Herefordshire Week 137: Tuesday 09 – Monday 15 August 2022

MCR continued. Nepal firms up. Heatwave. Meadow cutting marathon and clearing the small pond.

As regular readers will know, I was in Manchester for work Monday-Wednesday this week and Tuesday and Wednesday continued to be(e) hotter and sunnier than ever before. A good trip.

Not such a good journey home – my 18:31 train was cancelled so it was a slow service to Wilmslow then a wait for the train to Cardiff.

Hello Wilmslow…
Hello Wilmslow…

I’ve no idea of the geography, and it turned out I was joining the 19.31 departure from Manchester. If I’d waited there I might have found a glass of wine for company! Oh well. Phil and I had a cheese and wine supper once I was home.

Not working a Thursday threw my week out completely.

Took the car for its MOT first thing, and heard back with the all clear a few hours later. A came over for tea and a hot cross bun and we chatted in the shady part of the garden until gone 1pm.

Caught up with Val early afternoon, and – Trek Siren – I am officially off on a 3 week trip to Naar Phu with Val in October / November. Naar (Nar) and Phu are small villages in Nepal, north and east of the Annapurnas, Manang side. Chulu East and Himlung Himal were also mentioned. I’ve booked flights with Qatar Airways.

I’ve christened this trip Val Pitkethly’s Naar Phu Explorer.


Spent the rest of the afternoon doing admin on the computer, including trying to sort out our LPG supply for the next 2 years. It’s just Too Hot outside.

Friday was hotter.

We were both awake around 5.30am so made an early start to the day. Handy, as we needed to walk back to Ewyas to pick up the Panda post MOT. We took the Dicks Pitch route – shady and speedy – and got to the garage in less than an hour.

Just don’t ask about locking the conservatory keys in the conservatory before we set out … Thank heavens (Thank dad) for the tub of spare keys.

Raked up the strimmer grass and relocated it to the dip by the hedge (freshly cut by Richard while I was in MN). Hot and sweaty work. Dug up a few weeds – easy to spot as they’re still green against the parched yellow grass.

Front lawn: Meadow Cutting Marathon
Front lawn: Meadow Cutting Marathon

In the afternoon, more admin – inside, but not cool. Did online check in for our flights to Bilbao for September’s Picos trip. That’s coming up fast!

In the evening (still hot, but not quite so sweltering), our first visit to Winchester as “guests” since dad and Jean moved. A lovely BBQ.

The extreme heatwave continued on Saturday (mid-30s), so another early start.

Ray called round a bit after 7.30am and said he could clear our cut grass later in the day, so I got to work with the strimmer mower, hacking down the tougher grass and tall flowers that have grown on the slope down to the pond. Hot hard work. My blisters have blisters. Well, not quite but not far off.

Three quarters of the way through the strimmer stopped working and neither of us could work out why. So we decided that was a good reason to have our first independent outing with the Stihl strimmer. Phil did the honours while I moved the pond weed piles and weeded the drive.

We had a bit of a hiatus when he reached the end of the cable and we had to work out how to load it up with another 8 metres…. The instruction booklet, a YouTube video and a call to dad later and Phil was back in action.

Phil strimming
Phil strimming
Scythed grass and strimmed grass
Scythed grass and strimmed grass

We are so not having a meadow next year!

I revere Monty Don as much as the next person but he must have “help” when it comes cutting the meadow – which we don’t – and better options for making use of the cut grass.

Thank heavens for Ray who turned up a bit after midday and lifted piles of the scythed grass onto a rake/frame attachment on the back of his tractor and drove the grass up to his field.

Ray collecting the scythed grass
Ray collecting the scythed grass

A break for lunch – we’re eating / relaxing in the shade down by the log shed / willow tree stump – after which I decided to have a go at clearing the small pond. It’s bone dry and we figured this gives us the chance to find and fix the leak….. Even unsaturated the iris bed was too heavy, do I made do with cutting back the leaves, pulling off chunks of dried out pond bottom and clearing the weeds and ivy from the rim.

Sweated so much that when salty sweat dripped into my eyes it really stung!

In an unusual turn of events, I made dinner, and tried out the Damson Gin. Tasty!

Sunday – still hot.

