Fly to: Kathmandu, Nepal
Internal Transfer: 2 flights to Nepalgunj 1hr & Simikot 50mins
Visa required: Yes if British plus a remote access trek permit
Time Zone:+5hrs45mins GMT
Day 4, 13/06/10: Humla & Limi Valley
Up at 4:30am for our morning 50min flight to Simikot. The scenery whilst in the air was stunning, from leaving the terai the landscape resembled a flat tapestry, a giant beige patchwork where the fields below appeared stitched by hand. It wasn't long before the surroundings took on a more dramatic appearance, as the plane flew over forested ridgelines and deep gulleys we could see remote communities sporadically positioned amongst this great expanse. At the time I wondered on how access was made to such places, if in fact it is or whether the inhabitants merely stay put, in a self-sustaining manner.
The landing was a little precarious and a little bit bumpy, in fact it felt like the pilot had very little control once the wheels touched down. With a reactive swerve and the odd jolt the plane soon came to a timely halt, much to the relief of everyone on board; strangely it was at this point that I realised I'd held my breath for the duration of the landing.
The scenery around Simikot is glorious, mighty gorges with huge forested ridgelines. Since leaving Lake Gosainkunda all those years ago this is the first time I truly feel like I've returned to the great Himalaya. Here, curiously the houses, crafted from stone are similar in design to those found in the Tamang region of Langtang.
By simply walking away from the landing strip I could feel the altitude difference, my head felt light and my movement slow - not sure how high we are here but i really hope my body adapts, after all it won't be too long before we're much higher, in much more remote locations.
It was nice to chill out on arrival in Simikot & Chhewang's Mother had walked from the neighbouring village of Bargaun. Curiously, it would seem that the whole of this region are related & here everyone is so welcoming and friendly. It's quite a surreal experience because everyone keeps stopping to chat, to show us different parts of the village, to show off the new developments that have occurred since Chhewang's last visit.
Dinner was spent with Chhewang's family. At the door we were welcomed with a white silk scarf, cups were adorned with three blobs of butter (butter being highly symbolic in Tibetan rituals) and in them was poured homemade 'chang'. It tasted really good, though i was careful not to over-indulge in any local delicacy. The drink is produced from fermented barley and if I'm honest it actually tasted a bit like a banana liquor.
Chhewang's Mother, a beautiful lady informed her son that she had not been well recently and that she was greatly struggling with back, shoulder & gastric problems - it was a deeply moving moment from a lovely lady with such sincerity in her eyes. For me it was an absolute joy to enter their home, eat their food and share in their company.
Whilst at the house our passports were taken to be stamped out of Nepal; quite a bizarre feeling as we're going to be trekking for a number of days before we even reach the Nepalese/Tibetan border...hmm so during that time, according to all records we won't actually exist?! The passports were stamped as leaving Nepal via Yari, when in actual fact the last town we visit is in the neighbouring valley, a village called Halji, hmmm details.
During the latter part of the day we walked to Simikot's edge, where the land disappeared in a sheer & vertical drop, the gorge was massive and far below the limey, turquoise waters of the Karnali could been seen. Here as far as the eye could see the hillsides were covered with wild marijuana, we walked through traditional streets where we were met by other family members offering more food and more chang!
An elderly Tibetan/Nepalese guy patted the area next to him and beckoned me over; to begin with he simply pointed at me, giggled and then pointed at me again. I'm sure in the UK this would have received a somewhat different reaction but it was actually quite pleasant, he started chattering away in his own dialect and then I returned the gesture - ha both parties content to have been listened to, neither party at all heard!