Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Actually, Yes. That is a Huge Steel Plate on My Back. (Annapurna Circuit, Day Three)

Porters carry steel plates used on the trail's bridges.
Each plate weighs between 50 and 70 kilograms.
Date: April 24, 2011
Start: Dharapani
Finish: Chame
Distance: 16 km
Elevation: 2670 (climb 810 m)

Within a few hours of the Cipro hitting my system I felt better.  I attributed it to my robust immune system and overall toughness.  The rest of the group praised the miracles of modern pharmaceuticals.  In any event, the old Dave was back, and everyone must have been relieved that the next ten days or so would have plenty of sarcasm, mockery, and slightly inappropriate jokes.
Prayer wheels line the Annapurna Circuit.
With each passing spin I prayed for a speedy recovery, and my prayers were answered!
With the whole team feeling healthy we spent most of the day walking uphill.  Climbing over 800 meters (2600 feet) we passed many porters carry shockingly large loads.  Each time I saw a man with, for example, a basket full of metal canisters, hundreds of feet of inch thick wire, or a dozen PVC pipes 6 inches around and 10 feet long strapped to his back, my day-pack, with my beanie, a liter of water, and raincoat felt awfully light.  And he carried this load with a rope wrapped around and under the pipes, and then came across the front of his body.  This strand of rope was then placed through a folded burlap rice sack and rested on the crown of his head.  Talk about low-performance gear.

Update: One of our loyal readers rightly wondered whether these porters evaluated their
ropes and burlap sacks as thoroughly as we did with our luggage selection.  Somehow I doubt it.

These initial days of the hike took us through the Marshshandi river valley.  The river’s narrow path was surrounded by steep slopes covered in lush, green pine trees.  We walked on a double-wide path, which was nice for catching up with Ted & Sarah and getting to know Charles & Kate.
The green Marshshandi river valley
We're walking, and walking, and walking (and spinning the prayer wheels)
Before lunch we faced one final challenge.  We stood at the top of a large, steep descent.  A tributary to the Marshanji river cut a deep valley in front of us.  The trail dropped, and dropped, and dropped, reached a metal cable bridge, and then soared back upwards in a serious of vicious looking switchbacks.  The only thing driving me on was that lunch was at the top of the uphill.  As we made our way down and then up we were passed by men carrying the huge metal slats (weighing between 120-150 pounds!) to create new metal bridges further along the trail.  I was passed by donkey trains.  And, of course, I was passed by my own porters carrying the bag with all of the stuff Jesse and I had brought on the trip.  At this point I was prepared to say that I had not yet fully recovered… Luckily, Jesse, my wonderful, selfless wife, was carrying all of the stuff from both of our daypacks in my (heavier) backpack, including Fatty D, leaving me with an extremely light load.
A donkey train waiting to pass me on the bridge.
The road back up.  Crap.
After lunch we walked through the (small) bread basket of the Annapurna region.  With young, green wheat growing all around us the landscape had totally changed.  Fields of small stone terraces reminded of us of Scotland or Ireland despite the fact that we have not even been there.  But as soon as those fields appeared, they were gone.  And the rest of the day we walked through the forest with giant mountains we were planning on climbing in the far distance.

Wheat.  Delicious.
Dave slowly walking along the trail
Endless mountains
Townsfolk came out and cheered the foreign hikers.
Actually no one cheered for us, but everyone was friendly even
if they did not understand why we would choose to do this hike.
At times, I agreed with them.
Finally we reached Chame.  And even though there is no road access Chame has a working internet cafĂ©.  Computers, old CRT monitors, and printers were hauled up by donkey or by hand, and setup like internet cafes the world over.  At only $.14 USD cents a minute ($8.40 per hour) it was not a bad deal.  And pretty quick too.  I guess we were close to the satellites at 8700 feet above sea level…
Chame is so high tech the internet cafe's sign is painted on a rock

1 comment:

  1. Do you think the sherpas had a thorough evaluation process of evaluating the rope and forehead straps they used to carry/secure the piping and steel plates they carried, including ordering from various vendors on the internet, taking lots of pictures and practice runs, and subsequently returning 90% of this?


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