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Snowed In – Day 9

Trekking, Day 9, Jomsom, Nepal – Woke up this morning at 5:45 to get ready for our flight, but when I looked outside, it was blizzarding. The snowflakes were huge and the wind was making the move in a horizontal direction down the street. I was positive no flight was going to be flying down the valley, especially since the sky looked as if it were touching the top of the airport shack. There was 3 inches of snow on the ground and more was coming quicker than ever. I crawled back into bed and then I started to talk to Ram about what he knew about the yeti.

We finally got up around 8 or 8:30 and sat around the warming table, drinking tea, and watching the snow blow down the street at high velocity. A couple of hours later, the dude who runs the airport came in the lodge out of the storm and told us that there might not be a chance that we would be leaving for 2 to 3 days. We lounged around the lodge all day and gave the youngest daughter of the hotelier, a lesson in writing cursive Cs as that was her lesson that day, but she would not be going to school.

The snow finally stopped and the sun broke through warming everything up a little. We still had the hell wind whistling down the valley though. If the runways dry tomorrow morning, there is a chance we will be able to fly out.

The Yeti or “Bonne Manchie”

Jomsom, Nepal, Interview with Ram Gurung – I was speaking with Ram and he explained that the Nepalese differentiate between the terms forest and jungle. The jungle to them would be forest in our vocabulary. The uncamped wilderness with very old trees, the basic mountainous lake Tahoe environment. The forest to the Nepalese is an area that has been planted by some agency in a reforestation scheme. Ram said it was illegal to cut down any trees in the forest but in the jungle one can cut down as many trees for fuel as you needed. I asked him about the yeti, the Nepalese version of big foot but he had no idea what I was talking about. He had never heard the term yeti before. I drew a picture of one and the light bulb went off in his head “not yeti, Bonne Manchie . “Bonne Manchie” is directly translated jungle man. The term the Nepalese use to describe the yeti. The Bonne Manchie will now be referred to the yeti as I write.

Ram told me he first heard of the yeti from the “old man” who tells everyone the history. He explained to all people, from young children to old woman go to the old man’s house to listen to him tell their history. Ram first heard the old man’s stories when he was 6 and here is the version of the legend of the yeti he was told. The old man said there was a jungle man in the Nepalese jungles and that it was larger than a normal man, much taller with longer arms and legs and big feet. The jungle man was covered in “slippery” black hair all over and was sort of like a monkey but more like a man.

The old man said you could see the huge footprints in the jungle but (and this is interesting) the footprints would always be facing the opposite direction from the way the yeti was really heading. The old man said he had seen a yeti and his story was that: He was in the jungle, cutting down a tree with an axe. When he looked up, there was a jungle man standing there, watching him. The old man stared at the jungle man for a moment and then started running back to his home. The jungle man just as scared of the old man as the man was of him ran off deeper into the jungle. The old man continued his story by telling the Nepalese that the yeti kills men but not women. It just rapes the women. If a woman is walking through the forest and the jungle man sees her, it will grab her, have sex with her, then go off deeper into the woods. The man also told them that if the women are staying alone at their homes without their husband, there is a chance that the jungle man will come into the house and sleep with the woman, nice way of scaring the woman into submission.

The only other thing Ram can remember the old man saying about the yeti was that you could not kill it with a knife, only a gun. The old man said if there is a yeti 5 to 10 yards away and this is Ram’s version of the story and you throw your knife at it, the knife will just bounce off leaving the jungle man unharmed.

Ram lives in the “jungle” a few hours from Pokhara, so I asked him if he ever seen one himself. He said yes, he had seen one and to give his story credence, he was with a group of seven people all who spotted the jungle man. He said he was 12 or 13 and they were going up into the jungle to get wood when they looked up and saw the jungle man climbing a tree about 30 yards away. Ram described him and said the yeti was larger than any normal man, covered in black hair all over its body except its face. He said the face looked similar to a man’s but much longer. The yeti was up on a tree and one of the people he was with pointed to it and said, “there is the jungle man.” The seven boys looked at the yeti and the yeti stared back at them. Then the boys went running back home remembering the old man’s words that the jungle man killed people.

