Tiger Balm Tales Vol. 6
Day 2 & 3 Bahundanda to Dharapani
What is it about growing older that changes us? Not only do our feet get bigger, but we tend to also develop more irrational fears. I’ve been aware of it for some time now; my growing fear of heights. As each year goes by I turn into Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo…I freeze, the world seems to spin around me, and I have to talk myself through the irrational panic. Why on earth did I think that going on a hiking trip in the Himalayas would be a good idea?
After hiking a day to get to the trail, we were now hiking on the main Annapurna trail. This tourist route had little villages peppered along the trail giving you an endless supply of drinks, fruit, food, people watching, and lodging. However the downside to hiking the trail was that it was like a super highway of tourists. On day 1 we were surrounded by locals, and from here on out we would be surrounded by tourists. We chose to hike the trail at the best time of the year; the weather was perfect – no more monsoon, and not freezing cold yet. Of course this was why everyone else also decided to come and hike the trail; Oct/Nov was high season.
As we took off and crested the hill from Bahundanda we dipped down into a stunning green valley of rice terraces. The green grass met the blue skys; the landscape seemed to explode. It didn’t take long for groups of people and porters to start passing us. It was as if they were flashing their bright lights behind us kindly requesting us slow pokes to move over so they could pass. Instead of lights, they had walking polls – klink, klink, KLINK on the rocks as they came up behind us. As groups of people briskly walked by us I wondered…why? Why are they in such a hurry? We are in this beautiful scenery nestled among the Himalayas, and we traveled presumably long distances to get here, but I seldom saw many of these people look up from the trail. They just kept maintaining their pace, not noticing the environment around them. All so they could get to the next village and wait? Granted, maybe I’m a bit too slow, and I take too many pictures, but I prescribe to slow travel I guess; I want to soak it all in.
Every time we seemed to gain some elevation on the trail, we promptly turned around and lost it. Up and down, Up-Up and down, Up-Up-Up and down. We also ran into some trail issues – namely rock slides. The rock slides would force us to use alternate routes, often sending us way up a steep mountainside with loose rock or down to a bridge to cross over the river.
One of the bridges looked as if it were made of toothpicks and was put up a few hours before we arrived there. I watched others cross over the low bridge slowly; it looked easy enough. I waited my turn and gingerly took steps onto the bamboo poles which creaked and flexed with each step. All I could hear was the water rushing below me as I tried to balance on the 3 bamboo poles; rejoicing silently when I stepped on solid ground again.
If it wasn’t rock slides slowing us up, it was road construction. Yes, they are sadly building a road on the Annapurna Circuit – a topic I will later discuss in detail. When I first read about the road being built, I was quite concerned about what it would do to the trail. However, once I got there and saw it in person, I realized that the road would progress slower than the US Universal Health Care legislation. You may wonder how they build a road in a 3rd world country, high up in the mountains through solid rock on a cliff face. Wonder no more:
5 men, a sledge hammer, and a shovel….yup…that won’t be finished in my lifetime.
For now the road construction led to some entertaining photography and videos, but it also led to obstacles that sent my adrenaline through the roof. I stopped to get footage of this slow, laborious road project as my father and Bishnu went on ahead. They had long since grown tired of waiting for me and my camera. I got the footage, joked with the locals, and left with a smile; but when I rounded the corner the smile quickly disappeared and I was suddenly aware of my heart pounding in my chest.
The blasting for the birth of the road left rock slides and a narrow little loose dirt trail that danced along the edge of the cliff-face. I don’t mind climbing, I don’t mind descending, I don’t mind carrying heavy packs. But I hate narrow trails near ledges that will send you plummeting to your death. This new trail was about 3 feet wide, yet it looked like 1 foot in my terrified mind. As I took a few steps, I felt as if I were hanging off the side of a monuntain. I slowed down and took each step as if it were my first…and sorta my last.
