Herefordshire Week 160: Tuesday 17 – Monday 23 January 2023

Home alone as the Big Freeze continues. A magical walk in the Brecon Beacons. Snowdrops.


Back down to -5C overnight on Monday/Tuesday, and we were up at 5am to get Phil to the 06.40 train to PAD. Very dry, so thankfully no ice on the roads and Steffi’s towel-on-the-windscreen tip meant no ice on the car either.

Back home to catch up on admin – a lot of LED posts on the website and Facebook. Emailed Val about Kanchenjunga trek this Oct / Nov…. although it’s still a placeholder rather than a plan at this stage.

Long work days Wednesday and Thursday. Still freezing outside and overnight. I kept the peanuts topped up in the bird feeders and melted the water in the bird bath.

On Thursday morning, this little fella / fellaette had a bit of a brush with the kitchen window and needed a spot of recovery time on the gate.

Robin, recovering on the gate
Robin, recovering on the gate

On Friday morning I drove over to Pengenffordd in the Brecon Beacons to walk the Dragons Back and Waun Fach Circular with Sonia, Sara and Grace.

A gorgeous day – snow underfoot and sunshine overhead. Cold and clear blue skies. Just magic.

Cairn, Mynydd Troed and Pen y Fan
Cairn, Mynydd Troed and Pen y Fan

Lovely to be back walking with my Manaslu and Nar Phu trek mates.

We did this DRAGONS BACK CIRCULAR – BLACK MOUNTAINS route in reverse: up the Rhiangoll valley to the ridge, north and east along the ridge to Waun Fach, north-west-ish and down to the cairn marking the turn west onto the Dragons Back, descending down the three bumps of the Dragon’s Back to the Dinas Castle Inn car park.

Panorama from the Dragons Back Descent
Panorama from the Dragons Back Descent
Sonia and Sara catching up with Grace at Waun Fach
Sonia and Sara catching up with Grace at Waun Fach

At the bottom of the Dragons Back we made a slight detour – worth it – up and over the remains of Castell Dinas hill fort. OS GetOutside tells me that “at 450 metres it is the highest castle in England and Wales”, so there you go.

And to top off a smashing day, we got to Crickhowell in time to celebrate with a large pot of tea and very tasty cakes at Latte-Da.


Driving to Malvern that evening to pick up Phil thanks to GWR terminating the Hereford train there was decidedly less so. I LOATHE driving in Malvern; navigating is a nightmare.

We took it easy over the weekend, late starts both days.

Freezing fog outside all day on Saturday, so a day to stay inside. The whiteout confused the sheep no end. Flickred Dragon’s Back photos, did some admin, cooked dinner.

Frosty & Foggy start to the day at Forty Acres
Frosty & Foggy start to the day at Forty Acres

The weather started to warm up a bit on Sunday – BBC reckons we nudged all the way up to 2C – so we strolled down to the Abbey and back over Thistly Field in the morning. Late lunch then an afternoon eBaying “stuff”.

Busy day of admin and projects on Monday including a visit to Wren Kitchens, preceded by lunch at Dough, which was neither admin nor project!

TV:  Narcos (season 2), Life after Life, Happy Valley (series 3), Our Flag Means Death.

Podcasts: The History of England, Books and Authors.

Photos: Herefordshire week 160 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-01-22.

Herefordshire Week 159: Tuesday 10 – Monday 16 January 2023

Back to work in the week; lots of walking over the weekend as Charles and Steffi come to stay. Added bonus: we all got to practise our sheepherding skills…

Sheep on the loose Chez Loosemore
Sheep on the loose Chez Loosemore

Back to work on Tuesday, working the morning to get back on top of the inbox and to prep for an early afternoon new joiner induction. More work Weds and Thurs. VWW and Family Zooms resumed too.

Things got busier and more interesting on Friday!

The day started with coffee at Gwatkins with some of the Kerrys Gate Ladies and organised by K.

Time for a bit of a potter in the garden, mainly scooping up the leaves that had come to rest in Phil’s pond after a couple of days of gusts and high winds, before Charles arrived. Perfect timing for a walk around the garden and lunch in the conservatory, then off to Abergavenny to pick up Steffi. Home for tea, treats and a catch up sat by the log stove. Dinner by Phil.

Up early on Saturday so as to get into Hereford for the firsts GVWC outing of 2023, the Belmont Loop led by JP. Grey clouds but no rain. Very muddy….

GVWC: Belmont Loop
GVWC: Belmont Loop

Home for lunch by Phil then Charles headed over to Fromes Hill and the delights of the army and outdoor kit shop, aka the place with the tank, and the rest of us walked down to rendezvous with TJL. The six of us continued on to the very wet and muddy Riverdale footpath – wellies better suited to the submerged waterlogged sections. At Black Bush, rather than heading back up to Kerrys Gate, J persuaded us to do a new (to me and P) route to Kerrys Gate. So we continued on along the road almost to Gwatkins then took the footpaths up and over the fields to emerge opposite Bushmills in Kerrys Gate.

Riverdale - Gwatkins - Kerrys Gate
Riverdale – Gwatkins – Kerrys Gate

One to remember, but not to redo until the ground has dried out. It was very squelchy.

Back at base we all tucked into much needed tea and cake sitting around the log fire with TJL. Relaxation and chat continued through 6pm G&Ts and nibbles and dinner then early to bed.

Sunday saw a more leisurely start to the day then Charles, Steffi and I headed out to walk the Camp Crossroads – Cockyard (shorter) circuit.

Almost home when we encountered the week’s main event: Sheep on the Loose chez Loosemore!

On the last of the uphill stretch we spied sheep on the skyline… three escapees from Kiln Field.

