Trekking in the Dolpo - Rechi

Today the sense that our trek to the Dolpo was jinxed returned.

Things started to go wrong last night. At about 1-30 in morning, I woke up thinking I'd had a good night's sleep. A super bright halogen light on the tea house convinced me that dawn had broken. As my confused brain cleared itself reality kicked in. It was in fact raining. In the corner of the tent, near Christine's water bladder, the floor was wet. We blamed the bladder, stuck it outside the tent, dried the floor and attempted to go back to sleep. It continued to rain, really heavily now, and water was soaking up through the ground sheet into our foam sleeping mattresses. We put all of our clothes into waterproof stuff bags and did everything we could to keep our sleeping bags dry. It was a grim night.
Breakfast after the deluge

At 6 in the morning, we got our morning tea and I went to Bi Bi's tent to let him know what had happened. He quickly identified the problem. The tents are pitched on a plastic sheet which in our case stuck out beyond the fly sheet. Water drained down the fly sheet, hit the plastic sheet, went under the tent and soaked up through the groundsheet. Bi Bi's brother had assembled the tents and I suspect he is relatively new to the job but Bi Bi, who was extremely apologetic, hadn't checked his work.

Despite stuff bags we still had a lot of wet gear and after a poor nights sleep were down in dumps as we left camp and headed back to the river and the jungle.
Winter quarters

The weather in the morning was fine and we enjoyed a pleasant walk. The constant was the river, the Phoksundo Kola, which was never less that a raging torrent. River side walks along a steeply climbing valley are a bit like coastal paths, constantly ascending and descending, and, with an uneven surface, the going was hard. The vegetation was interesting, lots a flowers, bamboo, walnut trees, huge Himalayan pine and everywhere, marijuana plants.

The hillsides in what is a very steep sided valley continue to be terraced and farmed while nearer the river empty chunky little stone buildings, grass growing from their roofs like some wartime disguise, await the wintertime return of residents currently in their summer homes higher up the valley. These semi-nomadic people are the 'Tibetans' of the Upper Dolpo although interestingly Bi Bi refers to them as 'Chinese'.

We stopped for lunch at Chhekpa, a small village with two or three tea houses. The weather was good but ominously the air was hot and humid. The pony man spots a peach tree and systematically strips its low and not so low hanging fruit. The peaches are small but with a super intense flavour.
Pray flags and washing

Lunch takes about 90 minutes. Food is prepared for the two of us and separately for the crew. They have Nepalese food (dal bhat) and we have western food (with lemon juice and black tea). They eat indoors and in the shade and we eat sitting on the grass with a plastic sheet and a tablecloth.

By the time we have finished our lunch it's starting to feel stormy and a short but intense shower sends out a warning that worse might be on the way. We set off and within 30 minutes or so the heavens open up and a serious monsoon style storm kicks in. Along with a couple of porters from another group, and two young women, we find shelter under a rock overhang. It was raining so hard we assumed it couldn't last but it did.

We continue to hide under our rock for about 45mins when, with the rain showing no sign of letting up, Bi Bi, sheltering under an umbrella, suggests we move on. Christine says 'no' and asks me the unanswerable question 'what are we doing here?'. I tell Bi Bi, half in jest, that Christine wants to go home, and he replies, in sing-song ET sort of way, 'Christine can't go home, she's on holiday'.

After 15mins the impasse is broken, we leave the shelter of the rocks and head out into a rain that's more than a match for any waterproof. 15 minutes later, long enough for us to get wet, it stops and allowing Christine to point out that we should have stayed where we were.

Being right did little to improve Christine's mood. A chunk of  the riverside walk had been washed away and the newly constructed detour involved a long and muddy ascent and descent over a shoulder. It took another 2 hours of hard walking to reach the campsite at Rechi.

With a roaring river close by, little in the way of light, and everything wet, the campsite felt squalid and dirty. There were a couple of families occupying large square ex-military tents, complete with stove and chimneys. The tents looked inviting but while the crew went inside we had to make do with the mess tent. Watching them cheerfully huddled around the stove, hands outstretched and steam rising from damp clothes, fueled a sense of resentment that didn't really diminish until we climbed into our sleeping bags.