Anna Gatta reports:
Below you can already find the blog posts describing the expedition’s trek up to base camp. Since we have some radio silence for yet a few days, I thought I write about my return back to Kathmandu after leaving Philippe and the team in Oktang.
20 APRIL: Oktang-Tseram
18km (?), +198m, -1117m, 5h30
Rise of the full moon, Ramche. Rathong, 6682m, to the left. Photo: Anna Gatta
My porter Santos, guide Porri and me left the camp to go back down at the same time as the team left for base camp. The whole moraine was snow covered making it very difficult to not slip or fall over completely with the wobbling stones hiding below the snow. It was horribly time consuming but we finally ended up on dry ground and advanced fast to Ramche where we picked up my bag, had a tea and continued straight to Tseram where we stopped for the day. I met some South Africans and a Dutch man and we had dinner together while I got to hear about the daily life in South Africa. The poor guy had had his apartments burglarized 37 times while living in almost as many places… I went to bed around 7pm as usually in the mountains 🙂
21 APRIL: Tseram-Ghunsa
19km, +1041m, -1508m, 6h45
Jannu seen just before arriving to Sele La. Photo: Anna Gatta
This was one of the longest days so we headed up the steep hill just next to the lodge at 7am. We had about 800m climbing to do in one go and I was concerned about getting over all the 3 passes before the afternoon in case of storms. But I had nothing to worry about. The sky couldn’t be more crisp and blue. We were so lucky! We went over the pass Sinelapche Bhanjyang (4646m) and was greeted by a strong and very cold wind hitting us hard. Quickly on with the Active shell jacket and continue on the traverse over to the next pass Mirgin La (4480m). The sun made the snow hard and I was worried when I saw my porter sliding, almost loosing his grip using only a bamboo stick. If he fell he would slide almost 100m down so I swapped one of my poles with his bamboo stick so that he would have a better support. I also show him how to kick steps in the hard snow so that it would be less hazardous.
We went over yet another pass called Sinion La (4440m) before starting the nice descent towards the lodge in Sele La (4290m). Just before arriving we got splendid views of Jannu aka Kumbhakarna (7711m). Sele La is a very rustic lodge with a small river next by. I had a small siesta while waiting for the dalbhat lunch. Afterward we had a 2-hour descent to Ghunsa, the « big » town.
Ghunsa (3595m) is pretty and more organized as a village, situated on a huge flat field surrounded by dry mountains and further away you can see some snowy summits. I got a super nice room, almost 20m2 with… electricity after 3pm! Wow. I felt like I had more luxury around me than on Hotel Paris in Monaco 🙂 That is what I like about these trips – you really start appreciating the simple things in life and I truly believe that’s healthy. And as always there is a shower story: On the yard I saw a small wooden house with two doors, one saying « Toilet » and one saying « Hot shower » – yippee! I asked the owner of the lodge: « Is it REALLY hot shower? ». He showed me the gas heater and said it is hot alright, warmed up with sun cells! Ah, I will finally get clean. I jump in and let the warm water flow, yet being careful not using much, close the water tap, put loads of shampoo all over and put the water on, but… no water comes, not even cold… Nada… WTF! I can only start screaming: « Help, I am full of shampoo and no water to rince it off with! ». The owner comes running saying: « Sori, sori, open door » and I’m like « But I am naked…! » and he says « Sori, sori, open door »… I put shampoo on my holy parts and opens the door and gets hit by a wind of ice cold air. Long story short: stone prevented water flow = Anna washes off with 5 liters of hot water in a bucket.
At least I smelt nice.
22 APRIL: Ghunsa-Amjilosa
19km, +604m, -1580m, 5h30
This walk is quite flattish slowly heading down, running along the strong river through small forests and nice fields. You just get surprised when you need to climb almost 400m in the end to reach Amjilosa. Amjilosa is situated on the hill side with views over the valley, high above the river. A calm place but this is the first time the food was crap. I got the opportunity to talk to a lovely Japanese old man that was going up to try to find a good way and base camp for his next year expedition to Jannu. We sat on the stone bench discussing our maps that where quite different! That is Kangchenjunga – not always precise on the maps, wild, surprising and beautiful.
23 APRIL: Amjilosa-Chiruwa
21km, +366m, -1440m, 5h30
Chiruwa village. Photo: Anna Gatta
During this stage there is an amazing stone trail laid out between Lelep (1750m) and Chiruwa (1270m). You start to feel the heat again and we started to feel the long days of walking in our legs… There are some fantastic water falls and we walked a big part of the day along the river, crossing every now and then a small « house » with a family and their animals living like several hundreds years ago. Every time I passed a child, he/she put the hands together as to a prayer and said « Namaste » and every time I answered they were delighted 🙂 My guide and porter ignored them… Just before arriving to Chiruwa we traversed a huge landslide that had destroyed the trail and almost cut off the river. Chiruwa is in my opinion prettier than Ghunsa and more lively. Men discussing and women working. As usual…!