Steffi, Charles and I managed to persuade them back along our bit of the lane, but then they veered onto the drive and embarked on a tour of the front lawn. At least that gave me time to get Phil and between us we tried herding them back up to the gate while S and C barred the lane back to the road junction. Almost there and then they bolted doing a u-turn and bombing around me and past C & S at quite a lick before sauntering off down the hill towards Quarrels Green.

Sheep! (Steffi’s photo)

While P drove to R’s I hopped over the gate into Thistly Field and keeping low and out of sheep-sight hurried down the fields to the old metal gate, squeezed between hedge growth and back into the lane below them pesky critters. Kept them in sight but at a distance until P reappeared soon followed by R’s truck…. Which the three sheep happily trotted after as far as the gate where R lured them back into the field with a magic white bucket. We will remember that trick for next time!

Such excitements!

We don’t lay such spectacles on for all our guests.

Charles, Steffi and I recovered with a mug of tea in the sunny conservatory until it was time to drive north along the Golden Valley to Dorstone for a fab Sunday Lunch at the 12th century Pandy Inn. Top marks to PR for the recommendation – great menu, fantastic food, relaxed and chatty hospitality, efficient service. You can’t ask for more.

Lunch at The Pandy Inn, Dorstone
Lunch at The Pandy Inn, Dorstone

Back at base, we all vegged in the lounge until just before 9pm when it was time to rustle up a cheese platter and a glass of wine to accompany episode 3 of Happy Valley. Then bed. After our lunchtime feast we didn’t really need the cheese and biscs to be honest…

Another leisurely start to Monday. Having waved off Charles, Steffi and I headed out to Kerrys Gate and on to do the (short) Cockyard Circuit Clockwise. Bumped into P plus pooches en route to Kerrys Gate and had a quick catch up with A&A at Cockyard.

Back home just enough time for a quick cuppa then off to Abergavenny to wave S off on the thankfully delayed train to Cardiff.

Gorgeous sunny afternoon but I’d done enough walking and so after a tour of the new expanded Abergavenny Aldi it was home for a late lunch, a visit from the Wren Kitchens surveyor, and the a lot of tea, a mince pie and the LRB.

I spotted the first flowers out on mum’s camellia on Friday morning. Elsewhere in the garden, snowdrops are flowering and bulbs are coming up everywhere – daffodils in all the usual places, tulips on the willow tree stump and things in the orchard planter (alliums and/or tulips).

First camellia of the year
First camellia of the year

TV: Narcos (season 1 / 2), Our Flag Means DeathHappy Valley (series 3).

Podcasts: History Extra.

Photos: Herefordshire week 159 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-01-15.

Herefordshire Week 158: Tuesday 03 – Monday 09 January 2023

Snowdrops. Pruning. Christmas with dad and Jean. Hedges cut.

Last week of hols.

Tuesday morning was busy on the computer doing weeknotes and Nepal photos. Lunch then into Hereford for library, Trekkit, Christmas bargains hunt (no joy), insulation and gaffer tape, then to dad and Jean’s for tea and Christmas cake.

No more leftovers, so Nigel Slater’s butterbean mash with broccoli was a culinary delight come dinnertime.

Helicopters came back on Wednesday, Army Camp holidays must be over. More Nepal photos – we got to Phu! – then out into the high winds to walk to Ewyas Harold for a pub lunch at The Temple Bar Inn. The roadworks have started, so we took T’s tip to detour through R’s field and strolled down to the Abbey with T and L.

Disaster awaited in Ewyas – The Temple was closed for the staff Christmas Party. So we tried out The Dog for a lacklustre lunch then headed home to top up the bird feeders and to walk the grounds discussing fencing. Crunched on the tops of the tips of the daff shoots at the bird feeders and found fungi on the dead ash tree.

Fungi on the dead ash tree
Fungi on the dead ash tree

My main achievement for what remained of the afternoon was making a slaw out of half of the surplus red cabbage.

Thursday was meant to be a dry day and I had hoped to bonfire ….. but it turned out to be damp and mistily mizzly drizzly. Still a good day for jobs: descaled the coffee maker and kettle with white vinegar, swept out the log basket and around the stove and even got the hoover out to get rid of some of the ash build up in the hard to reach places. Took a surprisingly long time!

A bit of back and forth over email with FH back in London – thankfully only something we will need to do again in another couple of years.

After lunch we headed out with the step ladders and loppers to prune the pear tree. Let’s see what happens now…

Raked up some of the leaves by the log shed but the breeze kept nicking leaves from the wheelbarrow so I moved round to the old rose garden at the bottom of the slope. Easier going there and I spotted the first snowdrops were out! As you can see, they remain impossible to photograph well.

First snowdrops
First snowdrops

Decided to prune the rose bush while I was there.

Inside for tea and mince pies. Phil got the log stove going. That’s usually my domain.

I made an effort to break the Christmas and NY lie in cycle on Friday – up at 8am! Raining again so gardening and walking plans were put on hold and instead I finished off the long overdue final filing of my recipe folder and flickred my Nepal photos up and over the Kang La pass and all the way Ghyaru.

Marshyangdi River valley, looking east towards Pisang and Chame - Annapurna II on the right
Marshyangdi River valley, looking east towards Pisang and Chame – Annapurna II on the right

Got the log stove going as the rain splattered on the windows then dinner and telly. Windy outside.

Dad and Jean came over on Saturday for our much delayed Christmas Get Together: presents then lunch with dad supplying wine and Christmas Pudding (made using Vi A’s handwritten recipe) and brandy cream. We squeezed in cheese, biscuits and port too. Oh, and coffee and chocolates lounging around the log stove.

