Monsoon hiking, Buddhist sites and guitar shopping

Trip Start Feb 05, 2009
Trip End Dec 16, 2010

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Impulsively decided to go trekking in the Rolwaling Himachal with Mara and Martin, who were great company! Traveling around the world in a van turned me into a less active person so this hiking trip turned out to be a physical challenge for me…And although cursing the mountain climbs from time to time, I loved being active again and away from busy Kathmandu! Not the best period for trekking in the middle of the Rainy monsoon season with lots of leeches to fight off, wet camping nights and no views because of everlasting clouds, but the waterfalls were amazing and no other tourists in sight! After 12 days, riding back ON the bus to Kathmandu, staying again at Sini's apartment, Mara and Martin staying with me for the remainder of their Nepal stay! Some days relaxing, some days Buddhist sites seeing and buying a guitar…mine ;-))

Beginning of July, meeting up with Mara and Martin again, whom I have met in India before… Impulsive decision to go trekking with them; It turned out to be a good one ;-)

Next day early morning we gather at 'my’ place to sort stuff out and have last cup of tea! 2 hours later we are IN and ON the bus towards Charikot, town in East Nepal, our starting point of the trekking. Not possible to take the local bus to Singathi as they are working on the road for unknown time! That evening we sleep in a proper bed for the last time (or so we think) and I see the last 10 min. of the WK2010 quarter finales NL-BRZ, due to all the preps with the kids and the hype around it, I even got sucked into the Football madness…part of me is even disappointed that the rest of the matches cannot be viewed, as we leave civilization tomorrow! Luckily for me this feeling did not linger for long! 10 days later… it was one of the first things I asked though: how did Netherlands do? Made it into the finals….unbelievable!

From Charikot we decided to follow a trail leading into Rolwaling Himachal; a relatively easy hike following the river most of the time. From Charikot at 1930m, going down to Singathi at 800m, slowly making our way to Beding at 3680m. And back again. See photo for complete hike (marked in green).

Even thought the first day was mostly going downhill, my legs were complaining a lot! I tried to ignore them as much as possible ;-) After a long day (took a while to find camp spot) we crash down next to the river, enjoying a river bath and a hot cup of tea….until the first Monsoon rain came to greet us! Quickly we seek shelter under a factory shed, unfortunately inhabited by lots of hairy spiders, making it difficult to have a relaxed meal. On top of that a local guy kindly reminds us that with heavy rain the river floods the banks, not save to camp there! So in the pouring rain we transfer to his little (not rainproof) cabin and drop dead for the night….tomorrow another day!

The Monsoon comes quickly but also leaves quickly…only the wet sand and our wet things are a reminder of the heavy rain before. The weather gods are nice to us as the sun shows herself to dry our things! The trekking continues…for about 1 hour. During our lunch break in Singathi the Monsoon greets us again. We decide to take it easy and book a room and relax for the rest of the day. During the wet season the best option is to travel early morning before the monsoon, which is what we plan to do the next day.

Locals know best, so we start walking at around 07.00 with a dry blue sky. The trail now follows the river upstream, taking us past lots of waterfalls (good shower spots!), over many bridges and through little villages. We share the trail with local porters (carrying 50-120kg goods to their end destination, high into the mountains! Price: only 500Rp (= 6 euro) for 50kg, plus his food and night accommodation!), donkeys (used for transport as well) and locals. No tourist in sight (we are the only crazy monsoon trekkers!). Rain and a summer tent not a good combi, so we are looking for a sheltered camp spot: in Gonggar an abandoned house with porch, perfect! During the evening lots of people pass by and watch the tv program: 3 camping tourists making tea and food! So nice to be in the spotlights all the time, not.

