Day 2: Ngadi - Tal
Total distance: 41.22km
Total Ascent: 1813m
Total Descent: 1030m
The thing about staying in these tea houses is that once one person is up, everyone is up. This is doubly true when two people get up at 5am and start chatting to each other as if no one else is around. The walls are so thin you would swear that they are in the room with you. It was an unexpectedly early start.
I saw oat porridge on the menu for breakfast. As a non-milk drinker I asked if I could get a bowl of raw oats that I could add my own water to. This seemingly simple request took about 10 minutes of back-and-forth communication before the manager believed that I only wanted raw oats. Not cooked? No. No milk? No. Not hot? No. We got there in the end. Like the rice for the previous night's dinner, there was enough oats in the bowl to serve four people. Also like last night, I ate the whole thing.
Due to differing plans I left Vanessa (enjoying a sleep in) and ventured out to start my solo journey. My legs felt fine but my shoulders and hips were another story. Every time I strapped the backpack on it would remind me how bruised and sore I already was after one day. I can't imagine what they will feel like by the end. My several stints at running with the pack on throughout the day probably didn't help matters.
Blue skies! It was the first time the skies had cleared since I arrived in Nepal, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The scenery was indescribable. It was mind-boggling how humongous the mountains were, making me feel like an ant in a sea of giants. Although yesterday wasn't overly picturesque, today I barely turned my camera off. Every time I looked up I was met with yet another jaw-dropping view. Rice terraces lined the sides of mountains as far as the eye could see. Around every corner was a gushing waterfall, dropping hundreds of metres down the rocky cliff face and into the fast-flowing river below. I haven't seen any snow yet, but with scenery like this who's complaining?
I had planned to have a long day of trekking, merging two Lonely Planet days into one to save some time. I departed early to ensure I would arrive in Tal well before dark. I ended up making great time, and I estimated I would arrive before 3pm. That was until I missed a turn-off. As per usual I was lost in my own thoughts, following the dirt road in front of me up a long hill. I casually looked around to check out the view - that's when I saw two hikers well below me, on the opposite side of the river. A quick glance back towards where I had come revealed a suspension bridge, and something in my mind clicked: I had read that at some point I needed to cross the river and follow it upstream. Just like these two other hikers were doing. A panicked check of my mobile map, physical map and Lonely Planet confirmed that I was indeed on the wrong path. I hurried back down the hill and found the correct route, labelled by a clear sign pointing the way. I really didn't need that extra couple of kilometres on top of today's efforts. Where was Vanessa and her map-reading skills when I needed her?
I was still on track to make it to Tal by mid-afternoon, and contemplated walking to the next town to save time for tomorrow. Then the rationale part of my brain kicked in (it does this occasionally) and reminded me that I didn't want to completely ruin my legs two days into a three week trek. The final, never-ending, steep incline right before the end heavily reinforced the idea of stopping at Tal.
Yaks are a common sight on the route, used to haul food and supplies between villages and to prepare the soil for planting crops. It's not the easiest sight to witness. Some of the trails are fairly narrow, meaning I have to squeeze past any yaks that might be coming along. I'm never sure if they will charge, bite or kick me as I walk by. Do they even do any of these things? So far they have been fairly docile, but I prefer when they are not within charging/biting/kicking distance.
Goats are a different story. They are adorable! Especially the baby goats, running along with their ears flopping about. Most villages have goats, and they always bring a smile to my face. The camera gets a good workout at these times.
Tal is a beautiful town, on what appears to be the flattest patch of land that exists in the region. By this stage the clouds had rolled in, the wind chill factor was up and I was keen to jump in my thermals. I'm only at 1700m above sea level (not even a third of the maximum elevation on this route) and I'm already layering up. I managed to choose a tea house with the hottest shower going around, plus views of two waterfalls from my bed. Which is great, as I may not be able to move my legs tomorrow and I'll be chilling out here another day.