Monday, April 11, 2011

Rhododendron Trees

Uphill...always up
Did I mention that there’s some uphill travel here? Hmmm….if I haven’t, I better mention it. The Nepalese took lessons from the Japanese, I’m sure. The Japanese built steps that were uneven, meaning that if anyone was trying to charge up a hill or into a castle the uneven steps would slow them down, making it easier to defend said castle or village. Well…the Nepalese took this strategy to heart and create an unbelievably uneven, unending, ever varying series of steps. Apparently the trail had its beginnings as passage between small villages, eventually becoming part of the trade route from Tibet down to India. The tortuous steps were created, developed, repaired and left is disrepair throughout the ages, leaving behind wide, narrow, winding, steep, gigantic and never-ending steps for the trekker, donkeys, horses and locals to traverse.

One learned quickly that taking photos frequently was necessary when ascending the tortuous steps. It gave a plausible reason for stopping and the scenery truly was spectacular, though I do believe the hundreds of pictures taken of donkeys and sculpted mountainsides might have given our guide reason to think that perhaps the pictures were more for the opportunity to breathe than that we really needed that particular shot of donkey number 978 (and that was only the first day!). It really was a challenge but I’m happy to say we made it up and enjoyed our first stay at a tea house in Tirkedhunga. (yeah, if it wasn’t on our itinerary, I’d have NEVER remembered it.) There were also some gorgeous flowers all along the trek - bright and brilliant colors - well worth stopping for.
 I wasn’t certain exactly what staying in “tea houses” was going to mean when we signed up for this trip. Turns out it’s just what they call their small mountain “hotels” – they’re usually very small places with a restaurant and small store to supply the trekkers with everything they need. The rooms are usually just two beds and nothing more – you bring your own sleeping bag.
Donkeys right through the village

 Nepal is working on improving its environmental impact so many of the tea houses have installed more efficient electric or solar water heaters replacing the old wood burning ones (depleting the forests for firewood is a large problem). They’re also working on providing more places where the trekkers can refill their water containers (and add iodine to purify it) so that fewer plastic bottles are used. Everyone congregates in the restaurant area, swapping stories, reading books, eating and drinking. Electricity service is erratic and so frequently we found ourselves in the dark much earlier than expected. Since early rising is a must, we really weren’t interested in staying up too late…and that first day…we were ready for bed quite early. 

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