Trekking Kangchenjunga Nepal, 2013

Kangchenjunga Trek, Nepal, 2013

Day 1 of the Kangchenjunga trekking: from Deorali ( to Porter Lodge in Simbu (1603m)

31-10 Jeep ride and start of the first day of the trekking.

The next day we went on to Taplejung (1800). Yesterday the driver frequently hung out of his window to check the rear tyre and today he decided to change it.

On the bus I met an interesting Nepali guy who was traveling to make a documentary about the role of the mother in the Nepali culture. He was also going in the same direction to Kangchenjunga. He started talking to me because of my Che Guevara cap and told me that he was a fan of Che. So we started talking about socialism and how social the people from Nepal are and the differences between Nepali and Western culture. He was very interested to know how the Western world works because next year he will start studying in London. His stories about Che and quotes of the movie 'Seven years in Tibet' kept me amused during the endless ride on the bus. Local transport can sometimes be rough but is the best way to learn about the people and culture and we all enjoyed it.

After 30 hours we finally arrived at Taplejung and we had a nice lunch. Here our guide decided we shold go the last bit to Deorali by jeep.

The jeep took us about 6 kilomiters from Taplejung (1800), passing the airstrip from Suketar on the way. The jeep ride was as comfortable as always. The track was full of dry, hard mud so the jeep was shaking a lot. On some parts there was a lot of dust on the track so we had to close the window and it got pretty hot. But at least the view was really nice and a few times we could see the white peaks of the Kangchenjunga (8586m) and Jannu (7710m).

We finished our jeep ride in Deorali from where we could start the trek and walked up to Kesawa. It was a hot but great to walk through a green environment, we got some views and experienced some silence around us.

We arrived at the lodge in Simbu (1603m)  late in the afternoon.


Day 2 of the Kangchenjunga trekking

01-11 From Simbu (1603m) to Keswa (Kehesuwa) (2000m)

From the lodge in Simbu the plan was to walk to the other side of the valley to Yamphudin. But this was too much for one day. At 4 in the afternoon we came to the village near 'Keswa' surrounded by beautiful rice fields and traditional houses. People were working in the fields using buffaloes and very basic farming tools. We looked around the village and made some portraits of local people before we had dinner. Our porter and guide had to make our dinner because there was neither a restaurant nor a cook around.


Day 3 of the Kanchenjunga trekking

2-11 From Keswa (2000m) to Yamphudin (1740m)

From the little porters lodge in Keswa we took off without breakfast, just some black tea. We had to go all the way down to cross the Kasshawa Khola River and afterwards climb up again.It was a hot, hard climb. The scenery was overwhelming with rice paddies and people harvesting. We had lunch or a better breakfast around 10:30 at Mamankhe (1811m). In the afternoon the diversity of the scenery ranged between open forest with a kind of sub tropical undergrowth and rice paddies near the villages. A guy was chopping wood to cook with and was interesting to watch. We came upon an old tree completely covered with Pleione formosana which was very beautiful. The terrain was, what is known as Nepali flat, meaning a never-ending series of steep ascents and descents. In this part of the valley the passes had little stone shelters so we could rest in the shadow. We crossed the Ghatte Khola River and arrived at Yamphudin (1740m) at 15:30. Here we had the last opportunity for days to take a (cold) shower.


Day 4 of the Kangchenjunga trekking:

3-11 From Yamphudin (1740m) to Lamithe Bhanjyang (3408m)

On the map it seemed such a short distance but the day turned out to be the hardest and longest of the trek. One of the disadvantages of trekking the way we did is that we had no tent or food with us so in this part of the trek we had to rely completely on whatever accommodation there was with the local shepherds in temporary settlements. One of us started in advance and chose the right track. The rest of us followed but took a wrong turn. Our guide started panicking because we lost each other. Later we found each other back again and we learned that we should check directions all the time with the locals you meet on the way. Most of the time you can't trust the map completely. We arrived at the first pass Dhupi Bhanjyang arround lunch time and took a rest there. After lunch we started decending and came upon an abandoned settlement. After the experience of the morning our guide took some time to check out the directions for the next part of the trail. From there on it was up again. From time to time we compared the altitude, using an altimeter, with the altitude given in the itinerary and so when we arrived at 2920 meters we expected to find ourselves at Lamithe Banjang. What disappointment to learn that we were at Chittre another abandoned settlement. From here we had to go up another several hundred meters. We arrived around 17:15 at nightfall in Lamithe Bhanjyang, a summer settlement for shepherds. A little boy stayed here all season with his father making cheese and he made Dal Bhat for us. This was no lodge just a simple wooden shack with no beds. We had to sleep on the floor on some wooden boards covered with some plastic. There was just room enough for three of us. The fourth member of our team had the best place, on the bench. Next morning she found that blood from a drying pig on the ceiling had been dripping on the sleeping bag. At night most of us had to get out for a pee and discovered a beautiful clear sky covered in stars. It was freezing cold that night.


