24th October-The previous evening those of the group who had been planning to complete the whole Circuit decided to turn back. The conditions on the other side of the Thorung La Pass were too hazardous to be sure of a safe descent. A photo of the whole group was taken and then we all set off to walk back the last four days in two!
It was a long hard day covering somewhere between 21 and 22 miles in 7 hours.
25th October - One of the group decided that walking today was not an option and if we could find a jeep and, more importantly, someone to drive it four of us would travel part of the day in relative comfort. Today was the last day of Tihar where sisters put tika on the foreheads of brothers, to ensure long life, and thank them for the protection they give. As this was a particularly special day there was a special price to encourage the driver to venture out but first he had to put the exhaust manifold back on! Eventually we departed for what proved to be an extreme sport in its own right. Having loaded the six porters and baggage into the back we set off.
One of our extra passengers
A typical passing point
In the first village the driver was ‘persuaded’ he should give an old lady a lift to the next village. She was first of several people picked up or almost picked up on the way. At one point there was an attempt to get even more people into the cab! The track was a rough ‘roadway’ beaten by use rather than constructed. It was potholed, with rocks strewn across it in places. At times there were cliffs to the left and gorges to the right. There were rivers to ford and waterfalls to manoeuvre round. At times the ride was a living nightmare. At one point we came down the track to be confronted by a broken down vehicle propped up on rocks on the cliff side of the road. To the left was a drop falling away into a deep gorge. It was clear there wasn’t enough room for our jeep to pass. However, the driver wasn’t daunted and knew his wheels would get through even if the jeep’s bodywork was hanging over the edge. Without a moment’s hesitation he was manoeuvring the jeep to the left. Sandra who was in the front of the jeep on the left reacted like a character from ‘Round the Horn’ ‘Stop, stop let me out I’ll walk!’ By this time we were passed the vehicle and the guide and driver looked at her somewhat bemused and burst out laughing. Then the rest of us laughed. In retrospect it was funny. However, she was not alone in believing there was not enough room to get past. The rest of the group who were waiting lower down the trail gave up believing we were walking as ‘no way will they get round that vehicle’. We should have trusted the driver. Although he looked ‘battered’ down one side of his face and had a squiffy eye he has been driving the track between Chame and Chyamche for the last three years and proved to be an superb driver who eased the jeep gently over and round the rocks and in and out of the potholes with the enormous skill. There was one place where he actually asked us all to get out of the jeep and walk. Even he identified this section as extremely dangerous huge boulders to manoeuvre round and over and a waterfall coming down the cliff face and flowing over the edge.
The relief when we arrived at Tal was palpable. We had survived! Little did we know that the heavens were going to open and the next three hours scrabbling down a rock strewn path was going to be fraught arriving at Chyamche in the dark.