March 16 day 16 Ghorapani to Ghandruk
I grew up in the rural mountains of Virginia in a house full of books, some good, some mediocre. I recall collections of the classics in similar bindings along with a lot of 1950s and 60s bestsellers. I read them all– the good and the bad. When I was around 10, I vaguely remember reading Maurice Herzog’s account of the 1950 French expedition to climb Annapurna, then the highest mountain ever climbed (or at least confirmed climbed). I remember well how the two successful ascenders lost fingers and toes to frostbite, as well as the long descent to proper health care. Clearly even though Nepal was, to a boy in the Shenandoah Valley, a place beyond reach or comprehension, the book stuck with me, unacknowledged and barely remembered. Today I hiked out of Ghorapani to the top of Poon Hill in the morning (not the sunrise with the glut of tourists who flooded the town today) and there, after all this circumambulation I got my first view of Annapurna I, the 10th highest mountain in the world, and the mountain that has somehow preoccupied me for 40 years. The lesson? Reading does matter, even unremembered, it forms memories, attitudes and aspirations. Something drew me to that mountain, and today I felt deeply that attraction. After coming down from Poon Hill and settling my bill at the Daulighiri Hotel, I sat a bit watching the sun move across the mountain faces — Daulighiri, South Annapurna, Nigili– drinking an extra cup of coffee comped by the hotel owner, a wonderfully kind man. Then I found myself hiking out in a tourist bubble. There must be a lot of short treks people can take from Pokhara, because suddenly you can’t even stop on the trail to take a piss without some trekker coming up the trail behind you. The first part of the day was a lot of altitude gain (the last I’ll need to do on the trek), so I hiked hard and fast to break out of the group, only stopping briefly in Deurali to get juice, which was an orange drink in a can with “orange sacs” included. Pretty tasty actually. It is evident this section is more on the tourist circuit where the walkers have porters, as each town lays out table after table of souvenirs which are always accompanied by burning incense, a smell I never much liked in the US but is completely appropriate here. Late in the afternoon I heard a noise up in the trees and saw briefly a couple of monkeys– black faces with light fuzzy fur around and long curling tails. Only saw those few, none later. Got to Tadopani and thought to stay, but pushed on which put me in a better position to get to Pokhara tomorrow night. The trail down was really good, and saw a number of sawyers cutting and moving hand hewn and pit-sawed boards for some large construction project. Transportation here is fascinating. The workers hauled boards up steep hills above the sawpit, then each carried a pile over to the huge woodpile they were assembling. On the way down from Tadopani, I met a man struggling up the steep steps with a refrigerator on his back– amazing. Found a nice new hotel– the Simon House– which filled up with people I had met on the trail, and there I had the first hot shower in a long time, looking forward to the flat lands tomorrow.
T. Hugh Crawford