Trekking in Nepal: A Diary - Part 5 of 6
As our weary heroine continues on her trek, she’s beset with stomach problems, oppressed by the scenery and caught up in a fierce wind (not the result of the aforementioned stomach problems). Will the return ticket in her pocket put a spring in her step?
With apologies in advance to any German or Swedish readers.
To begin at the beginning, click here.
DAY TEN: MARFA – JOMSOM – KAGBENI
The ticket office at Jomsom doesn’t open until 2pm so I had a bit of a lie-in before setting off at 10:30. While Pierre is going on to do the whole Annapurna South circuit, I was only ever going as far as Jomsom and then get the flight back to Pokhara. Well, not strictly true, as Pierre wants me to see his favourite interesting villages of Jharkot and Muktinath – which are just a bit beyond Jomsom. Of course, I kept quietly telling myself, if I liked Jomsom enough and could get a convenient flight, I could always bail out there.
What a dump Jomsom is, though! The only thing it’s got going for it is the airport. Had another dreary meal. The further you trek, the worse the food. In the good old days of Sarangkot and Birethani, a vegetable pizza meant pizza dough with lots of vegetables on it. But the further you walk and the more nutrition you need, anything called ‘vegetable-something’ means cabbage, and pizza dough becomes little more than soft bread.
I went to sort out my ticket. At 1:40 there were loads of Nepalese sitting in the office so I politely joined them. Then three middle-aged Danes barged in and promptly got served. So ignoring my manners, I went up there and got my ticket sorted by two, by which time there was a huge queue of westerners.
Next came a miserable walk to Kagbeni along a stony riverbed. I suppose I shouldn’t complain as at least it was flat, but my stomach was beginning to play up, and just after Pierre had congratulated me on not having been ill. But I felt like shit and found the scenery oppressive – huge, barren brown mountains staring down at me and these never-ending rocks. Well if I’m going to whinge I might as well add that there was an incredibly fierce wind whipping around – it was hot but I still had to keep my jacket on – and so I felt like the Michelin man wobbling along.
Pierre was surprisingly patient, guiding me through tricky patches, like down a steep slope and across a group of rocks in a river, and if I stumbled, rather than openly mocking me, he’d just laugh quietly to himself. For this small mercy I was pathetically grateful.
We finally arrived at Kagbeni and walked through the village looking for somewhere to stay. The place Pierre wanted was booked so we had to go back to the first place. By now I was feeling really rough, went to the loo a few times (cold tap only in the kitchen) and felt ill. The thought of tomorrow’s four-hour climb through more of the same oppressive scenery was no comfort.
DARK AND OPPRESSIVE
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DAY ELEVEN: KAGBENI – JHARKOT
Woke up feeling ill and sorry for myself. The lodge was so dark and cold, it was a nice surprise to find it was warm and sunny out. No sooner were we outside than we had to climb – steeply – uphill. After a while Pierre even carried my backpack while I made my slow and breathless way up.
After a while we were caught up by none other than Sarah, Doug and an English girl, Mary. Eventually we all made it to the hotel and had some lunch. What a strange place Jharkot is. Small, isolated and surrounded by these huge, drab brown mountains. The idea of spending any significant time here is making me feel queasier than I do already. That people live here year round? Do they travel? Are they born here and simply never leave? What is the purpose of existence? Why am I here? Where will I go next? Will I ever feel normal again? Or clean, for that matter?
The others went off to Muktinath whilst we sat around and chatted to the nice American/Malaysian couple we’d met on the way to Ghasa.
This lodge has no hot water either, the solar power’s broken. The floor around the loo and shower is completely waterlogged and I caught some Nepalese git spitting into it. ‘Do you mind?’ I asked, horrified, and he looked at me as if I was the one being disgusting, like it’s the most normal thing in the world to gob all over someone else’s floor.
Pierre gave me some pills for my stomach – I was very honoured, as he told me he never usually gives pills out to anyone – and they helped a bit. Am getting so fed up with the food in these lodges – since Tatopani there’s been nothing worth eating. Had a cheese omelette and garlic soup and was in bed by 8pm.
DARK AND POKY
WATERLOGGED LOO AND FILTHY BASIN
COLD INDOOR SHOWER
DAY TWELVE: REST DAY – JHARKOT
Ten things I’m getting fed up with:
i) bad food
ii) no warm water
iii) no washing facilities
iv) stinky old loos
v) having to remember loo roll, soap and towel all the time
vi) aching legs
vii) bad stomach
viii) sleeping badly every night
ix) uncomfortable chairs
Well, you can tell what kind of mood I’m in today! I’m sure it’s all coming from my stomach, but I don’t think it’ll lift until I’m safely back in Pokhara.
We both felt pretty ill all day. Actually I was OK, hungry even, before breakfast, and fancied muesli and a lemon pancake. What a mistake: the soggy, slushy, undercooked excuse of a pancake I got just did my stomach in again.
I did some washing in the icy cold stream, all the time thinking: ‘I’ve had it with this back-to-nature stuff’ and was back in bed by 11 o’clock. Pierre dragged me out later for a bit of a walk, but I find this village so oppressive. There’s no life in it bar a couple of misshapen animals and a handful of inbred children – no shops, no people, no nothing. I tried to share his enthusiasm for it but it wouldn’t come. We went back to the lodge, by now full of Germans and the three dreary Swedes we keep running into. They’re enough to turn my stomach and look like they’ve come out of a second-rate Bergman movie.
I felt slightly feverish and after a while went back to bed. Kept having to go to the horrible, waterlogged loo which in itself probably does me more harm than good. I even had to ask the girl to clean the basin.
For the first time yet I felt a bit homesick, realising it was Easter, wondering how my parents were, were they having lamb, were they with other people, were they missing me? Pierre got depressed about Easter too, so I didn’t talk about it.
Had carrot soup and cheese omelettes and went to bed at 8pm.
In our final, almost painfully exciting episode, our weary trekker finally breaks free and makes her lonely way back to Jomsom and the return flight. Can it be she’s just nineteen minutes away from hot water, a nice room and copious amounts of cake???
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