413 The morality of landscape + sherpas as we fishtail to walkabout Annapurna communing w/ animals
Ghandruk, Nepal—7 Feb 2015
Dear Inurnet ..
.. on a 5th floor in Pokhara we awoke (really 4th since Nepalese superstitious about #4 + skip it) .. belly full of delicious Thakali thali (2 types of curries + dahl + eggplant + tamarind + broccoli rabe + sum sort of goat jerky thing + lapsi pickles etc) + tea (w/ salty yak butter) .. asked for a 6:15 wake-up call but they called at 5:00 .. thawt maybe had sumthing to do w/ that weird 0:15 timezone diffrence + then sum but according to u dear Inurnet we on «right» time .. not sure how them feel about it here on the ground tho ..
.. feel sort of like Crawford's protagonist in Travel Notes .. reviewed yesterday in The Brooklyn Rail .. «The Morality of Landscape» .. much lost in translation .. not everything need make sense .. = a good thing ..
.. also forgot to mention (after surviving the omen of the crow hanging by its wing in Kathmandu (before we took flight to Pokhara)) when lunching in Pokhara a crow over our head heckled us making all sorts of weird noises .. hard to xplain but crow made sounds never we heard a crow making before .. like satanic laughing .. looking at us intensely w/head cocked like intent on communicating sumthing .. perhaps the strongest ever we felt this from an animal .... ? = what them trying to say? ..
.. got a car from Pokhara to Phidi .. walked (hate the word trek) up a steep hill (Dhampus) .. cloudy at 1st so couldnt see .. but then clouds lifted + we had views of Machhapuchchhre + Annapurna ..
.. continued on thru 1 checkpoint .. guy aks where we go today + we say Ghandruk + he seems to think it impossible .. says it takes 2 days .. we plod on to Pothana thru another checkpoint (lots of bureaucracy .. taking forever to transcribe data by hand + questioning why u here .. even tho paid good $ for all these permits they treat u like trespassing criminals) .. same story .. 2 guys say it takes 5 days to do the whole route (to Ghorepani) + we say 2 to 3 .. so we a bit concerned thinking maybe they right but so far on map seems we going 2x as fast as people say .. them always exaggerate assuming not in shape ..
.. thru Bhichok Deurali + down sum steep hill (saw a few monkeys .. unexpected at this altitude) + back up to Landruk .... every 1 along the way asks «where from?» .. as a conversation starter so they can sell u sumthing .... their guesthouse .. sum food .. ganja .. a guide .... after a while we say Italy or Mexico just to change things up .. .. to not have to talk about Obama .. pretending we dont speak English .... + then them aks «where u coming from today» + we say Pokhara + they look at us in disbelief .... + also cant believe we walk solo .. no porter or guide (if anything cant these 2 roles combine into 1?) .... not that we dont believe in supporting such things but we'd feel silly having sum 1 else carry our little pack (not carrying much sides this computer) .. + shouldn't be so difficult an elephant trail (paved w/ stones) to find but people trick u + put signs for Pothana or Ghandruk + it just leads to their guesthouse or restaurant .... we feel bad going thru these villages .. every 1 aks for sumthing if not straight out for $$ .. the kids aks for candy .. but them put the trail right thru people's backyards what else can we do? .. intresting to see how they live tho .. didnt take any photos of peepole cuz feels weird to us + lord knows we do plenty of that w/ our better ½ visiting villages (for her work) when they aks us to take them .... imagine how u'd feel if ppl came tromping thru yur backyard taking photos of u? .. sure plenty ppl do .... the mtn ppl here quite beautiful + dress nicely take our word for it .... lots of cows + goats + buffalo .. them all very chill + friendly .. u can walk right up to them + pet them .. no yak yet tho ..
