Nepal Kanchenjunga North Base Camp Trekking April
This year 2015 we decided to do the trekking in Nepal for the third time. That time our goal was to visit Kanchenjunga region and see this majestic mountain.
We decided to economize on it that is why we wanted only the most necessary arrangements, which were
- guide (obligatory on Kanchenjunga trek)
- porter (our knees are not the youngest)
The guy who was the organizer – Pradeep was more than helpful. He answered all of our numerous, endless questions and did his best for us to feel secure with the whole organization.
Then came the April, and so we went off to Nepal. Everything went smoothly, and we landed happily at Tribhuvan Airport in KTM, from where the nice people Pramod took us to our guesthouse. The next day we took the plane as promised with the guide – Dawa to our first destination that was Bhadrapur. At first everybody was quiet, that is we talked mainly with each other, and Dawa was alone with his thoughts. Probably we needed some time to get know one another. But when we landed, and found ourselves in humid Bhadrapur, the atmosphere changed for more relaxed. Before us there were many hours of waiting for the bus and then travelling by it. The number of people inside the car was unimaginable, but we had opportunity to feel the comforts of public transport. After something like 12 hours we arrived in Taplejung, from where the exact trekking started. We ate something and then already the walk started. The days went in that order:
Day 1 – Taplejung to Sinwa
Humidity above expectations. Warmth and lush vegetation around, birds crazily singing, busy trek for locals, goats, cows, pigs and flowers. Our sleeping all the afternoon because of the previous night being so tiring. The first dal bhat one of numerous dal bhat on the way. Let’s count only almost 2times a day x 15 days = 30 dal bhat per person in 3 week. Dal bhat power 24 hours.
Day 2 – Sinwa to Tapethok
Do I really remember it? Oh yes, I washed my hair in icy running water, and the next minute it started raining maybe to rinse it better, let’s hope so from the attractions the peculiarly good conversation (about marital relationships) with one drunk man, who was bad at English and I was very bad at Nepali. But we understood each other perfectly. As everybody knows, people’s problems have more or less the same background all over the world… from observations: bananas are not beautiful when they are planted in front of the hut, chickens do not like to be teased all the time by children, all things done together, even these the most tiring, are not so bad if you have company. Lessons for the westerners: live in a society, as a part of a group, it makes life easier. And more importantly, if you are a mother of a 2-year-old boy or girl it’s a good idea to have a grandmother, sister, brother, cousins, neighbors, and even tourists to help you. It makes a biiigggg difference. On the way the first orchid spotted on the bush along the trekking road, lots of other plants, butterflies, bushes, lizards, and many others forms of life.
Day 3 – Tapethok to Amjilosa
The terrain started to become steeper and steeper. We walked and then at one point crossed the river and at the end of the day we found ourselves in a poor but hospitable house surrounded by bunches of Hippeastrum planted in pots around. The mountain terrain around resembled the Romanian or Ukrainian Carpathians, wild and remote from everywhere. We were delighted.
Day 4 – Amjilosa to Gyabla
The festival of the first rhododendrons. That was what we hoped for. Amazingly beautiful, combined with the honey scented white bushes (Pieris) (we were told they were poisonous). Incredible afternoon in an incredible surrounding!!! The best day so far. Flowers, bushes, birds, waterfall, river and rhododendrons everywhere.
Day 5 – Gyabla to Ghunsa
During which we passed Phole and arrived at Ghunsa. The trail led us through the wild forest at first, full of old trees covered with lichens and moss. The perfect scenario for Lord of the Rings, as my husband claimed. At Phole on the way I took the short after-dhal-bat nap. Refreshing! After a few hours, Ghunsa welcomed us with onlookers on the way. We accommodated ourselves at Ghunsa Lodge, centrally located and facilitated with a hot shower, which we longed for (it turned out to be a bucket of water, but hot and privately served in the special room outside!). We felt as newborn. Surrounded by steep 5-thousanders, Ghunsa looked like the remotest place on Earth. In fact it used to be a busy crossroads of business trails in the past, and still is partially used as such. We indulged ourselves with beautiful views and a phone call home (first one since Taplejung – mobiles do not work on the trail)
Day 6 – Ghunsa Acclimatization
Which in our case meant a fight with diarrhea and stomachache. Something not to recommend to anyone. We tried everything to stop it, but surprisingly, nothing really worked. I felt better after some hours and did a short excursion with Dawa and Lakpa to the old monastery, but my husband felt bad enough only to lay and wait for the recovery.
