29th September 2014

During this trip, I kept a daily blog that can be found at Travelpod  there are even a few more pictures on there. 

So, this trip to Nepal started well – a 4.5 hour delay at Heathrow.  Luckily enough Air India were more than generous to us poor souls that had to spend the day there (don’t forget I was checking in 3 hours early at 9.30am, only to be told not leaving until 5pm!) they gave me a £7.50 food voucher – whoop whoop!

Made it through the day without starving to death, and got on the rather empty plane to Delhi – this meant I was able to move myself to 3 seats in the middle – ah a flat bed in economy!!  Negotiated our way through the chaos of Delhi transit and got the plane to KTM.  Unfortunately no lovely views of mountains to greet me, despite being sat on the correct side of the plane – much too cloudy!!  Even at that height!

My friend, Asim, met me at the airport and took me to my hotel where I was greeted with the usual smiles from my friends there.  A quick shower and change and I headed off for my traditional first meal – momo’s and Everest Beer!    The afternoon was a whirlwind of meetings and catch ups, then I headed back to my hotel with the sole intention of catching an early night, the flat bed didn’t really do a great job!

But my room phone rang “Miss Jessica is downstairs for you”   I had got talking to a girl in Delhi while we were in transit, she was staying just round the corner from me and it was her first time in Nepal.  So we headed out to explore and walked for ages until we hit Durbar Square.  It was just turning dusk and there were some celebrations going on, we were unsure what but there was lots of music and dancing and decorating of idols.  Great fun and so cool to watch someone experiencing my beloved KTM for the first time.

Friday started with a fruitful meeting with the guys from the NYF about progress at Pangboche and what they expected from me while I was up there.  Was good to know we were all on the same page! 

Back to Thamel – more momos with Asim after his meetings finished, then I went off to see Iswari and pay my bills for my upcoming trip to Pangboche.  Dinner that night was with Bhim and his son, we headed off on the back of his bike.  We had a good night and I realised what a great time I was about to have with him for the next 2 weeks.

A rainy Saturday morning in KTM started with a taxi trip out to where I thought we were getting our jeep to Besishahar.  This turned out to be a locals bus!  I watched as my bag got thrown on the top, along with everyone’s rucksacks.  I asked Bhim if he could make sure my rucksack stayed with me, it had my laptop in it!!!  That was safely negotiated and we headed out of KTM.    Now, a local’s bus is not like the one I took to Pokhara in the spring, this is basically a minibus and you are all squashed together 

We headed out of KTM and into the twisty turns of the mad road to Pokhara, nothing much had changed and soon we were in a massive traffic jam, engine turned off – lorries coming the other way trying to squeeze past, all just normal behaviour. 

Big commotion was to come though, at one of the army checkpoints, the side door was opened and the guy checking our bus out just kept staring at me and arguing with the conductor.  Bhim was oblivious and on the phone, I could tell it was getting heated and then the conductor tried to get hold of Bhim – I tapped him on the shoulder and he quickly ended his phone conversation and started a very heated debate with the army guy, then the whole bus seemed to join in!   All the while this army guy didn’t stop staring at me – troublemaker already and we were only an hour out of KTM.  Turns out he wasn’t happy that I was on a locals bus, I should be on a tourist bus….he ignored the 2 elderly german gentlemen sat behind me!!

He got dragged away by a colleague and we were on our way.  Quick stop for lunch at a locals café – not like the tourist ones I had stopped at last time, this meant the food was more delicious!!  Soon we were heading off the main road to Pokhara and off to the bumpy track to Besishahar.  There are no bus stops, you just shout when you want dropping off!!  We finally made it to our destination just in time, the heavens opened as we got to our hotel.  Quick trip down the street for momos and beer (what else)  then it was dinner and bed – early start tomorrow.

Now the trekking begins!  Good god it was like being in a sauna!! 10 minutes out of town and I was soaked to the skin, the heat, the humidity – I’d already downed more water than I would usually have in a day!  Then we had to negotiate a river that had lost its bridge.  Bhim took off his boots, I chose to keep mine on and walk along the edge which seemed to be a steady piece of concrete with about an inch of water running fast over it, Bhim was on the rocks wading through ankle deep!  We made it much to the amusement of the locals at this blonde plodging through the water in her boots!! 

