11th-14th March, 2015
The bus from Kathmandu to the trailhead for the Langtang Valley was slow but the mountainous terrain of rice paddies it gradually rolled its way through were a pleasing sight. It took eight hours, in all, and during the journey I got chatting to a Swiss guy called Chris who had been living in Nepal for several years. We arrived at a village called Syabrubesi at 3pm and, with not many hours of daylight left, the two of us began hiking.
About an hour in we reached the first guest house. The owners claimed that we wouldn’t see another one for at least two hours, so it was *cough cough* within our best interests to stay with them, or we would risk being stuck in the dark.
We both knew they were likely lying, but Chris decided to stay there anyway. I was on a shorter time-budget than he was so I, apologetically, told him that I was going to carry on walking.
It was only half an hour till I saw the next tea-house, confirming my suspicions. Another half an hour after that I reached a village called Pairo. I could have probably been able to reach the next village called Bamboo if I liked but, with only an hour of daylight left, I would have been cutting it a bit fine and, considering that the region ahead of me was labelled as ‘landslide’ on the map, I was of the mind that they were telling the truth this time when they said there would be no more accommodation options between.
It was the discovery that there was a hot spring in Pairo which swayed the decision for me; I had heard that chances to wash can be a rare and/or expensive affair while on tea-house treks in Nepal.
After bathing, I went to the place I was staying at – Namaste Guest House – and ordered dinner. When I told the owner to make sure there was no meat in my food he shook his head and said, “No meat here. We are from Tibet. We are vegetarian too.”
My friend Roy – a name regular readers of my blog will recognise – advised me that a lot of trekkers wake up too late and end up doing most of their hiking in the midday sun, and it is much better to rise early. With this counsel in mind, I got up at the crack of dawn and ate a quick breakfast of tsampa (a local kind of porridge made from barely), and by 6:45 I was on the path again.
Langtang was turning out to be a great place for wildlife: I had already seen a lot of birds the day before but that morning I saw many more, most of which were strange to me and I could not put a name to. I also saw three groups of langur monkeys, a few squirrels, and two antelopes.
Within an hour I reached Bamboo, where I passed through a rather magical woodland for which the village gets its name.
For the next few hours which followed I was walking through alder forests as I followed the river deeper into the valley.
I drank plenty of water that day: one of the causes of altitude sickness is dehydration, and I was stretching the safety guidelines of acclimatisation by quite some margin. I knew what the symptoms were though and, if I began to experience them, I knew what to do; turn back and make a partial descent.
Eventually the almost canyon-like valley opened up a little and the terrain – between all the steep mountains around me – became wider. Small Tamang villages became abundant.
I reached Langtang Village at around 3:30pm and, although I was feeling a little light-headed, I was certainly not feeling unwell enough to turn back, so it seemed I was one of the lucky ones who acclimatises quickly. I had ascended almost 2,000 meters that day, going from 1,800 to 3,500.
I ate tingmo (a Tibetan style bread) with soup and asked for a cup of seabuck thron juice to wash it down. It came hot and was exactly what I needed to warm myself up. They offered me a free hot shower, powered by solar panel, which was a pleasant surprise. I had been told by many friends that people who trek the Nepali Himalayas generally don’t wash very often because it was expensive, but so far I had managed to wash for free two days in a row. It felt a little bit like I was cheating, but a free shower was certainly not something I was going to turn down.
I ate a second dinner a couple of hours later while chatting with a young Indian couple who had not quite managed to complete the trek (they turned back because they began to feel breathless). They also told me that there had been problems with too much snow, but it was thankfully now melting.
I rose early, ate breakfast, waved goodbye to the owner of Peaceful Guest House, and was on my way again.
It wasn’t too long until there was snow beneath my feet, and after a couple of hours I reached Kyanjing Gompa.
I ate an early lunch as I contemplated what to do next. This was the end of the road for the Langtang Valley trail, but there was still a viewpoint on a nearby mountain called Kyanjing Ri which most people end up climbing. Most people also spend a night in Kyanjing Gompa first though, to help with acclimatisation, but I was feeling impatient.
After finishing my lunch I decided to give it a go. The trail was hidden beneath residual snow so I got lost for a while. I eventually found a trail which led me into waist-deep snow, making me very conscious of the fact that I was alone and without a guide.
I saw that there were a group of people heading down the mountain towards me, so I waited. When they reached me I found out that the trail I was on was actually for a much higher summit – a summit someone like me (inexperienced and guideless) would be foolish to attempt. They pointed me in the right direction.
When I finally made it to the top it was a fantastic panorama, but it did challenge my fear of heights. I also managed to find the correct way down the mountain, too.
By the time I reached the bottom again it was 1:30pm, so I had plenty of time to make my way back to Langtang Village, giving me a head start for the next day.
I spent most of this day walking my way back down the valley, leaving the snow behind and entering the forest again.
I spotted more birds along the way, and I also called in at Namaste Guest House in Pairo briefly to say farewell. Shortly after, I turned off from the Langtang trail and began walking along a footpath which snaked its way up a mountain towards a village called Thulu Syabru, past lots of bamboo trees.
By the time I reached there the area had become enveloped by clouds and it began to rain. I settled into one of the first guest houses I came across. A place called Paradise Hotel which was run by a very nice lady and her family.
I went to bed early that night. The next day I would be starting upon the Gosainkunda trail to reach the secret lakes.