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The long hike to Sama Goan….then waiting…

Posted on Sunday 22nd April, 2012

I am sitting in my tent spending time reading this post from on must have camping gear in Sama Goan and its sprinkling rain outside. Just managed to wash and dry all my clothes in time as everything was dirty after the long hike to get here. I met the Canadians, who turned out to be from Quebec, when Dawa and I arrived to get on our bus to Arughat. Francis and Marc are climbing Manaslu and Francis’s wife and son are trekking around the Manaslu circuit. I was slightly disappointed that they don’t speak much English and most of the time are talking in French to each other so I have no idea what they are talking about! However they are a lovely bunch and we have started to get to know each other over the last 5 days of hiking.

We drove all day to get to Arughat and from Gorkha the road was a dirt 4WD track. Luckily our 4WD bus had good clearance and we had a good driver because at times we came very close to the cliff edge. It was always hard when a truck turned up coming in the other direction as we had to reverse and try get off the side of the road. I slept most of the way however and avoided all the action! It was really hot when we got to our camp site in Arughat as it is pretty low in altitude, about 600m. We set up tents and played with the local kids while the staff sorted the loads for the mules.

Chantelle playing with the kids at Arughat.

The next morning we got up and packed everything as the mule drivers loaded a bunch of our stuff. The rest we put on another bus and hopped in to drive through the river and up to the village. From the police check post we began walking and we began sweating. I didn’t bring any shorts on the trip as I thought I wouldn’t need them so hiked the whole 5 days in the same pair of trekking pants. Grose! I only had 2 lightweight t-shirts with no chance to wash and dry them. The first few days we were at low altitudes and only slowly starting to go up. It was hot, dirty and the locals didn’t seem very friendly. All the kids asked us for pens, chocolate or balloons. Chantelle (Francis’s wife) had lots of pencils to give away but didn’t give them to the beggars just the nice kids that didn’t ask for anything. It was sad to see that the parents of a lot of the kids didn’t seem to look after them or wash them. Some were so dirty there faces were black and I cant understand why they don’t want to keep them clean as they all had access to lots of water and washed their clothes in soap. There was lots of crops around and plenty of food but hygiene seemed a huge issue. One very dirty man asked me for medicine as he was vomiting and had the shits. What can you say?! How will he ever get better living with animals, not boiling water or washing hands…

The hike started down in the lowlands and was very hot.

Waiting for the mules to cross the bridge before Philim.

We followed the Buddi Gundagi river and had to cross it many times over suspension bridges. The longest one was before our third stop, the town Philim. It must have been around  150m long and all the mules had to cross it too. I waited until most of them got to the other side before I walked across!

We had 16 mules, 3 porters, 3 cooking staff and one head cook. Marc and Francis also have one climbing Sherpa Tendi. Last night we said goodbye to 2 porters. Chantelle and Hugo are heading off to finish the circuit in a couple of days time with one trekking guide and one porter. Then it will just be Galu the cook, Dawa the cooks assistant, Tendi, Dawa, Francis, Marc and I left to go to base camp.

An old bridge crossing the river in the rainforest.

Not all the bridges have been upgraded to metal ones yet and the old wooden ones are pretty scary. Once we started to get over 2000m the landscape changed and became more rain forest. We hiked most of one day in the rain and couldn’t see any mountains. The next daythe weather cleared and we slowly got up higher and began to get views of snowy summits. Didn’t see much wildlife apart from a few monkeys. There are goats, sheep and cattle everywhere. Its hard to think how anything else would survive to be honest. People have also cut down so many trees its crazy. We did hike through some amazing forest though with huge pine and cedar trees but who knows how much longer they will be there. I know this sounds pretty negative but environmental conservation is not really part of the culture here. People are just trying to survive I guess and their living is based around building from local timber, planting crops and owning cattle. Its very different from the Khumbu where people have made money from the business brought to the region from trekkers. There aren’t as many lodges here at all and not as many foreign people hiking around. Which is nice of course but until we got to the Buddhist towns people didn’t seem to happy to see western hikers and weren’t very friendly!

The Buddhist monastery overlooks the town of Lho. Manaslu can just be seen in the background on the left.

The last two days of our hike have been spectacular and the view has just got better and better. The towns also seem cleaner and there is less rubbish around on the trail. There are lots of mules carrying loads up to Sama Goan but not as many as there are yaks going to Everest base camp. They walk pretty fast too so you never really get stuck behind them. As we left the river and hiked towards Lho the trail got much steeper as we gained altitude. There were forests of rhododendrons then small Buddhist villages among them.  Chortens mark the start and end of each village and you have to walk through them like a gateway.

Chortens mark the start and end of villages.

I arrived at 5:30pm last night after hiking since 7:30am to Sama Goan which is at 3400m. The mules dropped our loads then headed back to Arughat. It was very cloudy when we arrived so we had no idea of the view around us. The town is pretty big with around 600 people in it and there are lots of yaks here. Most people are originally from Tibet so the women wear Tibetan clothes. We set up camp outside of a lodge called Sama Goan Hotel run by Lakpa and Galsen Lama who are very friendly and their son Karma helps them run the place. The lodge was full of trekkers when we arrived so that’s why we put up tents. Its actually quieter in the tent anyway so I get a better sleep there. We were all pretty exhausted and sore so had an early night. All the other climbing expeditions had been waiting for a week in Sama Goan due to bad weather so we hadn’t actually missed much. Today most of the groups went up as it was a clear morning. When I got out of the tent I was very happy to see we were surrounded by snow capped mountains and we could just see the summit of Manaslu but it quickly got lost in cloud. We have to wait until the day after tomorrow until the porters can take our things as there is a group in front of us to go up tomorrow. So today was a well earned rest. Tomorrow we are going to the monastery in the morning to do a puja then Dawa and Tendi are heading up to base camp with the Quebec guys as Chantelle and Hugo are leaving the next day and Marc and Francis need to acclimatise to move up there. As I don’t need to acclimatise and have certainly done enough hiking to be fit I will probably just hang out here. Dawa and Tendi are going to make some places for our tents there.

The lodge at Sama Goan with Manaslu in the background.

So I imagine this is going to take about an hour to upload using the sat phone so I won’t be writing again until I have some news from on the mountain. There is a lot of snow up there now so not sure how fast we can establish camps so I guess I will write again in about a week.

Thanks everyone for your support and please if you haven’t already, it would be great if you could support my charity too.

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