Going Up The Country

Going to some place that i've never been before...

Category: Nepal (page 2 of 3)

Monkeys and butterflies

Day 15: Kalopani to Tatopani (altitude 1190m)

I woke up with achey legs this morning after yesterday’s long hike, but feeling good and ready for another long day today. We had breakfast (pancakes with honey) and set off. We spent pretty much the whole day on side trails today, and didn’t really see the road at all, which was great. We detoured through some really nice little villages and managed to give out a lot more of our pens to the little kids, who always asked for sweets and always looked a bit disappointed with pens!

We were walking through really lush forests of pine and bamboo for a while, and we came across a big family of monkeys, a few large parent ones and lots of little baby monkeys. We tried to take pictures and videos of them but they were too quick. I’m not sure what type of monkeys they were, they had grey/white fur and little black faces, with long tails, and the babies were tiny, like the size of a kitten. There were white butterflies everywhere too, big flocks (is it a flock of butterflies?!) of them and every time we turned a corner or came into a clearing they all took off, it was quite an impressive sight!

A downside to being on deserted side trails was that there weren’t any restaurants or lodges along the way, so we didn’t find anywhere for lunch, instead we stopped at little tea stalls every few hours and had hot sweet tea and cookies, which kept us going just fine. Around lunchtime it started to cloud over and pretty soon it started to drizzle. We heard thunder and lightning, and luckily came to a small village just as it started to really come down. We sat under a porch of a little house while the man who lived there made us some tea, and we waited there until the storm passed.

The rest of the afternoon there were a few showers, but we got to Tatopani around 4:30pm, mostly dry, and found a really good hotel for a great price. Simon ate here last time he was here and he said the food is really good. We got a room out in the garden at the back, there are lots of small huts in a semi-landscaped garden, right next to the river. It’s a big room, with three beds and an ensuite, and there are fruit trees all around us, for 100 rupees per night each (70p!)

We were glad to stop, after walking over 40km in two days my feet were beginning to hurt, and it will be good to have a rest day tomorrow and let my legs/feet/shoulders recover! We had a good dinner, both ate quite a lot to make up for no lunch, and had a beer, which was nice, but expensive, and then went to the shop to get some snacks and a more detailed map for our last bit of trekking. Most people stop here or in the next town and get a jeep or bus back to Pokhara, but were going to walk as far as we can, so needed a good map that shows all the smaller trails. We found one, and it looks like we can walk back to within about 3 or 4 km of Pokhara itself before we hit the highway and will have to get a bus for the last little bit. Should be a good adventure though, don’t think we’ll see many hikers for those last few days…

I’m back in the room now, eating biscuits and writing this while listening to the sound of the river rapids outside. It’s a different river that were following now as were headed back down south, but it looks and sounds exactly the same as the one we followed from the beginning up to the pass. It’s quite a relaxing sound, and After two long days hiking I have the feeling I’m going to sleep well tonight!

Black bears and snow leopards

Day 14: Jomsom to Kalopani (altitude 2530m)

Woke up to a fairly sunny day, feeling really well rested and eager to get back on the trail. We had an early start, and were ready to leave just before 8am. Headed out of town, past the little airport and took a side trail that cuts out a lot of the road. On our way out of Jomsom, we walked along the bottom of a river valley, the river was just a trickle at the moment, winding its way song, but a lot of the valley floor was muddy. At one point we found some bear tracks, and then a bit further on some kind of big cat tracks, and as far as I know the only big cat in Nepal is the snow leopard, so that’s quite exciting!

We are in Mustang province at the moment, which is one of the most northerly provinces of Nepal, and it’s where a lot of the wildlife lives, it has some amazing steep valleys and huge forests, a lot of which are inaccessible to humans, so perfect for shy wildlife. There’s also a lot of goats and sheep wandering around, so lots of snacks for any bears or leopards!

