‘Explore’ moves away from Crete this month – some 6000 km in fact – for a brief account and some photos of last November’s Paleochora Himalayan Expedition. Our international team of ten consisted of Michelle, Andre, Klervi & Bernard (French), Karin (Swiss), Marianne & Josee (Dutch), and Jane, Lindsey & myself (English), all of us either living in or with a close connection to Paleochora. We met up in Kathmandu, flying in from Athens, Paris and Amsterdam, via Istanbul and Delhi, then two days later traveled seven hours in our team “bus” to Arughat, on the worst roads I’ve ever seen, in places almost destroyed by monsoon rain, and the start of our 14-day trek.
The pattern for the next two weeks began with tea at 6am next morning, then breakfast, and we were usually walking before 8am. For four days we would follow the valley of the Burhi Gandaki river, often high above it, gradually acclimatising and gaining height. Then a steep ascent beside the tributary of the Shiar Khola into the almost hidden Tsum Valley, below the peaks of Ganesh Himal and Sringi Himal, over 7,000m high, and both, I later discovered, with only one ascent, in the mid-1950s.
The well-marked trail, narrow at times, and used by mules and later yaks, took us across steel suspension bridges and some precarious-looking wooden ones, through small Nepalese villages amid stunning scenery, and by late afternoon each day to our overnight campsite – and welcome tea, followed by a substantial evening meal.
As we climbed higher, temperatures decreased. Cloudless blue skies and warm sun during the day were replaced, after sunset, by cold starlit nights, and by 8pm we were usually in the warmth of our down sleeping bags. Camping at Lar (3,245m) after a visit to Rachen Gompa monastery, it fell to below 0c overnight, and we were glad to be moving the next morning. Our highest point was above Mu Gompa monastery, at 3,700m, tantalisingly close to the Tibetan border, which was two days away but still 1,500m above us.
We returned down the valley to Arughat, a week away, often on alternative paths and camping at different locations. My favourite was outside the village school at Ripche, surrounded by magnificent peaks, and where the children posed proudly for photos, holding the pencils and crayons they had been given.
We were superbly looked after by the team from Glacier Safari Trek – porters who carried heavy loads on difficult terrain, cooks who provided nutritious meals high on carbo-hydrate and protein, and our Sherpa guides, the ever-smiling Lokpa, Norbu, Nymar and Prakesh.
Back in Kathmandu we relaxed, went sight-seeing, reminisced and re-lived our experiences of the past two weeks. At a celebratory dinner, before we flew our separate ways next morning,
lines from Everest mountaineer Frank Smythe’s book “The Spirit of the Hills” came to mind :
“And so from the hills we return, refreshed in body, mind and spirit, to grapple anew
with life’s problems. For a while we have lived simply and happily ; we have made good
friends ; we have adventured well. “
Here are some more photos from the trip…