20 November – A mini trek and so much more

After the ceremony of yesterday we wonder what excitement today will bring. It’s another early start as we are going on a small hike up the hills above Khamding. Our goal is to see some mountain views. Mountains here are snow capped, the rest are just hills. There’s some cloud over the area where the peaks are but we hike in pleasantly warm sunshine. Karin and I stop to take numerous pictures. And we see Everest in the distance along with several other peaks before the clouds lower and obscure them. Lhamu and our cook have come along too so we are a happy little group. While Tendi is used to the strange behaviour patterns of tourists the other two are clearly slightly puzzled by the things we take pictures of and exclaim at. Lhamu is probably gaining insight into what Tendi deals with in the course of his job!

Eventually we arrive at a tea stop. Karin and I order black tea with no sugar. This is always greeted with such astonishment. The normal way of drinking black tea is to have two or three heaping teaspoons of sugar in a tiny glass. It’s like drinking syrup. The tea is served, along with beer. We try to turn down the beer but Tendi explains this is Sherpa hospitality so we must accept. Despite it only being 9:30 in the morning we do so…..well we are a bit thirsty after all from our sunny two hour walk up to this place.

It is then suggested that we stay here over night in order to have a better chance of seeing clear mountain views in the morning. Karin and I at first misunderstand and think the offer is to stay somewhere further along the trail. When we realize this is the intended overnight spot I go on a recee.
Out house situation – rather poor and far from the accommodation. We have no flash lights with us.
Accommodation situation – dismal. It’s a communal room. “Room” is being a bit over generous. Bed situation – oh my. Wooden benches are covered with very thin seriously filthy mats. The blanket supply looks very dodgy. We haven’t got our sleeping bags either.
I report back to Karin as we sip a second tea, or was that a second glass of beer? We decide on a firm but polite exit strategy. Kim needs to take medication at night, we need to go back to Tendi and Lhamu’s farm. Thankfully no one is put out.

After a while we continue on our way up to a monastery. It is unlocked for us to look around inside and it is typically colourful. Every wall and the ceiling is covered in brightly hued Tibetan Buddhist frescos. The predominant colours are red, green, yellow and gold. As well as the monastery there is a shining white stupa and a huge painted prayer wheel and a mani wall. The area exudes a sense of tranquil sanctity. After more picture taking we are invited into a home for – you guessed it – more tea!

One of Tendi’s aunts lives here so while we walk back to the first tea place for lunch he stops in to visit her. Tea was not on the menu – and neither was beer. Karin and I are pretty sure the Roxy was flowing! After lunch we return to Khamding by a different route that takes us along a ridge between two valleys. Mist was flowing rapidly up from one, then sliding with gathering speed down into the other. Our sunny day is now cool and decidedly foggy. Regardless, the return walk is lovely. Back at the village there is more tea and Roxy at Tendi’s brother’s home and then I manage to get us an invite to tour the health clinic.

That turns out to be very interesting. It is amazing what services, including midwife support for women giving birth, they provide from a very basic set up. I enjoy talking with the medic there and have of course come away with a wish list. The thing that astonishes me the most is the clinic’s autoclave (devise for sterilizing medical tools such as those used for surgery or suturing). The items are wrapped and put into a metal container with tight lid. That is put into a pressure cooker which is put over a wood burning fire. I imagine it works well, and while primitive by our standards it strikes me as innovative to say the least.

We are back sipping tea and Roxy when I notice daylight is fading so Karin and I make a strategic more for the door. Lhamu comes with us and we arrive back at the farm in the twilight. While dinner is being prepared she gets out some treasured prints, a couple of which are of her wedding with Tendi. She was 20, he 18. It was an arranged marriage. I think the three of us have all had a fair bit of Roxy by this time so pretty soon we are trying on Tibetan and Russian fur hats. (The next day when we show Tendi the crazy pictures we took, he thinks it quite hilarious. While he’d been out carousing we’d been at home doing the same thing.) He does turn up briefly at dinner time but then disappears again on the pretext of getting Karin and I more beer.

Lhamu, Karin and I are asleep at about 9pm when he comes home. Escorted by our cook! Trouble is Lhamu has closed the door. The only way to close the door is to slide a huge wood bar across it on the inside. She is sound asleep so I clamber out of my sleeping bag, grab my flashlight and stumble down stairs to deal with letting Tendi in before he gets every dog in the region barking due to the racket he is making outside. Of course my sleep addled brain struggles when confronted with the massive bar instead of a simple door knob. But I manage to lift it out of it’s cradles on either side of the door which then swings open. There on the threshold is Tendi, blurry eyed but still functional. I think he’s a bit horrified it’s Didi who greets him and not Lhamu but she’s still sound asleep. Within minutes we’re all nestled into our respective beds again and very soon snoring ensues – from all four of us I have no doubt!

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