Welly Boot Rack in use
Welly Boot Rack in use

I needed a little lie down once they’d gone – watched The Good Liar. A lovely day.

Still raining on Sunday so a good opportunity to finish flickring my photos from this last year’s Nepal trek and the corresponding Photos & Notes blogpost. Took down the Christmas decorations too – a couple of days late but they were required yesterday.

Into Hereford on Monday morning – bought new sofas for the lounge and conservatory from DFS and popped into Wren Kitchen while we were there.

Recovered with a smashing coffee and giant flapjack at a new coffee shop – Dough – that’s opened in Sensory & Rye‘s old premises. V handy having two lovely coffee shop/cafes in the same part of town.

Supermarket shop then home for a late lunch in the conservatory. Sunshine and showers. The hedge cutter tractor had cut our laneside hedges while we were out.

Did a few minor garden jobs in the afternoon. Back to work tomorrow…..

TV: China’s Van Goghs: The Village That Paints Thousands Of Fakes A Year (YouTube – I found the Amsterdam part really poignant), When Motown Came to Britain2 Tone: The Sound of CoventryThe NestOur Flag Means Death, The Good Liar, Narcos (season 1), Happy Valley (series 3).

Podcasts: Empire, History Extra.

Photos: Herefordshire week 158 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-01-08.

Manaslu and Nar Phu: Photos & Notes

Val Pitkethly’s Manaslu & Nar Phu in 2022 was my first time back in Nepal after COVID closed borders and horizons in 2020. It was lovely to be back and to be trekking again with Val, and Sonia and Sara were great trekmates.

Nar Stupa and line of Chortens
Nar Stupa and line of Chortens

A slightly different trip this time – staying in tea houses / lodges rather than camping, Bhudi as Sirdar in place of Chhering, and a two part trek starting off with a retread of the Manaslu Circuit and then heading into the valleys of Nar and Phu, with a drive along the Annapurna Circuit Road between the two.

Each part had its own high pass – Larkya La / Larkye La / Larke La pass (5106 m), in snow this time, on the Manaslu Circuit and the Kang La / Khang La Pass (5306 m), again in snow, bringing us out of Nar Phu and onto the Annapurna Circuit Road near Humde.

26 days HFD-HFD, 24 in Nepal, 18 days trekking, 11 days on the Manaslu Circuit and 7 days in Nar Phu and out to the Annapurna Circuit Road.

Photos are in my Flickr Album: Nepal, October/November 2022.

Spelling variations are myriad, based on the maps, signposts on the route, Wikipedia and Google maps. As always, I’ve relied on Guenter Seyfferth’s Die Berge des Himalaya (The mountains of Himalaya) website to identify a lot of the mountains. It’s such a superb resource. The key pages for this trip have been Larkya La and Kang La.

Tuesday 25 October 2022: Hereford – London – Doha (Photos)

Overnight flight to Kathmandu via Doha on Qatar Airways QR 0004 (LHR-DOH) and QR 0648 (DOH-KTM).

Wednesday 26 October 2022: Doha – Kathmandu (Photos)

Fabulous views of the Himalayan range as we flew to KTM.

Landed mid morning and sped through the new visa / immigration process and then spent a l-o-n-g time queuing for the security scan and at luggage reclaim.

A big hug from Mingmi once I was outside and then a taxi to the Marshyangdi Hotel.

Met Sonia and Sara, did some errands with Val, introduced them all to the delights of Charles’ Falafel Wrap place, had a nap.

Dinner at Thakali Bhanchha Ghar.

Overnight: Marshyangdi Hotel, Thamel.

Thursday 27 October 2022: Kathmandu (Photos)

S, S and I got a taxi over to Boudhanath Stupa for the morning. Lovely. We had a blessing and also tracked down the Ghyoilisang Peace Park & Pond. No TikToking allowed.

Back in Thamel our afternoon quest for coffee and cake was only partially successful – Tihar holidays.

Dinner at the hotel (Tihar struck again).

Overnight: Marshyangdi Hotel, Thamel.

Friday 28 October 2022: Kathmandu – Machhakhola (930 m) (Photos)

Drive Kathmandu / काठमाडौं – Arughat / आरुघाट – Arkhet Bazar / अर्खेत बाज़ार – Sotikhola / सोती खोला (597 m) – Laupubensi / Lapubesi / लापुबेसी (880 m) – Machhakhola / Machha Khola / मछाखोला (930 m).

We left KTM early to drive to Machhakhola which is currently the end of the “road” (actually a rocky, dusty jeep track from Arughat via Arkhet Bazar, Sotikhola and Lapubesi).  You can now use the same jeep (provided it’s local) all the way there, and there’s tarmac all the way to Arughat.

In Machhakhola the village Tihar party procession keep us entertained (to a point) through to the early evening.

Overnight: Chum Valley Hotel, Machhakhola

Saturday 29 October 2022: Machhakhola (930 m) – Salleri (1360 m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 1

Route: Machhakhola / Machha Khola / मछाखोला (930 m) – Khorlabesi / Khorlabeshi / खोर्लाबेसी (970 m) – Tatopani / तातोपानी (990 m) – Dobhan / दोभान (1050 m) – Yaruphant / लापुबेसी (1170 m) – Jagat / जगत (1340 m) – Salleri / सल्लेरी (1360m).

First full day’s trek. We were on the proto-road all the way to the new bridge over the Budhi Gandaki River to Dobhan. Not nice walking. Once over on the east side of the river we were on the Manaslu Circuit trail – but the road is being carved out of the hillsides on the western side.

