I’ve just had an experience which may convey the sheer size of these ‘foothills’: I couldn’t fit them into a portrait shot at 18mm! Today has been good, we set off at 0715 and arrived at the lodge at 1400. My shoulders were starting to ache as my bag is a bit heavy. My legs and enthusiasm are fine though. The Austrian architect-teacher just walked past me as I was writing that last bit so I’ve made good time today. I first met him at lunch yesterday and we got talking, he then walked past Jagat and stayed at Chamje, which is about an hour further along the path. I think we passed his guide in the last hour at a restaurant - but then again, I’m not sure he even has a guide. It’s a bit chilly here as the sun sets at around 1300 on this side of the valley and there’s a breeze too. Today’s scenery has been jaw dropping at times, my particular favourite was the view from a mini hill looking up the valley at Tal, which was the village we had lunch at. The valley bottom was wide and flat with lots of brilliant white chalky sand. There was also a huge snowy peak jutting out on the horizon too. This was just after my first encounter with the Maoists.
3 guys dressed in (probably fake) decent outdoor gear had set up a chair and table 5 minutes from the aforementioned vista. They had a red flag with the hammer and sickle on it. They demanded a fee of 1300NPR (100NPR/day) and gave me a receipt for it so I don’t have to pay them again should I encounter any more of them. They were unarmed and had a cocky aura about their actions. Personally I think they are cowardly immature idiots. ‘Cowardly’ because they hide in the hills; I took a photo of some propaganda which supports the ‘immature idiots’ bit. They demand money off tourist - forgetting that tourism (and aid) are the biggest influxes of cash into Nepal and that because of their actions tourism to Nepal has been in steady decline in recent years. This only makes the poor poorer - which helps no one (apart from getting a few more poor villagers to vote Communist). This is not to mention their disastrous impact on the tiger and rhino populations in Chitwan National Park. I had to sign my name on the receipt under the word “Donor” which was ironic to say the least.
Before dinner I played Badminton with a few Nepali which was a good work out. I then tried a bit of nettle soup after my meal, it was OK, better than I thought it would be - very gloopy too.