Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Getting Rolwaling Valley: Dolakha ------part (3)

Getting Rolwaling Valley
Leaving Singati, the path begins to jump up and down with increasing frequency through this next stretch, avoiding numerous cliffs and landslides, and often clinging to the hillside above dramatic drops to the river below. After about ¾-1 hour you will reach the first bridge and a small village on the far side. Another 30 minutes brings another bridge and the village of Suri Dhoban. Like most villages along the way, it is possible to stay here, but the lodging is quite modest. From Suri Dhoban, the trail immediately jumps up a steep hill to a small chorten before continuing the ups and downs along the southern side of the Tama Kosi. Eventualy the trail gives way to flatter terrain and several cultivated fields. 30-45 minutes after leaving Suri Dhoban brings another small series of teahouses. Along this stretch of trail, numerous cascades tumble down the steep cliffs and into the river below. Manthale, the next substantial village, is about 1¼ -1½ hours away. There is little in the way of services here, but another 45 minutes leads to the suspension bridge across the Tama Kosi and into Jagat. There are two lodges here, both immediately across the large bridge. The food and hospitality at the "New Lodge" are particularly good.
Leaving Jagat, the trail begins to get trickier. The ups and downs become more numerous and the terrain gets rougher. The trail enters a steep walled gorge with countless waterfalls and other surprises lurking around every turn. The mellow Tama Kosi turns into thundering whitewater. A single small teahouse and a school are reached 1¼ –1¾ hours after leaving Jagat. Cross the small tributary using the suspension bridge or take the shortcut over the bamboo bridge below. It is at this point that the trail from Barabise meets up with the trail from Dolakha. A few minutes later you will reach the village town of Gongar and a few simple lodging options. A rest break at the next group of teahouses, called Chechet, is advisable (2¼ - 2¾ hrs. from Suri Dhoban): the most difficult part of the hike is just across the river.
At the last cluster of teahouses, keep an eye out for the trail down to the river and across the suspension bridge. Turn left, and, as you climb up the path along the scar of a recent landslide, keep a watch for the playful monkeys who frequent the cliff faces along this short stretch of trail, but don’t take your eyes off the trail for too long or you’re likely to lose your step and end up back where you started! A very steep and sometimes hair-raising scramble brings you to the picturesque village of Simigaon sprawling over a terraced knob (1600-2000m) You may reach the first teashop in about an hour, but don't celebrate just yet: you still have 45 minutes or more to go!
Once in Simigaon, make your way to the lodges on the ridge at the very top of the town. The trail through Simigoan splits into numerous small paths making it difficult to pick the simplest route. Follow the broadest trail past the first large mani wall and through the open field before breaking left to head up to the ridge above. Ask the locals to point the way to the gompa. There are two lodges here; the one closer to the gompa is decidedly better equipped to receive independent trekkers. From the saddle, there are excellent views of Gauri Shankar and the steep valley walls below.
The next day you will climb sharply up, following a brief descent. It is here that you begin to get a feeling for the true remoteness of the valley. If you have been uncomfortable in the subtropical heat of the Tama Valley, even in late fall or early spring, you will appreciate the much cooler temperatures of the higher elevations. After turning the corner, in about 15-20 minutes, you will enter the deep humid forest of the lower Rolwaling Valley; you will begin to have an appreciation of the true isolation of this sparsely inhabited region, and probably have no trouble believing reports of leopard in this area. The trail soon begins to descend steeply in three drops of 60-100m, then levels out and reaches a single farmhouse only 75m or so above the river; here you may buy tea or a meal. Afterwards you will climb through a series of switchbacks, cross a small bridge, and continue on through the forest. This is the only stretch where the trail can be confusing. For the most part, you may choose either side when the trail forks; generally you can simply choose the broader path. 1-1½ hours after the first ramshackle teashop, you will come to a rather more substantial teahouse. A few minutes later you will come to a fork, with one branch descending to the left and the other bearing straight ahead; you should choose the latter. Both trails eventually meet up again later, but the upper trail is more traveled and offers a spectacular view of an incredible waterfall. Some ten minutes later, you will come to a waterfall, and then another fork: here you should go upwards again and then to your left. The climb continues, eventually easing into a pleasant traverse with excellent views of the valley below and the mountains above. About 3½ hours after leaving Simigaon, you will reach Kelche, a small cluster of huts with one or two teahouses on something of a crest; there is a table with seats on your left, across from the teahouse. From here, it is only about half an hour down to Drongkhang, a series of three teahouses in a clearing festooned with prayerflags by the river. This small squatters camp was nonexistent ten years ago, it has sprung up recently to cater to the needs of trekkers and their porters. Our groups have always stayed at the middle of the three: there are no beds, but it is surprisingly clean; but sharing floor space next to the cooking fire is a great experience and the food is outstanding. In any case, you should probably stop here: the next major village, Beding, is a good four hours away; two years ago there was a tea house about midway, but it was not functioning last fall.
The last part of the climb from Drongkhang to Beding is filled with breathtaking views and almost no sign of human habitation. After Drongkhang, the mixed forest is not so dense; in fact, it was pretty much cleared by a forest fire a few decades ago, and most of what you see at first is new growth. The trail begins with a short climb, but is on the whole a gentle and pleasant ramble close to the river -- except for one 10-minute climb straight up to a new bridge, and then straight down. You may be tempted to continue on the old path along the river at this point, although it is somewhat overgrown; this is probably a bad idea, as the tributary stream is a treacherous obstacle: those rocks are extremely slippery!
Continuing through rhododendron forests and mossy boulders, you will reach a suspension bridge across the Rolwaling Chhu about one hour after leaving Drongkhang. The vegetation on the other side of the river opens up and is much dryer due to the southern exposure. Great views and towering cliff faces surround you. The impressive peak on the north (left) side of the valley is called Tabayabum. The trail levels off slightly after ¾-1¼ hours, offering great views of Chekigo. Beding is tucked against the northern side of the valley, directly below this peak.
Another 30-45 minutes brings the trail back alongside a temporarily calm stretch of the Rolwaling Chhu and a fork in the trail. The trail coming in from the left and across the log bridge is the high route over the Daldung La that is used when the regular trail is impassable during the monsoon. The prayer flags and katas in the trees and surrounding area mark the Samtar Gora, a site sacred to many Hindus as well as Buddhists. This locale was revealed as the dwelling place of Chi Gora (Nai Devi) when a yak was found to be spilling milk at the spot every night. Twice each year, the Sherpas make offerings of milk at the small shrine. Lowland Hindus make the trek each November to present their offerings. The trail to Beding continues straight ahead. In a half hour, perhaps a bit more, you will come to the first of the winter settlements, called Nyimare, which is marked by a row of mani stones. Beding is now only ¾-1 ¼ hrs away. Before reaching Beding, the trail passes the other winter settlements of Ramding, Gyabrug and Chameka. These villages are named for their physical attributes. Nyimare means “good sun” or “early sun,” Gyabrug means “late but warm sun,” Ramding refers to the avalanche-prone waterfall across the river, and Nyimare means “wolf no” referring to the trees that were cut to destroy the habitat of livestock killing Jackals. There is a teahouse on the hill just above the great tree right after the bridge over Jomo'i Gul Chhu.
Enter Beding, passing below the brightly painted new gompa gate. In Beding there are four new lodges with astoundingly beautiful signs and English menus ; just about anyone, though, will be willing to offer a bed or floor space as well as a meals for a reasonable price. The lodges themselves are little more than private homes with limited space for visitors, but guests are eagerly welcomed.


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1 comment:

  1. I've read all 3 series.They are really informative.And fact that Dolakha is reach in natural resources.