The landscape was so lush and green, it was amazing – I was feeling good apart from the heat and humidity.  4 hours later we arrived at this beautiful teahouse with an amazing garden and lots of picnic tables – this was our home for the night!  An easy first day – we celebrated this momentous occasion with a few pans of chyaang between me, Bhim and our porter Baloram!  Hey this trekking malarkey is pretty easy!!!!

Another beautiful morning arrived along with the humidity.  Today would be slightly longer and slightly more uphill. Quick stroll along the road (yes, most of this trip has been walking along roads, dodging the odd jeep and motorbike)  this road was different as there is a massive hydropower plant being built in the region by the Chinese, so past all the works for that while dodging concrete lorries – hmmm  not my usual trekking style!

But soon we were heading up into the humid forest, the sun continuing to beat down on us, the humidity still ridiculous!  Negotiating waterfalls as we climbed crossing bridges between ridiculously steep hills that seemed to be falling in on you we carried on upwards to Jagat and stopped at a very pretty looking guest house, to be told that not only was there free wifi, but also the hot showers were free too!!  Full advantage was taken whilst drinking only one jug of chyaang (it wasn’t up to usual standards!)

Woke to beautiful views of hills bathed in sunshine – humidity was a little less, luckily.  So off we set out of Jagat and on our way to Dharabani.

Alongside the river we strolled, past countless waterfalls and even at one stage walking up one.  Our path had turned into a waterfall, cue wet boots all round, except of course Baloram who had the traditional porter footwear of flipflops on!

Soon I found myself climbing up the most ridiculous hill (well not really considering we were only at 1700m, but it’s all relative!) then at the top we were treated to stunning views of the river bed below and a beautiful looking village where Bhim told me we were having lunch.  We headed down the hill and I was confronted with a beach!!  Yep, got on it, wrote Hazel loves Nepal in the sand and had my pic taken – rude not to.

After lunch it was a quick 2 hour saunter crossing the river via many bridges – all the while amazed at the lushness and greenness of the hills around – and they all seemed so tall and so straight and so close together, was totally amazing.

Up the hill into Dharabani, past the first Annapurna checkpoint and on to our teahouse, which was clean, with a comfy bed and clean toilet but because it didn’t look “pretty” from the outside the American tourist,  who was walking without a guide and had asked Bhim for a recommendation on where to stay,  turned her nose up at it.  Seriously was she expecting 5 star?  It was clean, the toilet was the cleanest I had seen so far (still Nepali style though, no sit downs yet!)  and more importantly they served chyaang.  It was so good we took 2 bottles with us the next morning.  After the best nights sleep of the tour so far, in the comfiest bed.  Seriously hope that lady ended up in an uncomfy bed that night!

Next morning we were treated to mountain views, Manaslu peeking her head through the hills opposite our tea house, what a lovely start to the day.  But all too soon that lovely start was ruined, more hills, haha!  But seriously beautiful views of the mountains started appearing at last – Annapurna 2 was one of them looking stunningly majestic high above us.  We did some serious climbing that day, trust me, started the day at 2020m finished at 2700m and didn’t I know it!  We had lunch at an amazing place that everyone trekking had walked straight past, it looked like a teahouse still under construction, and it was, but it was also a fully functioning restaurant, and my word the food was amazing!  Locally picked mushroom curry to go with my dal bhat  – amazing!  Oh and we may have washed it down with half a glass of chyaang that the boys were carrying!

The valleys were widening now but everything was still lush and green, out through the woods we came and into the village of Chame where we found a great looking teahouse, and my room had an ensuite with a sit down loo!!  Oooh life was good, or was it…….was this room just really damp and would everything taken out of my bag just feel damp and horrible and end up with me having a rubbish nights sleep?  Yep, you guessed it!  The shower didn’t work, it was cold and the walls hadn’t been tiled and waterproofed, so the walls in the bedroom were damp….hey ho, I had my own double bed at least!

The next morning I was awoken by the sun streaming in through my window and warming (and drying) everything it hit – cue moving everything that felt damp into the sunshine!  Absolutely stunning views all around, best of the tour so far.

Out of Chame we headed, over a newly constructed bridge to hold the traffic, yep we are still walking along “roads” and dodging the jeeps and bikes.   Walking alongside the river, I couldn’t understand why it all felt so hard, I had put it down to the bad nights sleep I had – then Bhim pointed out to me that we were above Lukla height now, no wonder I was starting to feel it, it wasn’t the sleep, it was the altitude!  So I eventually decided there was only one thing left to do – out with the poles!  Oh my god that felt good – like I had a sudden extra burst of energy!  Didn’t help though when we were walking up a hill and it took me forever, then Bhim told me we were at 3100m!!

