Day 9 of our Trek

We walk from Deurali at 2142 metres to Pothana at 1890 metres and it takes about 45 minutes, maybe less.

Seriously that is our entire day’s trek! Reason is our change of plan and not going up to High Camp due to fatigue of some of our “team” and overcrowding of the tea houses on the Mardi Himal route. We are all having a great time and don’t want to cut the trek too short so are dawdling along!

We spend the day washing laundry in a bucket under a cold water tap, reading, admiring a spectacular mountain view and – dare I say – drinking a few beers while sitting in the warm sun. It’s pretty darn pleasant!

In the dining room at dinner the host has a very urbane music selection. Close our eyes and we could have been in an expensive restaurant in New York. The music sets Jim and Claire to dancing. Somehow that morphs into us all dancing. Then the Nepali music starts up and our porters and guides dance. Then we dance with them. In Nepal it is common for men to dance with men and women with women. We really upset the apple cart by choosing mixed gender dance partners. Then Jim and Lakpa put on a fabulous show of imitating each other’s dance moves. Jim’s a big guy and Lakpa tiny. Their cavorting has us in stitches. There are a couple of sour faced German men in the dining room as well. They are not amused. Too bad for them. The owner of the guesthouse is enjoying the impromptu entertainment as much as we are. Finally Lakpa sends us to bed so the porters, he and Tendi can have their dinner.

My shortest trekking day ever and one of the most fun.

Day 8 of our Trek

Brenda and I wake at 5:15. At 5:30 Tendi arrives with our “bed tea.” By 5:45 we are heading through the dark. Our way lit by the light of our headlamps. We just have light day packs. Nima and Pasang remain sleeping.

Sunrise happens quickly at these latitudes and soon the sky lightens and an orange ribbon spreads across the east. We turn off our head lamps and climb quietly, our breathing mingling with the sounds of a waking forest. Birds begin their morning fluttering and tweeting. Small creatures rustle in the undergrowth. The forest itself seems to greet the day with sighs and stirrings of leaves turning towards the coming sun.

Every five minutes or so Tendi stops and we stop behind him. Brenda and I recover our breath and once it is slow and quiet we continue on. None of us speak. Tendi chants a morning mantra, his voice harmonizing with the surrounding sounds.

Slowly the light transforms the dark forest into glowing oranges and greens and warmth replaces the night chill. We remove our down and fleece and carry on in short sleeves, sweating as we climb.

As the trees thin with elevation, we catch glimpses of the towering massive peak of Annapurna South, it too glowing orange for a couple of minutes when the suns rays hit it at just the right angle. Once we clear the tree line we look down on the ridges and valleys where we’ve trekked over the past couple of days.

We pass a couple of tea houses, new since my previous visit in 2014.

Finally we come to a view point partway up the final ridge to High Camp. We stop here. Admire the peaks – they seem close enough to touch now – take a few pictures then descend to one of the nearby tea houses. We enjoy our morning tea in the sun then start our return to Low Camp then back to Forest Camp where we will meet up with the rest and spend the night before continuing our trek together to lower elevations.

We haven’t been walking for long when Tendi gets a call. All is not well at Forest Camp. We were supposed to be moving to nicer digs but “village” politics has kiboshed that idea. The owner of the dump is going to creat a ruckus for the owner of the place we want to move to.

We quickly decide the best thing to do is to all head further down the mountain to an other village. This will make a very long day for Brenda and me but we figure it’s the best option.

Once back at Low Camp, Tendi leaves Brenda and me having breakfast and he heads back to Forest Camp at speed to sort out a move. By 9:20 Brenda and I set off with Nima and Pasang. We’ve already already trekked for over three hours we have a long day ahead of us.

We arrive in Forest Camp by 11, rest over a quick lunch and set off again by 11:45. The trail is generally downhill but in Nepal down also means up and there’s enough steep up bits to ensure we start getting property tired!

