16 January 2013

The Koreans that had stayed in our lodge last night left early in a van.

We walked through a grove of birch trees, and once again caught up with the other Koreans, the ones with the hiking poles. They had stayed in Chame at another lodge. The young man wants to hike to Tilicho Lake, but his guide says it is impossible.

After Chame there is a road that must have required heavy machinery to construct, but jeeps cannot go further because there is no bridge for them. The motorbikes however can go over the suspension bridges.

There was a view of Lamjung Himal with frozen waterfalls under it.

Lunch break was in Dhukur Pokhari (bird lake) at the Kamala Hotel. I had garlic noodle soup, which also had cabbage in it. Lal gave me some potato curry with local mushrooms from his plate.

After lunch a couple of young and pretty Korean women were sitting at a table outside the restaurant, the fourth group of Koreans we had encountered on the trek. I told them so, and joked about the new leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, saying he had a fat face. I immediately worried that I could have committed a faux pas, since I had no way of knowing whether the women had relatives in the north. One of them said to Lal that she liked his smile. As we walked away Lal asked what she meant. “She’s flirting”. Lal protested.

We checked in to the Tilicho Hotel and Restaurant in Lower Pisang, elevation 3250. In the dining area three monks were sitting on a blanket chanting aloud from text written on long thin rectangular pieces of paper which were flipped over vertically as they read. Each monk had his own text, and the chanting was simultaneous but not in unison. When I asked Lal about it he said they were praying.

The young Korean guy, from the group with the hiking sticks, came by, and said that they were going to do the short steep hike to Upper Pisang. Lal and I decided to come with them. The young guy, whose name was Mina, asked me why I wasn’t carrying my hiking poles. Because I am not wearing a heavy pack, so I don’t need them for balance and stability. What I didn’t say, was that most Koreans seem to use their poles too long, and waste energy flailing their arms around. Mina said that if we get clear weather, they might not wait in Manang to acclimatize as per custom, but might go for the pass. Also there is an upper route to Manang, more strenuous, that they might do.

There was some treacherous ice on the stairs on the way to Upper Pisang. Lal carefully walked to the left of a shrine.

The highest point in the town is occupied by a large square Buddhist temple on top of cement stairs. A monk told Lal it was OK to go inside. We took off our shoes and left them outside. Inside there were three statues behind glass, as in the temple at the monastery at Besi Sahar: Gautama Siddhartha, Guru Rimpoche, and another.

One of their porters was acting as a guide for the Koreans. Lal and I went back down, while they stayed around and photographed the stupendous views of Annapurna II and IV, and some high peaks near Manaslu.

After the walk to Upper Pisang, I went into the restaurant. The monks were still praying. The woman placed bowls of macaroni soup next to their texts while they continued to chant. I ordered a rakshi and a bowl of mushroom soup. The rakshi tasted like smooth sake. Lal said the mushrooms were locally picked from the forest. The dining area was very cold so I sat on a bench in the kitchen next to the wood burning stove. The typical stove is in the center of the kitchen set into a wooden basin on solid legs filled with dirt (like dried clay); this one had a convenient ledge around it on which I placed my food. Lal and the young guide of the Korean women came in and were served macaroni chicken soup from a pot; they also offered me some.

Presently a fire was started in the stove in the dining area, so people moved there. A bench and chair were pulled up. I sat at a nearby table and ordered tea and pizza with veg cheese mushroom tuna. The Korean women came in and sat on the bench by the stove. They sang a Nepali song that their guide had taught them. Lal wrote down the words in my journal:

Resham firi-firi firi
Resham firiri
Udera jauki dada mabhanjjang
Resham firiri

Everyone laughed loudly when I told my story of getting lost in Kathmandu.

The woman with the glasses, I’ll call her Julie, had a headache, likely from altitude sickness. They had taken a jeep to Chame then hiked to Pisang, altitude 3200 meters, the next day, a very sudden gain in altitude. Lal gave her some Diamox and I looked up the recommended dosage in Bezruchka & Lyons. She said she was a pharmacist; I gave her my iPad for her to read. When I told her I hadn’t had time to get vaccinations, she said it’s OK, it’s winter.

The girl with the long hair, I’ll call her Kathy, began to hit on Lal overtly, saying she was jealous of him when he said he has a wife and two children. She bluntly asked if that means he can’t have girlfriends when he is on a trek.

After I finished my pizza, which was OK, I hung around a while and then went to bed. Later I woke up feeling itchy and craving a shower. But the shower on the second floor was frozen. In the toilet room the faucet for washing hands was also frozen. There was a western style toilet; the valve to the tank was not yet frozen, but it would have been awkward to splash water over myself from the tank. I ventured downstairs and checked out the facilities that the guides use. The shower was frozen, but in the toilet room a PVC hose was running a stream of water into the Nepal style toilet in the floor. By standing naked over the toilet and holding the hose, I was able to wash myself very efficiently.

I was a little puzzled why I didn’t get more cold. I think the answer is I had been toasty in bed sleeping in silk underwear, pile pants and sweater, polypropylene balaclava, down jacket, with an unzipped winter down bag and two cotton blankets pulled over me. It takes a while for the body to lose heat. There is also the layers-of-fat theory. Later I got chilly with all the clothes on as I was typing in bed.

From the vegetation around here the climate seems like northern Minnesota, but it doesn’t seem to be quite that cold, maybe about like Iowa.