Phil and I finished clearing the iris bed out of the small pond, and swept out the remaining debris. There’s a crack running from near the centre towards the railway power point, so we’re looking up ways to fix that. Liner or cement/putty?

Small pond - dry as a bone
Small pond – dry as a bone
Small pond - cleared
Small pond – cleared

Raked the strimmed grass into piles, then lunch. A few jobs / tidying up by the compost heap, a breather to allow the shade to reach the piles and then it was time to start wheelbarrowing the grass piles to the compost slope above the BBQ and the bigger one at the far end of the path.


Before dinner we sat outside the kitchen and watched the birds on the feeders and in the font for a while, once they’d decided we weren’t a threat.

At dusk, a bat got into the conservatory, but it managed to make its own escape through the doors.

A cooler start to Monday and – AT LAST – some rain.

A day for “indoors jobs”.

Put surplus picture frames into the roof, then did some computer admin. Tidied up recent Flickr titles, tags and descriptions, prepped tax return, caught up with Val, did some Picos prep (looked at my kitlist and  tried working out how much money to take).

7pm, thunder and heavier rain arrived.

In “heatwave and extreme weather warning” news, – it’s been > 30C most of the week, with – thankfully – rain / thunder arriving on Monday.

The trees are shedding leaves by the sack load.

Apples doing OK.

My office is still hot and the patio and the walls that side of the house are still radiating heat, but the rain is cooling things down.

It’s also been a week of massive moons and a mewing buzzard.

TV: For All Mankind, Ted Lasso.

Podcasts: History Extra, SheDunnit, Lingthusiasm, Great Lives.

Photos: Herefordshire week 137 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-08-14.

Where next: Naar Phu, Nepal

Caught up with Val early this afternoon, and an hour later I’d booked my flights to Kathmandu with Qatar Airways.

Destination: Naar Phu, Nepal.

When: October / November 2022.

What: I am officially off on a 3 week trek to Naar Phu with Val in October / November. No idea of the itinerary, but I’ve 24 days KTM to KTM and Val tells me two other ladies will be coming.

Where: Naar (Nar) and Phu are small villages in Nepal, north and east of the Annapurnas, Manang side, between the Manaslu Circuit’s Larke La and the Annapurna Circuit’s Thorong La. Chulu East and Himlung Himal were also mentioned.

How: With Val, of course.

Why: Hiking high in the big mountains, with old friends.

I’ve christened this trip Val Pitkethly’s Naar Phu Explorer.


Let’s hope I don’t catch COVID this time.

Herefordshire Week 136: Tuesday 02 – Monday 08 August 2022

Heatwave and scorched grass. Bacton BBQ, Kilpeck Circular and up to Manchester.

GVWC: Kilpeck Circular: Garway Hill panorama - Dave & Hugh on the path down
GVWC: Kilpeck Circular: Garway Hill panorama – Dave & Hugh on the path down

Tuesday began with a trip to Abergavenny for a filling (sort of) and a tour d’Aldi. Home for lunch then back to work. The new antenna providing a nice stable 30MB/s.

Weds was the usual day at work and a VWW with Rach. Thursday ditto with Family Zoom. It takes the first week back after a break for me to get my work ooomph back. My unpacking ooomph took longer to return.

Friday was due to be another hot day so I did the mowing first thing, sticking with the Honda mower and leaving the cuttings to mulch. Tidied up some fallen sticks, snipped the wild plum shoots on the slope to the BBQ and by the bird feeder.

Phil continued scything the front lawn – the long cut grass dries out very quickly as does the newly revealed “lawn” grass – and made a seat to sit on when sharpening his blade. (I’m endlessly surprised how swiftly scythe-speak descends into double entendre.)

Phil's Scything, Front Lawn
Phil’s Scything, Front Lawn

We spent the afternoon reading and resting ahead of the week’s major social event – Bacton BBQ. A super sociable evening with a couple of pints, veggie burgers and salad and a vast array of puddings. Caught up with the KG crowd – K&N were in charge of the coconut shy – PR and the Abbey Dore Ladies, S&M and T&J. Walked there and got a lift back. Magic.

