Tuesday 2nd May 2006
Trek Day 9
Lama Hotel to Syabru Bensi
Back to the road
The rain has stopped and there's a clear blue sky again. We've overslept because we were very tired last night. The crew have overslept because of all the rakshi they consumed. (Rakshi is the home-made moonshine found all over Nepal). This the turning point for us. We don't have the time to go further up the valley. We are leaving behind a mystery that we'll surely return to. We hit the road by seven thirty and head back downstream the way we came. This is our last day of walking, and we are a more than a little sad that our trek is coming to an end. We stop just before we leave the village, and take some photos.
We can hear the river rumbling below us. The low morning light gives us many great photo opportunities. Just below a boulder choke, the path moves closer to the river, and the sun forms rainbows as it shines through the mist which is formed as the water fights its way through the constriction.
We are descending, and the going is easy. The forest is waking up. There are birds busy building nests, and gathering food from the river. We hear a commotion in amongst the trees. A family of monkeys are swinging from branch to branch. Lizards are out sunning themselves on the rocks. It's a very beautiful morning; shame that it’ll be our last on this trek.
We bump into Willi and Johanna, who are on their way up the valley. Like us, they were bewitched by the beauty of Thulo Syabru, and so decided to spend a second night there. Also, like us, they are recovering from the sunburn that we received while crossing the pass. We tell them the bad news about losing Khukri. They tell us they haven’t seen him since Sing Gompa.
Just after Landslide we stop for lunch on another small pebbly beach. The flies and midges are attacking us again; just like yesterday. Fortunately, they don’t seem to bite, but they do swarm around our heads, and make our lunch stop much less enjoyable than usual. Liz drapes a scarf across her face, lifting it to eat her food. I’m feeling very hungry this lunchtime, and eat much too much. I’d dearly love to take a nap before moving on, but the midges makes this impossible; so we gather our things and set off.
We pass the point where we joined the river yesterday, and continue downstream. This valley is steep and narrow, and the cliffs look very unstable; which probably explains all the landslides we’ve crossed. I get lost in my thoughts and walk quickly. The path rises and falls high above the river as it crosses areas of sheer cliffs. I see some more lizards, and stop to try and make out the route of the path on the other side of the valley.
Much too soon, I reach the suspension bridge which crosses over to Syabru Bensi. I can see the remains of at least two other bridges which have preceded this new sturdy one. I cross the bridge and look back across to the path. Liz and Nurbu are nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, the place that I’ve chosen to wait for them has two latrines, and a rubbish tip, close by. It stinks to high-heaven. Eventually they appear in the distance, and I’m happy to be able to climb a little higher and escape the stench.
Compared to its namesake, this Syabru is a shambles. This always seems to be the case with villages that are close to a road. The whole place looks dour and dirty, and I don’t feel that I should breath too deeply, until I’ve passed right through. Liz and Nurbu catch up with me, and we quickly move through the town, pass the school, and then turn the corner into the valley of the mighty Bhote Khosi.
Just a little way upstream, there’s a suspension bridge which takes us over to the other part of town, on the far bank. As I cross, I notice that many of the nuts and bolts holding the strips of metal making up the bridge walkway, are loose or missing. We are suspended fifty metres above a raging river, with only thin, unsecured strips of metal to stand on. I should be terrified but I’m not, and I’ve no idea why.
Safely on the other side, we take a path going downstream, and approach the inevitable army check-post. In the courtyard a couple of soldiers are seated at a desk in the shade. There’s an open exercise book on the desk, and I expect to have to show our documents and enter details into the book, but they wave us through. High above the army post there's a collection of single storey buildings, which look completely out of place here in this remote valley. This is presumably the army camp, and it looks remarkably like any army camp that you could see in many other parts of the world. We walk on, and start to enter the main part of town. There is a flat courtyard, advertising helicopter transport. I guess this business may have something to do with aiding unfit, and overpaid pilgrims in their efforts to reach Gosainkund Lake.
We reach the road, and I start to think that we’ll have to trek on past the village in order to find somewhere to camp. Nurbu leads us up the drive of what looks like a very smart hotel, and there on the terrace, high above the road, is our tent, erected on the lawn in front of the hotel. This is the Buddha Hotel, and beauty here is barely skin deep. The toilets are terrible. Give me our toilet tent any time! The garden is nice though; as long as you avoid the dog poo. Despite this, the people here are nice and friendly, and they have a lively little puppy dog that is happy to play with us, as we sit drinking a beer at a plastic table on the lawn.
As usual, at this time of the afternoon, it starts to rain, so we go inside and sit at a table in the hotel dining room. Chotti and the boys rustle up some food for us. There's another British trekker named Sarah at the table, and Liz starts chatting to her. I try to write my journal, but find it difficult with one ear listening to their conversation.
The rain stops, and I escape back out into the garden. Nurbu says that he’s heard that the road between here and Dhunche is blocked, and we may be forced to walk for a day before we are able to get transport. I suggest that we could actually make a start today, and hope that some enterprising soul has brought a truck up as far as the roadblock to help foot-weary travellers on their way. Nurbu doesn’t seem convinced. It is six hours walk down the road to Dhunche, but I’m hoping that there’ll be some short cuts. I notice that the bus ticket-office, across the road, has opened. Nurbu and a few of the guys dash over, and I see money and paper change hands. It turns out that the road is only partially blocked by a broken-down Landcruiser, but the bus can just about get through.
The great thing about this country and its people is that everyone takes problems like this in their stride. The people here are used to it, and have learned to be flexible in their attitude. It's not always so easy for us impatient westerners to deal with such inconvenience, but after nine days trekking we are relaxed and chilled out enough to accept whatever happens. We have dinner in the dining tent, and go to bed early. We’ll have to get up early tomorrow morning to catch the six-thirty bus!
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