24 APRIL: Chiruwa-Taplejung
20km (?), +1142m, -610m, 6h
Sinwa village. Photo: Anna Gatta
Tired… We reached Sinwa (980m) pretty fast and it was warm… We stopped more and more often every time that there was a village or tea house. We had an option to split the trail to Taplejung in two by sleeping in Mitlung, but when there, we didn’t like the place too much and there were no facilities what so ever. So we started the steep up hill toward Hangdewa and reached Taplejung just before the heavy rain came in that had been threatening behind us for hours. Taplejung is a « big town », noisy, full of people (I think I was almost the only tourist!) and dirty. But I got a nice room (no spaces in the walls letting in snow or rain!) and the first real hot shower… finally. Hardly no water coming out but still, I got clean… and it was warm. 🙂
As dinner company I had a small girl that (as any child) liked the « repeating game ». So we sat for one hour touching each others arms, in the light from my head torch, while I ate a very nice fried noodles and french fries (home made that is = great).
My guide tried to get bus tickets for the next day, but there was a strike in Ilam so no buss had reached Taplejung… After his many « Not possible… » and my many « There are always solutions! Find them. », we got space in a jeep taxi for the following morning at 5am. Cool!
25 APRIL: Taplejung-Badhrapur
22h door to door
The epic return to Kathmandu starts… We woke up at 4am to get breakfast (except from that we couldn’t get breakfast…) and take the 5am taxi (except from that it wasn’t leaving…) Long story short:
« Taxi leave soon. No woris » (20 men stands around smoking, spitting, speaking in mobile phones, discussing and I can’t help wondering if any of these guys actually work on trying to get that bl**dy taxi leave any time soon??)
« Taxi leaves 7am, mam. No woris » (Other passengers – absolutely more than would fit into a jeep – starts discussing and sitting down on the pavement. Waiting. I ask my guide to verify what is going on. Now the jeep that was already there leaves, with no one inside!)
« New jeep coming, mam. 9am. No woris » (Well, I AM worried! The agency in Kathmandu starts telling me in the mobile phone that no taxi will leave and that we should stay put until tomorrow and see if the strike is over. If not, he will consider picking me up with a helicopter…)
« You go to hotel have a tea. More comfortable » (says my guide and gives me a package of biscuits for breakfast. It’s 8:30. Suddenly he comes running saying that the taxi IS leaving. But since I was not there it is now full… They want to squeeze me in, but then an elderly tourist couple (the man has a red, angry face) starts yelling that they will sue everyone if they over load the jeep (that is, with me and my guide). Finally my guide gives a financial compensation to 3 Nepalese guys that stays to wait for the next jeep…
At 9am we are off. Just 5 hours late. Pfff – that’s nothing in Nepal, right?
3 hours later we are stopped for 1.5 hours due to the intelligent way of adding asphalt to the road… Why just doing half the width of the road (so that traffic flow is not too disturbed) when you can do the complete width? Yeah…
The road is not too bumpy and around 5pm we arrive close to Ilam so we now need to go on to a rougher road, but that road has been slightly destroyed by today’s heavy rainfall! « Not possible… ».
1 hour later they decide to swap to a 4 wheel drive truck. The elderly couple get’s in next to the driver, the luggage is behind in the open space and I am like… « Eh, and I go…where? ». This is where I start my additional 6-hours trip, seated on a wooden bench around 20cm deep with iron beams cutting in to my back, iron beams hitting my head for each bump on the road, feet stuck in where ever I could find space between rice bags and our luggage and around me I have 9 Nepalese guys, happy and singing out loud every time we get thrown up in the air by a rock on the road, feeling quite sorry for the poor tourist… All I could think about was the white satin linen in our King size bed at home. Soon I will be there. Soon I am in my lovely home. Then I slapped myself, wiped my tears (yes, I was exhausted and hungry and thirsty and exhausted and exhausted…) and told my self to stop the self pity and join the guys good mood and so I did. For a few minutes. When we got out of the jeep for a late dinner in the middle of nowhere at 10pm I could hardly stand straight.
At 1am just me and my guide jumped off on a road somewhere and was picked up by another jeep and were driven to the chic hotel close to the Badhrapur airport at 2am. A drunk hotel owner showed me (very proud) the room that was used, bed linen all over the room, no cushion, plates of old food… I told him I wanted a clean room, he started being disgusting so I pushed him out, closed carefully and went to bed… Guys talked in the corridor, laughing, talking loud like it would have been in the middle of the day and you didn’t have to care about being quiet since people (I assume) wants to sleep. I told them off once. « Sori, mam. Sori. ». Twice. « Yes, sori. Sori ». SHUT THE F**K UP! I got insane. Seriously insane. Can someone please just zooooop me to my home…
The day after I didn’t (of course) get on the 10am plane as I should (so I woke up at 6am for nothing) but in the 1pm flight and finally ended up in the perfectly fine hotel in Kathmandu at 2pm.
Badhrapur airport. Photo: Anna Gatta
Consensus: trekking in the Himalaya is not tough. It is all the logistics that makes you look old…
Now four days have passed and I have eaten in great restaurants and taken at least one hot bath and several showers. Getting restless. Soon back to France for trail running and climbing 🙂
More information on Kangchenjunga expedition
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