After only a days delay at KTM domestic terminal (flight cancelled at 11am, so a day of rest back at my hotel) we set flight on Sunday to Kangel – seriously worth having a search on youtube for this, it’s basically right on top of a hill!!
Flight and landing were remarkably good, considering it was Nepal Airlines! We landed in brilliant sunshine and immediately had to take off all our layers, isn’t it supposed to be colder in the mountains than Kathmandu? Kami our fabulous porter was there to meet us with his usual big beaming smile. 15 mins later after checking in with the officials, we were off down the hill and on the trail. Many strange looks and stares were coming my way – probably because “tourists” are very rare on this trail, as I would soon find out! We went past lots of terraces being ploughed and I took pictures which made the locals laugh “look at the tourist taking pictures of us working”
We went up and down through the pine forests and saw about 5 locals before stopping in Nele Bazaar for lunch. Well, when we could find somewhere we could buy lunch of course, no teahouses around!
After lunch off we set round the side of a hill “see the village right at the end in the trees, that’s our stop” It looked so far away, and it was!! 4.5 hard hours later we arrived just before 6 at our stop for the night.
People count for the day:
Porters – 3
Locals – 6
Trekkers – 0
Bhim was worried about the single room they had for me, as I said, as long as there is space for my sleeping bag I am fine – and basically that is ALL there was room for.
Dal Bhat for dinner (of course!) I was offered chyaang, but declined as I knew tomorrow would be a hard day walking to Bhims village, and I hadn’t drunk enough water today.
A good nights sleep, followed by omelette and chapatis for breakfast and we were off, downhill for 2 hours!!
Now, I’ve already said that they don’t get many trekkers out here – on this trail they get none! I say “trail” but I had my defining moment of this whole process today. Kami and Bhim “ran out” of trail and asked an old lady the way down to the bridge over the Dudh Kosi – she pointed down through a field! We climbed down a wall (yes, you read right – and there was lots more of that to come!) And I found myself next to a buffalo who just grunted and looked up at me. I stopped and started laughing. Here I was walking through the middle of a buffalo’s “home” which was part of the way down to the bridge, the morning was a heavy downhill on lots of rocks – 2 hours of it! Bhim showed me the route up the hill once we had crossed the bridge – some zigzags then straight up a ridge – I wasn’t scared at all!!!
Bridges, pah – easy!!
So we started up the “zigzags” I had seen – hmmmm…… If you mean about 5 steps one way then 5 the other, then yes we were zigzagging!! It was so hard – in 2 hours and 20mins I climbed from 3100ft to 5200ft – 3 “breaks” of no more than 5 mins each!! We stopped for very well deserved and needed dal bhat!! Then we were off for the last 2 hours to Bhim’s village – but first we needed to head up through the terraces filled with wheat.
There is a way, it’s called climbing up the walls – each time I just laughed more and more, my comfort zone was pushed to the limit, me having to climb rock walls virtually as tall as me by finding the footholds and yes I did!! So massive thanks to Roger and Mike Norbury for all their patience time and time again with me up in the lakes when I never believed you about footholds!!! I think I did you proud today :o)
Eventually Bhim said “last one” now we had to go round the side of the hill, no real trail just seeing if you could pick your way through fields and terraces, it was awesome.
After about 2 hours we were at the start of Bhim’s village, Rocham. One of his family was walking down to us, said hello then ran off towards Bhim’s home. 10 minutes later I realised why.
In the distance I could hear drums and horns – my welcoming committee!! When I caught sight of them at the top of a hill (of course!) I nearly burst into tears, I couldn’t believe they were making this much effort for me, little did I know….
As I got to the band, I was greeted by some of the villagers with prayer scarves “thank you for coming to our village” everyone said. Bhim had already told me I would be the first tourist at his village, I didn’t appreciate how much this meant!
