Day 6: May 29, 2014 (Thursday) Lokpa->Chumling
I am writing this from the balcony of our lodge in Chumling at 2,400 meters elevation, looking through strands of prayer flags to see the Ganesh Himal range glowing white in front of a gray sky. Now let me tell you how we got to this gorgeous place.
We were woken up at 2am by a pack of dogs barking like crazy at some donkeys. Everyone in the village woke up and some men, including Tek, threw stones toward them to warn them to be quiet. We settled back in and got to sleep in for the first time! 6am wake up instead of 5:30am, awesome! We packed up in our tiny cube of a room, ate breakfast, sanitized water, and set off at 8am. The weather was gorgeous and sometimes even down right hot! Last night, we were talking to Ewin, the Scottish guy, about Tsum Valley and he told us that today would be the hardest day. Tek said it would take a minimum of 5 hours and a maximum of 7 and there aren’t any villages between the two, so we would have to wait to eat lunch in Chumling.
The trek to Chumling from Lokpa was practically straight up the whole way. It did have one down section that lead to an extremely sketchy suspension bridge that reminded us of Indiana Jones movies. That part lead straight back to a steep incline all the way to Chumling. This was our first full day in Tsum Valley and Shringi Mountain was smacking us with epic views. Every corner we turned had another spectacular sight to see. The sky was mostly clear with clouds around the mountains. As we got closer to Chumling, the clouds around the mountains got much darker and we hoped we would make it before the rain came. We actually arrived in 4 hours and 10 minutes, including three 10-20 minute stops! We didn’t even feel very winded. We know tomorrow will be harder, though. I guess we mentally prepared for a tough day based on Ewin’s comments, although we should never trust a smoker from sea level when it comes to Himalayan hikes.
We got to our lodge at around 12:15pm and settled into our room which is much bigger than last night. We had some dal bhat for lunch and it was by far the worst one yet. It was extremely salty and otherwise flavorless, so all 4 of us dosed our grub in the tiny Tabasco sauce we luckily brought along. Within 2 hours of arriving, the rain clouds let loose and it poured! We are very glad to have had a dry hike with gorgeous views before the rain. John and I sat on the covered, shared balcony, and he finished the book On the Road while I knitted. Tek and Krishna took a nap and then joined us for a nice rainy afternoon porch hangout with some tasty hot tea. John played his ukulele (yes, he brought it) and we took pictures as the clouds danced around Ganesh Himal, a nearly 8,000 meter (over 26,000 feet) mountain. The clouds kindly moved just in time for sunset and the snowcapped peaks turned into golden mountains. It was one of the most breathtaking moments of my life. Darkness fell and we had yet another horrible dal bhat (but at least we had some honey lemon ginger tea to get rid of the taste from our mouths).
We don’t have electricity, so the evening ends a little early. Before heading for bed, Tek told us about a man he guided who was on the missing Malaysian airlines flight. He has been in contact with his wife about it since, such a sad story.
We’ll spend the rest of the evening hanging out and reading by torch light. We hope tomorrow’s weather is good because we will climb nearly 1,000 vertical meters over the course of 5 hours. If the weather is good and we feel strong, we may walk another 2 hours to a different village to get ahead of our planned itinerary. The monsoon is slowly starting, so any quicker progress is good! We have been lucky to catch fantastic views in between rain storms, though. We also have been lucky enough to be in a lodge for all of the rain storms. Our lodge tonight, again, has big stones attached to wires holding the roof on and Tek says sometimes it comes off in heavy winds. Here’s to hoping we don’t have any wind storms tonight!