Friday, October 10, 2008

10/10 Tatopani

The environment is really changing now. We have dropped about 8,000 feet from our high point at Muktinath, and gone from very dry, arid highlands to humid jungle. The hike yesterday was all on road, but today we got off the road and onto some real, live trail for a few hours. In the morning, we come to an intersection in the road, where the old trail crosses a stream on a footbridge, while a new section of road stays on the west side of the river. A local at the village situated at the intersection told Thakur that the new road was washed out badly and passage was very dangerous. Thakur suggested that we cross the footbridge and take the old trail. It was very slow going up and down the old, decaying path through dense forest, past depressed villages that no longer get trekker traffic. We learned later that a pilgrim had been killed on the new road, and that some people were having to crawl through the washouts, so despite the extra effort and time the old trail took, we felt Thakur made a good choice. A few things that stand out vividly about taking the old trail was the deafening racket of the crickets or cicadas, and the contrasting, and much more pleasant, sound of donkey bells.

We reached Tatopani, which means "hot water," late in the afternoon and managed to get a room with a bathroom at the Trekkers Lodge. It was unbelievably humid there -- we were well and truly in the jungle now. And accordingly, we took our very first showers of the trek! We forgot that this place is called Tatopani because it has natural hot springs, though, and missed our chance to get a nice, warm soak in. At dinner, I had a nice big place of dal bhat to fuel up for the big climb up to Ghorepani tomorrow. We were amused by a praying mantis landing on my back, but Thakur also broke some sobering news to us: he heard a plane crashed during a landing attempt up at Lukla, which is the entrance to the Everest trek, and all 16 passengers were killed. Made us feel justified for being terrified on the air approach to Jomsom, and awfully relieved that nothing bad happened.

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