We all thought that Paul, who had hitched a lift on a yak over Thurang La, would be on some sort of conveyance for the 1800 metre climb up to Ghorepani. Instead he started an hour earlier than us and, although we thought we would catch him up sometime during the day, had finished his first cup of tea well before we arrived. Paul has got a lot fitter since he started the trip.
|The price of firewood
It's a tough walk, away from the new road, on original paved trails, from village to village across heavy populated and steeply terraced farmland. After a relatively quite few days post Jonsom the number of trekkers on the trail has increased.
The weather was hot and humid, Annapurna I was visible up the valley first thing in the morning but it was not very clear.
After walking along the road down to Gharkhola, we crossed a footbridge and started the climb to Ghara. At this stage the route is a mix of old paved and new trail wide enough for a vehicle.
|Eating out a new road
On the other side of the valley opposite to where we were walking, a tracked vehicle was eating its way up the side of the mountain carving out a connection from the road to one of the villages further up. The mountain side is very steep and the digger was involved in what looked like a dangerous and destructive operation. As it clawed chunks from the side of mountain, rocks, even boulders, cascaded down often blocking the very road that had been created by the digger's relentless climb up hill.
To the watching would be road builders on the other side of valley all this seems like a fascinating but futile effort. Surely the mountainside was just too unstable, the first monsoon rains will wash it away, and the hillside villagers' efforts to create a link to the road in the main valley will fail. To our western eyes it looked like a horrible waste of time.
Jangbu on the other hand thought otherwise, he argues that the road will settle down, the unstable sections will be reinforced and that the dirt track will eventually be replaced by black top.
Who knows but I thought the difference in perspective was interesting.
The first part of the walk takes you up steeply to a pass at Hellekhorka (I think) and then more gently along a paved trail through the villages of Ghara, Shikha and Chitre. This is an intensely farmed valley and there was lots going on. We share the footpath with other trekkers, porters carrying all sorts including items for local sale, farm animals and above all children making their way to school. The children, some with rhododendron flowers in their hair, seemed in no particular rush and despite the fact that they must have seen thousands of trekkers were more than happy to chat and practise their English.
We had a late lunch and for once had caught up with the porters. It was a hot sweaty day and the climb, by then about 1200 metres, had really slowed them down. Apparently they find today really tough, tougher even that the pass over Thorang La.
|Climbing up through the rhododendron forest
After lunch at Chitre we set off on the final part of the climb up to Ghorepani. The farmland had all but petered out we were now in the middle of a rhododendron forest in full flower. Not sure why but Helen and Tanya were subtly pushing Nima to walk faster. Nick then added to the mix, and although unacknowledged four or five of us were now in a race to the top. 16 days of walking had left everyone, not just Paul who was already in Ghorepani, a lot fitter. Today was the only day we came in ahead of the porters, they looked shattered.