Eight Days Walking (9)

July 31, 2012

Writing here from Yak Khaka with fingers tingling – probably something I need to watch given it is apparently a first symptom of problems with altitude. Or so I thought – it’s actually a side effect of the dioxin I was taking. We’re now at 13,218 feet in yak country and higher than Mr Cook, my internal point of comparison since I know what that looks like. We are well out of pine country and have climbed up past the Gangapurna Glacier and into the head of yet another valley. It’s steep and very stony country covered, at this point, in low scrub that looks a little like salt bush. Some juniper remains. Slightly built cattle not unlike Angus loiter along the track. Higher up, across the valley I spot something smaller and very shaggy. And very black. A few of these spotted as we go and help give this place its name – Yak Khaka is local lingo for Yak Pastures. Though these pastures are nothing like you have ever seen. Vast, steep and seeming stretching ever upward. And barely a blade of grass in places but lots of that low scrub. And plenty of stone. Read more

And God Rested on the Seventh Day (8)

July 29, 2012

And so did we.  After a fashion. The plan is to spend two nights here at Manang (at 11’614 feet) to aid in the acclimitisation process. But there is a 1500’ climb we will do here as part of our ‘climb high sleep low” strategy. But we have woken to steady rain and getting everyone enthused about the climb will be something else I suspect. Read more

The Road to Perdition (Manang Actually) (7)

July 29, 2012

Well, if we thought we had it tough yesterday we were put through the grinder today. Those who have wide trekking experience found it as arduous as anything tackled anywhere else. Those new to the game wondered what the heck they were doing here. Actually there were moments when we all wondered what the heck we were doing here. Read more

The Climb to Pisang is not a Piece of Pisang (6)

July 29, 2012

We follow the river out of Chame, starting at a respectable hour though not at the start time the guide urges on us. Some of the team would struggle with a regimental sergeant major cracking the whip with the clock. I remind some of them that we need to respect the guide’s daily timetable but it does not always sink in. Still, we are not in any particular rush so we hasten folk along as politely as decently possible each morning and Lila, in that Nepalese way, will never chide anyone face to face. So we do a courtly dance around our daily launch instead and everyone keeps a good humour about it. The track switched to and fro across the river a number of times and despite my best intentions to keep track of them, well, I don’t. We step under massive rock escarpments which prompt the little niggle of worry about falling rock even though so far we have not seen any.  Just the distant sound of booming avalanches to remind us that things fall off very high places around here. Read more

Into the Misty Mountains (5)

July 27, 2012

‘Come visit my home’ roared Gimli (Chris S). ‘Here we will feast on venison and drink mead until we are sated’.

‘In your dreams. There’s no way I’m climbing in to mountains to party with your bearded women’ piped up Sam (Peter G). ‘Give me that magical lembas anytime. By the way, what are those local herbs that the elves have been adding to the recipe? Walking food that’.

‘You’re dissing our women? thundered Gimli. ‘What’s wrong with a matt of chest hair?’

‘Actually nothing’ muttered Pippin (Booze). He leaned over to Sam. “I’m an expert on hair you know. But I have an idea. If we go with Gimli we could make a lot of money. We would just need lots of Veet.’

Sam cocked an eyebrow and paused before responding. ‘Good ideas department in this group belongs… well, not with you. You been doing these save the world things for long?’

‘Ah, no’.

‘My ring’s on fire’ complained Frodo (Dylan) ‘Do we have to climb up there?’

‘Sure do’ snickered an orc (Chris G). ‘Follow me into the misty mountains’.

‘Hey, that’s my line..hang on, what are you doing here?’

“Frodo, your sword has a flat battery. Isn’t it supposed to glow when orcs are around?’

Aragorn (Peter I) swiftly lifted his glittering sword (a krooki), the cheap one he had bought in a souvenir store at the beginning of the quest. Sam stepped in. ‘Whoa, we need a trek master’.

‘Yeah, you’re right’ grumbled Aragorn. ‘I’ll just go and finish off everyone’s meals while you figure out what we are doing.’

‘My ring’s still on fire.’

‘Shut up Frodo’ (everyone)

‘Heehee. We are heading into the misty mountains. You do need to follow me.’ The orc sounded pleased. But then, they are creatures easily amused.

‘Alright, alright rumbled Gimli. At least it’s mountains. Soaring mountains. Waterfalls cascading from the sky. Hairy women. JD, poker, a hot meal, open ‘til late!. We are thinking of adding RSL to the Halls of Moria you know’.


‘Really Sexy Ladies. With lots of hair.’

‘Shut up Gimli!’ (everyone) Read more

The Fragrance of Mule Droppings (4)

July 27, 2012

Really? Okay, fragrance might be overdoing it a bit. But this is a major trading route and we are on Highway Number 1 through the Tal Valley. Actually it’s the only highway. We are passed by teams of mules loaded with all manner of tightly strapped down goods. At one point we get caught behind a mule train as they ascend stairs to get around a bluff overhanging the Marsyangdi River. But they move quickly around the track and cross a suspension bridge in front of us before vanishing out of sight, Their frequent passing (pun alert) of course means that, as you have your head down slaving up this or that slope or set of stairs, your head barely a metre off the sun baked granite the aroma of fresh droppings fills the nostrils. It’s not completely unpleasant  – just as well they don’t use pigs is all I can think as I tread through a wall of it.  But Sarah declares she can’t stand the stuff. I guess it is not the usual obstacle or decoration on the way to the bus stop in Sydney. Read more

A Kind King (3)

July 26, 2012

‘Centuries ago there was a kind king’ says Lila, our guide, as he sips his mint tea and gazes down on the village below us. Smoke rises from one or two stove pipes. It’s early, about 5.30am. I was up at 5 and having a quiet poke around when Lila appeared around the corner. He was having a quiet poke around too. He grinned, put his foot up on the flower bed and quietly continued his story.

‘The king would rise early every morning and walk out onto the wall of his palace and look across the valleys of his kingdom. If he saw any house that was absent a smoking chimney he would send someone to enquire after the welfare of that family’.

Lila, smiles at the story, and looks up at me.

‘He was a very kind king’. Read more

The Road to Besisahar is Paved with Good Intentions (2)

July 25, 2012

At least its paved. Though you might be forgiven for thinking such was not the case if you close your eyes and attempt a nap. It’s not uncommon to be thrown out of your seat and to be airborne. I watch the face of the driver in his rearview mirror when that happens – the squeals from the back of his van trigger a broad grin across his tanned face. Read more