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March 26th 2008
Published: March 26th 2008
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Day 2 - Dhampus to Tolka

Waking in the morning was amazing as we got our first proper view of the massive mountains of Nepal in all their glory. We had a breakfast seat view of Annapurna South and a glimpse of Machapuchare (or Fishtail Mountain). The cameras went into overdrive as we snapped away. I feel sooooo priviledged to be here and have to pinch myself!

So this is how the day starts on a trek in Nepal. You wake early to order your breakfast then go back to your room to pack up your kit bag ready for the porters to head off to the next tea house ahead of you. Then its a heart breakfast of pancakes, porridge, omlette, corn bread, boiled eggs (not all of them you understand!) before taking a few last photos or buying something from one of the sellers of jewellery, bags etc. Then it's off on your trek for the day, with a stop for lunch in between.

Today we were trekking from Dhampus to Tolka which involved about a 5 hour trek. Having learnt our lesson from the previous day, our day packs were a lot more stream lined and
Linda having a look at the bangles for saleLinda having a look at the bangles for saleLinda having a look at the bangles for sale

Noe the salubrious 'facilities' in the background!
lighter (poor porters!) and only the bare essentials made it. The first part of the trek was much easier than the previous day with a gradual assent - more stone steps - passing through some woodland on the way. I kept tripping up as I was constantly drawn to gazing at the amazing mountains. They are the SOOOO beautiful, snow capped, huge peaks of Annapurna South and Machapuchare.

The stone pitched footpaths continued along the whole trail today. As the only passage way through the mountains it's no wonder so much work has gone into making and maintaining them. It is very strange not to hear or see ANY traffic anywhere - not even in the distance.

We stopped at one point for a very long group photo session with Annapurna and rhodedendrons in the background. Krishna our sherpa guide took one after another of photos from all our cameras lined up in a row. While on the subject of rhodedendrons (scurge of the British countryside) I should point out that these are not the shrub like version we are used to but actual trees - HUGE trees. The trunks sore up into a canpoy way up above your head where the flowers blossom in the sunshine.

At Deureli Pass (2,100m) we stopped for lunch, sat in a sheltered eating platform propped up with very dodgey looking brick pillars. I suddenly spotted some huge birds of prey circling overhead so rushed off to watch them with my binoculars and tried to get a close up photo. With their wings stretched they look like rectangles with feathery fingers at each end. It turns out they were Eurasian Griffins. I could have watched them all day! They were so graceful and acrobatic. I'd love to be able to fly the way they do.

Lunch interupted my bird watching. This time I tried the vegetable momos. It's amazing what food and drink is on offer way up here in the mountains bearing in mind that everything has to be portered up here. For example there is bottled water, coke, sprite, fanta, snickers, mars bars, bounty bars, toilet rolls and other paraphinalia that trekkers seem to want. The food is a lot better than many city restaurants and so varied and of course very cheap compared to the UK. For example veg fried rice costs 150 NR which is about 1 pound 15p!

After a leisurely lunch and more Griffen watching we set off DOWN hill this time on our way to Tolka. The scenary here is so stunning. We were walking down through woodland that afforded occaisional glimpses of the neat terraced hillsides and little villages and farms dotted about. Then rising up behind them the huge white peaks of the Annapurna range. The steps down were quite steep and tricky and gave some people the old jelly legs syndrome - not me for a change - I'm usually the first to go!

We met on the way a family with a five year old and a younger child in a papouse. The little lad was doing really well and had walked most of the way! We are constantly passed byporters carrying HUGE loads by straps over their heads, usually carrying trekking gear but also pots and pans and other things. Raj told us later how young they start and then carry on until they can't do it anymore - sometimes into their 70s (though with a life expectency of 54 for men and 52 for women this isn't a usual occurance!). There is no welfare state so basically people have to work to eat.

At the bottom of the valley we crossed what is at other times of the year a crashing torrent of water, but completely dry at this time of year, via a hanging rope and plank bridge. This part of the trek was extremely HOT and the sunhats came out and SO much water was drunk. Moving further on around the side of the hill many of the farm buildings were thatched in straw though still with terraces. Later Raj explained how these terraces were created by the parents, grandparents and great grandparents of todays generation, but they only tend them these days instead of creating new ones. Many go to the cities in search of work as there isn't often enough land or property to go around all the siblings. Then, because the literacy rate is so low in the country, they find they are unable to find anything more than poorly paid jobs. Poverty is a HUGE problem in Nepal. Apparently about 30% are living below the poverty line, which I'm guessing is different to what we would call poverty in the UK. Many people earn only the equivalent of $280 a year. Only the well educated seem to be able to succeed and there is a lot of inequality due to the caste system.

As we continued on our way we would meet many Nepalese people who always smiled or said Namaste as we passed and no hassling to buy so of course we felt more inclined TO buy. Maybe one day they will cotton on to this approach? The children are all very cute and curious of us strangely dressed westerners babbling away in foreign tongues. They are often quite alone and playing away by themselves by very steep drops that would have parents in the UK fearful for their safety. In some ways they are lucky to be so free.

We came across a donations point for the school project Raj had told us about so happily pushed our notes into the donations box and signed the little book. I hope this really does go towards helping the children here to get some education.

By the time Tolka came into view we were very glad to rest our weary legs and took no time in sussing out the shower situation to freshen up. We are again at a tea house with an amazing view and could still see the massive peaks even though it was starting to get a bit hazy again.

This Tea House as with most has a balcony running along the length of the building where you can sit and admire the view while you read a book, listen to your MP3 player or generally chill out. There is usually a communal eating area and this one had the added bonus of a stove to provide a bit of heat which kept us toasty warm for the evening. Dinner was scrummy as usual and this time I tried Pakara which is a kind of vegetable bahji. We sat up really late, for trekking, until 10.30pm drinking our favourite Everest beer. I've started making friendship bracelets after a long break since making them in my Bardsey Island days. I already have three requests so will have loads of friends very soon!

And so to bed.

Additional photos below
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First group photoFirst group photo
First group photo

Back row (Phil, Sinead, Linda, Marc), middle row (Niamh, Linda, Michelle, Sharon) and front row me and Helen.

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