Trekking from Tumlingtar towards Makalu Basecamp returning via Arun Valley crossing Salpa Bhanjyang into Solukhumbu and ending in Jiri
When I walked the fabulous Kangchenjunga Trek last year I already knew that my next adventure would be to visit the neighbouring Makalu region. The amazing line up of white spectacular mountains, dominated by the impressive pyramide shaped Makalu 8462 m. itself, I had witnessed while walking among rhodedendrons and small villages on the Milke Danda Ridge on my way to the remote Kangchejunga Base Camp in 2012 had been stuck in my mind ever since.
Makalu Barun National Park & Conservation Area was established in 1992 and stretches some 2300 square km shared between Sankhuwasabha and Solukhumbu District in eastern Nepal. This makes it one of the largest national parks in the country. Few tourists visit this part of the country and the area remains far more peaceful and untouched compared to some of the other trekking hot spots in Nepal. In 2012 only 1520 foreign tourists visited this area !
Within the park there are some thirty Himalayan peaks towering 6000 metres and higher. Among them them are the fantastic looking peaks of Chamlang 7319 m. , Mera Peak 6476 m., Baruntse 7162 m. and the 5th.highest place on earth, the formidable Mount Makalu standing at 8463 metres.
The area has not only attracted professional mountianeers and adventure seeking trekkers over the years, but also a good number of biologists and wildlife experts. Between its tropical forests and icy peaks are rare plants and wild animals not seen many other places on this planet. With almost 30 species of rhododendron, 50 types of orchids, nearly 60 rare tree plants not found anywhere else, red pandas, snow leopards and himalayan black bears this area holds some very important and exclusive treasures.
The best time to go trekking in the Makalu area is between September – November and March-May. From my experience in October/November 2013 ( depending on the weather conditions in the mountains ) it is possible to do the whole trek from Tumlingtar to Makalu Basecamp as a teahouse trek. For those who expect any form of luxury lodging along this trek will probably be very disappointed. Food and sleeping facilities are very very basic as on most remote treks in this country. Be prepared for nothing but dal baht and noodles as the only food option in most places and do not expect to be resting your tired legs and body in a soft comfortable bed. . It was not until I reached the Solukhumbu district on the latter stages of my trek that the lodging standards started to improve.
About 35.000 people of diverse ethnic groups live in the Makalu Barun area. Most households consist of extremely poor farmers who engage in marginal agriculture and livestock herding. The hospitality and generousity I met among many of these people along the way was extraordinary.
This is my story :
Getting from the India-Nepal border to the trailhead at Tumlingtar
Rain was pouring down quite strongly when I arrived on my JetConnect flight at Bagdogra Airport well before noon. Getting a pre-paid non-aircon taxi ( 410 Inr ) to the India-Nepal border at the airport was easy and hassle free.
A serious looking bus accident halted traffic as we approached the border-towns of Panitanki ( India ) and Kakarbhitta ( Nepal ) reminded me that wet roads, old tired vehicles and questionable driving habits in some of these countries can sometimes be a very bad combination. The journey to the India-Nepal border at Kakarbhitta which normally takes about 40 minutes took us well over 1 hour this day, but I was still pretty sure I would be able to reach Dharan this day before sunset.
Immigration went smoothly until one of the authorities behind the desk tried to charge me and two other foreigners 100 Npr each, in addition to the Visa Fee, saying this was a so called “Festival Fee” everybody had to pay. I never accepted this scam and left the office 🙂
Kakarbhitta did not look like the busy,buzzling border town as I remember it from last year. Almost everything was locked up and closed with very few people on the street. It was pretty clear that the Dashain Festival was already making its impact.
Getting a taxi from the border to Dharan turned out to be a little more tricky and difficult than what I had anticipated, but after some hard negotiations I agreed to pay 5000 Npr for a private car taking me 110 km west to the city of Dharan at the foothills of the migthy Himalayas.
It kept raining for the entire 2 1/2 hours of my drive to the town which is perhaps most famous for its Ghurkas and its distinct clocktower located in the busy town centre. I had no ambition of going any further this day and checked in at the at the nearby HongKong Lodging & Fooding which offered basic facilites.
Next morning weather had only improved slightly and chances of some rain seemed very likely yet again. Getting a microbus ( 200 Npr ) to Hile from the main bus station at Bhanu Chowk next to the clocktower was easy and when the bus was a little bit more than just packed with people we were on our way up into the beautiful hills. Within 30 minutes or about 10 km north from Dharan we reached the small hillstation of Bhedetar 1420 m, which offers some excellent views down the endless dusty plains of Terai. If weather permits it is also possible to get a taste of Khumbakarna, Kangchenjunga, Makalu and Mount Everest from here.
Another hour in the somewhat cramped bus took us to Dhankuta Bazaar, another hill town and the district headquarter located about 1000 m. in the clouds, before finally arriving 30 minutes later at the small busy town of Hile 1850 m.
Through my agent in Kathmandu I had agreed to meet my guide here in Hile and together we would take on a long and hard trek up towards Makalu Basecamp and return back to the Arun Valley and walk all the way out to Jiri via the high passes of Salpa Bhanjyang, Surke La, Pangu La, Trakshindu La and Lamjura Bhanjyang.
Getting space and ticket in one of the Land Rovers plying the route between Hile and Tumlingtar turned out to be a little bit more troublesome than what I had expected and the reason was quite obvious. This was in the middle of the biggest and most celebrated festival period in the country when literally everybody tries to reach home to meet their family and relatives for worship and blessings. The scene at the ticket office was quite chaotic and according to my guide it would never be like this on a normal day.
After more than 7 hours of waiting we were finally handed two available seats. As daylight slowly started to fade away from the wonderful green hills around us we were eventually on our way down to the banks of the Arun River and Tumlingtar, the official starting point of our trek.
Driving in the remote areas of Nepal can be highly entertaining and sometimes unbearable nervewrecking. Coming down the bumpy narrow gravelroad from Hile we had a little bit of both and I could only trust the young driver and his vehicle that this edgy trip would eventually have a happy ending 🙂
As we were approaching lower areas it had already become completely dark and to make our somwhat creepy descent even more eventful we were suddenly stranded with a flat tyre in what felt like in the middle of nowhere. These people,however, certainly know how to deal with these matters in remote mountain areas like this and despite the awkward position of the car the problem was solved very solidly and effectively. In less than one hour we were back on four wheels again.
A little bit down the road we reached the small settlement of Leguwa located on the east side of the Arun Khola about half way between Hile and Tumlingtar. This was a far the driver would take us today and me and all the passengers had no choice but to stay here overnight. Among the 150 houses in Leguwa there were a few lodges as well and we picked the very basic Gauri Shankar Hotel next to the main road.
