Our group of nine trekkers had seven porters in total. They carry the gear that you don’t want to carry with you on that day, plus sleeping bags and some provisions. Whilst we are having breakfast they get our stuff together load up and set off. Typically a porter might carry two of our Mountain Kingdom kit bags plus his own day sack lashed together. A large band is put over the bags and up across their forehead. This might sound bizarre but thats the way most goods are carried in this part of the world where there are no roads.
Now on their feet they either have flip-flops or trainers out of choice. You can give them boots but they won’t wear them. They set off at a faster pace than we do but, understandably, they take frequent breaks. To help them at regular intervals stone structures are placed to allow them to take the load off their head but without putting it back on the floor, see photo. Usually they will arrive just ahead of us at our destination but unlike the guides their working day is now over. Normally they will wash themselves and some clothes and then they can relax. Sometimes they play a board game called Bagh-Chal, see photo below,. At Annapurna Base Camp, all afternoon, there was a game of volleyball going on, see photo. Does anyone know of a higher volleyball court than 13,500ft?
As a group they seem happy in their work which pays above national average wage plus tips. Most of them are very small in stature I suspect not many are above ten stone. Mountain Kingdom rules limit then to 35kg each but you see locals carrying far more and in one instance carrying a table!
Day 8 started with us having survived our night in the Dovan “prison cell” Today’s trek saw us losing another 1,500 ft in total but with a lot of undulations. We were still retracing our steps to Chhomrong where we would spend the night after which we would continue on our way on a fresh route. However we had the small matter of the final climb to Chhomrong of 850ft via over 1,900 steps.
We got to Chhomrong for lunch time. The accommodation was positively luxurious compared to the previous few days. Why we even had carpet and hooks to hang our clothes and an inside European toilet.The weather was very warm and Rich and I decided we deserved a beer with lunch! Well we were on our holidays after all!
After lunch it was time for a shower and to catch up on the washing. Later Sian and I were sat outside admiring the view along with Kit who was writing his travel diary for this wife. Looking up at the sign for a bar next door Kit and I both came to the idea. It was time to bring an element of civilisation to proceeding! We would go to the pub for pre-dinner drinks! As others joined us or came passed they all agreed it was a good idea…even the 9th man, the “Lonely Hiker”
Not a lot happens in Chhomrong but we did have a bit of excitement . A goat escaped! It was chased down the steps before someone grabbed its lead and waited for the owner to retrieve it and lead the goat on its walk of shame back past us.
One of my favorite signs which unfortunately I did not get a photo of was on the kitchen door which said “Do not enter the kitchen without a purpose”
Day 9 started sunny and warm. Again it was a very undulating walk with some very steep inclines. We were now trekking through farm land and a more populated area. Early on we passed several groups of young children immaculately dressed in their school uniforms presumably off to school in Chhomrong. The views of Annapurna South and Fish Tail were gone to be replaced by impressive terraced fields cut into the mountain sides and later rhododendron forest. Along the way we passed many examples of corn, chillis and mushrooms being left out to dry. Also we came across several large home made swings, see photo.
We stopped at Chuile for a tea break that then merged into a lunch stop. The tea, as always, was served from a massive thermos flasks elaborately decorated although showing its age.
After our leisurely lunch a steep uphill walk through rhododendron forest brought us to our destination for the night Tadapani. Tadapani is a bit run down to say the least, but very busy with a market mostly made up of trinkets. However a quick walk around did produce some excellent additions to collection of interesting signs as you will see below. Often in the afternoon it clouds over and you might get a few spots of rain. This afternoon the clouds were darker than normal and by the time we went to bed it was seriously pouring down. This would continue for over 24 hours with serious consequences in the area. But that’s for the next installment.