Overnight: Shringi Guesthouse, Salleri

Sunday 30 October 2022: Salleri (1360 m) – Deng (1870 m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 2

Route: Salleri / सल्लेरी (1360m) – Sirdibas / सिर्दिबास (1420 m) – Philim / Phillim / फिलिम (1570 m) – Chisopani / Chisapani / चिसापानी (1620 m) – Ekle Bhatti / ऐकले भट्टी (1600m) – Gampul (1626 m) – Nyak Phedi (1625 m) – Deng / Dyang / डेङ (1870 m).

Lots of landslides, some nasty ones between Nyak Phedi and Deng mean that the trail gets very narrow and precarious, with long, sheer drops down to the raging torrent down in the gorge below. Lots of up and down to the river too, where landslides have destroyed the trail completely.

Tashi, the lady lodge owner, had organised recipients to come her lodge for LED* solar light distributions this evening and tomorrow morning.

Overnight: Tashi’s Lodge, Deng / Dyang

Monday 31 October 2022: Deng (1870 m) – Prok (2397 m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 3

Route: Deng / Dyang / डेङ (1870 m) – Rana (1970 m) – Bihi / बिहि (2130 m) – Bhijam (2020 m) – Prok / प्रोक (2397 m).

LED solar light distribution in Deng, Rana and Bihi, early lunch in Bhijam then down to the Budhi Gandaki and back up again through the forest on the other side heading for the high plateau of Prok.

Amaranth, approaching Bihi
Amaranth, approaching Bihi

The hydo-electric power station above Prok is now in service.

Exploring the old gompa in Prok Sara and I got stung on the head by hornets. The lodge family prescribed local honey and chang. Sticky!

Overnight: Norbu Lodge, Prok

Tuesday 01 November 2022: Prok (2397 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 4

Route: Prok / प्रोक (2397 m) – Ghap / घप (2660 m) – Lunga Chhyuda (2375 m) – Suksum – Namrung / नाम्रुङ (2660 m) – Banjam / Bhanjam / बन्जाम (2650 m) – Lihi / Lhi / लिही (2900 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m).

LED solar light distribution in Ghap. Forest trails and bridges back and forth over the Budhi Gandaki. Freshly squeezed apple juice on the climb to Namrung. Lunch at Bhanjam, and monkeys. Cute kittens in the kitchen at Hinang Gompa and a massive moon.

Overnight: Hinang Gompa

Wednesday 02 November 2022: Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Sama Gaon (3500 m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 5

Route: Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Sho / शो – Lho / ल्हो (3180 m) – Shyala / श्याला (3520 m) – Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउ (3500 m).

A tour of Hinang Gompa and photos of Himal Chuli from the Ani Gompa, then back to the main trail for the very picturesque stretch: busy villages leading to Lho Gompa perched high on its hill yet dwarfed by our first views of Manaslu, Manaslu North and Naike Peak.

Coffee in Lho. Lunch in Shyala. Dinner in Samagaon.

The mountain views just get better and better.

Overnight: Tashi Yangchen Hotel & Lodge, Samagaon

Thursday 03 November 2022: Sama Gaon (3500m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 6

Acclimatisation day: Punggyen Gompa (3870 m).

Morning hike to Phuyang / Pung Gyen Gompa, picnicking beside the stream on the way back. Later on, tea with Tsering’s sister and his mum, visiting from Samdo.

Fantastic views up on the Punggyen Glacier’s hanging valley, from the twin peaks of Manaslu the mountain vista continues anticlockwise to Ngadi Chuli / Peak 29 (7871 m), Simnang Himal (6251 m) and the Taninga Danda; across the Budhi Gandaki valley there’s the Pang Phuchi Himal and Kutang Himal. Magic.

Me, Bhudi, Tsering Tarke, Sara, Mingmi and Sonia, Punggyen Gompa acclimatisation walk
Me, Bhudi, Tsering Tarke, Sara, Mingmi and Sonia, Punggyen Gompa acclimatisation walk

Overnight: Tashi Yangchen Hotel & Lodge, Samagaon

Friday 04 November 2022: Sama Gaon (3500 m) – Samdo (3860 m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 7

Route: Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउँ (3500 m) – Samdo / संदो (3860 m).

A lovely half day stroll to Samdo. A huge new lodge has been built on the Sama side of the village – looks like a stack of portacabins and steals the views.

The team and Manaslu मनास्लु (8156 m), from the Sama to Samdo trail
The team and Manaslu मनास्लु (8156 m), from the Sama to Samdo trail

Strolled around the older part of the village and visited the new gompa. Icy in places underfoot. Eye clinic back at the lodge, and Sara handed out colouring books and pencils.

Overnight: Chez Karsang Lodge, Samdo

Saturday 05 November 2022: Samdo (3860 m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 8

Acclimatisation day: Up the Mayol Khola / Samdo Glacier valley to 4760 m.

Hike from Samdo / संदो (3860 m) – Mayol Khola / Samdo Glacier valley – Yak Kharka above Samdo (4400 m) – Acclimatisation to 4760 m with views to the border with Tibet – Picnic back at the Yak Kharka (4400 m) – Samdo / संदो (3860 m).

More fab views – Manaslu, Naike Peak, Samdo Lo, east towards Tibet, west towards the Larkya Himal, and the Larke La Pass….

Me and the Manaslu Himal, from the Mayol Khola valley
Me and the Manaslu Himal, from the Mayol Khola valley

In the afternoon, we ran an LED eye clinic at the Lodge and distributed LED solar lights.

Overnight: Chez Karsang Lodge, Samdo

Sunday 06 November 2022: Samdo (3860 m) – Dharmasala (4460 m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 9

Route: Samdo / संदो (3860 m) – Larkya Bazaar / लार्क्य बाज़ार – Dharmasala / Dharamshala / धर्मशाला (4460 m).

