In search of the perfect cracker

Friday, 31 Jan, 2020

Singh Gompa (3300m) - Dhunche (2000m)

We woke to a dusting of snow but not much had fallen. It looked very pretty in the warm sunlight. We had a long descent today starting at Singh Gompa at 3300 metres to Dunche at just over 2000 metres.

The stove was burning in the dining room generating some warmth for breakfast and we all ordered chapattis and cheese omelettes. It was about 8:45 when we left - we still couldn't manage 30 minutes for breakfast.

We took a lower path out of Singh Gompa, having arrived via the upper track. We walked along snow lined paths with a little snow across the track but never too deep. It did become icy at one point so I put on my crampons but we soon passed below the snow line and there was just an occasional frosting of snow and rarely on the track.

As we descended we could see a little village across the valley with lots of terracing. Finally a guesthouse came into view well below us and whilst we could see our bags and the porters, there was no sign of the kids. It seemed to take a long time to descend to Deurali which was deserted. Despite having some mobile coverage, the kids hadn't lingered and had moved on in search of an open teahouse.

A little further on we intersected with another track and waited for a small herd of naks to pass us. We followed their jangling bells as we continued downhill towards the river which we could now hear rushing through the valley below.

We had to move off the track to let some donkeys pass - the naks also moved off the track so it seemed as if the donkeys had right of way. We spotted some goats in the underbrush and the landscape became more temperate with ferns growing profusely down the hillside.

We spied an open teahouse and could see the porters drinking tea in the sun. We couldn't see the kids but were sure that they wouldn't have passed up the opportunity for a tea break. Sure enough, they were inside with a pot of hot water. We made a coffee and shared a packet of coconut biscuits, disappointed to find that there was only 11 in the packet rather than the usual 13.

Soon we reached the river which flowed from Gosaikunda and was far more gentle than the raging torrent of the Langtang River. It was beautiful to walk beside and we were looking forward to having lunch on its banks. Unfortunately, the teahouse was closed and the only option was to continue on another hour to Dunche.

We crossed a little suspension bridge and the track broadened into a road. We could see smoke and Puncha asked a lady what was happening. She confirmed that it was a cremation. We later found out that it was a young woman with an intellectual disability who had left behind two young children.

We saw more goats and resting yaks. The entrance to the town was dominated by the Himalaya Mineral Water factory which apparently makes high quality mineral water that sells for 160 NPR a bottle. Across the valley we could see the winding road to Syabru Bensi and hear the horn of the bus trundling up the precipitous road.

Dunche was the biggest centre we had seen and is the regional centre of the province. We continued to the far end of town to the Habre Hotel. We found our rooms which were the nicest yet and then adjourned to the dining room to order lunch as it was now close to 2pm. It was also the busiest hotel we had stayed in with two other groups also ordering lunch. It took at least an hour before lunch arrived and we waited patiently, enjoying access to internet coverage.

After our late lunch, we all showered in the lukewarm water then went in search of crackers so that we could have a pre-dinner snack of biscuits and Yak cheese. There were lots of little shops and we bought some digestives, a large packet of coconut biscuits, butter biscuits and some Monaco biscuits that looked a little like Jatz. We also tried a packet of cheese balls. All up we spent about $3 on our haul. We returned to the hotel and set ourselves up with our afternoon snack and a large pot of hot water. The Monaco crackers won the vote of approval.

Two more people arrived, then another, the latter being turned away as the hotel was now full. We ordered dinner, which took a few attempts as many of the menu items weren't available. We knew it would be a long wait for dinner, giving us plenty of time to build up an appetite.