Thursday, November 22, 2007

Annapurna Mountains

In the Annapurna Mountains

It seems days ago now but at 4 this morning a knock at the door set us in motion to view the sunrise on the top of a hill overlooking the valley town of Pokhara. We almost didn’t make it up because the car in front of our van had a problem. People gathered around it and pushed it up the hill until the engine caught but it went only a few feet and stalled again. Another group gathered around and pushed and again it faltered so they pushed it to the side of the road so our van and others could labor to the top.

We found coffee shops and souvenir stands and a flood of pink sunlight crawling up from the other side of the distant hills. There were many tourists there taking photos of the sunrise, the mountain tops and themselves. When the red ball broke over the hill there was a combination of frenzied shutter action, applause and prayer to the sun god – a mini festival.

We returned to the hotel to regroup for breakfast and then to hire taxis to the dam where we crossed a swaying wooden foot bridge and began what Amanda timed as a one hour hike but I’m sure her watch stopped for at least 50 minutes because I did 2 hours worth of puffing and sweating.

The taxi driver actually insisted that we not take this walk. It was a long walk and “not good.” He couldn’t define “not good” so we went. It wasn’t good in that it was mostly in the woods and so the view was limited but we did peek through the trees at the lake and the mountains and we passed a couple of snack stands and found an observation point fairly covered with prayer flags. It was wild, crazy prayer flaggage. The workout was good for us after so many long hours of bus bouncing.

We found our way with the help of a young man who came along on the trail because at first we weren’t sure about how to go but there were actually signs (Who could expect such a thing?) and we would have been fine but it was all good, share the wealth and all. We walked a long time without being able to see the stupa so his presence was good security.

Early in the walk we passed people working in the rice fields. Water buffalo tramped in a circle over rice to loosen the grains and then men beat the rice on the ground to remove the grain. Nearby a group of women cooked what was most likely a hard earned meal and together they painted a lovely scene under the huge blue sky.

Not far from the rice fields, Amy decided she was too ill for a hike so she and Gordon walked back. They got a closer look at the rice work in the field and decided to take a walk in the river where women were washing clothes. This ended with their paying the women for foot massages and then taking a taxi back to the hotel

The point of the hike was the World Peace Pagoda created by a Japanese group some time ago. The Pagoda was closed for renovation. No problem. It was a nice walk through the woods followed by a direct walk down steps to the lake where we hired two boats to take us back to the hotel.

One boat came with a boatman but Rob was handed a paddle and pronounced driver of the other so he and Jeff had to pay for a boat ride and then do the work themselves (and us). It’s like that sometimes and it’s all okay in Nepal.

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