Trekking in the Dolpo - Nepalgunj

We're stuck in Nepalgunj, a horrible place on the Nepal-Indian border. We're supposed to be trekking in the Dolpo but for three days, so far, bad weather in the mountains to the north have grounded flights. With no end in sight, we're starting to get just a little desperate.

We booked this trip over 18 months ago. Christine then managed to break two metatarsals just before departure and we postponed the trip by a year. This is now starting to look like a mistake and what could be a final trip to Nepal is feeling jinxed.

In Nepal unreliable weather and a primitive transport infrastructure combine to make travel a lottery. The peak autumn hiking season is sandwiched between the summer monsoon and winter and although this year's monsoon has not been particularly severe, turbulent weather has continued well into September. Apart from walking, there is only one way into Dolpo and that involves flying in tiny 12 seater planes to Jophal airport. These planes don't come with a lot of sophisticated navigation equipment and if the pilots can't see where they are going they don't fly. So we, along with a growing backlog of other trekker's, are stuck in Nepalgunj.
No flights to Jophal

Nepalgunj is not nice. 'Gunj' means 'low' and the town, which is surrounded by lush green paddy fields, is the lowest town in Nepal. 'Gundge' would also work.  It's post monsoon streets are muddy, unpaved and full of rubbish and given the heat and humidity exploring the town is not an attractive proposition. The town's only distinguishing feature is a massive and slightly surreal billboard advertising Ruslan vodka (a Nepalese brand) which seems to a mesmerised the locals who drink it in vast quantities.
All egged up and ready to go
We shared a half decent but packed hotel on the first night with a multinational crowd of Hindu pilgrims trying to get to the Mount Kailash but it was full last night and we were forced into a flea infested hotel nearer the airport. Tonight we're back with the Hindu pilgrims but who knows what happens if the flights don't go tomorrow.

Although there are plenty of other trekker's our party is very small - it's just the 2 of us. We booked with Jagged Globe, the company who took me Dhaulagiri 2 year's ago, expecting to be in a group only to discover at the last minute that we were on our own. To be honest, it was a bit of a surprise, a different trip to the one we expecting, and we are not quite sure how it will work. The fact that only 2 of us have turned up adds to the feeling that this trip is jinxed - we seem to have missed some warning signs spotted by everyone else.
Fire wood anyone?

Like all these trips the UK travel company, Jagged Globe, works with a local company and it's the local company that does the heavy lifting. Summit Trekking arrange the internal flights, national park permits and put together the support team. Although there only 2 of us we still have a crew of 6 people and 4 ponies. 5 of the crew, and the ponies are currently kicking their heals in Jophal, with Bi Bi the tour leader, sharing our fate in Nepalgunj.

Bi Bi is a small guy (about 5ft 2inches) with a big personality. Although his English isn't perfect his sense of humour and enthusiasm more than makes up for it.

If we ever get started our trip involves a hike up through lower Dolpo into upper Dolpo. Even by Nepalese standards,
this is remote country, Nepal's wild west. We going to be following part of the same route Peter Matthiessen walked on his trip in 1973 and described in his famous book 'The Snow Leopard'. We chose the trip because we wanted to experience a bit more of the 'Tibetan' culture we enjoyed on our trip to Ladakh a few year's ago and, if we ever get out of Nepalgunj, it looks a like a great trip.

1 comment:

  1. Why all those eggs?
    Hope you get on your way.
    How do you post from there?
    Regards John.