I asked if he had seen any yeti footprints and he said when he does into the jungle near his home sometimes he sees them. He said he has seen different sized footprints, some a little bigger than his own foot. He thinks these are young Bonne Manchie s and others, which dwarfed his own footprint. His reckons these are old yetis. I was going to go up to his house over the next couple of days and we were going yeti footprint hunting but since it is a blizzard condition outside, Ram said there would not be any footprints for a while. Ram also mentioned that sometimes he sees the Bonne Manchie feces in the forest and is always really-really black. He wondered what he ate to make it that color.

Interviews with various Nepalese people 31st March, 1993 –

All interviews in Som’s village above Phedi.

Som 17 years and his brother, 19 years old. They say the yeti or Bonne Manchie is short, 2-1/2 feet tall, has big feet facing backwards and is covered in black hair. They both said it has three eyes. One in each shoulder and only one on its facial region, in the middle of the forehead. Som explained that if the Bonne Manchie’s shadow passes over a man, the man will die, that is all that is needed. Som also said when the Bonne Manchie sees a woman, it will rape it, not kill it.

Som’s sister, 25 years old. The yeti is 3 to 4 feet tall, big feet like mine, size 11 or 44, covered in hair, no color indicated. It has three eyes, two in its face and one in the right shoulder. She said that it kills people but did not say if it kills only man.

Ram’s mother-in-law, 68 years old approximately. The Bonne Manchie is short, big feet, facing backwards. She said it has 12 eyes, all over its face, on the back of its head and in its shoulders.

Ram’s brother-in-law, 28 years old approximately. He gave no description but said that you could only kill it with a gun. He also said that it would go into the houses and rape women if the men are not around. He said something about the Bonne Manchie’ shadow as well. If the Bonne Manchie’s shadow passes over you, it will make you very sick, not kill you like Som said.

Som’s father, 33 years old. Som’s father said he has seen the Bonne Manchie for first hand and here is his account. He was hiking up the hill from Phedi about 1 a.m. going rather quickly because one of his daughters was sick and he was worried about her. As he was walking up the trail, he could hear footsteps in the leaves in the jungle near him. He stopped walking and the footsteps seized as well. When he started up the hill, he could hear the animal in the bushes again. He stopped again and once again the footsteps stopped. Som’s father began to get really worried thinking it was a tiger, so he climbed up the hill even faster. When he reached the top of the hill but was still in the jungle, he stopped again and once again the footstep stopped. Thinking he could out with the animal, he began stomping one foot to make the animal think he walking but to his dismay, the Bonne Manchie did not move forward, it was imitating the father’s actions. The father looked to his left and 5 feet away, he spotted the Bonne Manchie stomping one foot just as the father was. He described the Bonne Manchie as short, 3 feet high, covered in black hair except for the face and it had feet as large as the man’s forearm, about 13 inches long. He said the feet faced backwards and its arms were short, not as long as human’s with hands similar to a man’s, but long 3 to 4 inch nails. The Bonne Manchie  had no neck whatsoever and its head is sunk down between the shoulders. He said its face was the same as a man’s, but the eyes are not in the same place. The eyes are positioned one on each side of the head where human’s temple would be.

Later on in the discussion after telling the story, he said there was one eye in each shoulder and none on the head, but the original description is as above. Once the father spotted the Bonne Manchie , he said he became so scared that his breathing increased his chest capacity and popped one of the buttons of his shirt. He said he became almost crazy with fright and began screaming at the Bonne Manchie  and throwing rocks at it. He said he was at very close range, but none of the rocks hit the Bonne Manchie . Every stone he threw would just go past it. The Bonne Manchie  finally went off into the forest and the father ran home to his family. He continued and told me that the Bonne Manchie ‘s face was longer than a man’s and that when it went to the toilet, it was always in great quantities and was very very black. He said that if the Bonne Manchie  were to kill a man with his claws, it would not scratch a man like a bear rather it would use its long nails and rip out a chunk of flesh leaving a divet in the arm or leg it had gone for.

