Pokhara alone, onward, & back

The root of suffering is attachment.

Buddha

Interesting couple of days. Mentally and physically. Hopefully I have not bitten off more than I can chew. My permit goes as far as Jomsom at the upper end of road on this side of Annapurna circuit. Jeanne and I trekked in from Pokhara in 1992 in just over a week, hitchhiking the road out of Pokhara with construction trucks. But only rode maybe 10-15 kilometers. Now there is a road, all the way to Jomsom, but before Tatopani it winds to the west and away from main trekking routes which are more direct. The road connects with trekking routes at Tatopani and both road and trail then wind up through the Kali Gandaki  (one of the deepest canyons in world if you consider on one side is Annapurna I and the other is Daulagiri, two of the 14 8000 meter peaks. We are at about 1000 meters here) ok I am impressed. 

Left Pokhara ready to get out of town and face the world again. And it was incredible. Between keeping an eye on traffic, Annapurna South and Machhapuchhre were out in their glory. Rising nearly 6000 meters above town. (20000 feet) 

departing Pokhara

The town became less dense, then more rice fields, then what one would call country, as the road slowly rises at a 3-4 % grade. Then the hill began about 10 k out of town switchbacking at a doable 6-8% grade. I was back on bike, traffic was not bad and it was nice. Got to what I thought was top and stopped for break. Proprietor of store invited me in back and showed me view looking back down valley to Phewa lake and Pokhara.  The lake still exists!

looking back down valley to Pokhara

And a very pleasant fellow also at break stop asking this and that in reasonable English. Said he was Tibetan. When my break was done he wanted to show me some of the jewelry he had made. Have not seen any hawkers of wares as in past visits. Without being forcefull he pulled out pieces telling me about each one. Some were real turquoise from Tibet others plastic he pointed out. Had well over a hundred pieces just thrown in a bag. Ok I confess I bought one!

Then back in bike, But after only a kilometer road again went up, rising another 250 meters totaling  thus far at 950 meters of climbing (3100 feet) in 20 kilometer (12 miles). 

Stopped at top for lunch. Dahl baht again. (Rice and lentils, and eaten at 90% of Nepali meals.). Very pleasant people particularly one who was asking in reasonable English where I was from and pleasantries. Engaging several other people in restaurant in conversation. Turns out she is Tibetan but was born here in Nepal. Her mother came here in 1962. She has a small business selling jewelry she has made. After I finish eating she would like to show me some, and she wanders off. I finished eating and she returned and directed me to table out front where she had a bag which she began pulling out necklaces, beads, charms, and I could not tell little difference from the stuff seen a few kilometers badck.  I began my departure but she said I should buy something as that is how she lives. I just left without buying anything but lunch. 

Then the descent back and forth and the road surface is more torn  up. Got to bottom then some small up and down but getting quite hot now. And the road began to climb again, nothing serious but the heat in the high 80s (high 20s C) with high humidity was killing me. Even though only about 2 pm I began looking for a place to stay. The road here though is not part of tourist route other than buses and taxis coming back from trekking and only driving through. Basically I was alone amongst thousands around me who had their own lives to lead. Passed one hotel but did not look promising. Onward and upward finally reaching Kusma some 62 kilometers from pokhara.
Found only one hotel in the somewhat large town (guessing 10000 people) and pulled in. Several women and girls sitting around lobby and had to wake up fellow sleeping on couch. Yes they had room (building was 6 stories tall) he called his son from somewhere and he appeared to take me to second floor (third by U.S. counting) it was fine although a bit dirty. I have my sleeping sheet. And a overhead fan. I laid down and let the fan blow with the window open as sweat continued to roil off me. I do not do humidity 

Finally figured I best walk about town. Not a single westerner to seen which is interesting having been several weeks in the thick of tourism. 

Back for dinner about 6 but told to come back promptly at 7 for dinner. No worries back at 7 enjoy a beer but by 8 still no food and no one in kitchen. I seem the only person in hotel other than family. About 8 the fellow comes over and asked if I would like dinner tonight?  Yes please and his son and another go into kitchen and begin serving up food. Dahl baht. 

Morning and breakfast at 7. I ask for black coffee and get a pot of milk coffee. He says will be 15-20 minutes before cook arrives.  About 7:50 his son arrives and goes into kitchen. 8:15 he comes out and asks what I would like. I order scrambled eggs and toast. About 9 a plate of eggs wrapped around the bread arrives. I ask for a receipt for hotel bill and that took another 45 minutes as he itemized each meal, beer etc so much for leaving early and avoiding the heat. 

Descent to 800 meters elevation (200 lower than Pokhara) and entered the Kali Gandaki river drainage). The road continues to deteriorate. Thought Tatopani would be too far today but Beni only 20 kilometers. It is a holiday of some sort and every store was closed and the few hotels also boarded up. And people out walking in their finest outfits. The normal red tika worn by women was a full on red rice pasted all over forehead of everyone, men and women, and all had some grass sticking out of hair. I felt like it was Christmas holidays back in states except without commercial aspects.  Later I learned the holiday is 5 days long and this is day 3. A Hindu holiday as this is Hindu country. 

