aka ‘Marks Fourth Walk in Nepal’
Entry number 36 18th March 2009 (drive from Kathmandu to Sundarijal and walk to Chisapani)
It was only a one hour drive to the start point of my next journey, a week-long trek in an area known as Helembu. The early stages of the trek are technically in the Kathmandu Valley and it was nice to be able to drive to the start point in such a short time as opposed to spending hours on a bumpy road or at Kathmandu’s terrible domestic airport. We only trekked for three hours today but they were surprisingly tough hours. A combination of being ‘office bound’ for two weeks plus the fact that any trek near Kathmandu always involves an initial ‘mother of all climbs’ in order to get out of the valley are, in my opinion, the reasons for this and by the time I arrived at the teahouse I was ready for dinner and bed! We had a good storm and a bit of rain around 6pm, which is really needed at the moment and I was hoping it would mean clear views in the morning. Being at only 2140m meant I went to bed warm, which after Everest was a real treat.
Entry number 37 19th March 2009 (walk from Chisapani to Khutumsang)
My wish didn’t come true and we didn’t have clear views in the morning but on the plus side it was not raining either, so after chapatis and omelet for breakfast we set of for our next destination. As always, I have a new Sherpa. His name is Seiko and he is very quiet but seems like a very nice guy. I also have a new porter as well. Santosh is with us, as usual, but Kanchha has headed off on a more lucrative trek in the Annapurna region and so we have a young lad called Nema, who is probably a bit younger than Santosh and who also lives in Kathmandu. We walked for about 8 hours today as we were trying to gain a bit of time so that we could head up to the other side of the holy lake at Gosainkund (see Mark’s second walk around Nepal) so all in all it was a bit of a tough day. There are no altitude issues on this trek (touch wood, the maximum elevation is 3600m, not taking into account if we go up to the pass below the lake) but it involves a lot of going up, going down and then going up again which in a way is the worst kind of trek because you walk for what seems like an age but never actually cover any real distance.
Also so far I haven’t seen any other trekkers on this route. Although the trek has the advantage of being easily accessible from Kathmandu, it attracts hardly any trekkers because it does not have the same big draw name as Everest or Annapurna. This in itself is not a bad thing but combine this with a comparatively boring trek and it means you cannot expect the same literary masterpiece you have received from all the other treks!Had a nice hot shower this evening (although honestly a cold one would have done, the climate is most agreeable) and over dinner Gautam and I decided there was a 4/5 day Kathmandu Valley trek that we could cover in two days on a motorbike following more or less the same route as the trekkers. This is a great idea as we are running out of time before my imminent (*) departure from Nepal and the more we can fit in the better.
(*) At the moment Kirsty and I honestly do not know if we are staying in Nepal or going elsewhere or whether we have any choice anyway. I am sure one of us will provide an update once we have something more concrete to say!
Entry number 38 19th March 2009 (walk from Khutumsang to Tharepati)
This trek is turning into a ‘bit of a mare’. We seem to do nothing but walk up, then walk down and then, well you can guess the rest I am sure?? On top of this we are not getting the views; I guess on all our previous treks we have been spoilt and, apart from the odd day, we have had fantastic scenery for nearly all of the time we have been trekking. I guess at some point we are owed a ‘dodgy’ trek and this looks like it is going to be it??? Today was a classic example of why you need to bring cloths and kit for every eventuality. When I got up this morning it was a little hazy but lovely and warm and I was able to have my breakfast in just my t-shirt (no fleece required). We left the lodge and started to climb up. At 10:30am we stopped for a cup of tea and by 10:45am it was raining and hailing so hard that we ended up staying in the lodge (and therefore dry) until about 1.30pm when the rain finally stopped. We kept climbing up and within 50 minutes we were walking through one of the worse snow storms I have ever seen (I must admit I haven’t seen that many but thought this one was pretty bad none the less!) and by the time we arrived at the lodge you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face (see photo). You often think to yourself ‘I am carrying far too much stuff’ but you never know when you are going to need it and today I needed all the waterproof stuff I have been carrying around for months and not used to date. Had a very cold night; the inside toilet was covered in snow (don’t ask how, basically there were dirty great big gaps in the roof!) and to add to our weather ‘hassles’ the wind also picked up and ripped through the lodge for most of the night.
Entry number 39 20th March 2009 (walk from Tharepati to Tarkeghyang)
We were going to head up to the Lauribinayak Pass (5210m) today in order to visit the lakes at Gosainkund (see second walk in Nepal) from the Helembu side but we knew that it would be a pointless exercise after the heavy snowfall from the day before. Instead we had, what I would call, one of those ‘frustrating trekking days’. We started the day with a knee crunching 1000m descent along a trail that was still covered in snow (and therefore quite treacherous) to a village called Melamchi. As if this wasn’t bad enough, once there we could see our final destination (Tarkeghyang) on the ridge opposite but quickly worked out that in order to get there we would have to make another steep descent of 610m down to the river and then climb nearly the same distance (670m) back up a very steep hill to get there. This happens a lot in Nepal and is very frustrating! I reckon, as the crow flies, it was about 1½km between the two villages but it took us about 4 hours to cover this ground and just as we arrived it started to rain real heavy again so we got a little wet in the bargain. All in all, a good day!
Entry number 40 21st March 2009 (walk from Tarkeghyang to Melamchi Bazaar)
As we were all getting a bit fed up with this trek (no mountain views, lots of rain, no visit to the Lauribinayak Pass etc), we decided to get up early and finish the trek in one go. We should have taken two days to reach Melamchi Bazaar but knew that if we got our skates on, we could be there by late afternoon. Well, we did it and trekked about 25 km in the process, luckily most of it on the flat! We arrived about 5pm, had a cold shower (yes you heard me correctly, a cold shower; we are only at 850m which is lower than Kathmandu and I had worked up quite a sweat having just walked 25km) played ‘keepy uppy’ with the local kids for bit then had chilly chicken and rice for dinner washed down with a couple of cold beers. You will also notice that today I have notched up my 40th day of trekking since arriving in Nepal. On average you walk about 8km a day in the mountains and so I reckon I have notched up some 320km to 350km since I started in January. I think I deserve a pat on the back???
Colourful bedroom inside one of the teahouses
Entry number 41 22nd March 2009 (drive from Melamchi Bazaar to Kathmandu)
I never know which is worse: hanging around at airports for hours on end waiting for a flight to take off or 4 hours on a road from hell with four other smelly trekkers (I am fully aware that I do not smell like a bed of roses either on the final day of a trek)?? As you can gather, the journey back to Kathmandu was not particularly pleasant but we got back in one piece and I am now looking forward to the next trek. Not the most exciting read this one, I know, but the trek wasn’t up to much and nothing funny or strange happened along the way but I have the ‘old man’ with me on the next trek and he is bound to do or say something noteworthy plus we are away for 22 days so don’t give up on me yet. The next installment should be a bit better! I also forgot to take the now legendary ‘group photo’ at the end of this trek so sorry for that as well!