Day 4: May 27, 2014 (Tuesday) Machha Khola->Jagat
We finally made it to the start of the Manaslu Conservation Area! As predicted, roosters woke me up at quarter til 5 and I laid there until 5:30 when I crawled out of my sleep sack. It was much cooler this morning than previous mornings. I was barely warm enough with my sleep sack and the windows closed. We went outside to use the common bathroom and were greeted with another cloudy morning. I then went outside the guesthouse to wait in line at the local village water spot. The locals were all brushing their teeth, snot rocketing (very common in India and Nepal), and filling jugs with water for the day’s use. I patiently waited to fill our Nalgenes and pondered about everyone we know back in the states filling their glasses with water from the sink in the comfort of their homes, drinking straight from the tap with no worry of contracting E Coli or Giardia. Tek says the water gets cleaner the higher we go and we have a SteriPen to fend off unwanted microorganism (hopefully!).
We ate a fantastic breakfast of Tibetan bread with honey and a fried egg. A perfect mix of sugar and protein to start the day off right. While we were getting ready to leave, it started pouring down rain! We prepared our packs with covers and lined the big bag Krishna carries with plastic. Luckily, it stopped raining by 7:18 when we set off. We only got sprinkled on a few more times all day but still had a cloudy sky. The hike was gorgeous and unique. It started off through corn fields with a beautiful view of the snowy mountains in the distance. As we passed through the next village, we picked up a fifth member of our group, a cute mutt of a dog who followed us for an hour and a half! He stopped when we stopped and traipsed along next to us when we started moving again. He was still with us when we got to Tatopani where there are several natural hot springs. The locals have tapped into them and made them into a running water source, so we refreshed ourselves by splashing water on our heads and arms. Shortly after, we came to a big suspension bridge and I believe that is where our pup left us. Krishna said the same dog walked with him for days before in the region. We were hoping he would tag along longer but even I don’t like to cross these suspension bridges, so I don’t blame a dog with little paws for steering clear!
The terrain was more tough today – lots of ups and the occasional flat part and down. The scenery did not disappoint as we passed dramatic cliffs and horseshoe shaped river bends. The trail was, of course, covered in donkeys and locals and children walking from village to village. One of the men leading a pack of donkeys was repeatedly throwing big rocks at their backs. I felt awful for them. One of the donkeys was limping and Tek asked the guy about it because it was loaded up with a lot of heavy gear. The man gave a short response which Tek translated to, “It was like that before”. Tek said he’s crazy. What a tough life to be a donkey in Nepal, especially with an owner like that.
We also passed by an area where tons of monkeys were playing on the rocks and in the trees next to the river. We had no idea we would see so much wildlife in Nepal!
We stopped for lunch at a hillside spot and had more, tasty, dal baht. The inside of the place was covered with flies and had a 4’’ huntsman spider crawling around, so John and I opted to eat outside. We were pleased with the food aside from the fly in my dal, although I think it was at least cooked…
After lunch, we hiked the remaining 2.5 hours to Jagat, our stopping point for the night. We stopped about 20 minutes from town to enjoy the view of the hills all around. We took some photos and chilled out before making our final push. John’s calf was really tight all day from the previous day of hiking, so he welcomed the break. It was feeling better by this point but immediately after lunch he said the pain was an 8/10. He took some Indian ‘Excedrin’ (a.k.a. magic pills) and it gave him the strength to finish. As we headed toward Jagat, we saw a dozen or so mountain goats on the cliff to our left. They are incredibly agile and were running along steep rocks like they were in the Kansas plains!
We soon saw signs that welcomed us to the Manaslu Conservation Area and walked another 10 minutes to reach our nice lodge. We paid 200 rupees (~2USD) each for a hot shower because Tek and Krishna say we will only have bucket showers and no electricity for the next few days while trekking through Tsum Valley. Our dal baht was fantastic! We also had two helpings of ginger tea. Tek showed us some tricks which consisted of turning 9 sticks into 10 and also picking up 3 sticks in a tee pee formation with a fourth stick. His last stick trick was one I need to teach my dad, where he places a small stick under a cup and said he could pick the stick up and move it without picking the cup up. He then asked John to pick up the cup and lifted the stick and threw it down on the ground while he shouted, “See! I didn’t touch the cup!!” His final trick was the most impressive. He had Krishna blindfold him, then me, then with a towel. He guessed a random card we chose every single time! We still have no idea how he did it. We think Krishna is in on it but they both swear he isn’t. He says he may tell us how in a few days but we need to think about it some more.
After dinner and card tricks, we watched the local kids play with bugs. All of a sudden the adorable girl we were watching started pointing and laughing. John thought it was about a bug and then he saw a giant frog coming toward us! It hopped under the table and the brother and sister chased it around. Their excitement attracted some other village kids, one of which took charge and decided to carry the frog around, which was a hilarious sight. After the frog fun, we decided 8 hours of hiking, card tricks, and animal encounters were enough excitement for one day and we should rest our tired feet and calves to prepare for our first day in Tsum Valley tomorrow!