Today we left Bimthang – setting the standard for other tea houses to follow. In prospect was 1,600m (c.5,000ft) of descent. Fresh snow on the mountain peaks provided a stunning setting as our path crossed a meadow – Sheila said it reminded her of the surroundings of Lake O'Hara, a favourite of my wife and me from a visit some years ago. A rock chute displayed amazing colours of orange-pink, what turned out to be a form of lichen. We scrambled over the lateral moraine and down to the glacial river, turquoise with the rock flour. Then we traversed over the other lateral moraine, as the sun turned the autumn colours of the shrubs into brilliant hues.
We continued down through ancient pine forest, adorned with lichens glistening in the bright sunshine and silhouetting the snow covered peaks to our left. Birdsong and the sound of the river Marsyangdi Khola filled our ears. The path continued down, down and down, with occasional relief as we crossed glades in the forest as we skirted the river on sandy banks. Rock falls were a frequent obstacle.
On and on we went, eventually reaching Gho (Gowa) for our lunch stop in what could have been a lodge in the Alps. The usual black tea was followed by spaghetti, fried potatoes and cole slaw, all prepared by Pingma with his customary smile. By this time we were waiting for Chris who had found coming down after yesterday's crossing of the Larke La pass particularly demanding. Martin waited with one of the porters, while the others carried on towards Dharapani. An hour or so later Chris appeared accompanied by two of the Sherpas, having lunched at a preceding tea house.
So, at 3pm, our little band set off down the trail towards Tilche, the next village about an hour and a half away. A phone call with Pasang (our Peak Promotions Trek Leader) left us with the choice to continue on to Dharapani, in the knowledge that we would be arriving in the dark. We decided to press on, on what turned out to be a jeep track, blocked by several landslides and rockfalls. It was a strange sensation judging our footing as the light began to fade. We could see Dahrapani far below. Just as we were putting on our head torches, three welcome lights appeared - our support Sherpas had come back up the trail to help us on the final descent. Another 20 minutes and two river bridge crossings found us in Dharapani and the end to an epic day's adventure. It was now 6:15pm, approximately ten hours since we had left Bimthang and two hours after the rest of our Team had arrived.
Talking of our Team, it is now twelve days since we left Kathmandu and we're starting to get to know each other. So, now it's time for some introductions:
Chris "Brains" of anything moderately unlawful and master of the trekking pole
Dave, can't do it fast enough and food demolition expert
Homoeopathic Diane, keeps banging her head on the door, perhaps because she's been reading her MSG chart
Tripod Kobus, our South African - Canadian MD (GP) and sun exposure adviser
Joel, professeur extraordinaire de l'economie de l'environement and clandestine Khazak representative
Mark, trip leader and master of fine instrumentation
Martin, TPO (The Platinum One), l'Aventuro and 'Woody' in disguise
Amazing mountain biker, Ray, with the lightweight headtorch
Focused Rich, master of the F stop
Awesome Sheila of the frozen bra (yes, you did read that correctly!)
After another long day, we were all ready for our evening meal, variously consisting of garlic, pumpkin, chicken and noodle soups; pizza, spicy vegetable momos (like mini-Cornish pasties), curries and rice, and spaghetti with tomato sauce and cheese; and apple fritters.
Mark convened a team meeting to discuss arrangements for the onward trek to close off another memorable day.