Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nepal and the Langtang Trek

7 April 2009 - 30 April 2009
My first impression of Kathmandu was that it doesn't look all that different from India: same looking shops, groups of men milling about aimlessly and the light has a similiar colour. There are differences though: there are more women around and they're not all dressed in the conservative salwar kameez or sari, some are even wearing tight jeans and fitted t-shirts! There are no auto-rickshaws and no cows!

We got a nice room in the Boudanath area (the Tibetan area of Kathmandu) and it's clean with towels and proper bed sheets. Nepal isn't quite as cheap as we were expecting though, taxis and food are expensive when compared to India (most places are). The Bouda area centres around the Boudanath Stupa, an amazing sight to behold.

One night in Boudanath we headed out for dinner rather than enjoying the food offered by our hotel. We came onto the main road and there were Nepali men, protesting down the middle of the road with sticks on fire. The power was out (as it is for a minimum of 16 hours each day), so there were no street lights. The demonstration was because the Nepalis don't feel that the new government is working for the people. They are frustrated because the government keeps saying the right words, but not following through with actions.

After a few days of resting and readying ourselves, we booked the bus and got the trekking permits to head up to the Langtang Region of the Himalaya. We were both excited to get up into the mountains and explore!

We arrived in Thulo Bharku from Kathmandu after a spine shattering, nerve-wracking and patience-trying bus journey that took no fewer than ten hours, with two breakdowns along the way. The bus was driven by two kids whose ages put together probably don't equal mine. Scary stuff! On the bright side, Thulo Bharku is a charming little village, full of bright-eyed and friendly kids. We had dahl baht takari (dahl, rice and veggies), which is fairly standard trekking food and it was good. After the long bus ride we fell into bed pretty early to prepare ourselves for the next day of trekking.

We left Thulo Bharku around 9 am, not off to a roaring start, but early for us. We walked until midday and stopped for lunch in Brabal. The menu here is the same as it is in Thulo Bharku. I had heard that the menus are created by a committee and then all the restaurants in the area are taught how to make the food on the menu and that’s all that served. The owner of today’s restaurant confirmed the committee theory, so it looks like we’ll have the same menu options for the duration of the trek. The options aren’t so bad, though by the end of the trek I might be quite tired of dahl baht!

We started the next day at Landslide Lodge at 1700 metres. The family there seemed in need of money and so to support them and take some pressure off me, we took the oldest son along for the day as our porter. I’m glad we did because it as another day of up, up, up. We got our first glimpses of the snow-capped peaks that we’ll be much closer to tomorrow. It’s amazing how much the landscape has changed as we’ve gone up. We started in the lush riverbed of Langtang River and as we worked our way up the greenery and trees got sparser. After a very long day of walking uphill we finished at Thangsyapu (3,140 metres), where we celebrated my birthday. Nothing like walking up a hill all day to make one feel her age, or perhaps her mother’s age! My birthday cake was a Snickers bar with a candle stuck in it and after such a long day of hiking, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.



Tomorrow we make our way to Kyangin Gompa. By looking at the map it’ll be another day of uphill, with the day finishing at 3,870 metres.

As expected, today’s walk to Kyangin Gompa was uphill, but for the first day on the trek thus far, some of the walk was relatively flat. For the effort of going further uphill, we were rewarded with even better views of the Langtang mountain range.

The people of the Langtang region are called the Tamang people. It is thought that four or five generations ago they migrated to the region from Tibet. They certainly look Tibetan! Along the track today we met an old man who claimed to be Tibetan. He communicated to us that he was selling all of his belongings because he had no money. He offered to sell us his necklace and to help him out, we bought it. When we arrived in Kyangin Gompa we met a man from Holland wearing a necklace much like the one we’d purchased on the track. It turns out he’d met the same Tibetan man with no money who was selling all his belongings. Looks like we both bought the same story and necklace!

The next few days we spent relaxing at Kyangin Gompa and sight seeing from our hotel room. We wandered out and around a bit, but it was quite cold and we were quite tired, so we weren’t game to wander too far. Still, the views were spectacular and well worth the effort of getting there.

The next couple of days were spent walking back down the way we’d come up to connect with the track that would take us to Gosain Kunda, a holy lake at 4,380 metres. Our first stop on the way to Gosain Kunda was Thulo Shryapru, a village reportedly with electricity and internet. Unfortunately when we were there, there wasn’t any electricity and hadn’t been any for days. Clearly no electricity means no internet, so it looked as if I was going to have to wait until we returned to Kathmandu to reconnect with the world.

From Thulo Shryapru (2,250 metres) we looked at the map to learn that we would wind our way up to Shin Gompa next (3,380 metres). All these mountains!

Another grueling day from Thulo Shryapru, walking up over 1.1 kilometres in one day. Because of the time we spent at Kyangin Gompa, the altitude isn’t troubling us too much, but we’re exhausted from so much walking and carrying our belongings on our backs. At Shin Gompa we decided to take another rest day. It’s so lovely and quiet in Shin Gompa, much quieter than much of the track up to now simply because we’re away from the roaring Langtang River. From here we can see the Langtang and Ganesh ranges.

One of the joys of travel for me is the food. You never quite know what you're going to get when you order and that's all part of the adventure. One night in Shin Gompa my husband was looking to order a bit of dessert. The menu said 'apple pancake with double egg' and he was thinking that meant a pancake with eggs blended in. Wasn't he disappointed when his apple pancake came out with two fried eggs on top?! 'What am I supposed to do with this' he wondered. . .

After a rest we made our way to Gosain Kunda.

Gosain Kunda was not to be the highest point of our trek – in order to start the descent back to Kathmandu, we first had to make it over Laurebina Pass, a whopping 3,610 metres. Mistakenly I thought that getting over the pass would be the most challenging part of day. The excitement of having made it so far and so high certainly did put a spring in my step for the first part of the day.

But the spring soon faded on the way down due to the steep drop and aching knees. The descent back into the low(er) lands was grueling, though refreshing at the same time. It was nice to get back down where the landscape of barren boulders has transformed into lush forests, but also nice to get back down to where I could breath!

Our first night on the descent back to civilization was spent at Gopte. I won't say that Gopte topped my list as favorite places: the guest house looked like it was thrown together and might fall apart anytime and the toilet was literally a hole in the ground with a platform built over it. Ewww. We had planned to take a rest day here, but decided that the From there we head even lower to Melamchigaon.

2 comments:

Rohan said...

Would you do the trek again? What would you change/

Tabs said...

I would do the trek again, but if I were in the same shape I was in when I did the first trek, I would probably only do the bit up to Kyangin Gompa. The first part of the trek from Thulo Bharku to Kyangin Gompa was probably the most amazing part, scenery wise, so I would definitely do that again. The second part of the trek to Shin Gompa and up to Gosain Kunda was incredible as well, but it was a much harder trek and by the time I got there, I wasn't necessarily all that interested in the scenery because I was too tired. I think next time I would do a bit more training before embarking on the trek, particularly the second half. I was in no shape or form to be doing the whole thing, but now that it's over, I'm glad I did it.