The band then led the way and at the top of another hill (why always at the top of hills!!) I saw the school and also realised there was a big sign at the entrance saying “Welcome Hazel Grace” the tears welled up!! I got to the entrance and Bhim and I had our picture taken with the sign.. Then the kids stared chanting “wel-come to, Ha-zel Grace” over and over again and I had to walk through the path they had formed whilst being given garlands upon garlands upon garlands – soon they ran out of room, I couldn’t see and my neck was full!
I arrived on stage and all the teachers introduced themselves as the students sat around watching it all unfold. After lots of formalities which took about an hour Bhim finally said we could go to his home.
That wasn’t without its difficulties, it’s next to the school but about 2 terraces down. They were easy(ish) going up but horrendous going down when you can’t even see your feet!! Oh yes and everyone is watching you!!
A fab night with Bhim’s family and friends including fried chicken and chips just for me (will never get used to the eating first thing) then I realised they were waiting for me to go so they could eat, so I told Bhim I was off to bed. Tomorrow a whole day set up just for me, apparently today was nothing!
And how right they were!! I was woken by a cup of lychee tea delivered to my tent, then the mike testing started, so I had to get up! Breakfast at Bhim’s then I was off to the stage to wait for the start of the programme!
We estimated about 400 people were there! More introductions, more prayer scarves, more garlands. It was truly overwhelming. The kids all had prepared dances and some of them sung. Lunch was delivered on stage! I had put my foot down and told Bhim that we all had to eat together though. The programme continued as they fed all the villagers, it was a military operation and took about 2 hours amazing to see the teamwork involved!
At the end Bhim and I went down and handed out lots of bubbles, the kids loved them – so glad I brought them – excellent “currency”
I handed over 4 boxes of books – the head teacher was really impressed with them, as was I. The ramdomness of our packing meant that there were proper basic English books in this batch, perfect for this school where there is no English. Thank you once again to everyone that donated.
At 6.08pm I had my perfect moment – everything had finished but some of the older kids had started playing Hindi and Nepali music and were dancing round. It was dusk and they grabbed me to join in. There I was surrounded by dancing and singing kids and I was dancing with them, if I could I would have bottled that moment!
Back to Bhim’s family home for more chyaang and more dal bhat then I headed off to my tent one extremely happy lady.
Next day was our day of goodbyes. This started at breakfast when I had a bottle of San Miguel opened and poured for me – 8.30am!!! I then got told we had been asked to stay for lunch. We could leave after lunch and still make it to Kharikola for the evening.
The school had a goodbye programme planned, by this time we knew we were staying in Rocham! The chyaang had already started coming and Bhim and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and said “why not”
I told them I would only agree to stay if I was allowed to eat with the family rather than as a guest. This was agreed on one condition, I would eat my dal bhat Nepali style, with my fingers! Deal done!
The goodbye programme was amazing, more speeches, more garlands, more prayer scarves and the children all lined up and chanted ” good bye Hazel Grace see you soon”. This finished with Risham Firiri being played and me joining the kids to dance again, this time in the sunshine.
Headed off to Bhim’s for more chyaang and lunch – are you spotting a common theme here? Chyaang is the best! Had a lazy afternoon then at 5pm the chyaang started flowing again, then the popcorn came out and shock horror I was eating it and sharing with the kids and family, all trekking rules out of the window, I am officially Nepali!
We headed off to Bhim’s brothers house for dinner, all the family together. We had a “gampe” moment (cheers) with lots more chyaang before dinner was served. Yes, I did it, I ate my dal bhat with my hands. Bhim’s friend, Birkha kept staring in awe – apparently I was quite good for a beginner!!
Lots and lots more chyaang until at 10pm I headed off to bed in Bhim’s house – really part of the family now!
So, now we’re a day behind schedule, but it was worth the scorn of Roger if I’m not in Lukla on Saturday – I didn’t want this part of the adventure to end.
Off to Kumar’s for breakfast and yes, more chyaang! The potatoes soaked it up. Back down to Bhim’s home for our proper goodbye, more chyaang, prayer scarves and a tearful farewell! I have honestly never felt more at home or more welcome anywhere! I think Rocham has replaced Namche Bazaar in my heart (maybe…..!)
