A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chomrong - Gateway to the Sanctuary

We awoke late at nearly 7am (again) and hurried down for a breakfast of muesli with warm milk to assuage the cold morning. Then we took a path that winded down to a river, followed by a frisky rotweiller puppy. Across the other side there were a series of impossibly steep dirt trails, the kind you lean into and slide a half step down for every step you climb up. On to a village called Gurjung, past forests of marijuana and the aptly named Greenhill Lodge. There was a farmer tending his crops, grinning widely in the sun, and I thought about what a fantastic place this would be to retire for many of my compadres back home. A simple rustic life with killer Himalayan views amongst fields of green as far as the eye could see. This is a paradise found for someone, for sure.

We passed an eco-friendly sign with superbly bad grammar, like a Buddhist version of “All your base are belong to us”, that read:

Next we came to a teahouse that had the saddest, most pitiful sight imaginable. A little baby monkey tied up with a rope to a nearby pole. It just about broke our hearts. An Australian couple whom we met the night before was already well into a lecture to the owner about releasing it back into the wild. The story, supposedly went, that they happened upon the youngster alone, his mother killed. Somehow I couldn’t believe this was a better fate to having to fend for itself.

My ankle was a bit sore. Not horribly bad, but it would probably deteriorate if I walked on it too much. Better safe than sorry, we decided to hike three hours to Chomrong and stay an extra day to rest, which in more ways than one was a godsend for my aching body.

We stayed at Excellent View Top Lodge, which was totally packed the first night. We had a double room with a little balcony that did in fact have an excellent view, with the soft white cotton candy clouds stuck to the mountain peaks. But we had a window facing to the inside of the guesthouse (another retarded design feature), and it was pretty loud being near the shared bathroom, that was constantly in occupation. I had a startling thought that I had not done my business in 4 days now. I think when I’m in unfamiliar circumstances, my body just shuts down. I had a similar thing happen when I was on a week-long river rafting trip. In both cases, I wouldn’t make it all the way back to civilization without some debilitating septic shock setting in, so I would have to figure it out. The next day we were lucky to get one of the only rooms with a private bath (and western style toilet) for 500 NRS ($7) the most we paid for a room on the trip, and that did the trick. I guess I just needed some privacy. Unfortunately, it also had a solar shower but the overcast day didn‘t bring any hot water, so we were outta luck on that front.

Chomrong (2170m) is known as the Gateway to the Sanctuary as it is a one way trip from here to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC), although many loops and circuits can be made up on your itinerary up until this point. It is a large Gurung village, and the first in the region to have hydroelectric power, harnessed by the power of the rushing rivers.

Even with the massive amounts of ibuprofen I was consuming, my thighs were burning with every step down, I would lean on the banister and wince when descending the stairs into the dining hall. We had delicious chicken enchiladas one night that appeared to be an exception as everything else wasn’t anything to write home about. Overall, there are a plethora of guesthouses in Chomrong, so I would keep looking next time. Although it did, amazingly, have an internet café (for like 15 cents/minute or $9/hour!) that neither Ron or I wanted to step near. Being out in nature and away from technology was what this trip was all about.

Krishna showed us to a local place for food and drink called a fresh-house. Not surprising given the village in which we stayed, it was named Chomrong Fresh-House. We sat on bamboo mats on the dirt floor of the hut. The woman poured us local wine in little mugs, a warm rakshi brewed from millet. It had the distinctive taste of all the raki we’ve ever dared to sample all over the world, something resembling gasoline, likely prepared in an unhygienic way you prefer not to be shown. Over the open fire, she cooked slop for her cattle that wandered aimlessly outside the hut.

Her husband, an artist with good printing to prove it, painted a new yellow sign for their stair-side restaurant.

We sampled buffalo jerky that hung to dry in a wooden rack over the hearth of the fire. It was heated in some oil and was the jerkiest jerky I’ve ever chewed, like I gnawed on one small piece for like 10 minutes hoping I wouldn‘t swallow it, choke, and die on buffalo jerky on the floor of a hut somewhere in the himalayas. It was dried naturally without any additives, so it had a rather strong flavor. No brown sugar, molasses, teriyaki, or hot peppers in sight. It made me nostalgic for 1 ounce bags of sweet n hot jerky from Circle K. Such a little thing. The local children, just out from school, stopped by to pose for our cameras, giggling at each other in the viewfinder afterwards, and running from the husband playfully threatening to dab some yellow paint on their cheek.

Tipsy and ready for lunch, we trekked the 10 minutes back up to our lodge. Now that’s my kinda trekking! I treated myself to a half hour massage on my feet and legs. I didn’t really expect a lot given I was out in the boonies but I got a fantastic pressure point massage in my room. At times my tender muscles screamed but I let the nepali masseuse work his magic and I was jello afterwards. He charged a very reasonable 800 NRS ($11) but I gave him an even 1000 NRS and drifted peacefully off to sleep. Room service…


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