Day 2 Dhaulagiri Circuit - Darbang

After another horribly wet day and two bus journeys we have arrived at our first campsite and the beginning of the trek proper.  I'm a fair weather camper and never saw the point of going out when it's raining; given that the forecast is for still more rain, I'm finding it hard to muster enthusiasm for tomorrow's trek.

It's a shame about the weather because the scenery is interesting. We are at about 1,000 metres and have been following a river in a deep but very fertile terraced valley.  The little terraces are full of rice which is in ear and perhaps just a couple of weeks away from being harvested. The trees look amazing, incredibly lush and green including some which were in flower. At this altitude it doesn't get cold and banana trees and bamboo are much in evidence.

The villages are busy and despite the rain people are out and about.  We're passing through a Hindu part of Nepal and the build up to the Diwali festival is taking place. There is clearly a lot of visiting going on with the visitors decorating themselves with sticky pink rice - great lumps of it stuck to their foreheads.

We stopped for lunch and a change of bus at Beni.  Beni, I suspect, would never qualify as a candidate for a weekend retreat but on a wet day it was a dump.  It felt dirty and grimy and not a place where you really wanted to take your hands out of your pockets, never mind linger and eat food.

At Beni we changed to a much smaller public bus which amazingly had the same number of seats as the larger bus we had enjoyed earlier in the day.  Now I'm not exactly tall but even I struggled to get my knees into the space provided and for some of my bigger comrades it was an almost impossible task.

The limited leg space may have had something to do with average height of the Nepalese (I suspect about 5 foot) or it may have something to do with the afternoon's journey.  Not being able to move had some advantages on a trip that increasingly resembled a ride on a roller-coaster suffering from a serious lack of maintenance.

The road leaves Beni and continues along the side of the river. It's even narrower than the one in the morning and lot muddier.  The negotiations between vehicles going in opposite directions gets ever more complicated and it takes longer to decide who should reverse and give way and who should pass.   After an hour or so everything stops. A landslide means we have to get out, walk to the other side of the landslide and catch another bus.  The road had been open an hour earlier.

At a village about an hour from Beni the traffic has once again come to standstill.  Just beyond the village a tractor was pulling a bus back up the hill along a very muddy and unstable road.  The bus had made it down the hill but had lacked the momentum and grip to carry it up the other side.  Perhaps the driver, worried about the 50 metre precipice at the side and the river in full flood running at its bottom, lacked the necessary steel.

We watched the spectacle with interest when a local in some sort of uniform tells us to get back in the bus.  It's only when we start hurtling down the hill that we notice that we have a new teenage driver.  His mud management technique, go as fast a possible, was as scary as it was one dimensional and all conversation stopped as we gripped our seats for the next 400 metres.  After seeing two bus crashes yesterday I think we all thought we were about to participate in a third.

So despite the rain it was good to arrive at the campsite - a sort of playing field at the edge of the village of Darbang.  I'm sharing a tent with Steve, one of the two doctors, who is a very nice guy but a little on the large size.  I'm not sure yet who has got the worse deal - me because he is big, or him because of my total lack of tent etiquette.

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