Day 5 of the Kangchenjunga trekking:

4-11 From Lamithe Bhanjyang (3408m) to Torontan (3010m)

After the 2000 metre climb of yesterday you would expect us to have slept like babies but the wooden boards and the drafty shelter took their toll. The smoke of the morning fire made it hard to see and breathe at times, but this basic stay, completely alone in the mountains was very special to us. After a breakfast of a simple noodle soup with some black tea we took off for yet another bit of climbing to a small pass, crossing a huge land slide. After the pass we descended through a forest and met three young boys going up to look for fire wood. They asked me to take some pictures of them and they posed for me with full attention.

While walking in the valley we came by shepherds with yaks. They were nomads and had a temporary shelter further down. We stopped there to take a look and buy some Tibetan butter tea. It was very interesting to have a look in the tent where they were living in and see how basic this was. But there was a lot of happiness and they could live from everything the yaks could offer them like: milk, butter and meat. After tea we descended a little bit more and crossed the Simbua Khola River. From here we followed the river upwards to Torontan where we stayed for the night. Torontan is a beautiful small settlement along side of the river. Since this was a short day we had time to relax and recover as we sat down in the sun sipping local beer, oh no drinking black tea. At nightfall we saw the same beautiful birds as we saw yesterday evening at Lamithe Bhanjyang but now we took some time to take some pictures. It was a challenge to photograph these beautiful colourful birds as they were amazingly fast. Since we have to get up at 6 in the morning we had another early night.


Day 6 of he Kangchenjunga trekking:

5-11 From Torontan (3010) to Tseram (3870m)

Like most days we got up at six 'o clock and had a breakfast of noodle soup. The trail headed up along the Simbua Khola River taking us through forests, alongside waterfalls and open spaces. On one of these open spaces named Andha Phedi, we decided to have lunch at a small bhatti (tea house) owned by an ex Gurkha. The meal was prepared by two young girls who were staying there for the season. It was nice to see how they were living there so close to nature. The ex Gurkha was laughing and telling jokes while sipping Tongba, a locally brewed beer. He invited us to take a sip too. Three of us took Dal Bhat and one of us stayed with the noodle soup, before heading to the village of Tseram. The trees alongside the trail were covered with moss on the shady side. When we arrived at Tseram it turned out to be a small settlement with only two small lodges. Fortunately there was still some time to wash some dirty clothes or hair and enjoy the last rays of the sun before it went very cold. One of us had the first complaints with his stomach and altitude. He had to force himself to eat to keep strength for the upcoming days. Time to go to bed..


Day 7 of the Kanchenjunga trekking:

6-11 From Tseram (3870m) to Ramche (4620m)

We got up around 6 as usual. After a cold night we had a breakfast of noodle soup, also as usual, in the cold little dining room. The guide told us it should take us about 2 to 3 hours to get to Ramche (4620m) but finally it would take us 4 hours.

This morning we discovered that one of our team members’ face had swollen to about twice its usual size. It was a reaction of the body on high altitude. There are different kinds at getting on higher altitudes. You can get altitude sickness when you are above 2500 metres. Mild altitude sickness symptoms are headache, nausea, loss of appetite, dizziness and lack of concentration. The most dangerous forms of altitude sickness are pulmonary oedema (HAPE) and cerebral oedema (HACE). If you plan to go into the mountains you should be informed about altitude sickness and its symptoms. Be aware of the symptoms in all members of the trekking team and remember getting down is the only solution to avoid fatalities. Take time to let your body adapt to altitude. A good way to do this is to climb up during the day but sleep at a lower point. Besides this, always drink a lot and climb slowly.