The trail we were on was across the other side of the river from the road, and so we didn’t see any other hikers all day, just the odd local here and there. We stopped in a small village at a tea house for lunch and had a good veg Chow Mein, and while we were sat down a bus pulled up and a Canadian couple we had met a few times waved out of the window and said they were heading to Kalopani. At this point we still didn’t have a final destination for the day, as we were planning on playing it by ear, but we were feeling good after lunch and our well rested legs were holding up well. We carried on walking and got into a good rhythm, and so decided to head for Kalopani too, even though it would mean a long 8hour day of hiking (around 20km)

We carried on through more beautiful scenery and arrived in Kalopani around 4pm, and found the place Simon stayed last time, as he said it was a great little place, and it was. By that point I was shattered, so I had a shower and we went to the dining room (which was also the families living room). They had a small TV in there, and cricket was on, it was Nepal vs Afganistan, and it seemed like half the village was in there watching! It was a close match, but luckily Nepal won, and everyone was cheering, it was good fun.

The owner then came and put a small bucket of coals under the table, and with the heavy blanket style tablecloth draped over my legs it meant my legs and feet were very toasty! We had another Dal Baht for dinner, this one was really spicy though, so I didn’t have seconds, plus I think I’d eaten too many coconut cookies as I was a bit full.

After dinner we went back to our room, going to have another early night tonight as we have an earl start again tomorrow. Looking forward to tomorrow, this part of the trek has amazing views and is much less touristy, which is great. We’re hoping to head to Tatopani tomorrow, which sounds brilliant, with natural hot springs, and it’s a bit of a bigger town, so hopefully we can track down some wifi. It means another long hike, but as we’re making good time we can have another rest days in Tatopani if we can get there tomorrow.

Welcome to Om’s House!

Day 13: Rest day at Jomsom (altitude 2720m)

Today was a well earned rest day, we were woken fairly early by our hosts at the dancing yak lodge, and decided to pack up and try and find somewhere a bit better as we were staying in Jomsom another night. It wasn’t too bad at the dancing yak, but the bathroom was filthy and our room had no window, which got a bit depressing fairly quickly! There was also no outdoor space to dry our wet stuff, something which we really need to do before hitting the trail.

We wandered down the Main Street looking for somewhere with a balcony or sun terrace where we could dry our gear. We found an amazing (if expensive) hotel called Om’s House, as far as I can tell it’s the best hotel in Jomsom, and the best place we’ve stayed so far on this trip. We have an ensuite with an actual toilet, clean towels, soap, the room has carpet, electricity and wifi, and even a small tv. The beds have sheets and pillowcases too, which sounds like a ridiculous thing to be pleased about, but you’d be surprised how much you miss the little things!

I say it’s expensive, actually it’s 1500 rupees for the night, which is $15 or about £11, which is still really cheap by uk standards, but we’ve been paying 100 or 200 rupees a night so far, so it seems expensive! It has a huge garden out back though, and we washed pretty much all of our clothes in buckets of soapy water and dried them in the sun, saving ourselves probably almost 1000 rupees on laundry costs, so the room worked out ok. I’ve also cleaned and dried my boots, which hopefully means no more painful feet for me!

There were limited pegs though, so we went out to buy some, which involved some hilarious attempts at drawing pegs, and making crab claw style gestures, miming hanging up washing etc, but we eventually managed to find some pegs, which will probably be quite useful down the trail next time we need to do some washing.

Had another good lunch of yaks cheese and fresh baked bread, I’m getting a bit of a taste for yaks cheese now, not sure what I’m going to do when I get back, don’t think you can buy it in the uk. Simon even bought some dried yaks cheese (I didn’t know you could even dry cheese?!), it looks like fudge but from his reaction it’s pretty vile, I haven’t dared to try it yet…

It’s been good to have a relaxed day, charge up all our electronic stuff and get all our washing sorted, tomorrow it will almost be like starting out afresh. Our plan is to get up early and just walk until we get tired. We’re making good time now, and aren’t in any rush, so we don’t need to push ourselves too hard, we can take it easy and enjoy the scenery.

I think we are going to watch a film on my ipad now we actually have the ability to charge it up fully, and then probably have an early night so we can get a good early start. The mornings the last few days have been sunny but by mid afternoon it clouds over, so the plan is if we start early we can find a place to stay before the rain hits (hopefully it will be sunny from now on, but you never know!)

