Thursday 4 December 2014

Day 171: Dolpo day 2 - Meet the team

Dholbadu and Babu Hari stop to pose
Over the next couple of days we gradually got to know the members of our crew, at first relying on jokes and comparisons to remember their names.  Krishna, our sirdar and Lord of the expedition, was easy to remember.  Then there were two trekking sherpas: Uttam and Beerbadu (which, alas, sounds a bit like 'bad beer').  The two donkey drivers were called Narinda and Dholbadu (a bit like 'dhal bat', in our primitive world of language recognition).  The cook was Dilli.  And three 'kitchen boys' completed the team: Santa (a jolly figure in red trousers and a red jacket, who only needed a white beard to complete the outfit), Babu Hari (Baby Harry, who pleaded guilty to seventeen years' existence on this planet but could we reasonably charge him with more than thirteen?), and the other one whose name I still cannot remember.  Names are forgotten for a reason - but that's jumping ahead of the story.

For the next eighteen days this crew would look after us according to a regime laid down by British explorer Jimmy Roberts.  It involved the luxury of a mug of tea in bed at 6am followed, bizarrely, by a bowl of warm washing water (when it is far too cold to wash - what happened to washing in the warmth of the mid-afternoon sun?).  Then our bags were loaded onto the donkeys for the day's trek.

Being waited on made life both very comfortable and somewhat uncomfortable.  We are used to fetching our own water, carrying our own bags and doing our own washing up on an expedition.  Most of all, we are used to knowing the abilities and kit of everyone on the team before we set out.  Watching Babu Hari approach in his flip flops to bring our warm washing water (before washing himself in cold water), then donning our state-of-the-art Gore-Tex boots, felt like a flash back to a more colonial era.  But while we wished the crew had boots and fleeces, as a minimum, the crew simply wanted the work and, presumably, warmer toes.  There is a lot to fix in the conditions of porters across Nepal and the usual methods of tipping them and handing them our used gloves at the end of the expedition certainly won't cut it.  Under the circumstances, they wore smiles on all but the coldest of mornings ... although sometimes they favoured the serious look for the camera.

Plastering Dolpo-style
Chilis are a valuable cash crop for the locals 
The path winds up the Phoksundo Khola (valley/gorge)
The Phoksundo River
Pamela crosses but why is Nigel arguing with Uttam?
Grows like, ahem... a weed!
Another fabulous cantilever bridge over the Phoksundo River 
Steadying the load
A micro-hydro scheme being developed in one of the tributary kholas required this temporary heliport.
(Note the turbines and transformers) 
Pumpkins for sale
Wel-Come To Chhepka!
Krishna admires the river
Stanley Kubrick in action
Another cantilever bridge!
At times the path was just amazing. Susan sandwiched between cliff and river.

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