Just as the day begins to feel endless with no relief in sight, Tendi and Lakpa come bounding up the trail towards us. They are carrying a huge thermos of tea, china tea cups and a package of yak cheese. We collapse beside the trail and they serve the four of us tea and cheese. It is the perfect restorative!

Feeling renewed we continue on what Tendi tells us is a further 45 minutes of trekking. You know where this is going don’t you? He tricks us again as within 15 minutes we pop out of the forest onto a flat area upon which a new guest house sits. We’ve arrived!

The guest house is new, the rooms very nice. The toilet facilities somewhat dysfunctional. There is one toilet/shower per floor. Eighteen beds per floor. Thank goodness the place isn’t full.

Despite the long day, Brenda and I have loved our adventure! We all celebrate with beers in the tiny rusting dining room. Doug and Joanne, Claire and Jim are rested from their day in Forest Camp and we are ready to continue our trek.

Day 7 of our Trek

Doug, Joanne, Claire and Jim decide to brave a day at the hideous digs at Forest Camp while Brenda and I hike up to Low Camp. Tendi and our two porters come with us. Lakpha and the other four porters will enjoy a rest day at Forest Camp.

The day dawns sunny but by just after 8 a.m. clouds come spilling over the ridge above us.

We make short work of the climb to Low Camp (3000 m) taking only two hours. We hike through a mystical rhododendron forest. The tall trunks rise over ten metres and the broad canopy creates a lofty ceiling through which fingers of dim light reach to the vegetation below. Brown lacy parasitic ferns hang in rippling waves from the trunks and branches. They catch the early morning light, creating a golden hue throughout the shadowed forest. Chartreuse ferns reach delicate fronds upward, glowing in filtered sunlight.

The rough path threads along, sometimes Nepali flat, other times rising through tangles of roots and over bouldery outcrops.

We come across a large flock of goats being sheared. Two herd dogs snooze while one man shears and another chases the unsheared goats around and catches them. There is an enormous pile of goat wool, in various shades of off white, brown and grey. Some of it is filthy.

At one point Tendi tells us we have about 45 minutes left to go. But he is tricking us as a minute later we climb out of the forest onto the small plateau of Low Camp. We are met by a pleasant surprise. When I was last here it was a dismal place with very rudimentary accommodations. There are now a couple of very nice new lodges and Tendi gets us a room in one. It is far nicer than Forest Camp. Brenda and I spend about thirty seconds feeling guilty!

The dinning room is large and bright and a fire is lit soon after our arrival. It is blissfully warm inside, while outside mist swirls and it is unpleasantly chilly.

We spend the afternoon journal writing. I read another chapter of Pomegranates out loud to Tendi and Nima and we learn a Nepali card game which we play with Nima and Pasang. In so doing we learn our Nepali numbers from one to seven. Clever us.

Day 6 of our Trek

To Forest Camp (2400 m)

The sun shines again. We’ve had perfect weather.

Today is our very steep and strenuous climb out of Landruk up to Forest Camp. We gain 760 metres in elevation. The route starts up stone steps but soon devolves into a rough narrow path. At times we hand over our trekking poles to our nimble porters and clamber, hands gripping rock and roots. Thankfully the sun remains behind the ridge so it’s not too hot. At times the trail snakes along, traversing the nearly vertical slope. I only barely manage to hold my vertigo in check!

At one point we need to cross a cliff face on a rough log bridge cantilevered out from the cliff. We do so one at a time. I wonder what is holding the affair to the cliff. Some things are best not known. We also negotiate a recent land slide. The route hairpins back and forth across it and none of us enjoy the experience very much because the ground feels unstable and the way is really steep.

We finally reach the top of the ridge then have an easy walk into Forest Camp.

