Day 6: Marpha – Ghasa

Morning has broken… and with it comes our wake up call with a menu in hand. I shoo him away: “g’morning… 5 mins please…”. Yesterday was a long day – elapsed time about 10 hours, hiking time about 8 hours. But Miss.M feels good, somewhat to her surprise – no aches and pains. The thought of getting feet into boots makes me cringe though. Two pairs of socks, I hope will do the trick. Plus a fresh set of moleskins on all affected toes – I must say moleskin is of limited use in a true blister situation.

We walk about 5 mins and I rush back for my precious little notebook that I’ve forgotten at the Snow Leopard (Shiva, reading my Day 5 account remembers that it’s not the Snow Goose, but the Snow Leopard… Goose, Leopard – same difference!) The narrow main street of Marpha, lined on either side by two storey houses, is very picturesque. We wonder if the people living next to and across from each other get any privacy – the street is so narrow, and the houses quite close together.

I start dropping behind everyone today. On this stretch, I and my blisters often talk to each other (Read it in a deep voice if you have one, somewhat on the lines of “mein aur mery tanhaain aksar yeh batein karte hain…”). I wave Shishir ahead, and he reluctantly goes on. A porter and a young Nepalese trekker with awesome calf muscles, zoom past me. A while later, I see them stopped by the wayside, smoking foul beedis. The trekker is wearing a T-Shirt that says “Nepal Women’s Climbing Association”. I stop to inhale the beedi smoke and make small talk, and move on. I put on a burst of speed just to show my blisters who’s boss, and catch up with the others. Ms. Program Manager wants me to rate my blisters on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being worst. I’m thinking only she can come up with such ideas.

After an hour and a half of walking we reach Tukusche, the next settlement. One of the first eateries we come across is an incongrous little Dutch Bakery. They advertise apple pies, home baked bread, croissants, and copying of digital camera memory cards to CD! My camera memory being full, we do get a CD burned here. Like all our stops, this is a leisurely, giggly affair, enhanced today with lots of groaning and swearing at blisters, and other general aches and pains. We order cheese toast (after a breakfast in which we were denied toast) and lemon tea.

At the next table are two older guys, Rolland (Rolly) and Gearhart. Both of German origin, now Canadian. We are suitably impressed when Rolly breezily tells us they are on a winding-down trek, after doing “Base Camp”. (Everest, what else?! In these circles you never say Everest Base Camp.) Winding down trek – I mean, this is OUR WHOLE TREK!!! We get back at them by making impolite jokes and giggling among ourselves. It’s awesome that we have three common languages to communicate among the four of us, besides smaller subsets of Marathi, Telugu, and Bengali. Rolly is complaining about his right leg, and threatening to take a taxi to Tatopani, our tomorrow’s stop.

The couple running the bakery apparently spend 6 months in Holland, and 6 months in Tukusche. They describe themselves in their brochure as, “the crazy dutchman and his beautiful Nepali wife”. They have a surprisingly well equipped kitchen – several microwave ovens, cooking ranges, appliances and raw materials from Holland. Nitya overhears the beautiful Nepali wife ranting: “These are yesterday’s croissants – you can have them if you want. I’m tired of baking and throwing them. Some people ordered them and went away. Nobody stays here… they always stay at Marpha and only pass through here…”. Suppressed giggles from us as she reports this at our table.

When we’re reminded by the gentle Shishir that there’s a trek going on, we guiltily climb into our boots and get back on the trail. About half an hour later we come upon our porters – and I decide to switch into sandals. The best decision I make on the whole trek. The blisters stop bothering me, the sandals work beautifully, and it’s a new me. Today I carry my shoes strung on my day sack, just in case… tomorrow onwards, even that is not necessary. Long live Tevas! Did I mention that we are still walking into the wind? Well we are. Same brown arid landscape which is beginning to get a bit monotonous.

Not for much longer though.. we climb a bit to the right of the river and the trail continues some 60 ft. above the river bed. Happy to be out of the wind finally. The path winds up gently and plateaus out. Although the landscape must have changed gradually, we notice all of a sudden that we are among pines and conifers. After some gentle up and down walking we come to a steep slope, where again Nitya and Shiva have some uncertainity. We’ve descended into a lush basin with wild flowers, a river flowing through, and evergreens on all the hills around. This is a beautiful stretch of the trail and I am reluctant to leave it behind. There’s even a pretty little log bridge which we cross. The climb out of this basin is about 20 mins up a lovely shaded path among the pines and conifers. By today I am happy to yak on uphills too, much to Nitya’s delight. Somewhere on this up and down section Nitya manages to touch some poison ivy – Kailash Jeevan to the rescue J.

Lunch today is in a dark, cool, low-ceiling dining room. After a longish wait, Shishir brings us the usual sabji and rotis. I ask for jam with my roti, I can’t have aaloo sabji again. Meanwhile we have been amusing ourselves by giggling over two studious looking guys at the next table, pouring over their map throughout the time they were there. A smelly sphagetti arrives much after the roti sabji. We’ve by now forgotten that we’d ordered it… guiltily we leave it as chicken-feed.

Back on the trail it’s quite sunny and hot. No breeze today. Landscape continues to be green though. We come to a scree filled downhill section, that scares the heck out of Nitya and Shiva. Shishir herds them down with animal cries of “drrrra”, “drrrrrrra” J. Apart from this, the trail is uneventful. Nits and I chat all the way to Ghasa. We tell each other that as long as the others are not part of the conversation, we can talk about babies ad nauseum, specifically ours.

In Ghasa, our rucksacks have been placed outside a tea house as a signal for us to stop. It is a nice little place, I spot a chocolate croissant and have to have it. There’s a nice little garden out front, and I go mad clicking photos of the colourful Dianthus (Nitya and I have an argument about whether these were indeed Dianthus), Shasta Daisies, and orange nastrutiums on the opposite house fence and wall. A pair of Israeli girls we met at Tukusche are staying here. They are full of themselves, how fast they are, how they did Torang La without stopping for food – we didn’t have much to say to them. They tell us they don’t have much to say to each other as well.

Our rooms here don’t have attached bath. Round two won by Shishir, he gets even with us for interfering in yesterday’s arrangements. MShah is having a minor procedure on her blisters with a safety pin, candle, and Shishir – looks scary. Dinner is again over candle light as there’s no power. I order chhaang and after a sip, abandon it. Sweet lemon tea with Royal Stag is a decent combination – one makes do with what’s available.

We head to our rooms and Nits and I continue yakking. It takes us two warnings from Shiva and MShah to shut the hell up – the walls are quite thin and they are unable to sleep in the low drone of voices from our room. Contrite, but still giggling into our pillows and whispering like school girls, we finally sleep.

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