July 02, 2009
Although my sister was in Jiri for work, I was there just for vacation. So I went on a few walks in the area. There is a hiatus for some of the projects at the clinic right now, so some of the workers are without a job until they start up again in a few months. So Chatra was available to take me around a few days. Although Chatra is in his 50s, he is far more energetic than I was in my 20s. And since he has always lived in Jiri, he knows everyone. Before working for my sister he took tourists on longer treks all around Nepal, so if you need a guide anywhere, Chatra is a good choice. If you need to contact him, let me know an I can get you in touch with him.
My first day in Jiri, I actually wandered a bit on my own. Just down to the town at the bottom of the road and into the hills a bit. Its a 2km walk down (and 2k back up) but in this heat, it is extremely tough. The views along the way though are stunning. This is a deep green valley filled with trees, steep mountains at its edges, and houses scattered along its walls. I ended my walk out at a bridge a short way up the hill where I did one of my HDR panoramas. And then walked back up to the clinic. By the time I arrived, my shirt was drenched with sweat and my sister thought I was about to peg out. I was completely exhausted but it was a wonderful walk.
The second day was my first with Chatra. We decided to go to the monastery at the top of the valley. The first part was a repeat of my walk from the day before, but we kept going after the bridge. And going, and going. And at the top was a small building that didn’t look all that special from the outside. I removed my shoes and went in. There were 20 or so monks chanting away, occasionally breaking to blow the horns at various intervals. I had never seen such an amazing thing. Locals came in and out for a moment with the lama at the corner of the room. They prostrated in prayer in time with the chants. Incredible. And I was very thankful for having a camera that could handle a high ISO with minimal noise, and the 50/1.4 for low light photography.
The third day was a walk to the top of the valley. It was a shorter walk but very much steeper. As we walked up the clouds started rolling in and by the time we were at the top we were completely enshrouded in fog. Thankfully we stayed at the top for a while because after about 30 minutes, the clouds cleared and we had a great view of the valley floor. At the top, there were some small structures marking the sites of ashes of some of the dead. This was a place where they burned the remains of people who had died in the area and it was almost exactly as it looked 15 years ago when I came up here on my own. There was also a memorial for three photographers who had died very nearby.
By the end of that day, the skies had completely cleared and we were given some fantastic views of the valley from the clinic. The weather here can change drastically every hour, so when the skies clear during the monsoon season, its good to capture it while you can.
I really enjoyed my stay in Jiri and look forward to a return. Hopefully I wont wait another 15 years to see it again.