Here we are met with disappointment. The tranquility that I enjoyed on my last visit here is long gone. The place is now popular and there is not enough infrastructure to handle the influx of trekkers. We get rooms in a dingy place. I’m used to staying in humble accommodation in Nepal, but there is always evidence of pride of place. Not so here. It is filthy and unkempt. We sit in the sun on the patio and drink beers during the afternoon until clouds billow up and obscure the sun. Cold is instant so we crowd into the horrid dining room. Our evening meal is edible but only barely and the portions are messily. The filth of the cutlery – well it is just plain disgusting.

The water in the toilets runs sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. Tendi is sent by the owner to fix it. Like he doesn’t have enough to do.

We find out the next morning that the porters had to share beds and Tendi slept fitfully in the dining room.

Day 5 of our Trek

We trek from Chommrong (2170 m) to Landruk (1640 m)

Lots more steep down stairs today!

Downs are harder on our old knees than ups, but easier on the lungs. It’s a trade off.

Claire has shown us a funny looking duck-walk for going down stairs that eases the thumping to knee joints. This requires a bit of coordination, and a side to side motion but once mastered it is very effective.

The big excitement of the day is the crossing of a spectacular new suspension bridge. A year under construction, it has been open for less than three months. It spans 287 metres and at its highest point is about 200 metres above the river below. One end is into a cliff face and a set of new steps has been carved into the cliff to enable access. This bridge cust off about 45 minutes of steep downward walking to the old bridge site and an equally steep ascent on the other side. As wonderful as this is for us tired trekkers it’s a tremendous boon for the heavily laden porters who often labour under 100 kg loads carried on their backs.

Our porters are not so laden. They each carry less than 25 kgs.

Now to a tale of three bridges. Another bridge crossing cuts off and additional half hour off the route. The bridge at New Bridge has been replaced by a newer bridge. The previous bridge was an improvement on the older bridge that existed before New Bridge became a place on the map. The original new bridge which replaced old bridge is now in disrepair – it’s wooded boards broken and falling into the river below. The newest bridge at New Bridge is the modern steel construction and ends abruptly at a set of steep stairs climbing up to intersect with the old path. Having crossed the sketchy old new bridge previously, the new bridge is a very pleasant surprise. Confused?

Tendi had hoped we’d get to Landruk by lunch time, which is when Binod is due to arrive, but this is not to be. We stop instead for lunch just after crossing the newest new bridge. Although we order the same thing and the simplest item on the menu, lunch didn’t materialize until we’ve been there for over an hour. Landruk is still an hour and a half away. As soon as I’ve eaten Tendi sends me packing along the trail as quickly as possible to meet up with Binod. Lakpa and Nima soon catch up and we scurry along. At one point there is a very dubious old suspension bridge. I cross with caution, the other two wisely go around. We arrive in Landruk in just over an hour. I’m puffing like an old steam engine. Even Nima and Lakpa are sweating! I brief Binod and he promises to take good care of our trip mate until her family arrives in a couple of days.

That night as we climb the outside stairs to our rooms, we look across the valley to the steep slopes beyond and the tiny lights from villages and farms on the other side light up the black like stars.

Day 4 of our Trek

The head of my bed is level with the sill of a plexi glass window. A crack in the window is held together with a strip of pealing yellowing tape. I wake as night fades to the greyness of dawn. Raising my head inches from the pillow, no further movement required, no disturbance of the warm air cocooning me within my sleeping bag, I watch dawn spread orange across the eastern peaks. Dawn’s grey becomes daylight, the cloudless sky deepening into pale than darker blue. A new day begins as the sun heaves itself above the distant ridges. The lodge stirs with sounds of trekkers, porters and guides preparing for another day on the trail.

We trek from Tadapani (2680 m) to Chommrong (2170 m) but as is usual in Nepal, downward trekking, also means upward trekking. Today much of the downing is on steep stone steps. When a trail is moderately steep by our Vancouver Island standards it’s called “Nepali Gradual.” This means people such as ourselves – sea level creatures – can probably gasp out a brief conversation while ascending. “Nepali Flat” means the trail undulates and we can stride along without huffing and puffing and carry on a conversation at the same time. “Nepali Steep” generally means flights of steps sometimes steep enough to give a person with vertigo pause. There are lots of those. There is very little Nepali flat.