Early next morning we were all back in the car again ready to finish the final leg of our drive to Tumlingtar. If the roads were not particularly good yesterday they were far worse this time. The atrocious conditions as we slowly made our way forward on the miserable dirt road through fields and along sketchy edges really added some unwanted thrill and rapid heartbeats. When we eventually after 3 hours emerged at the sunny town of Tumlingtar 460 m. I could finally lower my shoulders again and breath properly again 🙂
Day 1: Tumlingtar 460 m – Chichila 1840 m. 7h05m
Tumlingtar is located in the Sankhuwasabha District on the banks between Arun River to the west and Sabha Khola in the east and by some referred to as the gateway to Makalu Barun. This small village even has its own airport and a lot of people who visit this area choose to fly in to Kathmandu in 45 minutes rather than taking on the arduous endless trip by road to get here.
The somewhat busy drop off area in Tumlingtar was bathing in sunshine with lovely temperatures when we stepped out of our overloaded vehicle a little bit before 9 am. Since my guide and I had some long hours of walking ahead of us today we decided to sit down to have some food at one of the local restaurants/kitchens right next to the car area before moving on. A chow mein was 50 Npr and a Mountain Dew 40 Npr.
After days of travelling to get here it felt great to switch mode to walking sticks and my solid backpack and finally start trekking in remarkable Nepal again.
We left Tumlingtar at 9.20 am and walked along a tarmac road for 25 minutes before turning right on to a track heading gradually uphill passing small houses, lush gardens, playful goats, slow moving cattle and the normal everyday life. Coming a little bit further up the ridge we could see the Tumlingtar airstrip down there behind us and this would still be visible on numerous occasions until we reached the highest point today several hours later.
After nearly 2 hours and 11 kilometers of walking we reached the town of Khandbari 1020 m. ( 11.15 am ). Khandbari is the headquarters of Sankhuwasabha District with a population of nearly 25.000 people. It is apparently considered one of the most prosperous towns in Nepal and coming up through the long mainstreet this place seemed to have just about everything. There were shops selling electronical gadgets, clothes, all kinds of grocery ( water bottle 45 Npr ). There were banks with ATM, gold shops, restaurants, hotels and the place even had its own tattoo shop.
From Khandbari main bazaar there is supposed to be some fine views of Chamlang, but any hope of seeing that today was dashed by the non-moveable accumulation of clouds higher up.
It took a good 15 minutes to walk through the entire village and we proceeded north up along the ridge which 3 kilomtres later took us to the small village of Mani Bhanjyang 1100m. (12.30 pm ). This place also had a fair selection of shops, hotels and other facilities, but not nearly as much as in Khandbari.
Looking up towards the green hillside ahead of us I could see the ridge we had to top out to hit the track that eventually would take us to our final destination this day. We had the choice of following the gravel road which bended its way up through this wonderful terrain or simply avoid it as much a possible. We picked the latter option and climbed nicely and gently up through terraced fields, green gardens and passing picturesque shacks and houses.
As we struggled a bit to find the right trail we stumbled upon a local english teacher who invited us over to her family house offering us to taste some delicious mandarin oranges ( known as suntala in nepali ) from her garden. Having walked in tropical temperatures for hours this was a very refreshing addition to the lukewarm water bottle in my backpack. When we left I think me and my guide had lost count on the number of suntala we had eaten 🙂
At 3.30 pm we reached the ridge at Chhyankuti/Bhotebas/Gogane, dotted with some prayer flags , which we had been aiming towards for the last several hours. From this point the remaining walk to Chichila was pretty obvious and for the next hour or so an easy stroll on the poor gravel road connecting Tumlingtar and Khandbari with Chichila and Num eventually brought us to our final place this afternoon.
Chichila 1840 m. had at least two guesthouses. We checked in at the small and basic Chichila Guesthouse ( the other one was Makalu Lodge & Restaurant ). A water bottle was 50 Npr
Nepal is one of the largest producer of cardamom in the world and apparently it accounts for 2/3 of the global output. Sankhuwasbha District is considered the second largest producing district in the country only beaten by Taplejung
In the small settlement of Chichila the villagers are not only blessed with phenomenal majestic views of the Makalu Range and Chamlang. The thriving cardamom industry has also made a huge impact in this area making many of its people quite wealthy.
Day 2: Chichila 1840 m – Seduwa 1540 m. 9h20m
Clouds had already started to build up when we left Chichila at 7.35 am and the brilliant views of the snow capped makalu mountains I had been hoping for this morning never really materialised. On my 5 previous visits to Nepal weather has mostly been very cooperative with glorious uninterupted mountain views almost wherever I went and I kept wondering a few times, as we were about to leave, if this year could be a completely different story . . . .
We continued out of Chichila on the same dirt road as yesterday and there was not a whole lot to see for the first few hours except some scattered houses, tiny villages and a dead snake lying in the middle of the road.
It was not until we approached Mure that the green valley views started to open up ahead of us and at the far end on the opposite hillside we could see Seduwa which would be our endpoint later this afternoon. To get there we still had to descend 1500 meters, cross the Arun River and then climb almost 1000 meters !!!
We reached the small settlement of Mure 2000 m. at 10 am and decided to sit down a few minutes and have something to eat and drink ( Mountain Dew 90 Npr ) before moving on. A few other locals where also using this teashop as their rest stop up and down the endless valleys but I felt most sorry for the old porter who had had too many drinks this day and lost his group.
The next walking section down to the neighbouring village of Num looked pretty short, easy and comfortable according to our map but how we were able to pick the wrong path completely ending up on a steep downhill trail emerging at some farmers houses ( Amrang ? ) way down below our intended target I still do not know. The reward for not paying attention after leaving Mure and dropping way too far too the west was an ardeous draining climb on a tiny narrow trail up through dense forest until we eventually emerged at Num 1500 m. at 12.20 pm.
Hungry and tired after our strenous bypass we sat down for a well deserved break and lunch at Sherpa Resthouse in Num. Two bowls of noodle soup, a coke ( 100 Npr ) and a bottle of water ( 80 Npr ) lifted my energy level enough to convince me that I would be able to walk for at least a few more hours today. From our lunchtable Seduwa looked to be so close sitting just right across us on the opposite side of the Arun Valley.
According to our host there were at least 3-4 guesthouses in Num. Instead of walking in from Tumlingtar quite a few people come here by car which involves a 5-7 hour very bumpy and slow drive. A road extension to Seduwa is currently under construction.
Refreshed and revitalized we left Num at 1.20 pm descending down through forest and ricefields gradually moving into a more hot and tropical environment passing heavy loaded porters and donkeys until we reached the metal suspension bridge ( 620 m. ) which crosses the powerful Arun Khola at the bottom of the valley at 2.25 pm. This was the easy part !
