So another fun filled 5 days in Namche meant that I was fully recharged, my cold had disappeared, my laundry had been done and I had even had my hair washed and blow-dried!!
But, soon it was time to set off back down the trail I had walked up a couple of weeks earlier… Kaami and I were on a mission, there was important gear to be reunited with in Salleri. I thinned my bag down and left it with Jagadish and the boys, then Kaami and I headed out into the bright sunshine. We knew today was a relatively easy day, only heading to Namgel’s auntie’s lodge in Chepplung so we had a bit of a lie in and headed out around 9ish.
We bounced down Namche Hill in no time and soon found ourselves at the army checkpoint in Jorsalle for the traditional 3 wise monkey’s shot……but no one to be seen! There was no way I could now walk past this spot without the picture being taken so started lining up my trusty companions Dave Duck, Percy van Robin and Lush to take part……then we were rescued in time as the boys just wouldn’t keep their “hands” in place!! Yet again some poor random trekkers got roped in to being part of this tradition…..I should really get my head out of having this done, but I just cant!
We headed down towards Benkar and decided to have lunch at his friends place just by the side of the long bridge. So I sat in the sun waiting for my dal bhat to be cooked, when 2 guys walked past and I recognised them from the night before in Café Danphe, it was our 2 german friends…they decided to stop and order lunch too. They were behind us and heading to Lukla (but to be fair, they had just come off Ama Dablam, so were probably a lot stronger than me!)
We left the boys to their lunch and headed down, all too soon I found another familiar figure, an American guy from the bar last night, so I walked with him to Phakding, it was all very social and lovely!
In Chepplung we were warmly greeted by Namgel’s auntie and fed the traditional. It is Tihar here and tonight seemed to be about the young girls, so they were all out dancing their traditional dances and receiving money from each house, another special time.
I thought that the next day was going to be an easy one too down to Paiyya, so suggested a late start….oh no the boss wanted to head out early…..to be fair as we arrived in Surke and started to head up the long long hill that I was used to walking down, I was very grateful for the early start, we were not in the sun, that would not have been pleasant! It goes on forever! I made a mental note that I would not do any of my future trips this way round, didn’t fancy doing this again!
But, the good news about the early start (apart from the shade on the hill) was that we were in Paiyya just after lunch time….but it was cold and foggy (never seems to be anything but when I am here) and the lady recognised me, fed me some noodle soup and hot tea and I headed up to my room to get sorted and maybe have a bit of a snooze to warm up.
I headed back down around 6ish, there were other trekkers in, from Norway who were father and son and heading up to Mera Peak…..Kaami and I ordered some tongba and dal bhat and settled in. We could hear music playing at the other end of the village, and it seemed to get louder and louder…..turns out tonight was about the young men for Tihar, so they were carrying their big speaker from lodge to lodge, dancing lots and taking donations. When they got to our lodge they managed to rope me and Kaami into the dancing with them, much to the amusement of the other trekkers, I even got one of their guides to join in. A fun time in all and totally what being off the beaten track is all about for me, lucky lucky girl.
We knew the next day was going to be a long one, we were heading to Nunthala, Roger and I had done it the other way in 2013 with Namgel and Kaami, we called it a “double day” Kaami even arrived in the dark that night.
We set off up the hill towards the “slippery trial” as it is printed on the map, we got there much quicker than I expected, and it wasn’t muddy at all, for the first time I’d walked through it! Then we were heading down the long hill to Bupsa and eventually Khari Khola where we had lunch in the sun. That hill was brutal, I knew I hated it on the way up but oh my god it goes on forever going down!!!
Kaami told me that we would have just over an hour of downhill then about 3 hours up after lunch, and it was hot….oh my god was it hot! Get me back to over 3000m please, this is ridiculous. We ran out of water about half way down the hill and ended up buying a bottle for 180 rupees!! That was more expensive than in Namche! But needs must……we were gasping and both dripping in sweat.
Eventually the river arrived and we crossed the bridge and stopped for tea and biscuits before heading up through the magic forest towards Nunthala. We were the only ones in amongst the trees, but oh my god, the sun wasn’t making it through the trees to us, but it was so humid and hot, I think I preferred walking with the sun beating down on me, at least I knew why I was hot. Up, up, up, up….2.5 hours we kept going (we had refilled our water at more sensible prices this time) and then we stopped at a couple of houses that Kaami knew…..firecrackers going off tonight for Tihar, it was lots of fun, but I hid behind Kaami a couple of times as these things were just going off in random directions, I was convinced one was going to hit me! Lots of laughter and lots of screaming happy kids, it was fun and a good “rest break” we even got invited in for chyaang, but declined…there was more up to endure!
