Walking the walk – Dhorpatan Trek-Beni to Dunai
21 March 2012 Beni (850 m)-Darbang (1105 m) 6 ½ hrs
Strange enough of this stretch of the GHT there is no GHT map available (yet), so we are referring to the Dhaulagiri Circuit map. After a couple of days, there will even be a small section of which there is no map available at all! So we are completely depending on information given by the local people.
Honestly speaking, today was not exactly one of the most interesting days. We were walking on a dirt road all day long, following the Myagdi Khola (river). Besides it was an amazingly hot day! I like the heath, but this was a bit too much even for me!
If you want to walk this stretch or if you are a trekking company wanting to offer it, you could consider driving to Darbang, as the road is quite good (except in monsoon time) and start walking from there. Or you can start walking in Babiyachaur (981 m). This is the place where we lost the rest of the group. At a junction in Babiyachaur, the group had gone left and we had gone right. The crew said they had put an arrow, although we hadn’t seen any! This meant that they had taken a nice and scenic (and shady) route at the other side of the Myagdi Khola and we were walking on the hot and boring dirt road. Anyway, starting the trek in Babiyachaur is a good option as well .
At 5 pm we arrived in Darbang, a rather big bazaar town. At 6 pm, I was just about to fresh myself up and start my work, we had an unexpected, but interesting interaction program with the Darbang unit of the Myagdi Chamber of Commerce. It is good to see the interest in the different destinations in the Great Himalaya Trail Development Programme! At present we are working in 5 districts only (Taplejung, Solokhumbu, Gorkha, Dolpa, Humla). Hopefully the GHT Development Programme will be extended so we will be able to facilitate tourism development in other districts as well.
This meant that I could only start my work after diner. I was literally falling asleep typing! I didn’t know that that was possible .
22 March 2012 Darbang (1105 m)-Lamsung (2160 m) 8 hrs
Today was a very beautiful trekking day! We walked on scenic trails with beautiful views on the Dhaulagiri (8167 m) and Gurja Himal (7193 m) and passed charming villages. There was quite a lot of climbing involved, all together we climbed 1850 m, but this was spread out over the day. It is quite surprising how quick the whole environment has changed. Yesterday we left the busy, developed hot town of Beni and today we are already walking deep in the mountains, passing isolated mountain villages.
The local people are very friendly and open, and I practiced my Nepali a lot today in small talk. It is slowly getting better! When we arrived in Takam, our lunch place, we saw to our surprise that another function had been organized to welcome our group. It had been announced on the radio that we were coming. After the speeches and blessings with lots of red vermillion powder there was even music and dance! Of course I had to dance as well .
At 4 pm we were arriving in Muna, which was the place where we would stay for the night, happy to arrive a bit early today. However, in Muna we heard from one of our porters that we were not staying here, but in Lamsung, 2 ½ hours ahead. Another 2 ½ hours! So long! And who knows, may be even more… But what to do! And when we were walking again (after a cup of tea), it was fine as well.
All day long we were passing the same group of people: a boy with a bucket full of chicken (which he was going to sell in Lamsung) with his father, and 3 ladies, a young man and a couple of small children. It turned out that the young man had gone to Darbang to arrange his papers for working in Dubai. He is going to work there in a hotel for Eur 200 per month. Normally they have to pay quite a lot of commission to an agency that arranges the working permit, the job, etc. And that all for Eur 200 per month! But they don’t see any other opportunities. They had also walked all the way from Darbang today, with 5 small children, so why should I complain about the distance!
23 March 2012 Lamsung (2160 m)- Chhentung( 2950 m) via Jalja La (3386 m) 8 hrs
Today was a beautiful day, with spectacular views from the Jalja La over the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna range, which in my opinion are even better than the views from Poon Hill. As there are hardly any settlements along the way (only close to Lamsung and close to Chhentung), we had to take a lunch pack. And we got a double breakfast: porridge and pancake with omelet. Amazingly I could eat it all!
The day started with a 4 hour climb to the Jalja La (pass). The climb goes almost entirely through rhododendron forest, offering Himalaya views along the way. As just mentioned, the views from the pass where amazing. You can see a whole range of mountains, and especially the Dhaulagiri (8167 m) and Gurja Himal (7193 m) are very close.
On the way up we were accompanied by Raju Thapa and Tila Ram, who especially accompanied us to be able to tell us the names of all the mountains we could see (17 all together!). They organize trekkings in the Dhaulagiri and Dolpa area, and can only be contacted by phone: 9746703557.
We were very lucky for the views, as the sky was crystal clear during the whole time we were there (and we stayed up till 1.30 pm). It was difficult to leave, as I really enjoy just looking at these enormous mountains.