The father also described a female Bonne Manchie. It is the same, only he said its breasts were really really long, so long that the female needs to carry them in her hands when walking. He said when the female is going to run after something or walk uphill, it throws its breast over its shoulder, then walks or climbs wherever it was going. The males live in the jungle above Phedi while the females live in the jungle across the valley near Sarangkot. Girl at the Namastay Lodge, Pokhara 1st of April, 1993 15 years old approximately. She was in the jungle with her friend and five other older women cutting wood when they saw the Bonne Manchie . This is about a year ago. She said they saw it walking through the jungle with a dead animal over its shoulder. Her description was half my height, making it 2½ feet tall, all black and hairy with a face like a monkey, but longer, two eyes, ears, nose, mouth like a monkey. They spotted it and it spotted the women and they ran two hours through the jungle back to Pokhara leaving their sandals and axe behind because they were so frightened.

Try for Muktinath – Day 8

Trekking, Day 8, Kagbeni, Muktinath, Jomsom – Up early at 6 a.m. because I wanted to hike up to the pilgrimage point of Muktinath at 3710 meters to see the village and temples up there before hiking down to Jomsom in the late afternoon in order to get our flight the next day. We left at 6:15 a.m. and started the very-very steep climb up the ridge towards Muktinath. It was overcast and cold when we started but tolerable. We reached the top of the first ridge and traversed the top of it to the base of the second one.

We started climbing the second ridge and it began to snow lightly. Not letting the element stop me, we continued on but it began to snow harder and harder. We hit the crest of the second peak, walked across the field towards the third ridge. Ram kept telling me we had a lot more climbing to go but I wanted to see myself. The snow gave us zero visibility, but once we were close enough to the third ridge and I could see the trail going up at a 45-degree angle, I figured I had been beaten.

The snow came down harder and harder and the wind picked up making it a full-on blizzard. I decided to go trekking through. We turned around and headed back down the mountain, and I took note that we could not even see the village because there was so much snow. We arrived back in Kagbeni at 8 a.m. for a tea break and to dry out before leaving for our final destination Jomsom. We walked back down the dry riverbed for three hours and finally arrived in Jomsom, just before the wind picked up.

We got a room in a lodge near the airport and sat inside all afternoon because it was too windy and cold to go outside. It began to snow in the late afternoon and continued to snow all night. Ram taught me the game Carrom Board, which is just like American pool crossed with shuffleboard. You flick these poker chips across a powdered board attempting to knock the pieces of your color into the four-corner pockets. It was so cold and there was not any power, so Ram and I retired to our room at 7 p.m. for the night.

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While we were sitting around the table, I learned all the words to this Nepalese song that Ram and Som had started to teach me in Ulleri. All Nepalese people know this song, it is called Rassampieree. There is no direct translation for the title, but Ram told me people say it when they are celebrating and waving a scarf over their head. It is a celebration chant, the words not the song. They sing the song at the Donsai festival in April, but people generally sing it all the year around. This song is written phonetically so we can read it, then the translation follows. This song is also sung at Nepalese weddings. Insert text of Nepali song.

Kagbeni & Mustang – End of the Line – Day 7

Trekking, Day 7 , Marpha to Kagbeni – Left our lodge in Marpha at 7 a.m. and headed for Kagbeni, a village up on the Tibetan plateau. We rounded the first ridge and were rewarded with the best views of the mountain we had had in seven days plus there were tons of blooming cherry blossoms, which made the views even better. I must have taken 10 photos of the different mountains. We had not been able to see the tops due to the low clouds. I do not even think I can describe the beauty. The photos will have to speak for themselves.

We moved on and arrive in Jomsom at 2713 meters and went straight to the airport building shack to book a return flight back to Pokhara in two days’ time. Ram has been a great guide and since he has never been in an airplane and Nepalese people get 50% off, I pain for his place ticket as well. In addition, I think he got a stress fracture on his left foot back in Tatopani. He has been mentioning that it hurt to put pressure on his foot, more so when he was climbing down. So I decided to fly him back. Should be interesting to see his reaction to an airplane flight. Not much in Jomsom except the airport, so we pressed and started walking down this wide, dry riverbed towards Kagbeni.

