25 January 2013

Passed the turnoff for the trail to the Dhualagiri base camp. A cow carrying a load on its back, walking along the trail, but no driver in sight. Tractors pulling large wagons of logs. Very windy, haze around a peak that is sort of a footstool of Dhualagiri.

In the valley near Marpha elevation 2670 are many orchards of apples, plums, peaches. The fruit is used to make various wines and brandies for which the town is famous. There are also fields of barley. The main Street of Marpha is like a long curving corridor between connected buildings, paved with flagstones. We took a tea break in a place that was too small to have a name, a sheepskin rug at the entrance, dark yet cheerful. Ate aalu tarkari (potato curry) and chiura (beaten rice) with tea. The chiura is roasted in the husk then flattened with a pestle.

After Marpha the brown desert gave way to a landscape with juniper trees and some highland pines. Lunch break was in Tukche elevation 2590 at Laxmi Lodge River View Restaurant. There was an enclosed courtyard that Lal thought was too windy to eat lunch in. I ordered lemon tea, carrot soup, and veg tomato pizza. Lal helped prepare the food.

On the wall was a poster of Mona Lisa. Lal wondered if she was an actress.

On the outskirts of Larjung the two English women that Tim had spoken of were sitting in front of a building waiting for a bus. Debbie’s red hair in pigtails made her look like a real English country girl. Nike was shorter with brown hair. They were in their thirties. They remembered Tim, Johanne, and Eduardo, but had never met Matt.

Debbie corrected me: they had been trapped by snow at Thorung Pedi, not High Camp. They had hired a porter who would carry their packs to the top of the pass for rs. 4000, or all the way to Muktinath for rs. 6000. They chose all the way to Muktinath; that seemed like a no-brainer.

They found the conditions in the pass extreme. Nikki’s feet lost feeling but they were now OK. When I told them that the tracks in the snow had stopped a half hour after High Camp, and then we broke trail, Nikki said that actually an Australian woman named Vicky had gone over the pass the day before. Either we lost her tracks or they were drifted over.

Debbie was sick with bronchitis. She had a dry cough, couldn’t remember the color of her sputum. At the Bob Marley in Muktinath, they had hot showers but the staff wouldn’t start a fire for them, even though she was sick. She felt it was false advertising, because there was a picture of a crackling fire on the sign. I mentioned that the hotel next door to the Bob Marley, the Path of Dreams, has a sign with a picture of a waiter in a tuxedo and bow tie; without even going in I had been sure that was false advertising.

After some resistance and encouragement by Nikki, Debbie accepted ten ciprofloxacin 500 mg pills out of my twenty; since I was now in position to travel to Pokhara in a day or two I could spare them. I also gave her a partial bottle of codeine cough syrup, and some pills for colds that Lal had recommended.

We checked in to the Mount Ice View Lodge in Larjung. From my room there was a view of Dhualagiri; from the front of the lodge a view of the Nilgiri glaciers.