The day remains sunny and as we loose altitude it becomes intensely hot. We walk along a cliff side above a rushing river. Insects serenade us from the dense bamboo vegetation on either side of the path.

We pick our way carefully past several cows snoozing on the narrow path. A couple of horses refuse to move aside so Claire uses her pack whistle to move them along. This proves effective as long as she keeps blasting away on the whistle. Finally they find a patch of grass to the side of the trail and move off so we can move along.

Once in Chummrong Brenda and I waste no time dragging a couple of chairs into the last of the sun on the roof top of our hotel to enjoy a beer. The sun dips behind a high ridge, we pull on leggings and down vests and descend to the comparative warmth of the dining room for chatter then dinner.

Troubled times on the trail

Dear blog followers,

Have you wondered what’s happened to the daily missives from Nepal? As usual there is a story behind the reason for the prolonged silence.

Part of the reason is poor internet connections. Many places these days are advertising WiFi, but most systems can’t handle more than a couple of users at a time. With so many people wanting to be connected, the systems are habitually overloaded and don’t work.

The other reason. Our Team Nepal is now only six instead of seven strong. One of our members needed to leave the trip early due to illness making it difficult for her to travel from one place to the next and to trek. Binod has now flown from Kathmandu to Pokhara, hired a Jeep to take him up to Landruk where we all met up. He returned to Pokhara with our unwell friend where he will remain with her until her husband and daughter arrive from Canada to be with her.

Concern and care for a person unfit to be undertaking this journey consumed my energy and I had nothing left to give to the joy of writing. Those of you who know me will understand the significance. I am always writing! The other members of our group were enormously supportive and between us all we were able to keep our I’ll When illness gets in the way of fun times.

Dear blog followers,

Have you wondered what’s happened to the daily missives from Nepal? As usual there is a story behind the reason for the prolonged silence.

Part of the reason is poor internet connections. Many places these days are advertising WiFi, but most systems can’t handle more than a couple of users at a time. With so many people wanting to be connected, the systems are habitually overloaded and don’t work.

The other reason. Our Team Nepal is now only six instead of seven strong. One of our members needed to leave the trip early due to illness making it difficult for her to travel from o me place to the next and to trek. Binod has now flown from Kathmandu to Pokhara, hired a Jeep to take him up to Landruk where we all met up. He returned to Pokhara with our unwell friend where he will remain with her until her husband and daughter arrive from Canada to be with her.

Concern and care for a person unfit to be undertaking this journey consumed my energy and I had nothing left to give to the joy of writing. Those of you who know me will understand the significance. I am always writing! The other members of our group were enormously supportive and between us all we were able to keep our ill friend safe.

I’ve given the telling of this part of our Nepal adventure considerable thought. Should I or shouldn’t I? I tell it for two reasons. The first is that it was part of our shared experience and had considerable impact on all of us. It is part of the story of this journey to Nepal.

The second reason is a cautionary note. Illness can be exasperated by travel. While cancelling, and if appropriate re booking for another time might be a difficult decision, not doing so can result in unnecessary stress and expense for “rescuers,” the ill traveller, travel companions and family at home. As we age, the likelihood of illness and potential changes of plan will probably become more frequent for all of us. I have two other friends who cancelled trips this year due to ill family members. They were keenly disappointed but knew they were making the right decision.

The remaining six of Team Nepal wish our now absent companion a happy reunion with family and safe return home.

I’ve given the telling of this part of our Nepal adventure considerable thought. Should I or shouldn’t I? I tell it for two reasons. The first is that it was part of our shared experience and had considerable impact on all of us. It is part of the story of this journey to Nepal.

