The Langtang trek was a completely different kind of trek for several reasons. First and foremost, Carole was with us which made it that much better, especially as Mary had been whining about spending so much time with just guys (yes, that’s true!). We also did the trek without a guide or porter and we went into an area that saw fewer trekkers than either the Annapurnna or Everest regions.
Although our starting point – Syabru Besi, was only about 135 km from KTM, it took us 9 hours by bus and easily rated as the most hair-raising bus ride that any of us have been on. The whole trip, the road clung to the side of the mountains and when the road was paved, the bus driver (and his trusty horn) took the corners at a remarkable speed. Once the road turned to gravel, the driver had to slow down but the road, still clinging to the side of the mountain, got surprisingly narrow. When we went around a switchback, the front end literally swung over the embankment. The rocks on the road made the bus rock side to side as well which didn’t help matters. In fact, we rocked so violently at one point that someone riding on the top of the bus fell off. Luckily, they fell on the mountain side of the bus and not the cliff side. There were several times when Torin and I leaned out the window and could just barely see the road we were driving on (Carole and Mary were physically unable to bring themselves to take in that particular view). At another point we passed at curve in the mountain that served not only as a road but also a river. Even though we took it slow, I’m surprised there was sufficient space to make the corner as well as sufficient grip on the tires to keep us on the “river\road”. But we made it, although somewhat nauseous, brusied and battered.
The trek we chose was to hike up the Langtang Valley from Syabru Besi to Kyanjin Gompa over 2.5 days, spend a day or two up at the top of the valley and then back, partly over a different route to the village of Dunche. What we didn’t realize is the amount of elevation gain over the first 2 days – 1000 m each day. So the trek started with a great deal of effort but we were rewarded with spectacular views. The first day we treked along the river through beautiful forests. Although the morning was a lot of both up and down, the overall effect was a significant elevation gain. Nothing however compared to the afternoon, which was 2 hours of uphill. That brought us to Rimche and the Ganesh View Guesthouse perched on the side of the mountain with a beautiful view to the west and a hot shower as a bonus.
We found that the way things work up here is that everyone is related to everyone else (it’s a small valley) and they all have either a guesthouse of a tea shop. So, because we were satisfied with the Ganesh view, they had someone guide (escort) us up to Langtang where the owner’s sister had a guesthouse. As mentioned, the trip up was another 1000 m elevation gain but this day the whole environment changed. We moved from the forests and jungle to scrub, yaks grazing on the slopes and small tibetan style stone houses. The people in this valley are Tibetan in origin and still consider themselves Tibetan even though they may have been in the valley for a generation of two. We stayed that night at the Buddha guesthouse, run by a gentleman by the name of Pasan. He was very hospitable, a great cook and a pretty good card player. We had a great evening playing cards with him and a 14 year old boy who worked at a neighboring hotel. He was in the valley working to support his parents who lived in the Everest region. He worked as a cook\baker but did all sorts of jobs earning about 3000 rupees (50C$) per month.
The next day we were escorted up to Kyanjin Gompa by Dhawa, the sister who ran the hotel there. She is 20 years old and has 3 kids ages 5, 3 and 1. This was a relatively easy day as the elevation gain was only about 500 metres but we were going from 3300 m (10,800 feet) to 3800 m (12,460 feet) so the going was significantly slower. Plus, we had the privilage of visiting Dhawa’s home and having tea there while her husband got ready to bring their 3 year old down to boarding school in Kathmandu. Yes, that’s right – there are no schools up there so they send them to KTM if they want them to get an education. They left on horseback while we were there. Dhawa then got their 1 year old ready to join us up at Kyanjin Gompa, putting a few clothes together and strapping her to her back and then away we went.