Day 7 – Ghunsa Contingency Day
The morning waked us with a fresh snow everywhere. Dawa decided that we must wait as the next passage of the trail was believed not to be very safe in such conditions. We, at the same time didn’t feel like very good. We ate almost nothing, drank 20liters of water within 48 hours and finally decided that it was more or less OK, with the accent on less I did the endless walking around Ghunsa, taking photos and capturing the everyday village life. That time I was the onlooker.
Day 8 – Ghunsa to Kambachen
We started early, knowing the expected difficulties of the trail. Dawa decided that it would be better to take the alternative route to Kambachen. Step by step we followed the mysterious dots on the trees. Snow was becoming thicker and thicker. The old couple caught us up on the way. The trail was wild and mysterious, snow making it hard to pass. We felt like Tibetan refugees crossing snowy mountain passes on their way to freedom. Yes, I know I am exaggerating, but there was something intrinsically primitive of our fight with snow and altitude. We shared the moments – all us, we two, Dawa, Lakpa and the old couple. We ate food, drank, and took rest together. I have such a nice memories of all these moments. Then the trail become more and more difficult – it was steep, and small stone avalanches could be seen here and there. The old couples were walking first, and one moment they started crossing the steep passage, when the big stones decided to fall down. They immediately ran back, we froze for a moment. After a while everyone was laughing. The cure for stress? I don’t know, but it helped we crossed safely and after some time we saw Kambachen at last. I even doubted if it was real, but it was, a few stony buildings in the middle of nowhere. We were happy. That night we spend in the company of the woman with a small daughter (the Princess, as I started to call her in my thoughts). The night was cozy and warm. We slept altogether in one room. The morning came with the animals claiming their meal – another unforgettable night. The official lodge was occupied by the Swedish, but we were happy to be with our host and the Princess, as it was much much warmer at our place, than in the lodge itself. The sunset offered us the first glance of majestic Jannu which was probably the first really big mountain that we saw so close.
Day 9 – Kambachen to Lhonak
The morning woke us with the glittering view of the three giants – Jannu, Phole and Ghabur Peak. We started our walk. All the way up, and up, along the glacier valley. There were only three groups of us, which we already knew from the previous stops. The Germans, the Australians and we. And above all our guides and porters. The guide of Australian group offered us some help with my husband stomach problems, which came back again in Kambachen. The guide of Australians’ was a funny and very friendly former cook. He did his best to feed his clients the best food ever and above all our Dawa and Lakpa, trustworthy and friendly people. With Dawa I spent hours of talking, trying to get as much knowledge as possible about the country, the people, the economy, religion and all the rest. These were the moments I treasure now, when I am so far away and are only left with memories and things that I learned from him about Nepal and mountains. The trail was easy for me but not for my husband – he became weaker and weaker. I decided to carry some of his luggage, but it didn’t help much. We finally got to the point – Ramtang from which there was a beautiful view of the surroundings. My husband was very weak at that point and he couldn’t walk fast. We walked, rested, walked. The weather changed for better and finally we achieved a small plateau from which Kanchenjunga looked at us. That moment gave us a big joy, as everybody was happy, celebrating with the biscuits and sweets. My husband felt better, nobody knew what helped him. From that point we were all together at the same speed, apart from Lakpa who ran far ahead of us. Moments passed, the landscape changed, and soon we crossed the moraine and found ourselves on the small plateau near Lhonak the most windy and deserted place on the trail. The night we spent together: the Germans, the Australians and we in one room, and our guides and porters in another. There was many moments of joy together, celebrating, eating delicious Chinese soup lunch and dal bhat as usual for supper. We ate, made fun, and enjoyed our common company. Very very nice evening despite cold and wind.
