I had a mushroom and bean tostada for dinner, ratatouille for lunch and a croisant with espresso for breakfast. I’m no longer on the trail and I’m most definitely no longer in Myanmar. Nepal is quite different. Since I’ve arrived a few weeks ago, I’ve had little interaction with locals who aren’t in the tourist trade. It’s been like being in a bubble, isolated from the country.
This isn’t a complaint though. I’ve come here for the same reason as most people. To hike. And the hikes are worth it, and understandably isolated from the “real” Nepal. Locals simply didn’t set up towns at the high elevations that I hiked through. Shortly after landing I picked up and went to the Annapurna region. I hiked the Annapurna Circuit, with three days of side trips to Ice Lake and Tilicho Lake (”The Highest Lake In The World!”), then I added a trip to Annapurna One’s Base Camp. All very excellent. It took 16 days, with plenty of short days, but that’s still considered blazingly fast. They typical fashion would involve almost thirty days of hiking a few hours per day. That’s understandable in the high altitude region. Or in parts where the trial is stairs. The stairs are brutally steep and go for a long ways. It can be quite a pounding on the knees. But for a good portion of the trek, fast miles make sense in my mind. You’re transitioning along ROADS through lowland areas that at this time of year have few views due to the poor visibility of pre-monsoon polluted skies. Nepal has decided to build roads up many valleys. I’m sure that it’ll benefit many. But in the case of the Annapurna Circuit I’d be surprised if it didn’t kill the trek and thus the thriving economy of the area. And they’re building them for the express purpose of increasing tourism. Seems like a bad management choice to me! BOOO road building.
The towns, villages, settlements, and solitary guesthouses are one of the highlights of trekking in the area. Some have “real” components that are amazing stone enclaves that seem to date from perhistory. Imagine Mesa Verde at 13,000 feet and still inhabited. Then there are the guest houses. They make their money on the food as rooms cost anywhere from nothing to two dollars. Meals hovered just under $4. They’re a great place to meet others. Very social vibe.
As for meeting others. Here’s a mind bender. At a bus stop on the way to the trek I met a girl from Davis, Amber (she’s from Idaho). Small world. Then at the side trip to Ice Lake I met Andy and Katie (also from Idaho) who are excellent friends with my enemy (I mean good friend) Ben who worked with me in Utah. Andy and Katie knew Ben in college in Colorado. Small world. Then during this conversation, they started talking amongst themselves when I mentioned that I had I lived in Davis. They said something about blah, blah, blah Amber. They were talking about Amber, who they went to high school with, and I went to college with. And who I had just run in to after five years and hadn’t mentioned. Now THAT’S a small world.
On other fronts. I met a lot of other cool people and hiked with them on and off. The french guys who carried two wheels of french cheese, a whole smoked ham, a bottle of wine and two homemade liquers were of course a highlight!!
And so were the mountains. And it’s for the mountains that I’m extending my visa and continuing to walk for another three weeks in Nepal. Off to the Everest region.