.. the last bit to Ghandruk pretty brutal .. they don't do switchbacks here but just lay flat stones like stairs straight up or down .. like doing stairmaster .. + high steps .... got to Ghandruk w/ plenty time to spare (by 14:30) .. shd have a view of Annapurna from here but it clouded up + got cold .. just ate thukpa soup + tea to warm up .... them Nepalese crazy .. they leave windows open even tho freezing (when we breathe inside can see our breathing) .. no heat .. + they just wear light sweaters + open-toed sandals acting like no big deal .. must have hot yak butter in them veins .... Buddhist monks in the room below me chanting + singing (why we chose this guesthouse .. saw them out in front earlier modeling figures out of clay + chanting) .. 4 of them now bundled in saffron robes + rocking back + forth .. reading from prayer books .. at times voices raise almost to a yell .. a sort of yodeling ..
.. + now they've busted out instruments .. loud horns .. not sure if them Tibetan monks staying here or whether we staying at a monastery .. otherwise no 1 else here .. only saw a couple other gringos along the trail (w/ ski poles + fancy gear while porters hump their shit) .. mostly just Nepalese .. maybe this route not so popular .... we dont have time or gear for longer «trek» like Annapurna circuit (what seems most ppl do .. fit 1s anyway) .. so this seemed good as any for «mini-trek» .. an odyssey to walk at least walk on sum uv the same stones as our brother-½ Chaulky when he walked these trails in 1989 in the name of the original 'SSES" 'SSES" ..
.. sunset the monks (indeed Tibetan .. we aksed) played dungchen up on the roof + now them smoking huka pipe + burning incense (even brought the can of smoking incense into our room to purify our space) + drinking homebrew in tin cups .... we eating momos + chicken chilly washed down w/«Ghandruk coffee» (coffee mixed w/ «local wine» (made from millet) .. very strange .. hope we dont go blind ..
.. woke up at sunrise in Ghandruk .. clear outside .. clouds gone so cd see Annapurna + Machhapuchchhre ..
.. pushed on toward Tadapani .. today more people on the trail than yesterday .. groups of rich rowdy Nepalese w/ iPhones that like to scream + yell .. big groups of Chinese + Japanese tourists w/ guides + porters carrying all their junk .... we respect the whole sherpa culture (specially if we the sherpa .. but otherwise we prefer DIY + to hump our own baggage) but not the same as days when them a specialized profession .. now demoted to carrying fat tourist crap + making stilted small talk .... every time we passed «trekkers» both the sherpas + tourists looked miserable .. strained conversation in broken English .. not able to enjoy the scenery or the act of walking as much as when alone .. all we want to hear when hiking = our own breathing + birds + our feet treading the trail .. small talk can come evening time around the fire .. feel better about ourselves doing everything ourselves .. if we did Everest or sum 8000 meter it'd have to be Alpine style ..
.. + most of these porters + guides not even real Sherpas but just regular Nepalese jumping the bandwagon for a buck .... they eye us w/ spite for walking alone + not using their service .... even mislead us + say we going the wrong way .. «u going to Ghorepani? .. this way» (pointing in opposite direction we going) .... thanks but we didnt aks to begin .. we can read a topo map .... 1 guy says «u going to Kathmandu?» .. to which we said «what does that mean?» .. + he said we on trail to Kathmandu (like hiking in Yosemite + having sum1 say u on trail to LA) .... had ½ a mind to say he a bad person but that'd only make him more spiteful .. bit our lip + stayed the course .... seriously u cd really fuck sum1 up pointing them in wrong direction .... or other ppl trying to point u in direction of their lodge or restaurant .. then when u dont buy anything they point u in the wrong direction .. mean-spirited + vindictive really .. but we dont blame the sherpas + Nepalese ppl .. tourism has corrupted + jaded them .... maybe we'd do the same thing in them shoes .. sure it frustrating dealing w/ disrespectful tourists ± «luxury climbers» demanding sherpas bring them tea in their tents .. but nothing justifies such vengeful violence .... bottom line no 1 owns the landscape (tho sum try to charge u to see from viewpoints or to take photos of the mtns) + no 1 = more or less entitled .... we happy to pay for trails (which aint cheap .. for the permits) .. + happy to pay for food + water + lodging .. otherwise just want to walk alone + enjoy the view w/o hassles .. too much to ask? .. this tradition of hiring sherpas or any servant for that matter really just a time-bomb .. a real-world version of the Stanford prison experiment .. those paying feel entitled to get what they paid for + the sherpas only feel more + more resentment bottling up ..
