TREKKING IN THE ARUN VALLEY
Our luck was in. As bed tea arrived at about 6am we unzipped the tent to a very cold, clear morning with a light covering of snow. We were camping at Daware Phuk, the high point of our trek in the Arun Valley and the Makalu – Barun Conservation Area. It was a breath-taking setting: an expanse of high meadow used by yak herders during the summer was backed by rocky slopes covered in rhododendron bushes and fell away abruptly into a cloud- filled valley. In the distance the Kanchenjunga range loomed out of the cloud. We knew that the clouds would roll in later in the morning and obliterate the view so we were keen to get going. After breakfast we set off slowly up the hillside behind the camp site, breathing hard at the altitude of just over 4000 metres. After about an hour we reached a col which gave spectacular views of the Makalu range. This was why we had come to Nepal – to see the high peaks of the Himalayas at close quarters. Snow-covered peaks and rocky ridges were spread out in front of us against a stunning blue sky. Our guide Karna pointed out the main peaks and other features including the Shipton La, on the route to Makalu base camp. We stayed on the col for about an hour, taking photos and marvelling at the view before the clouds started to build up and we made our way back to the camp site. For most of the rest of the day we were engulfed in cloud but it didn’t really matter. We had achieved our goal.
Our trek had started from Tumlingtar about nine days previously. Initially we followed the main Makalu base camp trail, gradually gaining height as we went through small villages and towns such as Khadbari, Bhotebas and Num, their streets flanked by colourful displays of fruit and vegetables, clothes and shoes and all manner of household goods. We follow the main Makalu trail through Num and descended steeply to cross the Arun River by a suspension bridge. An interesting trail led through farmland with terraced fields until we reached the village of Jimmigaon. We left the main trail of Makalu Base camp and heading ascend to Jimigaun. We set up camp in the school grounds and were delighted to discover that an enterprising villager was opening a shop where we could purchase a much-needed beer or two.
The following day started well as the trail wound up and down through farm land and forests of birch and bamboo, crossing numerous small streams on rickety wooden bridges and logs. After lunch, however, we encountered some problems finding the right trail. This trek had not been undertaken for a good few years and in places the trail had become indistinct and overgrown, particular in places where it was not used regularly by local people. This all added to a feeling of adventure and exploration but after a very steep, long descent to cross the Iswa Khola and a slippery ascent out of the valley we were glad to set up camp at dusk near a small group of houses just outside Nurbuchaor.
For the next couple of days we walked along high ridges through magnificent rhododendron forests dripping with mosses and lichens. Beautiful flowers of all colours bordered the trail and birds called in the trees. At breaks in the forest we got excellent views of the surrounding mountains. We camped on the hillside at Taklung and the following day reached Daware Phuk (Dugure). Finding water here was quite difficult as the streams were dry but eventually a good source was found a little way from the campsite and we were able to pitch the tents and have a relaxing afternoon, giving ourselves and some of our clothes a much needed wash.
After a couple of nights at Daware Phuk we retraced our steps to Taklung and, on a day of almost continuous rain, we made our way to a meadow on a ridge not far from Walung. We were somewhat disconcerted to discover that, as darkness fell, the porter carrying the tents had got lost! The rain had brought out leeches, impressive in both their size and numbers, so we were not looking forward to having to sleep in the dining tent. After about an hour or so the errant porter was found and we spent an interesting evening ejecting leeches from our tent before settling down for the night.
The long descent to Walung through beautiful broad-leafed forests took us past a couple of Gompas festooned in brightly coloured prayer flags. On entering the village we made our way to the health centre and monastery where we received a traditional Nepali welcome. After lunch the lama gave us a tour of the monastery and we visited the health centre to learn about the work being done to improve the health of local people, particularly women and children.
Our return journey to Tumlingtar took us steeply down to the Arun River. The trail here was a bit difficult to follow in places and took us down a rather difficult and eroded gully to reach a lunch spot by the turbulent rapids of the river. Walking along the west side of the river was a very different experience to our first couple of days on the eastern side. There was no driveable road until we reached Chewabesi but we enjoyed the narrow trails through the forest with glimpses of the wild river beneath us. We saw monkeys high in the trees, huge spiders suspended in their webs in the trees and even a snake. Along the river the rice harvest was in progress and we began to encounter long mule trains laden with sacks of rice and other goods. We had three more riverside camps, at Pekhuwa, where we pitched our tents outside another health centre, at Sankhuwa, a prosperous-looking farming village and, lastly at Satighat, not far from Tumlingtar.