The climb from the bridge and all the way up to Seduwa was hot,slow and tiring. When we reached the yellow sign ” Welcome to Makalu Barun National Park ” outside the checkpoint building in Seduwa 1540 m. it was already 4.55 pm and it had taken us a total 3h35m to get here from Num.
In Seduwa there are several guesthouses and we picked New Makalu Hotel & Lodge which provided tempur matresses on their beds adding some much welcoming extra luxury to stiff trekking bodies. Dal baht was 250 Npr, Mountain Dew was 150 Npr and 1 litre of boiled water was 50 Npr.
Day 3 : Seduwa 1540 m. – Tashigaon 2070 m. 3h50m
After yesterdays laborious walk a much shorter and easier day was waiting us as we were heading up the Kasuwa Khola Valley to Tashigaon, the last permanent settlement on the way to Makalu Basecamp.
Like on our previous few days clouds were hiding most of the higher mountain views when we started of from our guesthouse in Seduwa at 7.50 am and by looking at its colour,shape and temper I would not be surprised at all if there would be some rainfall along the way.
We reached the small settlement of Chyaksadanda 1890 m. at 9.10 am about halfway between Seduwa and Tashigaon. Some local people were putting up posters on the house walls to promote their favourite candidate for the upcoming national election as we came up the last few steps to our first rest stop this morning and from the trails above a group of strong porters arrived with their 40 kg bags of cardamom joining in on the somewhat lively atmosphere outside the tiny village shop. I was told that this very important and highly valuable plant was selling at 1300 Npr pr.kg on the open market. Cardamom is big cash in these areas !
With some good views down the valley and a small shop with a decent selection of items ( Mountain Dew + 2 packages buiscuits = 160 Npr ) Chyaksadanda is a very convenient stopping place on the way to Tashigaon.
Just after we left Chyaksadanda at 10 am my weather prediction from early this morning was sadly enough justified and soon we found ourselves amidst drizzels of rain forcing me to unpack my raingear for the first time on this trip. Though the trail became a bit more wet,slippy and slightly more tricky the last piece of walking up to Tashigaon was pretty straightforward compared to all the other stages I would face later on this trek. We reached Tashigaon 2070 m. at 11.40.
Tashigaon is a small sherpa settlement spread across an open hillside with a population of about 350 people. Trekking, agriculture and collecting yarsagumba ( a medical plant ) are the main occupancies in the community.
Among the selection of guesthouses we checked in at Makalu Barun Hotel & Lodge which offered basic facilities and good views down the valley.
Day 4 : Tashigaon 2070 m. – Khongma 3560 m. 4h00m
Non-stop rain hitting the corrugated iron roof with loud noise throughout the night woke me up on numerous occasions making me wonder if this would ever stop. When daylight finally emerged the downpour had at least ceased a little bit, but still conditions looked wet, damp and quite miserable. With the somewhat unormal poor weather conditions ever since hitting the runway at Bagdogra Airport 6 days ago I wondered if all of this could possibly be the leftovers from the massive tropical cyclone Phailin which hit the east Indian shoreline just a week ago . . .
I knew we had a tough day of walking ahead us of this morning and to prepare for the long and relentless climb up to Khongma I ordered a double portion of noodle soup for breakfast. I knew I would be burning a lot of steam on this particular stage 🙂
We left Tashiagaon at 8.20 am and stepped on to a wet and slippy trail littered with small streams heading up into the forest. With my backpack weighing about 17 kg it was pretty hard work getting up the steep terrain. Every now and then we had views back across to Chyaksadanda, Tashigaon and the Kasuwa Khola Valley. All the higher places were still completely covered up in clouds.
At 10.05 am we reached a small collection of stone houses at Dhara Kharak/Danda Kharka, a very useful rest stop about half way between Tashigaon and Khongma. The place offers some fine views down the valley and a bhatti/teahouse with a tiny selection of biscuits and beverages for sale. A Mountain Dew was 200 Npr.
The steep climb continued after the short break and at times it seemed endless. Our one and only encounters were yaks literally skidding down towards us making my heart beat even faster and harder. With almost no places to escape or step away I trusted my guides advice and judgement every time we got “locked” up with nowhere to go. After having a yak almost charging at me last year near Ghunsa on the Kangchenjunga Trek I really did not want a repeat of that story again.
At 12.10 pm we eventually reached a mani wall and some prayer flags which marked the end of todays long and demanding uphill walk. In front of us and encircled by rhododendrons was Khongma with its single teahouse and campsite. Further up behind the lodge I could see the ridge we would be following tomorrow. Behind us and far down below I could spot the blue rooftops at Tashigaon.
It had taken us 4 hours, including some short breaks, to get here from Tashigaon when we arrived outside the friendly Shivu Lodge in Khongma 3560 m. at 12.20 pm. Including me and my guide there were only a few other guests here this day. Dal bhat was 400 Npr.
Day 5 : Khongma 3560 m. – Shipton La 4216 m. – Dhobate 3800 m. and return to Khongma 3560 m. 8h20m
There were no chances of any more sleep the moment some of the teahouse guests started cooking their morning meals downstairs in loud fashion sending out tasteful exotic fragrances reaching my nose on the second floor. It was just a little after 4 am . . .
I had no intention of getting up quite yet with the rest of the house still at sleep and I am feeling way too comfortable inside my warm sleeping bag.
When daylight eventually slowly started to emerge my first and main object was to check on the weather outside. Stepping out of the dormitory it was extremely disappointing to see that there had been absolutely no improvements at all with clouds still sitting low with a huge potential of rain/snow in them. Just to add some more bad news to these weather setbacks we had been told last night that there had been huge dumps of snow higher up near Langmale in the last few days making the trail almost impossible to walk forcing people to change their plans of reaching Makalu Basecamp and come back down again.
It was a difficult decision to make what to do from here. Without any tent or serious winter equipment relying solely and completely on teahouses along the way the task of reaching Makalu Basecamp looked very challenging, if not impossible. When this bad weather period would come to an end nobody knew.
I had some serious doubts when we left Khongma at 7.40 am heading for Dhobate crossing our fingers and toes hoping that maybe our luck would change along the way.
The first 40 minutes of walking this morning was a stiff climb to a flat open area with a stone chorten and collection of prayer flags at 3840 m. This place apparently offers some fine views of Chamlang, Peak 6 and Peak 7, but today we saw nothing except rhododendrons on the trail-ridge ahead and snow covered slopes lurking behind.
