29 March – A road by any other name is still a road

Hallelujah! Today we needed to get some distance covered as we need to be in Tumlingtar by mid day on the 31st. We were set for a long hard day. It was a longish, hard day but it would have been less enjoyable had it not been for a road. We climbed down steep stone steps out of Dhobane and what to our wondering eye should appear but the end (or beginning) of a rough road. By Canadian standards this mud track might not deserve that nomenclature but by Nepali standards if any track is negotiable by wheeled vehicle it is a road. This was barely negotiable but we were passed by two land rovers and two tractors during the course of our seven hour walk. The joyous thing about a road is that the grade is less steep than the trails. So while it was in places very muddy due to the heavy rain last night, it made for easy walking. Quite soft underfoot too. There were a few places were we had to pick our way on stones across fords. There were several places where we went off road to climb up or down short cuts between hair pin bends or to access pedestrian only suspension bridges. As a result of the easier walking we covered good distance and are now finally on the shore of the Arun Nadi (nadi means big river). We saw the river for the first time today from high up on a headland. We aren’t sure why this trek is referred to as the Arun Valley Trek as we will now only follow this river for the next day and a half into Tumlingtar. We think we will rename it something more appropriate but have yet to come up with a name that might encompass all that this route entails!As we walked along today we met quite a few locals out and about. Of note were a pair of old ladies (probably our age!) they were sitting by the path having a rest. Many of the women in this area wear large ornate gold rings in their noses. These hang down to about lip level. They seem to be important status symbols. Indications of wealth perhaps. These two were no exception. One of these women had a folded black umbrella, the other a broken walking stick. As we came by the walking stick lady proudly showed us that she too had a stick for walking. It was a brief moment of connection that makes a journey like this have more meaning than just tramping along.

Another time there was a veritable traffic jam. A train of about 10 mules going down met up with a train of mules going up. The mules negotiated this with calm aplomb. There was also a large tractor pulling a cart and a Land Rover coming up. This is Nepal so both vehicles had young horn blasting boys at the wheel. They caused some havoc amongst both sets of mules. The tractor ended up pulling over to let the impatient Land Rover lurch on by. We just stood at the side of the road and watched all this unfold from a reasonably safe distance.

Besides the road, the other point of significance about today was the muggy heat. We are now at 320 metres above sea level (a 610 metre drop in elevation from last night) and are in steaming jungle. Banana trees and rice paddies. Mango and Papaya trees, cardamom plants, fire ants and presumably evening or night time mosquitoes as we have bug nets strung over our beds. Because it’s so muggy everything feels slightly damp.

Our room is quite interesting. While last night our walls were a combination of corrugated metal and bamboo lattice, tonight one “wall” is chicken wire. Good for ventilation, a bit lacking in privacy. While last night we needed to be careful not to drop small things on the floor due to the large gaps between the floor boards, tonight there is linoleum on the cement floor. We will be able to drop stuff without fear of hitting anyone below! Tonight’s bed has a mattress as well which is the first in a couple of nights. Additionally the toilet is just a few steps away. We won’t even need to put rain gear on if it’s raining to get to it! Very posh!

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