Updated: Aug 18
Five of us arrived 4 days early. Thanks to Sid Lama, we stayed at Hotel Siddhi Manakamana about a five-minute walk from Boudhanath. Boudhanath is my favorite place in Kathmandu. Eric Weiner, a writer for the New York Times writes that it is the thinnest place in the world. The place where heaven and earth come closest together. Here is a video about spiritual places in the world, including Boudhanath.
Our hotel had a beautiful garden and our rooms were clean and quiet. It was Darshan (the festival of lights) when we arrived. We enjoyed all the dancing and music around Boudhanath.
One of the girls, Uma, I knew from the Mountain Children’s Home met us for dinner one night. It was a treat to see her and learn that she was still in school and living in a hostel. After returning to the States Uma reached out to ask for help buying a computer because she decided to attend school to become a social worker. Barry and Audrey Suskind stepped up to buy one for her.
Sid Lama took group members for an acclimatization hike and a tour of Bhaktapur. Due to its well-preserved medieval nature, UNESCO inscribed Bhaktapur as a World Heritage Site in 1979. Here is a link to the
pictures taken that day.
The next day, Buddhi and other Geo Trek staff picked us up and transported us to Kathmandu Guest House.
The TOYL Trek to Tsum Valley Nepal was the most challenging most remote trek to date. We trekked in Gorka which was the epicenter of the earthquakes in 2015. Tsum Valley is habituated by Tibetan refugees. It is located in Manaslu and has a lot to offer to trekkers, from the beautiful scenery of the majestic Himalayan ranges and high-altitude glacier lakes to rich biological and cultural diversity.
Ecologically The Manaslu
Conservation Project Area has a diverse range of habitats that boasts many rare flora and fauna such as Snow leopard, Lynx, Musk deer, Red fox, Jackal, Brown bear and their prey species such as Blue sheep, Himalayan tahr, Himalayan serow, wooly hare, and Himalayan marmot.
It is also home to a variety of birds like Snow partridge, Tibetan snow cock, Chukor partridge, Himalayan griffon, and Golden Eagles, among others, including diverse plant communities. Manaslu was declared a “Conservation Area” in December 1998 by the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation under the National Parks and 1 Wildlife Conservation Act of Nepal. It covers an area of 1663 sq. km. The region harbors a mosaic of habitats for 33 species of mammals, 110 species of birds, 11 species of butterflies, and 3 species of reptiles. There are approximately 2,000 species of plants, 11 types of forests, and over 50 species of useful plants. The bio-climatic zones vary from sub-tropical to Nival. The altitude rises from a mere 600m. to the summit of Mt. Manaslu (8,163m), the eighth-highest peak in the world. The vegetation of the area can be divided into three main categories, based mainly on altitude, low hill, middle mountain, and high mountain types. Each category has its own types of dominant forests and other associated species.
The types of vegetation, however, tend to overlap the adjoining ones at places, especially in relation to aspect and micro-climate. While the forest types are quite distinct, the underlying as well as adjoining flora in different forest types does not vary so sharply. This is especially true in cases of many NTFPs including medicinal herbs and romantic plants. The presence of 19 types of forests and other forms of dominant vegetation have been recorded from the area. The trek started from Gorkha, home of the legendary Gorkha soldiers, and followed the meandering Budhi Gandaki River or the Darundi River before reaching Larke Pass (5,106 m.) and crossing over into the Manang district of Annapurna Conservation Area Project.
The group of ten, most of whom had never trekked before, had a wonderful sense of humor, never complained, and maintained cheerful positive attitudes. To my great surprise, most of them would like to join the 2024 trek in Annapurna.
The Geo Trek staff worked almost around the clock to ensure our safety and comfort. We crossed several landslides, walked under, and saw countless waterfalls, mani walls, temples, monkeys, water buffalos, and birds, and had spectacular views of the mountains. What surprised me was we could see the mountains most of the time. The clouds didn’t cover them like they have on other treks.
Our goal was Dharmasala to Bhimtang 3,500m via Larkya pass 5,160m (8\9Hrs) Overnight Camp. On this day, there was a short climb to reach a valley on the north side of Larkya Glacier with exquisite views of Larkya Peak. Some group members ascended the moraines of a glacier which becomes quite steep at the end before reaching the pass. From there they saw and enjoyed the breathtaking views of Himlung, Cheo, Kanggru, and the Annapurna. It was a longer walk than other days and group members reached the guesthouse among the low pastures at the dim lights of dusk. The exquisite view of Mount Manaslu made every step worth it.