Not sure when the next chance to find wifi will be, might be a good few days before I send another update, but all is well here now I have clean clothes and dry boots!x

Torrential downpours and the Dancing Yak

Day 12: Muktinath to Jomsom (altitude 2720m)

Woke up this morning fairly early at 7am, and to a cloudy day outside. After snoozing for a bit I went to check on my boots and the clothes drying on the balcony, and most of the stuff was still a bit wet, including my boots. The hotel we are in doesn’t have any wifi though, and we are both quite keen to get down to Jomsom as then we can do some shopping and find some wifi etc, so I decided to just go for it and walk in slightly soggy boots.

We packed up our stuff, had some breakfast and paid, and then set off, at this point it was a bit sunny, but also quite cloudy, and as my trousers I had washed were still wet I wore my shorts.

We headed out of town and followed a side-trek that was in our guide book that kept us away from the road, but went up to another lower pass into the next valley. After a couple of hours of following not very well marked trails, and some dubious map reading from the both of us, we somehow scrabbled down out of the mountain and found ourselves back on the main road, which was a bit annoying, but by then it had started snowing, and I was beginning to regret wearing shorts, so we decided to press on and try and get to Jomsom as quickly as possible.

This was the point when the snow started turning to rain, and then pretty soon the skies went black and it really started coming down. We sheltered under a porch of a tea house we found, and met Lisa, an Aussie girl, and Jase, two people who had met a few days ago and were hiking together. They were headed to Jomsom too so we decided to walk together. At this point a group of about 8 people that we all recognised from the last few days turned up, some Canadians, another English guy, a swede and some others. We all headed on down the trail together, laughing and joking and making the best of it, but it was pretty terrible weather.

After half an hour or so, some big trucks went past headed to Jomsom, and Derek, one of the Canadian guys managed to blag us a lift, so about 12 of us piled in the back of this big lorry, the type of lorry you get in a quarry with a big flatbed on the back, but covered in a tarp, so it was quite dry and cosy in there! After about ten minutes the truck stopped and we couldn’t work out why, but then realised the truck in front had a flat tyre, and the Nepali drivers didn’t really know what to do with it. The road here was a single lane gravel track, so no room for passing, and me and Simon decided we could be here all day, so we said our goodbyes, got out and carried on walking.

After a little while we headed off the road on to a big wide riverbed at the bottom of the valley. In the wet season the whole riverbed must be a river, but now it is a kilometer wide gravel plain with a small stream winding through it. The river leads straight to Jomsom, so we walked along there, and after a while we noticed that a few of the guys from the truck were behind us, and it turns out most people had followed our lead and carried on on foot. We walked with them for a bit, but then they waited for their friends, so we carried on, finally arriving in Jomsom just as the rain stopped and the sun started poking through the clouds. By this point my wet boots had stretched even more, and they were quite misshapen, meaning the blisters on my toes were a bit worse.

We walked through Jomsom to the other side, near the small airstrip, and found the checkpoint to register at. They have checkpoints all round the trail now every few days so they can keep a record of where everyone is in case people go missing.

After checking in we found a strange little lodge called ‘The Dancing Yak Lodge and Tibetan Medical Centre’ run by an old Tibetan man and his son, the son is the thirteenth generation of Tibetan doctor, and his dad looks like an old red Indian chief. The whole lodge has a bit of a red Indian kind of vibe to it to be honest, but it’s warm and comfortable enough. They also have wifi so I can send this out once I’ve finished today’s entry.

Now I’ve got my wet boots off and got some dry socks on my feet feel much better and they don’t appear to actually be blistered, just a bit sore from rubbing. We’re going to stick around I here for a few days now so I can get a full load of washing washed and dried tomorrow, and get my boots properly cleaned and dried out before we move on.

We’ve bought some more yaks cheese and bread, and some booze so we can have a cheap night in tonight, and have a bit of a lie in tomorrow too to recharge our batteries. We’re back down below 3000 metres altitude now though, and you can really notice the difference, breathing and thinking and stuff is all pretty much back to normal.