We continued heading up and at 9.10 am we reached Ghungru La 4050 m. also marked by a stone chorten and prayer flags. Around us visibilty had dropped from not good to poor and all the views were now completely wrapped up and gone. We had now passed the 4000 m. line and for the first time on this trek we found ourselves walking on snow covered ground. Some porters were making adjustments to their heavy loads and joined us as the trail eased quite a bit heading down to Kalo Pokhari, a small lake located at 3840 m.(9.50 am). As we descended on the wet trail a number of people started coming towards us and their news was not very uplifting. Huge amounts of snow had forced them to turn around at Langmale describing the walk from Langmale up to Makalu Basecamp as almost impossible, despite having a team of strong porters and guides. My chances of seeing basecamp this year now looked very very slim !
Despite all the discouraging reports we decided to move on hoping that perhaps the bad weather would crack up a little bit at some point giving us at least a tiny glimmer of those high spectacular mountains somewhere out there.
After skirting the small and quiet Kalo Pokhari a steep climb on a wet rocky surface took us up to a snow covered Shipton La 4216 m. at 10.30 am., the highest point on todays walk. On a clear day the views from the pass are supposed to be quite brilliant.
From Shipton La one should be able to see across to Keke La, the last and final col before dropping down to Dobathe. To get there we had to descend to a second and much bigger lake -Tulo Pokhari 4020 m. ( 11.10 am ), pass a small collection of abandoned stone houses and then climb for 30 minutes to the stone chorten and prayer flags marking the ridge at 4170 m. ( 11.45 am ).
From Keke La the trail dipped into what seemed like a green endless valley of rhododenrons and soon we were able to spot an orange rooftop way down there in the ocean of Nepals national flower. We finally reached the lonely teahouse in Dobathe 3800 m. at 12.15 pm.
There were already lots of people inside the Cold dark building when we arrived and even more groups were coming in as we sat down for some lunch. Nearly all of them were returning after a pretty rough encounter with Makalu Basecamp spending days “locked up” in snow and walking in a convoi for 10-12 hours just to get out from Basecamp and down to Langmale. The amount of snow higher up in the Barun Valley had even forced some lodgeowners to close their teahouses for the moment and return back to lower drier areas. With no place to sleep or no place to eat it would simply be impossible for me and my guide to continue any further from here. We decided to return back to Khongma !!!
Disappointed and a little bit frustrated for not being able to reach my personal main attraction on this long trek, we made a speedy 3h20m. return to Khongma hoping that our luck would return when we hit the Arun Valley again tomorrow and started our long walk via several high passes all the way out to Jiri.
Day 6 : Khongma 3560 m. via Seduwa – Walung Phedi 825 m. 8h30m
Shivu Lodge in Khongma was very crowded, with people from many different nations occupying every single bed and room in the small teahouse. Some of them had walked all the way from the Khumbu Valley getting caught up in some very difficult snow and weather conditions on the tricky three passes, Sherpani Col, West Col & Amphu Lapcha, causing some of their porters serious frostbites along the way. They had to be evacuated.
We left Khongma at 6.45 am with a mixture of fog, light hail and rain in the air. The descent was steep, slippy and pretty hard on the knees but my walking sticks were very helpful to keep me well afloat down the tricky trail. When we passed Dhara Kharak/Danda Kharka at 7.45 am the sound of jungle reminded us that we were slowly descending into lower, warmer country and with sunshine starting to appear as well this promised to be a nice day indeed.
We reached a very pleasant Tashigaon 2070 m. at 9.10 am and sat down to have breakfast on the campsite outside Makalu Barun Hotel & Lodge in beautiful sunshine. Looking up behind us, the higher areas i.e Khongma was still trapped in low, wet,unremovable clouds making conditions quite miserable for those who were still up there.
I had to hold on to my belongings when a helicopter suddenly appeared from the sky making a landing on the campsite where we were sitting. My guide told me they were bringing people out of Makalu Basecamp !
It was wonderful to be walking on dry surface again as we continued our way downhill reaching Chyaksadanda 1890 m. after 1h20m and Seduwa 1540 m. 1 hour after that where we had lunch.
Except from our somewhat inaccurate map and knowledge shared by the locals we had little or no information about the trail ahead as we made a right turn out of Seduwa at 1 pm heading down towards the western side of the Arun River which we would be following for the next couple of days until we reached Bamling. This section is rarely visited by foreigners.
It was a scenic walk descending through lush vegetation, colourful terraced farms, passing cheerful school kids on their way back home and watching people doing their everyday hard work on the fields. At 2.10 pm we crossed the Isuwa Khola River on a dubious looking wooden suspension bridge and about one hour later we reached Walung Phedi 825 m. our final stop this afternoon.
Options were extremely limited at this small and friendly settlement and the best overnight deal we could get was sleeping outside in a corner on a rock hard house terrace among goats, cats, mosquitos and other creatures lurking around in this jungle area 🙂
Day 7 : Walung Phedi 825 m. – Bamling 400 m. 9h05m
I lost count on how many times I woke up during the night feeling stiff and creaky trying to get my positions right on the rough uncomfortable surface. Once the first signs of daylight emerged we were already in the process of packing our backpacks and preparing for a long and sweltering walk alongside the Arun River. We left Walung Phedi at 6.15 am
It was a clear beautiful morning with the moon stil visible on the sky as we traversed along the quiet hillside dotted with beautiful green and yellow terraces sometimes on a clear cut trail and sometimes just following an indistinct overgrown tiny strip, which just seemed to be the right option there and then. At 7 pm we crossed Apsuwa Khola on a wooden suspension bridge, one of the many side rivers feeding Arun Khola.
There were very few houses along the way and we hardly met any other people until we reached the tiny settlement of Pikhuwa at 9.25 am. which had a small teahouse, a health post building, a few private houses and leeches 🙂
We did not really know when or if we would be able to buy any more refreshments until we reached Bamling in the afternoon so I went for a fairly sizeable lunch that would hopefully provide enough energy for the remaing hours of todays walk..
We left Pikhuwa at 10.40 am and made a short descent to a the second suspension bridge this morning crossing Pikhuw Khola. The sun really knows how to heat up this area and as we progressed up and down, skirting edges and more rice fields the temperature became a challenge in itself forcing us to refill our bottles from many of the side streams on several occasions.
After crossing a third and much more modern suspension bridge at 12.55 pm and a fourth one at 1.30 pm a last, short but tiresome climb eventally put us on to an abandoned road which we followed until we reached the first house on the outskirts of Bamling at 2.55 pm with a yellow sign attached to it similar to that in Seduwa saying : ” Welcome To Makalu Barun National Park Buffer Zone Area Mangtewa -4 “. I was more than happy to sit down in the shade here for a while resting my tired legs and rehydrate myself with a well deserved soft drink.
