4 October 2010 – Day 16 Kagbeni to Marpha
Morning call at 6.30am by Shanker and we’re at breakfast by 7.05am with the pre ordered French toasts and black tea for all. After settling the bill the Didi of the house garlanded us with the kata scarf for good luck on our journey. We made our way out of town and just on the outskirts, Marina asked if we’ve left our iPod shuffle behind and Shanker went to check and could not find anything so it must’ve been tucked aside somewhere in our packs.
The entire morning’s walk was pleasant enough with light winds and it’s great advise from Shanker that we start early to avoid the full force of the wind as it kicks up later. Trailing behind a goat herder boy with his 140 heads to the river was kinda fun. We also spent the rest of the journey scouring the bed of the Kali Gandaki for fossils with Shanker the only person finding one which was gifted to Adam. The young man found some interesting pieces too and will be lugging some rocks home with him as souvenirs.
We got into Jomsom at 10am and after checking in with ACAP decide to order lunch at the Hotel Majesty. It took a while before our food came and we were happy enough to sit around and rest our tired body. Lunch was a long drawn out affair and we only continued our journey to Marpha at 1pm and boy was it blowing then. We were blown away by not only the wind but the dust that kicked up especially when the jeeps and buses sped by. Was constantly thinking why are we walking on dusty windy roads when jeep and bus service are available and decided there and then that we shall do no more walking until we get to Tatopani where there are no roads and vehicles to Ghorepani and trekking will again be pleasant. So tomorrow onwards we will be on jeeps or buses enjoying the view instead of being blinded by dust.
Got into Marpha at around 2.30pm and settled into our guesthouse called Dhaulagiri Hotel and are all thrilled that our room again have an ensuite bathroom with piping hot water and a seating toilet. The first to shower, I was totally re-energized after and am ready to go again. Will do a tour around the village later and we’re thrilled to be informed that there will be the “Lama Festival” on tomorrow from 11am so we’ll stick around and catch the 2pm bus to Larjung our next stop. Am looking forward to a photo “candy store” at the festival tomorrow.
Like Kagbeni, Marpha village left an impression on us. I went out on a casual stroll and just 30 paces on, decided to go back to get Marina and Adam even though they had said that they will do the tour tomorrow. Walking the narrow cobbled street and stone walled structures reminded me of the old walls of the old medieval castles of Europe. Souvenir shops and little cafe dot the entire village streets and a majestic monastery or Gompa sits atop the highest point of the village accessible by way of a very well built stairway lined by prayer wheels in the middle dividing the way up and down.
I checked out some of the arts shops whilst Adam and Marina were frantically looking for me even going up to the Gompa which I never made it to as it was earlier decided that we will do it tomorrow during the festival. Meeting up eventually at the guesthouse, I got to see some photo and video footage of the puja they were having there. Dinner was served by the guesthouse waiter Som who had worked in Malaysia for 5 years previously and spoke fluent Malay. Marina had Ginger chicken, I had chicken curry and Adam had Macaroni with cheese and mushroom and also an egg & cheese sandwich. After dinner Adam shared his stories of the time he was real sick with us and after this story we started discussing adventure activities like mountaineering and diving. All this while firecrackers and fireworks were firing from the Gompa and drums being beaten, all lending an air of festivity like Chinese New Year as Adam puts it.
5 October 2010 – Day 17 Marpha to Larjung
A lazy morning of sleeping in and long breakfast before heading out to the Gompa for the “Dancing Lama” festival. Was welcomed with the traditional Kata Scarf and was kinda obliged to give a donation which was fine too. We collectively gave 500NR equivalent of RM25 and were given locally organically grown apples. The crowds soon piled in and the show started with a procession of monks in different attired and the range of musical instruments such as the long horns, shell horns, cymbals, big drums, hand twisting drums, bells, etc. Shot away happily and hopefully some of the images will turn out well. Soon the place was packed with locals and tourists and it was really difficult to move around but luckily we secured our place early and so we continued to shoot away.
Some of the dance performances were a little drawn out and long and after the 4th item we were ready to get back to have lunch before the bus trip to Larjung at 4pm. Lunch was the delicious chicken Ginger which was our own recipe coupled with the sambal ikan bills pedas, absolutely wonderful.
After lunch at about 3.30pm we went to the main roadside to wait for our bus which did not show up till at least 4.45pm and when it did it was full so the operators decided to call on another bus which had been parked there since an hour ago. We started moving at 5pm and the sun was already getting low. This will become one of Adam’s horror bus stories as wi us in the small bus were a group of at least 7 boisterous girls heading back fate attending the festival all hyped up, noisy and obnoxious screaming at the top of their voice at the pretense of singing.
After a horrendous hour and a half we arrived at a non descript section of the rubble road and was told that this was the last stop for us. It was a 10 minutes walk from there to the main street of Larjung which was dark and lonely as there was a power blackout at the moment. Checked into the Mount Ice View Hotel and after settling into the room we were at the dining room waiting for dinner and hearing Adam’s curses at the terror girls which coupled with the bumpy ride had left him kinda rattled and ill. After dinner we retired at around 8.30pm.
6 October 2010 – Day 18 Larjung to Tatopani
Woke up several times in the night for the toilet and also in anticipation for the morning as the principle reason for us to be in Larjung is to photograph Daulagiri and it’s icefall. Finally woke up at 6.10am, a quick morning ritual and was out shooting. Was still rather dark and grey until a slither of gold appeared on the summit of the 8th tallest mountain Daulagiri which slowly and gradually extended to the entire mountain. Should have taken the tripod out but the terrain is also unsuitable for it anyway so ended just shooting handheld. The mountain was so so close you could touch it and the icefall really looked treacherous. Shanker shared that Daulagiri is a most difficult mountain to summit and had claimed many lives and that he had also lost one of his good friend 3 years ago. Daulagiri is the highest mountain in the Annapurna Region. The other two 8000m peaks in the area are Annapurna 1 & Manaslu.