Really looking forward to getting all our stuff in order and then getting back on the trail, there seems to be some amazing places coming up in the guidebook, we’re going to try and hike as far south as we can, almost back to Pokhara if we can, which is where we left our extra stuff. It’s probably another 7/8 days hike from here so we should have three or four days spare at the end of the hike. As we are making really good time we can chill out there for a bit, maybe hire a canoe or go sailing or something.

For now I’m going to have a drink and then get a good nights sleep with maybe even a lie in! I’m missing you all, and wish you could all be here seeing some of the things I am seeing!

The single toughest day of my life

Day 11: Thorong Phedi to Muktinath (3672m) – (Over the pass – 5416m!)

Woke up to glorious clear skies this morning, bitterly cold outside of my pile of blankets, but luckily I slept almost fully clothed anyway, so just pulled on my boots and jacket and went over to the dining hall for breakfast and tea. Most of the other hikers had all left at 4am for some crazy reason, but it was 7am before we’d finished breakfast and set off.

It was a hard 3 hour trek to the pass, sometimes up very steep tracks, covered by snow and ice, and I was very glad to have my stick that I’d bought in Manang, could have done with some crampons really, but a stick helped. We passed some yaks and their riders on the mountainside, huge creatures with amazing fur, and we overtook a few slower parties of older people on our way up.

The weather was amazing, clear blue skies which made for some great pictures, but probably made it even colder! It took us 3 hours to get to the pass at the top, which was not bad going, and to be honest I was surprised that it wasn’t more difficult (little did I know that getting up there is the easy bit!). The views from the top were incredible, it was really still and quiet up there, and it was quite a surreal experience. I’m not a religious person, but it definitely had a spiritual kind of feeling to it. The Nepalese believe that when you climb the mountains you are climbing into gods house, and they really treat the mountains with respect. We had some tea from the tea house at the top, took some pictures and then started our descent – if you stop moving for any length of time it gets really cold, so we didn’t hang about.

Getting down was really really tough, probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done, and I felt like hell at the end of it. There was between 4 and 6 feet of snow all over the mountain, on the way up it had been compressed into a fairly usable path by the early starters and the yaks, but on the way down it was a whole different story. The path of compacted snow had heated up by this point and started to melt, and was like a path of ice, almost impossible to walk on, and the snow either side was so soft that if you stepped on it you instantly sank, sometimes to your knees, but usually almost to the waist. It was a choice between getting soaked again and again by waist deep snow or repeatedly falling over on to hard ice.

My boots held out for a while, but the repeated covering of snow eventually wore through their waterproof layer, so my feet were soaked through in ice cold snow water for the last few hours, which meant that the fabric stretched, so my feet were moving around inside the boots, and I got some blisters on my toes, but luckily I couldn’t feel them at this point!

It took us a good 5 hours to get down and to the next town, Muktinath, where we are staying tonight, and I am completely exhausted, more exhausted than I ever remember being before. I’ve never been so happy to see a hot shower! I also washed all of my clothes as they were covered in mud from sliding down parts of the mountain in snowy slush, and put them out on the balcony to dry.

After the shower and clothes washing we went to get some food, having not eaten since 7am, and I threw caution to the wind and ordered a pizza, which when it came out was so good that Simon ate his pasta and then ordered a pizza for himself too!

After dinner and a shower I felt a lot better, and we spent the night in the dining area in front of the fire, chatting to some other hikers staying there, playing rummy, eating hobnobs and drinking tea. I had rinsed off my boots but they were still sopping wet, so I put them near the fire in the hope they will be dry by the morning. Fingers crossed!

Tibetan Bread and honey. Breakfast of the gods.

Day 10: Yak Kharta to Thorong La High Camp (4875m)

I was woken this morning by the Nepalese owners wife and kids singing, a really nice sound, the rhythm, notes and intonation reminded me of Native American singing, quite a peaceful, happy sound and very pleasant to wake up to. I’d slept for 13 hours, so obviously had been very tired. We tend to get up when we wake unless we know we have a long day and then we set an alarm. This means we’re usually well rested, but also means we miss the breakfast rush, and this morning it also meant the Russians had already left, which was an added bonus!

