Saturday 12 November, 2011: New Delhi to Kathmandu
6 a.m.There are six of us flying from Delhi to Kathmandu this morning. We plan to spend the day exploring Kathmandu, and to leave for Besisahar by bus tomorrow, where the trek begins (or so we think). We meet at Terminal Three in New Delhi - Aditya and Nisha from Chennai, Abhilasha, I and Sekhar from Hyderabad and Asheesh from Delhi. Only four of us will complete the circuit, but let me not get ahead of the story.
9 p.m.The journey has begun badly for both Sekhar and me. The poor guy did not have a passport and could not board the flight. He is now travelling by road and will reach Kathmandu by tomorrow afternoon (it turns out that Indian citizens need either passport or voter's ID card when flying in to Nepal, but neither of the two if they drive in). My tragedy, thought far less tragic, is crippling. I'm down with severe diarrhea and have been pumping myself with medicines non stop.
Thamel is a typical touristy place, but unlike any I've seen before. It is bright and colorful, and sells everything that a traveler might desire or need at the beginning or end of his journey. I especially love the Sherpa and North Face stores, although they are a bit expensive. But there are good fakes too; and if you know how bargain well, you can get great deals. I paid 4000 NR for the fake down jacket that was to save my life at subzero temperatures, when the quoted price was 6500 NR. And I'm not so hot at the fine art of price negotiation.
Sunday, 13th November 2011:Thamel, Kathmandu
11 am. My diarrhea continues unabated. Sekhar has finally reached, after 29 hours of travel by flights, taxis, rickshaws and god knows what else. I find that one of the joys of travelling is how special commonplace things become. I tied a scarf around my neck just now, and remembered how Girish had taught me to wear the scarf in this style. And this made me miss Girish so much, like I had last seen him years instead of weeks ago! Or perhaps sickness and dehydration is making me sentimental.
9pm. God knows who said it before but its true we are slaves of our stomachs. Kathmandu looks ten times more charming this evening, now that my belly cramps are gone and my appetite's back. I went for a short walk, bought a Terry Pratchett, and read it over a hot dal-rice-aaloo subzi dinner. Life is good again.
Monday, 14 Nov 2011: Kathmandu to Syange
|Me and the yummy thukpa, at Besisahar|
You could start the trek at Besisahar, but it's a good idea to take the jeeps wherever they ply, because its better to be inside the jeep than outside where you would inhale the kilos of dust on the path. The trek is best started where the road, or what passes for a road in these parts, ends. Which is why I feel sad that the trekking path is getting shorter as the road keeps encroaching on what used to belong only to yaks, goats, and trekkers.
|Besisahar Bus Station (no kidding!)|
Day one - Tuesday, 15 Nov 2011: Syange to Dharapani. (17 km, 7.5 hours)
The first day of the climb - an ascent of over 600 metres. One of the tougher days. But also one of the most beautiful.
Syange to Jagat. 4km. 1 hour.
|Route from Syange to Jagat|
Jagat (1300m) to Chamje (1385m), 4km, 1.5 hours.
|Sekhar faces a decision|
There are two options to to choose from when you leave the village of Jagat. You could continue on the straight and narrow path that jeeps use, or you could follow the signboard on your left that says -"Way to Beautiful Old Trekking Route to Chamchhe and Manang". Of course, since we're suckers for lines like that, that's the route we took, but I'm told that the other is beautiful too, with a trail that continues by the river, and goes through a forest of pine trees and rhododendrons. The old trekking route will show you various abandoned guesthouses, and a waterfall with a rainbow. We stopped for tea at the predictably named Rainbow Waterfall guesthouse. It is important to remember to hydrate yourself well on this route, since you may not often feel thirsty. Ginger tea is a popular choice and is rather refreshing.
Chamje to Tal (1700m), 5 km, 2.5 hours
Chamje to Tal is a steep ascent of nearly 400 metres. It has some difficult bits, some stretches where you would feel grateful for a walking stick if you had one (I recommend one for this circuit, by the way). And the village of Tal....I'm going to try and describe it. After about two hours of climbing through a densely forested trail, you see a gate on top of small hill that says 'Welcome to Tal'. You start climbing the hill, happy for the rest your weary feet will get for a while, because you have planned to have lunch at Tal, the village that you read has been built on a former lake bed. You reach that gate, notice that the village is downhill, and then stand speechless for a while because the village has taken your breath away. There is blue lake on your left, and next to it, a villlage that looks like it belongs in a fairy tale. No picture can capture what the village looked like that afternoon.
Tal to Karte (1870m), 4 km, 1.5 hours
This one seems easy after the Chamje-Tal stretch. Karte is a sleepy little village and rather pretty, but not too many people stop here, because the bigger, more popular Dharapani is just an hour's walk away.
Karte to Dharapani (1900m), 2km, 45 min.
This one is a comfortable walk. Dharapani is a good place to spend the night, because the view in the morning is something that you will remember for a long time. The village lies in a canyon with mountains rising so high on both sides that one feels overwhelmingly small. And to feel small is isn't such a bad thing - it's great at straightening one's perspective. (So what was I worried about again? Really?) It was rather cold in the night, so I unpacked and wore my thermals here. And slept like a baby.
Day two - Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011: Dharapani to Chame, 16 km, 6.5 hours
An 800 m ascent. One tough stretch, rest a breeze.
Dharapani (1900m) to Bagarchhap (2160 m), 2km, 1hour
|Asheesh and Abhi, at Bagarchap|
Bagarchhap is surrounded by apple orchards. It has some great apple pie that they serve with warm custard. Yumm. Also, Bagarchap is where the Buddhist culture starts becoming noticeable. From here onwards, we will see prayer wheels in every village. Remember to always walk with the prayer wheels on your right.
Bagarchap to Damaq (2200m), 2 km, 1 hour
Another gentle stretch. It's becoming a little too easy, I think. Ha! It's good I know so little about what the rest of the day is about to bring.
Damaq to Thanchowk (2570 m), 6 km, 2.5 hours
|Sekhar and Jeremie, on the way to Thanchowk|
Thanchok to Chame (2710 m), 6km, 2 hours
Another easy stretch, with some great views, specially near Koto, which is a quiet little village just before Chame. Koto also has a Tibetan monastery which wikitravel recommends that you visit, but we were looking forward to getting to Chame and continued ahead. There's a checkpost and some tiny shops in Koto, where you can buy warm clothes, candies, etc.
After walking in so much quiet beauty for hours, the bustle in Chame comes as a shock. It is the adminstrative headquarters of Manang district, and has multiple shops that sell practically everything. They have a police headquarters here, and a doctor, and the biggest shocker - Internet!! Maybe I can go home and suggest to the Deloitte leadership that we set up an office here. I would never need vacation.
.....to be continued....
Day three - Thursday, 17 Nov 2011: Chame to Pisang (3250 m), 16 km, 5 hours.....