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Tuesday 25th April 2006
Trek Day 2
Chisopani to Kutumsang

We slept soundly, once the noise of the wind generator, on the roof of the lodge across the road, died down. I awoke a couple of times to the sound of shouting in the distance. Apparently the soldiers get a bit jittery at any movement during the night, and someone had left their tent for pee. We were told that they have been known to open fire on occasion! Fortunately we didn't need to get up in the night.

The sun is up in an impossibly blue sky, and we can see the mountains clearly as far as the Fish-Tail near Annapurna. Fantastic! As we wait for our breakfast, the local people, and our trekking crew are talking excitedly. It appears that the king has made more concessions, and has promised to allow the assembly to re-convene. The demonstrators have accepted this, and the strikes have been called off! This is great news, and we are all very happy to hear that peace will return to Nepal.

Knife sharpening lessonWe start to realise that we may be able to change our plans, and instead of having to retrace our steps at the end of the trek, we may be able to return by road from Dhunche, or Syabru Bensi. This would give us extra time, and enable us to walk some way up the Langtang valley as well as visiting Gosainkund Lake.

We discuss this with Nurbu, and come up with a new plan. Instead of having to end the trek back where we started at Sundarijal, we can now definitely reach the holy lake at Gosainkund. From there we'll assess how much time we have left, and use it to trek up the Langtang valley as far as possible. Then we'll descend to Syabru Bensi, where we hope the bus service will now be operating. This is more than we ever hoped for, and we're very happy at not having to retrace our steps.

We become the proud owners of a dog; or rather a dog has adopted us. We aren't sure where he's come from. We may have first seen him at the start in Sundarijal, or maybe he was the dog that frightened the goats at our first lunch stop. Either way, he starts to follow us from Chisopani and he seems to know the way. He's a mongrel, about the size as our own dog Chirri. His head is more like a Labrador than a fox. His coat is light brown with a few white patches, and he looks in quite good condition. He's an attractive dog, and most importantly, has a good nature. Were overjoyed at having him along, but a bit worried that his owner may be looking for him. He shows us the correct path when we are unsure, and wards off local dogs in the villages that we pass through. At every water source he drinks enthusiastically, and keeps dashing off into the forest to try and catch birds or rodents. He hasn't caught anything yet though.

Today's trek starts off on the jeep track along the ridge. We pass a home for 'Women that have gone astray', and then start to descend to a small ridge which leads us over and up the other side of the valley. This part of the trek is beautiful. There are flowering Rhododendrons all over the hillside and abundant bird-life. Once we cross the valley, the path winds on a contour, gradually climbing to a small tea-house where we take a rest. It's getting hot in the sun, and we can see that we have a good deal of climbing still to do before we reach our lunch stop.

Kids of GulphuThe Polish couple catch us up, and stop for a chat. I debate whether to have a quick wash under the stand-pipe, but instead take some photos of a young boy sharpening a large knife on a stone. In England he most likely wouldn't be allowed to handle a knife at his age, let alone sharpen it, but here he'll probably be using it today to help the family reap their crops. Children have to grow up quickly in these villages.

We climb on a good path which becomes quite steep just before reaching the village of Chippling, situated on a narrow ridge. Here we stop for lunch and meet up with all the other trekkers; the Poles, and the two pairs of Israelis. The tea-house here has a close-cut grassy lawn, where we have our lunch of fried potato slices, coleslaw, cheese, and Tibetan bread. Our dog teases the owner's hound which fortunately is chained up to a post. We are getting hot in the sun and Liz gives some sun cream to one of the other trekkers because she's forgotten to bring any.

We let lunch settle as much as possible, but we are both suffering indigestion as we climb the next 250m. I think that we're nearly at the top because I can see some houses ahead, but as I turn the corner, I realise it's yet another false summit. The wave of disappointment soon passes, as I resign myself to plodding on to the next house at Thodang Dhanda, which thankfully is the true crest. There's a mani-wall, prayer flags, and an attractive chorten here. There's also a small tea-house where we stop for a drink. From here it's all downhill to Gulphu Bhanjyang at 2150m.

The track goes through magnificent forests where the dog tries his luck at a bit more bird hunting. He's probably regretting that he failed to steal the food from the other dog at our lunch spot. We reach a fork in the path where a new trail leads off on a contour to the left instead of mounting a small rise on the ridge. We opt for the easier contour but the dog, for once, gets it wrong and scampers up along the ridge. We think this might be the last we see of him but there's a joyful reunion fifteen minutes later, when the paths rejoin. He's very pleased to see us. After all, he's invested a whole day in us in the hope that we'll take pity and feed him; which of course we will. This must be becoming increasingly important to him because he's useless at catching birds!

Kutumsang Guest HouseWe walk through the centre of the cheerful and lively little village of Gulphu. There's an interesting Gompa here which seems to have tourist accommodation, and there's also a smart little health post. The village main street, which is actually the only street, is charming. We decide to stop here for a beer because, according to Nurbu, we have another thirty minutes to climb to our campsite. We drink a beer inside a small tea-house cum shop, and watch as people go about their business in the street outside. The dog manages to squeeze his way in, and sits under the table in the hope of getting a biscuit.

Our camp is just outside the Kutumsang Guest House, which is perched in a flattish meadow a short way up the hillside. There is a stand pipe where I wash my hair and a few clothes before we sit down to a snack of spicy RaRa noodles. We've been going for nine hours today although we've actually only walked for six of those. We've reached 2365m! The Israeli trekkers have passed us by, opting to stay at a lodge further up the hillside, but the Poles haven't made it this far. They were going quite slowly, and said farewell to us at the lunch stop because they thought they mightn't see us again. We're thinking of them and hope that they won't have to turn back.

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