Week 1: Mud, mules and the monsoon

What a way to begin!
With our team finally assembled, we left Simikot on the 1st of September with 50 days worth of supplies in tow. We are eight people for this first section: Ciara, Nic, Patrick, Sonia, Chhiree (our head Sherpa) and our porters Yellbi, Pemba and Nerinderah who are allowing us to go so long without a food drop point.

We kicked right off with 1000 vertical metres of descent from Simikot at 3000m followed by a casual 1000m ascent. We encountered our first ‘episode’ of the trip when Ciara almost fainted at a mere 2000m after too much Chapati. Some days later Sonia had a turn at a more respectable 3600m. It has also inevitably rained (monsooned) on us every afternoon and some mornings.

Our first night out we slept in a tiny local school where we were the centre of attention. This attention was to continue. In every village, people stopped to watch us, sometimes forming crowds around us as we did strange things like set up tents or pack a bag. The attention is mostly flattering, but sometimes difficult if you are having a hard day of fiddling with a troublesome stove or camelback and you have an audience intently watching your every move! On our night in the school we gave the village their month’s excitement by dropping a critical stove piece under the floorboards. A carpenter was swiftly called from the village and dozens of locals laughed as the floorboards were pulled up for us!

On our first 4000m pass we picked up two local women smoking hash in their chillum, who found us so interesting it was worth slowing down their pace (walking 6 hours to do what took us a day and a half) to watch us. A local Shepard took interest in them and started a sing-song wooing game, and thus we went from 8 to 11. We asked one to take a photo of our group at the pass cairn, when another man chasing a stressed out donkey down the mountain pulled out his pipe and photobombed us.

Group photo on our first 4000m pass and photobombed on the left.

We are used to using Shellite in our MSR stove, a highly refined fuel which is unavailable here in Nepal. We know kerosene works but opted for “Helicopter fuel” which was sure to work, right? No. Our MSR either wouldn’t light or wanted to take off. We ended up donating the fuel to a few different locals and will need to source some kerosene soon.

Most days have been marked by a particular challenge. On Tuesday we were attacked by a swarm of ferocious wasps. Everyone got badly bitten and Sonia kept us on our toes by closely imitating the early stages of anaphylaxis. On Wednesday we faced a 1000 vertical metre mud/mule-stool slide as we climbed a mountain in the height of Monsoon. The path was particularly muddy due to the construction of a new road that has caused extreme erosion. Nerinderah lost one of his shoes in the deep sticky mud. On Thursday we faced huge heat and sun as we climbed from Piplan back into the mountains. The Nepalese have more than justified their reputation for smiles and hospitality, and we’re having trouble figuring out what to do with all the apples and cucumbers given to us by villagers. Pemba is always smiling and giving a happy thumbs up to raise everyone’s spirits.

Walking into the mist.
On top of the world
Roadwork, erosion and mules.

We have also camped in local fields, beside a construction site, and in meadows. 20 workers on their way home from work decided to watch us set up camp and pull out all kinds of interesting things. We tried to be as boring as possible to send them on their way. It will take a little getting used to the attention.

A keen audience.

The walking has been very hard so far, the hardest any of us have ever done. We are averaging at least 1000 vertical metres of descent and 1000 metres of ascent each day.

We have passed hundreds of mules making the journey from Ghamgadi to Simikot, laden with goods ranging from solar panels to sugar. Surprisingly, we also passed two walkers on day 140 of their full GHT traverse! We eyed each other off in the distance and a happy meeting occurred. Details of leaches and flooded rivers were endowed upon us, and being added to a GHT WhatsApp group was a great gesture. We are happy to not be alone out here.

A beautifully decorated mule.

Nic gave Nerinderah ~$10 to buy some new pants in Ghamgadi to replace his jeans which are definitely not the pants to be wearing out here while carrying loads through the mud and over mountain passes.

After some careful contemplation, we realised the name “The Dahl Diaries” was close, but incorrect. We have indeed consumed numerous serves of Dahl baht for breakfast, lunch and dinner, however our main local food source has been Chapati / Roti, a flatbread made in big clay oven. Thus we have concluded that the name “The Chapati Chapters” is much more descriptive of our trip so far.

Moonrise over the mountains

We will be back next week for another update of our trials and tribulations on this enormous undertaking.

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