A last and final suspension bridge nearby eventually brought us into the small chhetri village of Bamling 400 m. at 3.20 am where we had the luxury of choosing between two teahouses each one with their own little small shop with a decent selection of items. Mountain Dew was 80 Npr
Day 8 : Bamling 400 m. via Kulung – Gothe Bazaar 775 m. 5h05m
I was surprised to find imported sardine cans from Thailand among the selection in our teahouse shop and with some crispbread leftovers still in my backpack I had my best breakfast since I left my homecountry almost 2 weeks ago.
Today we would leave the roaring Arun River behind us and start the long and tedious walk into Solukhumbu crossing several high passes and digging into some deep valleys along the way.
We left Bamling at 7.45 am. Instead of following the map which suggested continuing alongside the Arun River in order to reach the start of the Irkhuwa Khola Valley we opted for a different approach. A few minutes out of Bamling we left the main trail completely making a slight right hand turn moving up along a scenic hillside taking us gradually into higher ground. The trail was not very obvious crisscrossing fields and land, and my guide had to ask for directions several times to make sure we were moving the right way.
At 9 am we reached Kulung, the biggest village since Khandbari and Mani Bhanyang. With its great location overlooking the Arun Valley and beyond this was a very convenient place to stop and rest for a while in warm beautiful sunshine. The lively “main street” had several shops and small restaurants serving dal bhat and noodle soup. We opted for the latter and had an enjoyable lunch sitting outside on the doorsteps watching everyday people doing their everyday life.
After finishing our feast we left Kulung at 9.40 am proceeding through more fine terrain of scenic rice terraces dotted with nice traditional houses and orange trees. The walk was very easy ,first contouring the hillside, then descending to a suspension bridge before climbing up another ridge that eventually put us inside and high up in the Irkhuwa Khola Valley. Kulung and a line of snowy peaks further behind in the distance made a fine backdrop as we came up from the bridge but they soon vanished as soon as we entered the Irkhuwa Valley and started our slow and gradual descent to its bottom at Gothe Bazzar.
Gothe Bazzar 775 m. is a tiny settlement inhabited by a mix of Gurung and Rai on the banks of Irkhuwa Khola and Bengkhuwa Khola. After negoating some very narrow and indistinct trails down the hilside we eventually arrived at the valley floor and Gothe Bazzar at 12.20 pm. Kirat Lodge was the only teahouse around and except from some locals we were the only people to check in here this day. One bed was 250 Npr and Dal bhat was 350 Npr.
Day 9 : Gothe Bazaar 775 m. – Jaubari 2040 m. 6h45m
Getting up early and noodle soup for breakfast is one of those every day morning rituals you just slide into when walking in remote areas of Nepal. After yesterdays luxurious sardine experience things were back to normal standard again today.
We left Gothe Bazzar at 6.40 am crossing the suspension bridge and the cluster of bamboo houses on the the opposite side proceeding on a gentle trail through rice paddies on the right hand side of the Irkhuwa Khola. Another bridge at 7.30 took us to the left side of the river again and as we moved on the trail started to climb a bit especially as we approached Dobhane. After crossing yet another suspension bridge a little bit later we arrived in the small village of Dobhane 930 m. at 8.20 am. I counted at least three teashops here, each of them with a decent selection of snacks/food and drinks. A chowmein was 100 Npr.
The small refreshment break we had in Dobhane gave some well needed energy back to my legs as we continued upwards passing through more fine Nepali countryside watching donkey trains go by, observing locals working on the fields and in the forest collecting food to their animals and simply just enjoying being here on the completely tourist free trails.
At 11.15 am we reached Phedi 1680 m. , a nice little Rai village located between Irkhuwa Khola and Sanu Khola. The village marks the beginning of a long, steep and tiresome ridgewalk all the way to the slopes of Salpa Bhanjyang at 3350 m. and it can be a wise idea to make a rest stop here before taking on some demanding hours of climbing.
We sat down in the sunshine outside Irkhowa Khola Hotel and had some improvised sweet “pancakes” for lunch. According to my guide this was the first time the lady at the lodge had made pancakes and to be fair they did not look particularly inviting. The taste, on the other hand, was surprisingly good though 🙂 A water bottle cost 100 Npr and Mountain Dew 150 Npr.
At 12.05 we were back on our feet again ready to embrace the steep ascent. My heart was pounding on all sylinders almost instantly after leaving the guesthouseas as I pushed myself up the near vertical stone steps gasping for air wondering what the lactate levels in my leg muscles would be like at this very moment. I share my deepest respect and sympathy to the heavy loaded porters who come up these trails on a daily basis !
Along with the hard struggle came a wonderful reward. Around us a world of beautiful green steep hills and valleys gradually appeared making this strenous climb a good experience at least for my eyes 🙂
At 1.25 pm we reached Jaubari 2040 m. and was more than happy to conclude our walking this day. With its spectacular setting we checked in at an unnamed teahouse/family house nicely tucked in on this long steep and narrow ridge offering great views and great hospitality. My guide and I were placed in a common room together with the family, some local construction workers and porters. The bed was surprisingly comfortable and cost only 200 Npr. Dal bhat was 350 Npr.
Day 10 : Jaubari 2040 m. via Salpa Bhanjyang – Gudel 1900 m. 8h40m
When I woke up I was a bit surprised to see a perfect blue sky for the first time on this trek and I could only hope that our weather fortunes finally had changed.
We left Jaubari at 6.40 am continuing on yesterdays steep climb up the ridge passing some guesthouses in Thulo Fokte 2140 m. and then later and a bit further up getting a good view of the Salpa Bhanjyang ridge and Silichung 4153 m. , the highest peak in Bhojpur District offering excellent views of Mt Everest, Makalu, Chamlang, Kumbhakarna and Kangchenjunga.
At 8.30 am we reached the end of the steep narrow ridge which we had been following since Phedi and dropped for a few minutes down to Bilbate 2800 m. which had a few houses and a tired looking orientation table suggesting different trails and timings in the area.
Clouds were starting to move in quickly limiting our visibilty every now and then as we moved on up the slopes towards Salpa Bhanjyang. From now on the trail was less steep and less exhausting than the previous long ridge walk but still there were some altitude metres to be conquered before reaching the pass.
A little bit further up from Bilbate was the tiny settlement of Gurase 2880 m. with the basic Salpa Hotel & Lodge offering simple facilities, meals and drinks. A Coca Cola was 100 Npr. We only made a short snack break here before taking on one last hour of uphill walking to the Salpa Pass.
At 9.55 am we finally reached the Salpa Bhanjyang Pass 3350 m. with its small stone houses, chorten and prayer flags fluttering gently in the wind. The pass separates Bhojpur and Solukhumbu Districts and has for centuries been a key link on the ancient trade route between the Arun Valley and the Khumbu area. For the adventure minded trekker the holy lake of Salpa Pokhari 3414 m. can be reached in 30-40 minutes from the pass. This is apparently the largest lake in Bhojpur District and an important pilgrimage site for several of the religions that inhabit the Nepali hills. If time, legs and energy permits Silichung Peak 4153 m. can be reached in 2 hours offering majestic views of some of the biggest and finest mountains in the world.