It was a long day. We followed the Sibua Khola River to its point of origin, crossing many little streams. At first it was steep but later the trail eased down and we came into a nice valley. Just before we arrived at Ramche we passed some beautiful lakes. We climbed up to a final saddle and descended into the open valley where we found the settlement of Ramche. We arrived around noon at Ramche (4620m). We took some lunch and we split up, some of us to do some bouldering on the rocks a little higher alongside the moraine. The others preferred resting in the sun gazing at the huge yaks that were resting there or planning their next trip because they were heading to India.

Some Austrian trekkers had decided it was too cold to sleep in their tent and they occupied the only room with beds. When we arrived our guide had to disappoint us using his memorable phrase ‘what can we do?’. So we had to deal with it and just lay down on the rocks in a drafty room for a "good" night's sleep.


Day 8 of the Kangchenjunga trekking:

7-11 From Ramche (4620m) to Oktam (4904m) and back to Tseram (3870m)

Waking up was difficult at this altitude. It was freezing cold during the night (minus 6 degrees in the room) so getting out of bed during the night wasn't the best adventure. Every night one of us had to go out to take a piss but every morning we shared stories of the beautiful sky filled with stars. Early in the morning before breakfast we were lucky to see some blue sheep high on the rock face alongside the lodge. We took some photos just before the blue sheep went up further along the mountain ridge. For breakfast we had Tibetan bread and omelettes for a change and took off for Oktam (4904m). We followed the Yalung glacier beside the moraine going to the highest point of our trek, Oktam (4904m).

The way to Oktam (4904m) went gradually up but because of the altitude we had to take it slow. Every minute the view got better and better. The higher we got the more we were exposed to the cold wind that came from the glacier beside and in front of us. From Oktam (4904m), at 4904 meters, we had an amazing view of the Kangchenjunga mountain range that rises up more than 8000 meters to the highest peak of 8586 meters, the third highest peak of the world. There was a sacred place for pilgrims from the Buddhist and Hindu religions. We found both Buddhist and Hindu prayer flags, plus Hindu offerings and a large trident representing the Hindu God Shiva. We took some time to reflect at this holy place. The view of the Kangchenjunga range and the glaciers below was stunning.

Unfortunately we couldn't stay too long because we had to go all the way back to Tseram (3870m). Descending was easy compared to climbing up. At 10:30 we started returning and on the way down we had the opportunity to do some more bouldering. Around 12:00 we had lunch at Ramche, before descending all the way down to Tseram where we arrived at 14:30. We were all tired and had towards prepare for the next hard day going to the valley of Ghunsa.


Day 9 of the Kangchenjunga trekking:

8-11 From Tseram (3870m) crossing Sinelapche La (4666m) and Mirgin La (4627m) to Selele la (4615m) 

Same rituals passed in the morning before our tough day going up across the passes to Selele started. When starting out the temperature was comfortably low so we could set off at a good pace. But after a while the sun got strong, the temperature rose and the terrain became even more steep. Everybody took his or her own pace because we all knew we had a long day ahead of us. It took us 4 hours to get to the first pass, Sinelapche La at 4666 meters. We didn't take a long time to enjoy the first pass and went straight on to the next one. At the next one our guide told us to take a break and eat something. He brought us some boiled potatoes to give us some more energy for the upcoming hours. On the way we learned that even for Nepali people a track like this can be hard and confront you with the risks and dangers of altitude sickness. We met the guide of the Austrian people who were crossing the passes also, and he told us he had to send back his best porter because he got altitude sickness. We felt sorry for him but we were happy to continue to Selele. At 13:00 hrs. we crossed the second pass at 4627 meters. We continued to the next and last pass for the day at 4615 meters where there was a sign saying Mirgin La! So strange because our information said it should be Selele La. Best not to believe every sign as a fact. Sometimes we experienced forms of nature that are really impressive. Seeing a halo around your shadow while alone in the Himalayan mountains is pretty impressive. The descent was long but arriving at Selele was beautiful. There was a little lake before Selele (4215m) and the surrounding scenery was amazing. Selele itself was a primitive settlement consisting of a small bhatti and a tiny hut with two bedrooms. One of us tried the toilet and saw that some westerners find it hard to use a Nepali toilet and just shit anywhere on the floor. In places like this you will find yourself with other trekkers and their team members while eating supper in the small smoky dining room. So nice!


