On one of the days that we had off, I was lucky enough to go trekking around Lamjung with Om. In order to see the best views, we left early in the morning. The plan was to leave at 5:30 but we actually ended up leaving at about 6:00, as the important task of making tea and rice to bring with us took a little bit of time.
With our refreshments stowed, we took to the stone stairs up the mountain. Up and up we hoofed at a pretty decent pace to make up for lost time. I did my best to concentrate on breathing so that it would seem like I was in better shape! We cut up stone stairs and steep dirt paths straight up the mountain, occasionally crossing over the ‘road’ switchbacks (it would have been considered an atv trail back home). These few steps of levelness were welcome mini-breaks on the grueling climb.
We came to what was clearly a rest spot: stone benches and a lovely view. The sky was brightening in shades of pink and violet. I was happy to rest! Om informed me that I was a good walker – apparently we had reached that spot in half the time it takes some of his guests. We continued on shortly after, before my sweat had a chance to dry. Om wasn’t sweating at all, despite wearing a jacket.
Up and up we continued. The vegetation slowly morphed from forested to more alpine and shrubby. We came upon some rhododendron, which I was excited about after seeing so many blooms but no plants. We cut onto the road and walked for a while, a nice break. Around 8:00 we came around a bend and, BAM there were the mountains! Two peaks popped up in the distance, one with snow blowing off of its craggy summit.
We headed up a little farther to a nice spot to sit by a big stack of firewood. In the summer, shepards bring the sheep up here to graze. As there isn’t much for trees, all of this firewood was carried from lower elevations. Om grabbed some big leaves for us to sit on and broke out our tea and rice snack. It was so good! I can’t think of a more pleasant spot to drink tea and eat tasty rice. The moss was white with frost, so I pulled out my puffy while we enjoyed the view.
We headed on and came upon a picnic area that was shared by the villages: a wide field covered with moss and grass and tiny alpine flowers, and a stone shelter in case of rain. The views from this spot were very nice. The peaks were on one side and the other was a panorama of the valley. Every direction one looked was breathtaking.
Om took a look at some lumber that was for sale (I imagine it was a lot of work to carry to the top of the mountain, all of the pieces were squared off whole trees, about 8ft long, pretty huge). Then we headed down steep paths and stairs toward the neighboring village. Down and down we went, coming upon this villages ‘playground’ (soccer field) and finally to the village itself. The musical toots of the Kathmandu bus that was leaving to begin its 13 hour journey could be heard every couple of minutes, and music drifted up from a program that was being out on for the youth of the surrounding area. Om told me that when he was younger, he liked to go to these functions, as they are mixers of young people from the area to make friends (and sometimes meet their future spouses). They had created a pretty epic swing for the event that was like a small wooden ferris wheel turned by the young people. Some of the youth were in traditional Gurung dress.
As we came into the village, we ran into groups of jolly youths. Tourists aren’t common here, so I got lots of stares and was asked to be in many a selfie! I felt bashfully famous, but it was just because I’m huge and white. We wound our way through the narrow streets past colorful houses and shops. A shout came from one, and before I knew it I was having tea inside with one of Om’s friends and his family. This was the first of many invites of tea for the day!
After this visit, we continued down through the village. I was told that this village was Susheila’s home, one of the teachers at the school who I really enjoyed. Om wasn’t sure exactly which home was hers, but as we walked we heard another shout from a small hill nearby. There she was, waving a broom at us.
We went over to say hello. She and another woman were cleaning up a small temple. As she is Hindu, today she was fasting for the holiday. She looked so different than she did at school, her hair falling in loose curls instead of a tight bun and out of the school teacher uniform. She invited us to her home, which was a cottage surrounded by flowers that enticed diverse butterflies. There she cooked us dalbaht (even though she didn’t eat any of it). While it cooked, she twisted up rope from some straw. The dalbaht was tasty and the rope looked strong – she is a woman of many talents!
After a nice visit with her and her family (mostly me sitting watching the butterflies as they talked in Gurung) we again headed on our way. We walked until we came to another village, which I learned was actually Bhomechowk (just a different part of it) where we visited with more of Om’s friends and saw the health post.
Then, we backtracked toward the river we had seen from the picnic area. We ended up cutting cross country, jumping down terraces, walking through shaded valleys with waterfalls and over ridges. Finally we made our descent to the river, which separates Lamjung from Gorka. Ahead we saw a man with a gun and a dog. We cautiously approached until Om was sure he saw us – he was a monkey hunter employed by the village to help protect the crops. It didn’t appear as though he had gotten any monkeys today.
At the river now Om looked at all of the sand piles – he wanted to find some for the construction of the school as well as for the house he plans to build next year. It is hard to get sand in Bhomechowk, as it is a long way from any rivers! He wasn’t happy with any of the sand that we saw. He tested pinches of it from one pile and another – I’m not sure what he was looking for. It was incredibly sparkly, mica-rich and beautiful. The water rushed around huge boulders. I can only imagine the force of water necessary to carry them there from high up in the mountains where they began!
We headed upstream, rock hopping on the gray and black boulders. Ahead we saw two fishermen wading in the icy water with nets and spears. They hadn’t caught anything, so no fish for us for dinner.
We cut up into the forest, but after finding the trail had been washed out in a landslide, bushwhacked our way back down to the river to rock hop until we could pick up a trail again. It was quite the adventure, and oh, so fun!
Ahead we saw a suspension bridge. Naturally, I had to cross it, so I could say I had been to Gorka too. It was made of steel, but still had a bit of a bounce and swing to it as we walked across. Beneath us, the river rushed, clearly visible through the metal grid that made up the walking surface. We got some funny looks from some locals from walking across and back again, but I get those anyways, even if I’m doing normal things!
Back in Lamjung, we ran into some more of Om’s friends who were sitting outside a cafe playing cards…and then some more when we left them to head up the hill. Om has a lot of friends, turns out, and it is customary to take some time to chat. I had lots of time to listen and watch.
We headed up the hill on the return journey, chatting with the occasional friend and goat herder along the way. We came back up into the village and ran into some of the folks we had talked with earlier. When they heard where we had been, they laughed and said I could ‘walk like a Nepali.’ I took this as a compliment. Walking like a Nepali is way cooler than an Egyptian.
In the village we spoke with a group of men (more friends), one of whom was a little tipsy from celebrating the holiday. The others were making fun of him, and it was all rather jolly (even though I don’t know what they were saying). Om then decided it was time for a snack, and we had a bowl of suped-up ramen to give us energy to make it the last hour or so home.
On the final stretch we ran into some youths who also might have been a little drunk from the festivities happening that day. They were loud and happy and heading our way, which was amusing. At the top of one of the many sets of stairs, they flopped down on the grass for a rest while we continued. We were almost back when we passed by another teacher’s house and were beckoned in for some tea. More small talk, but her little daughters were having a wonderful time dancing to their favorite song, and I enjoyed watching them.
Finally we climbed the last few stairs home, hot and dusty and with tired legs, but so happy. I felt like now I had really seen Lamjung, from the people to the mountain to the river, and so much in between.