There is literally no place flat in the Himalayas, and today’s march from the jJiri to Bhandar proved the point. I climbed over two passes, through three villages, crossed one large river, and passed countless homes destroyed by the 2015 earthquake. My guide said it would take 6 hours, now I know to add 25% to his estimate as the old man factor. We left at 7:30 am, and arrived at Bhandar at 4:30. That included a 45 minute lunch stop at a small, dark lodge perched next to the trail.
The hike passed through pleasant pine forests, interspersed with small family plots growing wheat, rice and potatoes. All of the plots we terraced on the steep slopes. Most of the plots were only a 2-3 meters wide, with a drop of a meter or more down to the next terrace. My mind boggled at the though of how much labor this took, not to mention the DIY irrigation engineering.
This region felt the brunt of the 2015 earthquake. Many (most) of the homes are made of stone and became piles of rubble. Now construction is rampant. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the government, inundated with foreign aid, went on a road building spree. Only a few years ago, getting to Bhandar involved exactly what I did today. Now two new roads service this town. These are only roads in the sense that one can navigate them by truck or 4×4. They have been scraped into the hillsides, switch-backing up and over passes and down steep drops. My foot trail crossed one of these roads multiple times on the way up and over the day’s second pass. Ankle-deep dust on these roads meant I wore a silky tan coat by the time I arrived at Bhandar.
Many of the lodges have not yet been repaired in Bhandar, the one Is am staying in, Shoba Lodge, was built recently – out of wood instead of stone. I had a nice proud moment when I arrived at the lodge when the other trekkers staying here said they took 2 days to get here to my 1. I did a few imaginary fist pumps. Fortunately, the lodge had a gas hot water heater hooked up to a shower head, so I got the dust off me. Now I’m awaiting for my ration of dal bhat to arrive. I’m thinking I will sleep well tonight.