Zhaite to Samar
A day of frozen clothes, leopards and goats, school kids, picnic food, rocks, a big hill, an awesomely clean teahouse with really hot water and a final farewell.
Usual beginning - porridge which is 10/10 on the NPI scale. I retrieve my frozen stiff clothes off the line- this is a really novel event - this doesn't happen in Western Australia.... ever. I now wish I had some pictures of this phenomenon. Any of you readers in Europe or the USA will not 'get' my enjoyment of the whole thing, but it was pretty cool. I peg my sock popsicles on my backpack to defrost and dry throughout the day. The pants and tops get folded and put in a wet bag to deal with later. The other kind of highlight of the morning is discovering the rooftop of the teahouse. Accessible via a strategically placed ladder, the rooftop allows for awesome views, I imagine in the summer it would be a great spot to hang out, especially after a long trekking day... would be cool to go back someday- add it to the ever increasing list. At 0800 we say 'see you later' to the Belgians (we've given up on goodbyes) and we hit the flat, rocky trail- who'd have thought- rocks in Nepal! Imagine that. It's another perfect blue sky day as we
head towards Cheling. Just before we reach Cheling there is a huge commotion up the hill- 2 figures coming flying down the hill and the goats scatter. One of the figures is a leopard!!!!!! and the other the goat herder scaring it off. Wish we could have been a bit closer. Very exciting. Goats 1 : Leopard 0.
We pass the school at Cheling. Mary quickly and discretely ducks into the school toilet- when she comes out there are about 60 kids there to greet her! It was pretty amusing. We head up to the imposing village Gompa and equally impressive chorten hoping to have a look. The Lama lets us into the main section but we aren't allowed into the other parts- no women allowed. The gompa is pretty impressive, it is around 500 years old (spring chicken compared with Ghar Gompa!). The internal paintings are dramatic, depicting the Buddha and various demon v god scenes. They are brightly coloured, having been repainted 25 yrs ago. The Lama shows us the glass cased ancient Tibetan texts and an antique chorten containing the original lama's ashes. From the rooftop the village is really picturesque- lots of green pasture and
horses, lots of new prayer flags atop rooves. We leave the village and descend back to the stoney tracks. We walk pretty solidly until 1115 when Dhana announces we should take a picnic break aka biscuits/jam/cheese (I cannot believe we still have have a stockpile of these things!). As we sit by the one of the hilltop chortens picnicking, I notice the vibrational hum sound of the wires has returned. It's quite an interesting phenomenon. It also means that we are nearing civilisation again. Boohoo...
The plan for the afternoon is to have lunch at Syambochen and then visit the Chungsi Cave Monastery on the way to Samar. Off we go....Then, just around the corner, and I mean this literally, we are looking down on Syambochen. Dhana asks us if we want to stop for lunch.......... What the? We have not 5 minutes ago eaten an entire packet of biscuits. He then tells us that Samar is only 2 hours
(remember this number readers) on so we may as well keep going. OK.... The caves are at the bottom of the valley so we head down, past Syambochen, and down a bit further. We walk for another hour along
Yak butter decorations
these are replaced once or twice a year
the valley floor- it is seriously spectacular. We are surrounded by huge soaring gorges, the juniper bushes have reappeared and it smells wonderful. We encounter a few isolated green patches (underground springs?) as we continue on. Lots of birds around today, they are flying into caves up high in the rock. Apparently it is a common sight to see vultures nests- none today though. Eventually we reach a copse of trees with prayer flags wrapped around them, there are hundreds of steps heading up and many, many prayer flags draped throughout the rocks and cliffs- we have arrived at the cave. Climb the 197 steps up and it is .......CLOSED. No big deal- the walk through the gorges to get there was fantastic anyway. Quite an interesting place though- there are several small vege patches built into the walls and the actual structure at the top looks like a proper building with windows and doors- I had just imagined a big cave.
Head back down the steps, cross the river and start our last leg of the journey for the day. We are faced with a very significantly HUGE hill to climb. The stone steps begin and we start
the long plod - 4060 steps in total actually on a gradient of at least 60 degrees for much of it (it was actually only about 30 degrees, but 60 makes for a better story). It's a pretty arduous climb, all the while we are aiming for a tree at the top of the hill. We pass a lot of caves high up. It's a good challenge. Reach the tree- it's not at the top! There's more top to go. Reach the Pass at 2.30. Super windy here at 4000m. We are absolutely starving at this point so have another 'picnic'- more biscuits/jam/cheese. We can see Samar from here but I think we have at least another hour and a half of walking to get there. So begins quite a steep downhill section, lots of loose stone and an avalanche area. More down, all the way back to the valley floor. Cross a small stone bridge and climb for 1730 steps (up plus flat areas), the last 1/3 of which is through mud and leftover snow. Lots of juniper up here and some trees which have early buds. The entrance gate to Samar is quite a welcome sight, it is
4pm. Santos is waiting at the gate and takes me to the Annapurna Hotel.
Ahhhh, room 3 at the Annapurna Hotel- it is upstairs, it is very light, very bright, and warm, and clean. I get yesterdays washing on the line as Dhana and Mary arrive at 4.20. Have a pot of tea and Dhana informs us that we have the luxury of the place to ourselves (bit sad, we had hoped to say goodbye to the Belgians!). We indulge in a bucket of boiling water in the super clean bathroom and pull out some clean clothes. Splash out with dinner- we have soooo earned it today! Really good potato vege pancake then an apple pancake and a Mustang Coffee (coffee/sugar/rakshi/butter)- awesome! The sisters are good cooks. The dining room is full of Nepalis, they are all eating and drinking rakshi in front of the TV. WWE wrestling is blaring, John Cena is prancing around....It's a pretty fun atmosphere. Then we get a visit from the Belgians! They have been given a 9pm curfew from their teahouse. We enjoy a last cup of tea with them- it's been great meeting and walking with them. I hope we can stay
in touch now that our worlds are a much smaller place these days. I've never been to Belgium... Etienne, Nicolas, Vincent- if you ever happen to read this blog - it was great! Thanks!
In bed by 9.15 but sleep doesn't come. The moon is now full, our room is illuminated, the shadows of the mountains are spectacular and we only have 2 more days of walking left....
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