Leisurely breakfast in Karsang Dikie’s kitchen, a quick visit to Tashi to collect Val, then on towards Dharmasala, our final stop before crossing the Larke La.

Lots of other people on the trail as the weather forecast wasn’t looking too good.

Val, Mingmi and I did an extra hour or so, climbing above the main trail and into the Larke Danda in search of some good blue sheep photos (tick), and even better views across the headwaters of the Budhi Gandaki to Manaslu (tick tick).

Lunch and laze outside our stone built “room” at the Samdo Lodge (it’s “rustic” but the best of the three. More of a big bothy than a tea house), then a short section of the trail to the viewpoint above Dharmasala for a bit of acclimatisation.

We were invited into the kitchen for tea and tall tales, ate an early dinner in the main dining hall then bed. Early start tomorrow.

Overnight: Samdo Lodge, Dharamsala

Monday 07 November 2022: Dharmasala (4460 m) – Larkya La pass (5106 m) – Bhimtang (3720 m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 10

Route: Dharmasala / Dharamshala / धर्मशाला (4460 m) – Larkya La / Larkye La / Larke La pass (5106 m) – Bhimtang / Bimthang / Bhimthang / बिम्थंग (3720 m).

4am bed tea followed by muesli as we dressed. Off on the trail around 4.45am – we’d been hearing people getting up for an hour or so. Lots of people ahead of us, and behind. It felt a bit like the Thorong La crossing way back in 2009.

Cold and clear. Beautiful. Steady pace. First light around 5am, rosy sunrise as we passed the small lake, frozen, and the trail moved onto the snow. Very different from 2018 – in some ways much easier as snow cover meant we didn’t need to do the boulder hopping. The tea shop wasn’t open – not surprisingly. We stopped there to don spikeys and for a chocolate bar and drink. The snow blindingly bright in the sun.

We got to Larke La (16,752 ft in old money) around 7.30am. SO MANY PEOPLE there. Photos and prayer flags, then off around 8am before the sun softened the snow too much – Val wary of avalanche risk and slips on the steep descent into the Ponkar Tal valley.

Val adding a khata scarf to the prayer flags at the Larke La
Prayer flags at the Larke La

The views west were just as stunning as last time: Lamjung Himal (6983 m), Annapurna II (7937 m), Kang Guru (6981 m) and Chombi (6704 m) with P6780 and P6805 in between, P6479, Kechakyu Himal (5542 m) and Gyaji Kang (7074 m), then Nemjung (7140 m), Himjung (7092 m) and Himlung (7126 m) and, closest to the pass, Panbari (6905 m).

We were down in the valley and off the snow by 10am. Tea, chapatti and cheese at the Larke Pedi / Dangboche Kharka tea houses a little before 11am, then back on the trail following the moraine walls of the Ponkar Tal all the way down to Bhimtang, arriving around 1pm.

Cloudy and colder. Once the rooms were sorted, had a bit of a wash and then hung out in the dining room with lots of other Larke La-ers. Stingy on the food at the Lilita Lodge – hungry night.

Overnight: Lilita Hotel & Restaurant, Bhimtang

Tuesday 08 November 2022: Bhimtang (3720 m) – Tilche (2300 m) (Photos)

Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 11

The final day on the Manaslu Circuit.

Route: Bhimtang / Bimthang / Bhimthang / बिम्थंग (3720 m) – Habu (3400 m) – Chauli Kharka / Yak Kharka (3030 m) – Surke Khola – Gho / Gowa / गोवा (2470 m) – Kharche / खर्चे (2700 m) – Tilje / Tilche (2300 m).

Overnight: Hotel North Face, Tilche

Down down down down down descending alongside the Dudh Khola through forests and into farmland. The final stretch – now from Gho – on the jeep road. Lots of logging, lots of porters bringing long metal electricity poles and rolls of corrugated metal up the trail. Landslides too.

Lovely elevenses sat outside in the sun at Purti Himalayan Hotel in Chauli Kharka, gazing at the mountains looming over the tree tops, and one of the best lunches of the whole trip sat at one of the sunny courtyard picnic tables at the The Seven Sister Lodge.

The BEST Dal Bhat is served up at The Seven Sister Lodge, Karche (?)
The BEST Dal Bhat is served up at The Seven Sister Lodge, Karche

It was busy in Tilche – we shared the lodge with a large Exodus group and their crew. They got the en suite rooms we got the old farmhouse upstairs rooms, nice but a steep set of outside stairs to get down to go to the loo.

LED glasses clinic in the evening. Off to Nar Phu tomorrow!

Wednesday 09 November 2022: Tilche (2300 m) – Koto (2620 m) – Chhauchha (~2850 m) (Photos)

Nar Phu Day 1

Drive: Tilje / Tilche (2300 m) – Dharapani / धारापानी (1960 m) – Koto / कोटो (2620 m)

Trek: Koto / कोटो (2620 m) – Chhauchha / Cho Cho / Chhomchu (~2850 m)

Leisurely start to allow the Exodus group to breakfast and depart. Time for the last LED Eye Clinic which included training the lodge owner on how to assess which strength glasses were required. We left him with a box.

Val had organised a jeep from the end of the track just over the bridge from the village. We set off around 9am, said fond farewells to Lakpa once we joined the main road above Dharapani and were in Koto by 11am.  In 2009 Tal to Timang was day 5 of our Annapurna Circuit trek, and Timang to Pisang, via Koto, was day 6. It’s now a very drivable road all the way to Manang with plans to push it all the way over the Thorong La. Don’t imagine the idyllic trek of days gone by.

In Koto we had a home cooked, early lunch in the House of Geraniums (aka Laxmi’s) while Val, Mingmi and Bhudi tried to get our permits approved. Mingmi had photos but not the official confirmation. Tihar holidays had segued into the upcoming General Election to ensure very limited opening hours for Government offices.