As we left Jomsom, a flight was arriving and we watched the place pull in incredibly tight circle over the riverbed when it was landing. Ram watched the plane, then looked at me incredulously and asked if there were shoulder and waist harnesses that people wore while in an airplane. I told him no. Then he asked if it was very dangerous to fly. I said no again but I am not quite sure if he really believed me. The terrain changed dramatically after Jomsom. In fact, there was no longer any vegetation on any of the hillsides, just huge, scraggly rock reaching down the riverbed we were walking in. Palm Springs without grass came to mind, but the wind is what the major different was.

Every day about 11 a.m., the wind comes whistling down the valley and it is strong and extremely cold. Both of us were frozen to the bone by the time we arrived in Kagbeni at 2810 meters. Kagbeni is a village of Tibetan refugees and is the most northerly point foreigners are allowed to go in this region of Nepal. We entered the village and I could actually feel a difference. This was not Nepalese. The village had a stream flowing through it and it was landscaped a bit with green-leafed trees and cherry blossoms. There were three pillared Tibetan temples here and there were tons of prayer wheels all over the place. I was so entranced by this place that we wandered around the village checking it out and taking photos before we had even found a hotel.

We walked to the very edge of the village and I found the sign saying “restricted area”. No foreigners passed to this point signifying the beginning of the Mustang Kingdom. Took more photos of the yaks, people, and landscape before getting a room at the new Annapurna Lodge. This lodge was run by the two liveliest Tibetan girls, and later on in the evening, they were singing and dancing for our benefit, too cool. Ram and I had quite a few beers before retiring up to bed. I had a coughing attack up in the room and Ram replied altitude sickness. Ever since the first day, I had been concerned about getting it. So every time either one of us had a coughing attack, we both chime in, altitude sickness. One thing I did notice was that virtually all the trekkers I had met had a cough and a cold, the cough being more predominant. I have since named it the Himalayan hack since everybody seems to get it when they go trekking.

Kalopani to Marpha – Day 6

Trekking, Day 6, Kalopani to Marpha – We woke up late like 8 o’clock and sat around the lodge because it was rainy and windy outside and I did not particularly feel like walking to our next stop in the rain. After about an hour, the rain just turned to drizzle, so we decided to brave the element and start our walking. We were not going that far today, only about 5 hours to Marpha, our next stop.

We walked through the drizzle and both Ram’s and mine down jackets rented were sopping wet by the time we had reached Tukche at 2590 meters for a tea break. The wind was picking up and making the walk at touch tres unpleasant but we still had not reached our final destination. We sat drinking chai until at least the rain stopped and then braved the wind for our final hour. We left the chai shop and made our way through the yaks carrying supplies of the mountains finally arriving in Marpha at 2665 meters later.

Marpha is another quaint town and as we passed through the village gates, a huge herd of mountain goats came running through the tunnel, so we had to stand aside to let them pass. The higher and higher we got into the mountains, the more Tibetan influence there was. In Marpha, there were many curio shops with signs like Tibetan refugee craft shops and things like that. Our lodge in Marpha had a ubiquitous coals under the table and even had a glass solarium on the roof, so you could look at the mountains where you are eating. Too bad, it was overcast. I sat in the solarium, writing, warming my feet as more and more Trekkers arrived at the lodge. Ram and I had some apple brandy, which tasted like Everclear 100 proof and I guessed Ram was not used to hard liquor because two hours later, he went to bed complaining of a headache and stomachache. I thought it was nausea. I taught him the word hangover the next morning as he had a rather bad one.

I sat around chatting to people and met these two girls from Monterey and another from Vancouver, so the four of us pissed the evening away playing hearts while the power kept going on and off. The power went off so frequently that we resigned ourselves to having a lit candle on the table even though there was electricity. You never knew when the lights were going to go off.