Bacton Barbecue
Bacton Barbecue

Finally finished my unpacking (and putting away) on Saturday and did my Peaks of Ladakh trip notes and reading updates. Still got to tackle the photos mind you. At least there aren’t as many as there would usually be, Ha Ha.

Read outside in the shade down by the willow tree stump. It’s officially too hot.

Joined D and H on Sunday to recce the Kilpeck Circular ahead of next Saturday’s club walk. Walked from home to Kilpeck which added on an extra 5 miles or so. Strava says I did 17 ½ miles all in: Abbey Dore – Wormbridge – Kilpeck – Bagwyllydiart – Garway Hill – Kentchurch – Bagwyllydiart – Kilpeck.

GVWC: Kilpeck Circular - Strava Map
GVWC: Kilpeck Circular – Kilpeck Church Carvings Montage
GVWC: Kilpeck Circular - Kilpeck Church Carvings Montage
GVWC: Kilpeck Circular – Kilpeck Church Carvings Montage

Another scorcher so the post walk medical rehydration (aka 2 pints of bitter shandy plus two packets of s&v crisps) at the lovely Kilpeck Inn went down very swiftly.

Back home courtesy of Phil+Panda – and probably primed by the two pints – I hauled out some of the pond weed. That’ll go onto the compost heap next week. It’s too dry to bonfire and the hedge clippings and shrub loppings are piling up…..

In a change to my normal working pattern, I spent Monday-Wednesday in the Manchester office. Monday morning’s 8.30am TfW train from Abergavenny was a 2 carriage service, and was soon swamped by families off to Blackpool / elsewhere for their summer hols and lots of commuters. Me and the lady who sat next to me wore masks, everyone else opted for Omicron Roulette.

Weatherwise, the city of the worker bee was scorchio with blue skies.

Good day in the office – aircon! – and M&S mezze dinner in my room at The Edwardian with the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony from Brum on the box. It’s only now struck me that I’ve been in a lot of hotel rooms recently. All very, very different!

Watering the tomato plant in the greenhouse I spotted that there is an offspring?offshoot? completely unrelated? smaller tomato plant growing up between two of the paving slabs. I wonder how that happened.

The strawbs are at the “growing greenery” stage ready for next year and the lemongrass, inside and outside, has gone into overdrive. Smashing. The lettuce is on the wane – not that the slugs seemed to have got that memo.


Lots of apples on the trees. The dwarf Bramley in the orchard is laden but (thankfully) the Golden Delicious that produced so many small apples last year is taking it easy this year. Not so many wild plums.

I’m watering the big bay tree, lettuce, rhubarb and gooseberries most evenings with the hose pipe and using grey water for the hydrangeas, buddleia (yep, had to look up how to spell that), D&G’ rhododendron and my birthday Japanese Quince. I’ve topped up the pond a couple of times too. Hoping for rain soon but the forecast shows relentless sunny days and with the temperatures rising.

Everything is languid – from leaves to birds to us.

The grass is crispy, and that’s only partly due to hazelnut shells. Talking of which I thought the heatwave might have kept the squirrels at bay during the day – until I spotted two on the peanuts…

TV: For All Mankind (started season 3), Better Call SaulTed Lasso, (this starts off as “Football Man” as I can never remember the name of this show!) and the 2022 Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony.

Podcasts: History Extra

Photos: Herefordshire week 136 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-08-07.

(Not) Peaks of Ladakh: Photos & Notes

As you’ll have seen, my first big trip in the New Normal COVID world didn’t go quite as I’d hoped.

It was lovely to be back in Ladakh, but I caught COVID.

Also July in Ladakh was just too hot (and then it was too wet), and the group make up had shifted since I’d booked to 9 men and 2 women, so not as balanced as I’d expected. Luckily J and I got along fine, all the more important when we both tested positive for C-19.

So, the trek was cut short, we spent 6 days back in the hotel and then managed a mini-break west of Likir camping and walking before the rest of the group returned. Mostly not victorious.

Not particularly impressed with Exodus HQ’s handling of our situation – VP’s request that we all bring tests and plenty of spare masks hadn’t been passed on, and the only communication we had from them once we had tested positive and had to abandon the trek was an a***-covering pro forma email. so much for COVID-Clear.