A basic teahouse offering shelter, dal baht, noodles and drinks was open when we arrived and we were invited inside by the friendly family running this small basic business.
Outside the build up of clouds had left us with no views and there seemed to be no hope of seeing the mighty Dudh Kunde Himal from the pass this morning as we started our descent into Solukhumbu and sherpa territory. We moved quite quickly down the somewhat slippy trail dropping through quiet pine-and rhododendron forest covered in autumn colours reaching the simple Hwa Ka, the first settlement since the pass, in about 1 hour ( 11.10 am ). Another 40 minutes of walking on an undulating trail eventually took us to Sanam 2850 m. at 11.40 where we decided to stop for some lunch.
Sanam is a small sherpa settlement perched atop terraced fields on an open hillside with 10-15 traditional houses, a big white chorten and the Sanam Chyoling Gompa which was built in 2007.
After eating a big portion of finger chips and getting a well deserved break we left the peaceful and quiet Sanam at 1 pm continuing downhill high above the Lidung Khola passing Arun Velley Lodge & Restaurant in Tiue 2470 m. at 1.30 pm and the small Nimchola Village at 1.55 pm. If weather permits it is possible to get som fine views of the formidable Mount Numbur/Shorong Yul Lha 6959 m. on the way down from Sanam.
We were accompanied by more people on the trail as we approached Gudel, the first major village since Khandbari and Mani Bhanjyang. After having the trail almost completely to ourselves for consecutive days it was obvious that we were now heading into more populated areas. Herders guiding their goats,buffaloes and donkeys, porters coming up and down with incredible loads and locals dragging huge chunks of bamboo canes in lightening speed down the steep steps and trail only wearing worn out sandals that definately would have left my own feet in a very bad state after a while. Looking at scenes like this it is not surprising that Nepali porters have been found to suffer 4 times as many accidents as trekkers.
The valley views were quite spectacular as we descended further and hidden behind the lofty green ridge down there ahead of us was Gudel. The village , with its 500 houses and population of 5000 people. , is spread across a large amphi-theater-like-area and did not appear until we arrived at the ridge itself. And there it was !
We walked into Gudel 1900 m. at 3.25 pm and checked in at Kopila Guesthouse, by far the best and most comfortable teahouse so far on this trek. With a large menu similar to that found on the Annapurna and Everest treks, a shop with a good selection of items ( Snickers 100 Npr ) and a bed with a “normal” mattress this was a serious upgrade compared all the other places we had been sleeping so far.
Gudel is a nice traditional village inhabited by Kulung Rai people, a sub-group of Rai – the largest ethnic group in eastern Nepal. The main occupations among people here is farming and portering. Of all those porters doing the hard labour up and down the famous trails in the Everest region it is highly likely that quite a few of them come from this particular area.
Day 11 : Gudel 2900 m. via Surke La Pass 3085 m. – Najingdingma 2650 m. 7h35m
I woke up to a beautiful stunning morning and literally ran out of my bed with my camera to snap some much awaited sunrise mountian photos of Mera Peak and Chamlang 7319 m. in particular which looked awesome through my Nikon lens. In Sherpa dialect this big triangular mountain means ” big bird flapping wings ” and on this morning “the bird ” really stood out in all its glory.
The horizontal distance between Gudel and Bung located on the exact opposite side of the Hongu Valley is only a few kilometers, but that number does not reflect the hard effort and hours it takes to go there.
After a tasteful breakfast of pancakes and vegetable soup we left Gudel at 7.05 am heading down the steep stone steps from the village walking with good pace and rythm. It took us 45 minutes to reach Hongu Khola ( river ) 1280 m. at the very bottom of the valley which had a small bhatti right next to the suspension bridge we had to cross.
We knew we had a long and very hard climb of nearly 2000 vertical meters ahead of us once we stepped off the metal bridge heading up the steep trail to Bung and beyond. Bung is actually spread out over a large area and it did not take long until we reached the first houses and their nice colourful gardens in the lower parts of the villlage . A while later, at 8.45, we arrived at what seemed to be some kind of “main square ” in the village with a collection of houses and a signpost pointing the various directions to Gudel-Sivatar-Chheskam & Khiroule. This is also were the Makalu Barun National Park Bung Sector Office is located and like every tourist coming in and out of this area we had to register here.
A little bit further up from the office was Panch Pokhari Lodge & Restaurant where we decided to sit down and have some lunch before taking on the long and last push up to Surke La before descending to Najingdingma. Since we did not know if there were any good options for food and drinks between here and Charakot near the pass it felt better and safer for us to grab something here to secure we had enough “fuel” to beat this everlasting hillside.
The lodge had an impressive menu, by far the most comprehensive so far on this trek beating Kopila Guesthouse in Gudel by a mile. Fried maccaroni w/cheese was 250 Npr and a Bounty was 150 Npr.
The warm and comfortable sun quickly disappeared when low overcast weather drifted in making a significant drop in both temperature and visibilty shortly after we had left our lunchplace ( 10.30 am ) in Bung.
We continued heading up the hillside reaching the small sherpa village of Khiraule at around 11.45 am. This village has a population of around 400 people and holds about 45 houses spread out over a fairly large area of agricultural fields and terraces. On the way up we passed the small village school which is funded by an UK charity organization. The school was rebuildt in 2007.
Judging by the number of people around this morning I did not really get the feeling of walking through a village and we did not actually meet or see a single person until we arrived at the Himalayan Lodge & Restaurant ( 12.05 pm ) located at the high end of Khiraule well above the school building. Here, a bottle of water was 300 Npr !!!
We did not spend a lot of time at the lodge as we were getting a bit cold and frosty in the somewhat chilly environment. After coming up a fairly steep climb from the lodge the trail eased quite a bit as we reached some open land passing a few moss-covered mani walls and chortens before entering a “ghost-like” rhododendron forest that would eventually bring us all the way up to Charakot, the last settlement on this side of the Surke La Pass.
We reached Charakot 2930 m. at 1.15. Many trekking groups heading for Mera Peak come through this small settlement over the Surke La Pass from Lukla on their way to this popular peak and this is where the trail branches off. A cluster of teahouses make this a convenient stopover/lunch place from whatever direction you may come and we decided to sit down for a few minutes at Mera Peak Lodge & Hotel for a small snack break.
It took us another 10 minutes of steep walking to reach the narrow Surke La Pass 3085 m., the highest point on todays walk. For the adventure minded trekker a viewpoint offering commanding views of the surrounding hills can be reached in a few minutes up from the pass. If your legs are too tired there is a bhatti right on the pass selling refreshments.
