A village too far

Tuesday, 4 Feb, 2020

Kutumsang (2470m) - Timbu (1400m) - Sermathang (2600m)

The sun rose behind snow capped mountains that had been largely hidden by the haze. The stupa glowed white under brilliant blue skies so it looked like we were in for another stunning day.

We didn't get to sit in the kitchen for breakfast but rather the dining room which wasn't so warm. The cheese omelettes were good and the chappatis still warm with one Tibetan bread, which we had stopped ordering because it was fried on this side of the valley.

Kutumsang was at 2470 metres and our lunch spot was to be at Timbu which required a river crossing at 1300 metres so we were in for a lot of downhill. The road was reasonably flat as we headed out of the village and edged in frost. We soon lost the blue skies as a mist rolled in. There was lots of terracing on the hillsides and the road made for easy walking.

We turned off the road to begin our descent down some newly built steps and started to wind our way down the hillside. We hadn't gone far before we stopped for a tea break. We were provided with a little mattress that was spread on a retaining wall together with a pot of hot water so we could make our teas and coffees. From our vantage point we could see the snow capped mountains and also down the valley to our lunch spot way below and then across the valley to Sermathang, our destination for the evening which was at 2600 metres. It was going to be a long day.

The track down became steeper and I became slower. It was after 1pm when we crossed the bridge and we texted Jonno a request to order dal baht for lunch as we started the final climb to Timbu. There was not much to the village though a bus was waiting. Lunch had been ordered at a little restaurant which consisted of a stove, a table and a bed for serving on.

Bokta had estimated a three hour climb to Sermathang but Puncha bought it was at least four. According to the locals, it was more like five hours. By now it was after 2pm, so a four - five hour walk would mean arriving close to nightfall. Puncha had heard there was a 3pm bus to Sermathang but further enquiries found it was not running today. Lunch was still being prepared so we were becoming really worried about our ability to complete the climb of 1300 metres in daylight.

Puncha asked about a jeep and thought he could get one for 2000 NPRs. However, as he investigated this option further, the price rose to 4000 NPRs and the jeep could only take two of us in the cab and three in the back with bags. We finally agreed that the jeep was the best option and that Jonno and Bokta would make the climb, leaving immediately. The rest of us settled in for an hour's wait for the jeep to arrive.

To our surprise, it arrived around 10 minutes later and we quickly loaded the gear into the back. We had been on the road for 20 minutes when we saw Jonno and Bokta moving at speed up the hill. They were making excellent progress. The road was very rough and it made the international road to China look like a veritable highway. It took over an hour to reach Sermathang. It would have been a long and dusty walk.

We carried our bags down to the Djorge guesthouse which looked quite impressive from the outside. Inside was a very different story as it was incredibly rundown and smelly. Georgia described her room as skanky. There was spots of blood on the bedsheets and doona cover and the beds were rock hard. I couldn't bring myself to unpack as the room was just too horrible and decided to take a walk to see if there were any alternatives.

Puncha and Gopal joined Simon, Georgia and I as we walked through the village. It was largely deserted as most of the villagers had left to celebrate a festival. We did find a flash looking resort, but at 2500 NPR per person, it was out of our price range. The only other alternative was made from converted corrugated iron sheds and only had two rooms which was not enough for us and the guide and porters.

Back at the Djorge guesthouse, Jonno and Bokta had arrived, taking 2.5 hours. It had been a wise decision to take the jeep as we would have all taken much longer. We stood on the balcony for a while whilst they cleaned our room. The dining room smelt so bad, that we ended up sitting in the kitchen. The parents were at the festival so the daughters made our dinner and they did a good job. Bokta got the fire going so at least the room warmed up. We ended up with a good dinner before retiring to our rock hard beds to be woken briefly as the villagers returned from their festivities.