DAY 14-Marpha to Lete
Mules, mules, and more mules. They use mules to haul supplies up and down the valley. I’m constantly trying not to get mule-kicked on the narrow trails. The horses here are small compared to American ones. Mules are more valuable for hauling stuff here.
Today we walked on more of those gravel bars along the Kali Ghandaki River. Did I mention it has the deepest gorge in the world? It is, and it’s beautiful.
My feet actually hurt from walking hour after hour on rocks. This place is amazing, though. We’ve walked through deep humid jungles, a desert that looks like the Mohave, high altitude mountainous terrain, and a temperate zone along a huge river.
The different cultures are just as varied. The Gurung people of the first half of the hike look Mongolian. Then the strong Tibetan influence in the Himalayas, and now the Thalakis people of the western side of the Annapurna Himal.
The caste system is alive and well in Nepal. Raj tells us that people are expected to marry within their ethnic caste or risk being ostracized from the village. Also, only a couple of ethnic groups have the right to join the famous Gurka soldiers.
The Thalakis are known as shoemakers and tailors. It’s all very involved. Our guide Raj (Rajendra Rai) is a member of the Rai caste, who among a couple of other Eastern Nepal groups, comprise the world renowned Sherpas.
Tonight we walked about 3 miles past Kalopani to camp in Lete. Not really a village, more of a settlement. Some lady’s backyard who runs a small store out of her house. As I sit here and write this, I have a half dozen chickens and baby chicks pecking around at the tent. Of course, there’s a small goat as well to complete the scene. To our immediate right is a major landslide area, and right below us is the Kali Ghandaki River. This must be the second or third night on this trek that we’ve gone to sleep lulled by the soothing sounds of a huge river rolling past the campsite.
Tomorrow we go to Tatopani (it means hot water). There’s a big hot spring there that we can swim in if we like. The walk is very long-about 18 miles. We also drop over 6,500 ft of elevation which will officially bring us back to the hot zone. Yuck! Hot, humid, and more leeches no doubt.
We haven’t seen any markings of the Maoist variety (hammer and sickle) since we left Hongde airport 6 days ago. We didn’t see much military activity yesterday at Jomsom and no Maoist propaganda. I wonder if we will see any on this side of the Annapurna circuit? Most of the intense fighting seems to have been concentrated on the other side by Chame.