It appears that the monsoon has arrived about a month early. And while this means beautiful fireworks shows in the skies, and incredible thunderclaps shaking the walls, it also means that my explorations of Kathmandu may have to be postponed ’til I return in October.
It’s a city that can be difficult to appreciate fully upon first glance. But once one begins to veer from the beaten path, and look between the cracks, its wonders begin, little by little, to reveal themselves. And before you know it, you’re intoxicated.
Day 7 – Upper Pisang to Chame
Once I got outside, and set off down the trail a bit…
…I began to feel pretty good, even thinking that I should perhaps give Manang a try after all. But by the time I’d reached Lower Pisang – steep descents can be more taxing than one might think – it was obvious that that would be out of the question.
My goal was Chame, and heaping quantities of sweet, juicy Grapes. I figured that keeping a modest pace, I could manage it in four or five hours. Turned out to be right on the mark, but there were times when I wasn’t sure I could make it. I did more less okay on the flat stretches, but even the slightest incline for the shortest duration had me sweating in rivers and panting for air. Luckily, there were a lot more of the former than there were the latter.
But it was fun hiking in the wrong direction. Hiking counter-clockwise, you know there are lots of other trekkers on the trail at the same time, but don’t really see them so much. But hiking the other way, you see them at just the right frequency: enough to stop and enjoy a bit of a chat, and feel not so alone on the mountain; but not so much that it becomes a burden to have to talk to or acknowledge scads of fellow-trekkers coming at you 24/7.
There were plenty of locals out and about as well, performing various tasks. Included among them:
If my body, in its weakened state, was being taxed close to its limit, my eyes were enjoying the feast of a lifetime. When we’d hiked this route a few days before, it’d been totally socked in with clouds. But while the scenery had still been enjoyable enough, if we’d known what we’d been missing, we’d have probably been forlorn beyond imagining (either that, or have stopped and waited for clear skies).
Because, holy fucking shit. If this feels like far too many photos to give a taste of the experience, at least know that I actually took so very many more.
Arrived to Chame safe and sound…
…and made a beeline for the Grape-seller lady. And, no Grapes. Had had a feeling that that could end up being the case, but was still fairly gutted. Walking dejectedly back to my Lodge, though, I noticed another Grapes-selling stand: a father/daughter operation. Preparing to get two kilos then, and another two in the morning, it occurred to me that these cats could be sold out by morning, so I told ‘em to serve me up four kilos.
Here my limited-but-persistent knowledge of Urdu came in handy again. The two were pretty confused – “Char.” … “Char??” Recognising the word for “four”, I eagerly repeated, “Yeah! Char! Char! Char!” Which prompted first them, and then myself, to bust out laughing. Here he is weighing them out.
The most astonishingly scenic hiking ever, followed by mountains of fresh, delicious Grapes down by the roaring river: this was a good day.
On my way down to the river for lunch, I passed a French girl lounging in the garden area in front of her Lodge. I offered her some Grapes, and she rather cluelessly assumed: “Oh, you bought too many, and you can’t finish them all?”
Laughing out loud, I responded, “Oh, believe me, I can finish them [I’d only brought half of the four kilos with me]. But I like sharing fruit!”
On my way back up, she was still sitting there, so I stopped to chat for a while. Turned out she had taken ill as well. This was to be her third night in Chame; and she would decide in the morning whether to go on ahead, or turn back.
Indeed, since returning to Alobar, I’ve talked to a great many people who had come down with more less the same symptoms I’d had – but they all took anti-diahhreal meds, reasoning that, “Trekking when you have diarrhea is not fun.” A sentiment with which I can fully agree…but, fuckin’ drugs, they ain’t for me. Also here at Alobar at the moment are three – count ‘em! – peeps who had to get choppered back to Kathmandu from the Everest base camp trek: one because of a broken ankle, one because of a broken elbow, and one because of extreme AMS.
Day 8 – Chame to Danakyu
I felt better on this day, but also there was more up and down hiking on this day, so it was still a pretty good struggle – and also another snowy smorgasbord for the eyes. If this day’s scenery – again new to me, as Kieran and I had hiked this stretch under cover of cloud – didn’t surpass the previous day’s it was at least its equal. Prepare for another photographic onslaught…
The final stretch, from Timang to Danakyu, was particularly magical, as not only were the mountain peaks still prominent, but the drop in elevation meant that now the road (we’d taken the trail on the way up) was also passing through lush areas of water and tree.
Had intended to hike to Dharepani – another hour or so away — but by the time I reached Danakyu, it had begun to rain, so I stopped at the same Lodge as we’d done on the way up.
Not only was the grandson in his usual amped-up state, but his sister was there as well. Together they formed the most misbehaved team of hoodlums perhaps in the entire universe. Ah, well. On the upside, it was a right stormy night: not only rainy, but quite windy as well.
I passed a girl in the hall, checking in shortly after me, and she asked me how may day had been. After searching some moments for some words to describe, I could only, at last, excitedly stammer, “Amazing!”
And indeed it had been a staggeringly fine two days. It’s funny: I’d have liked to have gone over the pass with Kieran (and Alex if he’d been around). But apart from that, I really can’t regret having had to turn back. Could almost say just the opposite, considering how marvelous were those two days’ hikes – easily the best two days of all my Nepal trekkings. Well, shit plays out the way it does for a reason, as they say.