Annapurna Loop over Thorung La

A woman just walked past with a load of firewood ...
the cord that binds it is fancy climbing rope.
The climber and trekker cast offs are everywhere ...
we clothe them in our charity.

Sunday 8th ... first day bus to Besisahar at 800m, walk 18k to Khudi at 1,200m
I'm up on the road facing north. It is cool. I'm wearing both my new hat and new sweater - so nice, receiver of many compliments. The mountains are an Ansel Adams color. No sun on them until one second ago. Shafts of pink pierce clouds on my right. Before my eyes the mountains are going to turn pink, and that makes me very very happy. There looks to be a cloud, maybe a cloud of snow, blowing off Annapurna III. The sun catches it and turns it into cotton candy. The tips of sun tell me the truth with respect to who is tallest. From town the perspective is deceiving. There is one real painty fellow, Machhap, who looks tallest but who is yet to be blessed by the sun. Those mountains are to become my constant companions. The sun is just peaking up. "Good morning friend." Friend from who I hide under my umbrella. Those mountains are all basking in the sun now. They seem not of this place ... an artist's backdrop to enhance the town's prospects. From my vantage point I see the beautiful little valley that Pokhara is in ... almost surrounded by hills. Nice. OK, time to go!
It has begun. The walking and the fun. I roll up at the bus station and am shepherded to the bus. I always worry when someone starts to sweep me along. I'm out of control then. Its all I can do to hang onto my bag. The atmosphere here is rougher and more physical. I see children hitting each other. I see a crowd gathered to watch a couple of men fight. Those are interactions I've not seen for a while. The feeling on the street is tougher as well. The bus station seems to be surrounded by a tent slum, and there is a hostile feeling from many men. It keeps me on edge. The mud, filth, and cool, we leave behind.
The day stays clear, and as the half hours pass the mountains don't seem to recede much. After exactly two hours our bus stops for tea. Having been swept past breakfast I have an egg and something deep fried. There must be a reason that these people eat so much oil. A bus load of rafters pull in ... a gaggle of Germans. We arrive in Dumre where I part from the main road. Some men are wrestling with a wrench, some leverage, and a tractor. There is always a couple of shops where the men are black with grease. In ways they must be magicians because the exterior of these buses show that they've been used and abused. Yet, still they power along, often with twice the weight they should have.
Leaving Dumre I have an unpleasant experience. A tout lines us up for the bus, we put my pack on top, and then I'm asked for 200r.! I express my indignation but a crowd has gathered and the tout is running about shouting that my bag is coming down, blau blau. I should have relaxed, checked things out and known I could catch the next bus. Unfortunately I am taken advantage of and I dislike that deeply. Probably what I dislike is being seen as so different, so rich, that they have a right to fleece me. I grumble within as the incredible craft I'm on crawls along.
The road here is more suited for a dirt bike than for a bus. The bus has been souped up ... more suspension, bigger tires, probably lower gearing. The road is deeply rutted and wet in places ... a very wet river bed at times. Sometimes we crawl over recent landslides. They are working away on it, bridges and embankments, pushing the road deeper and deeper. I think it is unfortunate but the locals probably feel it the most important of developments.
The pendulum swings. I'm sitting beside a young woman who makes up for being ripped off. She sympathizes with me, but points out "it's lost now." She is going home to visit the parents. Four hours on buses, then three hours on foot. In her small bag she'll have treats for her loved ones ... some soap, a pomegranate, a couple of oranges. She gives me one of the oranges. I'm thankful. Maybe the nicest orange I've had. I'm in need of a graceful action and she provides.
I'm scarred to reach Besishahar where the bus ends. I'm scarred of the ones who will descend on me. Pleasantly only one man does. He can't even get excited when I change my mind and won't eat at his place. I put a curry, a curry with something like gluten in it, over a wheat dish cooked in ghee and sugar. I see everyone else eats the grain separately as a treat. Faux pas, but an extremely tasty one.
As soon as I start walking I am happy. The way follows along the road. It is really only passable for tractors pulling trailers and for motor bikes. The tractors are hauling sand or stones for the road improvement projects. The amount of infrastructure work is grand. Rock walls yards thick are build and then encased in wire mesh. The wire is brought in as a roll, then men set up stands and twist the mesh together. Their hands are a blur as they work down a row ... over, under, twist. I would expect they are paid on a production basis.
People are plowing their fields. The plows they are using are wooden. Real basic, but it does the job. Often a young boy or the wife follows the plow, sowing the corn out of a bag at her side. Another person is often present with a long handled blunt object to break up the larger clumps. The other tool is a wooden harrow/rake. The farmer likes to get his beasts running for a pass, then he squats down on the harrow. Looks like fun!
An early start was super. I've walked in the shade so far. I'm walking east by north along a river, much of the time on the south side of the river and the north side of a hill. Perfect. There is a small river that joins the larger on I'm walking up along. The sound of the water is wonderful. I've walked for a couple of hours then had some breakfast. My intention was to stop here, a small village, and find a local eatery. But as soon as I'm in sight the rest house/restaurant fellow is watching me. Like a prairie farmer watches a cloud ... like the Indian farmer, his rice seedlings needing rain, watches the sky in the weeks before the monsoon. The ever pleasant man says "Namaste" and as it is time for breakfast I'm swayed. I am really such a pushover.
A young man falls in with me. He has just packed out the gear for someone. He left from where I am now. He is a farmer's son/guide, and porter. He probably is a fine representation of the local people. The subsistence farming which as been the only thing going on for ever, has now to co-exist with the much more lucrative trekker trade. It is funny to see the traditional tribal woman at the water source this morning. She is washing some cook wear, she is wearing a lovely shawl, and a fleece with a U.S. Southwest pattern. Wild!
So many things crowding my thoughts. I find the name of the river, Marsyandi. Again this evening I'm real close, now with a beautiful waterfall before me. The sound is gorgeous ... water falling maybe fifty feet, and doing it a couple of times. I was thinking of walking just a tiny bit farther, but such a sitting place, to look across at those falls. Vertical streams cutting down through black rock covered, patched over with, green grasses and the odd tree. In most places the hills look dry. The grasses look dead and many trees are still leafless. A large village, of 30 villagers, is perched up high across the river. It looks quite bleak. A heavy gray sky comes over, some fires in fields send smoke to mingle with the cloud. A cool wind blows down the canyon. Even if you're not moving a sweater still makes it comfortable.
To Nepal Pokhara One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Nine Eleven Twelve