Escape to the Himalayas

We left Kathmandu for a 5 hour road journey. Our Village Ways contact said the road was 70% good and 30% atrocious. After a few hours we crossed a big iron bridge over a large river and started climbing higher and higher.

We entered a small village where our driver paid a small toll fee to enter the mountain region.

We passed busses with people sat on the top, same price in or out apparently, along steep winding roads many small villages along the route. We were all thinking we couldn’t climb higher, but we did…

We entered an enormous forest and the road became thick slippy mud like a WW1 battlefield and boulders like broken teeth littering the track, fallen trees pushed to the side of an already narrow track. There were mind numbing drops and I still have the fingerprint bruises on my leg from Trish! It reminded me of a ‘Top Gear special- the worst road in the world’. We thought we had already been there in our previous journeys but now we knew they were a ‘walk in the park’ a breeze compared to this. All part of the fun.

The driver was amazing, skilled and careful, driving a 30 year old Land Cruiser with great dexterity. He got a big tip when we arrived in our village called Solambu. We were greeted by our guides Sambhu and Buddha and about 10 children aged from 3 to 10 years old who scampered excitedly ahead down the rocky path to our guesthouse.

We ate smoked buffalo, assorted veggies, rice and cucumber salad, cooked by 2 lovely village women, one of them Sambhu’s mum. It thrashed it down and we hoped it would soon pass over. Sambhu asked if we wanted alcohol, yes came the quick reply. They make it from corn and rice and the only way to describe it, is a cross between paint thinners and rocket fuel, it made your eyebrows curl..only once !

Sambhu, Buddha and our 2 amazing cooks

After breakfast once the mist had disappeared we went for our village walk. The village has 5 families with many generations, lots of siblings with their families. Women were hard at work cutting maize and hauling produce up the steep paths. All very curious of the visitors.

We stopped at the mill which grinds corn into flour, polishes rice and mills oil for all the villagers. It had a shop which sold everything a village could possibly need.

We walked up to the Buddhist temple at the top of the hill passing an enormous pig with 12 tiny 15 day old piglets and a co-operative store.

There were villagers interested in who we were and all asked us if we wanted a drink, it was 10.30 and everyone seemed already well on their way. I think it must have been the village pub! The villagers say it keeps them warm…..that’s a new one.

We went to our guide Buddha’s home, met his parents and looked at all the livestock. Cows, a pig, goats and saw a baby buffalo which was really cute.

We also met the ‘dancing granny’. She was part of the welcome party and loves to dance, she is 85 and a real character. She also tried to ply us with alcohol. She had a grip of steel from years of hard graft. There was no escape for Chris..we all had to dance with her.

Dancing granny

Sunset from one of the high ridges.

We had a long walk up to the next village, 6 hours. First walking down from 1800m to 1000m then across a wobbly bridge over the river and then up to 1500m.

Crickets on the path

Walking up from the bridge I really thought I was going to expire, it was now midday and very hot a gruelling walk. My legs turned to lead, my heart felt like it would explode it was so fast and I struggled to get air in. After a bottle of sprite and a couple of biscuits from a village shop half way up I felt much better and was able to continue. We stayed in another village overnight and the heavens opened. Torrential rain battering the tin roofs, rolling thunder slicing through the valley and the road in the village turned into a stream. We just sat and read our books.

Again the next day another brutal 6 hour walk, straight up, relentless slippy boulder strewn paths, winding our way up the mountainside.

‘Whose idea was this’ I kept asking myself, it was mine!

We left the dark, damp overgrown paths and came out onto a ‘sound of music’ open meadow hillside with a magnificent view of the mountain range.

We eventually arrived to a lovely guesthouse. It was worth the heavy legs and feeling of utter exhaustion for this moment. We were told when we reached the tented camp that the next day the view would be even better, hard to believe. We were very lucky with the weather.

Our guesthouse

We got up at 5.30 the following morning to wait for sunrise. The mountains softened into indistinct shapes by the darkness. As it became lighter, a crystal clear day, the mist hanging like lakes of marshmallow in the valleys. It’s immense, almost spiritual, with a feeling of calm and quiet that is hard to describe we just sat and looked, awestruck.

After breakfast the walk up to 2,900 metres, a 5 hour hike. Our porters came for our bags.

We knew the first 2k would be hard, steep and arduous. You just stare at your feet navigating the slippy clay and uneven rocks a twisted ankle or worse was not worth thinking about half way up a remote mountainside. The guides were exceptional, constantly helping us up tricky climbs that looked impossible. We were ecstatic when we entered the thick pine forest.

Narrow paths, not so steep with glimpses of the magnificent mountains through the trees, occasionally opening up into wide meadows.

The tinkling of yak bells, the herds grazing all around. We crazily burst into ‘ high on a hill with a lonely goatherd’ well Trish and I did, the guides looking confused but giggling.

As we got higher, towering rhododendron trees with enormous girths surrounded us. Some had been hit by lightning strikes at the top. We had arrived at the tented camp for our overnight stay. Hallelujah.

There was only 6 houses in the village, 6 friendly dogs, a shop (which was owned by our cook) and goats and chickens.

We arrived at the shop, almost the whole village was in there. We had a black coffee, bought beers and we sat. They are a friendly, jolly bunch of people who live in the harshest of conditions. They laughed at us (I’m sure), in a lovely way. Curious of the 3 blonde softies sat in their shop, it was all very good natured. We had a camp fire and put on every item of clothing we possessed.

The next morning we got up at 5 am for a 1k walk straight up hundreds of steps to the viewpoint for sunrise, 3,200m, the air is thin. This was the pinnacle of our trip. It took an hour. It was breathtaking.

It was hard to get those legs up in the air

After breakfast a 4 hour descent back down to Pasaben. We have a 2 night stay. We need it we are all really tired and everything hurts. Now we just want to sit and relax.

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