We have just returned from Trek II to Dudh Kunda, a 15,000 foot pilgrimage lake sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus, and Pike (two syllables) Danda, the only place to which regular people go from which you can see five 8,000 meter peaks (Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Everest, Lhotse, and Manaslu). While our Annapurna trek was to the northwest of Kathmandu, the the Dudh Kunda trek was to the northeast toward Everest. The bus ride to our starting point in Jiri took nine hours of grinding up steep hills and winding down into valleys.
In the Annapurna area we were teahouse trekking, staying in small lodges, and having a single porter to help carry our stuff. Today's trekker lodges are an extension of the ancient infrastructure to support trade with Tibet. A room for the two of us ranges from 40 cents to $3.00, with attached bath; three meals a day added up to about $5.00 apiece, with soft drinks getting a bit more expensive with each day of carriage on someone's back.
By contrast, the Dudh Kunda trek was a full-blown expedition. Because we were going into areas with no lodges and needed to be self-sufficient, we has a crew of 17 people supporting four trekkers, Clark Parish and Cheri Baird, friends from Bellingham, in addition to us. The entourage consisted of a Sherpa guide Kami, an assistant Sherpa guide Tseri, cook Puri, 3 "kitchen boys", and the rest porters. They treated us like royalty - bed tea and wash water brought to the tent first thing in the morning, hot towels for hand wiping before each meal, tea at five, a toilet tent, bath tent, and dining tent, in addition to our sleeping tents. It took a bit of getting used to, but it was pretty clear that that was the way things were going to be. The food was great and plentiful. Carrying about 80 pounds each, the porters could only move down, or up, the trail about 3 times faster than we could. Kami has worked with all of these men for years and does a masterful job of instilling a spirit of joy into the whole enterprise. When we would come dragging into camp after the tents were all set up the men would greet us as though we had just topped Everest. We shared a number of wonderful evenings listening to the men sing Nepali songs and dance traditional dances, which we joined occasionally under coersion. By the end of the trek we had developed a deep affection for these strong, gentle men who carried our burdens and took such good care of us, all without a glimmer of resentment. Once when Dana thanked one of the porters for carrying our bag, he replied with a smile, "It is my duty; I must do it well." And he did.
week trip was far too rich to describe blow by blow. Seldom did
five minutes go by without producing a memorable face, scene
or event. Below are some of the images we brought with us from
2. This house is typical of those we passed or could see dotting the hills in the agricultural region through which we hiked. Note the corn drying under the eves and the log bee hives on the lower roof. This time of year, harvesting and drying products of the fields is a major activity. The houses are usually well washed with a mud slip, often two toned as is this case. The early morning and late evening light on the houses is a visual feast. In addition to endless marigolds, many homes are adorned now with twelve foot purple dahlias and house high poinsiettas.
3. One of the striking things about walking in
Nepal is the frequent encounter with symbols of religious devotion,
in this case two large chortens in front of an old gompa on the
trail into Bhandar. Three men were readying one of the chortens
for a new paint job while a group of Sherpa women supervised.
Prayer flags are strung here and wherever the wind might catch
the messages of peace and well being and spread them through
15. The Jacks (actually looking more and more like naks) near Pike Danda.
16. As we packed up to leave Shivalaya, we heard drums and raspy horns from the surrounding hillsides. From several directions came processions of brightly dressed Hindus with horns, drums, marigolds, and tall poles with the tree top still in place. It was a festival to honor mothers and fathers who had died in the past year. The processions began meeting by the riverside where they played music and strung marigolds from poles erected on either side of the river. This is a glimpse of the milling about beside the river. We were beckoned to join in. This is the third major Hindu festival in the past six weeks. There should be a bumper sticker "Hindus Have More Fun".
We are having an amazing time and are well and happy. Every day is like standing under a waterfall of intriguing, mind-stretching experiences. In a couple of days we set out for one last trip before trekking closes down for the winter.
(E-Mail: We would love to hear from you at the e-mail address in our original letter to you, but please don't return the long letter and attachments with your message. Thanks.D&R)