So we left Rocham, walking through another sign saying “thank you for visiting our village, see you soon”
Now we were back on the porters trail, high out of the village up and up through the terraces until eventually we hit the ridge that signalled the end of Rocham. Bhim and I tied one of our many prayer scarves to the tree to ensure we came back.
Birkha joined us as he has clients to meet in Lukla on Saturday to take to EBC. So now there were 4! The trail was just as interesting heading down through the valley walking along the middle of the hill, the Dudh Kosi raging through the valley below. Another awesome day where we had minimal contact with others on the trail.
All to soon we got near to Kharikola and I started to actually have a path to walk on. We were close to the main Jiri trail! This meant it wouldn’t be long before I would have to share my Nepali experience with other trekkers, wasn’t sure I was ready for that!
We arrived in Kharikola at the Solukhumbu guest house. People count for the day (well the last 3 hours)
Porters – 10
Locals – 18
Kids heading home from school – 12
Trekkers – 0
We checked in and had a cup of ginger tea then Bhim took me up to show me my room, as I came out I stopped and stared – a white boy!! I apologised and explained he was the first westerner I had seen since Sunday! He had been trekking since Monday and I was his 19th!
A great night with the boys – I got changed and came down to a massive jug of Tongba waiting for me! More “gampe” and lots of laughing and joking with the boys and Markus, the German trekker. We ordered another jug of Tongba each and I even managed to persuade Markus to try it! Tongba power would see us through!
Awoke to beautiful mountain views through my window, laid in bed and watched the sun gradually hit them all and change the tops from grey to orange to white – awesome!.
Quick brekkie and we all set off out of Kharikola, Markus included. Felt strange to be walking with someone else, but actually quite nice. We were at the front chatting in English and the boys were behind chatting in Nepali – lots of laughing coming from both sides!
All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Birkha and Markus as they were both on a mission and we were at the bottom of a big hill! Massive hugs all round and promises to meet up either in Namche or Kathmandu
So off Bhim and I set up the hill to Bupse. Bistari bistari bistari (slowly) it was a slow and painful process, about 1.5 hours up a dusty steep trail. Luckily enough sometimes we were in the shade, but it was a gorgeous sunny day and on my frequent stops to catch my breath I was rewarded with stunning views over the valley to Kharikola and the beautiful monastery.
A quick sprite stop at what I thought was the top and we carried on upwards for another 2 hours before stopping for lunch
2 hours later we were back on the route to Paiya. OMG! I have now walked this route 3 times in the last year and each time it’s been a mud bath! At one stage Bhim and I looked at each other and just laughed as neither of us could spot a way through, thank god for poles and being able to gauge how deep the mud was!
After a mentally and physically hard couple of hours we could see Paiya on the other side of the hill. It was a case of so near but so far!. It started raining just to add to the mudfest – and we still had to finish walking down this hill then back up the other side to our teahouse – an hour and a half later we arrived!
So this was our final night, tomorrow we meet up with Roger and the gang somewhere on the trail. My mini adventure with Bhim and Kami was about to end!
Count for the day:
Locals and porters – lost count but no more than 30
Trekkers – 6
We woke to a beautiful clear day and waved the first 4 planes into Lukla – one of them would have Roger, Nads and Rich on!!
So we set off on the icy and cold trail picking our way through muddy ice puddles down to Surke where I was finally able to take some of my layers off as we finally had the sun on us.
Now we were heading up to the main trail to catch up the guys who had safely landed and were on their way to Phakding for lunch.
Couple of pitstops and we were finally close to the main trail – trekker count for the day to this point – 2!!
I stopped and had a moment – soon I would have to share this trail and adventure with lots of strangers, I wasn’t sure I was prepared for that.
Bhim and I had a hug and I shed some tears then we were off! In about an hour and a half I would be with my friends and the next phase would begin……..
Dhanyabad for your patience in keeping with this – even more in love with Nepal now!!