We had breakfast at the lodge too, I had Tibetan bread with honey, which is amazing. Tibetan bread is kind of a cross between a naan bread and a donut. It looks a bit like the top of an apple pie, round with three slashes across it, but it is fried, so it is doughy inside and crunchy on the outside. With honey it makes for one of the best breakfasts I’ve probably ever had – I need to get the recipe! It’s so cold up here now that honey was frozen too, but soon warmed up.

We left Yak Kharta, a small village of about 4 or 5 lodges, and climbed up onto a ridge overlooking the village. There were some Yaks up there too, and I dint realise how big they are! One was having a fight with a dog, which I videoed for a bit, and then we pressed on. It’s not a long day today but it’s so cold and we are climbing up a good few hundred metres, so didn’t want to hang about.

We found a safe water station on the trail, where you can get a litre of drinking water for 50rupees, about a third the price of a litre bottle, so we both topped up there, and then carried on.

We arrived at Thorong Phedi at around lunchtime, and had a really good onion garlic noodle soup with fresh baked bread, it was really tasty and apparently garlic is good for the altitude! Our original plan was to stay at Thorong Phedi for the night, but we were speaking to a guide we’d seen a lot on our hikes, he was with a Chinese woman called Gloria who found it hilarious that I had a Chinese name and she had an English name. After speaking to him he said its best to stay at high camp if you can as it makes the next day easier. High camp is 300 metres higher than Thorong Phedi, and is a good hours climb. It usually makes up the first hour of the following day, and is usually done in the dark. We did it after lunch and arrived at high camp early afternoon.

The extra 300m makes a difference to the temperature too, it’s really cold up here. We both have a bit of a headache, I think due to the altitude, but from what I can tell, everyone else here does too, so it’s nothing to worry about. You can tell we are at very high altitude now, the air is really thin and it’s so cold outside of the main dining room. It was too cold to read or write even with gloves, so I’m writing this up the next day using brief notes. My brains not working properly either due to the thin oxygen, everything seems to take three times as long as normal and things like zips/buckles are interesting!

Looking forward to tomorrow, apparently there is a lot of snow on the pass, but it is still open, should be a good day, but it’s a very early start and an exhausting day from what Simon remembers from last year. Most of the other parties/hikers are planning on leaving at 4am, in the dark, but as we already have an hours head start on everyone in Thorong Phedi, we figured we’ll wait for daylight at 6.30 and head off then. Had another Dal Baht for dinner, was a good one, but couldn’t have seconds, think the altitude is affecting our appetites as well as everything else.

Ordered more Tibetan bread with honey for breakfast tomorrow, going to try and get an early night tonight as were up at daybreak, not that we have any choice as it’s too cold to do anything but sleep!

Onwards and upwards!

Day 9: Manang to Yak Kharta (4040m)

Today got off to a good start with a chocolate roll (kind of like a massive pan au chocolat) from the bakery for breakfast. Once we’d finished our breakfast we went out to find some wifi. In front of the hotel we saw a snow leopard (it was tiny, it had a collar with a bell and made a noise a bit like a cat, but I’m pretty sure it was a tiny snow leopard, I have pictures for proof). We found an ‘internet cafe’ with one tiny old laptop, but no wifi, so couldn’t send out any emails, just managed to log on to Facebook and send a few quick messages.

The original plan for today was to hike back along the trail we had come along, and then up to a frozen lake, but we met some people who had been and said it was too snowy to see anything, and it was a long 8 hour round trip, so instead we decided to hike on up the trail, and stay a bit further up.

Most guidebooks etc say to spend two nights in Manang to acclimatise, but both of us have been fine so far, and have been acclimatising quickly, which I think must be due to starting so early on the trek and acclimatising as we go. Also, we had taken the higher trail the day before, which meant we had already been up to 4000m altitude. By staying only one night in Manang it meant we could split the next bit of the journey into smaller, easier parts too, and if either of us starts to get sick, it’s only a few hours back down.

