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Archive for September 24th, 2009

Bastard

9-24-09
Kyagon Gompo to Tsergo Ri 4984m
As I came over a ridge with my heart trying to escape my chest, I suddenly remembered “Their brands were still on fire — their hooves were made of steel, horns were black and shinning, and their hot breath you could feel – plowing through the ragged skyyyyyy, and up a clouded draw”. But these were not the Ghost Riders of Marty Robbins and later Jonny Cash, rather they were the yaks surrounding me in the mist as I attempted to reach the summit; the scene was eerie as it looked like steam was boiling from their nostrils in the thick, cold, early morning mist. Further along we saw a ancient man milking the yaks in front of an crude structure consisting of stacked rock walls and a makeshift roof of cloth, thatch, plastic, and metal. I could see yaks up, down and across this incredibly steep and forbidding landscape and assumed this was a summer herding camp; “No, they live here full time”, Anjin assured me. I don’t think I am going to get up this thing once, let alone live and work here.
“Slow sir, slow sir, we make it, must slow go, we long time”. When I finally reached the prayer flags and a new personal high elevation, I had the exact same experience of reaching the California/Oregon border during my 2006 thru hike; I was suddenly overcome with emotion.  As I looked up, crying while releasing so much emotion accumulated over the last 2 years, the clouds parted for a minor second to reveal the highest places on earth: “We are here, we have always been here…do not worry”.
That was hard, really hard…steep, high, hard. My future plans include tying to climb a mountain that is a thousand meters higher…I don’t know, I am not as strong as I used to be; brain says climb, body says: “bite me’. I do not quit easily, but today I almost quit several times and to combat this, I broke the climb into 20m increments; if you can not go any further after you go 20m further you can quit, repeat, repeat, repeat, for the last 200m and ultimate summit.
I have not been eating well, and while I have been heading John’s advice that “It is a brave westerner who farts in Asia”, today I had to let it go. Dal Bhat was having its way with my lower intestines. Angin kept saying: “Good health” as I produced enough methane to light Kathmandu and maybe Deli as well.  My constant response was “Dal Bhat”.
I know that many, some would argue most, stomach aliments result from hand to hand food contact, so when the young girl held out her hand and offered me a piece of yak cheese I paused momentarily. Then I suddenly realized that this obviously poor family was sharing what little they had – “dawn jya baud” (thank you).  It was obviously cheese, but that is all the good I can say about it. This offering came as a result of deciding to stay at the much smaller tea houses (plank with a thin mattress for sleeping, squat toilet down the hall, and available food) that dot the landscape along these ancient trade routes.
Also staying here is a Japanese guy, who through his work at an NGO in Nepal, speaks credible Nepalese and understands nearly all of it. Everyone else in the house is Nepalese. I struggled with the conversation and felt left out until I realized I had photos; photos of South Korea and photos of Nepal, photos of far away places for these mountain people. The kids loved the show as my Japanese friend provided the translations.
Less here in the mountains, but when I walked the back alleys of KTM I saw women pulling lice from the heads of their obviously uncomfortable and crying children. A bar of soap, if available, can fix this problem. WTF is wrong with this picture?
I don’t feel so good – suffering from altitude, food, poor hygiene. I could sure use a burrito at sea level. But then again,  all of those burritos and pizzas instead of spin class sure did not help in climbing that bastard this morning.
9-25-09
Kyagon gompo to Bamboo 2042m
I write this entry under a thatched roof where the hens, roosters and I take shelter from the rain. Walked a knee jarring 7.5 hours today after awaking to a magnificent sunrise amongst the mountain giants. Coming down slope we spotted a troop of howler monkeys who put on quite an acrobat show.  More impressive however were the large white faces cousins who demonstrated amazing prowess as they moved from tree to tree with their young clutched to their chest.
People are people are people. My Japanese friend pulled me aside, and as often seen in Japanese politeness, expressed to me that I might want to consider taking a more direct leadership role with my young porter. “I have worked here for 10 years, I understand the language, I understand the caste system, and it is best for you to understand this is a business relationship where you are the boss.  Your porter is a good man, but he like so many here is a desperate young man.  You must manage that; manage the expectations, manage the relationship”. This council came as a surprise and, well, not a surprise. I had seen some indication of conflicts arising  (where to stay, how far to hike…) but attempted to simply go with it. I also had a nagging thought that I new somehow he was right. A friend had told me to be careful on this trip; not physically, but emotionally as I needed to understand that the hugely disparate economics can complicate human interactions. These competing priorities was a primary reason, I later deduced, why we hike so far today -Anjin, was trying to set us up for an early return to KTM.  I did not really mind as I need to get more fit, but I do plan on taking a bit more of an active role in how things will be done going forward. That said, I know that Angin much prefers to stay at tea house within his same caste system so I told him that was fine, but I would be deciding, after consulting with him, how far we walked each day.  He told me that today would have only been six hours if we walked faster.  I looked him in the eye and said: “No, you know I walked very fast, do not mislead me again”. Enough said.