The second reason is a cautionary note. Illness can be exasperated by travel. While cancelling, and if appropriate re booking for another time might be a difficult decision, not doing so can result in unnecessary stress and expense for “rescuers,” the ill traveller, travel companions and family at home. As we age, the likelihood of illness and potential changes of plan will probably become more frequent for all of us. I have two other friends who cancelled trips this year due to ill family members. They were keenly disappointed but knew they were making the right decision.

The remaining six of Team Nepal wish our now absent companion a happy reunion with family and safe return home.

Day 3 of our Trek

We began our day at 5:30. Coffee did not arrive but the dawn did and it was glorious. Several of us watched its arrival while brushing our teeth as the sink is on the roof top terrace from where we watched one of nature’s wonders. A Himalayan dawn lighting up snow covered peaks. As the sun rises the turn from cold grey to a dazzling gold.

Once underway, our trek today was a hard one. We climbed to over 3000 metres then down and down to about 2000 metres then up to about 2600 metres. I’m too tired to check details so might be off in these figures by a couple hundred metres but you get my point! Today we either walked steeply up or steeply down and we did a whole bunch of both.

This evening we are in Tatapani at a rustic little guesthouse with tin walled rooms. Yes the interior walls of our rooms are white tin. Brenda, MJ and I have a reasonable sized room with about 18 inches between our beds. The others are in wee box like rooms. The toilet is across a courtyard. This is our first stop where we’ll have to go outside to do our nightly deeds. It’s cold but not raining.

Brenda and I have enjoyed a 2012 bottle of an Australian Chardonnay. We bought it last night and Brenda’s porter carried it deep within the confines of her pack all day. Brenda felt so guilty about giving him this extra weight that she carried some other gear herself. This was not an easy day to be carrying extra weight! The wine however was very good.

I’ve been trying to send pictures but the internet is too slow. Will send some as soon as I can. Meantime, good night from a very sleepy Didi in Tatapani.

Day Two of the Trek

Banthanti (2210 metres) to Ghorepani (2870 metres)

A crisp cool night last night. Most of us slept well. I did anyway. Sunny again today. Slightly cooler which is nice for walking. Low to mid 20s. Short sleeve weather. A bit of a slow start to our walk today, but after a bit of sorting out we set off. Brenda, Claire, Jim and I walk together with our porters and the assistant guide Lakpah. Doug, Joanne and Mary Jean walk with their porters and Tendi. Tendi catches us up about three or four times a day. As our walking speeds separate us by about an hour after two hours on the trail, he’s a tad busy.

Today’s trek saw us gain another 660 metres in elevation. It was easier than yesterday as some of the trail just sloped up instead of having to constantly climb the stairs. Even so, today so quite a few stairs as well. We also had a few short downs into small creek beds and then up the other sides. We walked through numerous pretty villages and through quite dense rhododendron tree forests.

We met a couple of mule trains today. One stopped outside a guesthouse where we were having a mid morning bowl of soup. The driver sold the guest hous owner some loves of bread from one mules basket. Then he removed his coat from another basket and began hauling out dead chickens. These were put in a plastic bag, weighed and purchased. The coat was draped over the basket again. Presumably this has some sort of insulating value as the sun is quite hot.

We stopped to give out a few more tooth brushes and paste. These little gifts are so well received I think I’ll do it every trek from now on!

We arrived in Ghorepani in time for lunch which we ate while sitting on a sunny terrace in front of the guesthouse.

I’ve organized with Tendi that instead of a three hour hike up and down Poon Hill to see the sunrise, he will have chairs set up in a roof top terrace here and we will enjoy coffees with the sunrise. We can stay in our night attire if we so desire. This seems far more attractive than a three hour trek up and down before breakfast. Who knows, the idea might catch on.

So now the sun is lowering and the temperature is dropping. Soon it will be time for warm Sox and fleece, a down vest and wool hat.

Good evening from busy vibrant Ghorepani.