After the Internet cafe, we went back to our hotel to get our stuff together, and on the way bought a really cool hiking stick. It had been carved from a bit of tree and is really light and strong, we both bought one in the end, and I think it will help quite a lot with the day when we go over the pass.

We left Manang at lunch time, and headed up the trail towards the next village, Yak Kharta. We stopped on the way for lunch, and arrived at Yak Kharta few hours later, and the lodge we are staying in is great, it looks quite new, and it has double glazed windows, stone walls, a door that locks and the toilet ( if you can call it a toilet, it’s a small room with a poo hole in the floor ) is tiled! The luxury was almost too much.

We asked if there was a hot shower available and the owner laughed and said no shower, water was frozen! A bit of a shame as neither of us has had a shower in a few days and things might start to get smelly soon!

I was really shattered at this point, I hadn’t slept that well the night before and the climb up to Yak Kharta had taken it out of me a bit, so we went for dinner a bit early, had a really good Dal Baht (they seem to spell it differently at every place, as well as making it differently) but couldn’t manage any free refills as I was too tired.

There were a big group of Russians staying in the same lodge, and they were in the dining rom the same time as us. They were so rude and unpleasant to the owners, and to their own porters and guides, one of them, when the owner brought his plate of food instantly said “take this back and make more, I need more food than this” without even eating any or trying it. None of them said please or thank you and were really demanding, so we were glad to leave and head back to our room.

I was so tired I was fast asleep as soon as we got back, at 7.30pm.

Apple pancakes, a Tibetan school and a girl called Ola

Day 8: Lower Pisang to Manang (3560m)

So we set off a bit earlier than normal today, and also had breakfast in the lodge. The apple pancakes turned out to be quite good and set me up for the day ahead. We left lower Pisang on a trail that goes up quite quickly, past an amazing emerald green lake and then up a very steep climb for a good few hours, right to the top of the hill, where there was a little town and a temple. The views of Annapurna II and Annapurna IV were incredible, and we had some tea from the little stall while we got our breath back. It was a long climb but well worth it!

We followed the trail through the village and up and over a ridge, stopping for lunch at a town called Ngawal, where we were speaking to some girls from New Zealand for a while, they had stayed in Ngawal for 2 nights as one of their friends was sick, not sure if it was altitude sickness or a bug, but she came down to eat and didn’t look good. You forget how remote you are here, but if you get ill I guess you just have to wait it out! there’s no doctor until Manang, and that was still a 3-4 hour walk from where she was.

After lunch we headed off, and the trail rose even higher, to almost 4000m at one point, before coming back down, contouring around the mountains through some areas that looked completely untouched by humans. We came across a boarding school for Tibetan refuge children, there’s a lot of Tibetan people/culture here as the province of Manang is one of the northerly provinces of Nepal and shares a border with Tibet. When China invaded in the fifties, a lot of refuges came here, and apparently over the other, Northern side of the pass it is much more ethically Tibetan.

Just after the school we bumped into a girl who looked a bit lost (as we were at that point!) and after talking found out she was walking on her own, and carrying all her own kit. She had been walking with a friend but they had had a falling out and he had left her, which seemed a bit harsh, so we said she should walk with us to Manang. Her name was Ola and she was a graphic designer from New York who had been made redundant and decided to come to Nepal, she’s here for 3 months altogether. We got on well, and she walked with us all the way to Manang.

We stayed in the lodge that the guide book said was the best one in Manang, just on the right as you head into town, with a bakery underneath, which turned out to do really good food! We settled into our room and then we had a Yaks cheese sandwich from the bakery (yaks cheese is really good!) and went out to buy some supplies in the form of a warm hat, some salopettes (apparently there’s a lot of snow on the pass at the moment) and also some booze. The beers turned out to be really expensive, so we got a small bottle of vodka and some coke, enough for a few drinks each, which we drank before we went out that night.

