(Now we are getting to the Nepal I have always waited for…)
April 14: Bihi Pedhi (low place).
We are still following the Budhi Ghandaki (Old Woman River) as it snakes sharply through canyons with formidable power. This was a much better day. No rain. There is even rare sunshine peeking out. We started to see rhododendron trees–towering and blooming red.
We met a woman from Slovakia & through broken conversation learned she had excruciating back pain. This was her last chance to trek Manaslu & her mission. Her Nepali guide was walking next to her, holding her hand–literally guiding her down the path. He was wearing her day pack on his front & his own on the back.
There is a Tibetan woman with her child carrying baskets of firewood. We followed behind them on the path for some time, and Sune conversed with them along the way. She agreed to have her picture taken. As usual, the child & the woman look very serious and immediately burst out laughing when they saw their picture. I really wish I would have written down names. If I didn’t write them, I cannot remember.
This place (Bihi Pedhi) is simply a guest house on the edge of a steep cliff. Down below is the river (so we already know the next day will include significant downhill miles). There are more people here–the Czechs and a large Japanese group. This place has few children. All of the children we’ve met are sick with head colds and coughs.
We talked to Rajbir about his views on Nepal. He said the most important things Nepal needs are:
His daughters are Moon and Sun and they attend good schools in Kathmandu. We are thrilled to hear him talk about his family.
I also talked to the Czech man with his guitar. He was excited we were from the U.S. He had been to a Simon and Garfunkel concert in Central Park in the 70s. He was practicing “Scarborough Fair” and also “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” So he does not solely play Simon and Garfunkel–although this is what I think whenever I see him at a guesthouse or on the trail.
April 15: Gap
Worst day ever. Traveler’s diarrhea/fog/dehydration. If someone had suggested a helicopter out I would have gladly agreed. Ryan actually held my body up–and forced down a liter of oral rehydration salts and Cipro (which I promptly vomited). I ate a granola bar and it appeared to me as a four-course meal. That was vomited up as well. I was feverish and slept for 13 hours. On the 15th I seriously considered I might die. Cipro is amazing (I took more). On the 16th I was a new person.
April 16: Lho
I somehow hiked six hours with the usual elevation gains & losses. I kept imaging mountains. I took a photo with a Tibetan woman in Namrung. She only agreed to be photographed if I was in the picture with her. Her friend–another Tibetan woman–was deaf, as the two women were signing to each other and giggling.
There were few stone steps to pound my knees, and rather a dirt path with pine trees. Pine trees! We watched a white monkey climbing in the pine trees at 10,000 feet. The tail was long & we were comfortable watching at a binocular-viewing distance only.
There are now Mani walls everywhere with ancient Tibetan writing and Buddha inscriptions. Always walk clockwise by the walls. There are stupas and stone archways with pine trees and prayer flags. Tibetan culture is ubiquitous here.
April 17: Lho (10,450 feet)
We experienced a noisy night of drumming and dogs barking and Russians stomping around and yelling. We finally slept well and late on our layover day in Lho. Washed a few things in frigid water and hung to dry in a light rain. Walked by a great Mani wall covered in greenish-brown lichen. Walked up to a monastery on a hill.
The monastery was started in 1989 and completed and opened only 15 years ago. There are beautiful bright colored mandelas on the ceiling and gods on the wall. Blue drums and a golden Buddha in the middle. A monk from Bhutan explained a bit about the monastery to us. He is also an English teacher at the school. We kneeled on ornate/faded rugs just shivering in the quiet monastery at over 10,000 feet.
The place has over 200 students and four teachers, with a handful of older monks and nuns to watch the children. There are little boys in mauve robes running up and down the path.
