Boudhanath Prayer Flags - On Halloween Night...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Annapurna Circuit #2 - Walking to Tal

We finally were done with bus and jeep rides, and were thrilled to begin trekking! To leave the road noise and high velocity behind, and settle into a human-speed rhythm of daily hiking... Marcin had been in an incoherent delirious state for 24 hours, but the magic of Cipro was phenomenal! He awoke the 2nd morning, and said, "let's go trekking," so we began!

Our "trail" from Syange to Jagat and eventually Tal began with bulldozers and backhoes. They are pushing the "road" up this amazingly steep forested landslide-prone canyon, and so we had to deal with road construction for much of the day today... Walking along the battered boulder-strewn road-bed wasn't very pleasant, especially as it was fully exposed to the sun. The construction seems haphazard and careless, and all vegetation is decimated, so you get to walk in full sun. On the occasional sections where you cross the river to the "non-road" side, the old classic trail is exquisite!!! Bamboo groves, tall oaks draped with moss and vines, cool creeks and waterfalls jumping down mossy chasms... a real trail that winds and climbs and descends based on human legs and knees, not the width and grade requirements of a jeep....

Even when you are on the "other side," however, the road intrudes on the experience. Across the canyon there is a gash of white rubble where handfuls of courageous workers cling to the vertical slope, drilling, blasting, and knocking rocks down the cliffs. Everything below the road cut is trashed... obliterated... a white and gray rubble heap of constant rockfall and destruction. All vegetation is gone, and the old winding trails and some settlements are now buried. It's pretty sad.... and dangerous! Occasionally the trail actually runs below the construction zone, and it is NOT an OSHA approved operation! Boulders get launched off, and you had just better be really aware and careful before crossing one of these shooting galleries. No one is there with a stop sign, or a flag. No one radios uphill to say "trekkers on the trail, stop the blasting." There are no signs or warnings of any kind. Just the occasional truckload of rocks and dirt blazing down across the trail. Look out for shrapnel! Being from Yosemite, and having led groups of kids in rockfall prone areas, I was pretty aware. A few times we rounded a corner, and thought, "OK, this looks sketchy." You'd look uphill, watch for any movement, and scurry across really quickly. Once we actually saw a guy a few hundred feet above, and heard some loud pounding and drilling sounds. He waved frantically to us. Didn't know if that meant GO or STOP, so we waited.... watched... then scampered across the rubble zone. Safely across, we turned back to see some more trekkers approach. They stopped directly in the middle of the rockslide to take photos! I guess with all the carnage, there weren't any trees in the way, and the view of the canyon and river was really nice. We were screaming and waving, but the river sound was too loud... What finally got their attention were a few baseball sized chunk that zipped by their heads! Then then ran... One of them had been grazed by some bits of rock or dirt, and was holding her cheek when she approached. Nothing bad, but what a wake up call for her! So lucky!

The afternoon improved quite a bit! The canyon got steeper and more vertical, the road construction was therefore much more difficult, and we got to walk on trail most of the way to Tal. Here the Marsyangdi River cuts an amazing gorge, and the side canyons and waterfalls are spectacular! Steep, green, and vertical with crazy suspension bridges (many built with tech support from the Swiss), and lush vegetation oozing down the slopes. At one point we could see palm trees on the ridge above us, and pine forest on the ridge across the canyon! Wild diversity of life zones here, and the sheer verticality of it all is mind blowing! A few canyons looked like something straight out of the Misty Mountains, and we expected hobbits or dwarfs to come trotting around the corner heading for Rivendell....

Wandered through Jagat, a lovely town high above the river, with a long pause to play with local cats and chickens. These rest-stops became quite a theme for the entire trek, and we sometimes had an extra hour of cute baby animal time in each village... It was certainly one of the highlights for our girls!!!

The wonderful residents were always entertained and thrilled to see our girls trekking! We have become very proficient in "Family Nepali." We can now speak quite fluently about "these are our 3 daughters; they are small, medium and large; they are 6, 9, and 12 years old; No we do not have any sons; yes they are carrying backpacks; yes this is my wife; no we are not staying in this village; yes we will try to cross Thorung La; our girls are very strong; don't worry we will turn back if our daughters have altitude problem..." Constant repetition works wonders for language acquisition!

Delicious lunch of endless dahlbaht in a cute little shack in Chyamge, then continued on towards Tal. It was a spectacularly beautiful, but very long day, and the little tea house just before the last big hill was sure a welcome sight! A cup of warm sugar and caffeine does wonders!

Finally arrived at Tal at dusk, and crossed under our first "Kani," an archway at the entry and exit to these predominantly Buddhist towns that offers protection and blessings to travelers.


  1. hi guys!!!!!
    your school sounds really cool ( especially the big tubs of FOOD!!) WE bet you will meet lots of new friends! who said what about school? we couldn't tell because it didn't say. We are SOOOO exited to see you, we are jumping out of our pants!!!

    -MAYA AND DAWN!!!!!!

  2. Waaahhooooo!!! We'll see YOU in Kathmandu!!!

    I'll tell the girls to check out your comment tonight. Sylvie is a bit sick today, and stayed home eating yogurt and bananas... I'm looking out the window at 23,000 foot tall snowy peaks right now, and getting ready to teach a Science class.

    See you next week!

  3. Wahooooo! Following your adventures, and loving them! =Deepa.