Simon had been to a cinema last time he was here, so we went to have a look. It turned out to be closed, but the man opposite had turned his basement into a cinema, with a proper projector, tiered seats and everything! It also had a little fire, and the 250 rupees (about £1.80) ticket cost included some hot sweet tea and a little bag of popcorn! Definitely one of the strangest nights out I’ve had, but it was good fun, and a nice break from the usual nights here.

River rapids, donkey trains and mountain markets

Day 7: Chame to Lower Pisang (altitude 3214m)

Last night was good, had the best Dal Baht we’d had so far, unlimited refills is brilliant when you’ve been hiking all day! When we went down for dinner the dining room was in the families living space, and they had a small metal bucket of hot coals in there, with the whole family huddled round for warmth. After dinner we asked for some ginger tea and sat round the fire with them. They couldn’t speak much English, but we tried out some Nepali phrases from our guide book, which they seemed to like. The little girl was talking lots and she kept making funny noises which made everyone laugh. She was only three years old but wouldn’t stop talking!

We were downstairs this morning and ready to go by 8.30, but we were still really cold and the sun had just hit the courtyard outside, so we sat in the sun for a bit and had tea while we warmed up. Now we’re getting higher it’s amazing how much difference the sun makes. All day yesterday I was trekking in shorts and t-shirt, but as soon as the sun went in it was freezing, and I slept fully clothed under two blankets to stay warm! This morning was just as cold, but once we’d warmed up for a bit, we set off.

The trail left the village and wandered up a track, where we passed a group of Israelis, about 4 girls and two guys and the guys were riding ponies with blankets wrapped around them, it was a really strange sight and for some reason we found it hilarious. We kept trying to think of reasons why the two guys would be on ponies rather than walking, but couldn’t and in the end we gave up.

We also passed some Nepalese women carrying big wicker baskets of stuff, and briefly spoke to two American guys, who seemed really young and were really over the top. They were friendly enough but so over eager that we quickly found them a bit irritating, and they were walking faster than us, so we hung back for a bit.

We tried to find a little side trail that’s in our guide book, but we must have missed it and so carried on down the main trail, but then after a while we found another side trail that crossed back over the river, so we took that. The bridge was just logs laid across some rocks, but it was sturdy enough. On the other side of the bridge we chose the right fork, which followed the river bank closely, with the rapids just a few metres from us. We followed the river for a little while and saw some incredible scenery.

After about twenty minutes the trail we were on just vanished, and we didn’t fancy jumping from rock to rock near rapids with big backpacks on, so we turned back, retraced our steps and took the other fork from the bridge. This one was more clearly marked and wound up a little bit away from the river, then followed the river contours again from on high until it wound back down again a bit later to a different bridge.

After crossing the bridge we scrambled up a mini landslide that blocked the trail, which took us back on to the main trail. The main trail kept climbing, zigzagging back and forth until it got quite high, and by this point we were well into the snow line, and at some points of the trail there was over a foot of snow either side of the trail, but the trail itself had been cleared by the donkey trains that transport goods from village to village. We saw three or four donkey trains today, with their bells and brightly coloured headdresses, it’s quite a sight when you’re halfway up a mountain on a trail a foot wide to see twenty fully laden donkeys coming down towards you!

We also found a little market stall today, right up in the mountains, at the side of the trail, with a little old Tibetan man selling jewellery and prayer beads and other trinkets. It was really nice handmade stuff, so I bought some gifts for friends and family, as well as a few items for myself.

By this point we were getting quite hungry, normally we stop for a late breakfast/early lunch around 11.30ish, but today we didn’t find anywhere until after 1pm. The next village along was where we had lunch, the restaurant we are at happened to have the Israeli party there (they must have not done the side trail we did, and stuck to the main trail the whole way, so they got there before us) with the two men’s ponies waiting outside.

As we were eating we realised that we were only an hour from Pisang, where we are staying tonight, so decided to get an early night tonight and do a big side trail tomorrow. It goes right up high into the mountains, past the ruins of the kings old castle, and apparently the views of the main Annapurna mountains are incredible from up there. It will double our day from a 4 hour trek to an 8 hour trek, but once we arrive at Manang tomorrow night we get an extra rest day the day after to acclimatise, and we’ve had two quite short days in a row now, so tomorrow seems a good time for a long day.