The mountains are trying to break through the clouds, but weather is mostly overcast and drizzling. On the way back from the monastery we stopped at the Health Post. I met a nurse named Rosanee. She was from Pokhara and spoke fluent/almost Americanized English. Not that I expect anyone in non-English speaking countries to speak English, but it was so refreshing to speak with a Nepali nurse! The poster of the health post advertised all sorts of services that I thought as unlikely as hot water advertisements. But, Rosanee confirmed that the post stocks & is able to prescribe birth control including pills and even Norplant and beyond. Wow.
The two nurses at the health post do everything from vaccines to delivering babies. For deliveries, they travel to homes with a basic bag of supplies. They diagnose (as there are no other providers), handle medications, etc…so they are really functioning as Nurse Practitioners. I took a photo of the post and the pharmacy.
The monastery and the health post made my day so much better, despite the rain. Nepali culture is also patriarchal and tends to micromanage. It is the culture, yes, but it is also tiresome after some time. Meeting a phenomenal Nepali nurse and actually being able to converse with her fluently was such a delight. Maybe next time I actually need to learn Nepali (such a difficult language!)
My gut is so.much.better. I was able to eat porridge with honey, more tea (lemon ginger honey and even mint), and chapatti. We even used our almond butter.
Other: Head cold is also improved. Headlamp is totally dead & our batteries are MIA.
Some of the children in Lho speak quite fluent English, but some (probably “well-intentioned”) foreigners have obviously given the kids balloons and chocolate. There are many unfortunate requests of:
The gift of plastic litter and tooth decay?
Later afternoon was more somber again as we sat in the guest lodge and ate lunch. We watched a massive avalanche pour down near the village. I have never seen an avalanche so mighty. And yes, I understand now. The snow really does just pour down like a waterfall–we were mesmerized by the scene.
We are very small. I am very doubtful that we will be able to cross Larkya Pass. Everyone has been turning around. At this point–I just want to see Manaslu! If we don’t even see the mountains, this trip will be devastating.
April 18: Sama Goan
We woke up in Lho with a knock at our door. Why was Rajbir waking us up at 5 am? “Mountains.” Mountains?!
MANASLU! Finally. The clouds are absent and the sky is impossibly blue. Manaslu is there in front of me with the light of the sunrise. The mountain is so bright and yellow and blue and white I can hardly stare at it directly. Manaslu and Manaslu North. They are heartstopping.
We stood on the icy guest lodge deck for a very long time. I felt that if I closed my eyes or went back to my room, the mountains might suddenly evaporate.
We walked up the trail through more pine trees and Juniper and came to the village of Seyla. Holy shit. We saw the Tanji Himal to the east and south–going clockwise–Himal Chuli North and Nadi Chuli and Manaslu and Manaslu North and Larke Peak and then toward Tibet there is Samdo (6335 meters), Khayang, Saula…I can’t even read the map correctly because I am so overjoyed. I experience joy so strong I might burst into sky.
Manaslu Himal (Kampungge) is at 8163 meters, which is about 26,000 feet.
Then we arrived at Sama Goan in early afternoon and flew our pocket kite for over an hour with some kids. We washed our hair and feet in the creek next to the yaks. I even shaved my legs in the snow-melt creek.
We met some gravitational physicists (our age)–a woman originally from Nepal, a man from Holland, and a Swiss German. Manaslu North was looming over us as we spoke.
There is a Tibetan woman working on a loom all day. We are intrigued. Jennifer spends most of the afternoon with the woman. Her name? What was her name? I can’t find it…I will ask Jen.
The window in our lodge room connects to and looks into a family’s entryway of their home. I also watched a GIGANTIC yak walk in a low door underneath this home–the woman yelled at the yak and brought it hay. Must be their yak.
(Sadly, we learned that the monastery in Lho was damaged in the earthquake. We do not know the specific extent of this damage. Many homes in Lho, Sayla, and Sama Goan were destroyed. Luckily there have been few fatalities reported, but information is still difficult to obtain…we have only been able to find vague reports of these villages on-line).
Manaslu is the 8th highest mountain the world. Manaslu is 8156 meters which is 26, 759 feet.