December, 2018In my previous post about Khopra Ridge, accidentally published before it was all done, I shared our incipient descent down the mountain. To read our post about getting up to this 12,000 ft high ridge, click HERE.
To pick up where we left off…it was December 9, 2018 and my daughter, Cary, and I were preparing to depart from glorious Khopra Ridge, 12,000 ft. in the Annapurna area of Nepal. We got up very early to watch the sun come up over the range.
And here is a video I took of the range that morning. Forgive the ending while I learn iMovie editing!
We socialized with our new friends over breakfast, and at 10 A.M. headed off for a day of steep and intense downhill.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
As we negotiated the rocky trail down, we were grateful for the occasional chautari (a rest stop made by piling stones to create a platform for sitting) to refresh ourselves.
Do you see that steep trail in the photo below, snaking down the mountain? We had to pay focused attention every step of the way so as not to take a header. But we always took time to enjoy the views and the changing vegetation.
We met a Malaysian couple coming up over the ridge as we were heading down. They had been climbing since early morning and were exhausted. How glad I was that we were going in the opposite direction! The trail was made of new stone steps (built by the villagers of Paudwar, where we would stay in two nights), followed by treacherous rocks running along a sheer cliff. Cary was impressed by the exposure, but it seemed tame to me after the Kangchenjunga trek in 1996, where we were confronted with a chilling landslide that had to be negotiated by putting one foot in front of the other on a narrow makeshift path along a steep ravine.
During the difficult descent, Buddhi, our guide, was extremely helpful, guiding me by holding my left arm, gently, and giving me the support I needed on difficult passages.
It was interesting to see large swaths of grassland on the hillside, that had been burned and charred to get rid of the inedible, tough old grass and make way for the new grass in the spring. This will provide tender shoots for the yaks to eat. It’s hard to believe that yaks can climb the steep mountain and graze on such slopes. But there are about 150 of these animals owned by the community, roaming the hills on government land.
After three hours of constant downhill we arrived at a new tea house, The Lareni, owned by a charming, hospitable gentleman, Lil, who regaled us with stories of the area, and showed us his extensive land, garden, and animals.
He used solar heating, exclusively, and cooked meals on two small cement stoves fed by sticks of wood.
We were the only guests and spent a peaceful sunny afternoon in the spacious dining room until dinner, which we had in the small, windowless, smoky kitchen, watching Kandu and Suni whip up nettle soup and other vegetarian specialties. Much intense heating and stirring!
I can’t remember a more congenial evening, sitting by the fire, chatting, and being treated to Buddhi’s enthusiastic singing and dancing! And guess who accompanied him with drumming on the table? We even imbibed in a glass of rakshi, a favorite, rather tame, alcoholic drink enjoyed in the mountains. It was still pretty cold, so a metal container of red-hot coals was placed at my feet to keep my legs warm. How nice is that! I have never had a lovelier or more down-to-earth evening on a trek. And it ended as we stepped outside to see a sky filled with stars. I stood, transfixed, as I was carried back to my overland trip in Tibet to Mt. Kailash in 2004. Every night I would stand outside my tent, just as I did this night, and take in the vast expanse of the night sky, breathing in its beauty, strength and tranquility.
After a refreshing sleep and a long conversation with the owner of the tea house, we started out for Paudwar. One hour and 30 minutes to Paudwar? No way!