We’ve now reached day 20 of the hike, completing Makalu and Solukumbu (Everest region). We’ve established a bit of a daily routine, which I’ll outline:
- Pack our bag +/- cover blisters in Betadine and dressings
- Breakfast. Arranging breakfast in non-touristy areas is a bit of a lucky dip. We generally just ask to be fed and wait to see what comes out. Nepali people generally don’t eat breakfast so we get mixture of interpretations on breakfast fare: sometimes popcorn, fried soybeans, chapatti and egg, (winner), chapatti and veg, or minute noodles. Always accompanied by cup of sweet milky tea or ‘ciya’. Over the past week in the more touristy areas around Solukumbu we have been treated to a full breakfast menu written in English with tasty treats such as pancakes and peanut butter. Needless to say we have been having about three breakfasts each.
- We usually start walking about 8am. Generally our days start with a steep ascent followed by a steep descent, or vice versa, times ten. What about the flat you say? Doesn’t exist. The best you’ll get is ‘Nepali flat’ which is tiny sections of flat indespersed with steep ups and downs.
- Along the way we often pick up a Nepali person headed in the same direction (Phil, Eddie, Matt, to name a few) who either walks with us or walks about 20m ahead and occasionally looks back to see we are going the right way. More recently, we have picked up some four legged friends – dogs will often hike a few kilometres with us before heading on their merry way. Paul Lambert the dog waiting for Ronnie:
- We have ambitions to secure a baby goat as a hiking buddy. Ronnie gave this one a thorough pep talk about the route ahead, but the little chap remained unconvinced he’d make it given he’d just been born and was having quite a difficult time coordinating his front and back legs.
- For lunch, if we have time we stop at a local eatery for dal bhat (dal, rice, veg) of which we eat several plates each. Or if we are tight on time we scoff minute noodles from the packet en route, along with whatever else we can find (cookies, Snickers, lollies, wafers. Recently we have acquired a packet of sulfurous peanuts that have a suspicious rotten egg gas pong, but are calories all the same).
- We continue hiking for another few hours (generally a total of 6-8hrs of hiking each day) to our destination. The landscape varies from high altitude snowy passes, to rhododendron forests, to small settlements/villages with rice terraces. Route finding of late has been relatively easy, as the trails have been well defined, and (maybe) we are getting better at map reading.
- Our accommodation for the night is usually in a local guesthouse which varies from a well built stone house with thick walls (winner), to a house made of wooden slats (with lots of gaps in between), to a plywood shack with a tin roof (coldest option by far). One night in Sibuje we ended up in the plywood shack variety above the snow line, there was a foot gap between the top of the plywood walls and the roof. We could see mist flowing up the valley and into to our room. It was cold.
- When we arrive at our destination Ronnie usually goes straight to the washroom for a cold bucket wash while I collapse on the bed wondering if the trauma of a cold bucket wash is really worth it for a clean body. The wash rooms all seem to have windows/holes positioned at unfortunate heights (chest level) which adds to the difficulty. I inevitably give in and follow suit however occasionally treat myself to a baby wipe wash or nothing at all.
- We usually then write diaries and hungrily await dinner – dal bhat again. This is typically accompanied by some spinach and potatos or cabbage that are grabbed from the veggie terraces outside. It’s all cooked on a mud brick wood burning stove. We demolish two to three plates of dal bhaht every night. And still never quite feel full.
- I’m usually comatose by 8pm and Ronnie is never too far behind.
Stories and photos from Makalu and Solukumbu:
Passing Dobhane meant we had officially completed the far east section of the walk and were moving into Makalu region. We went to take a celebratory map photo and our goose of a friend kindly pointed out which trail we’d taken:
From Dobhane (day 7) we completed one of our biggest days yet: a 20km hike over 8hrs, up, up and up – with 2300m climb in elevation, mostly through remote rhododendron forests to reach Gupha Bazaar (2900m), a freezing little village full of shabby lodges, goats, and spectacular views.
We were initially the only ones in our lodge but shortly after we sat down for tea about 20 schoolboys arrived on school camp, and sat down to demolish a few kilos worth of rice and dal. They somehow managed to squeeze themselves into the two remaining rooms, a total of four beds. We were awoken the next morning by their almost on-pitch singalongs to Greenday and Hotel California.
Day 8 was spent hiking 19km down through alpine landscapes and rhodendron forests to a town called Pokhari where we had the luxury of a tiled bathroom!
Day 9 was a bit of a battle, my blisters were aching and we were both feeling exhausted. We ate several chocolate bars in quick succession to try to boost our energy, to no avail. We descended down to a river where we decided to take a break and cook some noodles for lunch.
We’d barely got the stove going before two guys pulled up on a motorbike on the dirt road next to us, clambered off and came and sat to watch us from a nearby rock. Next thing we knew we were being filmed for about 5minutes, cooking our noodles. Almost as soon as they’d left an older Nepali man came and perched on the same rock above us and watched cooking for about 10minutes. We may as well have been in the MasterChef kitchen. We then hiked another two hours up to Linling, where we luckily arrived just as a thunderstorm started.
