A Trek in Nepal

P. Lyon, M. Tippins, M. Keeting & G. Egginton.

The end of October saw four lads from Brum winging their way towards Kathmandu. The flight being unmemorable except for the length of time it took, and a protracted nine hour stay at Delhi airport transit lounge. (Who said the Black Hole was in Calcutta?. The place was so bad that after we left vandals broke in and decorated it) One redeeming experience just before landing at Kathmandu was seeing white clouds stretching either side of the aircraft for miles and then suddenly realising the jagged tops of the clouds were in fact mountain peaks.

After meeting the group we were to trek with, we deposited our luggage in a hotel and decided to eat out in the town. (Despite warnings of catching the Kathmandu Kraps.) The town itself is splendid, containing 300 year old temples, shops & houses, many covered in wood carvings. The buildings crowd narrow, smelly streets which throng with pedestrian and bell ringing cyclists. One could buy most things there “You like to buy lucky charms,Sir”. ”No!”, ”You want to buy heroin?!!”. The offer was declined. We eventually found a likely Nepalese cuisine restaurant, the meal having no detrimental effect on our guts.

The next day saw us rolling along to Dumre in a coach, which looked like a truck discarded by Billy Smarts circus after failing the M.0.T. We arrived at lunchtime, ate, and then started walking. The Ace Pathfinders from Brum, not 300 yards from the village, promptly took the wrong turning and had to be redirected by a Sherpa. Then yours truly, not to be thwarted by the Sherpas efficiency, managed to wander off unnoticed in the wrong direction again. After a few miles of blissful ignorance, I was stopped by a group of young children who after enquiring to my destination, burst into fits of laughter. After informing me of my error, they kindly took me by the hand and led me back to the correct path. Eventually I arrived at the camp which gave a splendid view of the Lamjung Himal range of mountains, which when the sun set turned a fantastic pink colour.

The next day we walked through paddy fields following a river, with a view of Manaslu (26,700ft.) on the right. It was discovered by a young lady in the party, much to her consternation, as she squatted with her backside exposed to the elements, that the paddy fields were infested with leeches. Needless to say, there was no shortage of volunteers to perform the de-leeching operation. The following day took us through maize fields to the village of Bahundanda, which marked the start of the ascent into the Marsyandi Gorge. The size & length of it is Unbelievable. It took 8 days of walking before we arrived at the top end. We camped that evening on a flat meadow, close to a 200 foot waterfall.
Pete, the following day started acting strangely, by walking in a zig-zag line on the track, into the woods, on the track, into the woods. No, he was not on a Fungus Foray, but had developed bowel trouble which plagued him for the next four days. I reckon he caught it by unwisely drinking at a tea shop which has the dubious honour of being called the worst teashop this side of Tibet.
The Marsyandi Gorge started to narrow, the path, about 200 feet above the river, being cut out of the vertical sides in places. The scenery continued like this for a couple of days, the gorge opening out as we approached Pisang revealing fantastic views of Annapurna 2 & 4. The whole of the Annapurna range slowly unfolding as we walked towards Manang, our overnight. camp. After calling at a police check point to have our Trek Permits stamped we continued northwards. Looking back we saw views of Gangapurna and Glacier Dome. That evening we camped at 15,000 feet, the highest camp of the trek. Before starting on this trip I’d been told about the problem of sleeping at high altitudes. This I’d smugly contended with by carrying a liter bottle of Pernod. Quote: “I’ll sleep anywhere after a few swigs of this.” Unfortunately, in practice, when lying in my sleeping bag I found much to my horror the contents of the bottle had frozen solid.

An early & tired start the following day saw us moving imperceptibly up towards the Thorong Pass. At this altitude the oxygen being half that at sea level, forced me to turn my Pacemaker up to maximum. About 11.00a.m. I saw the prayer flags which marked the top of the pass (18,000 f.t.) probably the flags were for my benefit. Despite the sun being out it was extremely cold, so only a quick stop for pictures was made before setting off down the other side. A couple of hours later unfolded a superb view of Dhaulagiri on our left about 40 miles away, looking like a white pyramid dwarfing the 22,000ft. Tukuche Peak. We could see below in the distance, Muktinath, our intended campsite with views of the high Tibetan plateau as d back cloth.

The next day being a rest day, gave the opportunity to explore Muktinath, which because of it’s temples & gompas draw both Hindu & Buddhist pilgrims. One particularly revered temple encloses a natural gas jet and a spring. The woman caretaker, looking and acting like one of the witches in Macbeth. The trail then swings southward descending into the Kali Gandaki Gorge taking us through Jomoson to our camp at Morpha. An attractive little village, the narrow paved streets being enclosed by stone-built buildings, which revealed numerous courtyards containing animals and provisions for the coming winter.

That evening, Pete jokingly complained to the cook about the lack of protein in his diet. This brought the reaction the following day of the cook purchasing a sheep, killing it, skinning it, cooking it and serving it as a curry in the evening. Pete being taken aback at this unprecedented concern for his stomach, promptly ate his way through four enormous helpings. This he maintained ruefully, two days later, was the reason for him once again getting the galloping trots. This condition, known as the Ring of Fire, was to stay with him for the rest of the holiday and several weeks after returning home. One redeeming outcome is that he lost three stones in weight and from being called a fat white man by a Nepalese, now has a sylph-like figure.

An easy walk in the gorge through Tukuche led us to the foot of Dhaulagiri, the summit seeming to reach the heavens, was almost 20,000 ft. above us --- IMPRESSIVE. We camped that evening a Kalopani. During the night Maurice left the tent to relieve himself and idly played his fountain onto a rock, which after a few minutes got up and walked away. The rock turning out to be the dog which had been keeping us awake with its barking. There’s justice for you!!. We continued to the village of Lete, at the deepest point of the Kali Gandaki Gorge, where we re-crossed the river on a very unstable suspension bridge. Not only did it oscillate up & down but rocked from side to side as one crossed it, with the added hazard of loose or missing planks on the walkway. Just before Tithe, our intended camp, we passed the Rupse Chakari waterfall, arguably the most impressive we saw, crashing down in a series of cascades for 1500 feet.

A short walk from camp took us to Tatopani, where hot springs issue out into the bed of the river which enabled us to rid ourselves of two weeks grime. Two days later saw us at Gharapani, where a side trip up Pun Hill (I0,5OOft.) offered one early morning unobstructed views of the sun illuminating the peaks of Annapurna South, Himchuli & Machapuchare. The scene being so photogenic even I was able to -produce a few reasonable pictures.

The next couple of days saw us making a long but easy, gradual descent towards Suiket, where we made our last camp in a paddy field by the side of the Mardi Khola river. After rising early we made speed towards Pokhara, aiming to catch a bus our only stop being to photograph a splendid view of Machapuchare. We missed the express bus and had to be content with a ten hour, dusty, animal smelling, cramped, bone jarring ride on the local bus back to Kathmandu. From Kathmandu we flew to Agra in India to see the Taj Mahal and ----- but that’s another story.

G. Egginton.

 

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