands by yoked oxen. Click on this picture to see the larger view, where you can see the guys walking with the plow. The farming really is primitive, although there's good cell reception. (Harry took a couple of calls on the walk.)

Another farmer walking with his oxen, carrying the yoke. We figured it was so the oxen didn't have to walk on the road and probably get run over by a bus.

The crops grown in the area are rice, sweet corn, and wheat. I'm not sure what this woman is doing, but it looks like she's separating the wheat from the chaff.

More laundry! On a stone house.

Just to change it up a little, a house not made of stone and not that colorful.

These boys were so happy to see us and walk with us for a while. We saw them again a little later. Apparently they had already been out running around and were running home.

Their sticks were connected to the wheels, which was unexpected but necessary due to the rocky, uneven nature of the road.

These boys were washing their clothes in a stream that had a stone washing area built into it. The stream runs downhill, then is channeled into this washing area, and runs on its way below. They were working hard, scrubbing against the rocks. I'm very glad we have washing machines.

This boy played the flute while the others washed the clothes. I assume he's their little brother.

After we crested the top point of the hike (not sure of the elevation gain/loss on the hike, but it was very up-and-down vertical the whole time), we came down this other side of the ridge which overlooked the big lake in the valley.

Another unauthorized photo.

I should remember to take my dorky day pack off before the photo is taken.

Better, but I should also remember to move it farther away, out of the shot.

A pretty section of open ridge top, unlike most of the walk which was a combination of dirt trail, rocky cart path, semipaved road, and stone village paths between homes.

Boss stayed close. At lunch, he was so close that he almost managed to eat half of Sam's lunch before Harry whacked him away with a stick. (Whacked Boss away. He didn't whack Sam with the stick.)

A beautiful little trekking lodge along the Royal Trek. A small part of our 8 mile walk coincided with the Royal Trek, which is a hike that covers four days and follows the route that Prince Charles hiked in 1980.

Another section of the Royal Trek portion, with stones laid out to show the way.

This little boy brought us sodas to go with our lunch from the tiny tea house along the Royal Trek path. We ate our lunch right here, on the hillside, and paid him a few hundred Rupees for the sodas.

Water buffalo wandered all over the place. Mostly we kept our distance, and they all watched us warily. At one point, we stopped while Harry peered up a side road at a gathering of people who looked very concerned. After a while, we went on our way and Harry explained that a water buffalo appeared to be dying over there, and the people were very upset. Nearly every family has a water buffalo, and it's important for sustenance (I guess milk and whatever). If a family's buffalo dies, it's very hard for them.

Another time, while we were sitting resting, a buffalo wandered near us and started looking aggressive. It was not happy with our presence. Harry said, "Come along, come to this side of the road, and we should hurry along." At that point, Boss leaped between us and the buffalo and started barking at it. The great protector, Boss! He bought us enough time to make our escape. The old man who owned the buffalo giggled himself silly, I think.

At another point on our hike, we were stopped by a very old farmer. I think he was Moses' nephew or something. He had a handful of coins, and Harry helped broker a transaction. Turns out his coins were mostly Euros, with some other unidentified European-looking coin. We estimated he had about a dollar's worth of European money. He asked, would we like to buy it from him? For a hundred Rupees, we did.

Haystacks also were all over the place. Every house had a large one, built by tying the hay to a tall, bamboo pole in the center. Hay would then be cut from the stack as it was needed.

I found this encouraging. Along the short portion of our walk that coincided with the Royal Trek, these garbage cans offered a place to drop litter. Mostly we didn't see much trash on the ground in the high, remote areas, but there was enough to remind us that there's really no litter or garbage control in Nepal.

Another laundry shot, with Harry, Boss, the boys, and a view.

Remember the little boy above that brought us sodas for our lunch? This is the trek tea house he brought them from.

A gorgeous stone stair leading up from a small village section painted in a lively manner.

Laundry, this time with goats. Here we paused to speak with a woman and her younger daughter. Harry spoke with them. I can't remember if he translated for us or what they said.

Along the way, we came upon an independent, organic, time-traveling coffee farm. Oh, wait, that's the Nepali year 2060. Which means the farm was established nine lunar years ago, which means little to me other than it's not as old as Swayambhunath or as young as Twitter.

The farmer and his son. They both spoke very good English. The boy said he was 14 years old, but he looked not much more than 10 or 11. Very nice gentleman. He showed us his coffee plants, the beans he was drying, and some of the product that had already been packaged. We bought one package for 300 Rupees (about four dollars). Haven't tried it yet.

A view along the road as we hiked up into the hills. This is a good look at a typical section of the rural roads, where civilization has overrun the place. Seriously, this was the most built-up section along our hike. We were in rural Nepal, and Nepal is like the rural part of the world.

But not so rural they can't charge their cell phones.

Although we had one more full day and one more morning in Nepal, this is my last travelogue installment. The day after our hike, we had breakfast and then headed to the airport where we flew from Pokhara back to Kathmandu. Our guide picked us up and brought us back to the Yak & Yeti hotel, where we spent our final night. We wandered around Thamel in hopes of finding a new restaurant to try, but it was the Nepali New Year which meant the teenagers were out in the non-tourist areas, and many of the tourist restaurants looked closed or nearly deserted. We ended up returning to the beer garden we went to on our first night, and we were not disappointed. It was even better this time.

Our departure the final morning was uneventful except that Sam had forgotten to pack his mini kukhuri knife in the luggage, so it was confiscated by Kathmandu airport security. He was really sad, but we stopped at a gift shop and picked up some Nepal playing cards. Thai Airways flight back was less good than the flight there, but it all worked out okay. Try not to sit in the last row if you want a choice of meals. (But on the final meal they did start with me because they felt bad I didn't have a choice the first time. Thai Airways is awesome.)

We overnighted at the Radisson at LAX, which would have been very nice except their phone number at all the airport kiosks was wrong, so we never were able to call for the shuttle to pick us up. Fortunately, we could walk the 1/2 mile around the airport and a few blocks to the hotel. Which was pleasant and comfortable, with a good shower. Then our final leg from LAX to SFO was delayed 90 minutes, but eventually we made it home.



Tiffany said...

Was it hard to leave Boss behind? He looks like an awesome family dog!

PJD said...

Boss is a sweet, very cool dog. But I'm not really a dog person...