Day 10 of the Kangchenjunga trekking

9-11 From Selele (4215m) to Ghunsa (3410m)

It was a hard cold night the four of us sleeping on wooden boards. Because of this waking up at 6.30 was no problem but getting out of the warm sleeping bag really was. While having the breakfast as usual we are all looking forward to descent to the Ghunsa Khola valley where we would find plenty of choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But still no Pringles for one of our team members who was looking for them all the way. Last days were tough so we needed to recover and regain strength again. We crossed some more passes, each of them about 4000 meters high. After the last pass we started descending through beautiful rhododendron forests. The last bit before the final descent was a bit tricky because a supply tube to the local water power plant was broken and the spill of water formed a massive layer of ice on the trail. We arrived at Ghunsa after a half day of pretty easy walking. Everyone arriving at Ghunsa (3410m) will enjoy the luxury of choice for food and drinks. To enjoy the sun in Ghunsa (3410m) you should be aware that at this time of the year the sun hides early behind the mountain range.

In the afternoon we took a stroll to the Cho Gheling Gompa. The ceremonial prayer room of the Gompa was closed but we were able to take a look inside through the hatch at the top of the stairs. It was a beautiful and very colourful sight. Thankas were hanging on the walls, prayer books wrapped in silk cloth were stacked away in open cupboards and several bronze statues were displayed on a small altar.

Back in the lodge we found out it was the first day of the Diwali festival also known as 'Deepavali' or as the Nepali people say 'Tihar'. This Hindu festival, also known as the festival of lights, consists of up to five days of singing and dancing. Diwali involves the lighting of candles or small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. These lights are kept on during the night and one's house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome. Firecrackers are lit because they are believed to drive away evil spirits. During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.

The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival is called the Naraka Chaturdasi. Amavasya, the third day of Diwali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The fourth day of Diwali is known as Kartika Shudda Padyami. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj), and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes. Diwali marks the end of the harvest season. Farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come.

In the evening dancing and singing took place in the courtyard of the lodge. Inside we enjoyed some Raksi and Tongba. Both drinks are made by local people in some villages. Raksi is a type of strong wine. Raksi is Nepalese drink made from different grains. First, the grain is cooked, then cooled down, and mixed with yeast and kept in a basket maintaining a constant temperature for some days. Then it is kept in a clay pot, and it is known as 'Jad beer'. Then the Jad is distilled in a process called paini. The distilled product is known as "Raksi".

Tongba is a millet-based alcoholic beverage found in the far eastern mountainous region of Nepal and neighbouring Darjeeling and Sikkim. It is the traditional, indigenous drink of the Limbu people of eastern Nepal. To Limbus Tongba is what Sake is to Japanese, Vodka to Russians and Wine to French. Tongba is culturally and religiously important to the Limbu people of far eastern Nepal.

It is consumed in a unique way: the fermented millet is put in a container, also traditionally called a Tongba, and boiled water is poured in it to the brim. It is then left undisturbed for about five minutes. Once the five minutes has passed it is ready to drink; a fine bamboo straw with a blind end, but perforated on the side to act as a filter, is inserted into the container to suck out the warm water and alcohol from the millet grains. More hot water is added as the tongba becomes dry, and the process is repeated until the alcohol is exhausted.

In the Diwali festival everyone is invited to take part. This involves drinking, clapping your hands, dancing and at the end, giving a small donation for the local community. During the night local groups come and go to celebrate even when all people in the village are asleep. At the end of the evening they get some food and drink and a place to rest.


Day 11 of the Kangchenjunga trekking

10-11 From Ghunsa (3410m) to Kambachen (4104m)

For the first time during the trek we had the luxury of having breakfast with pancakes and omelette. This morning we also discovered the importance of keeping notes of your expenses because from yesterday afternoon until this morning we had so much to eat and drink that the bill got all mixed up. While trekking in the past we found there are different types of guides and some have no education or knowledge of calculating which can make these situations awkward. After finishing breakfast and paying our bill we left for Kambachen. Leaving the village the trail gradually ascended through a beautiful old forest. Before arriving at a landslide area we had to cross some tributaries of the Ghunsa Khola River. Some of these have simple wooden bridges and others just stepping stones. The guide told us we had to cross some treacherous landslides so we were at our guard.