On day 10 we were bound for Khadbari, a big village with road access where, after a 4hour battle steeply down and then uphill we found a hotel with actual mattresses, clean sheets, and an ensuite bathroom with a hot shower, true luxury. We did some washing and had an immense feed on curry, rice, beer, cake, momos (Nepali dumplings) and felt utterly content.
Trails to Khadbari:
Sunset rooftop laundry:
The next morning on day 11 we had three breakfasts each and sadly left our newly found slice of heaven behind.
Day 12 involved a rare treat: 2hours of flat trail walking alongside a river. We came across the first westerner we’ve seen – a German man who was doing his ‘warm up trek’ before working as a guide during the tourist season. He told us he hiked this route every year, and every year he got lost in the myriad of trails in the section up ahead. We ended up having no issues finding the way, which was an utter miracle. That afternoon, as we hiked through a dense jungle, a massive thunderstorm hit. It lasted through till midday the next day, which meant the morning of day 12 was spent zipped up in waterproofs. Luckily the rain stopped at midday and we were back to sweating it out, hiking up near verticle stone steps for 1.5hrs to reach Thulo Pokte, a small Sherpa settlement at 2200m, that had been covered in snow during the storm, where we stayed in an absolutely baltic little lodge.
On day 13 we had an epic day, crossing the Salpha pass at 3500m, which involved climbing more agonisingly steep steps for a few hours before climbing further through rhododendron forests, and then finally plodding through fresh deep snow dumped during yesterday’s storm. Luckily a man and his donkeys had come over the pass before us and had tracked out the path for us, otherwise we would have had little chance of finding our way.
The Salpha pass in my sights:
At the top of the pass sat a little wooden shack, a Gompa, and some prayer flags. To our utter amazement, out of the shack emerged a tiny little old lady, who went and sat in the sun to brush her long white hair. God knows how she got herself up there let alone food and supplies, she was tough as old boots. We stumbled down the other side of the pass through waist high snow like a pair of drunks, spending a lot of time on our ass. A little way down we had to step to the side to let a very disobedient buffalo train go by.
After a few more hours through a beautiful forest we eventually reached Sanam, a beautiful little settlement on the side of the hill, with a monastery and a Gompa, overlooking the snowy peaks. Our guesthouse was run by Posie Sherpa, a lovely lady who made us a thermos of tea to enjoy in the sun.
Despite the beautiful sunshine it was absolutely freezing. I washed some undies and found they were frozen solid a little while later when I went to bring them in.
Day 14 involved walking down to the bottom of a never ending valley, over a suspension bridge and then back up the other side to Kiruale, an 8hr day with a descent of 1500m and a climb of 1200m. A standard day on the GHT.
Day 15: another day, another pass – Charakot pass (3070m), followed by an epic icy 1000m descent to the bottom of a valley and an incredibly steep 800m ascent to reach Sibuje.
On the way through Sibuje it seems we were following the local butcher – a middle aged man with a western looking back pack lined with a plastic bag. He stopped at each house and pulled out a big lump of meat to hand over. That night we tried Chang for the first time (Nepali beer made from rice or millet). It tastes like alcoholic kefir. Not bad. Not good.
Day 16 involved crossing the Narkung La pass (3200m) to Karikhola, which lies on the tourist route up to Everest region. Kharikhola has a main route through town which is somewhat of a donkey highway, full of mules taking supplies up to the higher settlements. It also boasts lodges with extensive English menus which we thoroughly sampled. In Kharikhola we found a map of the GHT, it seems we are about 1/5th of the way there!
Day 17: 6hrs walking with 1.5km vertical gain to go over the Taskindo pass (3100m) to Ringmu.
Day 18: Ringmu to Sete via Lamjura La pass, 25km, 2000m vertical gain, 9.5hrs hiking. This was a particularly taxing day. On our way up to the pass we picked up a lovely black and white dog who I named Paul. Then Ronnie though we should name him after the pass – Lamjura. This became ‘Lam’ and then ‘Lambert’ and then Paul Lambert. Which coincidently is a Scottish footballer, apparently. Paul Lambert stopped for some sniffing every now and then, then caught us up. He walked with us for about 10kilometres and left us just below the snowline. When we eventually reached the pass, it was shrouded in clouds.
Hiking to Junbesi, en route to Lamjura La:
Reaching the pass:
The other side involved an hour of blissful flat and then two hours of steep downhill to reach Sete, below the snowline, where we arrived just before dark.
Day 19, exhausted after the pass, we took it relatively easy. This still involved a brutal 2hr climb, but we finished in Bhandar at 12.30pm at a lovely guesthouse which had a beautiful warm sunny courtyard, delicious meals with huge portions, and a gas hot shower. We also met a German who was also staying there, which meant someone to talk to other than Ronnie. All boxes ticked 😜. We washed our clothes and relaxed in the sunshine.
On day 20 we ended up doing a 9hr day hiking all the way to Jiri, a large town, as all the lodges we’d considered staying at along the way turned out to be closed.
We passed through Shivalaya which marked the border of Solukumbu, and our entrance into Rowaling, a region notorious for poorly defined trails and lost souls – slightly unsettling.
Finishing the Solukumbu map with a cautious cow having a peak at our route:
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