Five of us were exhausted and stayed in a rustic hotel to rest and shower before trekking to the pass. We enjoyed meeting other trekkers from all over the world as well as local people. An assistant guide/cook stayed with us to make sure we were given boiled water and food prepared by Ram, our cook.
Susan Shafer opted to continue to climb with Buddhi, our lead guide the day other group members started down to meet us. Susan was exhilarated and said,” We were in the garden of mountains.” She and Buddhi had no problem catching up to the rest of us.
Buddhi arranged a puja for us one morning in a nunnery near where we camped. A couple of us were so deeply touched we just cried. Luckily, Debra Chang took this video.
At the time, I didn’t know why I needed more support than usual. I felt very weak and exhausted. Buddhi walked with me. Through the years, we’ve become good friends. We walked slowly and rested frequently. One highlight was the five golden eagles that flew parallel to us as we walked.
While we trekked, I realized that I needed to be helicoptered out. All group members were tired and needed all of the guides to help them back across the landslides.
Buddhi worked with Niru (the owner of Geo Trek) to hire a helicopter for me. It arrived a couple of hours late, well after the group had left. Ram, our cook for most of our treks, made sure he said goodbye to me before he left. Buddhi waited with me. When the helicopter landed I was whisked on board. There was a Nepalese family already on board. It was an uneventful, breathtaking trip to the airport in Kathmandu. I was met and taken to Sacon International Hospital in an ambulance.
After being in the emergency room, I was moved to my own room for two nights. The care was excellent. I was seen by a cardiologist and other doctors. Every day they took my urine and blood. To my surprise, Angel our site-seeing guide and the driver visited me and gave me apples. Niru also visited. Their kindness was palpable.
Niru made arrangements to pick me up and drive me to the bus going to pick up the group members in time for the celebratory dinner. Niru sent a young man with me to make sure I was safe. The trip took most of the day. I enjoyed the common practice for buses with empty seats to give locals rides along the way.
We arrived in time for a lively festive evening. During our conversation, I learned that the group had stopped to visit a school Japanese climbers had financed.
POST TREK EXTENSION
After our celebratory dinner in Kathmandu, several group members left to fly back to the States. The rest of us continued to Shiva Puri Cottages in the foothills surrounding Kathmandu. https://shivapuricottage.com/
Arjune, the driver picked us up at Kathmandu Guest House. After a warm welcome, we settled into our rooms. I’ve known the owners and staff for about 15 years. It was wonderful to see them again after COVID.
The first day we visited the Children’s Home. The children performed dances and played musical instruments for us. Many of the children I’ve known have aged out and found jobs or are in school. Some of the older boys are still there and the parents, Ramesh and Gita. After they performed, Susan, a dance therapist, led them in a dance program.
The next day we visited the school. The staff members and children welcomed us. For me, it was heartening to see the progress in programming and a new preschool building. The principal Dorje will use the financial donation to supplement teacher’s salaries. I asked if we could meet with the mother’s group. Within a few minutes, all of them arrived.
The Mother’s group has started to perform dances in the hotels that have sprung up around the school. After I was back in the States, they reached out to me for a donation to buy a sound system. Fortunately, I had enough donation money to help them buy one. I’m looking forward to receiving the photos!
During our time at Shiva Puri Heights Cottages, we enjoyed wonderful meals, socializing with other guests, and optional hiking.
After everyone left for the States, Maya Trekking rented a room to me in their home. I’ve known the family for about 10 years. Sid Lama made sure I was comfortable and made breakfast for me every morning. Their caretaker/guide made dinner for me every night from vegetables in their garden. Their hospitality was gracious and deeply appreciated.
After breakfast, I sat in the garden and worked on my book, a how-to memoir I’ve been working on for more than 10 years. Then I walked to Boudhananth to have lunch, walk around the Stupa, and some days have a massage.
Some afternoons, I met with Indira, (Change Action Nepal Ajay, (teacher), and Sushila (psychologist with Shakti Samuha) to give them financial donations and computers. Thanks to Barry Suskind I had 6 laptops to donate.
It was heartening for me that this trek, the tenth year, was so successful after our years of COVID. I’m grateful to the Geo Trek staff and Sid Lama and his family that no one got hurt or sick.