Boiling water on trek North

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Fancy trekking in the Himalayas? Well Landgate Women’s Institute (WI) members had the opportunity to experience such a trip through the eyes and experience of this month’s speaker John Proctor at last week’s meeting.

John and his son had decided to take a world tour which included a trek to the Annapurna region in Nepal, taking the conservation trail from Gorkha to Kathmandu which would last 10 days.

Arriving in Gorkha and checking in to the trek hotel they were introduced to the other members of the party which included a lawyer, an accountant and a midwife – which could be useful.

Before setting off the next day a visit to the town to see what the locals are up to and they were surprised by how much English language there was on shop signs and elsewhere.

Manokamana Temple
Manokamana Temple

They visited the Manakamana Temple which is alongside the river and there were funerals being prepared on the river bank. After the cremations the remains were swept into the river. Further down the river housewives were doing their washing in the water as the remains swept past, which they thought was a bit grim.

Back to the hotel where a transit van had been loaded with all the luggage and camping equipment. They met their sherpas who would be carrying all the equipment and preparing the camp sites each day.

Driving on very narrow roads was nerve tingling and they saw many signs of recent avalanches. Reaching the first camp site they spent their first night under canvas in a terrible storm. Torrential rain and lightening. They quite expected to end up in the river at the bottom of the valley they were to descend into in the morning.

However all was well and after breakfast they set off. They were well equipped for climbing with stout boots and they were surprised to see that the sherpas were wearing flip flops, which made them feel a bit wimpish.

They now descended into the valley crossing the river by a steel bridge built by the Swiss government. After a long day climbing they camped. A wash and brush up was in order, but toilet arrangements were very primitive which caused some consternation at times. Finding suitable places to use as a toilet was difficult when there were not any places to dig holes.

John recommended that anyone planning a trip like this should include plenty of toilet rolls in their luggage. But at least everyone was in the same boat so to speak. Another problem was drinking water. There was plenty of water in the rivers, but mostly unfit to drink. So, to keep it safe to drink, it had to be boiled and allowed to cool before iodine was added. This made tea with milk undrinkable. So tea without milk it had to be.

The third day they climbed higher and passed through several villages. The houses were very primitive and mostly made of rice straw. There were no chimneys and no outlet for the smoke from the fires inside. They noticed that the children all had hacking coughs caused by the smoke they presumed. All very friendly though.

Everest
Everest

In one village they camped on the local school playing ground as this was the only bit of flat ground in the area. Next morning they watched the school children coming to school and wondered how with no modern washing facilities they got the blouses and shirts so beautifully white.

The scenery now was becoming spectacular with distant views of snow capped Everest. At the end of each day after the evening meal group games were played. Good fun. The group settled down for their well-earned rest under a breathtaking sky full of billions of stars which we never see here because of light pollution.

Each day bought a surprise, one being seeing buffalo grazing on the upper slopes. Very useful animals to have not only for food and dairy produce, but their dung is also collected for fuel. There was a lake in a valley which was pitch black due to the residue of dung from these animals. Needless to say they didn’t drink this water either.

There was not much wildlife to see, but there were small rice fields and, strangely, banana trees – the fruit not being very big, but still eatable. And by now they were approaching Kathmandu and looking forward to a shower and soft bed.

The next day they took a visit to the Swayambhunath temple and a trip by plane to view Everest before leaving Kathmandu to fly back to Gorkha and saying a sad farewell to the intrepid sherpas who had given them such a wonderful experience.

John and his son then set off for the next stage of their round the world tour. The WI members thanked John for a fascinating chat (as he called it) rather than a talk and slides of his trip. They really felt they had been there too.

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