Bhaisi Kharka to Khopra (3660m above sea level)
Early the next morning before sunrise the Dhaulagiri range looms on the horizon…rising through the early morning mist. Its not quite the roof of the world but its pretty special when you realise that amongst the mountains that you are looking at is Dhaulagiri itself, at 8,167m above sea level, the seventh highest mountain in the world, and the sixth highest in Nepal. (Even if you can’t quite see its peak yet!) Sometimes words aren’t enough…
Its another day of forest, afternoon rain, mist and leeches, and the climb gets tougher as the air gets thinner with altitude. We’re off the beaten track again and in truth there’s sometimes no track at all beyond a vague approximation. It makes for an ‘interesting’ experience at times as slips and falls beset us all, despite our best endeavours to look at our feet.
It is slightly busier on the trail compared to yesterday. Positively teeming with Nepalis commuting to work..not. We pass two shepherds en route, both of whom are grazing sheep and goats on the high pastures. Its a pretty tough existence being up here alone for several weeks at time… and you do begin to realise that there is a degree of vulnerability if things go wrong. There isn’t really any alternative to pressing on to your next destination, or going back to where you came from. There isn’t anything in the middle…and mobile phone reception here is ‘variable’. Once again, the subtext here is that if you are living here all year round, access to many of the things we take for granted is certainly not a ‘given’. Health care, school, employment opportunity, a transport infrastructure are all several hours walk away.
(A slight detour into the day job for a minute. Depopulation of rural areas within Nepal is an increasing feature, with two of the key drivers being lack of employment opportunity and food insecurity. Much of this migration is overseas, leading ironically to a shortage of agricultural labour which further undermines the productivity of the agricultural sector. Something of a vicious circle).
Khopra is shrouded in mist when we arrive, and once again isolation is the over-riding thought. It is a small collection of buildings which is home to no more than a handful of men whose primary role is to tend to the yaks that are grazing at this altitude. A spartan existence, with the lodge that we are staying in providing a supplementary income to the wider community. Both here and at Bhaisi Kharka is a community lodge for use by trekkers. A certain amount of what we pay will go towards a wage for the warden, with the remainder going into a community fund for the local school which is several miles away.
And so day four ends in a similar vein. Dal bhat, tea and an early night.