The valley was awe inspiring.  The lushness of the path we were walking along, massive contrast of the stone on the hills as we were heading higher and they were unable to sustain life forms, with the blue of the sky and the whiteness of the snow topped mountains poking through.  It was beautiful, if only I felt a little better!

We stopped for a quick break at a teahouse and bought some apples freshly picked that morning from the orchards we had just passed, they were gorgeous!  Then it was onwards and upwards, up the most god awful hill with tiny zig zags that were really steep!  I had been warned I had an hour of up and my god it was up!  Then we were rewarded with more up, but this was beautiful up (if there is such a thing) through a forest – with the beautiful pine scent I was used too.  This was better, we were in the shade and more importantly we were the only people in this enchanted forest – it was the best, oh and we were on a trail, not on a road!

A reward for a walk up a hill can only mean one thing – dal bhat in the sun overlooking stunning scenery!  And yes, that was my reward!

We set off after lunch, now we were walking along a really wide valley, having had all the hills seem like they were falling on us over the last few days, now they seemed so far away and everything seemed so flat!  But this also meant we were very open, only the odd tree to find some shade in and take on some water, as we continued walking along the road.  Still feels strange to write road rather than trail!

Soon Bhim pointed out a village on the side of the hill above us “that is Upper Pisang”  I looked at him horrified and he laughed, we were staying in Lower Pisang!   Soon we were sat in clean clothes in our tealodge dining room – time for chyaang of course!!   Mmmm we all agreed this was the best one so far and the best one to finish on for a few days – we were heading higher and wouldn’t be partaking until after we came down from the pass. 

Another beautiful morning awaited us, we had been so lucky with the weather – looking over at Upper Pisang, it was so atmospheric – the smoke from juniper being burnt, the sunbeams streaming through the smoke, Pisang peak poking its beautiful summit out behind the hill, it was beautiful

Upper Pisang
Upper Pisang

Time to leave and head upwards….is there no end (yes, I know that is how you are feeling, don’t worry we’re of to Manang today, then a rest day, so you get a rest too!!) 

We headed up past some Stupa’s and mani stones – the view behind them was stunning, a clear blue sky, crisp white mountain tops (a couple of the Annapurna’s, I cant remember which numbers, it may have been 2 and 4, but don’t quote me)  and then other trekkers just walking past us and totally ignoring what is around us! 

After a few pics were taken we continued – god this was tough, as we headed up the road my legs started turning to jelly, then we had another steep hill of zig zags to contend with on the dusty road….it seemed to go on forever – when we got to the top I asked Bhim how high we were – 3385m – no wonder, this was the equivalent of Namche hill!!!  But when we got to the top I got another surprise, I thought the valley we walked through yesterday was wide, this was on a whole new level!  Slap bang in the middle of it was a runway.  Humde airport used to be used regularly, but now it’s virtually left abandoned, maybe one flight a month – all because the road is now used so regularly by jeep, and that is a cheaper way to get supplies in.  As we walked into the village of Humde, it looked like an unloved town that was once vibrant, it was such a shame that the road could make such a difference, there were still trekkers walking through but I guess no one stays here any more – no daily flights means no trekkers staying overnight on their way home, so sad.

We headed out of Humde and off into this unforgiving  wide valley with no shelter from the sun, clearly following the road with the occasional bike or jeep blowing up lots of dust.  This was hard, I was most definitely counting my steps, even on the flat bits – the altitude, along with the sun, was sapping my energy levels. 

Eventually Bhim pointed out a blue roof, could I see it…….just….this is Manang our final destination, but it’s at least 40 minutes away so do I want to stop for lunch?  I could see some houses very very close – yes please!  So we stopped at the teahouse that’s name caught our eye “Solokhumbu Sherpa Restaurant”  turns out the owner is from Salleri and his wife is from Manang, so they combined the two and now live here!  Seabuckthorne juice was on the menu – oh yes please, that was like liquid nectar going in me, I could feel the vitamins and goodness making all well in the world.

45 minutes after lunch, we were walking up the hill into Manang and looking forward to our rest day.  We were at 3500m and tomorrow in order to rest we would walk up to 4000m, Bhim pointed out the hill over the other side of the river that we would attempt tomorrow.  How I LOVE “rest” days!!

I finished the night with yak momos – BEST EVER!!! 

 

 

 

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