By the time we got to Kyanjin Gompa it had started to snow and by the time we were huddled around the stove in the dining room it was snowing heavily. It was good at that point to know that we had a couple days to spare if the weather turned nasty for several days although the locals assured us it would be fine in the morning. And we did meet a lot of locals there. As soon as we arrived, there was a steady stream of them coming into the dining room and after the initial chitchat of “where are you from”, it always came down to “please come to visit my shop”. After trekking the day and at that altitude, it’s difficult (actually impossible) to stay up late and we all fought the urge to go to bed at 7:00 and we forced ourselves to stay up to at least 8:00!!
The locals were indeed right and the next day dawned bright and blue. As we had come up during the cloud and snow, the scene that greeted us that morning was nothing short of spectacular. Langshisha Ri, a wall of white at the end of the valley was magnificent as were all the peaks that surrounded us.
The mission that day was to find the perfect spot for Dirk’s rock. Yes Dirk, Torin has carried the rock all over Japan, South East Asia and Nepal. He settled on this valley because for several reasons – it wasn’t as touristy, it was somewhat secluded and isolated, the Tibetan influence and the views were second to none. We spent the morning climbing up the side of Cherko Ri and found a spot at an elevation of 4200 m (13,780 feet) that overlooked the valley. We all participated in that event and you, Gerri, Spencer and Maya were with us as we scrambled up the mountain and clung to the side as we took a few photos. The rock will remain there for a millenium or until a yak nudges it off, which ever comes first!
We made it back down for a late lunch and spent the remainder of the day basking in the sun, napping and just enjoying being there. The following morning, Mary and I left at 0600 to summit Kyanjin Ri, the 4773 m (15,660 feet) peak above Kyanjin Gompa. It took us just under 2 hours to make it up and the views of white and blue were simply brilliant. Check out the 360 degree panorama video clip taken from the top. An hour and 20 minutes later we were back for breakfast. We then headed all the way back to Rimche where a hot shower awaited. Torin and Carole led the way while Mary and I had a long 12 hour day of trekking. As a result (exhaustion and possible food poisoning), that night Mary was sick and the following day we decided to stay put.
While Torin and I did short hike the next morning, Mary rested and Carole came close to achieving enlightenment by watching a cow\rock for most of the day. It was a very peaceful day in an amazing location and we have Mary to thank for it!
The next morning Mary was only slightly better but needed to get down the mountain. Torin and I, being the manly men we are, decided that we could handle the extra load of Mary’s pack. Torin took her pack and I took Torin’s pack (which was lighter than Mary’s). The extra load took it’s toll though and by the time we got back to Syabru besi, I was going pretty slow and my back was pretty sore. Mary and Carole made it down about an hour later and Mary’s health and well-being had improved dramatically. We enjoyed fresh fruit (something that just isn’t available on the trek) and celebrated with the last good quality chocolate bar.
The next morning we were on the first bus out of there (6:30) and were back in KTM by 2:30 (yes the bus driver actually cut an hour off the trip – don’t ask me how as there was still just as much uphill as downhill on the way back).
On the trek, every restaurant\hotel offers the identical menu (except for the prices which go up proportional to the elevation). After a week, we were all sick of the choices between chowmein, fried rice, dal baht, soup and momos. So we were back in KTM about an hour before we were in Helena’s eating a vegie burger and quaffing back a large Everest beer.
What’s next??? Mary and Carole are heading to Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal for a couple days and then to Lumbini before crossing into India. They’ll be traveling by bus and train around India for about a month. Then, around April 29, Mary will fly to Cairo and Carole will return to Salmon Arm. As for Torin and I, we’re off to Jiri where we’ll begin the trek to Everest Base Camp and Kalapattar. So yes, we’ll be trekking for another 23 days before returning to Kathmandu around April 22. Although Torin has already received an “A+” in his grade 8 phys ed course, he wants to do the Everest trek for bonus points! 😉
The plan is to spend May in Alexandria on the north coast of Egypt where Torin’s history course will take place (and some more math).
Keep in mind that while Mary and Carole will be available for the next month via email, Torin and I won’t be.