Arun Valley, view towards the South from Sedua
Rain all day, very wet, full of leeches. Must have picked off a few hundred leeches of my boots and pants. Maoist announced they will collect the fee for the right of passage tonight. Bit high, we now pay Rs 4000 or $50 each.
Back in Katmandu for the seventh time. Mixed feelings, I want to go into the mountains ASAP.
This may be the only city in the world where in the down town area the background city noise is not dominated by traffic but by people voices mixed in with barking dogs and loud roosters, especially in the early morning. The noise starts already at 5 AM when it gets lights but is a pleasant wake up call.
The chartered flight for our party of 15 to Tumlingtar from Katmandu left as planned. The pilots, flying on sight, avoided the patches of tower clouds rising up from the moist valleys. The Arun Valley was clear and we landed on a large meadow surrounded by fortified military posts. Temperature 31 C.
The first two days we walked on the East side of the Arun River on the plateau and had some rain. To the North-West was our mountainous route to Makalu and grey clouds covered those valleys for most of the day. This did not alarm us.
The third day as we crossed the Arun River, it started to rain mildly for much of the day. Now some leeches came out. I had no bites as I caught them in time when they crawled up my boots and pants. Score 0 - 8 for me.
The heavy rain at night forced us to stay in a lodge in Sedua. Bed bugs, presumably fleas, settled in my fleece inner and kept on biting until we hit the high and cold camps above 5000 m a week later.
The fortified army post of the government was already 2 days behind us and at 5 PM a messenger of the Maos arrived. After a long conversation, throwing in arguments that we sponsor medical aid projects, the price went down from 5000 to 4000 Rupees per person. This was the price for friendly nations. Americans had no price tag as they would be killed on the spot but this is hard to believe. We agreed we would settle the fee in the next village as we still thought we could bring it down to 2000.
The next day it rained all day and the trail turned into a small stream ideal for leeches to wait for a victim. They sit on the rocks and low bushes, and you can see them reaching out for a victim. Passing donkeys had their neck and hind legs covered in blood, a gruesome sight, by dozens of leech bites.
There are two types of leeches, small, up to a cm, and big, up to 3 cm. The latter are the messy type, very silent and sucking a half cc of blood. Once you find out, the blood swollen leech should be carefully removed to avoid big blood stains.
That day I must have removed a few hundred from my boots and pants. I was surprised none crawled under my pants and into my socks but would find out later.
Arriving at the lodge, I found 3 bites on my ankles and two on my belly. The leeches were now dropping off the people, packsacks and rain-coats inside the dormitory and it took a while to remove them all. Jacco must have had some twenty bites as he was wearing low shoes.
Leech bites on the ankles of Jacco, over 20 bites
At 5 PM two Maoist showed up to collect the 4000 Rupees for each member. An offer of 2000 was quickly rejected and they walked out but luckily our Sherpa group leader managed to call them back.
Second receipt of the payment to the Maos, RS 30000 for 7.5 persons.
4000 Rupees would be paid, US$ 50 each, similar to the visa for Nepal plus trekking fee.
It kept on raining for another week till we finally reached Makalu Base Camp at 4900 m. Leeches disappeared above 3500 m but our boots, clothes, equipment and even money remained wet. This is very unusual in Nepal for late September.
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