BootsnAll Travel Network

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Day Eight: Black Sheep Boy

Upon leaving the village of Sinuwa, the first half of the day was spent retracing our steps from a few days earlier back to Chomrong. This meant a forty minute descent down one side of the valley below Sinuwa, and a solid hour’s climb up the other side.

Herds of buffalo again blocked our path along the way. A gentle stream flowed beside us where there had been only dry rocks previously. Waterfalls jumped down the cliffs around us where before there had been only trees and hard rock. The monsoon wasn’t far away.

As I climbed up the stairs to Chomrong, straining to put each foot on the next stone step and lagging a little behind the others, I was overtaken by six or seven kids in their best school uniform bounding up the steps, as though each step was a mini trampoline. When they reached Salik, our nineteen-year-old porter, the two littlest kids, perhaps aged five or six, grabbed his hand and he helped them up the final few steps to their school.

As if he didn’t have enough to carry already!

The kids we’ve passed along the trek so far have nearly always smiled and said hello, eager to practice what little English they possess. There is, of course, the odd little smarty-pants. We are talking about kids after all, and it deson’t matter what country you’re in, some of them are just way too cheeky.

The sweat was dripping from my nose and my thighs were burning as those steps continued to pass under my increasingly sore feet. But as an eight or nine year old boy approached coming down the other way, I smiled a big grin;
“Namaste.” (Hello), I greeted him.
“Kas to cha?” (How are you?)
“Kas to cha?”
“Tik cha?” (OK?)
“Tik cha?” He grinned back at me.
“Ah, so-we’re-playing-the-old-copy-what-I-way-game-are-we? Well-try-doing-it-now-you-little-smart-arse.” The words came out in a torrent, like an auctioneer on speed.

That shut him up.

After a short break in Chomrong we had the steepest of steepest descents to navigate to take us down to the village of Jinhu danda (Jinhu hill). It was an almost vertical drop of four hundred metres. But there was a great reason for negotiating this almost suicidal path, for twenty minutes beyond Jinhu, at the bottom of the valley where the mighty Mhodi Khola continued to crash, were some majestic natural hot springs.

As angry as ever, the Mhodi rushed over, under and around huge boulders strewn in its path. I stood on a rock just a metre or two from its edge, wearing only a pair of board shorts, admiring the power of the icy cold water. But just a step behind me was a small, knee-deep pool of steaming hot water; a natural hot spring.

I gently stepped into the warmth, and all the pain that had built up in my legs over the previous seven days trekking melted away. I laid back in the water and closed my eyes. It was absolute bliss. The four of us (Abs and I, and Babu our guide and Salik our porter) relaxed down there for an hour or so. Having been walking up and down mountains five hours a day for over a week, the timing of our visit could not have been more perfect.

The huge smile on my face was only finally wiped off as we climbed back up through the forest to Jinhu danda. The three-and-a-half hours walking that day, the lack of lunch, and the dehydration from the hot spring had me labouring up the hill. I was almost walking on the spot, each step taking me only inches forward.

Abs stopped up ahead, and, when I finally reached him, offered me some chocolate. “You look like you could use some energy!” It was just what I needed to get me through to lunch in Jinhu danda.

From there, we had a further hour-and-a-half walk to Landruk, where we spent the night. Along the way we crossed huge suspension bridges (finally leaving the Mhodi Khola behind, after following it for days), and stopped to watch some local old women weaving cotton in a tiny village.

That night, as we sat and relaed at our guesthouse, Babu told stories about the Royal Chitwan National Park, a park in the south of Nepal near where his wife was from, and that is full of tigers, rhino and elephants. He spooked us with tales of man-eating tigers and giant pythons.

Later that night, at the stroke of midnight in fact, Abs and I were awoken by a fierce storm. Rain lashed the window by my bed. Lightning lit up the room and thunder simultaneously crashed through the walls. It was like a horror movie storm, where the lighting and thunder are not separated by time, but instead attack you in tandem. Friday the 13th Part 54: Himalayan Horror (this was the crap going through my head!).

I got up to go to the toilet, which was located about thirty metres away along the first floor balcony. The storm raged around me, and as I hesitantly raised my head torch to see my way, I half expected to see Jason Vorhees in his hockey mask and coveralls, holding a blood-stained machete by his right thigh, and Babu’s severed head in his left hand, stretched out in front of him, clenched fist clutching Babu’s thinning hair.

Yeah, didn’t get much sleep that night. And then, the next morning, I woke up to the absolute fright of my life…….

Song of the day: Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy. The title track to this brilliant album went through my head over and over that day. Unfortunately the song only goes for just over a minute, so damn, did I sing that a whole heap of times!

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