30 minutes later I hit the top of a hill and a big flat and wide “street” appeared in front of me, I beamed, it was the Nunthala I remembered!! We headed down the flat street and bounced into the Everest lodge where we were warmly greeted and shown to my “single” room……with a big double bed!!! Mind you there was no real room for my bag on the floor, there was probably about 6” gap around 2 sides of the bed….but I didn’t care it was big and comfy, even if I did only have a single sleeping bag so couldn’t take advantage of the extra room on the bed
I headed downstairs and found a grinning Kaami sitting in the busy dining room “dui ta dal bhat, dui ta tongba” he was laughing, it had already been ordered!! I love this boy
I also ordered some popcorn to go with our tongba and soon the 4 year old daughter joined us, sitting happily in the middle of us and picking the popcorn from the bowl and feeding it to me, Kaami and her happy days again!
Kaami and I had decided that although tomorrow was supposed to end in Ringmu, it was only about 4 hours away, and that we could have lunch there and then it would be 3 hours to Salleri, which meant we would have an extra day off in Salleri and actually be able to rest. It was worth doing 7 hours in the screaming sun if we knew that we could have a day off from walking and catch up with my luggage and Namgel’s auntie.
It was a relatively easy walk to Ringmu, with only about an hour and a half up in the morning, but we were rewarded with stunning views of the valley and mountains. Another clear blue sky day all around (I was getting used to the heat now and accepting that I would be sweating lots, I knew a day off in Salleri also meant I could get these sweaty trekking clothes washed!) We sat and had dal bhat in the sun overlooking a stunning view of Numbur and then whilst other trekkers headed the other way up towards Nunthala, we headed down what Kaami had promised me would be “dersu” or mainly flat…..he was not wrong. We were soon on the jeep track towards Salleri, walking along big dusty trails, sometimes in the sun, sometimes in the shade of the big pine trees we were walking through. It was a totally blissful afternoon and we were both in high spirits knowing this was an easy afternoons walk and tomorrow was a lie in and a day off.
We arrived in Salleri at dusk, Kaami dropped me at Namgel’s auntie’s teashop and I was greeted by a big hug and smile from his uncle but no sign of auntie. We agreed I would stop in the Sherpa lodge which was literally 2 minutes walk from there (yep, that is 2 minute Hazel-time!)
Dropped my bag into my room, ordered my momo’s then headed back to see Kaami and have a tongba before going back to my lodge for my dinner. OMG, this tongba was strong, turned out it had been aged for 7 months….good job I didn’t have far to stumble back to the lodge. After about 30 minutes, Auntie came down from upstairs looking sleepy, then she spotted me and squealed with delight. Cue massive hugs, hand holding, more hugs and just big beaming grins from both of us…I’m not sure I’ve had such a lovely welcome from anyone up here for a long time.
After a lovely lie in and a quick breakfast at my lodge, I started sorting the bags so that I had a light bag for Kaami to carry round to his place, after all I was only going to be there 2 days, I only needed my sleeping bag, warm clothes and baby wipes!! The gifts for his family and the school were all packed, I sorted out my laundry and handed that to the lodge owner, she had a lovely big washing machine in her kitchen, I would get back to freshly laundered clothes ready for the next part of my trip and not be too smelly for when the boys arrived!
We had a great afternoon at Auntie’s drinking tongba and eating thukpa and dal bhat….I eventually made it back to the lodge around 8pm and fell into bed!
The next morning, we set off from Salleri around 9am and headed straight down the “locals route” towards the river. Nadine would have been so proud of me….10 mins into a walk with clean trousers on I slipped on some mud and landed straight on my bum….cue massive giggles from both me and Kaami…then he decided to check I was OK!
It was steep down through the woods for about 45 mins before we got to the bridge. A lady had caught us up and started talking to Kaami, turns out she is from one of the other villages that makes up Kunikhop.
It was a gorgeous sunny day, which also meant it was ridiculously hot! The sun was on our backs as we headed up the hill…not a path built for trekkers of course so no gentle zig-zags just straight up with the odd bit of flat thrown in for good measure.
We met, and walked with for a while, a couple of porters who were taking uniform to Zedu school which was damaged in the earthquake and had been rebuilt with the help of a Japanese charity. In the spring I had watched the eager kids bounce down the hill then come back up with a sheet of tin on their heads for the roof!
We carried on up and 2 hours after leaving Salleri stopped for tea with Tshering Dorje and her lovely family that I had met in the spring. She remembered me but said my face looked different. When I looked at the pictures we worked out that I was proper trekking girl with most of my hair back in my SNC buff….here I was with my “noodle hair” as it had been named in Namche (natural waves to you and me) in full effect!
Off we set for our next stop, lunch with the Chairman of the School Management Committee, Purba Tshering Tamang. Again it was hot and hard work with lots of stops to take on fluids…but it only took 30 mins and we were sat down waiting for our dal bhat to arrive.