We admired our porter throughout the trek, but especially today with so many landslides. He had to carry about 30 kilos and was still wearing his flip flops and yet he constantly kept smiling. The landslides brought us into the next valley where we descended to the village Kambachen. Here we stayed for the night and will return back to Ghunsa (3410m) tomorrow. Others who do a tent trek can keep on going further to Ramtang, Lhonak and Pangpema. For us staying in tea houses and porter lodges our trek ended up here because further on there were no places to stay the night. Kambachen was a small and beautiful place with a little Gompa above the village. Kambachen (3410m) is a high and cold place so we thought it best to sit in the kitchen near the fire. We had Thukpa for supper, which is a shepherds stew. The soup is thick and made of fresh vegetables and homemade noodles. There were only a few people in the village. The mother of the family was constantly busy keeping her young goats out of the kitchen but their little boy loved to bring them in and keep them on his chest close to the fire. At this high altitude of 4100 metres the cold made us go to bed early. 


Day 12 of the Kangchenjunga trekking

11-11 From Kambachen (3410m) to Ghunsa (3410m)

During the night one of us woke up a few times because of rats on his sleeping bag. An early start can be hard but also brings the most beautiful morning light in the village for photography. Kambachen is surrounded by high Himalayan mountains that lead up to more than 7000 metres. The early morning and late afternoon views are quite spectacular. You can see smoke starting to come through the holes in the roofs and the shepherds leaving their houses to take their yaks to different places. Yaks are the main way  to transport daily requirements like clothing and food from one village to another. Yaks also provide fuel for the stoves as people in the villages above the tree line have no fire wood to use for cooking. They gather the yak dung (shit), dry it and burn it in their stoves. To Kambachen or to return from Kambachen to Ghunsa you can choose to take the left trail or the right trail. Both lead over treacheous terrain and they both finish at Kambachen. Depending on erosion and the state of the trail you have to make your best choice. We were advised to take the same route back as we came up.

Back in the lodge at Ghunsa (3410m), we found out it was the first day of the Diwali festival also known as 'Deepavali' or 'Tihar'. This Hindu festival takes up to five days of singing and dancing and is also called the festival of lights. Diwali involves the lighting of candles or small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. These lights are kept on during the night and one's house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome. Firecrackers are burst because it is believed that it drives away evil spirits. During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.

The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival is called the Naraka Chaturdasi. Amavasya, the third day of Diwali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The fourth day of Diwali is known as Kartika Shudda Padyami. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj), and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes. Diwali marks the end of the harvest season. Farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come.

In the evening dancing and singing took place in the courtyard of the lodge. Inside we enjoyed some Raksi and Tongba. You can find both drinks in some of the villages where the local people make them. Raksi is a sort of strong wine. Raksi is Nepalese drink made from different grains. First, grain is cooked, then cooled down, and mixed with yeast and kept in a basket maintaining a constant temparature for some days. Then it is kept in the pot, made from clay, and it is known as 'Jad beer'. Then the Jad is distilled in a process called paini. The distilled product is known as "Raksi".

Tongba is a millet-based alcoholic beverage found in the far eastern mountainous region of Nepal and the neighbouring Darjeeling and Sikkim. It is the traditional and indigenous drink of the Limbu people of eastern Nepal. To Limbus Tongba is like what Sake is to Japanese, Vodka to Russians and Wine to French. Tongba is culturally and religiously important to the Limbu people of far eastern Nepal.

It is consumed in a unique way: the fermented millet is put in a container, also traditionally called a Tongba, and boiled water is poured in it to the brim. It is then left undisturbed for about five minutes. Once the five minutes has passed it is ready to drink; a fine bamboo straw with a blind end, but perforated on the side to act as a filter, is inserted into the container to suck out the warm water and alcohol from the millet grains. More hot water is added as the tongba becomes dry, and the process is repeated until the alcohol is exhausted.

In the Diwali festival everyone is invited to take part. This involves drinking, clapping your hands and dancing. At the end giving a small donation for the local community. During the night local groups come and go to celebrate even when all people in the village are asleep. Finaly they get some food and drink and a place to rest.