But anyway, here’s what transpired. There’s a bit of duplication as the first few days also feature in Weeknotes 133, but I’m sure you’ll cope.

I’ll add links to the photos once they’re Flickred.

Friday 15 July 2022: Hereford – London (photos to follow)

Up early Friday to catch the 06.43 HFD-PAD train. I’d decided to allow as much time as possible for travelling to London and out to Heathrow for my 18.30 flight to Delhi, and to spend the morning/early afternoon working in the LO office.

Back in the smoke, I had my first go on the Elizabeth Line – aka Crossrail. The signage at Paddington isn’t great – “Elizabeth Line” doesn’t feature on the signs you see on the platform when your train pulls in and instead you need to look at the floor on the main concourse. Not easy when that’s full of people. That said, once I’d found my way to the eastbound service it was a speedy 11 min to Liverpool St – magnificent!

First time on the Elizabeth Line
First time on the Elizabeth Line

I headed back to Paddington early afternoon and was once again stymied by the signage. Westbound trains (currently?) leave from platforms 11, 12 and 14 but it’s not at all obvious how to get to 11, which of course was where the next Elizabeth Line train to LHR was due to depart from. Still, I made it to T3 a bit before 3pm and was sitting in the departure lounge by 3.25pm having done bag drop and security. No long queues for me.

A smooth flight, and mandatory masking except for small children etc – and there were lots of those, and lots of coughing. Uh oh.

Saturday 16 July 2022: Delhi (photos to follow)

Landed in Delhi a bit after 8am on Saturday. Spotted some likely fellow trekkers in the visa / immigration queue. Out of the terminal, Valerie Parkinson was waiting for us and once she’d corralled all 11 of us (turns out there had been 6 cancellations and 1 new booking since I’d bagged the “last place”) it was into taxis and through the busy streets of New Delhi to the Jaypee Siddharth hotel.

A briefing from VP in the cafe/bar while rooms were sorted out and then some money changing (90INR : 1GBP). I’m sharing with J, the only other woman on the trip (cf 5 women when I’d booked).

Took the taxi tour option for the afternoon – Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, India Gate, Government Buildings and Shri Laxmi Narayan Temple. Monsoon downpours limited what else we could do. Group dinner at the Mughal Mahal restaurant just down the road from the hotel.

Sunday 17 July 2022: Delhi – Leh (3500m) (photos to follow)

Up early Sunday for our flight to Leh. All good. Taxis to the Hotel Glacier View, not far from the Kang Lha Chen where we’d stayed in 2016. Checked into our rooms and relaxed, acclimatising to the thinner air at 3,500m. VP took us out for an afternoon orientation tour of the bazaar and old town. Thankfully not much has changed. Tea (and late lunch for some) at the Leh View rooftop restaurant overlooking the gilded roof of Leh Gompa. Leisurely late afternoon, then buffet dinner at the hotel.

Leh’s night time audio entertainment comprises barking dogs and two 3.30am calls to prayer that segue into one another. Fighter jets optional.

Monday 18 July 2022: Leh (3500m) – Shey & Tikse (photos to follow)

The weather forecasts proved correct and it was as hot hotter in Abbey Dore on Monday than in Delhi or Leh. That’s nuts.

Another acclimatisation day, but a little more active – we drove to Shey to visit the old palace and temple, then walked across the valley to Tikse where VP gave us a guided tour of the gompa. Back to Shey for a late lunch then back to the hotel for a snooze and prelim kit bag pack, then a kit check (boots primarily) and trek briefing with VP out on the terrace.

Dinner out at another rooftop restaurant – Il Forno, overlooking the main road and entrance to the bazaar. I had pizza and banana lassi. Yum yum.]

Generally I’m finding I’m slow to acclimatise – headaches, no appetite, stuffy nose/head.

Tuesday 19 July 2022: Leh (photos to follow)

Tuesday was our third and final day acclimatising in Leh. Another hot hot day.

I still wasn’t feeling great – flying into 3500m is harder than walking – so skipped the optional jeep trip up to the Khardung La and instead spent the morning hanging out with John who was the other nonKLer. We walked down Changspa Road and up the 500 steps to Shanti Stupa. I needed to stop chatting and to slow down the pace for the “ascent”. Still a lovely viewpoint out over Leh and the green stripe of the Indus Valley, with the valleys leading into the mountains beyond Stok spilling greenery out onto the barren plains.

