Thursday, July 14, 2011

Actually Yes. The Woman on My Lap is Car Sick. (Annapurna Circuit Day Eleven).

Two seats.  Three people.
Welcome to Nepal.
Date: May 2, 2011
Start: Tatopani
Finish: Pokhara
(Driving): It felt like forever.  (Actually, about 90 km.)
Elevation: 0 m

Jeep, bus, taxi, whatever. We woke up early to begin hours of driving on horrible roads. The combination of deep potholes, loose gravel and unnerving grade of the road (both front to back and side to side) was just gravy on the depressing travel circumstances we found ourselves in.  For hours we were literally just inches from sliding into the deepest river gorge on the planet. And that is no exaggeration; the road from Jomsom to Pokhara traverses the Kali Gandaki Gorge, with a 21,000 foot difference between the level of the river and the peaks surrounding it.

Before diving into the photos, however, I wanted to offer a brief time-line of the Meshkov/Martens journey as compared to the Westrin/Foster journey.  My recommendation: Fly.  Fly, fly, fly.


Meshkov/Martens Westrin/Foster

 7:05 AM 
In the time it took Charles and Kate to travel the entire distance from Jomsom to Pokhara we argued with our Nepali driver whose license only permitted him to drive tourists and refused to allow Shiba and our porters into the jeep.
The 9 AM departure, waiting for its passengers

 7:25 AM 
Once we finally got a new jeep with a new driver with a Tourist+Nepali license we were on our way.  Two per seat.
The man who prayed for the safety of the flight and all its passengers.  Can't argue with that when you  bought your Yeti Air ticket from a guy in a joint restaurant/travel agency/drugstore.

7:35 AM 
Its a good thing everyone was friendly.  Here Jesse and Sarah share the front seat. 
Great views from the low-flying prop plane

 7:40 AM 
Dave, Jesse, Ted, and Sarah: hadn't yet reached 15 km.hour.
Charles and Kate: coming in for a landing

 8:15 AM 
After 75 difficult minutes we were waiting
for a group the cows to pass.
After 75 easy minutes Charles and Kate were safely in Pokhara, cocktail in hand.  They'd only have to wait another 8 hours to share a drink with us.

Don't let the tranquility of this bubbling brook fool you.
The inside of our jeep was a bone-rattling affair.
Terraced fields along the ride
[JLM: Where was their cheese on the hike!?!]
Adding to the excitement was the double-stuffed nature of each of our vehicles. And while delicious when in Oreo form, double-stuffed Nepali buses are not delicious. Or comfortable. Within 30 minutes of boarding the bus a Nepali girl spied a narrow slit of ‘available’ seat between Jesse and Jesse’s arm-rest. In one swift motion, she upgraded her position on the bus (standing in the very smelly armpit of Nepali passenger) to comfortably sitting in our seats. Her move also downgraded our position on the bus, as our seats that were cozy for two, became double-stuffed with three. Actually, she basically just plunked down right on Jesse’s lap. And to maintain her balance as the bus bumped, jumped, and swerved along, she was grasping Jesse’s legs in a way that even made me blush!*
We met our next bus in Beni
Shiba, and two Nepalis ladies, and a small child, in two seats.
The three of them choose to sit with Shiba despite their boarding the bus when there were unoccupied two-zers.
Shiba said they just wanted those seats.  We attributed it to his good looks.

The bus could properly be described as crowded
We are still unclear whether it was so bad that this lady should have sat on Jesse's lap.
She was reluctant to join us for a photo
(We couldn't blame her, no one wants to have their photo taken when they are not feeling well)
The side view really shows the coziness
And when it seemed that things could not get much worse, Shiba told us we were doing a good thing sharing our seat, because the Nepali lady was really car-sick (bus-sick?). Awesome. Jesse quickly, though awkwardly, navigated to her backpack and pulled out some plastic shopping bags. My strategy was to be at the ready and at the first signs of puke was prepared to help direct our seatmate’s head towards the aisle (it’s not as if the man standing there could smell any worse…). Thankfully, however, none of these precautions were necessary, and after three hours our stowaway had reached her stop, and left the bus with all of her stomach contents intact.  Once Jesse and I had the two seats to ourselves, the rest of the ride really felt first class.
A Nepali man on break
Jesse played peek-a-boo with a fellow passenger
He was more interested in his limeade
The scenery remained dramatic

Nepali ladies hauling crops
(they need a porter!)
The rest stops on the Jomsom-Pokhara highway do not resemble those on the Jersey Turnpike.
[JLM: I really could have used a TCBY]
We chatted up this guy who was heading to school
Arriving in Pokhara, we had one final triple-stuffed ride. Five passengers, two large backpacks (one with wheels), and a variety of daypacks made for a cozy ride in the taxi to our hotel.  Thankfully, it was only a 5 minute drive.
Like a clown car!
And we wouldn't have had it any other way.
Showering at our guesthouse in Pokhara was fantastic. The western toilet was a bit of a novelty. And when we collected our trekking clothes to be washed, we seriously considered just throwing them all away.  And I never thought we smelled during the trek itself. I suppose like so many things, it is all relative.

As a special welcome-back-to-civilization treat, Shiba and his wife graciously invited us over to their house to meet their family and enjoy some delicious home-cooked dal baht.  Thanks for having us!
Masters of eating rice without utensils.  It's all in the thumb.
Shiba, his wife, and their adorable baby.
Not pictured: Shiba's older daughter, who took one look at Jesse and burst into tears.
If you have read all the APC blogs, thanks!  I hope you liked it.  If not, head back to Day Zero and live the journey.  The next few posts will highlight some favorite photos, maps, and stats.  Feel free to leave any questions about the trek in the comments.

* I am quite sure at this point Ted smiled to himself and thought I (but maybe not Jesse) deserved this fate after I left the back row on our Jomsom to Tatopani trip and two Nepali men replaced me.

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