The dawn brings crystal clear blue sky! There is general pleasure being expressed by all. Another dry day means Annapurna Base Camp is more obtainable. Tendi brings my breakfast. He tells me the weather gods seem to be promising good weather until 4 November. We’d be heading back down by then. Back down a steep, muddy slippery rough trail, in the path of potential avalanches or landslides. If the weather changes. If it doesn’t, well then up we go and back we come with the hordes of other happy tourists.
I feel a twinge of disappointment and he reads my face like a book. “Or we can go up to Mardi Himal high camp.” He offers. Oh yes! Having slept of the plan it seems even better this morning. I get the map out again and we go over the ideas in more detail. Tendi has clearly been busy checking out the feasibility. It’s a for sure more fun option than continuing to Annapurna Base Camp.
Tendi phones Binod to let him know the change of plans. Binod thinks it’s a great idea. So today we walk south and down to Landruk. This is completely in the opposite direction from where we are planning to go but we need to get to Landruk to access a short cut route up to the ridge on the east side of the Modi Khola valley. After that things are going to get a bit adventurous.
As we leave Chhomrong – several of Tendi’s guide friends call out to him. They wish they were doing what we are. But their clients are by in large in groups with set itineraries. On the way out of town I chat with one of his friends I’d met a few years ago. There’s general smiles all round that now I speak some Nepali and am Tendi’s Didi (older sister). There are several comments that now I will go Nepali trekking not just tourist route trekking.
The walk begins with the inevitable precipitous down and down. At one point we come to a platform and the trail just stops. But Tendi shows me there are flat stones protruding out of the down side of this platform. I’m supposed to climb down these stepping stones. Seriously. “Why is it like this?” I want to know. “For animals.” Is the response. I consider this for a bit then realize this is to stop cows, mules, buffalo etc from ranging into the fields. Very ingenious. Stops animals and Kim quite effectively. There are several more of these platforms to negotiate and I get better as we go.
Eventually we’re down at the river and bounce across the inevitable suspension bridge. We have descended into a semi tropical forest. Numerous insects are playing a harmonious and very loud tune which is sometimes interspersed with the odd bird chirp or cry. There’s also the ever present background sound of the river rushing along its wild and rocky course. The heat is considerable and the sun is beating down on us. There is a pervasive jungle dampness and the weeping rock walls we walk beside are festooned with tiny ferns, and orchids. After a while we burst out of the forest into farm land and are greeted by banana and orange trees.
We pass through several really pretty villages. Colourful and welcoming. One is called New Bridge. Shortly after descending through New Bridge we come to the oldest suspension bridge I’ve ever encountered in Nepal. It looks really dodgy. Clearly the village could do with renaming! Crossing the bridge is an adventure. The thing bobs and sways like a drunken sailor and it’s supporting wires are unbalanced. At one point one of the wires drops to about thigh height. Way too low for comfort! I’m really glad to be on the other side! Turns out I had an audience. There’s a big group coming the other direction. Most are viewing the bridge with trepidation. One poor woman is in clear terror. She doesn’t like the good bridges this one seems to be almost more than she can cope with. When we leave, her guide has got her about 1/4 of the way across.
Slowly, then steeply we climb back up the other side of the valley. We pass through more farm terraces. Here villagers are out harvesting the rice crop. Millet is also ripe and close to being harvested. We’re into our gust house before lunch. I feel as if I’ve walked all day! Again most of our route was either up or down with very little level walking.
Tendi has been out checking into tomorrow’s trail. It is not on any trekking map. We are going to take a packed lunch and then head up a very steep forested slope above Landruk. The local trail we’ll be following will be something of a goat track and it should bring us up to the ridge which is currently far above us. We will end up at something a little over 2600 metres. So the climb is going to be a stiff one! We’re hoping it will only take four or five hours. Our destination is a place called Forest Camp on the Mardi Himal trekking route. The next day we will walk along the ridge to Low Camp at 3050 metres. The day after we’ll end the day at about 3700 metres at High Camp. That is essentially directly above Bamboo where we had originally planned to go today. I think we’ll call it quits there. The views are promised to be incredible and more dramatic than what we’d have seen from Annapurna Base Camp. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for good weather. If it turns snotty we’ll just retrace our steps but stay high on the ridge all the way to Pothana.
The next few blogs will fill you in on how this plan unfolds! For now good night from Landruk (1640 metres)