This is part 4 of 10 of the “Mother in-law” series IN Nepal and India.
Day 2: Hille to Ghorapani
The monsoon rains came again overnight and I awake to the sound of a donkey bells. I look down over the narrow balcony railing to see a train of donkeys, laden with sacks making their way uphill, neck-bells clanging, past our tea house. They carry supplies in to the villages, as do any number of people, mostly younger men, shod only in flip-flops and carrying the most amazing loads on their backs. Everything that is not grown and made in the village must be carried in. Fortunate few are able to avail themselves the services of a donkey.
The overnight rains have washed clean the stone pathways and steps. We pull on our still damp clothes from yesterday, downed our breakfast of milk tea and oatmeal and set out to begin the arduous climb. Renuka advises us that if we begin to tire “don’t look up”. Just put one foot in front of the other and take one step at a time. I discover that if I follow behind Indra I actually can fall into a rather meditative state. I don’t have to think about where to safely place my feet on the stone pathway or stairs. I just follow her step by step. Indra is one of two porters that we have hired to carry our things. She carries the pack that Randy and I share. We have tried to limit our take-along stuff to only the necessary items. A single change of clothes, toiletries, camera supplies, and sleeping bag liners. No sleeping bags – consequently the night was a bit too cold for a truly restful sleep. Tomorrow we will borrow a blanket.
Indra Rai is 18 and has grown up in the foothills of Mount Everest, in Solokumbu. She is one of seven daughters and was raised by her mother after her father died when she was only 3 years old. This is her first time working as a porter after completing the training offered by the trekking company that arranged this excursion for us. The “Three Sisters” organization is affiliated with the NGO “Empowering Women of Nepal” . In a rather revolutionary move, three sisters started a training program for women to gain the skills and knowledge to be employed as mountain guides. So, for our trek, we have hired a female guide, Renuka, and two female porters who each carry a pack (which had to be less than 8 kg). Renuka, as a guide, carries only her own things. We learn that some trekking companies do not set limits on the amount that porters carry. On our departure from Naya Pul yesterday we saw a family of six who had hired a single porter. Imagine two of the largest wheeled luggage possible tied to your back to carry up and down the mountainside for five days. It’s truly inhumane what they have asked this man to do.
Indra and Maina seem to carry our packs effortlessly up and down steep slopes, never slipping, never a misstep, like a slow dance. Indra climbs slowly and steadily, weaving gently from side to side up the steps and down. Conserving energy and choosing two or three smaller steps over a single large one. I follow Indra, her pace is perfect, I am less winded, I don’t slip either now. Indra checks on me often quietly asking “you okay mum”. She is shy and beautiful with a Buddha-like face. They have come to call us Mum, Dad, Rakesh (Rex), and Tal (Tlell)) and we have established our ” trekking order “. We fall easily back into our places after each much needed water break. Maina is in front, followed by Indra, I am next of course, Randy behind me then Tlell, Rex and finally Renuka, our careful watch-mother and guide.
During the last half hour of this seven-hour day it begins to rain, we take a short cut through a wooded area and arrive totally soaked at the ” Sunny Guesthouse” in Ghorapani. As we doff our boots we discover the leeches, many of them have crawled up our boots and beyond the top of socks. Quite a stir in the hallway as we shriek, laugh, jump about and carefully inspect one another to remove leeches and salt them down before entering our rooms.
The focal point of the Sunny Guesthouse is a large wood-burning 45 gallon oil-drum stove which sits on a low clay brick stage in the middle of the dining hall. A wooden rack surrounds this stove and guests and porters alike hang out their wet clothing. We welcome the opportunity to dry out as well. Benches surround the wooden rack, each covered with a Nepali woolen rug. We join the others already there on the benches and poke our feet under the racks of drying clothes toward the warmth of the stove, not bothered by the damp shirts and undies dangling in front of our faces. Hot milk tea all around and everyone is smiling and laughing yet again.
At supper, once ensuring that we have been well fed, Renuka gives us the breakdown for tomorrow’s trek. We are to be up at 4:15, out the door at 4:30, warmly dressed for the one hour steep climb, in the dark, to Poon Hill, the highest elevation that we reach on this trek. at 3180 meters and from where can have the best view of the Anapurnas. Sleep comes easily after what Rex swears is the equivalent of doing the Grouse Grind, up and down, four times in one day or perhaps the Kusam climb twice in one day? Shall I have to try them both when I get home just to see?