Thursday, September 29, 2011


So we had arrived in Ghunsa, somewhat shaken and nerves a little frayed. As we inspected the school and health post buildings (which had come through ok) we heard and saw across the valley another massive rock fall above the Foley to Ghunsa track. Hurtling boulders, trees snapped like matchsticks, ringing silence. Ghunsa largely avoided too much earthquake damage, some non structural stone walls fell down as did a couple of wooden houses that strayed from the time honoured rectangular design.

Ghunsa with waterfalls behind

Minor damage to the health post - but building badly shaken up

Fresh slip and rockfall in progress!
In Ghunsa there was finally a working phone, though only for several hours a day (the problem with solar in the monsoon) and villagers from around the place were queueing to check on family in the wider district. We got a quick message through to the trekking agency which we hoped would be forwarded through our families to let them know we are ok. We debated whether the earthquake would have made the NZ news and decided that it was unlikely during the excitement of the Rugby World Cup.

Not sure what Penny was thinking aboutt
 Penny then proceeded to get stuck into teaching the healthcare worker Tenzin and midwife Lamu some new skills.Tenzin had previously learnt how to put casts on fractures and we managed to put this to the test with a little boy we found in a potato field with a suspected broken foot. His mother had fallen on him during the earthquake, the only quake casualty we found, although we were told there were at least 20 yak deaths up the valley.
Penny might write about the rest of her teaching sometime, but from what I gathered it was focused on the childbirth and early childhood areas. She found a willing audience as a village women had died of complications during the past year (this after the previous KSP team were assured this never happened ). The baby survived 6 months feed largely on chang.

Potato Field Medicine

Tenzin and family at the cooking fire
 While Penny was teaching GB and I amused ourselves with a couple of daytrips. The first was to Dudh Pokhari (a lake) east of Ghunsa. An easy trail (hang a left where the water race drops into the hydro scheme pipe) leads up valley following old lateral moraines  for about 3 hours to the lower of the lakes shown on the map. As it was misty the highlight was probably the tea stop in the Yak herders hut. Like many in the valley this family lived a simple life but were doing ok for themselves. They made cheese and yak butter to sell in Taplejung and had sufficent money to educate their children. Two of their sons were trainee monks down in Dharamsala. We found plenty of other people who had studied in Kathmandu or India.

Dudh Pokhari
 The second day trip was more ambitious, an attempt to shortcut west to the Nango La, the pass between Foley and Olangchungola. We left early and headed up to a lookout point decorated with prayer flags. It was a clearish morning and we could even see some parts of mountains (in these mists lie 7000 metre monsters). We kept on following our noses upwards past a couple of pretty lakes. At this stage I took my eye off the ball a little and climbed a small peak (5267) which only served to freak GB out and prevent further exploration of more likely routes. This chunk of mountain is definitely worth a look and is free of rockfall. The views on a clear day would be amazing, unfortunately for us they quickly deteriorated into thick mist. Other highlights though before I forget were the musk deer, blue sheep and various quail like birds, pretty cool to see some wildlife.

Himalayan Herbfields

Towards the end of our stay in Ghunsa we thought we would head up valley to possibly reach the north base camp for Kanchenjunga (the 3rd highest mountain in the world). Penny was able to come too as Tenzin was intending to be out of town for a couple of days. In the event we only got as far as Kambachen, half a day up valley, before we heard that a missing bridge was going to prevent us going much further. The trail to Kambachen was easy apart from a very nasty slip on the true right opposite the terminal moraine of the Jannu glacier. This slip which starts 1000 meters or so up comes down in three chutes, a triple barrelled shotgun. Kambachen itself has been devastated by the earthquake, of twenty dwellings there was only one I  would have slept in.

Sign pointing to broken bridge

Don't build your house in a yak field

 We stayed in Kambachen for an afternoon and morning hoping to get a glimpse of the "Wall of Shadows", the famous north face of Jannu which rises another few thousand metres up behind the bitter chilly mists of Kambachen. No luck there but our stay wasn't all bad, we had good company including the yak herders son back from study in Bangalore for the Desai festival and most surprisingly great food. The Dahl Baaht was embellished by yak curd (yoghurt) and a water cress like vegetable, yummy, while the milk tea was the hottest sweetest creamiest concoction you could imagine ... like it had just been churned by a practised yak herder in a small hut high in the Himalayas!

Making butter

Khe Sahn with Blue Sheep horns

GB eyes up the bad slip

 So that's about that, tune in next time for the return journey. Penny, GB and Jamie traverse the Mirgin La in sleet, have a clear day at Kanchenjunga South base camp and make it safely back to Taplejung (hopefully).


Rebecca Smith said...

Hey guys

Wow - you guys are having some amazing adventures. Glad to hear you are safe and well. (Yes we did hear about the earthquake here, but it certainly wasn't as news worthy as silly RWC). Am loving your postings Jamie and is making me want to do some real travelling. Looking forward to more of your stories, big hugs to you both Reb : )

Jamie said...

Hey Reb

Great to hear from you, hope all is well in Vegas.

We are pretty happy to be back in Kathmandu for a bit enjoying the luxuries like museli with yoghurt, masala tea and the like.

I trust you guys are keeping fit, say hi to Dazza, Race and Reach for us too.

Take care


puran said...

Very beautiful images of nepali peoples