Back down to the main road and along Changspa Road and into town. A cup of tea in the Leh View rooftop cafe – the only customers at 10am in the morning – then into the Central Asian Museum. It opened in late 2016 and is a small but beautifully formed collection of Central Asian artefacts housed in a replica four storey stone tower house. Lots of photos of old Leh and good maps, showing the trade routes over the mountains to Yarkhand, northwest along the Indus into the Balti lands and south east into Hindustan. One floor held items from Leh Mosque’s archives, and the top floor is an open air gallery with fab views over Leh from all four sides. And you exit over a drawbridge into the shady garden. Well worth 50R.

Lunch with the KLers in a courtyard garden restaurant cafe near the top of Changspa Road – the Apple Tree Garden / Mentokling Guest House – then an acclimatisation walk up Namgyal Hill to the old Royal Palace and its private temples, on up to the prayer flag peak and Tsemo Gompa – the photogenic white and red buildings that perch on the ridge high above the bazaar and which we can see from our hotel.

Back to pack kit bags, then into town for dinner at the Leh View.

Wednesday 20 July 2022: Leh (3500m) – Stok (3500m) – Mankarmo (4350m) (photos to follow)

Another hot day, and we were off on trek! The cars drove us to Upper Stok where the ponies were waiting to be loaded up. Once that was done we set off up the valley with our local leader Wangyl leading the way.

The trail winds ever deeper into the mountains with a couple of river crossings early on. The spell of hot weather made for a lot of water – we were wading over the knee and bracing against strong current – but the rocks were easy underfoot.

A break at a no name pass where we could see back down the valley towards Stok in one direction and on into the river valley that eventually led to Mankarmo.

I walked with J&S, with B, D and Valerie a little further back. The rest raced on ahead at a very fast pace. The three of us ended up having to wait at the third and final river crossing – we wouldn’t spot a good place to cross and decided we’d wait for Valerie & Co. Handily, one of the crew appeared from higher up the valley shortly after they did, bringing a pony for B who’d got AMS, and helped us across.

Still hot and sunny when we finally reached camp – orange squash very welcome. The tents were going up and we just had enough time to chuck our kit bags etc in before tea and biscuits in the dining tent. I’ve got a large orange tent to myself as J paid for a single one to herself.

After plenty of mugs of tea we adjourned to our tents and I had my first go at “wafting” up my Exped sleeping mat. Dinner at 7pm – soup, rice, dal and mattar paneer plus cucumber, tomato, carrot salad, with a banana to finish. Not much appetite, not much chat …..

Thursday 21 July 2022: Mankarmo (4350m) – Stok – Leh (3500m) (photos to follow)

Not a good night’s sleep – too hot and stuffy, which I mentioned to Valerie when she did her morning rounds …. at which point she suggested taking a COVID test…. which produced the telltale two lines of a positive result.

So that was the end of my Peaks of Ladakh.

J tested positive too, and together with B we retraced our steps to Stok, trek crew member Lotus leading a recalcitrant pony laden with our kit and tents. Even though we made a good pace, by the time we got to the lower river crossings the water was running higher/stronger than yesterday.

Chosphal came to meet us at the roadhead and drove us back to the Hotel Glacier View. B was in a minivan to limit his exposure to the two COVID carriers. He flew home the next day.

The hotel team were fab.

Friday 22 – Tuesday 26 July 2022: Leh (3500m) (photos to follow)

We spent the next 6 days in room 302 – initially sleeping a lot, then reading / lounging / watching the comings and goings at the hotel and around Karzoo Circle and eventually feeling well enough to get out and about in the fresh air – whilst masking and keeping away from other people.

No appetite, quite a lot of snot and a stuffy nose, one morning with a few sneezes and another with a bit of a dry cough. A couple of days when tea tasted as though someone had sprayed air freshener over it.

Nikeel from the hotel brought us a big bag of bananas and apples, and after a day or two we felt hungry enough to order in breakfast. Very, very grateful that the hotel has a fridge full of boiled / filtered water on the landing so we had as much water to drink as we needed – which was a lot – and that our room had a bay window lounge, big windows that opened out towards the old town and a TV. We watched a couple of hours of National Geographic each night.