Tatopani to Kalopani – Day 5

Trekking, Day 5, Tatopani to Kalopani – We got up and I bid Som and Maurita farewell as they were headed down the mountain while we were headed up. We walked all day and Ram kept saying that Kalopani was too far to go in one day, but I really wanted to get higher up so we would see more mountains all around us. We walked 5 hours through the village of Dana at 1400 meters until we reached Ghasa at 2000 meters at 3 p.m.

Stopped for lunch of a dal bhat, the Nepalese equivalent of an Indian thali before moving on. We were tired when we stopped for lunch and Ram kept saying it was a hard climb to Kalopani meaning black water, but I decided to move on. We began the arduous task of climbing up this mountain to 2470 meters and it was absolutely exhausting. A hard climb through the forest and every time we had conquered one hill, there was always one more higher just behind it.

We passed many an Indian sadhus walking barefooted up to Muktinath at 12,400 feet to pray at the temple there, but the sadhus did not look that happy about doing the climb either. We passed this one sadhu, who was busy boring a hole in the bottom of a live bamboo stock. Ram asked him what he was doing and the sadhu replied he was going to chop down the bamboo to make a chillum, so he could have a smoke. We hit the crest of the umpteenth hill and could see the suspension bridge going over the river to the village of Lete at 2470 meters. We were only about 40 minutes from Kalopani now, so we got our second wind, over the bridge and one more 100-meter climb before we were on the plateau that Kalopani sat on. We came out of the forest and there were mountains all around us. Just below us were the green terraced wheat fields of Kalopani at 2560 meters so picturesque, so we took quite a few pictures with Annapurna 2 in the background. We made our way through the village to See You Lodge where we got a room.

When we entered, I noticed that everyone in the lounge was squashed around this large table with a floor-length tablecloth around it. I did not think much of it and just sat near the table and started talking to this Dutch girl. She asked if I wanted to sit at the big table and moved over to make room for me. Not arguing with her, I moved over and swung my legs under the table. Then I figured out why this table was so popular. Under the table was a large metal container full of red, hot coals thereby heating everyone’s legs, so that was the attraction.

I did not realize it, but we had crossed out of Nepal’s Kagbeni district and entered Mustang. These coals under the table are only found in Mustang and judging by the outside temperature, no wonder they are found in all the lodges in Mustang. Our entire table was packed with trekkers and after talking to everyone for a while, I learned there were two Canadians, one Dutch girl, and something like twelve Israelis. The Canadians and Dutch were so stoked they had found another person, me, who did not speak Israeli as my first language. The deal with the Israelis traveling is that they never travel in groups of 2 or 3, it is always like 10 or 20 of them together. They are also just as gregarious, loud, and boisterous as Americans, a trait I did not know they had.

We sat around to this warm table all night playing cards and mind games and no one got up from the table unless they were going to bed, it was just a bit nippy. Ram and I retired to bed and he told me he did not like Israelis because he had been knifed in the arm by one when he was a porter a few years back.

Freezing at Dawn on Pun Hill

Trekking, Day 4, Ghorapani to Tatopani –

Up at 5:30 a.m. and it was absolutely numbingly cold, great and I was about to climb 300 meters straight up the hill behind the hotel named Pun Hill to watch the sunrise over the Himalayas. It was even colder outside and the hike was really taxing. Something I was not mentally prepared to do that early in the morning.

We reached the top, both Ram and I winded only to be met by the chai men who were waiting up there with their thermoses of tea to sell. There were a lot of trekkers on top, everyone jumping around because it was so cold. The sun did come up, but it was cloudy, so we did not get a totally awesome sunrise, needless to say we had a great view of the Himalayas, even though it was overcast. Took a whole bunch of photos until my hands were numb and Ram was almost overcome by frostbite.

Met Som, Maurita, and Helen up top and the minute I was done taking photos, Ram, Som, and I went sprinting down the 1000 or so steps in an attempt to get warm. Ran back to the lodge to huddle around the fire and drink tea. Met the Nepalese girl and she asked where we you last night. I asked her where she was and she just shrugged and went into the kitchen. Ram explained that when he went to go find her late last night, she was not in the bed she said she would be sleeping in, that is why there was not a knock at my door late last night.

