Come again another day: Annapurna Day 17-18


Many days Rose and I were a clothes rack. We each had about three different wardrobe changes in all, one of which (and usually parts of another) would be drying on our backs during the day.

Since we’d be leaving a village everyday, it meant every afternoon that we arrived in a new village, our first task would be doing laundry – and our second task would be hoping there was enough sun left in the day or enough wind to dry things by morning.

On the whole, things would dry okay, but the weather didn’t always cooperate, which on those days meant we walked around looking like a costume shop. Still we had really good luck with our portable clothes racks: often having sun beam down on us all day so that our stuff would usually be dry by lunchtime or early afternoon.

Today, however, was not one of those days. The weather was humid and heavy, plus there was another difference. Since the big climb up to Thorung La, our treks had all been varying descents in altitude. Leaving Tatopani for the next leg meant we’d be going uphill, pretty much all day from 1190metres to 1700 or higher.

We’d booked a rest day in Tatopani to frolic in the hot springs some more, and relax. But after touring the town, Rose and I both wanted to keep going – largely because we didn’t want to prolong the trek any longer than we had to (we were both getting worn out and itchy for the finish), and, while the hot springs were neat – there wasn’t much else.

So, we changed plans after breakfast, and decided to set off, once again following that all too familiar direction- UP.

We came upon this group right at the start and were invited to get ahead of them, which I’m not sure was so much a kind gesture as it was setting us up as a case study to test the sturdiness of the bridge.
Much like the one we bounced across the previous day: this bridge wasn’t well reinforced, with big gaps in between the foot boards. Regardless, we got across okay – at which point I turned back to witness, what I was sure was going to be a donkey slaughter (need a band name? by all means take that one).

But I didn’t take into account that these asses were pros. They skittered across the floorboards as if playing hopscotch and made their way up the hill without a single: “Hee – Ha”. By this point I probably should have been used to donkeys doing what, again and again to me seemed extraordinary theatrics, but was obviously commonplace stage work.

Aside from my donkey fanclub, there was not a whole lot else pleasant about the hike. The views, of course, remained incredible:

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It was moreso the humidity coupled with a climb in altitude that made the day a complete slog – this is a rare shot of Rose looking back, as if to say: “Are you coming?”, when the reality was more a return to her pre-Thorong method of walking ten steps followed by a rest, then start again:

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With all the stop/starting it gave us a chance to appreciate the surroundings some more – when I realized we had once again entered what had to be voted one of High Times magazines favourite spots on earth:

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There was weed growing everywhere – and just in case it wasn’t obvious enough, we passed a man smoking weed from a pipe while wearing a tuque with a marijuana symbol on it. It was such a bludgeoned statement that I couldn’t sort out why he wanted to be so crystal clear about what he was doing – Thakur then said:

“He’s a mountain guru”.

I passed the guru and gave him a nod and smile, not sure if “guru” meant he’d help me get really, really, really high until I felt like it was a spiritual experience or he was a dealer, and didn’t want anyone to be confused by approaching somebody else who wasn’t wearing a marijuana tuque.

In any case, we left him to his pipe, and slogged on until we noticed rain starting to fall. Initially we’d planned to get to a village, 200 metres higher uphill, but reasoned we’d see it the next day.

Little did we know, the only thing we’d see the next day was a lot of rain, Nepalese dance, folk musicians, and a drunk host.

Day 18: It’s raining, it’s pouring – Ghara 1700 metres

We went to bed to heavy rain the previous night. This morning, the only difference was daylight. The rain was torrential: I’d never seen rain come down as heavy and as consistently as it did.

Hoping for the best, Thakur, Rose and I agreed if it stopped by noon we’d set out for our next stop. The hours passed. The rain stayed. We weren’t going anywhere. So, guesthouse bound, we alternated between naps, card games, and reading books.

Apart from not being able to go anywhere, the other major downside was that it got really cold. By mid afternoon Rose and I were in our sleeping bags wearing thermal underwear and the majority of all our cold weather gear, which we had suited up in at the highest altitude.

There was a tiny restaurant area at the front side of the guesthouse which also had a wood furnace. As the owners began to realize the rain wasn’t slowing down, they lit the furnace for guests to warm up. Hearing this rumour, we emerged from our tomb, and made our way into the main part to hopefully warm up.

It was then we met a pair of traveling, Nepalese musicians: who we chatted with for a bit, as best we could, until they decided they’d play a number for us called “Resham Fillili”.

It was a catchy tune, which we’d picked up from Thakur and another guide previously on the Circuit – and sang along.
Unfortunately, we had few common words between us: so our conversations were essentially miming back and forth. Whether or not it came out of our mimed conversation or not, the musicians decided to play “Resham Fillili”” for the remainder of the night, occasionally changing the tempo and varying the arrangement, but the chorus stayed the same.
Quickly, a recognizable, innocuous little ditty turned into a torture instrument, as they restarted it again and again, leaving Rose and I singing through our teeth. As the rainy day progressed, a few wet trekkers stopped in: one group was a pair of Germans, and another was four Polish guys. We all chatted around the furnace, as they all hung their wet clothes on the metal, and commented on the unrelenting rain.

Of course this rain, unbeknownst to us at the time, was at the same moment, a snowstorm on Thorung La pass. Now with the electricity out with no access to local news on the guesthouse’s TV set, we were now literally in the dark.

Our host, seeing the crowd forming, cracked open some local booze and became MC and songsmith, taking on “Resham Fillili”” with a drunken vengeance. Then, singing didn’t prove to be enough, and he started dancing in the middle of the hut, eventually prodding Thakur to come up and show off his dance moves. Of which, Thakur has plenty. He was a slick dancer who started a domino effect by then inviting a German woman to dance followed by her German son: who was about 6’5 and 250lbs.

It was a hilarious site. But I wouldn’t stay a bystander for long. The drunken MC was reaching at people’s arms to get up and dance with him, Thakur or really anyone willing to “Resham Fillili”” (which for a drunk song, couldn’t get much better. The words already sound a bit slurred, and can roll off the tongue quite easily. Maybe that’s why it’s popular?). So, rather than lay victim to the punishing sounds of a Nepali folk song on repeat, I danced to it.
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You’d be forgiven for thinking I was learning Nepalese mime or the art of the Nepalese ninja, given my black ensemble. But, lo and behold, that is my flailing version of Nepalese dance purely inspired by trying to imitate whatever the hell Thakur was doing.

And what of Rose you may ask?

She was a Sword in the Stone, who wouldn’t budge for anything, not least of which was for my intricately choreographed dance routine, that I’d so carefully rehearsed on instinct and ignorance.

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Sadly, Thakur didn’t have many dance partners to join him apart from the drunken MC who kept pulling him up to dance. This may explain his glum face above. Though when he hit the floor, his expression quickly changed:

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The dancing went on for a while until we noticed a break in the rain. After going out to have a look, it felt like a trap, because an instant later the rain carried on at full bore once again.

Eventually, the party finished, which was a bit disappointing since we didn’t get to battle raps or breakdancing. Nevertheless, we endured a ‘Resham Fillili” assault that would transition into my dreams that night.

Waking up the next morning, I thought I was still dreaming. Not so much from the echoing, though receding, sounds of “Resham”, but because of another key development: no rain.

26hrs later. It was time to move on.

Next stop Ghorepani and our next to last night before the finish.

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