Diary entry from Nepal – 2017

I ran across this diary entry which I thought might be worth sharing……

“I’m writing this in a tiny mountain lodge 4000 metres up in the Himalayas, at the entrance to the Thorong La Pass in Nepal. My friends Miles, Tom, Tek and I have come up here in a Defender Puma 110, passing through jungles, then pine forests as our route climbed higher, fording and refording the headwaters of the mighty Kali Gandaki river and then lastly crossing the bleak rocky moonscape above the treeline. Finally we reached our destination, Muktinath Temple, one of the holiest Buddhist shrines in the world, known as the Temple of the Eternal Flame. It’s been an eventful trip, not least because as we travelled here from Pokhara in central Nepal, round about midnight last night we ran across another Puma 110, a mountain taxi, broken down. It was cold – at around 3700 metres the air is very thin (we were all suffering from headaches, the beginnings of altitude sickness caused by lack of oxygen) and it was around minus eleven Celsius when we got out of Ruby, Miles’ Defender (Miles runs Land Rovers Overland in Kathmandu) to try and help out. The Nepali lads in the other 110 couldn’t work out why their engine suffered from sporadic power loss, and they were unable to carry on the drive up to Muktinath and the warmth of the village up there. On the high plateau it was totally dark apart from the starlight and they only had the lights on their phones to see what they were doing. A dangerous place and time to break down. Luckily with us we had Tek, Miles’ ace mechanic, and between us we descended on the Tdci engine to try and diagnose the fault. Tom got a fire going for warmth – but at this height in the Himalaya there’s nothing to burn – it’s too high and too cold for trees. We wadded up some cardboard, plastic waste and paper, and using a mixture of diesel and WD-40 as an accelerant we coaxed warmth out of the scrappy fuel, taking it in turns to alternately work on the engine and thaw out by the tiny fire, which needed constant feeding.

Foreding the Kali Gandaki

            It was hard to see what the problem was. Fuel pump seemed fine. Injectors seemed fine. Fuel supply was clean and from a reputable source. What could it be? In the end Tek sussed it – the local lads had fitted a non-standard fuel filter, one that, in fact, wasn’t supposed to be used on Land Rovers. As a result it wasn’t sealing properly and was sucking air into the fuel line, which explained the power loss and coughing fits that the poor engine was suffering from. Lesson learned – don’t cut corners with fuel filters! As a result were were able to clean out the fuel system and get rid of the air bubbles and reassemble the truck, getting them onto the trail again. Just as well because the constant Himalayan wind screaming down the Thorong La Pass was making the windchill pretty grim and we’d run out of fuel for the makeshift fire. Teeth chattering we piled into Ruby and headed up to the village of Ranipauwa, where I am sitting now. Sleep, food and drink have been swiftly consumed. There is a local apple brandy distilled down the valley in the village of Marpha and this seems to have medicinal properties…… “

The Temple of the Eternal Flame at Muktinath

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