Thursday, July 19, 2018

Phaplu to Namche Bazar | The Long Road to Everest

Early morning on the trail near Puiyan
Kathmandu to Salleri to Phaplu by road 18th June 2018

After spending two mornings at Kathmandu airport without any luck as heavy clouds hanging over Lukla made it impossible to land any aircraft there, I decided to take one of my guides Bir Bahadur Tamang and head to Phaplu by jeep and then make my way to Khumjung. I had already lost two days so I was running behind schedule. I needed to be in the Solu Khumbu to photograph the Dumji Festival of the sherpas.

Jeep ticket counter at Chahabil - you need a Nepali transalator here!
The jeep was supposed to leave Chahabil Chowk at 5-15 am but as expected we did not get away until 6 am. To further delay matters the driver was picking up passengers from different locations off the main road around Bhaktapur and Thimi and this delayed us further by another hour possibly. It was around 7-30 am or so that we left Bhaktapur and headed towards Banepa and then onto Dhulikhel. From Dhulikhel which is around 1550 metres the road dropped to the valley of the Sun Kosi river around 550 metres and followed the Sun Kosi for around three hours. Around 12 noon the jeep reached the village of Ghurmi and then crossed the river through the stream as a new bridge was under construction.

The driver stopped around 12-30 pm across the bridge for a dal Bhat lunch at Harkapur - from here Okhaldunga was a climb for 41 km. We left after lunch around 1-20 pm and started climbing out of the valley. We reached a high point of around 2150 metres and then descended to Okhaldunga around 1600 metres at 3 pm. From here Salleri was marked at 41 km - the road started climbing again and reached the viewpoint of Pattale 2900 metres where on a clear day a huge panorama of peaks are visible.
Peakfinder map of  mountains from Pattale - on a clear morning it should be a glorious view
There are several new lodges coming up at Pattale. Finally around 5 pm -11 hours after we started from Kathmandu we reached Salleri and in ten minutes we were up at Phaplu where we stopped for the night. Compared to my May 2013 journey when I descended from Phaplu to Kathmandu, I found the road much improved and black topped for about 90% of the way.  This could well develop into one of the important alternatives to Lukla given that a new road is being developed up the valley which will eventually come to Kharikhola - the long term plan is to take this road to Surkhe from Kathmandu in a day and a half.

Phaplu to Adheri by jeep and then to Puiyan 19th June 2018

 I decided to try the new jeep service from Phaplu to Adheri - near Jubing and avoid the long climb across Traksindo and down to Nuntala.
We left Phaplu at 6-50 am and proceeded in an easterly direction climbing steadily upto a pass 3000 metres in around 50 minutes. Both Numbur and Karyolung could be seen on the way and also from the pass. From the pass the road plunged down to around 2000 metres in about 45 minutes and then proceeded to skirt the hillside in an east south easterly direction. Finally around 10 -25 am it reach the final stop of Adheri 1560 metres which was not marked on any of the shops or buildings. We had a quick cup of tea and left for Jubing. The trail followed the broad jeep able road for around 15 minutes and then took a narrow trail on top of the road which eventually went down and crossed a suspension bridge over the Dudh Khola river. It then started to climb steeply through the forest for around an hour until it reached the top of the hill and the lodges of Jubing could be seen below. It is not necessary to go down to Jubing - the trail continues to skirt and climb the hill before making a last steep 45 minute climb to the top of Kharikhola.
Sign before entering Kharikhola
We walked down from the top and in around 15 minutes the excellent Namaste Guest House presents itself where we stopped for lunch.

Namaste Guest House Kharikhola
 Post lunch the trail descends through the large village of Kharikhola crosses a suspension bridge and then makes the steep climb for Bupsa. From Bupsa the trail continued to climb up the hill to Khari which is reached in 50 minutes from Bupsa. From Khari the climb continues further for another 45 minutes before the top of the hill and the prayer flags which signal the pass are seen. From here it is about an hour and 15 minutes to Puiyan which we reached at 7 20 pm after starting from Adheri at 10 40 am.  As per the Health app of the IPhone the distance covered was a phenomenal 27.5 km in 8.5 hours approx and 50,000 steps!

Phaplu to Adheri by jeep 3 hrs 30 min to 4 hours depending on stops - on the return due to the monsoon and landslides it took us 8 hours!
Andheri to the top of Jubing 1 hr 30 min Top of Jubing to Kharikhola 1 hr  20 min
Kharikhola to Bupsa 1 hr 15 min Bupsa to Khari 50 min Khari to Khari la 45 min
Khari La to Puiyan 1 hr 15 min

Puiyan to Namche  Bazaar June 20th 2018 

This is a two day walk but was completed by me in one day as I needed to reach Namche and Khumjung for the Dumji festival
It was raining at night and when I awoke before 5 am it was still drizzling. We got ready and left around 5 35 am in a light drizzle. The trail continued to be very muddy and slushy due to the mule caravans. We passed through a number of other lodges also marked Puiyan and then after about an hour’s walking crossed a pass called Puiyan La around 2800 metres. From this pass the trail steadily started going down through the forest and after a long series of descents in wet and muddy conditions finally reached Surkhe at 7 50 am. From Surkhe there are two trails which divide one going to Lukla and the other going to Namche.
Trail junction above Surke - Chaurikharkha is 45 min from here uphill
 We stopped at the trail junction for a cup of tea and then started the climb to Chaurikharkha - we passed a number of mani walls and prayer wheels some of them newly painted - we also passed groups of children going to school as the morning rain had given way to a sunny morning. We passed Chaurikharkha and joined the main Everest base camp trail at Cheplung - the lodges were much grander with garden chairs and flowers. We stopped at 11 am at Ghat for a late breakfast and reached Phakding by 12 15 pm.  We were now following the standard Everest base camp first day trail out of Lukla. At 5-30 pm I walked into Hotel Namche almost 12 hours after I had started out. The timings are given below. Sensible walkers should provide two days for this route breaking journey at Phakding or Benkar.
Puiyan to Surkhe 2 hrs 20 min Surkhe to Chaurikharkha 1 hr Chaurikharkha to Cheplung 20 min Cheplung to Ghat 50 min; Ghat to Phakding 45 min Phakding to Benkar 1 hour Benkar to Monjo 50 min Monjo to Jorsale 20 min Jorsale to last bridge befor Namche 40 min Last Bridge to Top Danda 45 min Top Danda to Namche 1 hr 15 min. 

For a description of my May 2013  journey from Lukla to Phaplu  please do visit  http://sujoyrdas.blogspot.com/2013/10/lukla-to-phaplu-long-road-back-to.html

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