.. again befriended by dogs who followed us for long stretches .. w/o even petting or feeding they follow .. like we dog magnets or sumthing .. also goats + buffalo .. them stop what they do + sniff us + approach us .. our faces or body language must change when we see animals (versus humans wherein our body language probly reads we asshole keep away) .. all creatures = creatures of god .. xcept humans .. humans = devils .. billions of little devils (us included) ruining it for the rest of the lovely creatures ..
.. going up thru Deurali pass started to get dicey .. we stopped + stepped aside to let sum guide + client pass + he slipped + we caught him before he fell further down hill (taking us w/ him) .. he didnt see the icy spot + wearing hard-soled loafers .... w/ the $$ they make think they'd equip themselves + know that ice = slippery? .... sure this 1 unqualified as probly most of them .... started to get real snowy + icy .... guides having to hold hands of grown American men + scared but giggling Japanese girls .. every1 slipping left + right + we just trying to stay out of the way (more worried about other devils slipping into us then slipping on the ice) .... sumhow we managed not to slip (running shoes better than hiking boots in this regard .. + easier going up then down) ..
.. went up to 3200 meters or so (doesnt stop them from setting up rows of souvenir shops w/ tacky knick-knacks) .. by now cloudy otherwise probly nice vista .. the way down the other side not as icy since sun-facing .. but slushy + muddy .. whole sections of slippery mud .. not so fun .. now in Ghorepani .. everything really cheap here ($2 for room including Wifi + view of Annapurna (if we cd see thru clouds) .. granted it little more than 4 walls of plywood) .. surely they cd get away w/ charging more? .. we for 1 wd xpect it by law of supply + demand .. not easy getting supplies so remote .. donkey train after donkey train (cd hear the bells + distinct Nepalese-style grunts of giddyup even in the middle of the night) .. or even groups of sherpa/porters w/no clients carrying massive packs + bundles .. human mules? .. we passed a group of them + they got all competitive speeding up .. they like to sing + yell while they walk them funny .. glutton wish we have for this job ..
.. for dinner had momos + dahl bhat + raksi (alcohol made from rice + sumthing else they didnt know the word for) .. we the only 1 at this guesthouse (Dhualgiri) .. just us + 4 Nepalese women huddled round a woodstove in the dark (no electricity) .. 1 of them speaks broken English .. this = the 1st guesthouse in Ghorepani .. 17 years ago her step-mother came + decided to build (she also makes the raksi herself as well as other things we forget the name of like sum pickle dish made from local root) .. now lots of places .. most fancier + full of trekkers probly drinking + wearing sweaters + telling fireside stories (place across the way blasting bangra/Nepalese disco + white people dancing under flashing lights) but this unhip hovel suits us fine .. the girls watching videos on a cellphone .. laundry hanging in front of stove .. maximizing all the space in front for every log they put on ..
Pokhara > Kathmandu—9 Feb
.. ridiculously cold when 1st we got under blankets last night (granted we fair-weathered wimps) .. but after 10 minutes amazing how much heat the human body can generate .. plenty cold in our room that ice forming in our H2O bottle .. mindless standard protocol here in Ghorepani where every1 wakes up at 05:00 to climb Pun Hill .. we woke naturally at 5 but still dark + cold .. cd hear the zombies mobilizing + trudging by .. seemed silly to go up + stand around in the dark w/ annoying zomibes waiting for the sun to rise so we waited until like 6 when just barely starting to get light .. walking by moonlight .. passing the slowpokes but not wanting to go too fast that we break a sweat (+ have to stand on top getting cold) .... not far up maybe 30 minutes .. sun just starting to rise along the way .. oh + of course they charge u to go up the hill ..
