Nepal Khumbu Trek

Photographs by Shaun O'Boyle

 

If you want to trek in the Mt. Everest region of Nepal you have several choices on where to start your trek, you can fly into the small town of Lukla shortcutting some very good trekking, or you can do what I did and take the local bus to the end of the road in Jiri and start your trek from there. My trip begins with a bus ride from Kathmandu to Lamosangu which is about 50 km south of the Tibetan border on the Kodari highway. From there I turn east crossing the Sun Kosi and take the 115 km road from Lamosangu to the small town of Jiri (6,400 ft) at the end of the road. The bus follows the twisting gravel road from Lamosangu up and over the steep 7500 ft climb out of the Sun Kosi valley through switch backs hanging over the precipice. We travel for an hour and I can look out the window down and see where we had been many hundreds and thousands of feet below. It is an incredibly beautiful ride through terraced farmlands reaching from the valleys up beyond where I can see. It is a vertical world here. There are mostly locals on the bus carrying goods back to their village from Kathmandu. Everything from chickens to vegetables and blankets. The bus is packed full and there are many people riding on the roof.

 

It was well after dark when I arrived in Jiri so I followed one of the local kids who wait as the bus arrives touting "guest house, good food, cheap place to stay" having no energy to hunt out a place myself. I ate a late dinner with many of the children in the house giggling and watching me eat, and went to bed. Early in the morning, about 4am I awoke to the noise of 4 or 5 porters getting ready for a early start on the trail, they had been sleeping in the room above me and the noise on the thin plank floors was deafening. I myself got up at sunrise, had a good breakfast of eggs and potatoes and started my trek. I passed through the village of Those near where this photo was taken. Little did I know it but when I was snapping this shot I was on my way to getting lost.

 

Journal entry - April 1, The most beautiful bus ride ever, 12 1/2 hours from Kathmandu , climbing, climbing all the way, The views of the terraced mountains are just breathtaking. Encountered a fierce thunderstorm about an hour from Jiri so backpack got a little wet. Had my first himalayan dinner consisting of dal, potato's, eggs, tea and a coke. 2 cokes. I'm still sipping one in my room above the kitchen where some locals are laughing up a storm. Had three local children join me while I was eating dinner, they liked thumbing through my books. A rather vicious occurrence on the bus ride here today, just after pulling out of Lamusangu the ticket checker uncovered a stow away on the bus, a large argument followed where I gather the perpetrator seemed to be pleading poverty and no money, the bus stopped, tempers flared, the entire bus was yelling for and against the man, eventually they dragged him off the bus forcibly and were in the process of pulling his wife off the bus when he ran up the hill and started throwing large rocks down onto the bus, quick as a wink 10 or more people were off the bus and pummeling the old man and pushing him down the hill, his face was all blood. It was quite a hectic scene and not a pretty one, a mob scene, the old fellow paid for his sins in blood, and we were off again soon enough.

 

Following the somewhat cryptic directions in the guide book purchased in Kathmandu I followed a trail up a very steep mountain for a few hours. I ended up in this village high in the foothills and realized that I had come the wrong way. From here, however, I could see some of the beautiful mountain views I would have otherwise missed. And the farmland and terracing was spectacular. They have ingenious irrigation systems where they will divert a small branch from the river and build a aqueduct alongside the mountain. They deliver a swiftly moving stream of water along the side of the mountain this way to their fields now hundreds of feet above the river. The village comes out to greet me. The fellow in the middle is a school teacher and speaks english. He volunteers to guide me to Durelli pass which was my original destination. This saves me from trekking back down the mountain which took me 3 very difficult hours to climb. He leads me along criss crossing paths through some small villages and cultivated fields and past a slate mine where locals peel away layers of the rock for the roofs on their houses. He explains how only the wealthy farmers can afford to pay for the labor intensive work of cutting and hauling the slate from the mine.

 

Durelli Pass (about 8,000') and some of the local villagers. Took me 10 hours to reach here from Jiri. Probably would have been less if I had not wandered off up the wrong mountain trail. The problem is that there are so many trails heading off in every direction that it is difficult to to stay on the correct path. I'm constantly asking the local Nepali's I pass if I am on the right trail. The problem with this is that they try to be polite and always agree with you. I ask "is Durelli pass this way?" and they say "yes, yes, durelli" pointing in the direction I indicated. If I point up a different path and ask "Durelli?" they say,"OK, Durelli" nodding. Narayan on the right was very friendly and took me to his families home for breakfast the next morning for "sherpa stew" which is a vegetable and potato stew and tea, and finally butter tea (not to keen on that but I drank it anyway).
Journal April 2, Durelli Pass: One day hard walk from Jiri, what a day, walked from 7:30 till 5:30, two very difficult climbs, one just coming out of Jiri, nice river side walk to Those, followed the river east from Those and took the first river on the right up into the gorge and started the second climb, very steep, thought I would die, eventually I reached a small village at the top where many children greeted me. I took their photo and then found out that I had come up the wrong ridge and was off the trail. The options were to climb back down or take the serviced of a porter-guide, which I did. We clambered through very steep cow pastures and followed the range around for four hours of hard climbing we reached the pass. Met some very friendly local boys at the pass and went to see their village just 10 minutes walk from here, very large house, with communal living spaces, women hand grinding wheat in one room, children doing homework. Narayan showed me his books, where he slept, and around the house, We went outside an met his friend. I went back to the pass and soon 2 Aussie trekkers came in who were quite friendly, and with whom I will trek up to the monestary to get cheese tomorrow and spend the night. So I'm in the candle lit lodge, 5 or 6 porters just came in and are having tea and watching me write.

April 3, Everyone is up with the fist light, hacking, coughing, 5:30 am. The porters are setting off down the pass with heavy loads strapped to their foreheads. I take a few photos of the mani walls and buildings around, the prayer flags blow in the morning wind and I go back inside. Children come into the lodge shivering and sniffing, the views up here are just beautiful, the far ridge is dark before the rising sun.

Thodung Monastery (10,140'), a 2 hour walk up above Durelli Pass. There is a cheese factory near here where I purchased some excellent cheese. All was quiet at the monastery. Very beautiful and peaceful inside. I stayed at a hotel at the cheese factory in a nice room with fireplace. Beautifully rustic.

Journal April 3rd, Above Thodung monestary at the cheese factory lodge. Situated on the top of the ridge, I can see Gauri Shankar on the Tibet/Nepal border rising 28,000 ft covered with snow. I am at 10,140 ft here, just spectacular views and a very comfortable lodge. I have a fireplace in my room which will be nice tonight as it is pretty chilly up here with the wind, probably in the 50's now at 1:30 in the afternoon. Hiked up from Durelli this morning after having breakfast with Narayan at his uncles house, very good vegetable and potato stew, then butter tea which was horrible but I choked it down. Naraya says that "one cup is not our way" so I forced down a second cup of the tea trying to smile while drinking it. Presently I'll hike down to the Monestary and have a look around.

Beautifully carved Mani Stones seen in the many Mani walls along the trail. These stone are carved with the Tibetan Buddhist inscription "Om Mani Padme Hum" which loosely translates to "Hail to the jewel in the Lotus". You should always walk to the left of the walls as the Buddhists do.

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