Back from my Easter fortnight trekking in Nepal in the company of solar lantern engineer Anthony, Hazel and Val.
Lots of LED solar lights distributed in the remote villages of the Tsum Valley, fuelled by Tibetan butter tea, tsampa and stir fried greens (ranging from sort-of spinach to nettle tips to fiddle head ferns). Humbling to see how grateful people are for the gift of light, and how hard their lives are – particularly in the farms and villages off the tourist/trek route where farming is subsistence level.
Despite my assurances to Hazel to the contrary, we did get snow … and our first experience of camping in snow … at Mu Gompa, which was the high point of our trek in multiple ways. Not so welcome for the Tsumba though – the monsoon starts in 6 weeks-ish, and there are still avalanche snow fields cluttering up gullies and lingering in shady places, stopping wildlife and yaks, naks, cows, sheep and goats from feeding. Avalanches and landslides also wiped out a couple of the HEP stations and transmission lines that have been provided by NGOs and charities to bring electricity to the valley – built in locations where locals knew would be high risk.
Tsum is “the finger of Nepal jutting out into Tibet“, lying under the majestic Ganesh Himal (गणेश हिमाल) and Sringi Himal – and up at Mu Gompa we did get amazing views of those freshly snow capped peaks. For the first / last few days of the trek, we shared the trail with people on the Manaslu Ciruit, but our early morning departures (to avoid the afternoon rain at the start, and the heat at the end – 39C on the last 2 days of trekking and that was before midday) minimised the number of times our path crossed with both people and, more problematically, donkey trains. You definitely need a head for heights. Spring flowers provided some distraction from the vertiginous drops from path to river.
All in all a fantastically well organised trip from Val, and lovely to meet her Nepalese support team including sirdar Chering and cook Krishna – with Tsumba translation and cultural information supplied by Namgyl. Food-wise we tucked into porridge and eggs for breakfast, daily dal bhat for lunch and a range of tasty carbo-loading treats for dinner. Pizza and chips were a particular favourite….
I shall be returning to Tsum, to trek further on and up from Mu Gompa (ie towards Tibet) and to tack on the Manaslu Circuit, maybe even the Rupina La.
Here’s what we did:
Thursday, 26 March 2015: Jet Airways from LHR to DEL.
Friday, 27 March 2015: Jet Airways from DEL to KTM – one of only a handful of international flights to land.
Saturday, 28 March 2015: Kathmandu (1400 m) to Arughat Bazaar (550 m) by private bus, change onto local private bus to the current road head at Soti Khola (597 m).
Sunday, 29 March 2015: Soti Khola (597 m) to Khorlabesi (970 m).
Monday, 30 March 2015: Khorlabesi (970 m) to Jagat (1330 m).
Tuesday, 31 March 2015: Jagat (1330 m) to Lokpa (2240 m) – diverging from the Manaslu Circuit where the Sardi Khola joins the Budhi Gandaki.
Wednesday, 1 April 2015: Lokpa (2240 m) to Chumling (2385 m).
Thursday, 2 April 2015: Chumling (2385 m) to Chhokang Paro (3030 m) – taking the high route via Chumchet, Yarcho, Gompa Goan, Lari, Puh before dropping down to the Sardi Khola at Domje and climbing back up to Chhokang Paro.
Friday, 3 April 2015: Chhokang Paro (3030 m) to Chhule (3350 m) .
Saturday, 4 April 2015: Chhule (3350 m) to Mu Gompa (3700 m) – afternoon stroll up to the ancient Ani Gompa at 4000 m. Snow…
Sunday, 5 April 2015: Mu Gompa (3700 m) to Chhokang Paro (3030 m).
Monday, 6 April 2015: Chhokang Paro (3030 m) to Chumling (2385 m).
Tuesday, 7 April 2015: Chumling (2385 m) to Philim (1570 m).
Wednesday, 8 April 2015: Philim (1570 m) to Dobhan (1050 m).
Thursday, 9 April 2015: Dobhan (1050 m) to Lapubesi (TBC m).
Friday, 10 April 2015: Lapubesi (TBC m) to Arughat Bazaar (550 m).
Saturday, 11 April 2015: Arughat Bazaar (550 m) to Kathmandu for an afternoon’s shopping, catching up with Mike from last summer’s Blanca trip and enjoying a couple of nice cold (Nepali Ice and Ghorka) beers….
Sunday, 12 April 2015: Jet Airways from KTM to DEL to LHR.
Photos to follow….