Day 13 of the Kangchenjunga trekking

12-11 From Ghunsa (3410m) to Kyapra (Gyabla) (2800m)

Since we started from Ghunsa (3410m) we were lucky to have a full meal of pancakes and omelettes for breakfast. On the way down through forest and alongside the river we spotted a little tent made out of plastic. Inside, a shy boy was hiding from us. His mother had built the shelter because she was temporarily working here. Her job was to smash rocks into gravel. The gravel then is used to make concrete for the pillars of a bridge they are planning to build here. When we got closer to the tent the little boy looked really scared and was hiding like a frightened animal.

Further down we passed the last Sherpa village, called Phere. Just before the village we passed an old man with worn clothes, carrying fire wood on his back. Again we got an example of how tough daily life activities are in the high Himalayan mountains.

In Phere, we asked around for some tea and were invited by a family. They were working: colouring wool and weaving carpets. While we were drinking our tea the lady of the house asked us to watch her weaving a carpet. She had an admirable speed, making it clear it wasn't the first carpet she made. She showed us some smaller carpets. One of us decided to buy one to stimulate the local economy and of course because it was a nice, handmade, carpet.  When we left Phere we passed a fellow countryman, from the Netherlands, who was going into the direction of Ghunsa (3410m). We exchanged some information about the conditions and distances of the trail and went our separate ways.

After the village the valley gets more narrow and there are a few tricky landslides to cross. Falling would mean sliding a few hundred metres down into the swirling river below. This would result in some serious injuries or even death.

A bit further down a herd of buffalos were making their way up and had to pass us. On a narrow trail like this you should get out of the way onto the hillside above the track. Otherwise you could be pushed off the mountain into the ravine. Again the trail is typical "Nepali flat". So we go a little bit up and down during the day. The conditions of the trail change here from a dirt track to a trail paved with rocks.

We arrived in the rain in Kyapra (2800m)mid afternoon. It was the first time and the last that we had rain during this trek. This day took us about 6 hours. Kyapra  (2800m)was no more than 3 houses and looked like a quiet place. But this proved to be the opposite. The rumor spread that some foreigners were staying the night. All the local woman gathered to meet the tourists and invite them to dance and drink Tomba for the Tihar festival. These Nepali woman were strong and uncompromising so all of us had to accept and dance with them. As always we were asked to give donations because of Tihar and to support the village. The cold temperature and rain turning to snow made us go to bed early after a few tombas.


Day 14 of the Kangchenjunga trekking

13-11 From Kyapra  (2800m) to Sekatum (1560m)

Looking up this morning along the valley and back to Ghunsa we saw the whole valley was covered with a white layer of snow. Just a few hundred metres above us was the snow line. We were all pleased that it had stopped raining and after a small breakfast, at eight o'clock, we got on our way to lunch in Amjilassa (Ampilusa). Just like yesterday the trail goes up and down so you stay more or less on the same level. There are a lot of tributaries to cross and the environment gets greener and greener. Until lunch at Amjilassa the trail was a dirt track. After lunch it changed, like yesterday, into a trail paved with rocks. This time it was a bit difficult to walk on because of the different sizes of the rocks. We crossed the Ghunsa Khola River four times. One of the bridges was in a very bad shape. This is a remote part of Nepal so most of the bridges in this area are old and cannot be compared with the ones that can be found in the Khumbu and Annapurna regions. The smaller bridges crossing the tributaries are built without use of concrete or iron pillars and are made of wood and ropes. Because of the monsoon these are temporary and have to be rebuilt every year.

After lunch in Amjilassa (Ampilusa) (2460m) we passed through Ghaiya Bari where the third day of Tihar took place. A group of young girls and boys were singing accompanied by traditional Nepali music. It's a pleasure to watch how tradition still works and families get together at festivals like these. The boys were playing a local board game. 

We arrived in a settlement before Sekatum (1560m) at a quarter to five. Our guide decided we should stay here for the night. While having dinner a group of people performed dances and chants for Tihar. After we went to bed candles were lit and another group of dancers arrived.


Day 15 of the Kangchenjunga trekking

14-11 From Sekatum (1560m) to Taplethok (1424m)

We got up at the usual time and had our usual breakfast of noodle soup. Yesterday evening we had a Tongba together with the family. The children and mother of the family tried to persuade the father to stop drinking and finally locked the Tongba in a cupboard. In the morning the father of the family had breakfast with another Tongba. He didn't look very fresh so we understood the concerns of the family last night. Wisely we decided to stick to noodle soup.