But the trail down was beautiful as well, going through the pine forest. Unfortunately a huge area has been caught by a forest fire, so we had to walk for almost an hour through a kind of dead forest. Special experience as well, and we enjoyed the green forest afterwards even more.
Just before Chhentung, our destination, we passed the small viallage of Kaldegothe (2940 m). It was really striking to see how poor the people of this village were. A few small children in dirty clothes asked Elizabeth and me if we wanted to make a picture of them. Of course we showed the picture afterwards and they were completely happy. But then suddenly I saw the feet of the girl. She had wounds on them, surrounded by very dirty skin. Besides, we saw a few children with eye infection. A doctor or clinic is not around here and it seems to be so much needed!
24 March 2012 Chhentung( 2950 m)-Thakur (3309) via 2 passes (3691 m and 4160 m) 9 ½ hrs
The stretch from Chhentung to Thakur was quite exhausting. First of all because we had 2 passes to cross, and second of all because we got completely lost.
The villagers in Chhentung told us that we could do a shortcut to Thakur, bypassing the village of Dhorpatan. The way was difficult to find sometimes, and therefore somebody of Chhentung would accompany us. However, that man was already 67 and it was a bit difficult for him to keep our pace. Therefore after crossing the first pass (3691 m) and after having received explanations about the way to go, our sirdar (head guide) paid him and he went back home. Ironically enough, just after this we (Elizabeth and me and a few crew members) got a bit lost! We followed footsteps in the snow, which went through a rhododendron forest. We went up and up, higher than the pass itself and the trail was getting more and more difficult with ankle deep snow. When we got out of the forest, we saw that we should have taken a trail going down! So we went down again, and took our packed lunch in a beautiful field, surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Only there we found out that we had to cross another pass, so we had to climb again! It was a tough climb, and a few times I thought I was there, only to find out that the trail was climbing up further. But the view and landscape when we finally arrived at the pass were beautiful! No-man’s-land, and quite a lot of snow around us.
But the descend took on forever! And we didn’t know when we would arrive in Thakur. Our crew started to run almost, telling us to walk fast, as we needed to hurry as it was getting late. At a certain moment, it was already around 5 pm, we were walking in rhododendron forest again, I got a déjà vu with our walk just before lunch. This didn’t look as a trail anymore. Just after I thought this, we saw Madhab, the sirdar, communicating over the radio with Dawa Steven and Apa Sherpa, who were ahead of us. They had already discovered that this trail was leading to nowhere, and we had to climb up the steep slope through the snow, which at times came up till our knees, as there would be a trail up on the slope. At 6.15 pm we arrived up, and fortunately there was a good trail indeed, as indicated by Dawa Steven. I was quite relieved! But also tired. And still we didn’t know exactly how far it would be to Thakur, our destination. So there was nothing else to do than get our headlamps out and start walking again. Soon we were walking in the dark, not very easy as we were descending on a slippery trail, muddy of the melting snow. At 7.30 pm we arrived at a house, which was completely deserted. Madhab was in radio contact with Apa Sherpa, who passed the house 45 min ago and still didn’t see any signs of a village. We (Paribesh, Elizabeth, me and 10 crew) discussed what to do. Stay in the house (that strange enough but fortunately was not locked) or continue. We decided to stay, a decision with which I was very happy! There were even 2 sleeping rooms in the house! As we didn’t have a cooking stove and utensils, and we didn’t want to use theirs, our diner consisted of mars and snickers bars and digestive biscuits, and a bit of water, all together around the fire (and that after having crossed 2 passes!). After this we crashed and went to sleep. So I am writing this the day after, as I was completely exhausted!
25 March 2012 Thakur (3309 m)-Guibang (2768 m) 7 hrs
At 7 am we left, with a breakfast of a mars bar, hoping it would be max 2 hours to Thakur, where we would have a good breakfast. We had lost contact with Dawa Steven and Apa Sherpa yesterday, so didn’t know at what time the rest of the team arrived in Thakur. The walk was beautiful, through forests with pine and oak trees, but we were definitely longing for a good meal.
After about an hour we saw an extinguished fire. So they probably camped here. After another ½ hour we passed a small village, and we asked where Thakur was. It appeared that the house where we had passed the night, actually was Thakur (there were a few more houses as well there, we saw in the morning)! How funny, when we were discussing yesterday to stay or continue to our planned destination, we were already there! It turned out that Thakur is only inhabited in season time, more or less from April onwards. It would be another 2 hours to the next village, Khaimdada (3136 m), which had a small local restaurant, so 2 more hours to go for a decent meal.
At about 11.30 am we arrived, tired and hungry after not having had a proper lunch, dinner and breakfast. No need to say the dahl bath tasted delicious!
