I have made all the preparations necessary to begin trekking the Annapurna Circuit tomorrow. The bus will leave Pokhara at 6:30 AM and, if all goes well, arrive in Besisahar by noon from where I will begin a two to three week sojourn around the tenth highest mountain in the world. It is a teahouse trek, meaning there is no need for a tent as there are lots of choices along the way as to where to stay. It is a very popular route and was traversed by almost 20,000 trekkers last year. Those numbers will be down significantly this year with the combination of the earthquakes and political situation that has scared a number of people away, and also because in recent years both the east and west sides of the track have witnessed the construction of a dirt jeep road that has diminished the attractiveness of the route. It is no longer considered to be the best trek in the world.
I have kept myself busy over the past week. My yoga practice came to an end this morning with a meditation session. It was going well until I started to fall asleep. I will have my final Nepali class this evening. I am happy with my progress, but I’ll need to keep studying on my own.
I climbed my first Himalayan peak (of sorts) when I ascended Sarangkot on Wednesday, a hot and sticky sun-infested 750 meter climb to a popular spot that has tremendous views of the the sourrounding valleys in all directions. If it weren’t the monsoon season, I would have been able to see the 8,000 meter peaks, around which I am about to traverse. But these guys bashfully hide behind the clouds this time of year. Sananngkot is also the most popular destination for paragliding in the area, and although a huge portion of the clientel are from China and have yet to return after the earthquakes, I still saw scores of adventurous humans soaring above as I made a sweat-soaked push to reach the top.
I rented a bike yesterday and made my way to Begnas Tal, a mountain lake about 12 km distant from Pokhara. Although it’s proximity suggests that there would be many tourists exploring it’s shores, I saw none. I climbed up a steep road to get a view of Rupa Tal, another mountain lake, and enjoyed the surrounding countryside. The Annapurna Skyline Trek curves up and around these valleys. Its nicknamed “The Royal Trek” because Prince Charles made his way along this ridge trail in the 1980s.
Under the midday sun, I shared the uphill stretch of road on the return trip to Pokhara with two boys bicylcing home who put up with my poor week-and-a-half old Nepali skills. I find it most comfortable to practice my Nepali with children, who are usually very outgoing, curious, and trustworthy conversation partners. Their laughing and giggling at my expense does not phase me.
Last night I witnessed history as many people crowded into the streets to celebrate the new constitution of Nepal. The majority of Nepalis are in favor of the new document, which took seven years to write. It divides the country up into seven states and promises to give more political power to the people. The last consitution was written 65 years ago, but under monarchical rule.
A smaller regional minority in the south and west however have demonstrated their opposition over the last six weeks with protests that have turned violent with police. Forty people have been killed, including small children who have gotten caught in the crossfire. Nepal is made up of many many ethnic tribal groups, and some of these groups believe that the new state boders will marginalize their power. They ask for equal representation based on the size of their ethnic population. I could be mistaken, but the new states seem to geographically split up some of these ethnic groups. The states do not have names yet and are currently numbered 1 through 7, I guess kinda like the Hunger Games? No sign of opposition seems to exist in Pokhara where honking horns, waving Nepali flags, candles, and colorful street drawings of the new Nepali map were omnipresent last night.
My last day in Pokhara. I will rent a bike today and return to the International Mountain Museum to see more of the exhibits that I missed the first time around because I was running late for class. I will also visit one or two of the Tibetan refugee settlements in the area. I have already had a number of experiences talking with old Tibetan women who speak English well and enthusiastic display their stash of goodies that they exuberabtly try to sell you at overpriced prices. I think they rely heavily on foriegners paying these prices, which are basically just donations.
It might be a few weeks before my next post. I am not counting on any internet connection in the mountains. Pacchi vheytaaulaa – see you later!
A couple enjoys the view from the top of Sarangkot. Umbrellas are commonly used to shade oneself from the sun.
M grizzly mug from the top of Sarankghot
Begnas Tal – lots of boats, no tourists
The view of Rupa Tal from a little shack where I bought water after a tough uphill climb
Chiso paani dinus! – Cold water please!
The view on the way back down to Begnas Tal
Begnas Tal – boys swimming in the lower right hand corner. I went in too. Very warm!
A memorial at the International Mountain Museum
The seven new states of Nepal. The woman is standing on the current year – 2072. (Yes, it’s 2072 in Nepal. And no, it’s not 2062. 7’s looks like 6’s in Nepali. Very confusing!)
Below – The Nepal states all lit up at night at the exact time the constitution went into effect.