We’re staying in the same lodge in Pisang that Simon stayed in last year, because last year he made friends with the little puppy here, and when we arrived today it was still here and came up to greet him! A funny little white thing with a pink nose and a curly tail like a husky, but seemed friendly enough. Our room is quite nice, we have a sun terrace just outside and as we got here earlyish we managed to do some washing and hang it up in the sun for a few hours to dry before it got too cold, so tomorrow I’ll have clean socks again!

The weather has been fantastic today, after a few slightly overcast days it was bright sunshine and blue skies all day today, which made for some great photos. It also meant I managed to charge my ipad and phone with my solar panel, but there’s no wifi here, so I’ll post this and tomorrow’s entry tomorrow night when we reach Manang.

We’re going to have an early start tomorrow as it’s going to be a long day, and were also going to break with our routine and have breakfast before we go, so I’m going to hit the hay now.

From tropical rainforests to snow-capped peaks

Day 6: Bagarchap to Chame (altitude 2713m)

We didn’t wake up until 8am today, so pretty much 12 hours sleep, but we definitely needed it! We packed up and paid our bill by 8:45 and then found a small shop to stock up on a few small items.

Heading up out of town the trail became really steep, winding its way through the forest around huge rocks, and this steep climb continued for what seemed like forever. It was a good part of the trail though, away from the dusty road and some amazing scenery of snow capped mountains through huge pine filled valleys, with rhododendron bushes flowering on either side. It was a long hard slog to the top and took a while, with small breaks every now and again.

We met a German couple a few times, we kept overtaking each other when the others had stopped for breaks, and we walked with them for a little bit, over another suspension bridge and out into a big clear plain. Out on the plain we had better views around us and we were pretty much completely encircled by huge mountains with snowy peaks, the scenery is so different here hour by hour, it’s quite unbelievable sometimes. We are getting a lot closer to the snow line today, and should be seeing snow on the path around us pretty soon, either tomorrow or the day after, it seems strange after being in 26 degree heat just a few days ago.

We stopped for lunch at a newish place which had veg and chickens and stuff all around it, like a little small holding, and we had spicy fried potatoes as neither of us could face rice again just yet, and it was surprisingly good – the veg and eggs were from the woman’s garden.

From there it was only another few hours to Chame, which is where we are staying tonight. Chame is where the other hikers on our original bus got the Jeep to from Bessisahar, when we opted to walk as we thought it was cheating. They might have cut out four days of walking, but they have missed so much along the way, it seems crazy! They also have missed out on a good head start to the acclimitisation and also getting their bodies used to uphill climbs, I suspect most of the people who suffer from altitude sickness (which you get if you ascend too quickly) are ones who cut out the start of the trail, Chame is nearly 3000m above sea level and coming straight here means your body has to acclimatise a lot quicker, whereas we have gradually acclimatised over the last four days, something which should stand us in good stead when we go higher.

Chame is nice, a slightly bigger town and we found a good guesthouse, with free wifi, which means I can send out the last few days updates once I’ve finished writing this. It was good to have a shorter day today, my knees, feet and shoulders are feeling better now they have had a few days to get used to it, but a bit more rest for today and probably tomorrow will be good.

I’ve had a really hot shower and eaten a lot of coconut cookies (which are delicious) and now I’m in the room just writing up the last few days, I was so exhausted last night I didn’t write anything, I just fell asleep! Tomorrow we are off to Pisang, and then from there the day after we go to Manang, the last big town before the pass, where we will stop a few days to acclimatize to the altitude and rest before we reach the pass. I doubt I’ll find more wifi tomorrow, so my next update will be in Manang in a few days.

While we had wifi I also managed to speak to Soph for a bit on Skype, it was good to hear from her, I don’t think we’ve been apart for this long in the whole time we’ve been together. I’m missing home in general more than I thought I would at this point, and Soph in particular.

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