We had gone to bed at a decent time. I didn’t sleep very well as we had left the screen window open, allowing hoards of mosquitoes to enter our room. I felt the first couple bites on my arms, some even through the sheets. I was unaware of the screen issue, otherwise I would have sought the easy solution of closing the screen. I retreated under my thin sheet, leaving only a small area open around my face.
We woke up early. My whole body itched and my left cheek and forehead were swollen due to multiple bites. I was exhausted. At least breakfast was good and refreshed my spirits some. We sat down together for a devotional and prepped ourselves for the next couple days. Back in our rooms, we shed ourselves of even more gear and snacks that we were deemed unnecessary by our guides. Soon after, we piled out the hotel doors and into a local tour bus to head out for the trailhead.
There were two teams that were trekking through the Annapurna region. Our team was let off first below the town of Dhampus. It took me a moment to actually spot the trailhead across the road. It had nowhere to go but up, and up we went. The path was basically a staircase cut in to the side of the hill. About halfway up the first section it dawned on me that these stairs were cut, hauled and installed by nothing but manual labor. No machines used other than simple hand tools. It was quite remarkable how well they were built.
After a 2,000 foot climb, only a linear half-mile away from our starting point (1 mile of switchback stairs), we had our first reprieve from the climb. Even though the valleys were shrouded in a thick, warm haze, the view was astonishing. Terraced gardens lined the hillside, little villages and homes dotted the landscape and the valley floor lay far below. Most of the team felt great, energized by the prospect of the adventure ahead. A couple others we worn down with traveller’s diarrhea.
We gradually made our way into the town of Dhampus. A narrow road led up to the town, a few vehicles traveling the route. The entire village rested on the crest of the hill and stretched for a couple miles in each direction. We followed our guides down the road and through the village. We didn’t see quite as many people as we thought we would have, but those that we did see, we handed tracts to. One man, seeing that we had some tracts, asked us for one and for any other literature we could give him. We were a bit surprised by his eagerness and began to talk with him. It turns out that he had encountered a few other missionaries in years past and had received a nifty solar powered MP3 player with the bible on it and a Nepali Bible and some other literature. We talked with him and about his life and what he thought about Christ and His salvation. He told us that he understands that Christ is the only way to salvation and that there is only one true God, yet he feared accepting those truths because of the rejection he would receive from his family and his community. We spoke with him some more, giving him an opportunity to ask us questions. It was about this time that one of our Guides and another team member came back to see what was holding us up. Our guide spoke with him some more in Nepali, helping to bridge the language gap. He passed on his contact information and told him about the church that he went to in Kathmandu. The man visits Kathmandu a couple times a year to resupply his business. He was an artisan, producing linens, scarves and other items that are sold in the local markets and along the trekking route. After talking with our guide for a little while the man accepted Christ into his life and asked us to pray for him and his family. A truly great start to our trek!
We met back up with our teammates, some of them worried that something had happened to us since every person that they sent back to check on us never returned with news. After we told them what had happened they were very excited to hear the news. We continued down the road a bit further and settled down for some lunch at a tea house. This was our first tea house stop of the trip and we were introduced to “the menu.” We all ordered and had our fill, a couple of the teammates resting and relaxing in the shade. We noticed that our Nepali guides didn’t order and waited patiently while we ate. After a few minutes, they were beckoned up to the kitchen. Wondering why they all had left, a couple of our teammates followed and saw that they were all eating Dhal Bhat together with the family that managed the tea house. Turns out it is more of a communal dish than we were aware of.
We continued down the road and eventually caught a trail that ran up to the top of another hill, the village of Pothana. The climb was steep, but not as much as the first climb earlier in the day. The sun was fading as a storm was rolling in. We climbed straight into the village and saw a couple workers building a new wall section and set of stairs in front of a tea house. One of our teammates jumped in asking to help. Bewildered by the offer they, somewhat reluctantly, let him help. Soon the rest of the team was grabbing rocks, chipping away at the edges with a hammer to make them fit into the tightly packed staircase and wall. We worked for close to an hour, finishing the task just before rain started to fall. A heavy storm rolled in bringing thunder and hail and torrents of rain. Most of us sought shelter in our rooms or the dining hall. I took the opportunity to sit down and record my thoughts for the day, read my bible and reflect on what had been seen and accomplished. We had dinner and some of us went to bed early, myself included, while the rest of the team stayed up and were able to present the gospel to the tea house owners and the work crew, along with some other travelers.