The overcast weather kept away all the views this afternoon so I saw no reason to go and visit the viewpoint today. Instead we dropped down the steep rocky trail leading to Najingdingma some 400 altitude meters below. A party of russians heading for Mera Peak coming slowly up towards us was the first organised group of trekkers I had met since Khongma and I had a feeling there was more to come the next few days as we were getting closer to the much more popular Everest area.
A long way down there I could see the pastures and houses of Najingdingma 2650 m. and it took us a little bit less than 1 hour from the pass to reach our final stop this day. This small settlement had two guesthouses and we choose to stay at the basic Namaste Lodge.
Day 12 : Najingdingma 2650 m. via Pangum La 3173 m. – Khari Khola 2029 m. 6h45m
The sound of raindrops hitting the roof woke me up on several occasions throughout the night and I was quite happy to see daylight emerging so we could move on from here and perhaps find some better weather in the next valley. Outside there were still some heavy threatening clouds moving around but at least I had a decent view of the houses at Sibuje spread across the hillside on the far opposite side of the Hinku Valley. Above Sibuje was the Pangum La Pass.
After having 2 pancakes for breakfast we left Najingdingma at 7.15 am. It was all downhill for almost one hour on a wet and slippy surface before we finally reached the bottom of the valley and the long suspension bridge ( 8.10 am ) taking us safely across the Hinku Khola. That was the end of the easy part !
A long series of steep and demanding switchbacks immediately after the bridge was a really tough challenge and I really had to dig very deep to overcome this nearly vertical trail which only seemed to go on for ever. It took us nearly 1 hour of very hard work before we emerged into some open land which I believe was the lower end of Sibuje, but we had to add another 50 minutes of more ardous labour before we finally could put our bags down for some much needed lunch at Namaste Lodge & Restaurant tucked in on this steep hillside ( 9.50 am ).
A big plate of fingerchips and some refreshing soft drinks did wonders to my depleted legs and body and when we left the lodge at 11. am I was ready to embrace more uphill challenges.
From the Namaste Lodge the trail was not as steep and energy consuming as it had been before lunch but still there was some work to be done. The fog was pretty thick up here as we walked along and there were no fine mountain-views to cheer us up. Our first sense of excitement came when we eventually reached the Pangum La Pass 3173 m. and its single teashop at 11.55 am. In good weather views are supposed to be great in all directions up here and I really wished I could have been able to share some of that on this blog, but again the poor visibilty was standing firm 🙁
A long long way down there somewhere right on the famous trail linking Jiri with Lukla and the popular Everest area was Khari Khola, the village we were aiming at and to get there we still had a fair bit of walking ahead of us descending some 1200 altitude meters down towards the Dudh Kosi River Valley.
About 20 minutes down from the pass we reached the small quiet village of Pangum 2850 m. which had a few guesthouses and an important trail junction with a blue coloured sign with one arrow pointing towards Payia and another towards Leldum. After asking some locals for the best possible trail option we were informed to turn left at this junction and just continue downwards. The trail was not very obvious though as we descended further into more dense fog preventing us from getting an overview of the area. Whenever we saw people we had to ask and make sure we were heading in the right direction.
At 1.30 am our first view of Khari Khola finally appeared a long way down there with its most striking building, the Pema Namding Gompa, standing at the far end of the village.
The remaining walk down through farming terraces and gardens was fairly easy and comfortable and at 2 pm we could finally relieve our shoulders, take our boots of and check in at Khari Khola Guesthouse & Ngima Restaurant and Bar just below the gompa. This place had everything ! Hot shower, an extensive food and drink menu, comfortable rooms, nice beds, a cosy living room and great service. In terms of better facilities, bigger crowds and busier trails, coming down to Khari Khola was like entering a completely different new world.
Day 13 : Khari Khola 2029 m. via Trakshindu La 3153 m. – Junbesi 2691 m. 9h55m
From my bedroom I had some fine crisp morning views towards the prominent snow capped Kongde Ri 6187 m. which is located only 4 kilometers west of Namche Bazaar where you will get a closer and better view of this mountain regarded as holy by the Khumbu people.
We left Khari Khola at 6.55 am and it was pretty evident from the very first moment we stepped out of the guesthouse that we were now moving on a much busier trail than what we had experienced so far. Trains of mules packed with all kinds of groceries, overloaded porters carrying San Miguel cases and cheese crackers to thirsty and hungry visitors, all heading towards Lukla and Everest area, were now causing the “traffic” on the trail.
I remember very well coming up these steep and quite demanding stone steps to Khari Khola 4 years ago on my way to Gokyo and Everest Basecamp and I knew my knees were in for a pretty rough start this morning as we started moving in the opposite direction descending towards the Dudh Kosi River. In little less than one hour ( 7.45 am ) and with my knee caps still intact we reached the bridge (1510 m.) at the bottom of the valley which marked the end of the fairly long descent from Khari Khola and the beginning of a much longer,harder and tedious climb of 1600 vertical meters to the Traksindu La Pass located high up there at more than 3000 meters.
The number of mules coming skidding down the trail after we had crossed the bridge surprised me a bit and we had to stop on many occasions on the way up to make space for the oncoming convoys. About half way up between the bridge and Nunthala the sight of Kusum Kangru 6337, also known as “Three Snow-White Gods” in tibetan, made a fine backdrop and was probably the last “serious” mountain views we would get this day as clouds were starting to embrace the higher areas.
We reached the quiet sherpa and rai village of Nunthala 2220 m. at 9.30 am. This place has a number of guesthouses, but this morning none of them looked very busy. Except from some porters having a cup of tea the place where we sat down for lunch was pretty much empty.
From Nunthala it took us 2 hard hours to reach the Trakshindu La pass 3153 m, one of the 4 major passes between Jiri and Namche Bazaar. On my way up here I was amazed to see an outdoor dental clinic where people in numbers were watching and waiting for their turn to get their teeth fixed by the busy mountain-dentist right in front of everyone and everybody next to the busy trail 🙂
We only spent a few minutes at the pass taking a short rest at one of the bhattis/restaurants before continuing down on the other side of the pass reaching the small village of Ringmo 2720 about 20 minutes later and then descending a little bit further to a suspension bridge crossing the Dudhkunda Khola 2510 m. ( 1 pm ). I could really feel that my legs had been working pretty hard over the last few days and I did not expect the “easy” walk up to Salung 2860 m. and then Phurteng at 3040 m. to as tiring as it turned out to be. When we reached Phurteng at 2.35 pm a break was our number one priority.
Phurteng is the first place after Jiri with a view of Mount Everest. This afternoon the whole place was buried in dense fog giving us less than 50 metres of sight hiding Everest, Thamserku, Kusum Kangru and Mera Peak completely. It was much more rewarding talking to the welcoming owner of the tiny cheese shop up here who happily shared some of his great knowledge about the area and all the peaks that we never had the chance to see from here this afternoon.