Chosphal came to see us every day together with Konchuk who got us some spare masks and tried to find lateral flow tests in Leh. No luck. We declined the PCR option on the basis that we’d be In The System and really all we could do was sit out the contagious days which we calculated on the NHS guidelines – Thurs = day 0, Fri 22 July = day 1, Mon 25 July = day 5 making Tues 26 July our first “clear” day.

HHDL paid a visit to Leh on Saturday 23, spending time on the gompa, the mosque and the church (Moravian). Not surprisingly we didn’t go out to join the crowds.

On Sunday, when Konchuck delivered the mountaineering kit sacks to the group at Chuskurmo, Valerie handed over her remaining 4 tests and on Monday we took one each … still two lines.

The weather changed on Sunday too – turning cloudier and cooler, and staying that way for the rest of our time in Ladakh.

Even though strolling at 3500m was easier than it had been, there was no way we could have rejoined the group – albeit still isolating – on Sunday which had been a tentative option. That would have involved crossing the Gongmaru La (5200m), an ascent of over 1000m from the drop off (and that was 700m higher than Leh) before dropping down into Nimaling at 4854m (1350m higher than Leh).

Instead Chosphal offered to arrange a couple of days walking / camping for Wednesday,  Thursday and Friday, partly because the hotel was full on the Wednesday night but mainly to make our enforced stay at Leh-level a bit more interesting.

We went to a walk around town on Monday, checking out the bookshop for fresh reading (no joy), and getting back to the hotel just before the heavens opened.

Quite glad not to be camping at ~5000m for the next 5 nights …

On Tuesday J and I explored the back lanes and alleyways of Sangkar, finding family homes with lovely cottage gardens and being invited in for a cup of tea, shown the live stream of HHDL’s teachings at Tikse and finally being waved off with a handful of freshly picked pea pods each.

Vaguely heading for Shanti Stupa we stumbled across the large collection of chortens, carved stones and mani walls in the borderlands of Upper Changspa and Lower Sangkar, coming out onto Changspa Road by the concrete road bridge / bend.

On to Shanti Stupa and up the 500 steps to survey the views and the dark heavy clouds over Stok Kangri and the rest of the mountains.

Reckon I had a bit sunstroke and/or dehydration on the way down as my depth perception deserted me completely and I had to come down the steps placing my first foot and then my second foot on each step – otherwise I’d have gone falling headlong down the hillside.

Water and breakfast leftovers for lunch back at base sorted me out. In the afternoon we visited the Central Asian Museum and in the evening we ate out at the Apple Tree Garden – Veg Pad Thai for the third time and no complaints!!

Wednesday 27 July 2022: Leh (3500m) – Likir (3600m) – Ulley (4000m) (photos to follow)

Wednesday morning we left our big bags behind at the hotel and set off with Konchok and Lobzang for 2 nights camping / 3 days exploring north west of Leh.

Before we left we settled up – a very kind rate of 4000R per night for the room, including breakfast. That’s about £20 each.

The drive took us out past mile after mile of army bases, the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus rivers, on through Basgo where we stopped to photograph the old Palace / Fort and Gompa, and finally to Likir where our visit to the Gompa coincided with a Puja ceremony.

I liked Likir: lots of young monks, still excited to have their photo taken and then to see it on the camera, temple wall paintings featuring instructional texts and elephants and a small museum with lots of Tibetan treasures.

Back in the jeep we continued on along the link road turning off the tarmac and onto an unsurfaced road for the final 6km to Ulley where we were camping for the night. It’s a snow leopard spotting / homestay place in the winter time.

After a late lunch of veg pilau we sorted out the tent, had tea and biscuits and then explored the “village” (it’s really just a collection of 4-5 homesteads) with Konchok, walking up through the bare fields past water mills to the pair of chorten looking out over the farms. Although there were some bright green fields of barley, lots of former fields have been left fallow – tourism is better money than crops and sheep/goats.

The skies had clouded over and we dodged the rain to get to K and L’s tent for a tasty evening meal a little after 7pm. Then bed!