We found the scene of the accident today.  After looking at it carefully, I do not think I would have ever made it into the river as there was a big flat rock I would have hit first.  So that earlier assertion was and exaggeration. Now to not break anything or even survive that initial fall can still be described as: “flipping lucky”. Upon examination, I am certain that the only thing that saved me was that the fall was not completely vertical.  Rather, like a motorcycle or ski jump landing area, I hit a sloped, wet, and very very slippery ramp. This allowed me to bounce and continue to fall as the vines slowed my progress. You know, I always thought it was cool that cats had nine lives; now I am not so certain as I did some calculations and I have to be getting very close to that number.  Thus I now choose to think that I have as many lives as I am supposed to have…hopefully quite a few.
Only in Nepal could something be so backwards and broken. Or is it? I awoke disturbed from an odd dream and spent most of the day reflecting on it.  In my dream, I had needed to apply for a permit to live……a what? After standing in the queue for a good third world time, I was told “Sir, you can not apply for a living permit, without being in possession of a dying permit”.  Looking incredulously at the clerk I replied “What, why the hell is that?” to which he looked shocked and simply said “Sir, no live permit before die permit”. Hours on the trail drove home the point: You can only live after recognizing you are going to die.
I think I am actually sitting in the chicken coop; as night falls I have birds trying to roost all around me. No, a young girl just collected each bird and put them under a wicker basket.
9-26-09
Bamboo to Thulo Sarabru 2120m
My new lodging is perched atop a vertical agricultural landscape. In the distance the mountains loom, where in the foreground terraced fields of millet and corn proceed forever down the valleys. Corn dries throughout the village, while men, women, and children chop winter feed for their precious livestock.
Electricity can be a good thing and this village, although I do not know how, has it. Deforestation is a major issue in Nepal as wood is still the primary heating and cooking fuel. Here, propane and electricity serve that role and the forest, thick above us, appreciates that. Now, I am certain that a wild river is moaning its new and restricted role of producing hydroelectric power. Electricity also means a sustained hot shower and as the sweat and rot of the jungle washes away, I feel anew.
About squat toilets; they work. It is like this – many are actual built in units that mount flush to the floor with a hole in the bottom of a basin.  They often have foot platforms on each side that are designed to “properly” align you placement to ensure a successful drop (note: these are designed for short people and if you are tall like myself, you MUST adjust your placement forward or you will miss the target hole; effectively shitting on the floor). After your payload is out the door, you dip water from an alga growing bucket with a, typically, broken ladle, cup, pitcher, spoon, or what ever is provided, and you pour water down your bomb crack with your right hand while you “clean” with your left – thus why you do not touch people or bring food to your mouth with you left hand. Many of these are very clean yet some far exceed your wildest gas station restroom stories. For my Mexico biker friends, well “Big Brown” and that overflowing porta poty in Ensenada has nothing on a nasty squatter in Nepal. Take your own soap as there is none provided, and use the same alga water to wash your hands.  I find that Purell, once outside, makes me simply feel better as well.
“You can buy anything in Nepal, even the Government”, is a phrase I have heard here often. But like everywhere you can not buy respect…it can only be earned. In a land of unrealistic tourist expectations, I earned a bit today. My clothes were filthy and so I walked to the communal water station and drew up a rock to the bewildered looks of the locals doing their clothe and dish washing. Angin quickly ran over and tried to insist on doing my wash. “You are my porter not my maid”.  The soap was passed around and we washed.  Later that evening, while drafting this journal, a plate of momo showed up in front of me.  I tried to explain that I did not order but was assured they were indeed intended for me.  The next morning when I went to fill my waters bottles from the normal stream source, a young women ran out and grabbed my bottles with no explanation. Moments later she returned with them full of water.  I went to put my Iodine tablets in the water, and she put her hand over the top of the bottles; “No need sir, good water”.
Angin was a bit surprised today when I showed him our tentative plan I had developed from the crude map
Kyagon Gompo to Tsergo Ri 4984m
langtang fllagss
Prayer flags and Mt. Langtang

