Today we got an early start out of Jhinu with a sharp decent (more of those damn stone stairs) to the Maudi River. We then followed the river down to the town of Tolka, about 8 miles. For me it was the best day of hiking, not just because we didn’t have a lot of ‘stairways to hell’ to climb, but because we got to enjoy some beautiful scenery without breathing so hard. Sharply inclined, lush mountains on each side of the river valley, terraced rice fields, spectacular water falls (with ice cold water coming off the Himalayas), and Annapurna South peering over our shoulder. It was a great hike. The only down side was the 6-7 leaches that Dom spotted on my ankles while walking behind me. He flicked them off with a stick, but not after I gave a quart or two of blood, and I didn’t even get a little carton of orange juice or a blood-drop pin that said, ‘I Gave Blood’.
As I mentioned earlier, the path that we travel is ‘Main Street’ of the villages that it runs through and it is thus the key transportation artery that links village to village. We therefore see all kinds of thing going up and down the mountain. It is not unusual to have a team of 10-12 burros coming down the trail at us hauling supplies to a village or garbage away from it. We constantly run into a herd of goats or sheep and often have to go to one side of the path to get around a cow taking a nap or make sure we don’t step in a ‘road apple’ left by a horse. There is always a good supply of chickens running around as well as some beautiful Burmese Mountain Dogs – friendly and looking like this is where they belong. We see women speed by us going up hill with incredibly large baskets of produce or something on their heads. Men are hauling lumber or have huge bags of corn or rice strapped to their heads and act like they’re just wearing a hat.
Another thing we find on the trail, or just off the trail is marijuana plants growing in the wild – in abundance. I’m sure they use it just for medicinal purposes, although this may be why these people have so little and are yet so happy. The Himalayan High has the Rocky Mountain High beat three ways to Sunday. Pot is illegal in Nepal, but I don’t think they can get a squad car up here to haul anyone away.
Even though the trail has been a little wet from the previous night’s rain, we have been very lucky with the weather. We’re typically up early and hike 5-6 hours in beautiful weather and then settle into the next village’s tea house just in time to watch the afternoon monsoon come in with a vengeance.
A final thing that we run into on the trail, even though it is the off-season, is other trekkers from all parts of the world. I have found that they all have two characteristics in common: 1) They all speak English, and 2) THEY ARE ALL UNDER 30!!!
Old guys definitely DO NOT RULE here in the Himalayas.