Hiking the Himalayas: Part One
Day 2: Bhulbhule to Lampata
After a breakfast of delicious Tibetan bread while receiving advice from Rupesh, whom we had quickly added to our circle of friends, we headed out with the mission of reaching Bahundanda. With Gabe as our navigator due to his previous trekking experience, we made our way up a fairly steep hill for about an hour. That is until a local passing by asked us what we were planning on doing in Usta, a remote village completely off the beaten path and away from our destination. Realizing our mistake, we backtracked and made our way down to the river, which we quickly learned generally follows the route of the trail. In the middle of the afternoon we arrived at Lampata and stopped at the first guesthouse. The owner, a gleeful stoner/possibly alcoholic man named Ubu, informed us of the natural hot springs nearby. After convincing us to post up for the night, we set off in search of the hot springs while Ubu prepared a soup made with the local greens from his garden. (I’m referring to mustard greens, not the marijuana that was naturally growing in the backyard.)
Soaking in the hot springs for a half hour was quite refreshing, providing a stark contrast between the scalding hot water and the crisp, cool air. Getting out of the hot springs provided a bit of a head rush, leaving us momentarily light headed. We decided a quick dip in the river was called for and climbed down, jumping in the very cold but refreshing water, and headed back to the guesthouse. Here our soups awaited us, and damn if it wasn’t some of the most flavorful soup I’ve ever tasted, just as Ubu promised. As some locals stopped by, we shared some raksi with them, a local spirit made from millet that tastes like watered down soft whisky.
Somehow the conversation turned to soccer and we learned that there was a pickup game going on nearby and bolted up the trail to catch it before the sun set. A bunch of kids, ranging in age from 10-15ish, were playing on a deserted, two-tiered rice patty with goals on each end. In order to score for the direction we were going, we had to chip the ball over a 3 foot rise, hurdle up, and then take a winded shot. We played for the better part of an hour, loving every second of the pickup game, and laughing hysterically with the kids whenever Gabe farted.
I woke up the next morning to some pussy in my sleeping bag…Ubu’s kitten that is. The adorable little cat had found its way into my warm -20 Celsius sleeping bag and shifted positions every time I did. I guess he was as reluctant to leave its warmth as I was.
Day 3: Lampata to Chyanje
On our hike towards Chyanje we encountered the road for the first time. There is a road that is being constructed along the entire circuit that is a big source of debate. Many locals fear that it disturbs the natural beauty of the circuit, which I must admit it does. Walking on flat dirt just doesn’t have the same, unadultured natural feeling as climbing over rocks. On the other hand, this road greatly reduces the cost of goods for locals up the mountains by cutting transportation costs and it also allows for quicker emergency rescue if necessary. This made me think of all the hardships that most Nepali’s are faced with in everyday life, such as the lack of electricity, safe drinking water, and overall security. Watching a porter carrying 50 kilos up a mountain with a leather strap around his forhead to bear the weight, you can’t help but feel fortunate and grateful for what you have. Watching them bear this burden with a smile and a greeting of “Namaste!” I had the following thought: “A smile is suffering’s greatest foe.” The spirit of the Nepali people is what makes them endure, and it is awesome to witness firsthand.
After a while, the road led to a junction where we could take an alternate route along a trail. We took the road less travelled and were greeted by a babbling brook, flowing through lush green forest. The water’s soothing tones immersed us once again into nature, and we made our way to Chamche where we loaded up on Snickers and got a room for the night.
Day 4: Chyanje to Bagarchap
Our morning started off with a disagreement with the guesthouse owner. When we had arrived at Chyanje the day before we made a verbal agreement with one of the workers to get dinner and rooms for the flat rate of 1,000 rupees for the three of us. When we went to pay the next morning, the owner of the guesthouse, a very stubborn woman, told us that this was bogus and that our bill was 2,300 rupees. Refusing to pay this, she called the worker who had left early that morning, gave him a solid tongue lashing, and then said that he had been drinking yesterday and anything he said was invalid. Effectively telling her this was bullshit, we graciously gave her 1,650 rupees to split the difference and left as she promised to call the police at the next town to greet us on arrival.
The trail from Chamche to Bagarchap took the difficulty of our hike to the next level. Working our way to the town of Tal we climbed steep, calf-busting, banks. Relic’s pack, a 90 liter behemoth weighing in at over 30 kilos that we affectionately called “The Black Banana” was taking him to pound town. After a long day of hiking, we settled down at a guesthouse that had a fire in it’s common room, a very welcome addition to our lives.
Day 5: Bagarchap to Chame
The trek from Bagarchap to Chame was rather uneventful aside from the breathtaking views that we had become accustomed to. The tropical vegetation began to shift with the altitude into a more coniferous landscape. Mango trees were replaced by large pine trees, many of whose branches only grew on one side, the side opposite the wind. At night, it was frigid and we huddled around the fire with a large group of Chinese chain smokers. By this point, we were experiencing some digestive issues, which I had taken to calling the “dal butt”. It involves an intense bubbling of the stomach, frequent roadside emergency dookies, and an overall discomfort in the stomach.
Day 6: Chame to Lower Pisang
Crossing yet another suspended bridge, we got our first glimpse of snow on the ground. This was a solid hike, leaving us a little sore. As we got to the Lower Pisang, we checked into a guesthouse and played soccer in the street with the owner’s son and spun the owner’s daughter around like a human helicopter. Up here, the altitude is noticeable as Gabe and Relic both started to experience a shortage of breath and mild light headedness. It is especially evident on steep inclines when taking a full breath is difficult.