We gathered our belongings and left the lodge at 8:30 a.m. on route to Tatopani, translated hot water. There are some natural hot springs at our next destination and if it is not too cold, I might take a dip. We walked downhill all day with a couple of Brits we had met at the hotel and Maurita and after crossing a few huge suspension bridges over this massive chasm between the mountains, we arrived at Tatopani in the late afternoon. Tatopani at 1189 meters is a cutesy little village that totally reminded me of the English Cotswolds Villages. We got a room in this hotel absolutely crawling with tourists and ended up sitting in the hotel courtyard drinking tea for the remainder of the day.

I did take a walk through the village for 10 minutes and managed to find the hot springs, but it was way too cold to take off any clothing and get in. The Nepalese women more like grandmothers had no problem stripping down to the waist and getting in, but they were used to this sub-zero weather. Maurita and I sat and talked to Ram that evening and learned a bit more about his life in Nepal. He is 23, married, and has two sons. He got married when he was 19 and had a baby about two weeks’ later. It was one of those kind of weddings. He said he has no money and not even a steady job, so trekking is the only way he makes any money.

Now the first thing that happens to the reader’s mind would be that he was giving me a sob story, but after spending a few days with him, I learned that he was totally honest and really did just have a hard life. The only clothes he has are the ones he was wearing and after seeing him in Pokhara for the 4 days before we left and seeing how many clothes he brought on the trek, none, and noticing how cold he was at times what he said was true. I will probably buy him a $10 coat when we get back to Pokhara for him to use on other treks.

“I’m cunt” – Day 3

Trekking, Day 3, Ulleri to Ghorapani – Up and breakfast of Tibetan bread and honey. Ram and Som told me they were going to set me and them up with a Nepalese girl in Ghorapani. Left Ulleri and climbed up more stairs to Nayathanti at 2460 meters for a tea break. That took half the day. Then we moved on to Ghorapani at 2770 meters, meaning horse water, which was a really hard hike. We were exhausted when we reached the village and we continued on and climbed vertically a bit more up to side of Poon Hill to the Snow View Lodge. This hike did not take us that long. We arrived at 1:30, but everyone including the guides were exhausted.

Our lodge in Ghorapani was cool, windows facing the mountains with a large wood burning stove in the middle of the common room. We were the only tourist when we arrived and as we were making our way up the hill to the lodge, it started snowing, so that wood stove certainly seem to be a godsend to us. We sat around the fire all afternoon and I got to meet the “sure thing” as Som put it, really cute 19-year-old Nepalese girl who spoke really good English and had a great personality.

We sat in the common room writing all day and as the hours past, more trekkers continued to arrive dusting the snow off as they entered. It was really relaxing and so peaceful. By the time the sun had gone down, our lodge was full and we had acquired two Austrians, one Canadian, two Israelis, and two more British folks. It was so cool because everyone just sat around the fire chatting to each other. I learned some more Nepalese.

Ram has been teaching me Nepalese since we left and I tried to talk to some of the other porters and guides. As we were making our way to Ghorapani, we were walking through some beautiful forests with the moss hanging off the trees. As we were going up, Ram and Som taught me that teak-cha meant okay, but cheecha meant cunt. So they then preceded to teach Maurita that cheecha meant okay and they giggled hysterically whenever she would say it.

We passed one of the mule trains on the trail and one of the mule drivers asked us in Nepalese how we were doing. Maurita responded in Nepalese translated for you “I’m cunt”. The driver laughed. Ram and Som were hysterical and I giggled my fair share. We stopped and ate my dried mango slice while sitting at the base of this waterfall in the forest, so peaceful and so cool. The walk was most enjoyable. We sat around the fire and Ram called over the Nepalese girl. The three of us talked for a while and she agreed to sleep with both of us in my room that evening. She said she liked western spicy American men and she knocked on my door that evening bringing Ram with her. I retired to bed, but no one knocked on my door that evening.

