It is 6:30 am and we are loading into a jeep to take us to Tendi’s home village of Khamding. The journey goes well and after 11 hours we have covered about 300 Kms of mostly windy, generally narrow, frequently potholed, and often quite bumpy road to arrive in this small Sherpa village. This is my third visit here and it feels like coming home. Marianne and I have tea at Puri’s home. Puri was my porter last year, he is also a monk and the father of a cute new baby. We admire the baby, say hello to his wife and parents then take our packs down to Tendi and Lhamu’s home. To get there we skirt the village school yard then follow the edges of various terraced fields. Our greeting there is warm and soon we are enjoying dinner with Tendi, Lhamu and our two porters for our upcoming trek, Puri and Dendi. Bed and sleep follow swiftly.
Today we leave Khamding headed out on our trek but first we have some formal duties to attend to. Up at the medical clinic we hand over a number of reading glasses donated to Marianne by Mosaic Vision in Courtenay. (Thank you Mosaic)
We added to that a financial donation from each of us to be used for what ever is required.
Our next stop is the school Karin, Marianne and I are making further donations to the school teachers assistance fund that Karin and I started in 2014. This involved the now usual performance of sitting on a bench while every child in the school – about 100 of them – draped garlands of red rhododendron blossoms and khatas around our necks.
We returned to Tendi and Lhamu’s for lunch then set off at about 1:30 for what was supposed to be a four hour trek up to Bhulbhule (3300 metres) Khamding for the record is at 2400 metres. This is our first day of trekking after four days of arduous travelling and one recovery day in Kathmandu. Just setting you up for things to come!
Our progress was quite slow and the weather turned cold. Then it began to gropple.
For those of you who don’t know what that is – Gropple is a very tiny hale type of precipitation – more like snow than rain. When it falls driven by strong wind it makes a pattering sound. In addition to this we were hiking through snow that had fallen a couple of days previously. In places it was over a foot deep. In other areas it had melted, the trail a wet muddy slippery mess. When we arrived in Bhulbhule at about 5:30 it was bitterly cold and here was no one there.
Tendi had been on the phone for the past hour to try to get someone to open up. He’d not been successful. Marianne and I were ushered in to a dreadful filthy room with three beds – the idea of laying out our sleeping bags was grim but we had no choice. Meanwhile there was a tremendous banging and crashing from above. The guys broke into a guest “room.” We moved to these cleaner albeit very crafty quarters. They took over the filthy den beneath. The walls of this place are loosely fitting planks through which the wind howled all night long. The plastic lining the shake roof rattled and banged. It was a very long night. Are you wondering what we ate? Ah yes dinner? We had protein bars, washed down with ice cold water.
We did sleep. We woke stiff and cold. Breakfast – granola bars and more ice cold water. I found I could not eat. Felt quite off my game in fact. We set off, up into the cold but clear sky. About an hour out, I leaned over and vomited again and again!
We tried to continue a little more while I tried to assess my inner workings. Altitude sickness? No head ache. Bone cold? No proper food for 20 hours? Exhaustion? I was exhausted when I left home – life had been hectic. I needed to stop and lie down. I felt pretty lousy. Marianne and Tendi discussed the situation over me. The obvious decision was made. We turned around. As it happened Marianne was also happy to do so. Our destination- Pikey Peak was unseasonably snow covered.
The return walk was difficult for me. But about 2:30 I staggered into The sanctuary of Tendi and Lhamu’s farm house and collapsed into bed. A blanket was dumped on top of me and I remained virtually inert until the next morning.
The weather continues cold but the morning is clear and beautiful. We’ve changed the plan. There is snow up high. We will head to Junbesi by a low route. I’m back to myself. Stomach feeling only slightly worse for wear. The walk is lovely. Lots of steep downs through rhododendron and pine forests. The temperature warms. We begin shedding layer upon layer of clothing. We stop for the day in a very humble little place called Bitakharka. It seems the entire village is in the process of stripping dried corn kernels from their husks. The pathway is covered with corn on tarps. Our guest house seems to be the major storage depot. The room Marianne and I eventually get has to have bags of corn removed first. There is a corn hopper to which a lid is added so we can use it as a table. While we unpack a couple of little girls stare in the window in total amazement at all our stuff. We eventually have to close the curtains for some privacy when we change.
We’re on the trail by 7 am as we have a long way to go to reach Junbesi. The day begins with warm promise but right after lunch when we still have four hours of trekking ahead of us it gets bitterly cold again and begins sleeting. We take cover for the worst of it then geared up with pack covers and rain gear and as much warm clothing as possible we continue. The sky is black and thunder rumbles around us. The temperatures drop further and snow falls driven by the wind. We arrive in Junbesi at 4pm having been on the trail for nine hours.
Soon we have settled into a fridge of a room and even do some laundry in freezing cold water. There is no hot water for a shower so we sponge bath with wet wipes and cold water. It is not much fun. Dinner in a dinning room with ineffective stove is consumed as fast as possible as the food gets cold within moments of leaving the kitchen. We take our water bottles filled with hot water into our sleeping bags.
A rest day in Junbesi. We woke to find a significant coating of snow outside and significant frost on the windows inside. But the sun is shining and in the sun it is quite warm. We walk up to a nearby monastery and listen to the monks for a while. By the time we leave snow is threatening again. puri and I practically run all the way back to rescue the laundry Marianne and I had hung in the sun earlier. We arrive in time to get it in – almost dry – before flurries begin in earnest.
Now here we are in a cold dining room that is slightly warmer – thanks to the stove – than our room.
So far this has been hard work. The incredible beauty of the scenery and simple moments petting calves or cuddling cute week old puppies are keeping our spirits up. Marianne is a stalwart trekking companion. But this is not easy. We are hoping for a change in the weather as we head east. But we aren’t counting on it.
Please excuse typing mistakes etc. My fingers are cold and Internet is limited.