Coming Down to Reality

March 23, 2010 6 Comments »

The Enchanted Forest

Tiger Balm Tales vol. 19

Coming Down to Reality

Down Dooby Doo Down Down, Comma comma
Down Dooby Doo Down Down, Comma comma
Down Dooby Doo Down Down
Leaving Annapurna is Haaarrrrdddd…. tooooooooo…. dooooo…

I couldn’t get this tune out of my head.  Probably because…

There was nowhere to go now but down.

Our downward path first led us through the ‘enchanted’ Rotadendrum forest as we left Ghorepani and the white peaks behind. The forest was beautiful and creepy at the same time. Rays of the sun made their way through the mossy green foliage poking thru crooked tree branches with powerful light rays. The scene was made even more eerie by the incessant sound of singing locusts in the trees. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the headless horseman reared up in front of me.

After a couple of hours, we left the locust and enchanted forest behind and popped out on a terraced hillside bustling with harvest activity. It was as if we had broken out of a fog – the whole landscape changed in a few small steps.

The trail was like the super highway. People were on their way up to Ghorepani and people were practically sprinting down towards Pokhara. It was fun to meet all of the fresh-faced trekkers just starting their adventure – it actually made me feel very happy to be where we were – near the end of our circuit and closer than ever to a good shower and real bed.

We stopped for lunch at the picturesque hill town of Ulleri and then started the knee-crushing stairway to Hell…oops…I mean the stairway to Hile. We had already read about this challenge in our guidebook…the dreaded 3,283 steps down to Hile descending over 1,879 feet. Truth be known, we had already been going down steps for the last 40 minutes of trekking so my dodgy runner’s knee was already feeling the effects of the steep stone descent.

Stairway to Hile

I knew this would pose the greatest challenge for my dad too. His descending skills were far worse than his climbing skills – it obviously ran in the family. To make it worse the descent was on the open hillside with no shade. Just switchbacks of ‘stairs’ – uneven, haphazard stones placed like stairs. After all – there weren’t steps to the public library – they were ‘trail’ steps. It could’ve been worse though – we could have been going up the stairs!

All I could think about as I planted my hiking pole on the step below to take pressure off my knee was, “Who in their right mind actually counted these steps?!” Seriously – how did they know there were 3,283 – that’s bullshit.

We had been descending stairs steadily for an hour, nearing the bottom and knee relief when we came across the chicken porters. Actually, you could first smell them, then you could see them. At one point on the trail, it was like an animal super highway; chicken-couped porters, a donkey train, and a herd of sheep all converged on the steps. Are there animal rules for who has the right of way? Dr. Doolittle would know the answer to that question I bet.

We slept in Hile that night after a good beer and popcorn; you could tell that we were getting much closer to civilization now…popcorn was a special treat! We slept late the next morning and had an easy rolling 3-hour downhill hike to Birethanthi. We took our time and observed all of the harvesting in the fields and kids going to school. Birethanthi was really the last village on the circuit and we could’ve easily gone on to Pokhara but instead, we soaked up one more lazy afternoon of peace, simplicity, and mountain peaks.

Chicken Porters – you could smell them coming!

That night Bishnu, Deihl, Dad, and I celebrated our last night together with Roxie (Nepali moonshine); reliving some of the best moments on our circuit hike through the hundreds of photos I had taken. I think we were 2 of about 10 people actually overnighting in Birethanti; the comforts of Pokhara were too enticing for most hikers who had been on the circuit for over 18 days!

The next morning we had breakfast and put on our packs one last time. As soon as we crossed over the bridge out of Birethanti we left the trekking village world behind as if we had gone through the exit of Disneyworld…the fantasy was over. We entered a grittier, charmless area with shops lining a muddy road. The people I saw might have been better off financially but in the case of village life I’m convinced less is more. It felt as if we were walking through slums in a way – or maybe I was just adjusting my perspective back to ‘reality’.

Then the real jolt happened. The sound of a loud bus horn blew at an annoying pitch. It was like nails on a chalkboard, the noise echoed through my skull and I let out a sigh.

For my dad and me, the Annapurna Circuit was finished.

View photos from Days 20 & 21

Read the complete Tiger Balm Tales from the beginning!

Vol. 1 – The Begining of a Nepal Trekking Plan
Vol. 2 – Preparing the Parents
Vol. 3 – Annapurna Itinerary
Vol. 4 – Travel Back in Time
Vol. 5 – Breathe Through Your Mouth
Vol. 6 – Road Work Ahead
Vol. 7 – Changing Rhythms on the Annapurna Circuit
Vol. 8 – And on the 7th Day We Rested
Vol. 9 – Paralyzed on the Annapurna Circuit
Vol. 10 – No Room at the Inns
Vol. 11 – A Mouse in My House
Vol. 12 – Beware of Falling Rocks
Vol. 13 – The Longest Day
Vol. 14 – Motorized Travel
Vol. 15 – A River Runs Thru It
Vol. 16 – Carbo Loading
Vol. 17 – Danger Curves Ahead!
Vol. 18 – Going Up Again

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