Persistence and politeness paid off and in the early afternoon we crossed the Marshyangdi River and headed off into Nar Phu, following the Nar Khola’s very, very narrow river valley. A lot of up, the trail climbing steadily through evergreen forest. Having left Koto at 2.45pm we made good time and arrived at the Three Sister Restaurant & Lodge 3 hours later, including tea and a look at the rooms (too small) at the new Natural Restaurant & Lodge 15 mins earlier on the trail.

We did have to leave Mingmi and Bhudi in Koto until the permits were officially confirmed though. Happily they caught us up not long after we’d arrived in Chhauchha.

An evening with a log stove, lovely cats and French Knickers!

Overnight: Three Sisters Lodge, Chhauchha

Thursday 10 November 2022: Chhauchha (~2850 m) – Upper Chyakhu (3800 m) (Photos)

Nar Phu Day 2

Route: Chhauchha / Cho Cho / Chhomchu (~2850 m) – Singenge Dharmasala (3290m) – Meta / Methang (3560 m) – Upper Chyakhu / Upper Chyakho / Upper Chyako (3800 m)

A morning of up through forest and over and behind waterfalls. Icy underfoot. A signpost at Hulaki Odar (3000m) and a tea stop at Dharmasala (3210m) then on to Meta for lunch at the Terelha Guesthouse. And two very cute puppies.

Val and Krishna, on the trail from Meta to Upper Chyakhu
Val and Krishna, on the trail from Meta to Upper Chyakhu

At Meta the narrow section of the Nar Khola valley that provides the main route into Nar Phu broadens out and in the afternoon we followed the contours, branching off north east into the Phu valley. Another deep ravine, this time carved out by the Phu Khola that comes in from the mountains and glaciers that form the Nepal-Tibet border. Getting higher, it’s cold once the sun goes – but we got a warm welcome at the lovely Karma Hotel in Upper Chyakhu. Stove on, darts (!), dinner.

Overnight: Karma Hotel, Upper Chyakhu

Friday 11 November 2022: Upper Chyakhu (3800 m) – Phu (4080 m) (Photos)

Nar Phu Day 3

Route: Upper Chyakhu / Upper Chyakho / Upper Chyako (3800 m) – Kyang / क्यंग (3820 m) – Phu / Phoo / Fu / फु (4080 m)

Dawn light moving over the mountain peaks, a cold walk to Kyang on the shady side of the valley, a pika, clear views of Annapurna, people coming the other way – the trail is much improved Val says.

Amazing colours in the rocks, the trail hugging the cliff face staying level-ish. Sometimes high above the Phu Khola, sometimes on the river banks.

A huge sentinel rock which the river has to flow around announces your arrival at the southern edge of Phu settlement. A steep sandy path brings you up to the entrance gateway and first mani wall. Then it’s level – a ruined fort, a ruined dzong, old bridges over narrow deep gorges, chortens and mani walls, blue sheep, then Phu itself. A long suspension bridge over the Phu Khola brings you to the village entrance chorten, stone houses in tiers make the most of a sunny curve in the rock face.

On the other side of the river, high up on the bluff above the Layju Khola – Phu Khola river junction, Tashi Lhakhang Gompa. We visited in the afternoon, receiving a guided tour from the resident monk and butter tea. A very auspicious day.

Chortens, Tashi Lhakhang Gompa, Phu
Chortens, Tashi Lhakhang Gompa, Phu

Once the sun left, Phu was SO COLD.

Phu Mountain & Lodge was the only place that charged for the log stove to be lit. Between us, a french group of four and two drunk election officials, no one made the first move.

Overnight: Phu Mountain & Lodge, Phu

Saturday 12 November 2022: Phu (4080 m) – Nar (4110 m) (Photos)

Nar Phu Day 4

Route: Phu / Phoo / Fu / फु (4080 m) – Kyang / क्यंग (3820 m) – Upper Chyakhu / Upper Chyakho / Upper Chyako (3800 m)  – Nar Phedi / Naar Phedi  (3490 m) – Nar / Naar / नर (4110 m)

Zom zom: down to 3450 m and then up again.

A long day and my mandatory grumpy day – every long trip has one.

A lovely (cold) trek back down the valley of the Phu Khola to the sunshine at Kyang where yaks were being herded, some unwillingly, and Annapurna II dominating the end of the river valley on the final section into Kyang. Early lunch back at the Karma Hotel in Upper Chyakhu then on between the red leaved thorn bushes, juniper trees and grasses towards Meta but turning off to take the trail to Nar Phedi.

A new bridge across the Nar Khola where it starts just below the conjunction of the Phu Khola and the Labse Khola. All the rivers deep in gorges at this point. Fab views south along the Nar Khola.

We didn’t visit Naar Phedi Gompa, but started the slow slog 600m up to Nar. This was the grumpy part of my day.

A large stupa and mani wall mark the outskirts of Nar village lands, with the village coming into view a little later. Stone built, higgledy piggedly layers, wood smoke and prayer flags, Nar village curves around its fields and all of it gets longer in the sun than Phu, bigger too. Reminded me of the villages in Dolpo.

Through the village to Hotel Diki Ling, a lovely tea house lodge, where we tucked into tea and biscuits by a roasting hot stove – a welcome contrast with Phu!

Lovely sunset light on Kanguru (6981m).

Veggie momos and chips for tea.

Overnight: Hotel Diki Ling, Nar

Sunday 13 November 2022: Nar (4110 m) (Photos)

Nar Phu Day 5

Rest day in Nar / Naar / नर (4110 m). Sunny sightseeing, avoiding electioneering.