My brain raced with thoughts of everything that could go wrong. For a moment I think I forgot how to walk. I tried to tune out the sound of the rushing river a 700 feet below me. I was acutely aware of the big pack on my back and how it could throw off my center of balance and leave me nowhere to step to recover. Time slowed down and I slowly took each step concentrating so hard I began to talk to myself.
With each year I add to my life this stupid fear of heights seems to get worse and worse. Maybe it has something to so with the fact that as we get older, our appendages keep growing while the rest of us shrinks – in my head I have clown size feet now! Clown size feet don’t fit on narrow trails!
I was thrilled to catch up with my Dad and Bishnu a while later as we entered the village of Dharapani. I just wanted to make sure they had safely made it through that section of the trail. Needless to say, I think the only thing that would’ve made that narrow trail worse would’ve been to watch my father go on it; then I really would have been a basket case!
View all the photos from Day 2 and 3 of Hiking – or click on an image to see more detail:
Want to start at the beginning of the Tiger Balm Tales?
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
By Emily December 29, 2009 - 9:26 am
Your photos are fantastic! I really enjoy reading about your travels. I am living in China at the moment, and hope to do some volunteering in Nepal. I’ve bookmarked Hands for Help! Your stories really inspire me to get as adventurous in my own travels as possible. Thanks for sharing them!
By admin January 3, 2010 - 11:52 pm
Let me know if you have any questions about Hands for Help – I’m still in touch with the people that run it! It was a really great experience there.
By Donna Hull December 29, 2009 - 10:28 am
Sherry, I can relate to your fear of heights. I’ve always been somewhat afraid of high places. But as I’ve aged, the fear is much worse. Perhaps it has something to do with declining dept perception? All I know is that my knees start shaking and I can’t move. I would have crawled on your narrow path. It’s a great feeling of empowerment when you make it to the end of the trail.
By admin January 3, 2010 - 11:54 pm
Maybe that’s it – depth perception! Great – just another thing that is getting worse as I get older!
By Heather on her travels December 29, 2009 - 10:53 am
With that narrow path I think your fears are totally rational, I especially wouldn’t want to carry a heavy back pack along that narrow trail
By Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels January 1, 2010 - 2:23 pm
Been anxiously awaiting this installment and it was worth the wait. I also have an irrational fear of high, narrow trails with no guardrails. I felt the same way when hiking Waiheke in New Zealand, although that is much lower than your trek, so I can only imagine how your stomach must have turned upside down.
By Mark H January 3, 2010 - 12:43 pm
The up-down passage through the mountains is one of my lasting impressions from my trek some years ago in Nepal. A struggle up one steep path only to get to the crest to find the path weaving down the other side and snaking up the next mountain. Somehow it became mesmerising to as each valley opened new villages and scenery. I’m disappointed to seeing them build a road even if it will take several centuries to build. It will remove the character of such beautiful places.
By admin January 3, 2010 - 11:55 pm
yes Mark – I’m also a bit saddened by the road. However I do understand why they need it too. I talked to some locals about it and tried to get the pros/cons. I’ll be doing an upcoming post on it in Jan or Feb…so stay tuned!
By Anil January 4, 2010 - 1:28 pm
The funniest thing about the video is the 3 other guys watching. It’s almost like they too think it’s crazy and won’t get done in a lifetime!
By Wesley Pechler May 14, 2015 - 8:24 am
My favourite Dutch travel blogger, Explorista, recently linked your post describing a typical week for you. Needless to say, I’ve spent the past 2 hours trying to catch up on your blog posts: I’ve fallen in love!
It think it’s incredibly amazing that you got to experience this with your dad at his age! Next summer I’m going with my then-69 year old dad to Indonesia, where he was born, which will be the first time he’s going back after they emigrated 60 years ago!
Also, it’s inspiring to think that you’ve changed your life around in your thirties and are now living the dream. At 22, I’m still a student and working parttime, but luckily able to combine it with a lot of trips here and there (country counter will hit 28 later this year, can’t complain). Will probably be looking for some stability first after getting my degree (though I’m not the husband & kids type either) but would love to follow your example in a decade! Awesome to know it’s never too late!