Combining one and a half days again, we are expecting another long day of effort. For breakfast I try the local Tsampa porridge; buckwheat roasted, then ground into flour, and cooked into porridge. I like the nutty taste but find the texture too smooth for my liking.
We are on the trail by 8 o'clock. It's a hot overcast morning. There are many river crossings over steel swing bridges. There are many donkeys that are given the right of way. The donkeys preference is to walk on the outside of the trail and as there is insufficient room for manoeuvring, we are often forced to stop cliff side, to let the donkey trains pass.
We are each carrying a daypack that contains little more than wet weather gear, warm jacket, hat and gloves, camera, drinking water and snacks, so are in awe when we are passed by porters, including women, each with a very different load. Either carrying a stack of red plastic chairs, ply board panels or rolls of corrugated iron. The rolls of iron have a thin rope dangling from the top that is pulled to leverage the lengthy burden downward so that the bottom edge is not damaged as it lifts clear of the steps when climbing down. We follow, or are overtaken a number of times over the next 3 days by this group, or a solo man carrying an enormous supply of eggs. We have a regular reminder, that everything must be carried to cater for our needs, as well as to supplement those of the local population. Items must all be carried over the same stone steps, for the same wearying distances.
Clearly today is going to be another long lunch break; there are many tourists at the tea house and there are no spare seats available so we are shown into the proprietors home to wait. The small room appears to be a dining room but it is lined with shelves of goods; noodles porridge oats etc. There is also an ancient telephone. The four of us order the same item from the menu; potato rosti with cheese, thinking that we will get the meal quickly, but it didn't increase the speed of service.
Our break of 1 & 1/2 hours ended with a rush for our raincoats as light rain fell, and looked like it had set in for the afternoon. We rushed off, and belching garlic, tagged along behind KK, who was protected from the rain by a purple umbrella that seemed rather odd in this setting, but turned out to be far more practical in the light rain, as we were overheating in our Gortex.
Many photo stops and short breaks to admire the scenery, delay our arrival at Jagat to 4:30 p.m. so it's been a long day. Tomorrow we will cross into the ‘restricted area’ so our details are logged at the check post in Jagat. We are staying in upper Jagat, a larger village of which the main road is a congested narrow lane with houses on either side. This basic tea-house has narrow stairs to the long sleeping area, separated into individual rooms by paper thin walls and a teaser of a Fluor coil light; not connected. Outside, a separate concrete shed has a cold shower for free, or 200 rupee for hot. For dinner, Nev orders Dahl Bhat and I choose vegetable eggs spring roll. The Dahl Bhat is tasty, but simply rice with a potato cabbage curry. Those who ordered dessert received a rather unappetising Apple Pie containing a thin layer of apple and the crust topped with transparent watery custard.
For me, the post-dinner, pre-bedtime teeth cleaning ritual is one of the most difficult daily tasks while trekking; as it must also be for locals. It is not unusual to see people brushing vigorously in public. Often there is no basin, so we find a quiet place outside and squirt water from our bottle to moisten the brush. The paste spittle then waters any straggly plants growing nearby. We retire to our room to read by headlamp at 7:30. Early nights become our routine for the duration of the trek and I found this didn't suit my body clock. I am physically tired so find I'm dozing over my book after only a short time in bed. I always wake after 7 hours of sleep so most mornings I am awake at 3 a.m. or thereabouts and filling in the time till rising, either reading or listening to Podcasts downloaded, before the trek, to my iPad. This evening I revisit the Lonely Planet notes describing the past two days. I'd read them many times while planning the trek but reading modest words such as 'steep rocky trail' and 'walk along rounded stones' or 'ups and downs' had given no clue that a great amount of energy was to be expended, nor that my main view would be of placing my feet safely, to avoid tripping or ankle rolling, rather than enjoying the scenery.