Wow. Summer sure has hit. It is hard to believe how long it has been since my last post. Wonderful weather days filled with bike commuting and nature camp programming has taken the majority of my time and energy. As promised, I plan to share installments of my final month in Nepal. The entire adventure was worth sharing, however, lest I bore you with “Today we continued to trek and there were mountains. We also met some cool people and ate some rice” over and over, I plan to share specific, critical days from my journal of our journey. Following is my journal entry from our first day, starting on the Annapurna Circuit.
Day 1 – Travel Day and the Beginning
We were down in the lobby at 6am for our bus, as instructed when we bought our tickets the day before. The front desk guy couldn’t tell us where our bus would pick us up…which I found strange and worrisome, considering we were about to embark on one of the most popular treks in Nepal. We can’t have been the first folks wanting to take the bus there. As time inched onward toward 6:30, I feared we would miss the bus completely. After some phone calls we learned that we’d have to taxi to the bus station – not surprising, but not ideal.
The taxi guy came pronto, and we were on our way. We pulled into the bus station and were greeted by a bus that was full. Our ‘seats’ that we had reserved ended up being little woven stools down the center of the aisle. I guess it is better than standing for the next six bumpy hours. Mine was broken, and as the bus bounced down the road, I slowly sank lower and lower until I was nearly sitting on the ground.
About six hours later we pulled into Besisahar. The next order of business was to find a jeep. If we were going to be hard core, and truly do the whole Annapurna Circuit, we would start hiking from where the bus dropped us off. We were not, however, and in the interest of time (and that we had already trekked the last portion of the circuit during a previous trip) we planned to take a jeep up a ways to avoid some road walking.
Slowly a group amassed of people who wanted to split a jeep. We found a French fellow named Ben, a North Carolinan Ryan, a Dutch woman Linka, and a British woman Attalie. Plenty of confusion ensued, including when/if we would actually be able to go, if we had to find more folks, and where the jeep just drove off to with all of our belongings in the back. American Ryan sprinted off after it in his under armour and sporty glass. Brit Attalie went off too. I took a couple of steps before deciding it was gone – no sense in chasing it through the streets. It was either gone gone, or would come back…I was hoping for the later. I was more at ease than some, as I had all my important documents on my person! I patted myself on the back for my foresight.
Standing around, deciding what to do now, I spotted French Ben stepping out of a shop with a big plate of noodles. We shared with him the jeep situation, and he nonchalantly said, ‘Yeah, they went to go get petrol’ before sitting down on the front stoop and digging into his food. Sure enough, a short while later, the jeep pulled up with Ryan in it – I guess he had been able to catch it. But where was Attalie? Lost somewhere in Besisahar? Shoot…
Eventually she wandered in, and we got the go ahead to squish into the jeep. It was tight, with four westerners in the back, and someone had to sit at an angle, squished against the wall. The back of the jeep was filled with a giant stack of plastic chairs, our packs, other luggage, and some unknown number of local people. Under our seat in the jeep we found a big plastic bag filled with dead chickens. Delicious.
Up the bumpy road we went, with introductions and plenty of excited conversations. I grinned at the novelty of it all – here we found ourselves in a jeep, starting up the Annapurna Circuit, with such a hodgepodge of characters which I’ll describe in a little more detail, as our paths would continue to cross with some of them as our adventure continued:
- Ben: a man from Marseilles, who had been traveling for over a year, and generally preferred the ‘slow’ travel technique that allowed him to sample whatever the local culture used to get high.
- Ryan: a man from North Carolina. He had lots of gadgets and high-tech gear, strategies for altitude and putting down big miles. He seemed to be running around the world, as he only had a couple of weeks scheduled to be in Nepal before sprinting off to India.
- Attalie: a nineteen year old British woman. She had read many classics and was very quick to pick up on things. She had never done anything like this before, and was hiking alone. She had a day pack with all of her gear tied around it.
- Linka: a Dutch woman who had just discovered yoga a week earlier while traveling in India. She had no idea that one had to treat water while on the trek and that there was a high alpine pass that you had to hike over. She carried four hardcover novels, her yoga mat, one trekking pole, her jeans, and strong opinions about what it took to be a yogi. She also was planning to hike alone.
- Finally, of course, myself and my hiking buddy S, who I’ll just call this to protect her privacy. She is also a Dutch woman, who I met in my yoga course. She and I had done the Poon Hill trek a few days earlier, so I knew of her skills. She hadn’t done much trekking either, but picked up on things quickly. Though we were very different people she was an excellent adventure partner. This was a good thing, because we agreed to go trekking together before we even knew one another, and both had second thoughts about what we had committed to!
Add the driver and the Nepalis in the back, and you have the cast of characters for this leg of the adventure. The story continues:
The radio switched between American pop and Nepali – an interesting mix to soundtrack our adventure. Eventually conversation trailed off as the reality of four hours squished in a jeep on a rough road hit all of us I was glad that I at least knew what to expect, having ridden in jeeps to and from my volunteer placement.
Up and up we went, through a fantastic gorge, cliffs high on one side and a sharp drop to a milky river far below. We crossed some sketchy looking bridges where the driver appeared to say some prayers silently. Overall, it was an adventure, but not too bad (though Ryan was very alarmed and looked as though he was prepared to leap from the jeep at any moment).
The driver took us to his sister’s guesthouse in Tal, which was nice enough and cheap. We all ordered up some dal baht, having not eaten much during the day (best not to get carsick while crammed in jeep).
S and Ben found that they share an acquaintance – apparently the fellow that she bought jewelry from in Pokhara is a friend of Ben’s who he met while in South America. Both of them then independently ended up here. This turned the conversation toward intersections and how they happen, why we meet certain people at certain times, and how people continue to cross our paths. Our lives are interconnected in bizarre ways, a theme which will continue throughout the rest of my stories.
Ben and Ryan planned an early start and an ambitious first day, but not us. We planned a ‘normal’ start and a more leisurely pace for our adventures. We put in our orders for breakfast and headed to bed.