Overnight: Hotel Diki Ling, Nar

Entrance Chorten, Nar west side, Nar and Kanguru
Entrance Chorten, Nar west side, Nar and Kanguru

Monday 14 November 2022: Nar (4110 m) – Kang La Pass (5306 m) – Ghyaru (3730 m) (Photos)

Nar Phu Day 6 (last day)

Route: Nar / Naar / नर (4110 m) – Khang La Phedi (4630 m) – Kang La / Khang La Pass (5306 m) – Ngawal / Nawal / ङावल (3650 m) – Ghyaru / Yaru / घ्यारु (3730 m)

Overnight: Yak Ru Hotel, Ghyaru

Early start for our second high pass, setting off at 3.15am. Not a fan of night-time walking, and was glad to see the purple glow of the dawn. Frozen trail and shattered rock gave way to snow, spikeys on. A final steep section through deep snow brought us to the Kang La Pass a little after 8am. We had the place all to ourselves.

Val, Sonia and Sara on the final section - the chorten is in sight - Kang La ascent
Val, Sonia and Sara on the final section – the chorten is in sight – Kang La ascent

Clouds hid the views of Manaslu to the east and loitered over the Annapurna peaks to the west, just the other side of the Marshyangdi River valley.

A long steep slog down over moraine and more shattered rock scree to the grass line. Tea and biscuits then on down, not so steep now, to the first hut for chapatti and cheese, and Haribos. Sadly no one at home to make tea. Then more down, into the juniper trees and views of Chulu East, Chulu Far East and the frozen Chulu waterfall.

Down the in valley you could see the road, Humde Airport landing strip and plenty more signs of human occupation.

A new, long set of steps brought us into Ngawal village and out of the Nar Phu Restricted Area. A plod along the jeep track to lunch at a lodge on the far side of town.

Val cajoled us into continuing on to Ghyaru. A slog along the jeep track, which is the Annapurna Circuit High Trail, the more trekker friendly option compared to the main road down in the valley below. Everything is relative. We met a lot of independent trekkers coming the other way, and jeeps and motorbikes.

Ghyaru was worth the walk though; it’s an old-style Tibetan stone village nestled in the hillside high above the valley floor. The Ya Ru Tea House is a traditional family house with spectacular views of Annapurna II (7937m) straight across the Marshyangdi valley to the south and, sweeping southwest to west, Annapurna III (7555m) and Gangapurna (7454m).

Tea and biscuits, a bit of a wash, then dinner (veg spring rolls, chilli potatoes, veg egg fried rice…. i.e. a lot!) and tips, then bed.

Tuesday 15 November 2022: Ghyaru (3730 m) – Lower Pisang (3250 m) – Pokhara (830 m) (Photos)

Trek Route: Ghyaru / Yaru / घ्यारु (3730 m) – Lower Pisang / पिसांग (3250 m)

Drive: Lower Pisang / पिसांग (3250 m) – Koto / कोटो (2620 m) – Dharapani / धारापानी (1960 m) – Tal (1700 m) – Chamje / Chyamche / चामे (1430 m) – Besi Sahar / Besishahar / वेसीशहर (760 m) – Pokhara / पोखरा (830 m)

Overnight: Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Camp Community Lodge, Pokhara

A beautiful start to the day, with fab views of Annapurna II from my bedroom at the Yak Ru Hotel.

More magical views from the Yak Ru’s terrace and on the 500m descent to Lower Pisang: Annapurna II and Annapurna III, the mighty Marshyangdi River and its forested valley, and Mring Tal mirror lake on the forested flat section. More trekkers here too.

Tea in Lower Pisang and then into a Manangi jeep for the long ride to Behisahar along the Annapurna Circuit Road. Depressing at times, but looking up the views are still great – especially of the smooth curved mountainside of the Swargadwari Danda. We picked up the bags we’d left in Koto and apples at Bhratang, lunched at a jeep stop with waterfall views below Chamje, arrived at Besi Sahar sometime after 3pm.

Speedy farewells to Mingmi, Bhudi, Krishna and Tashi who were off to get the bus back to KTM while Val, Sonia, Sara and I got into a nice estate car and set off on the long drive to Pokhara. The road was terrible all the way – monsoon washouts, repairs and election-inspired-but-holiday-delayed roadworks. It took 5 hours to get to Pokhara.

A lovely dinner with Val’s Tibetan family at Tashiling, and a short walk to a large room for three, with en suite, at the Community Lodge. Time for a shower….

A long day, but a lovely beginning and end.

Wednesday 16 November 2022: Pokhara (Photos)

After a leisurely breakfast at Tseten’s we spent the morning in Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Camp visiting the Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Gompa to see the stunning Mandala of Yamantaka, the nearby Prayer Wheel garden where we coincided with the Gompa monks on their daily ceremonial procession around the Tashiling Settlement, and the Tibetan Refugee museum and souvenir shops.

Fond farewells at Tseten’s then up to the Siddhartha Garden Hotel, lovely as always.

Afternoon stroll to the Peace Stupa, down to Pewa Lake and a boat across to Pokhara Lakeside for some shopping and coffee and cake. Back to the Siddhartha for beers, snacks and dinner. And wifi.

Overnight: Siddhartha Garden Hotel, Pokhara

Thursday 17 November 2022: Pokhara – Kathmandu (Photos)

Fly: Pokhara / पोखरा (830 m) – Kathmandu / काठमाडौं (1400 m)

None of us wanted another long jeep ride on the roadwork-and-election-checkpoint-blighted Prithvi Highway, so Val and Tenzi had wangled tickets on one of the morning flights back to KTM.

There was the inevitable weather-induced delayed departure but we were back at the Marshyangdi early afternoon. Falafel wrap lunch and a cheeky beer, then souvenir shopping. Dinner with Tsering Tarke – pizza!