Himalayan Foothills – Day 2

Trekking, Day 2, Khare to Ulleri – Up at half seven, a quick tea, then we were off. For the first part of the morning, we followed the paved road. Evidently, the Chinese come down and build a new section of the road every year, so their trucks can bring Chinese goods over the border. Hence, all the locals refer to it as the Chinese road. We followed the road, then veared off towards Lumli at 1585 meters.

Wandered through this village that clings to the side of the mountain and made our way to Chandrakot at 1550 meters for our next tea break. From there, it was a steep climb down into the valley where we followed the river along, finally arriving at Birenthani at 1065 meters. Birenthani is a cool little town with sidewalk cafes, but it touched too touristy for my taste. We sat there and had breakfast and while we were there, we found Som, one of Ram’s friends from Pokhara. Som was guiding an older British woman, Helen and a 32-year-old Swedish woman, Maurita.

As Ram and Som chatted together, I started talking to Maurita and Helen. Since we were all going in the same direction, I ended up walking with the other two ladies. Maurita was a really cool hip girl, but Helen was a decrepit old typical English grandmother who complained all the time. The good thing was that she could not keep up with my pace and Maurita preferred walking with me, so the old mother as Ram and Som called her was always miles behind. We walked uphill all afternoon, rather steep at times before reaching Tirkhedungha at 1525 meters.

Lunch and rest, then we started the hell climb up to Ulleri at the top of the hill, 500 meters, straight up climbing stairs. Two hours later, we reached Ulleri 2070 meters where we got a bed at another of those lodges with the creaky floors and the stairs like those in Holland. This place actually had a dining room for people to sit in with a row of windows facing the valley we just climbed out of. Ulleri has a lot of character and it stuck up on the side of the hill balanced precariously up there, plus the Nepalese Military can be seen walking up the mountain through Ulleri on route to the high-altitude military camp up in Jomsom. We ate dinner by candlelight and we drank peppercorn, yes pepper tea tasted like milk, pepper, and sugar and Ram and Som sang some Nepalese songs to us before we retired to bed.

First Day of Trekking

Pokhara, Nepal – Battled the mosquitoes in the bedroom all night and had to fumble around in the dark at 3:30 a.m. looking for matches to light the mosquito coil because there was not any power. Left the hotel at 7 a.m., breakfast at the German Bakery, then I walked to the lakeside to meet Ram and give him the pack.

We were doing an eight-day trek, Pokhara to Muktinath, which is a little more than a 110 kilometers, Pokhara to Jomsom a 110 kilometers. We boarded the local bus up to old Pokhara, ride bicycle the day before, and disembarked. Now the trek would begin. We could have taken the bus farther up into the mountains, but I wanted to start walking, so we headed up the side of the hill towards our first village, Sarangkot. The village sits high up on a ridge above Pokhara and it was a mighty climb on the way up.

Once we were at the top of the ridge, it was no problem and it was just the hike up there. We passed the terraced wheat fields, each surrounded by a low wall made of stacked shale stones. Passed many a village house and had a really nice walk through Sarangkot to the next city of Naudanda at 1430 meters where we stopped for lunch. We rested there for a spell before moving on, finally stopping at Khare at 1710 meters for the evening. Ram knew the lodge owner and we turned out to be the only people staying there that evening. It was one of those rickety old lodges with spaces between the boards when it was built, rather like one of the old Tahoe cabins. Our room was just large enough for two beds and somehow a poster of the space shuttle had migrated to Nepal and ended up on the wall in our room.

Ram and I headed downstairs for a beer and to watch the sun go down. Once it got dark, we got a deck of cards from the hotel (yeah!) but since Ram had never seen a pack of western cards, I had to teach him the names of the suits. I taught him Crazy Eights, a relatively easy game, but since you continually have to call out the suits all the time in addition to the fact that Ram could not remember the English names of the suits, he had to make himself a translation table to help him remember. It was really funny teaching him this game and he had a great time learning it as well. It got too cold to sit around any longer, so we headed upstairs and crashed for the night.