Annapurna Circuit – Part V: Darapani – Chame (1900m-2710m)
I woke nice and early around 5am in Darapani. I’ve been waking up early since arriving in Nepal. It’s the jet-lag’s doing, but I’m loving waking up early. No one else from the group seemed to be up, and I wandered to the narrow swing bridge across the Marsyandi river, stood in the middle of the bridge, and just watched the mighty river flow. The village was still mostly sleeping, so I had the whole bridge to myself without any traffic coming or going. Finally, an old lady came, so I walked across the bridge and went to the little stupa and just stood there, watching and soaking in the early morning sun coming up from the misty, lush green narrow valley to the east. Eventually a stream of labourers started to walk pass me and giving me curious looks, so I finally decided to go back to the lodge in case any one is missing me.
Once I was back, I ordered a pot of marsala tea, which is something I’ve started as my morning ritual since we started on the track. I also poked my head into the kitchen – something I love doing – and discovered these curious looking strips hanging over their traditional clay stove. The cook told me it’s buffalo meat, and let me took a photo of the kitchen. Around that time, Kerry, my marsala tea drinking buddy had finished his morning stretches, and we sipped our tea together in the very colourfully decorated dining room. Nepali are very colourful people, and they love decorating the rooms with colourful plastic flowers. In Darapani, the tables had these peculiar looking mini trees of brightly coloured pom-poms. I asked our guide if they were suppose to resemble any flowers, but he said it’s just decoration. We saw a lot more of these decorations during the rest of our trip.
Another common decoration we saw were elaborately photoshopped posters. They often feature gigantic European style mansions surrounded by a field of tulips, with giant plump white babies sitting in the foreground, and words such as “home is where you are always loved and accepted”. One we saw had an oversized cruise ship in an electric blue lake with what looks like the Swiss alps in the back, and “friendship is the only ship that doesn’t sink” printed on top. Admiring these posters provided us with lots of entertainment. Even though the posters were highly amusing and rather ridiculous, they definitely let us see what the Nepalis value in life.
Our day involved a lot of climbing up and sometimes down. Our destination for the day, Chame, is a local centre, and we came across a lot of donkey caravans, mostly on narrow steep trails. When this happens, we had to stand aside on the uphill side of the slope to let the donkeys pass. We were told never to stand on the down hill side or you could get knocked down the slope.
We also passed a little village where the locals were having a political meeting. The national election were going to happen at the end of the year (it was held in on 19 November 2013), and we saw lots of the Maoist flyers telling voters to boycott the election (because they knew they were not going to win), which we thought was a rather peculiar attempt because it was obviously not going to make them win (and they didn’t).
Today was the first day we came across lots of the Buddhist prayer wheels. One of them was a huge one much larger than a person. Kiwi Bird and I spun it three times for good luck.
In the afternoon, we were suddenly greeted with fields and fields of pink! We were told they were buckwheat fields. I was in awe of the masses of pink flowers, and the first sight of them remained one of the big highlights of the entire trek for me.
When we got close to Chame, we encountered an old man carrying a very long beam across his back. The beam was so long, he had to walk slightly sideways once we were on the village streets.
Chame is one of the local centres, so once we settled into our lodge “Hotel Himalayan”, most people went to resupply on toilet paper, biscuits, and the like. We brought some chocolates with us from New Zealand, and so far they’ve been mostly molten, so we got some digestive biscuits for snacks (very popular choice on the track), and our chocolates had to wait until they return to their solid state when we get higher and cooler.
Our lodge today had three stories, and we were on the top floor where there was a balcony facing the huge over-looming Lamjung Kailas after the clouds lifted in the late afternoon. It’s amazing to feel the ~7000m mountain being so close. We could also see Mt Manaslu (8163m) to the east being golden lit by the setting sun, which was just magical.