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March 29th 2008
Published: March 29th 2008
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Day 3 - Tolka to Ghandruk (1,940m)



Breakfast at 7.15am this morning with wonderful, stupendous views of the mountains. This time I sampled the corn bread to accompany my boiled eggs. It was puffed up bread with a slight flavour of donuts - so no complaints there. This was followed by appe/banana pancakes. Slightly more than my normal breakfast of one weatabix!! We always get black tea too (milk is a bit dodgey up here so we've been avoiding) and I'm starting to get an aquired taste for it. Those of you who know my normal tea drinking habits will be falling about in shock right now as I usually just wave a tea bag in the general direction of the cup and add LOADS of milk! If I seem to be going on about food a tad too much it's because days tend to revolve around meals and when you've trekked up hundreds of steps you can't help thinking of your stomach.

Our porters set off at break neck speed with our heavy kit bags while we were still scoffing. They find us somewhere to stay when they get to the end point of the days trek (about an hour after they set off - we trail in about 5 hours later!!!!). They are so fit (health wise!).

Our morning's trek started gently by following the trail around the side of the mountain and then downhill, passing villagers already up and doing their chores, some in the fields and terraces weeding with short handled mattock type tools. I noticed the way they stack their corn on the cob to dry in frames outside the houses.

On one of our breather/take100s more photos break we sat near a couple of young children at the water tap washing their clothes. One little girl of around four years old was happily singing away to herself as she rubbed her clothes with a bar of soap. The children in the mountains are a lot friendlier and less pushy. But they still greet you with a 'Namaste', quickly followed by 'Sweets? Bon Bons?' if you reply and hold out their hands expectantly.

We carried on gently going downwards with terraced hillsides stretching into the distance, highlighted by shadows of the early morning sun. Ahead of us are the huge white peaks of the Annapurna range. We are so lucky to be here. We passed several small houses with women chatting as they washed pots and pans, girls brushing each others hair, little children playing about in their doorways with smoking fires inside the houses wafting cooking smells. Most things here are carried in baskets with a head band over the top of the head (called a tor), but sometimes you also see someone wearing a cloth that crosses over on the front and has a pouch to put things in at the back.

I saw my first Nepalese orchid this morning. They are huge compared to the ones I'm used to seeing at home in the UK and these were growing on a tree and were white with a hint of yellow on the stamens.

We saw cows again, some under their own custom-made shelters a bit like a ridge tent with the sides rolled up. The cows here are grey with huge ears and curly horns and have comical 'eye-brows' making them look very quizzical.

Raj pointed out some strange looking trees without any leaves but with bulbous fruits on. It turned out they were actually fig trees - which I would normally recognise. All the leaves get stripped and used to feed the cattle. We'd seen women carrying huge basket loads of leaves earlier and wondered what they used them for. Now we know! And no-one eats the figs!! Raj tried one later on but they weren't ripe yet.

And then started the BIG DESCENT down hundreds of stone steps. I should at this point mention that our trekking usually consists of the following: Right lets get going - oh, could I get some water Raj, oh and me too, and me, and me, and me, and me......and me! What do you think? Fleece on, fleece off? By which time Krishna, Mark and Phil have already been walking for about 10 minutes and not taken a single photo! When us girls finally set off someone - usually Linda stops after about a minute to take a photo (you can tell it's her from the rrrrrrip sound of the velcro followed by - bip, bip beep!). Once one person takes a photo, this seems to instigate a rash of identical photo taking by the rest of the girls, sometimes of the most bizarre things. As Michelle so aptly put it one evening - 'Ah you know (my pseudo Irish, can't remember her exact words!) How fecking interesting can one log be?' Then the photo has to be taken with each of us in the shot, with the mountain in the background, the mountain on its own, a nicely framed shot of terraced hillside with a village house with the mountain in the background (and if you are Linda - a photo of the house's window, corn on the cob stack, haystack, child, door, child and door, child and door and mountain in the background!). By which time the boys are 20 minutes into the trek and we are 200m from the Tea House! And they still haven't taken a single photo between them!

So back to the big descent. It started through a small village after which came signs, one pointing right to Everest Base Camp and one pointing left to Ghandrug. We went left!! The down was all on the same stone pitched steps that is all along the trekking routes. So the knees were in for a fair bit of punishment. The steps went on forever. Linda was glad of her walking pole she'd brought along and Sharon had her trust stick bought near the start of the trek and never to leave her sight until much later. Sharon was soooo glad of this stick as she found the steps quite difficult - her perserverence was fantastic, bearing in mind that as she tended to be at the back she therefore only caught up if we were on a break and therefore had the least time to have a breather out of all of us. Govinda became Sharon's kind of personal sherpa and was so patient waiting for her (and me on the ups!!). I found the downs quite easy after a while but not as easy as the little girls that skipped down at running speed wearing flip flops!

Finally after much step pounding we got to the bottom where we crossed a bridge over a beautifully pristine, duck egg blue rocky bed river. After a short break to rest our knackered knees we started the climb up the opposites hillside. We all bought water here - I've not drunk so much water in one day EVER - in fact Sharon seems to be getting so much water I think she must be morphing into a sponge! It was just as well we did get some water as the next part of the trek was really tough. All those steps we'd come down on the one side of the valley we had to climb up on the other side - only in the sweltering heat of the sun. As Big Cook and Little Cook would say it was - Hot, hot, hot! (that's one for my daughters!). My lungs were heaving, the back of my head was pulsing, my face was as red as beetroot and felt like a furnace and the back of my neck (I found out later) burning despite the factor 30 and my legs as heavy as lead. And that was after about 50 steps!! We were sweating buckets and drinking litres and litres of water and having to stop so often. Looking back at my photos there isn't a single one of this section of the trek as I had to concentrate soooo hard on my feet and the next step and the person in front! What a sight we must have seemed to the locals who don't even seem to get out of puff let alone sweat!

The group became very spaced out with Phil and Mark with Krishna at the front, various small groups in between and me then Sharon with her trusty staff and Govinda bringing up the rear. It was with great relief that we staggered into the Tea House at Ghandruk ready for a late lunch on the terrace. The views made all the hard work melt away. More beautiful snow capped mountains - Annapurna South and in the clouds but there somewhere, Maccapuchare.

The owners of this latest tea house on our route have a very cute little baby and were swinging him in a basket work crib hung up in the verandha. He didn't want to go to sleep and kept poking his little head out to have a look at us. After lunch of heavenly chips and coke (what a treat after our trekking) we had the option of a stroll into old Ghandruk. Mark stayed behind after having a bit of an accident his ensuite shower slipping over and cutting his toe quite badly. Yes I did say ENSUITE SHOWER. What a luxoury. Oh am I sounding less than sympathetic about the toe incident? Well I did offer him a new bit of vocabulary - MINGING - which is what his toe was. Anyway the rest of us went off to have a look around the village and went into the museum to see the display of tools and equipment. It was the tiniest museum I've ever been in, very dark and with dusty little labels on the 'exhibits'. I found out that the little brushes I've seen people usingto brush their front porches and that looks like a witches broom without a handle is called a Markuck.

Back at our Tea House I spotted my first exotic looking birds, squwarking away. It turned out they were Mynas. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the balcony admiring the views, reading, writing up diaries etc.

The evening was spent in the tin hut dining room WITH A FIRE. It was so toasty warm no-one wanted to leave. But another day's trekking beckoned so it was off to bed.



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Michelle, Sinead and Linda


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