Some kids enamored with my bike said Tatopani would be a easy 3 hours for me. Guide map says it is a 5 hour walk and I thought hmmm maybe I could do that. Another 25 kilometers and only 11  in the morning. But the heat was kicking in. I stopped to eat and was feeling a bit down so thought maybe I am tougher than I thought and ordered a soda instead of mineral water with the Dahl baht.

lunch time
 

Generally I am tough but not tough enough for a soda. It did me in and I was miserable, having to exit the road once to evacuate the system. Something I have not had to do once on this trip. Felt better but heat and humidity back. (This is jungle after all) 

The road is now a mud fest. With puddles the entire width. I rode one puddle and was hub deep. Waterfalls flowing. Had to help push one car which was stuck in mud. Decided I would not make Tatopani, and kept looking at map for potential villages with hotel. One looked promising but on arrival only one house and a boarded up hotel. Guess it will be Tatopani in 8 kilometers. A major creek crossing, fast current and looked two feet deep. Looked dangerous by foot, and no way to ride a hike through that current, even by vehicle it looked precarious. Found some logs a hundred yards upstream which allowed a rather wet dicey crossing. Figured I would make Tatopani  as only 8 kilometers away. 

bridge out over fast flowing creek
alternate crossing for bikes & pedestrians

Then a village of Tiplyang appeared although first two hotels were boarded up. Decided ok I can do this but as walking up hill out of town the Namaste guest house appears. I just go in and here I am. 

namaste guest house room. Tiplyang(200 rupees $2.00)
Laid in bed for an hour thinking of altitude sickness and if you cannot recover in 10 minutes something is wrong. Here it is the heat and humidity getting me. I was on the bed for over an hour, finally forcing myself up to walk  through town. That took 5 minutes of which 2 was watching a volleyball game.  Back to hotel and invited to watch dinner preparations. It appeared I was the only guest and definitely only westerner. 
Tiplyang holiday volleyball and swing

Wow despite the language gap, I got a lesson in cooking. Had bananas as appetizers with a bread I equated to eskimo doughnuts. Hearty! And good!

spice grinder
kitchen counter ( silver bowl covers rock so chickens do not go there)
 Grind the garlic and I believe it is cardamom on rock. Then grind garlic, peanuts, salt and a few peppers. Peel potatoes and stir fry with fresh cut onions. Oh my gosh it was amazing. Definitely not the fastidiousness of western cooking,  then time to eat. The lentils and rice appear from pressure cookers and enjoy. Another meal of Dahl baht. Everyone is different, and I refer to the Dahl baht. 

Ok morning and on to Tatopani. Maya here tells me it is expensive. Here in Tiplyang I have found the Nepal I remember. No menus, smokey kitchens, simplicity beyond simplicity.  

But pondering return. The group comes into Tatopani Saturday eve and then jeep to Pokhara. The idea of a jeep ride out of here does not entice me. Think I will ride out at least until road is better, but then things get very crowded. Maybe ride all the way back but then some climbs. Decisions decisions. 

And the adventure continues. Now Friday day 3 at Tatopani. Jomsom is 56 kilometers, which is as far as my permit goes, but not feeling the need. Just enjoying the time although might be a bit easier if I had a set schedule. I keep thinking of Paul’s statement: it had been shown one loses IQ points on vacation. 

Yesterday went for a nice trek up the canyon wall. Map said a good viewpoint of Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, and Annapurna South. Hotel owner said could not see Dhaulagiri but nice views and a good waterfall. Did not matter as clouds encased the high mountains anyway. I did try taking butterfly pictures with the iPhone. Not very successful. That is price of going minimalist, I cannot carry bigger camera.

Tatopani room view oranges and Nilgiri (6940 meters)(22769feet)

Awoke this morning and magnificent view of Nilgiri from lying in bed. Maybe not a good day to return to Pokhara. Can ride to Beni in morning and catch a bus from there. Thus I find myself sitting beside road listening to roar of river, motorbikes, jeeps, cars, buses, and trucks go by.

The road continues with technical mountain biking, finding a route through rocks, puddles, creeks, and traffic.  Traffic definitely adds a dimension to route finding. 

 As I ride I have come to appreciate the horns. Nice to know something is near and do not swerve. Funny as in the states horn is not nice, as obnoxious, and one knows they are there, but here cannot always here as so much else going on. Also back home one gets the feeling when someone honks they are saying get out of my way. Not so here, but to let you know they are there. Each has an equal right. 

Pushed upward until my demons were saying why are you doing this? I was pondering why is it I am always the slow one (ok I am alone so who is slow). Why do I do these trips, what is the point? And the questions go on. Self doubts!  

Then finally turned around having climbed about 500 meters in 9 kilometer, after seeing the narrow portion of Kali Gandaki gorge. 4 kilometer to Ghana and I could get a stamp on my permit. Whooppee skippee! I turned around then on way down at a narrow section of road police had come out to direct traffic. There was definite congestion where a stream was running down the road and vehicles were having a hard time climbing.  Was talking with some Israeli trekkers on bus from Jomsom, who as I was cleared to ride through they said. “Keep living my dream”. Words again can mean a lot. Suddenly I felt better.  

And I made it through the very rocky section, sliding and dropping off rocks as it was a major stream flowing down the 15% slope. And about a hundred people filming it as buses disgorged passengers to await their buses turn to climb or descend. 

Talked with a couple from India who are taking a three week vacation to motorcycle this route to Muktinath at the edge of Mustang area. They said it far rougher than they expected. I am amazed at abilities of the motorcycle riders. And that does not mention the passenger of which there is almost always one. 

Apparently since the road went on this has become a motorcycle vacation destination. And they stop me to say they are amazed at what I am doing.  There is always somebody tougher out there. 

Descent from Tatopani to Beni was great but muddy. Left same time as jeep with trekkers from Victoria, Canada. We arrived Beni same time but I had stopped and taken a lot of pictures. Arrived Pokhara covered in mud. 

And made me feel good when this morning as I left Trekkers hotel, the owner and daughter came out to say goodbye. And stopped by Nepali guest house  in Tiplyang and Maya thanked me for stopping by and telling stories of time in Tatopani. 

Thus I think I must post this. Internet is acting weird. One time says ready next it discombobulated   Sorry if not finished. But will have to correct after. Writing on an iPhone is a pain. 

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