Tuesday afternoon’s excitement (other than working my way though the 746 emails in my work inbox) was Phil spotting a sparrowhawk sat on the top bar of the gate. We watched it for a while, while it watched the pear tree birds, eyeing up some snacks…..
Luckily for those pear tree birds, a bigger sparrowhawk suddenly materialised and drove off the first one. I missed all that excitement as I’d gone back to work.
We had a lot of heavy rain and high winds Wednesday and Thursday. The ground is saturated, the waterbutts are full.
And yet we sat outside in glorious sunshine eating our lunch on Tuesday. A good day for washing the last of the Nepal stuff, including the kit bags….
I had a beautiful sunny walk on Friday morning: Camp Crossroads – Duffryn – Cockyard – Kerrys Gate.
Back to admin on Friday afternoon, after that lovely walk.
We treated ourselves to lunch out on Saturday, at The Gaff in Abergavenny. Excellent. We’ll go again.
Woke up feeling a bit blue on Sunday. Uncle M or 2 glasses of lunchtime red wine – who’s to know?
Spent the morning making this year’s Christmas Cake – Delia Smith’s Rich Fruit Cake recipe is always reliable. My cakes always come out of the oven a little on the brown side but I’m sure this one will taste lovely all the same. They always do. And not just because of the brandy.
Joined Phil outside for an hour raking up the leaves and squashing them into the two black bin bags that had been my Nepal trip kit bag liners, following one of Monty Don’s November Tips.
I headed back outside for a spell after lunch – cut back all the dead foliage and giant nettles around the large pond, pulled up ivy by the small pond and weedkillered the drive, around the conservatory and along the drainage ditch on the west side of the house.
Then got the log stove going, read and solitaired listening to the History Extra podcast about the Mary Rose. Then some computing / admin.
Another beautiful morning Monday. Pottered in the greenhouse, trimming the tomato plants and repotting some of the smaller strawberry pots plus one of the indoors orchids.
Zoom with R. Lunch with T & L. At dusk, the sparrowhawk returned to the gate…. Before dinner, Wine Time Zoom with CH & H. A sociable day.
TV: Happy Valley (series 2), Snowfall (season 4 – after we’d watched the season 4 recap and realised we didn’t remember any of it….), Rev (series 3).
Tuesday: Ghyaru (3730 m) – Pokhara / पोखरा (830 m). We trekked from Ghyaru down to Lower Pisang (3250 m), then caught a jeep to Besi Sahar / Besishahar / वेसीशहर (760 m), said farewell to the crew and changed into a very nice estate car. Unfortunately the road to Pokhara was just as bumpy as the one from Lower Pisang: monsoon damage and road repairs. A long day’s driving. Dinner with Tseten and Tenzi in the Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Camp Settlement.
Wednesday: A day in Pokhara. Tashiling, Peace Stupa, Boat to Lakeside, Shopping, Taxi back to the lovely Siddhartha Garden Hotel for beer and dal mhut before dinner.
Thursday: Morning / midday flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu. None of us wanted to return to / on those terrible roads.
Friday: A day in Kathmandu, farewells to Val, Sonia and Sara, killing time at the hotel until 10pm. To the airport for my overnight flight back to the UK.
Saturday: More time to kill at KTM airport until my Qatar Airways flight QR 0645 (KTM-DOH) and QR 0327 (DOH-LGW). Thameslink and Elizabeth Line to PAD. GWR industrial action impact not as bad as feared – I got the 13.50 PAD-WOF-HFD, where Phil was waiting for me. Beaming smiles all round. Cheese and handmade wholemeal, seeded bread for tea – then bed.
Sunday: Coffee and croissants for breakfast. Unpacking, washing etc. Time for a speedy mow just before the rain set in – got the long grass cut and picked up some of the leaves too. Wind and rain during the afternoon brought more leaves down mind you…. Pizza à la Phil for dinner!
Monday: Heavy rain. More unpacking / putting away. Logged onto work laptop to download email ahead of tomorrow afternoon (wound up having to get Tech Support – 4 weeks off = password expiry). Prepped actual itinerary spreadsheet. Worked through weeknotes backlog. Over to Winchester to see dad and Jean: third mince pie of the season – and we’re still only in November!
In greenhouse news, we are still getting cherry toms and strawberries!
It’s my last day in Kathmandu and I’m killing time here at the Marshyangdi Hotel until my 02.40 flight.
A perfect opportunity for a post-trip blogpost!
