The Annapurnas: Goodbye Mardi Himal

Day 15: Badal Danda

It’s cold tonight, especially at 2am. I have to get out of bed to take Ben to the toilet. That would be the outdoor squat toilet with no electricity. Thank God we brought head-torches. I stand in the icy darkness of a dank, malodorous outhouse.  In front of me a child clings to my legs as he hangs over a ceramic hole with an upset tummy, all the while insisting I don’t look at him because he wants some privacy. If he needs to go again, Alex is taking him.

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The toilet situation

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It’s morning and the world is white. Badal Danda is living up to its name. We eat breakfast and then Alex heads up to High Camp on his own. Not long after Alex walked out into the mist, hail started falling. He doesn’t walk for the views so this weather is no deterrent for him, he’ll just enjoy being able to stride out at a decent adult pace for once. I’m all wrapped up in the dining hall – a fleece, both my shawls and my woollen hand-warmers – it’s cold with the fire not yet lit. A lot of hot tea will be drunk today.

Vicky & Ailsa left their Scrabble board for us. Chloe and I have a game. Chloe and Ben have a game. The fire is lit and benches are pulled up around the metal barrel. Card games are played and books get read. Outside the wind swirls mist over the ridge and around our walls.

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Tea making, Nepalese style

Alex returns and it is only mid-morning. He’s like lighting without a bag and kids in tow! There was no view from High Camp and it doesn’t look like there will be one later so I decide not to go up myself after lunch. Vicky & Ailsa return and the kids are delighted. It’s nice for me to have some other adults to talk to! We discover that Ailsa and her husband run three hotels in Pokhara, so we quickly bag the family room at their hotel called The Third Eye to stay in when we get back to Pokhara. We may part ways tomorrow, but we’ll see them again.

The weather puts on a variety show all day: Fog, rain, hail, snow blowing horizontally past the windows. Thunder rumbles from below us, Badal Danda sits above the storm. Occasionally sunshine will try to break through the mists but it never fully succeeds.

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It’s doing its best.

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As evening draws in I’m feeling a little off my game. I think it’s cabin fever and woodsmoke. We get the kids off to bed, hoping for no further midnight toilet runs. Hoping also that a view might creep out from behind the clouds tomorrow before we leave.

 

Day 16: Badal Danda – Forest Camp

I hear voices outside of our room. “There’s a view!” I jump out of bed, throw on some clothes and grab my camera. I step outside to cool morning air and a mountain in front of me. Machhapuchhare rears it’s head above a bank of clouds. I shout out to Alex that I’m heading to the viewpoint on the hill behind the teahouse; I can see Vicky, Ailsa and their guide already on their way. Mist creeps around and I fear the view will be lost before I make arrive.

I get to the lookout point five minutes later. Alex shouts up that he’s sending Ben along the path, he and Chloe will follow on. I look around at the now familiar peaks of Machhapuchhare and Annapurna South as the sun begins to rise. The clouds sail past, revealing one mountain while obscuring another, rarely giving us a clear view of both at once. Still, I’ll take it!

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I look down at Badal Danda and watch as fingers of mist reach over the ridge, engulfing it, only to free it moments later.

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7:35am
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7:39am
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7:42am

Moments later we too are engulfed, and it’s time to go down for breakfast. It wasn’t the grandest view we’ve had but it was nice to get one last vista, and to share it with new friends.

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We bid farewell to Vicky, Ailsa and Badal Danda, making our way back down to Forest Camp.

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We spend a few minutes at Low Camp and take the opportunity to do some maths equations during a toilet break. Gotta grab those teaching opportunities while you can!

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I can’t say it’s all smiles and laughter. Chloe gets mad that the top end of her bamboo pole has mud in it. She’s very upset and wants the end cut off immediately to make it fresh and clean again. Well, that’s not happening child. I clean it off and dig out the mud as best I can. Is she satisfied?  Does she thank me? No, she does not. Her attitude stinks and I tell her so. She tells me she hates me. I tell her I love her but I am her parent and it’s my job to tell her when her behaviour is not ok. And this is not ok. I stomp off ahead, she lags purposefully behind with a permanent scowl on her face. Man, the teenage years are going to be rough. The dark and cloudy atmosphere of the forest mirrors my mood.

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Half an hour of stalking through the trees alone and a peace is reached between us. The soothing fingers of time have done their work. We continue down to Forest Camp and arrive in a companionable mood.

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We arrive to discover that a large group of Nepalese College students will be staying here tonight as well. We quickly nab the quadruple room we had last time and let them fend for themselves with the rest of the beds. People will be sleeping on the benches in the dining hall tonight, that’s for sure! It’s crowded and noisy and ther’is one squat toilet for about 40 people tonight. Should be interesting.

After lunch Chloe goes out and introduces herself to a group of college girls sitting on the lawn. I’m amazed, she’s usually so shy. I think she saw them playing with the resident puppy and figures anyone who loves dogs must be alright. I sit in the dining hall listening to a few guys strumming a guitar and singing songs in Nepalese, while others play cards and gamble on nearby tables.

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Night has fallen and fire lights up a dark field. Sparks fly upwards into the wind. Warmth spreads outwards from the blaze, faces glow in the orange light.  Voices ring out in staccato song, bodies move to the beat of the drums.

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Ben has a meltdown. He’s tired and hyper and so excited but so, so emotionally delicate right now. He wants to keep collecting wood and throwing sticks on the fire but he’s getting in the way and under feet. When someone steps on his pile of sticks he loses it. Alex takes him to bed. Bel sees the small pile of sticks near the fire and, thinking the kids collected it to have their own little fire, he grabs an smouldering branch and makes one. He builds a small fire for me and Chloe and himself. “We are a little group, just need little fire”, he says with a smile. Chloe is so happy. She loves her little fire and Bel tends it well for her.

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Our little fire. 

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All too soon for Chloe’s liking I drag her off to bed. The music continues into the night and I hear Bel singing and playing the drums. I’m glad he’s having some fun tonight, he so deserves it.

Distance: 3.6km

Hotel: Hotel Forest Camp

Cost: $4 for quadruple room with shared bathroom.

Additional info: $2 for hot shower. Nowhere to charge devices. No Wifi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “The Annapurnas: Goodbye Mardi Himal

  1. This made me laugh: Ben and the toilet episode! Privacy…ha. Good writing, Leigh. And I cannot tell you enough how perfect your pictures are in describing your experience and allowing us all to enter into your world – a place I will never travel to but now feel I have an intimate view of. What a place you have been: remote, basic, beautiful, wild, raw, humbling. Your porter Bel was such a gem. I hope you meet him again one day. Such a patient and gentle spirit who looked after you well. You have experienced privation but have discovered that you have not been left wanting. Mom xo

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  2. Hi Leigh I have really enjoyed reading the blog and seeing the photos. You are so talented and what amazing photos – I love them. I was just with Vicki this weekend and we had fond memories of our time with you , Alex, Chloe and Ben. We love the photo of Vicki and I at Mardi Himal gazing at that incredible sunrise.
    Is there any chance I could get a copy of it? I would certainly always credit you if it is possible to get a copy. Love to you all

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    1. So lovely to hear form you Ailsa. We had such a great time with you guys, meeting you really enriched our experience. Of course you can have a copy 🙂 Shall I send it to the Third Eye email address?

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