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Sharon McRae
India and Nepal 1998 (with kids)

Trekking the Himalaya

Pothana - Nepal

Into the Clouds

Our trek starts early in the morning. Hari, our guide, seems friendly and is a definite hit with the kids. We all pile into the battered Toyota to ride to the trailhead at Khare, where we begin our climb. Now I will not say I thought it would be easy, and I admit Im a little out of shape, but believe me, "trekking" in Nepal means stair climbing, for hours! The hills are woven with stone paths and steps, built over centuries as links between small villages, winding their way, up and down, between terraced gardens and onward into the clouds. The terracing is phenomenal, every shade of green spread like a patchwork quilt over the valleys, the hills are awash with color, the rhododendron forests in bloom. We meander, huffing and puffing, past thirty-foot poinsettia trees, every turn in the trail a new sight to behold. Midday we stop at a collection of houses for a tea break.

The collection of stone and thatch houses where we stop for a drink is nestled on a small spot of flat land in the extremely vertical landscape, the smiles are broad and the scenery beautiful. The clouds have started coming in, but looking up, I see framed in the clouds the snowy peak of Annapurna I, but just for a moment, before the never-ending game of hide and seek resumes. The mountains are awesome, humbling, ethereal, but they also taunt you with their playfulness.

We resume our trek after about half an hour, and after a most important task, catching dinner. A rooster is bought off the locals, and Roddy spends the next few hours climbing up into the clouds with a live rooster under his arm. I wonder how hell feel about the rooster curry tonight!

We reach Pothana late afternoon, a town of about five stone teahouses nestled on a ridge overlooking a fertile valley. The accommodations here are very rudimentary, but surely have a quaint charm. The rooms are about six feet by ten, the walls of stone and rough lumber (you can see through the boards to the next room), the window has shutters, no glass, and the wooden sleeping platforms have huge comforters. Nepali comforters weigh a ton, they are packed with cotton and measure at least six inches thick; turning over underneath one of these is impossible. We are shown our two rooms, the outhouse, and the dining table, where we lounge with a steaming cup of tea. We spend the remainder of the day playing Frisbee and ball with the local kids, and watching them play on their bamboo swing against a backdrop of snowy peaks. At dinner we meet a couple from the U.S. who are doing the whole twenty-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp, we chat by kerosene lantern, eating our rooster curry and rice. The curry was tasty, but I swear that rooster walked up the mountain with us,-our teeth got a real workout! We also tried dried buffalo, kind of like beef jerky, and Tibetan bread, a wonderful puffy flatbread slathered in honey.

Up with the roosters ( well all but one!), it looks like were in for a damp descent; the clouds surround the village. If anything, walking down the stone steps is harder than walking up, Id not recommend this to anyone with knee problems. The rain seems to hold off as we near a village, Dhamphus, where we will have lunch.

The lady at the teahouse must surely be a frustrated film star, as she insists on a photo with each and every one of us. Weve taken a lot of pictures and weve copied down addresses. I can see a huge bill in reprints and postage looming on the horizon! During lunch a Tibetan trader approaches, spreading her wares at our feet, and we decide the time for souvenirs is ripe. The price we pay for our "treasure" may be more than what wed pay in Kathmandu, however, the memory of buying the items in a cloud-shrouded mountain village in the Himalaya is worth it. With our trinkets packed away, we head off down the stone pathway. The gods are not smiling on us, as we are soon caught in monsoon-like rain and end up taking refuge on a thatched verandah. The hut seems to be unoccupied, save for the chicken underneath an upturned basket, so we crouch down and wait.

The sound of approaching bare feet on the path forewarns of the arrival of the hut occupants, three women, returning from the field with baskets laden with grain on their backs. I feel a little awkward being "found" trespassing on their property, but their smiles and nods reassure me of their hospitality. There is much bustling about as the women change into dry clothes and store their grain, and appear with steaming mugs of tea. The fact that in less than five minutes, in a grass hut with no electricity, they have produced such a tasty, steaming treat is only slightly less amazing than their generosity. I ask Hari, if theyd be offended by the offer of a few rupees for their kindness, and he assures me that hell smooth the way. An hour or so later we are on our way, the downpour having trickled to a drizzle, being wished a safe and dry journey by our new friends. These small acts of kindness are found around every corner in Nepal, surely part of what makes a journey there so special.

We eventually make it back to the road, a little soggy and very weary. We hitch a ride back to Pokhara in a thirty-year-old Toyota with no windshield wipers, a little unhandy in the downpour. Back at our hotel, we flip coins for the privilege of the first shower and head off to a cafe for pumpkin soup and hot chocolate before tumbling gratefully into our beds.

The next few days in Pokhara were spent enjoying the comforts of the small town. The kids played pool, we read, shopped, drank beer beside the lake; in general, we were lazy tourists, a welcome respite from the previous weeks. The owner of our hotel took us on a sightseeing tour; Devis Falls and an amazing underground cave cum shrine in the hillside. Once again the kids prove amusing as Liam gets his head stuck through the railing at the falls, causing general hilarity amongst the watching monks. Later on that night we are invited to dine with our hotel owner family style, a true Nepali meal of dal and rice. Tomorrow we leave on our raft trip, then onward to Katmandu

Nepal/ Pokhara
Whitewater Rafting
  Sharon McRae - Bio and Journals
  India and Nepal 1998 (with kids) - Intro Average Rating of 10 Viewers
Chapters of India and Nepal 1998 (with kids)
  And we're off...
  Into India
  To Pushkar
  The Taj, Reptiles and Cows
  Train to Varanassi
  Border Crossings
  Nepal/ Pokhara
  Trekking the Himalaya
  Whitewater Rafting
  Back to Delhi & Home( the end...alas)


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