After using up another CF card we had a quick breakfast of guess what, noodles soup and French toast and we were off chasing after the 9am bus. As we were just 10 paces from our guesthouse entrance we heard the funny honk of the bus and started running to the main road some 70m away. Adam was in such a rush as he went to buy 2 bars of Snickers that he lost his Buff, something we had guess that he will.
The bus was full but had 2 seats facing backwards behind the driver and a half a chair in the front row with a fat lady. We all squeezed in fearing that the next bus might be hours away. Marina and I sat on the 2 seats facing backwards behind the driver whilst Adam sat next to the fat lady, Shanker and the boys somehow fitted into any space they could find and seemed comfortable enough. Adam was all smiles at the start and laughed at the funny bus honk and also pretended that he was riding a mountain bike as the bus negotiated a river crossing early on. He slowly faded and started turning paler as the journey got on and soon he was complaining that he was not getting enough oxygen even though everyone else was alright. At the rest stop he rushed out gasping for air and dreaded getting back on board and even vocally said that he did not want to sit next to the lady with the fat ass that had not washed upon which we quickly reprimanded him. Three quarters later we were at Ghasa and Adam again rushed out and looked as though he was going to faint. He was asking at the possibility of walking instead of taking the next sector bus trip to Tatopani. After Shanker came back from the ACAP check post he quickly got us on the next bus leaving for Tatopani and we urged Adam on to get a window seat which he did, the last but one row to the back. At this stage he was in no mood for anything so he just sat and tried to block out the journey. About half way through a horrendously bumpy ride where Marina and I sat at the back row, he suddenly said “I feel like throwing up” at which case I told him to stick his head out the window which he did and chucked. He nearly did it on a passer by woman and in the process also got whitewashed with dust. An hour later we arrived at Tatopani and boy was Adam relieved. He was under the weather for at least 3 hours after our arrival and it was not until after we visited the hot spring at Tatopani that he started coming back to life again. Marina and my dip at the hot spring was really good and rejuvenating. We spent the afternoon having a good shower and resting and at 4.30pm went down to have afternoon tea, the chocolate cake was surprisingly good and straight after I went to get my camera and tripod for the sunset shot of Nilgiri South with Tatopani Bazaar in the foreground. Our hotel have perhaps the best vantage roof top seating area so I sat up the tripod and camera at the best spot and took many bracketed shots, hopefully with HDR the end result will be as stunning as the real life experience.
Tonight is Diwali and we are shouting dinner with Shanker and the boys and having our first Everest beer since our arrival in Nepal, boy it sure taste good. I am sitting here finishing this and feeling a little bit of the anti social bugger with a high tech toy so I will pen off here and enjoy Diwali celebrations with our friends and comrades who have helped us through all the past 15 days we’ve been on the trek. More tomorrow when we get to Sikha our next stop.
Finished dinner and went to the hotel’s main door to watch the Diwali entertainment, men and ladies singing to a minus one recording and little girls dancing and urging guests to join in. Adam and Marina got tikka-ed and gave some small gift of money while I escaped as I was wearing my Buff. Retired to room for sleep at 8.30pm and Adam decided to go out again to join in the excitement till later. Tomorrow we walk again so Bette get a good night’s rest.
7 October 2010 – Day 19 Tatopani to Sikha
The day started as usual with yours truly getting ready and heading out to breakfast to order for everyone as well. Went back to the room and a while later was told that tea was already on the table so went back to the breakfast area to wait for Marina and Adam. Soon our breakfasts came and there was still no sight of them so decided to go ahead and have breakfast first. I finished my breakfast and they were still no where to be seen so I headed to the room to see what was up and as I approached our door I could hear Marina yelling “whoo hoo” and rattling the door. Evidently I must’ve accidentally latched the door by just a little to lock them in. Having let them loose they scurried to breakfast.
After paying for the Himalayan Hotel by my credit card and getting some extra cash out from the hotel owner, we headed out of Tatopani towards our destination for the day Sikha. Walking along the main road for about 20 minutes, we crossed a long suspension bridge where some 50 goats plunged to their death just last year according to Shanker. Then we were in village paths and village roads whee the only odd vehicle we saw were parked jeeps as today was still a holiday.
A beautiful walk today through nice villages with little tea sheds for Trekkers and garlands draped across the pathways to add an atmosphere of festivity. We started the trek this morning at 8.26am and we arrived at Sikha at 12.06pm making it a 3 1/2 hour walking day today. Although much of it was climbing, it is quite noticeable that all 3 of us have become stronger walkers and climbers and going uphill does not leave us breathless anymore.
Settled into yet another Moonlight Guesthouse we had a full lunch with the spicy ikan bills sambal with egg fried rice. After freshening up with hot showers as the sun was still up, we relaxed at the rooftop until I nearly fell of the chair sleeping. Marina and I then decided a siesta was in order and retired to the bedroom where I slept soundly for a good 3 hours or so. Gosh I hope we’ll be able to sleep again tonight. Am now sitting in the dining hall next to our room deciding what to have for dinner when in fact am still full up from the big lunch. We’re the only guests tonight so the kitchen staff is waiting only for us.
Tomorrow we head to Ghorepani with the Poon Hill experience the following day and if it’s not too much back to Pokhara the same day too. We’ll see tomorrow.