The trip went really well. My two Bristol trek mates were great and it was fab spending time with Mingmi, Buddhi, Tsering (but not Chherring), Krishna, Tashi and Lakpa, and with Val. There were no major dramas (other than pre-election violence which has meant a curfew for the past couple of days) and in the 24 days I’ve had in Nepal – the first time since COVID struck – I revisited the Manaslu Circuit, had my first encounter with the (not so) “Lost Valleys” of Nar and Phu and topped and tailed the trek with a few days in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Thank you, Val!
We completed the Manaslu Circuit (Machhakhola to Dharapani) in 12 days, jeeped up to Koto and spent the next 5 1/2 days exploring the valleys and villages of Nar and Phu, up close to the border with Tibet.
The trek featured two high passes (of course): the Larkye La (5106m) between Gorkha and Manang in Manaslu and the Kang La (5306m) between Nar and Manang. Both passes were snow covered.
The snow on the Larkye La started quite low down, and it was a much colder ascent than on my previous visit back in 2018. On the plus side the snow cover made for easier walking as we didn’t have to pick our way through all the boulders, rocks and stones on the way up, and we were on snow rather than slippery dust trails on the way down. Still very steep though and the hot sun made for potentially dangerous conditions so it was an “as speedy as possible” descent. The microspikes I bought for Dolpo were invaluable for stopping slippage whilst walking on the compacted snow trails. I’m still amazed that Hazel and I managed to negotiate the snowy Thorong La in 2009 without spikeys or poles.
The other difference in my 2018 and 2022 experiences on the Larkye La is that this year there were a bazillion other people at the pass at the same time as us, although that did include a proposal at the prayer flags (she said “yes”).
The trail we took from Dharapani to Tal and Chamje at the end of our 2018 Manaslu Circuit is no more – at least two big sections have slid into the river or been washed away. Nepal has been dealt two torrential monsoons in the past two years and you can see the damage everywhere.
The weather wasn’t looking great for the Nar Phu extension and Val almost took us back to Pokhara and out somewhere else instead but the weather gods were generous (and Mingmi checked a lot of forecasts) and in the end we managed to do 5-6 good days there, visiting both villages (very Dolpo – wood and stone, built into the hillsides) and getting over the Kang La pass just before the snow came to Nar …..
So, the Kang La pass: 2.30am bed tea, 3.15am start time, a good few hours before dawn trudging over frozen trails and streams and shattered rocks, then a couple more hours on steep zig zags trodden into a metre or so of snow. We got to the chorten that marks the pass at 8.11 am. Not bad going. The descent was a steep moraine / scree slope like the start of the descent from Amphu Lapsta, except it went on for 2 hours. And then there was another 2 hours of more down, some of it a bit less steep, before lunch. And then another 2 hours to Yaru village where we spent the night, face to face with Annapurna IV.
Crossing the Kang La pass also brought us into the Annapurna Circuit and The Road. Even taking the alternate higher route we were still on the same sort of dirt road / jeep track, just the less used one. Driving from Lower Pisang to Besi Sahar – where my 2009 Annapurna Circuit trek started – was all on the road, and it just got more and more depressing. The classic Annapurna Circuit trek has been destroyed but we still passed a lot of people doing it. My advice is “Don’t”, at leat not unless and until a new Annapurna Circuit has been established on alternative trails (assuming that’s possible).
From Besi Sahar we drove to Pokhara – on roads that were more potholes / dirt than tarmac: monsoon damage plus road works. The drive took 5 very uncomfortable hours, and half of that was on Nepal’s main East-West road, the Prithvi Highway. The upside was that Val decided none of us could face driving from Pokhara to Kathmandu (est. 12-16 hours) so we flew.
And the final bit of road news is that on the Manaslu Circuit the road is drivable to Macchakhola, will soon by drivable all the way to Jagat and is in place all the bridge to Doban. The proto-road has been dug out much further than that, heading on towards the turn off to Tsum. So I’m all the more glad I did my trips in 2015 (Tsum) and 2018 (Manaslu and Tsum) – I don’t think I’ll be coming back to this part of Nepal.
Do keep your fingers crossed for Kanchenjunga Base Camps North and South for next year! Hopefully that’ll be a camping trek – tea houses were OK but the food was a lot more limited than when we camp. The appeal of dal bhat wore decidedly thin…..
To end on a positive note: We distributed around 100 LED solar lights in Manaslu and Nar, and held a couple of eye clinics to distribute spectacles / glasses in Manaslu. Even though the electricity poles are more prevalent these days, many of them are bent double, buried in landslides or minus wires …. And, last but absolutely not least, Tseten and Tenzi did us proud in Tashiling.
I’ll add some photos once I’m back in Blighty – let’s hope the train strikes don’t make my GWR journey home toooooo painful….. Ever the optimist!