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Wednesday 26th April 2006
Trek Day 3
Kutumsang to Magingoth

How are we feeling? Well it's just great to be back in Nepal, and we're lapping up the whole trekking experience. We both love every minute, and so far we are both well. No stomach upsets, no headaches, no sore shoulders or sore feet, although now and again we do feel the effects of the long days and long climbs. The trek hasn't been too difficult but it hasn't been easy either, and there have been quite a few long and steep uphill sections. We've fallen into the routine of having early nights and early starts, and that has suited us both. Generally we've been sleeping well, although I didn't sleep well last night because it started raining heavily, and I was worried that the tent would leak. The rain developed into a full blown thunderstorm but fortunately the tent kept us dry.

Petals on the pathThe weather is brighter this morning. My morning is brighter too, because my football team, Arsenal, have held Villarreal to a 0-0 draw and have thus made it into the Champion's League Final! By all accounts they've been lucky and Jens Lehman, our goalkeeper, even saved a penalty, to maintain our record number of clean-sheets.

Our evening meal last night was a Nepali Pizza. This is an interesting variation of the Italian favourite, consisting of a chapatti-like base, piled high with chopped vegetables, and topped off with yak's cheese. This trekking meal is sometimes a bit of a disappointment, because cooking a pizza on a kerosene stove is no easy task, and it usually results in a soggy base with the vegetable mass cold in the middle. This one was wonderful though. The base was thick and crispy, and the vegetables were warm through, and incredibly tasty. The accompaniment was a pot of potato patties which were nice and spicy with added garlic and chili. We usually spend the whole trek trying to persuade the cook that we really do like hot and spicy food; usually without success. This time it seems that they believe us.

My washing didn't dry before nightfall and when I brought it in to the tent, it was covered in pea-sized black beetles. There were literally dozens of them on my shirt; up the sleeves, and in the pockets. Some were even celebrating by copulating!

Now the morning turns a little cloudy but the sun breaks through occasionally. The birds are really active this morning. Last night we saw a Bonnelli's eagle and this morning we see one of the beautiful magpie's that you get at this altitude.

The trail starts off up a steep muddy path through the woods, where we find some orchids, and what looks like a pitcher plant. It then passes through a couple of clearings with teahouses before levelling off on a ridge and descending slightly to Kutumsang, where we catch up with the other trekkers who are having their usual late start. With our early rising we've been starting at seven, whereas the others seem to be starting around nine. I think we deserve a rest and a drink, so we sit on the lodge's first floor patio which is devoid of railings. Bamboo is growing along the path outside. This morning, we've passed a few trekkers going in the opposite direction to us.

A nice cup of teaNow it's a long climb to our lunch stop at 2950m. We pass the ruins of a police post which was destroyed by the Maoists. We climb up a steep rocky path through a Rhododendron forest. The trees are bedecked in thick moss making the forest look quite eerie. There are some more orchids here, and many birds, which are just too hard to identify in amongst the dense forest. There is slight rain, and we decide to put on our ponchos in case it gets heavier. This is the first time we've had to walk in the rain. Before long, we come to a clearing with the predictable teahouse which turns out to be the site of our lunch stop. Our adopted dog is here, having chosen to travel with the kitchen staff today, because they were the ones who fed him last night. The Rhododendrons have changed here, and the flowers are yellow and pale pink compared to the deep red ones that we saw lower down.

When given the choice, I make the decision to have our lunch inside the lodge dining room instead of on the lawn, knowing that Liz will probably have preferred to have it out on the lawn. However it looks like rain again, and it's getting colder. I'm wrong on two counts. Liz doesn't object to dining indoors, and it doesn't rain! No it doesn't rain but instead we have a tremendous hailstorm! The two Israeli guys, Ohren and Ehrez, who it turns out, are brothers, stop for a quick drink of coke, but end up staying for lunch, because of the storm. The building we are in has a tin roof and the noise of the hailstones hitting it is deafening.

Trekking cooks are very important people. If you get a bad one then you aren't going to have a very pleasant trek. As the days wear on and the altitude increases, your appetite varies. The higher you get the more you crave tasty food; the tastier, the better. We enjoy spicy food with plenty of garlic and chili. Chotti, our cook is proving to be very good at stimulating our appetites. This lunchtime he's rustled up some boiled potatoes in tomato sauce with beans in curry and chili. There's also the usual Yak's cheese, chapattis and tinned fruit salad. It's all very good, and amazing considering the conditions under which they have to prepare it.

The storm subsides and we start the next part of our climb from 2500m to 3300m. Just like this morning, we are again walking through Rhododendron forests, only now, many of the flowers have been beaten from the branches by the hailstorm and the path is a mass of petals. It is a magical sight.

Ornithologist's paradiseThe path becomes steeper again and we reach a small pass at 3300m. Of course there is the inevitable cosy teahouse, and we need no encouragement to take a break. It is just as well that we didn't push on, because as soon as we are inside it starts to pelt down with rain which makes the dining room, with its central wood-burning stove, even more cosy and inviting. The lady in the teahouse has a couple of small dogs. Our dog must be really hungry because he decides to try and catch one of them. Fortunately he fails. The Israeli brothers plan to push on a bit further for tonight's stay, so leave before us, but we order another bottle of beer and wait for the rain to stop before walking the last fifteen minutes to our camping ground at Magingoth. All around the room are hanging woolen knitted items for sale. There are hats, glove, socks, bags and jumpers, all in chunky knit brightly coloured wool. Even while she is serving us the lady of the house is knitting away.

The rain stops, and we pry ourselves away from the warm dining room to descend to Magingoth at 3240m, where according to the sign, you can have "GOOD=FOOD" and "BIRD SHEE"! Our cook can use the kitchen here, and we can occupy the dining room which is rather nice, because both have wood burning stoves which seem to be standard in these parts. After another epic dinner of momos, and spicy sauce, we turn in early. We've had a long hard day.

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