Dan Mazur's Kangchenjunga Spring 2002

9 April dispatch: We were awake at 430 am and driving on our bus by 5:00. We wound our way through the extremely rugged countryside, reaching the burning hot town of Kabeni for lunch. We had been here before in 1997, when it was a bustling village, but now it was a ghost-town, with all of the shops shuttered. We found one place open and the kind lady made us a nice lunch of noodle and egg, as we were in a hurry to reach Taplejung, and there was no time for our usual Dal Bhat. We asked for a Pepsi, and one shopkeeper was able to produce a bottle of beer, and we drank it thirstily. There were no other bottled drinks available. In the afternoon, the road became steeper and rougher and filled with holes and wash-outs. Our bus died on a curve, and another bus came up behind, and one in front, and all of their passengers gaggled around us to gawk and point and laugh. They had never seen such an overloaded bus with such a funny bunch of foreigners and Khumbu Sherpas aboard. We were quite a diversion for them and they stood and stared, and laughed and pointed, and retreated to distances to have whispered conversations in hushed tones, describing with their hands and eyes, what was in their minds. Finally, after a few false alarms, the drivers and our fine bus mechanic got the engine going. It had been a cracked fuel line, and a few snorts on the house from the mechanic, accompanied by spitting great mouthfuls of diesel onto the ground got TATA motor raring to life. We all gave a sigh of relief, and our bus continued lurching and lumbering up the mountain. At 16:30 pm, our bus got stuck on a concrete water bar, and the muffler ripped off, and the vehicle centered on the fuel tank. We were only a kilometer outside of Taplejung, and Ivan and Julio threw rocks under the wheels with a sense of urgency. Paul laid rocks in front of the wheels. The driver, however, said "No Way". and there was nothing for it, except for us to walk to Taplejung, which was only a few hundred meters above us. Some locals told us that we had to be past the army post gates before 19:00, pm , as there was a curfew then. We hoofed it up there with light packs, and it felt good to walk, after three days on the bus, but it was hard going. The air was thankfully a bit cool up here at 1800 meters, and it began to rain, which was refreshing. We stopped and chatted and laughed with the friendly soldiers behind the walls of the stockade holding huge machine guns, and they were amazed to see us. Jangbu and Dorje and Galu stayed down on the bus with the driver and the two assistant drivers. We hiked through the mud-choked "streets" of Taplejung in the pouring rain, to the Bro-Sis guesthouse, where we were greeted by a charming family and found some bunks in the upstairs. The very nice people in the guesthouse made us a delicious dal bhat, and we chatted away the evening, as a massive hail and rain storm ripped through town, and we were glad to be indoors. At 19:00, we were again locked in and admonished to be quiet by the older brother of the family, but the younger brother Raju and his bubbly sister Di-Lo regaled us with witty Gurung humor and we joked about Tibetan and Nepalese language and phrases. Around 1930 pm, our humor was crushed by a piercing salvo of automatic weapons fire ratatattating through the misty night air. We looked into each others faces in the candle light (again no electricity because of the recent destruction of the power station), in fear, and our diplomatic sirdar Kaji came to our rescue by saying, "Ok, Army curfew time, all quiet, everybody sleep". Suddenly and with an uncanny timing, another, longer burst of machine gun fire rang out, from the direction of the hillside where the army post was, and as if that was to be our cue, we all said good night, and went to bed, with thoughts of our safety and the future of once-peaceful Nepal churning in our heads.

10 April dispatch: We were awake at 530 am, and our porters began arriving by 630. In the meantime, we had a delicious breakfast of eggs and tea. The night had been quiet, and everyone had slept fairly well, after the initial shock wore off. The weather was warm and sunny and lovely. We hiked back down the hill, saying "Good Morning" to the cheery soldiers as we walked past the Army post, and headed down to find our bus. We thought to ask the army what had happened the night before, but our Nepalese was not good enough, and there was a general sense of foreboding around the subject anyway. Krishna, Dorje and Jangbu had arrived with the porters in advance of us, and they were loading the porters. We wrote down each of their names and the description of the load they were carrying as they began the trek up the hill. We returned to Bro-Sis Hotel and had our Dal Bhat, and then settled our bill (as large as our hosts were delightful, complete with several arithmetic mistakes in their favor). Soldiers and police marched past while we ate, escorting a group of school kids to take their exams. We began our trek in sunshine and heat, and walked down the muddy tracks of Taplejung, together with our 88 porters, many carrying double loads. It began to rain lightly in the afternoon. We descended into the Tamur River valley, to the tiny hamlet of Mitlung. And it was there that we spent our first night, at the "Kangchenjunga Motel" a charming mud hut with a thatch roof, run by the proprietor, Mr. Krishna Sharma. He provided us with Tonba and bananas and our cooking staff worked themselves to the bone to produce a sumptuous feast. We collapsed into bed at 2100 pm, satisfied that our trek was beginning, and wondering what the next days would bring. Along the way of our trek today, we had walked past a burned out police station, with wrecked furniture and beds piled in the trail outside.

11 April dispatch:

Thank you very much. Cheers for now. Yours
Sincerely, Daniel Mazur from http://www.SummitClimb.com

Please join us in watching the "live-update" status of 2002 climbing expeditions to Nepal and Tibet on: http://www.everestnews.com/kang2002.htm

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