Today the trail continues on a paved path leading through lush open forest with a beautiful palm like undergrowth. Coming out of the forest we spotted some children who were playing on a big bamboo Dasain festival swing. The swing was huge, about 10 metres high. We tried the swing but the boys told us not to sit down but stand up because otherwise you can't get the swing to work. Speed is made by pushing really hard going forward and backward. Of course the children get a bit of help and are being pushed.

From the point where we left the big bamboo swing the trail became less obvious. It became narrower and there were a lot of intersections. Our group got split up and at different points the one ahead had to wait to make sure everyone took the right direction.

At some point it became clear that one of us was sick. There are a lot of reasons to become ill. The usual cause (other than altitude) is bad food or water. Throwing up and nausea are common symptoms. Be prepared and bring enough reliable medication. Because of this we had to decide to change our plans and make our day a bit shorter. After a hard time for the patient all of us arrived at Taplethok (1424m). Continuing while being sick in high Himalayan mountains takes a lot of energy. It's better to save some energy and take a rest so you can continue the next day. We spent the afternoon and night in a porters' bhatti in Taplethok (1424m). Today was the first day we were able to buy some fresh fruit. Small bananas were hanging from the palm trees and some of them were available for sale. We were pleased we had a trained nurse in our team and our sick friend improved overnight. We all got some rest to continue the next day.


Day 16 of the Kangchenjunga trekking

15-11 From Taplethok (1424m) to Mitlung (921m) 

During the night our sick friend had recovered. Our guide decided to carry his backpack so he would not have to carry the load. In the morning the terrain went up and down again allongside the river. We passed some local porters who were carrying a basket (doka) with heavy loads. Sometimes rice or drinks for the tourists. Yesterday we left the valley of the Ghunsa Khola River and now we are following the Tamur Khola valley to Mitlung (921m). At 9:30 we arrived at Chiruwa (1200m) and had some tea there. We observed a lot of preparations to connect the village to a power plant further down the river. In contrast to this we watched a girl feeding the hens and their chickens. After tea we started with a steep ascent and kept on going up and down and the valley got wider and wider. Just before lunch we came trhough a small settlement. Here we heard clanging on a metal object. Curious as we are we looked around and saw a shaman performing a ritual with prayers and continous banging on a metal plate. We were invited to take a closer look and took some time to interact with the people who appreciated our company. This celebration was an animistic ritual because of the beginning of harvest season. In the centre of the court there was a small banana tree surrounded by images of farm animals and crops. The shaman circled around the offerings whilst banging his metal plate. After seeing this impressive ritual we had to continue. Again we had to cross some tributaries that were tricky to cross and the bridges were very basic. Just before Mitlung (921m) we took some tea. During tea we enjoyed the view of local workers bringing in the harvest from the rice fields. The whole family was taking part in the work of carrying the harvest. We continued the short walk to Mitlung (921m) and arrived after approximately half an hour. We stayed in a very basic porter lodge where the family celebrated Tihar early in the evening by lighting fire crackers before we took off to bed. Unfortunately this family was a bit noisy during the night so they kept us awake a long time.


Day 17 of the Kangchenjunga trekking

16-11 From Mitlung (921m) to Taplejung (1800m)

Leaving the village of Mitlung (921m) we had to go up steeply again. The valley continues to become wider. In the settlement of Handewa there was an impressively tall fig tree. There were also two water buffalos. One of them had a crush on one of our members. She kept following him with her eyes until we continued walking. After lunch in a local bhatti it took us about one hour to arrive at the outskirts of Taplejung which proved to be an outstretched town. Women were preparing ingredients for the meal by battering the contents of wooden containers with long wooden sticks. In another place a pig was slaughtered and the hairs were burned and scraped off. As it was Tihar there were a lot of festivities going on. We had to make an effort to find a good place to stay for the night. The lodges were fully booked or were in a deplorable state. We ended up at the lodge where we started this trek. Here we were connected to the world again by internet and one of our members got the news he was grandfather to a grandson. For the first time in two weeks we were able to take a shower, although the water was not particularly warm. It was a quiet place at the lower side of Taplejung so the noise of the festival couldn't reach us. We celebrated the end of our inspiring trek with a good meal and a couple of beers and some strong tales! We concluded that we enjoyed each other's company and our trekking together so we immediately started planning our next trek!