the zam zam trek
STAGE 1 : Between Kanchenjunga and Makalu: the hills of Nepal.
How about it? This is the auspicious start of the “Zam Zam” saga (which means “let’s go” in Nepalese), an expedition to meet a dozen ethnic groups after many editions of Hiking on the Moon.
4 principle reasons for going :
- Ilam’s tea cultures
- The typical villages
- The giant rhododendron forests
- The Oriental Himalayas with a view of Kanchenjunga (8586 m), Makalu (8481m), Janu (7710m) and Baruntse (7129m)
The Great Trek begins in the Ilam region at the extreme east of Nepal. A few kilometres from Darjeeling, this high altitude town is famous for its tea production and is a fascinating tourist destination situated at the foot of Kanchenjunga. We will be following the itinerary prepared by Budhhi a guide and local connoisseur of the region. A beautiful stroll in the middle of the giant rhododendrons with a backdrop of two summits towering over 8000 m high: Kanchenjunga and Makalu.
After three days visiting Kathmandu, we take a short inland flight to Bhadrapur, a little town situated at the border of India, not far from Darjeeling in the Teraï region. We will see our first tea plantations in Jhapa along the way. We climb towards the hills to arrive in Kanyam (1830 m). We set up our first camp in the Ilam region, which has been Nepal’s tea capital for the last 150 years.
The next day we set off for Phidim (1038 m). We take a short break in Ilam to enjoy a cup of tea right in the middle of the tea plantations. After the Ranke pass we enjoy our first sighting of the great Himalayan peaks: Kanchenjunga (8586 m), the third highest mountain in the world, and Janu (7710 m) the sacred mountain of the Limbu people. We enter into Limbu country and drive to Phidim where we set up camp.
Seventh day. We begin our trek and make our way through a landscape of banana and bamboo plantations and “red earth” terraces. We descend towards Majhi Tar and across the River Tamor whose spring is in the Kanchenjunga region. Then we climb to Chuhandanda (1650 m) and wander around the villages.
After a night in a bivouac we climb progressively to Tirtire Deurali. A brief detour in the forest allows us to visit Bhagawatis the main regional Hindu pilgrimage site. We continue on our way towards Sakranti Bazaar, the region’s principle town. The trail is flat and then begins to climb progressively to the heights of Khamlalung at an altitude of 2305 m.
The ninth day is the most strenuous, alternating ascents with descents. We traverse a sumptuous forest of rhododendrons and chestnut trees followed by a ridge dominating the valleys, fields and woods. Gentle hiking brings us to the Sherpa village of Gupha Pokhari (2960 m). The view from here is magnificent, overlooking Kanchenjunga and Janu but also Baruntse (7129 m) and Makalu (8481 m), which reflect majestically in Gupha Pokhari’s sacred lake.
After a good night’s sleep we set off again with an uphill hike to Milke Danda, to appreciate the rhododendrons and the high peaks. Then we descend to Dandagon (1365 m). We pass through the villages of Tamang, Limbu and Bhramine. And finish with a stroll in Dandagaon before arriving at the camp.
An easy day trekking without any hill climbs, through fascinating villages admiring the local life, landscapes and cultures with a stroll around the old Chainpur Bazaar (1260 m) on arriving.
The final day’s trek is to the village of Kharang, an important local tobacco, rice, fruit and vegetable market. We finally descend through villages and plantations down to the River Sawa. After a brief uphill climb we drop down to the River Arun whose spring is far away in Tibet. We set up camp on the riverbank…