Day 10 – Lhonak to Kambachen
The morning, which we expected to be nice and sunny, turned out to be gloomy and snowy. Disappointed at such a perspective we took millions of pictures of Kanchenjunga glacier, snowy peaks on the horizon and decided to go back to Kambachen. It was not very happy moment, but it was the mountain way to do. Surprisingly enough, Kambachen welcomed us with nice and warm evening, which we celebrated. This is how changeable the weather in April is! My husband’s frequent visits in toilet again – present. We met two new tourist and talked, talked.
Day 11 – Kambachen to Ghunsa
The morning was probably the most spectacular of all mornings. Jannu glittering in the sun, everything clear and sparkling. We walked as slowest as possible enjoying the moments of extreme beauty around us. The valley leading to Kambachen from Ghunsa seemed so hospitable now. Incomparable with the memories, which we had from only 2 days before. Almost no snow on the way, fresh green newborn vegetation and only we to treasure that moment. Primroses on the way and intimate small walks along Ghunsa endless streams.
Day 12 – Ghunsa to Gyabla
Again very pleasant walk through forest, this times more enjoying the nature than the views, since they were behind us. Endless photos of birds, flowers, rhododendrons and a lot of relaxation. Even some singing at Gyabla raining evening. Lots of talking on the way down, as it’s much easier than when walking up.
Day 13 – Gyabla to Sukathum
Endless walk along narrow path leading mostly down, but up of course up was also very present. The Sukathum lodge was poor but nicely located, and we had the chance to wash our dirty close and even dry them in the wind.
Day 14 – Sukathum to Chirwa
Humidity and hotness became not nice. After pleasant cold of Kambachen it was sometimes hard to survive. But nature around us was rewarding us constantly with butterflies, lizards and wild orchids on the way.
Day 15 – Chirwa to Mitlung
The day number one was a big orchid on the tree – one of Dendrobium sp. absolutely amazing! And we also learned how black cardamom is planted and flowering. Its flowers surprised us even more.
Day 16 – Mitlung to Taplejung
It was up, up, up, all the time in humid air like vegetable soup. We dreamed only about good eating in Taplejung restaurant, changing clothes and shower. And all them in reverse order Taplejung is not pretty, it’s not even pleasant, but Dawa located us in a decent hotel with an incredible cook. The dish he prepared was delicious! Maybe it was because of so many dal bhat before but we were delighted. It was sad to have to end the trek, by the way.
Day 17 – Taplejung to Bhadrapur
Long way by bus. Flat tire on the way. We were tired, but liked the opportunity to see different landscape on the way. Lakpa left us early in the next morning.
Day 18 – Bhadrapur to Katmandu
Short flight and we landed in KTM. We pampered ourselves with delicious food from two or three restaurants and wandered around as if we didn’t walk the last 15 days the hectic atmosphere of KTM grabbed our sense once again. We thanked Dawa for the trekking.
Day 19 – 25.04.2015 Kathmandu!
