We last wrote on Easter Sunday with Jen feeling not too hot as we hunkered down in Phakding watching new arrivals with their eager smiles, sparkling kit and with no idea what lay in store for them. We did manage to catch the Arsenal Hull game on the TV in our guesthouse which would be quite some luxury considering where we were headed next.
Nick: Day 18 – Phakding (2,600m) to Paiya (2,600m)
A quick look at the respective heights of our starting point and destination would make people think this was a nice flat stroll. Unfortunately it included walking down to the valley floor to cross the river then up over a high pass before walking back down to Paiya.
We were both feeling pretty rough today and we were also having to battle the donkey trains that rumbled slowly passed us heading for Namche. It was a hot, seriously hot, dusty slog up to the pass and by the time we reached Paiya we badly needed to stop. I had a cheeky beer whilst Jen had a Fanta and these seemed like rewards indeed. This walk home is not much fun.
Jenny: Day 19 – Paiya (2,600m) to Karikhola (2,040m)
It certainly feels good to be on the home straight, and lovely to be back at the Hill Top Guest House in Karikhola – what has got to be one of the most beautiful and peaceful villages that we’ve stayed in. It feels wonderfully untouched after the busier atmosphere of villages such as Phakding, and being right at the top of a hill it offers sweeping views of miles and miles of lush terraced farmland – already so different from the more rugged mountain views of up high. Once again we can hear birds singing and insects buzzing, and there are all sorts of colours bursting out of the fields and hedgerows everywhere we look. A sense of tranquillity that might have something to do with my idea that nothing has changed here for many, many years settles over me and it makes me so glad that we didn’t take the plane route out of Lukla after all. I wonder whether the old woman who shuffles in at some point in the afternoon can remember Hillary and Norgay walking through here. I wonder if the village has changed at all since they did.
It has been a very hot day again (or maybe it just feels hot comparatively, after spending a few days in the freezing mountains!) so it helped that today was a short one walking wise. We got here for lunchtime (1.30pm) and immediately put our feet up, Nick and Dharma with a San Miguel (or several) and me with a daring Sprite (I’m still not risking my stomach with anything more exciting!). Our other luxury of the afternoon was a hot bucket shower to sluice away all the horrible donkey dust from our pores. There really is nothing better than a hot bucket shower.
Nick: Day 20 – Karikhola (2,040m) to Upper Nunthala (2,194m)
Another relatively short day today which was very welcome as once again the heat was unbearable. Dharma claims it is around 31/32 but it feels that hot from about 8am. Today we had to hobble down to the river (1,600m) and then walk back up in the heat and dust as more donkey trains filed passed us. It was actually not too bad and at Upper Nunthala we met a guide who had spent 7 years in England and was an Arsenal fan. He was also guiding for a Swedish lady with diabetes who had been to Base Camp. Her self-regulating insulin gadgets had never been higher than 3,000m before so her ascent to Base Camp was some kind of record and apparently was national news back in Sweden. For us though it was a quiet but hot day that I ruined by having a Mars roll. This is essentially a deep fried Mars bar but with thick deep fried pastry. Definitely not one to enjoy if you aren’t sweating out your body weight every day.
Jenny: Day 21 – Upper Nunthala (2,194m) over to the Taksindo Pass (3,090m) to Salleri (2,390m)
Our last day of trekking! And it was a fittingly challenging one!
We set off in the hazy early morning quiet from Upper Nunthala and headed straight up an ancient cobbled path that got increasingly steeper and increasingly hotter over the two hours it took us to reach the top of the Taksindo Pass. At the top we took a photo and had a celebratory sit down to mark the occasion of there being No More Up. Woohoo! Unfortunately, it is Down that is causing Nick’s knee all the trouble, and there was about another hour of that all the way to Ringmu, where we stopped for an early lunch.
After Ringmu we followed a flat path for three hours all the way to Salleri. It wasn’t even Nepali flat (as in kind of up and down flat) it was actually FLAT! The first flat that we’ve seen for 21 days. Most pleasant, if very dusty and full of donkeys.
We made it to Salleri where we saw our first motorised vehicle (that wasn’t in the air) for three weeks. It felt very strange to suddenly be walking on a road, and to actually have to look out for motorbikes and tractors, and it made us appreciate just how special it has been to see absolutely no traffic for 3 whole weeks. I’m not sure when again, or where, we will ever be able to repeat that experience.
We toasted the end of our walk with a cup of the local ‘Roxy’ – a millet / rice brewed spirit that Dharma claimed was 43% but didn’t taste quite that strong to us – still, one glass was definitely enough. It feels weird to think that this is the end of our trek. After so long on the go it’s hard to imagine not getting up in the morning and setting off with our walking sticks. I think we’re a bit shell-shocked – that’s probably it.
Nick: Day 22 – 14 Hour drive to Kathmandu
We woke up at 3.30am to pile into a battered Jeep to take us back to Kathmandu with the knowledge that there are no roads for the first 12 hours! Needless to say it was one of the most uncomfortable drives we have ever taken, not least because of the continuous sandstorm that was having a party all around us in the Jeep – we finished the journey under a thick layer of dust. Much worse than buses in Laos or trains in Burma and at 14 hours long it was a real test of endurance.
Thankfully the views on the way were just incredible as we drove through farmland and small villages on the dust tracks. More terraced mountainsides than you could shake a stick at dominated the first 10 hours of our trip and it was simply breathtaking. That and the sudden jolts that threw our lungs against our ribs. Hearing the occasional plane fly overhead brought us a few chuckles as we bounced around in our hot dusty seats.
It was with a huge sigh of relief that we found a road after 12 hours and watched as the Kathmandu valley came into focus. It was a time for reflections and we were both quite quiet on the jeep as we struggled through traffic and into Kathmandu city itself. We had made it. Three and a half weeks after landing in Kathmandu from Kuala Lumpur we were back with stronger leg muscles, hopefully smaller bellies and an incredible experience under our belts.
We would like to thank absolutely everybody for your kind words, your constant support and of course your contributions towards an extremely personal cause. I can safely say that we feel like we have earned every single one of your fantastic donations, on a journey that has turned out to be the most physically and mentally demanding thing that either one of us has ever done.