The trail takes us higher and more remote. We stop at a local shop for a tea break when Martin points out that we have to go up that high hill, whaaatt?! Slik, ok. 2 hours later we made it up to Simigaon, fighting of the first leeches. Never knew I could sweat this much! Lunch at the monastery? Sure, Mara and I both thought we only had to walk for another 5 min., only to realize later that they always built monasteries at the very TOP, one we could not see from our starting point….so another 2 hours later, getting lost in the process, we make it there! Breathtaking in every way! Too tired to cook ourselves, we go and have a Daal Bath (Typical Nepali dish: rice, lentils and a potato green leave combi). One of many during this trip! There are no monks living at this monastery anymore, the temple is only used by the inhabitants of Simigaon during festivals. Bit disappointing, but the building is beautiful with lots of paintings and a huge praying wheel and the views (even though cloudy) are amazing from here. We decide to camp at the monastery; Special in many ways.

The next day we continue our climb. This time passing through Leeche Living Quarters! Every 50m we have to stop to fight of these little jumping, sucking, slimy things that find their way to our shoes, trousers, walking stick-onto-hand and sometimes even neck…quicker then we can imagine. It does slow us down enormously and takes the fun away from hiking a bit ;-( But nevertheless, we enjoy the mushroom search (another Czech guy with us with knowledge!), wild strawberries, raspberries and the fact that we cannot hear anything except the rushing water and the wind!

Our stop for the night at this Sherpa family in Tongang village (total of 4 houses!) giving us true Sherpa hospitality. The family is friendly, generous, not commercial and just happy to help us out. As tourist-porters we exchange some of our goods for a meal (she makes the best Daal Bath!) and learn Sherpa language at the fire, drying our things in the process. Also on the way back from Beding (it is not a circular trail) we stop again at their place, this time only for lunch. Leaving with a piece of cheese, a huge mushroom and my Nepali souvenir, a wooden whisker! Tasshi Dele!

The last part of the trail to Beding leads us through dense forest, wild flowers and into the clouds. Good thing: there are no leeches at this altitude! Unfortunately being this high brings along more rain, hiking wet and cold most of the time… Crossing many more waterfalls, stopping at an abandoned village (people only live here in the summer) for the best wild mushroom lunch and trying not to slip on the wet stones. I have to stop every 200m to catch my breath, at this altitude there is only 67% of oxygen. Nothing extreme, but as I am not in the best of shapes it does effect me already. Then finally we have Beding in sight! At 3650m this is out final destination for this trip. Turns out most of the villagers are in the Nagaon for a festival, leaving us only 2 overprized lodges to choose from…Ohm mani padme um. What to do. We settle in one of them for 2 nights, relaxing, cooking, talking and sleeping.

With renewed energy we make our way back towards Charikot, this time traveling more quickly as it is mostly downhill. Our last camping spot at the river, just before the big climb up to Dolakha is the best of all! Even a camp fire at night! Nature life is good!

At the end of this last climb up (1000m rise, I just barely made it)…I collapse mentally, tears flowing, almost throwing up, Mara points out to me that this 11-day trip was like a physical vipassana for me, with lots of keep-going-mental-challenges. I am very proud I pulled it off, without any preparations (as with so many things in my life)! When is the next trekking? ;-)

Back to Kathmandu: we travel ON the bus. No seat belts, many more people, goats and rain! Nepali life is happening on the bus, not in it; a pleasant mixture of singing, charras smoking and curious people, sharing space with a goat and lots of goods, and us. Normally all people have to go inside the bus upon entering Kathmandu city, but we are allowed to lie flat, hiding from the police, making this bus trip one of the best! (I guess the fact that we smelled so badly has something to do with this!)

That evening we are back in Patan, at Sini’s place, finally taking a warm shower and taking of the by now very bad smelling cloths, shoes and socks! Will we ever get the stench out? Mara and Martin stay with me for the remainder of their stay in Nepal, until taking the plane to China. We spent our time relaxing in the house, visiting some famous Buddhist sites, going to the cinema for  the newest Bollywood movie and shopping of a guitar! Martin, a very good guitar player himself, helped me out. Finally, after years of yes/no I decided to buy one myself! (only 35 euros for a simple metal string one). Time to start practicing…

By now I am alone at the apartment as M&M took the plane to China and my host is still on holidays in Finland…enjoying Kathmandu life, meeting people and arranging some things. More about this later! Till next time!

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