We left the uniform and scarves that my Mam had knitted, along with other assorted goodies for the school with Purba, no point in Kaami and Mingma carrying them for 3 hours unnecessarily! The boys were instantly impressed at the lack of stuff in my bag now…although not realising even more of it would be left at their place!
Kaami gave himself the afternoon off and made Mingma carry my bag! Although to be fair Mingma got bored with the slow pace and headed up the hill to his family whilst me and Kaami headed up bistari bistari
This all felt so different to the spring, mainly because it was sunny and not raining !
We soon arrived at Kaami and Mingma’s home and I was instantly welcomed into the kitchen by their Mum and Mingma’s girlfriend.
We had a lovely 2 nights here, there was plenty of “hobla” which is chyaang warmed and served with egg scrambled into it with lots of sugar and coconut crunchee biscuits….doesn’t sound very appealing but trust me is absolutely delicious!
I had a great morning with little Pasang the next day (Mingma’s son) and also “little Mingma” who is Mingma’s girlfriend’s little brother. They were both so comfortable with me that by the end of the day the whole family was playing in the fields around the house and I managed to get some amazing photo’s of them all….totally adorable
The time came for me to leave this beautiful village once again and head over to the school, apparently it would take me 45 minutes. I was expecting to turn up at the school, hand over the uniform to the teachers and then head back to Salleri…….you would think I would know better really! We could see the school on the hill above us and I could hear the announcements reverberating around the hill…..there was a programme of course, I could see the seats all set out ready for me. But we had a whistle and a shouted message, we needed to wait 10 minutes, they weren’t ready! We sat in one of Kaami’s friends house and drank tang while waiting for the signal.
Eventually it came and we headed up the hill. Outside this small school there was a big PA system, seats and tables sat out in the sun and I was ushered to the pride of place and given garlands and kharta’s, and tea and biscuits of course.
Speeches, dancing from two older children from the village and then it was time for the chaos of handing out the uniform. The headmistress had a list of all the children but it still seemed to be a free for all! After about 30 minutes of me trying to help calm the process, but clearly failing, all the children had uniform and the spare sets we had organised were repackaged and put in the staffroom for any new children that arrived.
Then it was time for lots and lots of pictures to be taken, I handed out the scarves that my Mam had knitted and also the balloons and sweets I had been given. The leftovers were then thrown in the air for the children to scrabble round trying to catch, lots of fun and lots of big smiles.
It was then time for Kaami and I to head back to Salleri ready to greet the Mera Peak/Island Peak team that were flying into Phaplu the next day. Big hugs and smiles and promises that we would be back. This is a tiny school nestled in the hills with some, but not much, work to be done, the playground for a start needs to be upgraded……that would be a job for our “man in Nepal” Namgel to sort out when he next visited Salleri.
We had an awesome walk round the side of the hill to get back to Salleri, lots of company from the school on the way, even though I told them to head off as I would be “bistari” and slow them down….but they all insisted on walking back with me and the hills were full of laughing and singing as we walked around with the sun setting behind the hills…..yet again I realised just how lucky I am to be accepted by these amazing people.
Back in Salleri we agreed with my lodge that I could forego the meal in the evening and still get the “normal” room price….I had been invited to dinner at Auntie’s which of course meant more tongba….good job I wasn’t walking anywhere tomorrow. Kaami cooked our dal bhat for us as we sat and in broken English/Nepali/Sherpa enjoyed a conversation and a good night.
Kaami and I set off in our jeep around 11ish the next morning to await the arrival of Roger, Mark, Richard, Bhim and Namgel on their flight from Kathmandu…..more about that trip in my next update!
As ever, thank you for your patience. I would also like to thank “Woolgars Wanderers” for putting up with me on the weekend of my birthday and walking from Bournemouth to Lymington on 4th June, then partying hard on the Isle of Wight that evening then taking a short walk on a really hot and sunny 5th June, complete with hangover. Lorna and Jayne, I love you both loads and can assure you that the money you raised that weekend has now been converted to school uniform and the kids at Kunikhop school look amazing and smart. You are superstars
Also, thank you to you guys who bought me a “virtual drink” for my birthday, not only has that NOT been converted to tongba, it has helped with the uniform and will be used for the future for the kids at this school…..this is just the start of the help that we will provide for this beautiful school nestled in the hills outside Salleri.
If you want to have a peruse at some of the pictures of this leg of the trip, you can find them here I have even put a copy of the official Supporting Nepal’s Children update in there for you to have a read of
Finally, if you want to help us fund the future projects both here and at other schools, please don’t be shy and click on this link to donate, thank you in advance for your generosity.
Reporting live from Namche Bazaar!