The parts of the country that we saw were incredibly inhabited. Rugged expanses of mountainous terrain with no infrastructure, other than a foot trail, seemed to be full of villages and agriculture. In the U.S. areas this remote would be B.L.M. lands that were visited only by a logging operation every couple of decades.
Living this far out is hard work. Houses are built from rock and mud, and food is either grown in terraced mountain-side fields or hauled in on mules or someone’s head. It was amazing that the inhabitants could provide for themselves and dumbfounding that they could build, equip and supply the guesthouses we stayed in.
We were surprised to find that trekkers like us, who carried our own gear, were in the minority. Most people booked through guide agencies and carried only small backpacks, while native porters carried their gear. And it wasn’t one porter per foreigner either — most were carrying the gear of two or three hikers. 100-150lbs strapped over their foreheads walking up steep, rocky trails wearing flip flops! At first it seemed cruel, but then we saw what the locals were carrying as part of their daily routine: Women with large baskets of sand, gravel, firewood, or buckwheat. Men hauling 10″x10″x12′ wood beams, 4×8′ roofing panels, and even one native with an elderly woman in a basket on his back (she certainly weighed over 150lbs). It made me wonder whether the Nepalese have developed different bone and cartilage structures in their necks, because mine would have snapped like a twig under those loads.
Anyway — strong and hard working is the only way to describe the Nepalese. It seemed like the women handled most of the agricultural tasks, and with almost no machinery, just a 12″ knife to clear acres of buckwheat. The men were most often seen performing construction tasks like building houses or roads or milling lumber. We saw two men sitting on the roadside making gravel with small hammers. Just picking up rocks and hitting them until they broke into smaller rocks; then they would toss them in the pile. The pile was BIG.
Interacting with the locals was always pleasant. Sometimes the women would not want their photo taken and would cover their faces, but most everyone we communicated with smiled back.
Below are some photos of people we met while on our Annapurna trek. I wish I would have taken more, but most of the time we were just too awestruck at what they were doing to pull out the camera.