As I came over a ridge with my heart trying to escape my chest, I suddenly remembered “Their brands were still on fire — their hooves were made of steel, horns were black and shinning, and their hot breath you could feel – plowing through the ragged skyyyyyy, and up a clouded draw”. But these were not the Ghost Riders of Marty Robbins and later Jonny Cash, rather they were the yaks surrounding me in the mist as I attempted to reach the summit; the scene was eerie as it looked like steam was boiling from their nostrils in the thick, cold, early morning mist. Further along we saw a ancient man milking the yaks in front of an crude structure consisting of stacked rock walls and a makeshift roof of cloth, thatch, plastic, and metal. I could see yaks up, down and across this incredibly steep and forbidding landscape and assumed this was a summer herding camp; “No, they live here full time”, Anjin assured me. I don’t think I am going to get up this thing once, let alone live and work here.

russin hiker

Mt. Langtang

Slow sir, slow sir, we make it, must slow go, we long time”. When I finally reached the prayer flags and a new personal high elevation, I had the exact same experience of reaching the California/Oregon border during my 2006 thru hike; I was suddenly overcome with emotion.  As I looked up, crying while releasing so much emotion accumulated over the last 2 years, the clouds parted for a minor second to reveal the highest places on earth: “We are here, we have always been here…do not worry”.

That was hard, really hard…steep, high, hard. My future plans include tying to climb a mountain that is a thousand meters higher…I don’t know, I am not as strong as I used to be; brain says climb, body says: “bite me’. I do not quit easily, but today I almost quit several times and to combat this, I broke the climb into 20m increments; if you can not go any further after you go 20m further you can quit, repeat, repeat, repeat, for the last 200m and ultimate summit.

I have not been eating well, and while I have been heading John’s advice that “It is a brave westerner who farts in Asia”, today I had to let it go. Dal Bhat was having its way with my lower intestines. Angin kept saying: “Good health” as I produced enough methane to light Kathmandu and maybe Deli as well.  My constant response was “Dal Bhat”.

I know that many, some would argue most, stomach aliments result from hand to hand food contact, so when the young girl held out her hand and offered me a piece of yak cheese I paused momentarily. Then I suddenly realized that this obviously poor family was sharing what little they had – “dawn jya baud” (thank you).  It was obviously cheese, but that is all the good I can say about it. This offering came as a result of deciding to stay at the much smaller tea houses (plank with a thin mattress for sleeping, squat toilet down the hall, and available food) that dot the landscape along these ancient trade routes.

Also staying here is a Japanese guy, who through his work at an NGO in Nepal, speaks credible Nepalese and understands nearly all of it. Everyone else in the house is Nepalese. I struggled with the conversation and felt left out until I realized I had photos; photos of South Korea and photos of Nepal, photos of far away places for these mountain people. The kids loved the show as my Japanese friend provided the translations.

Less here in the mountains, but when I walked the back alleys of KTM I saw women pulling lice from the heads of their obviously uncomfortable and crying children. A bar of soap, if available, can fix this problem. WTF is wrong with this picture?

I don’t feel so good – suffering from altitude, food, poor hygiene. I could sure use a burrito at sea level. But then again,  all of those burritos and pizzas instead of spin class sure did not help in climbing that bastard this morning.

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