Dunche (2200m) to Sing Gompa (3300m):
(Written by Steph)
We got to the guest house of a couple of Nepalese guys we had met on the bus at 6.45am. They were scientists called Mokti and Santosh, heading up the mountain as far as Laurebina to analyse the plant life for their PHD. It was evident that the negotiations with their porter had not yet been concluded, and when we saw the bag they wanted him to carry, I thought maybe this was the reason – it was a bag of epic proportions, and by the way it was lifted, it seemed to have a weight to match! We were told by Mokti that it had scientific equipment inside. When pressed further, this apparently amounted to a measuring tape and a camera. Something had to have been lost in translation!
Anyway, having set off on our trek adorned in fleeces and jackets, it soon became apparent that we weren’t going to need them for this first part of the trek. Mokti laughed as he told us of a woman he had been with on this same hike once before, and how after only one hour, the exertion and the sweat had brought her to tears. There may have been some part of me that was that girl; although pride kept me going strong, inside I was my former 5 year old, stamping my feet and saying “I don’t wanna!”
Six tough hours later, we had ascended almost all of the 1000m from Dunche, up impressive stone steps and through some forest, though there was still not much of a view to distract from the hard slog. Our noses, however, did teach us one important fact about the flora of the forest. Weed – there was loads of it growing freely, a bit like that scene in “The Beach,” but with less people yielding guns. This made sense, as about every second person in the centre of Kathmandu had tried to sell it to us. Either we looked like easy targets, or it was in massive supply.
The forest was also full of bamboo. Though we failed to spot living red panda, which apparently reside there, we were even more excited (and relieved!) when we finally reached Sing Gompa, and our own “Red Panda” guest house. It actually looked pretty nice from the outside, and we were doubly impressed to find they had Western toilets, and that much coveted hot water! Since Nick had taken “packing light” to the extremes, and not wanting to seem like I couldn’t slum it with the best of them, I had agreed to leave my deodorant behind in Kathmandu, along with the majority of my clean clothes and a towel. This was the first of several packing mistakes, and one that would lead us to get to know each other better than we ever really needed, or wanted.