Join our journey with the latest installment of Chauncey’s travel diaries!
DZi volunteer Julie and I awoke before sunrise in an effort to catch a glimpse of some of the Solokhumbu’s southernmost frosted mountain tops in the distance. We walked for an hour beyond Cheskam, following the meandering paths of cattle trails that led us further and further up the left side of the valley. As the sun’s rays started to penetrate and illuminate the far right side of the valley’s mountain we decided it was time to turn back, although we didn’t catch any summit views, we did experience an awesome sunrise that swept into and over the entire valley.
Saying goodbye to the magical mountains and the mystical village of Cheskam was going to be even more difficult than the trip back to Kathmandu was going to be. Our breakfast steamed up the smoky kitchen, the vapor coming off the tea, coffee, and porridge greatly resembled the light mist ringing the valley’s mountain peaks. We threw the frisbee one last time, villagers were happy for a respite from their morning chores. That frisbee will remain in Cheskam, and next time we return we’re sure that there will be some very well practiced locals. As we made our way out of Cheskam, we took a detour that took us above the town to a peculiar looking forest that perched alone on a mountaintop.
It was relayed to us that this was an enchanted forest, a sacred spiritual haven that you are only allowed to visit one day a year. On this day you bring milk or other dairy products which you offer to the temple in an attempt to appease the Kulung Raí gods and herald a fertile agricultural season and a strong crop yield for The Valley. Legend has it that during the tumultuous civil warring period of the past a group of 50 soldiers went into the thicket, disregarding the local warnings, and not-a-one emerged. True or not there was an otherworldly feel to the forest–it seemed perfectly out of place, the boughs of its trees reaching out and above the town of Cheskam, overseeing and protecting its people.
Another day of hiking back through all of the villages we passed on our way in, namasteing our way past people delivering backs full of goods to far off family members. The construction site that would soon be the first road, paving the way for development in southern Solokhumbu valley, extended a few kilometers farther than it had just five days prior, foreshadowing the changes that the future holds. Two groups of packhorses passed us, one on its way in, and the other on its way back out. The chiming of steel bells adorning their manes coupled with the clamoring of hooves created a harmonic cacophony with the rushing sounds of the river below. Children waved us on as we descended once again to the Dudh Khosi and over the cable bridge, looking down at the tractor pulled barge and the bobbing frothy current of the glacial river. The next time we see this bridge it will not be a standalone, there will be a newly paved two lane (by Nepalese standards) bridge below, allowing access to the valley.
As soon as we crossed the bridge, we noticed the plastic waste strewn about the trail, something that we hadn’t missed in the past days of “plastic free zone” meandering. Small smoldering plastic fuelled fires dotted the roadway, a halfhearted attempt to deal with the waste. We passed the packhorse congregation, where the horses were dressed, and then loaded up with steel i-beams and bags of concrete that would be led high up into the mountaintops, which will likely be used for construction projects. Their stalls and the surrounding area were similarly strewn with plastic, and we could only hope that the future development of the area wouldn’t cause the same problems in as of yet unspoiled villages like Cheskam.
We bid adieu to our porters who had accompanied us on every step of the way, sharing countless smiles and stories with the translatory help of Jhanak. To thank them we left them with a Mexicali frisbee and we hope to play with them again when we return. We then boarded a jeep lookalike and mentally steeled ourselves for the 6 hour cliffside ascent up and out of the valley.
Go back to days 1 – 5 of the trek here.
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