.. the scene on top of Pun Hill ridiculous .. dozens of zombies clad in North Face taking selfies + having a tea party .. 1 person even had a drone buzzing over our heads .. had ½ a mind to take a stick + swat it like a fly .. + all those damn selfie-sticks waving around more for status (to show iPhone) than for how useful .. but the view magnificent no denying that .. if only u cd take the humans out of it .... cant ppl just respectully appreciate beauty w/o having a photo of them in it?
.. waited for the sun to hit the mountains then split the zombie tea party + headed back down for coffee + toast + to grab our bag (a bundle cobbled together w/ our belt + shoelaces) .. had heard widely differing stories of how long it took to get from Ghorepani to Nayapul (where we cd find transport to Pokhara) .. + no 1 had any concept of spatial distances (km) .. sum said 2-3 days .. others said a full day but since same distance roughly as Ghandruk to Ghorepani (judging off the map) we estimated 4-5 hours .. our plane ticket back to KTM booked for the next day but we knew the last flight at 15:40 so at least wanted to try for it .. on the trail by 8 ..
.. once the sun comes up it warms up real fast .. 20°C temperature shifts .. the whole way downhill .. down steep stone staircases .. down down from 3200 to 1070 meters .. losing sight of Annapurna .. occasionally peaking up above hills waving bye .. soon after Ulleri groups of trekkers started coming up against us .. newbie zombies just starting .. finally reached the bottom of the valley + crossed a suspension bridge thinking must be there .. but trail kept wrapping around another mountain .. then reach a road w/ bunch of 4WD landcruisers parked unloading «trekkers» .. them aks if we need «private Jeep» to Pokhara .. didnt even aks how much (can only imagine) .. out of principle seems decadent .. so walked on the road w/ jeeps blazing by churning dust in our face .. walked + walked on the new dirt road (on our map a dotted trail) .. just when we thawt it looked like a town w/ the highway passing thru the road kept going .. 1 or 2 signs for Pokhara we followed but no signs for Nayapul .. not 1x did we stop not even to check time thinking we just might make it to airport .. the road kept winding around til felt like we going in circles so we stopped to check map + indeed around a mountain we had wrapped + heading back up toward Ghandruk! (in fact made it all the way to Syauli Bajar before realizing it) .. did time check 12:50 .. still just might make it .. doubled back to Birethanti + found little unmarked sideroad + turned down across the bridge (having to go thru time-consuming checkpoints leaving) .. 13:55 .. got a rickety taxi that cd barely chug uphill .. stopping to buy cigarettes or say hi to his friends .. thru traffic in Pokhara straight to airport by 15:00 .. hunt down people from Yeti Air in sum back office .. sure we can change ticket no problem .. got to love Yeti Air! .. flight delayed tho so not leaving 16:30 .. fine no problema .. time plenty to get sum H2O + chips .. anything w/ salt .... sweaty + dirty .. no shower for 3 days .. got leftside seat but didn't matter since cloudy .. but cd see Himalayas peaking above the clouds occasionally .. landed Kathmandu + taxi to hotel .. reunited w/ better-½ herself just back from Lumbini + meeting w/ sum high level minister in hotel lobby ..
.. thinking now about what we thawt whilst walking + those long cold nights laying there not sleeping .. thinking what our brother-½ thawt about or xpected to find + like him inevitably coming up empty handed .... where do all those thawt thawts go? .... sorta of like the Aborigine walkabout custom of formulating songlines from landscapes .. retrieved only when repeating the same walk .. in writing 'SSES" 'SSES" his eyes traced the contours of Annapurna + the fishtailed Machhapuchchhre (never before climbed .. unclimbable not cuz of difficulty but cuz Shiva lives there) + now we here retracing it ..
.. think about that .. the virgin peak of Fishtail .. think humanity can just leave it be?
|412 <()> 414 > Just like the 1-winged crow becoming a fish out of water in Aragon's Paris|