We continued our way re-energized. Along the way where some hotsprings (Tatopani), which were too hot and too dirty to really sit in, but under the water flow we could at least freshen up a little. Straight after this we had a steep climb in the heath, so the fresh feeling didn’t last long!
At about 4.30 pm we arrived in the small village of Guibang (2768 m), where we set up our tents. We are in Rukum district now, which is one of the poorest districts of Nepal. Although I trekked a lot in Dolpa and Humla, which are also quite poor, I am quite impressed with the level of poverty here. The people really look poor, with old and dirty clothes. You don’t see any appearance of an NGO helping here, like you see in Dolpa and Humla. The villages are all very isolated and they don’t have any medical attention. There are some schools, fortunately, but medical service is completely lacking.
The lady of the house where we are eating told us that some tourists do come here. They should, as if you ask me this is one of the most interesting parts of the trek! Beautiful forests, great views to snowcapped mountains, isolated villages, friendly people, they make it all to a unique experience. For now, fully organized trekking is recommended, as there are stretches with no villages or – as we experienced yesterday – deserted villages.
26 March 2012 Guibang (2768 m)- Campsite Sen Khola (3996 m) 7 hrs
Today we really went into no-man’s-land. We first climbed up for about 1 ½ hours to the small village of Dule, also called Dule Bazar, as this village has a few of local guesthouses and shops. In fact almost all houses (about 6) are used as a guesthouse or as a shop. They get few foreign tourists, but they mostly benefit from the yarshagomba season. The yarshagomba is a strange combination of a caterpillar and a fungus, and said to have many enhancing properties on your performance. Most are exported to China. In May thousands of people are looking for these yarshagombas, both here as in Dolpa. Nowadays collectors have to pay 1000 rps (10 euro) a person for a ticket, so that the local villages also benefit from it. The current price per yarshagomba the collector gets is 300 rps (3 euro).
We are on our way to Dolpa, where our first destination is Dunai, the headquarters. To get into Dolpa we have to cross a high pass, the Jang La, 4535 m. Between Dule and Dunai there is nothing, not any village or settlement. So we bought extra food and wood and hired cooking utensils and 3 extra porters to carry this all.
After Dule the landscape quickly changed. Were we at first walking in forests, this soon changed into high altitude landscape: grass, bold rocks and snow. We climbed to a small pass of 3931 m, went down a bit over slippery snow and then climbed up again, following the Sen Khola (river), walking in a beautiful, completely deserted landscape.
We arrived at the campsite a bit over 6 pm. Great camping in the snow, as it has been snowing since mid afternoon. In a way this is a bit a shame, as we are already expecting lots of snow on the pass anyway. I hope it won’t be too difficult! Snow is especially tricky when going down, we experienced that today as well. But we’ll see.
It’s nice to see how the crew is improvising. They found an overhanging rock to make a fire to cook, and we are using a soup bowl for everything: tea, juice and food. Elizabeth and I are working, the guys are playing cards. Quite typical .
27 March 2012 Campsite Sen Khola (3996 m)-Campsite Purpang, Saure Khola (4065 m) 5 hrs
We left quite late, at 9.30 am, so the tents would be dry, and it wouldn’t be so cold anymore. That meant sleeping in! Which was nice, as I didn’t sleep very well. The last couple of nights my knees hurt like hell and this is keeping me awake. Fortunately they don’t hurt during the day!
It was quite funny how every few minutes somebody of the crew came to our tent in the morning: bringing morning coffee, collecting the bowl, asking for our bottle to put hot water, bringing back the bottle filled with hot water, bringing breakfast, collecting the bowl after breakfast, bringing a mars bar, bringing a lunch packet. Room service, everything delivered at the door .
Today was great hiking through high altitude landscape. It was quite difficult as well, because of the altitude, but I really enjoyed the spectacular landscape with bold and snowcapped mountains around me. We climbed up till about 4,500 m, which meant walking in slow motion at the steep parts as because of the altitude you get out of breath and a racing heart if you go up too quick. 4,500 m is almost the altitude of the pass we are crossing tomorrow, but we had to go down again. The descend went through the snow for about half of the time, which was at times fun and at times quite difficult. Especially when going down and later during the day, when the snow started to meld and with some steps you feet sank knee deep.
It was a relatively short day, at least for this GHT trek, as we only walked for 5 hours and we were in camp before 3 pm. How relaxing! And for walking at this altitude it was also enough. Tomorrow we’ll have to cross the pass and go down more than 2000 m to Dunai, so a nice rest is also needed!
Dhorpatan Trek-Beni to Dunai – Flickr Photos