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On the edge: trekking in the monsoon

View Kathmandu to Kuala Lumpur 2011 on Chris Parsons's travel map.

Blog entry: by Jen Parsons

Our trek in Nepal has already revealed a landscape of extremes. For the first time on a trip to Nepal we began trekking in the monsoon season. This started with a bus trip that succumbed to the wrong sort of mud as a result of monsoon rainfall (see previous blog - a tale of 2 buses)!

On day two, we discovered the true meaning of the monsoon as we ascended the Budi Gandaki valley. Water was pouring off the tops of the mountains in free-fall for 100s of metres - straight off the vertical cliff walls. In sunshine this created a magical sight with some of the biggest waterfalls I've ever seen, and complete with the odd rainbow too (the National Trust would have a field day if this were the UK!). But then when the rain came - not with any purpose mind, just big spodges dropping casually out of the sky - the river swelled, boiling angrily down the valley.

I stopped numerous times just to watch the "rapids" (though there were no calm spots). These must have been at least a grade 10, i.e. instant death...and the noise from all of this was utterly deafening. I've never seen anything like it before in my life. The path we were taking was carved out of the vertical cliffs some 20 metres above the river. In Nepal, there are no health and safety warnings, or handrails for that matter. One false move or a lapse in concentration would have been extremely problematic!

Later in the day we were faced with another facet of the monsoon - river crossing. On our approach to Macchakhola we were given a choice of route: 1) the precipitous high route (which the locals were refusing to take) or 2) the low-level riverside walk. Given that the locals are prepared to walk in many places I am not, we chose the lower path! With one river crossing already under our belts, and our feet nicely back in our boots toasting after an unexpected wash, the lower path suddenly dropped down to the main river and disappeared. So it was off with the boots again, only this time we were wading. The advantage of being British quickly became clear, as our porters were in the river nearly up to their waists, while Chris barely got his knees wet! I was in over my knees, but just opted for wet trousers as everything else was already soaked....This was just one of the small hazards encountered by the locals in everyday monsoon life, except in their case they were just making a trip to the shops rather than trekking (for fun!).

Nepali legs aren't long enough for river crossings!

Nepali legs aren't long enough for river crossings!

Our third and fourth days of trekking showed us another more serious side to the monsoon. We lunched at a little village called Dobhan, and as we were sitting down out of the blazing sunshine, our guide, Ram, informed us that there had been a big landslide further up the path on our intended route, and that the locals were "sitting it out". As we ate our lunch we watched for signs of activity coming over the bridge from the direction of the landslide. Our "plan" was to go up the path in the afternoon and 'have a look at it', to see if it was crossable. Our destination that evening was Jagat, some three hours the otherside. Eventually, some local porters came through the village, having safely made it across, though they reported the landslide to be very dangerous and apparently still moving! This did not improve the digestion of lunch. With some nervousness we advanced towards the landslide area. Before we even reached the main landslide, we could see where large boulders had ripped through the trees, and smaller landslides - in an outward ripple effect - had occurred. When we got to the landslide itself, it looked crossable, so without hesitation we walked smartly across, over and under boulders and scree. We crossed about 100 metres of rubble, which fortuntely was not on the move, and remarkably already had a path of sorts across it (only in Nepal!). We reached the otherside safely to several high-fives, and a slowing heartrate....

Jen and Ram crossing the landslide after Dobhan

Jen and Ram crossing the landslide after Dobhan

Later in Jagat, after dinner, the heavens opened, with some serious rainfall. So serious, we had to abandon the tent as the campsite was flooding, and sleep in the campsite owners' kitchen / dining area. As we sipped our tea, we could hear the rumble and roar of more landslides up and down the valley. The following morning we rounded the next twist of the valley to come face to face with a giant mudslide. We figured that this is what we had heard the previous evening. The mudslide had wiped out the small village of Salleri. Fortuntely there were no locals resident at the time, as they were away for the festival in Kathmandu. Enormous boulders (the size of houses) had been lifted up and deposited at the riverside. We gingerly picked and slid our way through the mud, avoiding the route of our porters who were up to their knees. This was a far more fragile situation than the previous landslide, and brought home the precariousness of life in the mountains. For the locals, rebuilding a path, a road or a village is one of the facts of life each year in this region.

The mudslide that wiped out Salleri

The mudslide that wiped out Salleri

That night as the rain battered our leaky tent, I was kept awake by sobering thoughts of where the next landslide would fall.

Posted by Chris Parsons 22:51 Archived in Nepal Tagged trekking monsoon

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My goodness guys, you take care ... I hope Mummy Parsons and Mummy Gameson arn't reading this! Travels safe xx.

by Shona

we took the dog for a walk today and it started raining so we had to take refuge under a tree.

love you

by tom parsons

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