08.04.2012 - 09.04.2012
Deepak and I decided to hike to Sandakpur, Ilam's highest point at 3636 metres. It was a 22 hour walk in total, which we stretched over 4 days. Deepak's wife's family lived on the route so we were lucky enough to get some more true authentic accommodation and meet more of the family. They were very knowledgeable about the area, the father drew us a map to follow. We passed through weird and wonderful landscapes - ghostly forests, eerie hilltop pastures and barren mountainsides not passing a single walker en route. The people we did meet were mainly residents living in isolated bamboo huts - despite their basic living conditions and lack of possessions they always invited us in for tea. We got to the top on the second day after a long 10 hour climb. These lonely landscapes whispered softly - all you could hear was the wind in the trees, the faint murmur of yak bells and the sound of feet hitting rocks - it was another surreal experience.
We initially intended to cross the border into India to get to Sandakpur as it is a quicker route. However they did not let me pass as there was noone there to stamp my visa! Surprising they were so strict this time round...
We took a minibus from Fikkal to Ilam which seemed destined for failure, two flat tyres over the space of about 50km, impressive! We then got a jeep from there to a town called Deurali in the eastern hills. I wish I had a video of the journey - the road surface was so bad that I was literally being thrown around in the back seat, I'm not sure how the driver managed to keep his hands on the wheel...
First flat tyre
Second flat tyre
(Right) Our vehicle from Ilam - atleast it had a steering wheel
We could finally start our walk after a long hard journey of flat tyres and unbearable road surfaces...
First tea stop
Welcome cup of tea at Deepak's family's place
Deepak's mother in-law preparing dinner
Lovely hot food
Deepak's brother in law pointing us in the right direction
Am glad someone could read this...
Crossing a bamboo bridge
Random man walking in bare feet with a knife strapped to him
Another tea stop en route - funnily enough Deepak ended up having some family connection with many of the people we met
Deepak sharpening a piece of bamboo he found to use as a hiking stick
Silence engulfs the ethereal pasture
Pit stop - potatoes and popcorn!
Feels like a slightly unfamiliar version of our world, one where the natural elements dominate and the human world is like a distant echo over an endless landscape of trees, rocks and cloud.
The only settlement we came to
Often a ghostly stillness would descend, it felt like time was standing still...
The rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal, these bright pink flowers added a colourful quality to the landscape...
Rhododendron trees in bloom
No one home...
The skyward path
More yaks on the mist shrouded hill
After losing the path for quite a while and clambering around on hillsides we managed to make our way to this shrine which fortunately had an obvious path leading to the summit.
"Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibility."
Sky Kingdom - View from Sandakpur looking down on the clouds: it looked like the hills were floating
Our lodge for the night
A well earned dinner of chowmein and tomato soup. Deepak had never eaten this style of food before, and he liked it!