Thursday 28 July 2022: Ulley (4000m) – Spango La ( 4070m) – Hemis Shukpachan (3670m) (photos to follow)

A lot of rain overnight – the loo tent developed a serious sag in the roof making for cautious post wee standing up.

Morning rain meant we whiled away a couple of hours over a leisurely breakfast and chatting in the tent, waiting for the rain to ease off, which it eventually did.

The day’s plan was to walk to the neighbouring village of Hemis Shukpachan, taking a cross country route over the Spango La pass where Konchok presented us with a string of small prayer flags to put up.

An easy descent back down to the road – newly tarmaced but as yet there are no numbers on the kilometre marker posts – then on towards the green fields and large seated Buddha at the bottom of the village. Hemis Shukpachan is a relatively big place, home to a small hospital and a branch of the J&K bank. So more of a town really.

I was tired by the time we’d walked up through the village to the juniper trees that give the town its name. Lobzang was there, our tent set up and drying, and a woman was tending her cows and sheep on the common land where we were camped.

Tea and cake on arrival, a bit of time to sort out our tent and then a late lunch of rice, brown dal and fresh veggies, melon for pud. All v tasty.

A post-lunch snooze in a hot tent turned out to be a bad idea and I woke with a headache. Still, I managed the late afternoon walk to the chorten to the west of town and on to the edge of the Hemis Shukpachan plateau for views out over the gorge below. The whole area is home to colourful rocks and hillsides – reds, greens and ochres. Snow cocks bustling around near camp.

Hand made veg momos for dinner!

Friday 29 July 2022: Hemis Shukpachan (3670m) – Basgo – Leh (3500m) (photos to follow)

Friday was drizzly and overcast so we decided to pack up and start the journey back to Leh after our final breakfast of wok omelette and fried potatoes, bread and seabuckthornberry jam and fresh melon.

We stopped at Basgo to explore the Gompa and Palace – in the 17th Century the king had married a Muslim princess and built a small mosque for her, now a Buddhist temple.

No monks in residence – lots of people have gone to Choglamsar to attend HHDL’s open air teaching sessions.

We were back at the Hotel Glacier View a little after midday where Chosphel was waiting for our group to return. A grateful farewell to K & L, then we settled into our new room – 104 not as nice as 302 but it at least the door lock worked. A bit of a repack, a shower and hair wash…. And then we spotted the returnees – tired and a tad more haggard than when we’d seen them last.

Caught up with Valerie and then J and I headed into town for tea/coffee and cake in the courtyard opposite the main bazaar entrance. The German Bakery was fully occupied by very young monks, who, under the watchful eyes of an older monk and a nun, tucked into pizza and cola followed by chocolate cake. They were in heaven. I’m guessing they’re in town to attend HHDL’s teachings.

In the evening we all headed into town for a group meal at Il Forno. Pizza again!

Saturday 30 July 2022: Leh – Delhi (photos to follow)

Very early start (2.30am wake up call) to get one of the first flights out of Leh – the rainy days were causing flight cancellations and no one wanted to miss Sunday’s international flight back home.

Fond farewells to the hotel team, and at the airport to Chosphel and Valerie P.

With Valerie’s instructions and Chosphel’s guidance, we negotiated airport access, check in (a slight delay when the servers went down) and security…. then waited a few hours until our (delayed 06:40) flight boarded. Not nearly as tense as Lukla – flights were leaving and it wasn’t raining, things were just slow.

We landed in a hot and humid Delhi 90 mins later, very relieved to have got that hop over, and were met by the local agent. Cars to the Jaypee Siddharth hotel, a bit of a wait in the cafe-bar again and then we could get to our rooms. Building work still in progress – lots of banging and drilling. Not what you want after only a few hours kip. You also don’t want to find that your kettle, telephone and telly don’t work. And that you have to share a room key card. Five star? I don’t think so.

On the plus side, down in Reception J and I were able – eventually – to sort out online checkin, and then joined S for a superb South Indian lunch a short stroll down the road.  A leisurely afternoon – J headed off to Karol Bagh and I returned to our room where I snoozed, listened to Alice Robert’s Tamed on audiobook, emailed a bit and showered.

Joined (most of) the group for dinner back at the Mughal Mahal, spending our last rupees.