The day that we will remember probably forever. It started quite normally, with nice breakfast and wandering around Thamel. We were just buying spices, coffee, and some cosmetics to take them home. And then we felt this enormous shaking. At first we didn’t know what was really going on, because we had never felt an earthquake before. The first thing which surprised me was a group of women previously sitting on the pavement and now horribly screaming and running away from their places. Then I saw people’s rushing form the buildings to the street, animals howling, cars blowing horns and stopping in the street. And off we ran with the crowd to the corner of the street near the metal fence, which we grabbed for balance. The ground was like coming and going. We could not react normally, and so couldn’t the people around us. I was terrified. The wall collapsed nearby. That was probably the moment when I realized what was really happening and that no one in the whole world could stop it. It was the natural calamity, which I never experienced in my life. My body started to shiver, I just couldn’t stop it. We tried to think reasonably, but it was not easy when strangers surround you and you do not know what to do. We just followed the crowd, which started to move in the direction of something, which resembled a sport stadium. There, we spent the next few hours, reassuring others, and ourselves trying to figure out what to do. We had tickets home for that evening, but we were far away from the airport, which was probably not operating anyway. At that place we experienced numerous aftershocks and witnessed injured people, emergency services transporting people to hospital, general chaos and disorder. People were horrified, some crying, some stressed, some puzzled. Nice memories from the trek disappeared in one moment. Now we could only think about the next few seconds, but we couldn’t in fact even concentrate on it. We were scared, as we had never been in life. We tried to comfort one another in a group with a man from England, a couple from Venezuela, one Polish girl, and some French people. After some hours we decided – we had to get to the airport. And so we started our 1-hour-long walk (run) through the chaotic city. People were all on the streets, everywhere. At last we arrived at the place. There – a big crowd again. There was no information, but only new people arriving. We waited many hours, the whole night in front of the airport building, as we were afraid to get inside. From time to time new aftershocks made people scream and get out from their places. Soldiers from India arrived and tried to bring some peace among Indian people who were evacuated. Then Chinese were evacuated too. I was shivering with stress and cold, as we left our entire luggage in the hotel, and had only what we put on ourselves in the morning. The night passed, but there was still no information about the plane, apart from the shocking note that we had to go to the city center to rebook our tickets. We didn’t want to go anywhere, since there was very little chance that that place in the center was operating. The woman from France decided to check it and so she went with a taxi and came back after 4 hours only to bring news that of course the flight was cancelled, nothing was operating, we had to wait and there would be the next earthquake in the next few hours. I was devastated. I was tired as hell from stress and couldn’t cope with the situation. At the moment I still didn’t know what Nepali people were experiencing in a faraway areas of Nepal. I only thought about what happened in KTM and if Dawa and Lakpa were safe. Our new friends from Germany and Australia, and also the owner of the Khangsar Guesthouse, Pradeep and Saugat and many many others who we only saw or talked once or twice on the way. We dreamt about being home again, safe and sound, with no more worries. Then the next big aftershock came, my husband being in the small shop, trying to buy some water. Again I grabbed the metal fence and hold it tightly. After long seconds he went out with no harm. Nothing bad happened to anyone around us. The buildings were small, so we felt safer. Then we saw the guy in a uniform of our airline and I ran for him. We learned that we had to run to the gate, and so we did. Many hours of waiting for checking in and we at last found ourselves at the plate of the airport among the big crowd, planes landing and taking off, soldiers, military forces, and the sea of people.
At last our plane came and we took off. But after 15 minutes the plane was struck by the lighting and that put my stress to the indescribable level. I really had enough. It looked serious as all stewardesses and the copilot were checking it frantically. But luckily it turned out that everything was OK with the plane. After many hours we at last landed home.
Then after some weeks we decided that there was a small chance to get our luggage back. It seemed easy, because world is rather small now, owing to Internet. But to coordinate everything all together, we would definitely not succeed without a help of Saugat and Pradeep who decided to help us (us – being already home, and them – coping with the country in chaos). We cannot thank them enough for their help. They agreed to take the luggage, contact the shipment company we chose, and organize it all. THANK YOU!!!. And of course big big thanks also the owner of Khangsar Guest House and the owner of Eagle Export – Suraj Dhakal.
This how it ended. And now we miss Nepal, mountains and people and still want to see them all again some day. Our thoughts are still with people of Nepal coping with all the consequences of the earthquake and many other problems, which they are experiencing now. They are great, brave people we admire.
We want to say a special thank you to:
- Dawa – the best guide we had the chance to meet in Nepal. We admire your professionalism, kindness and sensitivity. You are the right person in a right profession!
- Lakpa – for carrying our stuff all the way up and down. And for your smile and good mood all the time.
- Pradeep and Saugat – for the very good organization during trekking and your great help after the earthquake.
And of course to all Nepali whom we met on the way, who made that time so memorable and who are now experiencing very hard time rebuilding their country after earthquake and now during fuel crisis.
Thank you and best wishes to all.