Annapurna Trekking: From Ulleri to Ghorepani (Day 2)

Dinesh Wagle on way to Poon Hill

Where are you, tower? I want to see the Dhawalagiri Annapurna range. On way to Poon Hill!!

The trek on Day Two started from Ulleri and oh…boy what a trail it was. [I will be briefly mentioning the Day One at the end of this post for there was nothing much exciting in the trail.] Very different from the previous day. Green, shade, breeze, the cool breeze, superb trail. Felt like walking forever. I was feeling great and the life on the trail was enjoyable. The sound coming out from the nearby stream, the lush jungle and birds and other creatures making various types of sounds! Let me repeat here that I thoroughly enjoyed the trail from Ulleri (where we spent first night) to Ghorepani and Ghorepani Deurali. It wasn’t a long trail but was definitely wonderful. I was singing:

Akashai bata ke udi aayo, Bheda ko oon jastoooo ho ho ho…bheda ko oon jasto!

Maya ko photo mai khichi lyaunchhu, purne ko joon jasto ho ho ho…purne ko joon jasto!!

Martha tried to follow the lines but, she said, she couldn’t catch the words other than “photo”. Stuart was lagging behind, somewhere down, the trail with porter giving her company. Martha, the little one, was walking fine. I was translating the song and telling her the story Narayan Wagle’s highland adventure in Langtang and the resulting documentary called “Bheda Ko Oon Jasto”.

Martha and I arrived at Ghorepani at around 1 PM and waited for Stuart and porter Bhim Bahadur Thapa Magar. We killed time playing football with two kids at a primary school in Ghorepani Deurali. It took me no time to realize that those fabulous kids, brother and sister, were deeply dissatisfied with the way their school was being run.

Ghorepani school kids

Meet sister Bima Bika, 11, and brother Suman Bika, 8, students of classes 4 and 3 respectively in Shree Pun Hill Primary School at Ghorepani, Deurali. Martha and I played football with the kids for about half an hour as we were waiting for our friends to come. We also talked to them about their school and education. There are 9 students and two teachers (Anita Bolwal and Yam Bahadur Pun) in total in school. Suman is the only student in the class and he is pissed off with the irregularity of attendance of his teachers (a sir and a miss) in the school. “Sir haru nahaune, heavy ris utheko chha malai ta,” said. [I am very much angry because teachers don’t come school.] Then she recited a poem titled “Paap Lagchha” after I requested her recite any poem from her Nepali textbook.

“Natipnu hey kopila
nachudnu paap lagdachha
dhulo nakhelnu nani ho
udera bhitra bhagdachha”

After Stuart and Thapa Magar arrived, we decided to go up to Deurali as per Thapa Magar’s advice. He turned out to be very useful to find hotels though I could have done on my own if he wasn’t there. After all, it’s all about asking and moving ahead, the traditional Nepali way of taking journeys. Nepalese hardly lie on directions.

ulleri landslide

Twenty eight people died in the landslide a few weeks ago. Five members of a family died here. The house were they were staying in was swept away from the landslide. Relatives of the deceased put these prayer flags.

Lahures (people working in foreign lands as soldiers etc) used to live in the area where landslide occurred. They had brought all sorts of technology in their village along with the money from foreign land.

Thapa Magar took us to a hotel called Sunny which, to my surprise, turned out to be the one that I was eager to stay in. I had learned about the hotel from an article in Kosilee by Devendra Bhattarai. Coincidently, I had talked to the owner of the hotel in Birethanthi, the starting point of the trek, when I was there with Pankaj Mishra, a writer, last year. We walked about half an hour toward Ghorepani and then returned because we were in a different mission. In Sunny hotel, all rooms are named after sportsperson and mountaineering legends. That is a good way of being different from others and making guests feel special in the hospitality industry. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name printed on the door of the room where we stayed.

It was a nice hotel but I could sense that the treatment to Nepali wasn’t that impressive. It is not unusual to find all hoteliers in a tourist trekking route like Ghorepani-Ghandruk very much dollar minded. The dollar mindedness in the hoteliers is so much visible that they literally run after the goro chhala (white skin) even if many of them, the quick backpackers, don’t spend as par with some Nepali trekkers.

Maoist graffiti

I saw several graffiti like this one painted by Maoists demanding the election of constituent assembly and establishment of democratic republic in Nepal. I saw no other political party’s slogans or posters in the whole trek route.

We had a small, but heated, debate on this issue on the second last day of the trek. Martha expressed her unhappiness on the two price system that is widely in effect in trekking routes around the country: Nepalis are subsidized in certain food items. Actually two items: Dal Bhat and Black Tea. Nepalis are provided with discount on the menu price for those two items. I am also against such pricing policy but I tried to explain the ladies that the GDP difference between western tourists and average Nepali people. But if you consider the royal treatment that a gora receives (of course, there are numerous catches in such treatment), that discount doesn’t really matters much.

dinesh wagle on way to ulleri

While heading toward Ulleri, I am trying to enjoy the trek. Pic by Martha

About the trail: Though the first day’s trek from Nayapul to Ulleri wasn’t very much different from a normal walk on a low altitude locality, the second day’s walk was quite refreshing and entertaining. Just below Ulleri, I saw the devastation caused by the landslide that killed more than 26 people and swept away six houses two weeks ago. Few people and houses were lucky enough to survive the horrible natural disaster. While walking from over the landslide, I could smell strong odor coming out from a place where, a local woman said, there was a house. I hoped that the smell wasn’t of the human corpse as the woman told me that six bodies couldn’t be recovered.

Note: Martha and Stuart are not real names.