Day 6 2nd October Marpha-Larjung
Will keep this brief today, getting increasingly tired each evening – not surprising!
We left Marpha early and cold until the sun got high enough and we came out of the more narrow valley. After 15 minutes we took a detour across a bridge towards the Tibetan refugee village of Chhairo, where they are rebuilding a beautiful old Gompa in a pine forest. Scenery has changed completely to green, meadows, waterfalls and trees everywhere. We found a hidden paradise inhabited only by cows but Rob doesn’t want to live there – no broadband.
We climbed 200m of steep stone steps to the apple growing plateaux of Chimang, which promised views of the Dhaulagiri mountains, but clouds had moved in. Lovely smiling people though.
We headed back down the other side of the ridge into a steep gorge, where we had to jump across a river – stepping stones, before resting on the other side by the Kali Gandaki. We watched a train of mules cross the longest bridge so far, before having to do it ourselves. Haven’t walked so fast!
We stopped for lunch in Tuckuche and compared river crossing stories with a couple who had gone just ahead of us. Through the main street a massive herd of sheep were walked through, on their way down to the towns to be slaughtered for Dashain.
For our final hour of walking it started to spit with rain, the first time the weather has not been perfect so far! We arrived at the cold Larjung Riverside Lodge – bargain at Rs150 a night.
We wandered down to the river to throw stones and take photos, now just trying to warm up before dinner!
Day 7 3rd October Larjung-Ghasa-Tatopani
It was a cold and early start from Larjung but we walked easily for the first couple of hours through changing scenery , huge pine trees, thick forests and massive clusters of weed.
My shoulder (same as before) had been causing me a lot of pain this morning so we decided against the detour to the awesome-sounding Titi Lake, and headed straight for Kalipani where a teahouse had been recommended to us. I was in enough pain by this point that I was struggling to carry my bag, even after Rob had taken the heavier items from me, so we decided to catch the bus to Ghasa where we were hoping to catch another bus anyway and skip a day of the trek to Tatopani (making up some of the time lost because of our delays).
Unfortunately the only bus that came in an hour was full, though the driver offered us one seat in exchange for Rs300, way too much for such a short trip. We decided to walk slowly to Ghasa , which seemed a bit more manageable after a rest. The road was a little scary anyway in parts, and we both agreed that we felt safer walking. After about an hour we saw a short cut across a bridge, although there seemed to be couple of boulders on it which seemed a little odd. Seeing two porters appear from a trail to it though, we decided to have a go. By the time we realised that we were walking over a landslide (probably caused when they built the road) it was too late to turn back, and so we edged slowly and carefully towards the bridge, barely balancing.
Once on the bridge we had to deal with the fact that it was already pretty weighed down by the boulders, but we had to go across now, so we did it quickly, trying not to pay attention to the rust or the creaking. On the other side we had a celebratory cereal bar and took photos of the now obvious drop, and I realised that the adrenaline had eased the pain in my shoulder – coincidentally by the end of the day it didn’t hurt at all!
Back to the walk, we were wandering quite happily, amazed by each new waterfall, mountain, eagle that we passed. We got to the bus stop in Ghasa – finally a 2pm. We climbed onto a bright pink bus, almost full of a group (a college/university class perhaps? They were all around 18/ish) who were spread out, leaving us squashed at the back. We’d sat for a while when a girl came and asked us to chip in Rs30 each to buy out the remaining seats so we could leave – it turned out that they had been on the bus that left us in Kalipani and had been waiting for more passengers so that this bus would leave for two hours.
We chipped in and were on our way, a nerve-wracking, bumpy way but the singing and dancing of the other passengers was a good distraction, and I tried not to look out of the window at the scarier parts.
About half way though, we went over a scarily narrow bridge over a massive waterfall (Rupse Chhahara) and drop of a couple of hundred meters. As the bus went up the slope road after it we hit a patch of mud, and the wheels spun before stopping and with a sickening lurch the bus drifted back down the hill towards the edge of the waterfall. At this point, as even the Nepalis on board were panicking, I really thought that we would go over the edge and all I could do was shut my eyes.
Somehow the driver managed not only to steer the sliding bus back onto the bridge but stop it as well. Before we could breathe he tried again, and again the wheels spun and we started to slide, this time drifting to the side towards the edge. At this point everyone started climbing off the bus, so we followed, last ones off, but off and on solid ground. I had the camera around me already but we had simply jumped over the rest of the luggage.
At this point I was pretty useless – probably in shock, and just stood there while some of the others tried to push the bus up, but it kept shifting back down, lurching dangerously as it did so. A couple of the girls from the group grabbed me at this stage and we stood a little higher up the road, moving only when the bus made any progress as it would have headed straight towards us. Rob on the other hand was brilliant, and was pushing the bus from the side, trying to keep it from moving to the edge.
The girls both took a photo and in a moment when they were collecting rocks to go under the wheels I took one quickly too. It took about 7/8 more attempts and a lot of stones piled under the wheels before the bus finally shifted up past the mud and to the top of the hill where we could all jump back on – although at that point I really wanted to just walk!).
No time to dwell on how shaken we were, we were back on the way , with an hour of bumpy, narrow roads to hold our breath through, the drop next to us about 600-800m. All we could do was hold tight to our seats and wait, not knowing exactly how far we were from our next stop.
Luckily, just before it started getting dark we saw a sign for the lodge we were aiming for, and wishing the group good luck we jumped off, Rob climbing up to get his bag, which had amazingly stayed on the roof.
So we are a little shaken and bruised but otherwise safe in Tatopani, where we have a comfortable room where we can sleep listening to the steady rush of the Kali Gandaki below us, full of good food and much needed beer.
– I had managed to convince myself that this was not as scary as it seemed, but the first headline we saw on our return to Pokhara was that two days after our own near-miss, a jeep had slipped down the mud and over the edge, just a little further along the road, killing fourteen people on board. The only insurance company that covers the jeeps and buses on this route is now threatening to stop the cover for this route, so the road’s future is uncertain.
Dear parents, this is the danger part over. I will now resume with the pretty views and swooning over mountains. xxx