The last bit of walking down to Junbesi 2691 m. was easy and comfortable and we arrived there at 3.50 pm. Junbesi actually means “Valley of the Moon” and is surrounded by mountains like Pikey ( with views of Dhaulagiri to the west and Kangchenjunga to the east ), Singsare La, Langate and Kalla Ri, all offering fine views of Mount Everest and beyond. North of Junbesi stands the formidable Mount Numbur 6959 m. which we would get a better look at tomorrow morning.
About 250 people live in this village and their primary occupations are tourism and agriculture. The place has a good number of lodges and we picked our place on the basis of some good feedbacks my guide had received from some of his friends from earlier today and ended up staying at Namaste House on the western side of the village.
In the evening rain, thunder and lightning broke every bit of silence in the whole valley and there was not much else to do than go to bed early and hope that conditions would improve by tomorrow.
Day 14 : Junbesi 2680 m. via Lamjura Pass 3530 m. – Bhandar 2190 m. 9h40m
Yesterday nights unpleasant weather was completely gone and replaced by the cleanest and finest air and sky I have ever encountered in this country when I looked out of the window in the early morning hours. Outside our guesthouse Mount Numbur looked awesome, coated in fresh new glittering snow shining beautifully high up there. Locally this majestic mountain is called “Shorong Yul Lha” which means “The Protector of Solu” and today “the Protector” was standing there at its very best.
We left Junbesi at 6.40 am walking at steadily pace turning our heads and stopping on regular intervals to soak up the fabolus views of the mountain behind us.
After about 20 minutes of moderate uphill walking we had our first glimpse of the Lamjura Pass sitting a long way up there at the far end of the Taktor Khola Valley. From this point it would take us two hours to reach the pass.
The walk up there was not as taxing as many of the other high places we had encountered on this long roller coaster trek which started in Tumlingtar 2 weeks ago, but it nevertheless did drag some energy out of my legs this morning.
The Lamjura Pass 3530 m. was covered in a thin layer of snow and ice when we arrived there at 8.55 am and it was evident that yesterdays rough weather had made an impact making the surface somewhat slippy to walk on.
Above our heads flights were buzzing in and out between the two busiest airports in Nepal Kathmandu and Lukla, taking excited tourists into the mountains and bringing back people filled with fine memories ( hopefully ) from their memorable trip to Khumbu and Everest. I am pretty convinced that if some of those passengers had added an additional week on to their itinerary by walking in or out from Jiri, would have added that extra little bit of special to their adventure.
I knew we were in for a long and seemingly never-ending descent from the pass and all the way down to Kinja at the bottom of the Likhu Khola river valley. The drop of almost 2000 meters and long hours of walking will definately give your knees a stern test. Bring a pair of walking sticks :-).
I took us nearly 4 hours to reach Kinja 1630 m. ( 12.55 pm ) which included a one hour lunch stop at Dackhu 2820 m. along the way. There seemed to be guesthouses/lodges/teahouses on frequent intervals and none of them seemed very busy. For those coming in from Jiri I think it is a reasonable idea to split the Kinja- Lamjura Pass section in two. Going up in one single day involves some very hard work !
Kinja is a lively little cosy village right next to the Likhu Khola. This place has a good number of guesthouses and restaurants/teashops selling food and refreshments.
The last bit of walking this day from Kinja to Bhandar took us almost 3 hours. The trail was pretty easy and comfortable at first following the river on its western side before gradually starting to climb higher into the valley passing family houses and farms clinging on to the hillside. When we finally arrived at Bhandar 2190 m. I was pretty tired after completing almost 10 hours of walking, the longest stage so far on this trek.
We checked in at Shoba Lodge and Restaurant sitting right next a few other guesthouses. Some trekking groups heading for Khumbu along with their guides and porters made this place by far the busiest and noisiest so far on this trek. In the evening it was partytime 🙂 Looking at the consumption of beer and liquor some of the trekking staff were enjoying, getting very drunk and unsteady, I wondered if they would be able to keep up with their clients tomorrow handling duffel bags of 30 kg on their shoulders with an added headache on top of that 🙂
Day 15 : Bhandar 2190 m. – Jiri 1955 m. 6h30m
A clear,blue and beautifully bright sky greeted us when we stepped out of our guesthouseas ready to take on our last and final day of trekking on this long and very demanding walk which had taken us in and out of some deep remote valleys and across numerous high mountain passes in this wonderful country.
While all the other guests at the lodge headed towards Kinja, Lamjura Pass and the Khumbu region my guide and I had the trail completely to ourselves moving up in the opposite direction aiming at the nearby forrested ridge ahead of us which I knew from my trip here in 2009 was the Deurali Pass. It took us only 55 minutes ( 7.30 am ) to reach the mani walls, prayer flags and cluster of houses ( several guesthouses ) which marks the Deurali Pass 2710 m. This is the first of 4 major high passes on the walk between Jiri and Namche Bazaar ( the others being Lamjura Pass 3530 m. – Trakshindu La 3153. and Kari La Pass 2840 m. ). From the pass it is possible to see the tip of the formidable and sacred Gaurishankar 7181 m.
I could really sense that Jiri was coming closer as we started our descent long descent to Shivalaya located on the banks of Khimti Khola River at the bottom of the valley. Far across from where we were walking I could see the hillside that would take us up to Mali, the last bit of climbing before going down on the other side to our end destination this day.
A suprising number of trekking groups were coming up towards us on a regular basis as we moved down the comfortable trail passing scattered houses and nepalis doing their every day life and business. After a fairly steep last approach we eventually arrived in the busy little village of Shivalaya 1770 m. at 9.15 am. The Kalo Patthar Guesthouse located at the suspension bridge provided us with a good and tasteful lunch, enough to keep us going for the last a few hours.
The sun was really heating up this scenic valley and when we left Shiavalaya at 10.30 am I had already stocked up on some extra water in my backpack to avoid getting dehydrated and sloppy on the last bit of steps to Jiri.
We reached the top of Mali at 12.05 pm making numerous stops along the way spending time admiring the fine line up of peaks in the distance behind us. I knew this was the last serious mountain views I would get in Nepal this year and as we started the descent to Jiri the tought of coming back to these areas next year as well was growing with every step.
At 1.05 pm we finally strolled in to the Jiri main square 1755 m. ending 15 days of some hard but rewarding days walking. Though I really would have liked to reach Makalu Basecamp and wished I had some better luck with the weather the overall experience was good. According to my rough calculations we had ascended 17160 meters and descended 15320 meters in total on this trek and my legs were still feeling good 🙂