I had this hilarious locally produced guide book on the region, stolen/ borrowed from my favourite guest house in Kalimpong. The author boasts that his maps display his passion for cartography and are made using "powerful graphic computer software." You can see the Maenam map here if you scroll down. Unluckily for us, he was actually right to boast as his maps appear to be the only maps of the region in known existence. At least, known to local hoteliers and guides.
So, blissfully ignorant, off we marched - laden only with a tub of peanut butter, two litres of water for both of us, crackers and chocolate biscuits. The New Zealander in me made a worried face, but the (universalist) idiot said "come on! It's only a three hour walk. How hard can it be?!"
So hard. So, so hard. One time, last year, I walked over 'Big Hill' near Arrowtown with a massive pack and a patient boyfriend during a rainstorm and I said, with true feeling, "this is the hardest thing I've ever done." Boyfriend cajoled me up the hill, but at points I really believed it was just not. physically. possible for me. Well, Big Hill, you better rename yourself 'Not so Big Anymore Hill' cos holy shit Maenam is the hardest thing I've ever done. From 2000m altitude to 3025 in three hours is NO JOKE you guys. I felt faint. I was dehydrated. I was cold. It was extremely beautiful (but, sometimes, I didn't even care).
The dog above was escorting another group of local trekkers. They said "he's not my dog, but he is today." So cute. He kept running between us and making sure we all stayed in safe groups. I wanted to steal him, but I knew he would wilt away from the forest he clearly loves.
|This creepy place on the way to insane cliff of death|
|This hilarious piece of litter I found|
|Our saintly guide was cold so I let him wear this Palestinian scarf|
After summiting the damn Maenam mountain and meeting the very shy monk who lives in the monastery on it, we re-grouped our energies and walked an extra half hour to this incredible cliff, where you stand on the edge of a 1500 metre drop down. Lots of offerings to the Gods are left here.
|Prime Red Panda territory|
We asked our guide, who walks here all the time, if he's ever seen a red panda and he replied "yes, 2008." So, unsurprisingly, given those odds, red pandas did not choose to show their cute faces to us noobs. All the same, they sure choose a beautiful place to live; rhododendron and magnolia forests.
|Two good shepherds|