Overnight: Marshyangdi Hotel, Thamel

Friday 18 November 2022: Kathmandu (No Photos)

A long day, mainly spent killing time before my 2am tomorrow morning flight.

The morning’s main events were meeting up with Ang Rita Sherpa of The Partners Nepal for coffee (wearing my figurative LED Trustee hat there) and saying a fond farewell-see you again to Sonia and Sara.

Whiled away the afternoon and evening with a final stint of shopping, writing postcards, reading and listening in to returning trekking groups before Mingmi and Tenzi arrived to drive me to the airport.

Overnight: Airport / Flight

Saturday 19 November 2022: Kathmandu – Doha – London – Hereford (Photos)

The repeatedly rescheduled Qatar Airways QR 0645 finally left KTM sometime after 3am. Thankfully smooth connection in DOH onto Qatar Airways QR 0327, landing at Gatwick’s North Terminal late morning.

Thameslink to Farringdon and the Elizabeth Line to PAD. Train strikes, but I managed to get on a GWR service to Worcester Foregate Street and then a West Midlands Railway train to Hereford.

Mince pies and a cup of tea en route to celebrate.

Phil and the Panda met me at Hereford and drove me home.

Overnight: Home

* LED = Light Education Development

You can read more about Light Education Development (aka LED) on the website – it’s Val’s charity, I’m a trustee.

Herefordshire Week 157: Tuesday 27 December 2022 – Monday 02 January 2023

The Inbetween Week. A lot of reading and relaxing. Some surprise socialising too.

Hello 2023!


Drove over to see dad and Jean on Tuesday, a flying visit to drop off some fruit and strepsils. Back home to potter and read. We spent the early evening sat by the log stove, enjoying one (two) of the Christmas cocktails Phil ordered on the drive back from Wivenhoe.

We got the log stove going again on Wednesday and I spent the afternoon reading while it chucked it down outside.

The Drinks Party in Kerrys Gate was cancelled as the hosts are both ill, so we did some Impromptu Entertaining inviting K&N and recent arrivals J&J over for bread and cheese, olives and pistachios, fruit. And wine.

Impromptu Entertaining
Impromptu Entertaining

Neither of us slept well. Red wine, eh? I ended up tucking into a 2am bowl of muesli and yoghurt and finished reading The Kingdom of Ice.

Thursday featured a couple of short walks in between showers – Thistly Field with Phil in the morning and Kerrys Gate and back to return a hat in the afternoon. But I spent most of the day reading, polishing off The Midnight Library in one sitting. Smashing. Thank you LBM.

The sheep are back in Kiln Field and I spotted the first pink tinge on the camellia buds.

Sunshine and showers on Friday. A good day to start looking through my Nepal photos and uploading some to Flickr. I got as far as Sama.

Trek team on the suspension bridge between Shyala and Sama, Naike Peak behind
Trek team on the suspension bridge between Shyala and Sama, Naike Peak behind

In a change from leftovers, Phil made Friday night pizza.

More Nepal photo-ing on Saturday, albeit only getting us to Samdo. Still, not bad:

Mountain panorama from our 4760m vantage point
Mountain panorama from our 4760m vantage point: Pangpoche Himal, Manaslu & Larya Himal

Towards the end of the morning Phil and I did the Thistly Field walk then back for Bubble & Squeak for lunch – Christmas Dinner leftovers are the gift that keeps on giving

Talking of squeaks… we found five drowned mice in the bucket under one of the water butts.

On the plus side, there were five long tailed tits at the bird feeder. We don’t often tempt them this far up the lane. We’re seeing sparrows too.

New Year’s Eve = a quiet evening in with cocktails and nibbles, finishing off our personal Manhattans Project.

New Year's Eve Cocktails and lunchtime leftovers
New Year’s Eve Cocktails and lunchtime leftovers

On Sunday, more Nepal photos in the morning then up to Kerrys Gate for New Year’s Day lunch with K&N, B, K&B.

We walked there – Bacton Backwards – and had a couple of Happy New Year chats en route. J plus parents were building a shed….

K&N served up a festive feast: champagne, then a plate loaded with cauliflower cheese, broccoli, green beans, roast potatoes, red cabbage, mashed swede, stuffing, Yorkshire pud, beef or veggie wellington (tidying up the last of our Christmas Day centrepiece leftovers). Key lime pie and cream was followed by the cheese boards of the gods, and then mince pies…

New Year’s Day Lunch, Kerrys Gate
New Year’s Day Lunch, Kerrys Gate

We weaved home in the dark and collapsed in front of the telly.

A lovely day.

Another batch of Nepal photos on Monday morning (we’ve finally got to the Nar Phu leg!), then over to Dad and Jean’s with a light lunch. Jean’s on the mend, slowly, but trying to get a follow-on amoxicillin prescription proved impossible.

Final tidy up of Xmas left overs for dinner – a three egg tortilla with the surplus veggie wellington filling.

Not leftovers, but one of the tastiest meals we had on trek – dal bhat at The Seven Sisters Lodge on the descent from Bhimtang to Tilche:

The BEST Dal Bhat is served up at The Seven Sister Lodge, Karche (?)
The BEST Dal Bhat is served up at The Seven Sister Lodge, Karche (?)

TV: His Dark Materials (series 3), Strike: Troubled Blood, The Witcher: Blood Origin (to spot CN1 in ep 1), Happy Valley (series 3 – watching in (almost) real time, partly because it’s so good and partly to avoid spoilers)

Podcasts: Empire, History Extra, Books and Authors, Bookclub, The Essay.

Photos: Herefordshire week 157 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-01-01.