Thursday, January 3, 2013

Day 4 Annapurna Circuit

Buildings are build for the single purpose of holding prayer wheels with the path always on both sides. Clockwise is the direction of travel and as you walk, you spin the wheels.

Today we got a late start, although we've been waking up at the break of dawn which emerges slowly from twilight.  The sun climbs for hours in the Nepalese sky before ever shedding any light into the deep chasms between the rivers and mountains along the Annapurna Circuit.

There are many sections of the trail which have been hand chissled out of the rock. This is the first railing I've seen.
Besides, rushing, rushing, rushing, is no fun.  It's a constant effort to balance progress with enjoyment.  Not that progress is independent of enjoyment, in fact good progress for a day often leads to more satisfaction and enjoyment of accomplishment in the evening.  Yet, rushing is tiresome.

Yessi Ye spinning prayer wheels.
One cannot make progress forward on a trail when one is not walking, so there is always a need for discipline.  To tell ourselves yes, we like this town, but we still have 15 km to go for the day.

One of the few signs you will see along the Annapurna Circuit.

So our departure wasn't until about 10:00 from Tal.  We ended up cooking our own coffee and oatmeal in our rooms since our impression of the food the previous night was less than desirable     We talked about guides this morning. We began wondering if we'd made a mistake.  The awful Americanized food was getting increasingly expensive and our natural inclination to travel on the wrong side of the river, could have been avoided with assistance.

A waterfall dances across beautiful rocks worn smooth from the raging river

The flip side is everyone traveling with a guide can be seen from a kilometer away.  The guided travelers are obvious by their small packs, light skin and shiny new gear.  Their guides are following conspicuously behind with big backpacks and well used gear.  And, where is the challenge when you never have to read a map or make a decision?  The guide has walked this circuit a hundred times before and must wonder, "Why is my group not walking faster.  They aren't carrying any weight!!"  As a result, most of the guides stick to the dusty roads because they're shorter and easier to walk.

More trail chissled out of rock, high (50m) above the river.  Watch your step!

My other thought on guides has to do with the impact of tourism on the villages.  These patient village people with almost nothing are too often bombarded with arrogance, wealth, poor manners and little concern for the negative impacts of tourism.  Tourists come into the villages wanting things like hot water, WiFi, a flush toilet and then want to barter for a better price.  A cost already far cheaper than anything from home.

A giant prayer wheel in its own little building.

Yessi crossing a suspension bridge.  By now she's figured out that you don't use your poles on the bridges because they'll get stuck.  Notice the trail on the other side chiseled into the rock cliff.

 Do guides help insulate the locals by consolidating the imposition brought via tourists, or do they just take additional advantage of these villagers?  The guides know the ways and customs of the villagers, and they come into the villages with their clients, power of knowledge and money.  Are they taking care of the villagers or are they only representing their clients interests?

One of the many little structures build to hold prayer wheels always located in the center of the trail. Walk on the left side, clockwise.
We hiked on while I contemplated the value and ethics of guides.  We came to Dharapani where we took a break by a giant prayer wheel.  A local passer by showed us how to use it (clock wise, always clockwise)  He then showed us the path we wanted to travel.  A good thing too because we were probably going to head out of town on the road.

There appear to be more waterfalls in Nepal than in New Zealand!!
Instead, we took the suggestion and headed up the hill to Timang.  It was quite a climb but a very interesting walk and we arrived at the first building just after 5:00.  The town was quite sprawled with buildings 1000m or more between, initially.  After another half hour, we arrived at the town proper and found a nice place for the night.

There are certainly more suspension bridges than on the Te Araroa in NZ!
It had gotten fairly cold this afternoon and clouds rolled in obscuring the valley below us from view.  This was the first time I found myself chilly, but as it turns out, not to be the last.  I wouldn't actually be warm for another week!

Yessi walking with mules who appear to be wandering just for the heck of it.

Nepalese children are no strangers to the camera.

View from balcony of our little room in Timang

Yessi Ye with Nepalese children.  We've been getting some interesting behavior from locals and are now thinking that the locals think Yessi is Nepalese.  

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