We had had a brilliant trek. It wasn’t our first choice – we had wanted to go to Langtang but this was impossible after the earthquakes. But we felt that it was a good introduction to trekking in Nepal, combining many different types of landscape, allowing us to see daily life in rural Nepal and taking us high into the mountains. We were well off the main trekking routes and met only local people who were delighted and interested to see us, particularly the small children.
We reached Tumlingtar only to discover that, due to the fuel shortages, there were no flights back to Kathmandu. So we went by road, a bone-shaking, hair-raising journey – but that is another story.
We are very pleased to our Nepali staffs, Guide, Cook, Sherpas, Kitchen boys and porters. They are very strong and very helpful. Many thanks to Adventure Zambuling treks pvt.ltd and guide karna who always cared during our whole trekking in Nepal.
Doug is so pleased you had such a good time and that Bhai and his team looked after you so well. All of us here, especially Denise and Doug, thank you for your kind comments which is very good for everyone's morale.
Would you mind if we quote your comments when putting together some publicity information? We will, of course, be guided by you whether you wish to remain anonymous?
Once again with sincere thanks for taking the time and trouble to let us know all went according to plan as we have been a little worried by the fuel situation and the impact on the groups out there. Having said that, here in the UK, we have complete faith in Bhai doing a simply fantastic job and looking out for everyone for whom he feels a personal responsibility whatever the situation.
With best wishes
COMMUNITY ACTION NEPAL
Registered Charity No. 1067772
Namaste, to all at CAT and Bhai in Kathmandu,
We are now a week home from our trek to Annapurna and would like to thank all of you involved in making this an amazing experience for us to treasure forever. From our first enquiry of our “combination trek” with Captain Tek to our farewell to Bhai at Kathmandu airport on Friday 6th November, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
The trek itself was marvellous but made all the better by our lovely guide, Jangbu Tamang and our porter Furba Tamang. They couldn’t have been more helpful and together with their knowledge of the area and expertise we felt very safe and looked after at all times. We really connected with them and felt they gave us a truly authentic Nepalese experience.
Bhai greeted us at Kathmandu Airport with garlands and despite the fuel crisis never failed to make everything run smoothly. His committment to our wellbeing was second to none.
We are now enjoying the magnificent photographs taken and wish we were back there! Once again, thank you all at CAT.
With very best wishes,
Keith and Gill Urry
Hi CAT and Adventure Zambuling Treks,
I’m recovered from my journey back from Kathmandu last week, and wanted to let you all know how pleased I was with my trek around Manaslu. Our guide Pasang Tamang did a brilliant job of keeping the show on the road every day, and the group was cheerful the whole trip. He seemed to know someone everywhere, which opened a few doors on how people live up the valleys. He kept me informed on the flora (identifying fruit trees, crops, wild caxxxbis et al) and fauna (spotting monkeys, blue sheep, and a pair of snow leopards crossing a snow field below us.) Pasang and I agreed that conditions on the mountain would have to be perfect for us to have a go, and on inspection the conditions were far from that with a massive wall of ice hanging at one side of the top of the access gulley and a cornice overhanging at the other side. Gessman Tamang the climbing Sherpa was disappointed we could not give Larke Peak a go, but pleased our decision may have saved his life when we learned that 4 hours after we passed by the mountain instead of attempting it, a wall of ice at the top of the access gulley fell off, avalanching the gulley and beyond. Our porters Pasang Dawa and Gurung were uncomplaining even through the worst of the unexpected snowfalls on the way down from Larke La. Mr Bhai B. Tamang did a great job of providing support, including relaying messages for CAT to keep Myra informed, bringing forward the egress transport / hotel booking, and personally taking me to the airline office to change my flights home. In addition, when our jeep taking us to Aarughat had a problem 3 hours into the start of the trip, he immediately sent out another one, without waiting to find out if the first could be fixed (good call – it was not fixable at the roadside). It was good to meet Denise at Dharmasala, and very interesting to hear of the Medex group’s history. I met Phulmyra at the CAN Health Post in Lihi, and I was very impressed with her work on treatment and health education, as well as her knowledge and personal standards.
Thank-you very much for such a good service, trekking with such a good bunch,
I have used Adventure Zambuling Treks on seven occasions since 1999 and cannot recommend them enough to anyone wishing to trek or climb in the Himalayas. Bhai and his team offer the best service, great communication, value for money, equipment, experienced guides, reliable porters and very importantly a keen eye for safety.
Major Stephen Marsh (British Army)