Hot water: Annapurna Day 16

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I watched this happen with the same anxiety that I imagine a nervous parent might watch his child bike for the first time.
My primary thought with gritted teeth was:
plus a little:
“Easy buddy.” and when the jeep lurched towards the edge: “EASY BUDDY! (as if saying it louder in my mind would help them)

We were an hour into our hike from Ghasa and had stumbled upon a spectacle. People on foot had formed a crowd watching what would become of the next jeep to cross the waterfall. Even passengers waiting their turn to get wet in their car got out to see how people were doing up ahead, which admittedly may have been less about entertainment, and more assessing techniques to improve their odds at success.

Of the vehicles crossing, amazingly this jeep above was on the small side. We saw a bus go across with a full load of passengers, and watched it bounce from side-to-side across the rocks while uncoincidentally, at the same moment, my testicles bounced: but straight upwards, at the thought of being one of its passengers.
I’d had enough of Nepal buses, and the idea of getting on one now masquerading as an amphibious all-terrain vehicle was nauseating. Had I been on one, I think my only hope would have been to get knocked unconscious from all the side to side rocking, and far from being upsetting, blacking out would have been just right for the situation.
Regardless of my gloomy thoughts, the jeep and its brave passengers in this story, thankfully moved on to a happy ending:
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After sticking around to watch other drivers dip their front tires delicately into the water, then bump up and down across the water, hoping for the best, I’d occasionally spy someone in the back seat of one of the jeeps with eyes wide staring down at the edge on their left – or completely covering their eyes to pretend it wasn’t there.

In other words, I was looking for myself. And after playing out enough vivid scenarios where each car pitched over the edge, I really didn’t like what I saw.

It was time to move on. While not quite as death defying as the jeeps we watched, our bridge had its own perils thanks to uneven blocks of wood that bowed as we put our weight on them – making it feel more like a trampoline than gangway:

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We bounced across without a problem, and kept our sights on our next stop Tatopani – which in Nepalese means “Hot water” so named for its hot springs. Its billed as the spa portion of the trek where hikers can loll about in a natural hot tub and rest up for a couple of days before the last push to the finish.

Last night after falling into Ghasa completely wiped out from an extra 2hours walking: I’d have paid twice the going rate to soak in a hot tub, which I’m sure, based on how exhausted I felt, would have also meant falling asleep in it.

Today, however, the sun was out and hot:

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While I was happy at the thought of sitting and relaxing for a time: hot water wasn’t necessarily in mind.

Ironically, everyone’s temperature would rise long before water had anything to do with it. First, an explanation.

Thakur, as our guide/porter, also brokered deals with the guesthouses where we stayed. This meant ensuring we had a good room, seconds and thirds of dhal bhat, access to hot water showers (when they existed), and generally doing everything in his power to cover all our needs.

I thought he was amazing. He was constantly on top of everything even suggesting food to eat: “Momos aren’t enough. Eat Dal Bhat too: you’ll need the power today”. Plus when you reached hour 5 of an 8 hour day and wanted to sit down for the rest, he’d be encouraging with a positive outlook, making it much easier to keep moving.

The first thing we saw of Tatopani was a guesthouse that marked the beginning of town. As Thakur wandered in to speak with the owner, Rose and I were both unsure, thinking we’d rather find a spot farther into town. Tal, who was also still with us, felt the same.

We saw the rooms, and they were nice: but the place felt isolated from the rest of the town and there didn’t appear to be any fellow trekkers there. Considering the deal with guesthouses was that you had to eat dinner and breakfast at them, it meant we’d have to stay here, and forego the chance, in our minds, of running into more trekkers.

There were times when guesthouses were filled with trekkers and it was too much, while other times it was much less packed, and sometimes hardly anyone. I think all of us felt we wouldn’t have minded some company.

As we explained this to Thakur, he got upset. Not because we wanted to look at a different guesthouse so much – but that he felt Tal was the mastermind behind it who was undermining our connection with him:

“Fine. You do whatever he says. You go where you want.”

Of course, Rose and I were now equally upset that we’d given Thakur the impression that he was redundant, and had been ousted in importance – which was obviously not the case.

Only now, with some distance, can I see it more as a telenovella. But at the time, I was really upset by it: and Rose too – eventually we sorted things out, after a long chat with Thakur – and smoothed things over.

After all the upset, we decided to clear the air and explore Tatopani a bit, just Thakur, Rose and I. And the main show in town, of course was its namesake: the hot springs.

And it was there, after a nice relaxing soak that followed a big blow up and a long conversation ironing out misunderstandings and hurt feelings that Thakur, unexpectedly put his arm around me and I unwittingly brought the day full circle, reacting as calmly as if I were watching a busload of passengers cross a waterfall:

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Nothing says friendship like anxiety. Clearly my nerves were still on edge.

Next stop 26hours of straight rain in a tiny village, which was a snowstorm at the highest part of the Circuit – Thorung La pass – where we came from five days earlier, and would later become Nepal’s biggest trekking tragedy to date.


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