Tuesday, 2 October 2012

An Explosive Day

Day 2
Jagat to Bagarchap
17 km
7.30 am - 4.30 pm

Hiking along the edge of the valley
We didn't feel the need to be up so early on day 2, so we arrived at breakfast by 7am and enjoyed a huge bowl of muesli with apple and banana before putting on our backpacks and, feeling the instant pain of sore shoulders and tailbones, headed off.   Our guidebook said it was only one hour to the next town of Chamche, but we chose to take the 'old scenic route' which, true to it's namesake,  was in fact quite scenic but it should've more accurately been named the 'old steep as hell scenic route'. 

After 1.5 hours we descended into Chamche which turned out not be much of a town so we decided to press onto Tal for our morning coffee. As we walked through the valley on a constant uphill incline, two army officers passed us and told us to hurry up as they were about to begin blasting for the new road on the other side of the valley.  Despite giving some motivation to our tiring legs, it still took us another 45 minutes to reach the safe zone.  The last 15 minutes were literally up the edge of the mountain and very hard work, although having an army officer blowing a whistle at us and signaling us to run kept us both moving as fast as we could go! 

The growing dust cloud after the explosion
The safe area was conveniently located at a small shop on the side of the mountain and other hikers who were already there had made the most of having to stop and were tucking into lunch. We decided it was too early to eat so we just rested while we waited for the explosion to happen. The first small blast was fairly unimpressive, but that was just the warning blast.  The second explosion was more than massive -  it shook the mountain.  Debris flew everywhere and one boulder, easily the size of a large truck tyre, flew over to the other side of the mountain where we'd just been hiking minutes before. 

What followed was a massive dust cloud, and for a second we all watched in awe as it advanced up the valley and then almost at the same time everyone realised it was coming straight for us and we all dove behind large rocks as we tried to cover our eyes, nose and mouths. It was like the scene from 'The Mummy' where the enormous sand cloud overtakes them, we were completely engulfed. It took a couple of minutes for the air to clear enough for everyone to breath normally and we all dusted ourselves off, spat out some dirt and continued on the trek.
Sherpa carrying a heavy load of steel pipes

We continued our uphill route and hiked over the crest before descending into the town of Tal which is very picturesque and perched next to a milky river in the valley. We arrived at 12pm instead of 10.30am as planned thanks to detour and the delays so we decided lunch was a good idea and eagerly dug into another serving of dhal and rice, washing it all down with a masala tea.

We didn't linger over lunch, even though we would have liked to soak up the ambiance of the small town some more, but we had to get moving since there was a fierce wind blowing and storm clouds were beginning to build on the horizon.  We refilled our water at the refill station and continued along the path through the valley.  We kept frog-jumping some sherpas carrying crazy loads of heavy-duty steel rods and massive piping (their technique is to walk very fast for a short period of time and then rest their load).  We tended to overtake them while they rested and then we'd have to jump out of the way when the hurried past.  It made us thankful that we only had our backpacks!
Stupa in Bagarchap

It was a nice walk to Karte and we only had a quick stop to eat some dates before continuing onto Dharapani where we were stopping for the night.  We registered with another check point of ACAP and then we decided that the town didn't look too nice so we continued on going a further half hour to Bagarchap.  This turned out to be an excellent decision as in Bagarchap we found a place all to ourselves that had idyllic views up the valley, a lovely host and a proper hot shower (probably since no one else was there to use up all the hot water...)

Since food takes a long time to prepare, we ordered our dinner and then explored the one horse town for a while before returning to a delicious meal of vegetable curry and fried noodles. Something we'd figured out to do right at the beginning of the trek was to order breakfast the night before and tell the hostess what time you'd like to eat and that saved a lot of wasted time in the morning waiting for breakfast to be prepared and the owners liked it as well as the knew what food they would need for the morning.

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