Day 13: Landruk to Forest Camp
I slept deeply last night. It was quiet. I could have stayed in bed well past 7am, which is unusual for me these days, but we’ve a long way to go today and breakfast awaits.
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Up. Hill. So much uphill today. Step after step after step takes up upwards towards the tree-encrusted ridge line above us. We start off on the open ground above Landruk but soon enter the forest. We walk along rarely trodden dusty paths that zigzag up the hillside, over areas of newly laid stone steps and up earthen steps made with logs. What’s under our feet may change but the relentless march upwards does not.
Ben and I walk on together while Alex and Chloe bring up the rear. Ben and I play a “spot the way-marker” game while Alex and Chloe have discussions about resilience and mental toughness to keep her going at a good pace. They both do so well, it’s a huge change from yesterday. There’s no place to stop for food between Landruk and Forest Camp so we take a break and eat some Tibetan bread we brought long with us and then keep on moving. The forest is beautiful and we come across more stairs as well as some sections Bel describes as “Nepali Flat”. Ben doesn’t like Nepali Flat, it isn’t the same as Edinburgh Flat, he says.
Finally we reach the top of the ridge, and a few minutes later we arrive at Forest Camp. It is 12:10pm; we’ve climbed almost 900m in less than 4km and 3.5hrs. Chloe is very proud of herself and so she should be. She plans to etch an “achievement mark” into her walking stick later.
We spend the afternoon washing clothes and chatting with other trekkers while the kids play. Ben finds an old animal horn and spends hours playing with it and a hosepipe of running water. Ah, the simple pleasures in a child’s life.
We’re in the dining hall and a fire has been lit. The kids’ damp clothes hang on lines above the wood stove and Bel periodically checks on them and turns them over to dry evenly. It’s a simple thing, but completely unasked for and I find it so sweet that he thinks to do it. He really looks after us.
It’s toasty warm in here and my eyes are stinging from the smoke that escapes through cracks in the ageing barrel of the stove. We’ve met two ladies, Vicky & Ailsa; friends who are trekking together and going in our direction. The kids have taken to them with abandon and they seem taken with the kids as well. Ben teaches them the French Card Game, Chloe plays with them on their travel scrabble board. Much fun is had by all and the kids are thrilled to find out that tomorrow we’re all headed to Badal Banda, so we’ll be seeing each other again.
Hotel: Hotel Forest Camp
Cost: $4 for quadruple room with shared bathroom.
Additional info: $2 for hot shower. Nowhere to charge devices. No Wifi.
Day 14: Forest Camp – Badal Danda
It rained hard last night. I worry there will have been snow higher up, but we’ll have to just head out and see. Vicky and Ailsa have already headed onwards. If we are quick we may catch up with them for lunch at Low Camp, otherwise we’ll find them in Badal Danda.
We walk through a hauntingly beautiful landscape. Twisted trees reach down their gnarled fingers towards us. Moss rises up tree trunks and drapes from branches, surrounding us in green. Rusty orange leaves litter the earth beneath our feet. Mist rolls up the hillside and surrounds us, then fades away to distant fog. A lone bird calls in the forest, rain drips softly onto mossy ground.
A bell sounds nearby and I think there must be some ponies or buffalo grazing out of sight. The sound gets closer and out of the mists in front of me a large horned beast takes shape. It gets closer. It sees me. I stop dead. It stops dead. It’s a yak. I whisper-call to the kids who are behind me, I don’t want them to miss this. They catch up to me and we stand silently as the yak cautiously passes us by, then trundles on down the hill behind us. We wait and listen for more but no more yaks appear. A fleeting encounter with the only yak we’ve seen in Nepal so far.
Bel has been up ahead of us all day, and with the trees and the mist I’ve not seen much of him. I keep expecting to turn a corner and see Low Camp, but we’re not there yet. I feel like we’ve been walking forever. We are in such a beautiful place, and what with the pace the kids are going today I’m certainly getting plenty of time to enjoy it. Too much time. This morning feels endless, and not in a good way.
I catch up to Bel and he tells me that Low Camp is near. Just another 40 minutes ahead. Bel, our definitions of ‘near’ are not the same. The kids are complaining again today and going soooooo slowly. I guess we get a ratio of 1:1 with the good vs. the parentally trying days.
We join up with a donkey train carrying large rocks that men have cracked from the ground below. They walk ahead with sledgehammers slung over shoulders and they chat with Bel as we file into Low Camp, tired and hungry, behind them.
It’s taken us 3.5hrs to reach Low Camp and Badal Danda is another 1.5hrs ahead. We eat lunch and warm up around the stove. The mists have cooled the air and blocked the sunlight, chilling us as we walked. Alex entertains the kids with a card game while I warm my hands on a mug of hot tea and mentally regroup. I’m hangry and need food.
It’s not exactly any easier with the kids after lunch. Alex invents “Patience Points” and explains to them that he starts the day with a certain amount. If they want him to tell them stories (Ben constantly asked for “The Lego Star Wars story”) or play adventure games with them then he needs to have a certain amount of Patience Points to be able to do that. If they argue with each other or ignore us then he loses patience points. If they play well together and are helpful, his Patience Points will refill. At the moment, his Patience Points are dangerously low.
We’re walking along the ridge now, the hillside curving down on either side of us. The world feels so silent and still up here. We reach a viewpoint and the world is white.
It starts hailing on us. My waterproof jacket is deep in a bag, but luckily Bel has a few plastic sheets that he throws over us and I walk the final 5 minutes to Badal Danda with the sound of hail drumming on plastic. A strangely comforting sound that drowns out the world. When we arrive at the teahouse the kids head straight to the warm dining hall while I drop my bag off in our room. I arrive barely a minute after them but they’ve already ensconced themselves with Vicky & Ailsa who are enjoying an afternoon of tea and Scrabble.
It’s a lovely afternoon of chatting, drinking tea, reading, playing cards and eating. Alex and I decide that maybe the kids are just over the whole walking thing. There are good days, but we feel like it’s getting harder to get them moving without a lot of parental involvement. We get frustrated and I’m sure they feel that. They just keep stopping to play, pick up stuff. You know, be children. Which is fine, unless you are trying to get somewhere at more than a snail’s pace. We decide we’re not going to take them any further. We had planned to walk to High Camp tomorrow but instead Alex will go up there and back on his own, and I’ll stay here with the kids for a rest day. If we’re feeling motivated we can always wander up to the viewpoint five minutes away if the weather is clear. Which doesn’t seem likely judging by the view out of the window atm. Badal Danda in Nepalese does translate to Cloud Hill, after all.
Hotel: Lucky View Guest House & Restaurant
Cost: $2.50 for triple room with shared toilet.
Additional info: No Shower. Nowhere to charge devices. No Wifi.