Finding Nemo

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 2: Ulleri (1960m / 6500') to Ghorepani (2860m / 9400')

Ghorepani village
Ahh!  I made it to Ghorepani.  Today was excellent, Kalu the Super-Pony carried me almost the whole way and gave my foot some much-needed rest.  The trail is mountain flat, which basically means that instead of near-vertical 2000-step staircases, there were only staircases of the 500-step variety.  Kalu had no problem with these things and powered up them like a steam locomotive.  I asked how much Kalu weighed.  The answer was ~200kg, or the weight of a very large sumo wrestler.  I tried to picture a sumo wrestler carrying me around this place and then pictured him collapsing from a heart attack after 100 yards.  I weigh 85kg so Kalu was taking on almost 50% of his body-weight up the Himalayans.  Tough little bugger indeed.

Nepalese Road-Block
Ghorepani is the goal of most of the short-term trekkers, Poon Hill is next door and from the top there is a tremendous view of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna South, Annapurna I, and Fishtail.  The trekker masses spend one night in town and then ascend Poon HIll for sunrise the next morning before returning to Pokhara.

It was weird though, making it to Ghorepani.  It didn't feel right.  I honestly didn't mind the people staring at me riding a pony, I would never see them again, and even if I did I could tell them about my foot.  No, what was bothering me was something else.  It was this: I hadn't earned it.  That wonderful feeling I'd had in Nepal 5 years ago, trekking to Everest, was not just the stunning scenery and the spiritual surroundings.  I realize now that it was also the endorphins from getting all that exercise, no booze or caffeine, eating fresh vegetarian food, and doing it every day for weeks.  The whole process cleanses you through and through.  On the way down, acclimatized, the energy soars in your body and you get the greatest feeling you've ever had.

But most of all, the trekking gives you a feeling of accomplishment.  Getting to Everest Base Camp was tough.  Yes, anyone who is reasonably fit can do it, but its very hard work.  Especially base camp day, humping up and down Khumbu Glacier for 9 hours straight at 18,000'.  When you get back to your Teahouse, you are a zombified corpse but there is a certain feeling of satisfaction.  You know you did something on your own steam, something difficult and worthwhile, that most of your friends will never do.  And riding Kalu, I was just a passenger.  I definitely didn't feel like I was earning it.  He was.

Should I....?
All that aside, today's ride was beautiful.  Ulleri is perched atop a steep valley, the sides are covered with endless rice terraces and from the top you are a little amazed at far up you've come.  The river is nearly a mile below.  The path onward winds through lush green forest, mossy covered rhododendron trees, over small stone bridges, up and down crumbling stone steps.  Pretty little waterfalls tumble into perfect pools that make you want to jump in.   I wished I was trekking by myself, alone in this pristine place and feeling a bit lost.  But I was with Mega-Power Super-Pony Squad Nemo, complete with guide, horse handler, porter, and Kalu.  With my army around me, my vision of Nemo the Elf King wandering around the place naked was hard to keep in place.  But perhaps it was for the best, maybe that vision was a little wrong anyway.

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