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Published: March 10th 2011
We hopped on the jeep at 9.30am bound for Namhsan. We stopped by the other guesthouse to pick up an Israeli, Aitan which made it 10 people in our small jeep. Jessie and myself ended up sitting on a large sack on the tailgate. The first 45 minutes was okay although a little bumpy and then the driver stopped and got out a tarp which he attached to the back of the roof and hung it over mine and Jessie’s backs. And then the dust started, it was coming up from the sides and under the tarp, as well as through the vehicle itself. The views from the sides of the mountains were quite spectacular but our view was mainly obscured by trying to keep the tarp closed as well as trying to cover our faces from the dust. 5 hours later the driver took the tarp off just before we reached Namhsan. Myself and Jessie were pretty covered in dust at this stage (have a look at the photo) so we stood up on the back of the tailgate coming into town hoping that some of the dust will blow off us.
We checked into the basic and only
guesthouse in town and I got a small room for less than $4. Besides the 4 of us, I only saw 2 other tourists in town in my 2 days there. Namhsan has quite a spectacular setting stretching itself along a ridge high up in the mountains. Almost all homes are made from wood and in front of quite a few of them they have tea leaves drying whilst women sit in the shade sorting them. The source of income in this area used to be growing opium poppies but now has shifted to tea. Next day Hillary and Jessie headed off on their trek back to Hispaw while I walked around town taking some photos and talking to some locals. I met a guy who owned one the tea plantations and he asked me into his home to have a coffee and then insisted I have some noodles to eat from a huge pot that was cooking over a fire at the front of his house. He explained to me that it was his turn to cook for the 100 pupils at his son’s school. He does this once a year and also a lot of the other parents
do this if they have the means. I also met a young guy who invited me into his home for a cup of tea and a snack so he could practise his English. When I left he gave me a very large bag of tea leaves which unfortunately I had to leave behind because I couldn’t carry them on the trek. By this time Aitan and I decided that we would start the trek back to Hispaw the next morning without a guide.
We left the next morning about 9am armed with a hand drawn map and a few biscuits to munch on the way. The walking was fantastic high up in the mountains passing through small villages. We asked a small family directions to our next town and fortunately they told us that is where they live and to follow them. 45 minutes later we arrived at their village and they invited us in to have lunch. Also in the house were the grandmother and another child. They were obviously very poor but they cooked us so much food that we felt quite awkward about it. We didn’t really have anything to give them in return so I
just left half the packet of cigarettes that I had with me so that the father may be able to trade them for something. We passed the first town that we could stay at quite early in the day and decided to push on to the next town. We missed a shortcut and ended up arriving in town in the dark. It took about 15 minutes to find the monastery where we wanted to sleep. We were greeted by the head monk and shown into the building where he slept and where we would spend the night. Another monk laid out our bedding while we were offered tea and biscuits. After about an hour they led us to another building where they had prepared our dinner. There was so much food that we could only eat a fraction of it. After a quick wash we went to bed so we could get up early the next morning. In the morning they supplied coffee, biscuits, and bananas and were just about to leave when they said that they had breakfast prepared for us. We ate us much as we could and thanked the head monk and everyone else and then we
were finally on our way about 9.30am. The walking in the morning again was fantastic passing through small towns perched on little ridges high up in the mountains. I really enjoyed the interaction with the villagers especially hearing and calling out “bye bye” to all the kids as this seemed to be the only English they knew. After lunch the walking got a lot harder with many uphill bits and no towns for 4 hours. When we finally got into a small town in the late afternoon we ran into Jessie and Hillary who were relaxing in a tea shop contemplating whether to try to make it back to Hispaw that night. After a much needed 3 in 1 coffee we all decided that we would go for it. We passed the last village at dusk and then missed a short cut and ended up walking for 3 hours with headlamps on to finally reach Hispaw at 9.15pm. Aitan and I were very tired but quite proud of the fact that a couple of 40 plus year-olds walked the trek in 2 days instead of the usual 3 days. After finding some accommodation , showering, and having something to eat
I went to bed early for a much needed sleep.
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