Shivalaya – Bhandar
We’ve just finished dinner in our tent at our campsite in Bhandar. The evening is probably the warmest we’ve had yet, and the sky has clouded over. Tiny green fireflies have popped up around the campsite, which takes up a lush green field behind a tea house – lodge.
We had a fantastic day of hiking, starting at our riverside campsite in Shivalaya. On the way, we saw the Himalaya in the distance, doused ourselves with freezing cold water from a tap outside a local house, and Kiran managed to pose for a photo-op with a baby goat. All before lunch. We climbed steadily upward for about four hours to the pass at Deurali, at an elevation about 2700 meters.
We made it to Deurali at about 1230 in the afternoon – hot and sweaty, to lunch at a teahouse which is part of the tiny village at the pass. Everyone has been in good health and spirit, eating well, hiking strongly. The San Francisco fans have been especially motivated to climb over the past few days in hopes of catching the Giants on a satellite TV or radio somewhere over the next hill (us Yankee fans in the group are less driven by the world series score and more so by the immediate beauty of the place).
The highlight of today, though, was the walk from Deurali down here to the valley in Bhandar. We’ve walked in to a lush, pristine, green valley dotted with stone houses and manicured gardens, thousand year old walls and Buddhist monuments that look just as old. Walking down the trail we were greeted by little kids saying “namaste” and handing us tiny marigolds. Walking through here seems very real and genuine—there are virtually no tourists, and there is none of that unsettling feeling that some sort of “show” is being put on for visitors’ benefit. (A friendly Nepali woman at a lodge here in Bhandar offered Paul one of her daughters as a potential wife, and I think that she sort of meant it).
This is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve camped, the temperature is perfect and the evening is calm and peaceful. Tomorrow we continue across the valley to an even lower campsite, before getting ready for the gradual ascent of Pikey Peak. If the conditions, the climate and the company stay as favorable as they have been, we’re in for a fantastic week.