Sunday 31 July 2022: Leh – London (photos to follow)

Another early start – 5am felt like a lie in compared to yesterday though – breakfast (surprisingly) then back into the cars and back to the airport.

Easy check in / bag drop, speedy security, and 2-3 hours to kill in the departure zone. J and I spent most of it with S in the Coffee Bean.

Good flight. Two G&Ts. More movies.

We landed at 3.20pm, got through passport control faster than expected (using the electronic UK passport gates helped, I have to admit) and then had to wait half an hour or so for our bags.

Then it was time for farewells, one by one, as our luggage materialised.

Tom met me at Arrivals, and drove me back to theirs for a lovely evening featuring the final of the Women’s Euros 2022, beers, crisps and a tasty al fresco tea.

Monday 01 August 2022: London – Hereford (photos to follow)

Awake early, still on India time. Tom dropped me at Hornsey train station, straight to Moorgate where it’s an easy change on to the Elizabeth Line. 11 mins later I was at Paddington, with plenty of time to spare before boarding the busy 09:50 to Hereford.

Americano and pain au raisin for a late breakfast treat.

And Phil met me at Hereford.


Back from Ladakh: 2022 Edition

I got back from Ladakh on Monday – the trip didn’t go quite according to plan as I tested positive for COVID on the second morning of the trek so had to go back to Leh to isolate.

A bit of a disappointment after all the anticipation.

On the plus side, both the hotel in Leh (Hotel Glacier View) and the local Exodus agent (Chosphel, Venture Ladakh) were great, and the other lady on the trip got COVID too so we could isolate together.

Room 302 provided a great view and a daily breakfast delivery, and Chosphel came every day to check on us, which was very reassuring. Most importantly of all we were clear to fly home on our scheduled group flights.

I’m pretty sure I caught COVID at Heathrow (hardly anyone masking and very busy) or on the flight to Delhi – adults had to mask but kids didn’t and there were lots of families with under 5s on their way to see family in India. There is no requirement for a test, just a vaccination certificate.

With hindsight, what I thought was me not acclimatising very well – headaches, tiredness, loss of appetite – were probably all symptoms of COVID.

I didn’t get it too bad – moving about was tiring and I had a stuffy / snotty head for the first couple of days, which I spent sleeping, then another couple reading in between snoozes and then out and about a bit in the fresh air. The rules were quite relaxed generally so we were OK to eat out and potter around town once we felt up to it so long as we masked and stayed socially distanced.

Drank a lot of water!

The thing I got in Dolpo was much worse.

Not much has changed in Leh – the bazaar and back streets are still as they were, the Gompa too (minus as few of the lovely trees) but the Brazil Cafe was deserted so we didn’t go there. The new Central Asian Museum is great and Valerie P’s orientation tour introduced us to Baker’s Alley and a couple of open air rooftop cafe / bar / restaurants.

Our return to Leh coincided with a visit from the Dalai Lama who is spending a month at his summer residence in Choglamsar a few miles up the valley. Needless to say, we didn’t join the crowds at the Gompa, Mosque and Church the morning he visited them all.

Once we’d completed our day 0 (positive) + 5 days of isolation we headed out with Konchok and Lobzang from Ladakh Venture for a couple of (rainy) days camping and walking west of Likir, camping at Ulley and Hemishukpachan and walking between the two.

Leh - Basgo - Likir - Uley - Hemis Shukpachan
Leh – Basgo – Likir – Uley – Hemis Shukpachan

We returned to Leh a few hours before the rest of the (now all male) group. They had had 5 very hot days and then, once they were higher up, 5 cold, wet and cloudy days. Not so good. Only one of them summited.

A long journey home: Leh – Delhi – London – Hereford took 3 days. Tom picked me up from LHR on Sunday and I had lovely evening with them all, watching the final of the women’s Euros 2022 drinking beer and eating crisps.

Things I’ve come back to:

  • A new 4G antenna on the front of the house, which – so far – is providing nice consistent internet access.
  • Cows in Thistly Field – as opposed to cows in Leh’s Karzoo Ice Rink.
  • A scythe-wielding husband….

There will be photos, once I’ve got them onto Flickr….