After hectic but joyful days in Kathmandu, we endured a ten hour drive to Pokara that cannot be described on a public blog except to note it should have taken six hours and we learned a lot about Nepali road repair and driving habits! After a quick overnight at the Lakeside Retreat, we were back in the van for another hour to Kande. I was beginning to lose my sense of balance. A walk in nature was just what I needed.
The hike started with a quick ascent, and the trail was rocky and steep.
Some encounters along the way help paint the picture:
*Teenage girls wearing flip flops and bright pants carrying huge baskets filled with wood on their head while they chatted and descended the steep stairs.
*An elder man carrying what must have been a great grandchild on his back as he headed to the trail side to sit for awhile.
*An elder woman carrying a bundle of gathered greens that was at least two bushel baskets full, tied in to a big square bundle (at least 4x4) on her back, moving quickly out of the deep jungle and up the steep steps at a pace that shamed me.
*A couple of young boys kicking a soccer ball around an 8 x 8 flat area with slopes on all sides. Every kid loves a good ball!
*The little boy of about six with a fancy green plastic watch, who came out to greet us and stayed to watch us as we rested .
*Water buffalo, goats, deer, birds, and yak bells in the distance.
*The steps..... the humidity..... the verdant green terraced hillsides in the distance, the trail side jungle whose trees dripped with spring blooming orchids and moss. Rhododendrons so tall and thick you can sense the spring hillside covered in red blooms.
Just when the steep stone steps turn to a more gently sloped path, I think, ok, this is good, I can do this for awhile .....I see the group ahead turn off..... we have arrived!
Our rooms are deluxe according to some trekking standards, with western toilets and hot showers. Dinner is Thukpa and yak cheese and it is as delicious as the masala tea.
The mist rolled in and was beautiful, as if it carried a blanket of calm to the hillside. However it was the calm before the storm as we were quickly deluged with heavy rain. No worries for this crew. The rain and lack of WiFi encouraged us to sit and enjoy a beverage together as we raised our glasses to celebrate arriving before the rain!
We put our phones and cameras down, even photos become pointless with the mist thickened into a cloud and the rain came pouring down. So we sat. I slurped hot noodle soup and listened to some stories. I learned about the first little girl that Christine helped and how healthy she is today. We heard about Lok running for miles across Kathmandu in just minutes to get home to his family when the earthquake struck. Our conversation expanded to include a few others overnighting at the lodge.
Danny discovered that an elder Nepali man at the end of the table shared his alma mater back in Columbus, Ohio! What are the odds?
Talk turned to home, and of the glimpses of Nepali culture that we would like to take back and plant like seeds in fertile soil. Kindness, patience (to watch the madness of the traffic and roads here we are constantly amazed that it all seems to work out with a measure of grace as drivers who pass are waved ahead and let in). After some great conversation we turned in early and hoped for a clear morning.
Around two AM Kirby opened the curtain and immediately hopped out of bed and went outside. As excited as a school boy, he woke me up..... “the mountains are right here!!!” “Ugh”, I rolled over, “they will be there in the morning”. I should have followed the yes!
Those who were outside for our rendezvous with the sunrise by 5:30 AM caught some clear views of the stunning mountains, but by 5:45 the clouds were back. The ground was soaked from the evening rain, and as we stood waiting and hoping for those brief moments of clearing we began to notice a little problem. In fact the leeches were so little one would nearly miss them if not for the blood! They were everywhere! Out for a morning feast in peoples shoes, up their pant-legs, wherever they could latch on. We decided we would rather go up on the deck for our breakfast rather than be breakfast for the wiggly black wormlike leeches.
After a breakfast of hot tea, omelette and Tibetan bread with honey and a few brief glimpses of the Annapurna B and Machapuchare when the sky opened up, we hit the trail back down.
Some people think going down is harder even when it’s dry, but this was a slippery slope for sure! Just before we left we saw a water buffalo slip in the wet rock, like a warning as we hit the trail! We carefully made our way down the hill, trying to avoid leeches, slugs and slips on the wet rocks. The Nepali school children who literally skipped by us in smooth soled leather dress shoes were not phased by the wet rock and steep incline, surely they could apply these skills in some Olympic sport.
At the end of the trail, despite only a few brief sunrise views of the mountains and a few bandaged leech wounds, everyone happily piled into the van, with some already formulating plans to return and press on to Annapurna base camp or further. As for me, time with feet on the earth, fresh mountain air, the sound of the rainwater trickling down the mountain streams and knowing there will be another sunrise another day, my sense of balance is restored and my heart is happy.
- thoughts from child sponsor Nannette Pearson, Lansing, MI
Beautiful, humble work
Make way for water buffalo
Reva in the lead
Nannette, Robert, Danny, Lok, Christine, Rick, Reva, Ellie
The mountains are right here!