I arrived in Tatopani with my injuries from the waterfall plunge as a great reason to spend a day recovering. The 3 guys I had traveled with from Kathmandu got up and after buying me breakfast to say goodbye they headed towards Pokhara via bus. I happily found some comfort in the room for awhile, writing, napping and thinking about my next plan before venturing out to soak in a hot springs. They were beautiful for the body, extremely hot, but the setting wasn’t nearly as scenic as a second place I came to find on my Annapurna Basecamp route in Jhinu Danda.
I was eating my dinner looking out on the road and I saw Anja hiking up, the smiling German gal I ran into briefly the day before while walking. We chatted and had a laugh about how she had watched me ‘disappear’ onto that fateful bus when I decided to jump on with my Nepali friends. Her French friend arrived behind her and they went to find some cheaper options to stay but I knew we would cross paths if I decided to head towards Annapurna Basecamp in the morning as that was her plan.
I left Tatopani the following morning feeling a bit irresponsible and anxious after having come face to face with nearly running out of money. After paying the hotel I was down to less than 800 rupees ($8) because I hadn’t planned on trekking over the pass and continuing my journey so my only real option at getting cash would be to get on a bus to Beni in the opposite direction as ABC and Ghorepani. It’s funny I left the hotel without making a decision on what I was doing and started to walk. Within a 1/2 kilometer I came to the important junction of a footbridge leading East into the valley toward Ghorepani or the road leading South to Beni. I sat down on a rock and called Shree, unsure of anyone else that could truly aide me in my financial dilemma in the middle of the Annapurna Region. He immediately answered, a good sign to start, and continued to respond to my emotional indecisiveness by saying, “keep going Ang Dolma Sherpa (my nickname from our Everest Region Trek), you’re there now and makes no sense to not see ABC”. He said you have to make it to Ghorepani that night and seek out Sunny Guesthouse, there you can speak with the woman who runs the hotel and call him and he would get the money in my hands. My problem was resolved and I instantly had the freedom once again to continue on in the direction I most wanted to go, Annapurna Basecamp.
That day was one of the most relaxing and beautiful of the trek so far. The landscape was terraced hillsides and the daily life of the Nepalese people was ever-present during harvest season. It was constant activity in all of the bustling villages far removed from from tourism in nearly every sense. The men could be seen and heard up on the terraced mountainsides, pushing, pulling, prodding, shouting, grunting and whistling at their bulls churning up the earth with their handmade plows.
Woman could be seen in nearly every home outside on the stone patios beating huge piles of grain with long sticks of bamboo all in unison. They were all talking loudly, laughing and rarely noticed a passing white face walking along and stopping to snap a picture. Some woman use these big hand woven sifting trays, standing to sift like basically tossing something in a fry pan. A more modern approach was a boy using a rudimentary foot-pedaled machine to power a belt that would rotate large beat up metal blades of a fan. His mother stood in front and tossed the grains from the woven tray while the dusty light outer shells blew off and heavier desirable grains fell to the ground in little heaps at her feet.
Little ones were getting bathed outside their with big basins of soapy water where clothes were also being laundered and laid out to dry all across the stone walls and grassy hills. The woman bath outside as well with sarongs around them pouring cold water over there upside down heads of hair and attempting to scrub up awckwardly underneath the sarong. At first it all seems like such a pain but you come to realize after days and weeks of seeing it all over and over that they aren’t looking for better, faster, easier ways to do things all the time. They have a routine in their chores and activities and the time they need to do these things remains the same. Food is on the table, rest is found at night and joy is seen in the everyday activity. There is not this pressure to do something faster or better when what you get from your current pace is all that you need. It’s definitely a healthy thing to witness coming from the culture of bigger, better, faster, more product, less time, quantity, quantity and more quantity.
A man was sitting cross- legged on the ground using an old hand-crank sewing machine, stitching up clothes in the sun while his older daughter chitter-chattered away at him.
It was really the first time I can say I didn’t see any needs or reliance on the tourism to keep the villagers busy in their daily lives. I stopped at one point to take the huge cephalopod fossil out of my pack and leave it behind on a rock wall. There was a little girl and boy on the wall standing over me saying, “sweets”, “picture”, “chocolate” and I smiled and said no sweets but I have this present for you…..and pulled the huge fossil from the bottom of my pack. I don’t think they were very enthused about my gift and it will likely stay there for years without any notice that it’s a fossil from the riverbank 50 kilometers away and hundreds of meters below us!!
Further along in my walk I stopped to have some soup for lunch and looked down to see this message on my phone that said ‘Locked SIM’. I asked a local Nepali guide at the teahouse if I could use his phone to contact Shree once again for help! I needed to see if there was anyway he could find out my PUK number required to unlock the SIM. All I could think was thankfully this happened after I was able to contact him about money earlier in the day or I may have been ‘bussing’ to Beni after all. I was shit out of luck unless Shree managed to find the code or get me a new SIM card. I had reached a point in my journey where I had no money or cell phone service. If it weren’t for my Nepali brothers back in Bhaktapur I would have had to scrap the trip much sooner. He didn’t have the PUK number I later found out and my old number was history but he said he may be able to get me a SIM card in the middle of the ABC trek when I crossed paths with one of the iTrek Nepal guides coming back with a client so we left it at that and I remained without a cell phone in hopes of wi-fi to keep in touch as needed. I’ve been off the radar for longer periods of time that’s for sure.
I continued along toward Ghorepani. I was walking along and starting to climb some more ‘lovely’ steps when a little girl and her dog came running down one of the hills next to the trail and she quietly just looked at me and began walking along beside me. I pointed ahead and said “Ghorepani”, she said “yes” and I attempted to ask her what village she was from but regardless of how simple I tried to speak she just looked at me and nodded smiling. Cute as a button, she carried her little purse with a long strap on her head like all the porters carry their loads and baskets around the villages. She proceeded to run up the endless rock steps stopping and looking and waiting for me just like she was out for a walk herself and enjoyed the company. Her dog went in front of us just a few meters at all times. She couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6. It’s amazing the freedom all these little ones seem to run about with, on some very steep and dangerous cliffs and ridges. It was like her home was in the middle of the wilderness where we were walking and it brings a whole new perspective to what their ‘neighborhoods’ and ‘boundaries’ are when it comes to playing in the woods and walking with strangers to and from nearby villages. I thought I was wild and free as a child but seeing her just run up and down the mountain trails with her dog really brought a smile to my heart. A little girl and her dog playing in the wilderness, I could relate to that from my own childhood.
After coming up to the next village the little girl did stop trailing along and I came upon a guest house up in the woods and saw a familiar face, it was Anja. We were only a few hours from Ghorepani and she was hiking with a different French guy, Flo, whom she also ran into earlier in her hike when he was with his girlfriend. He was going to head up to ABC as well so that night we all ended up in Ghorepani, he happened to still get be with his guide and they were also staying at the Sunny Guesthouse which is where we all landed. I managed to do just what Shree had instructed and the woman from the hotel got on the phone with Shree and 1/2 hour later I had money in hand and he was transferring funds to her bank account. I was a happy trekker among new friends and ready to finish my journey up to Annapurna Basecamp thanks to the beautiful people of this beautiful country.