Trek through Langtang Valley

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Wednesday 4 November to Tuesday 10 November
Day 1: Kathmandu to Syrabrubesi, 8 hours by local bus

Anticipating a long and arduous administrative process to organise our permit and TIMS for Langtang Valley National Park, we went to the Nepal Tourism Board the day before starting our trek. To our surprise, it was quick and easy, and we had a delightful experience: the staff were helpful and kind, seemed quite nonchalant when we had to cobble together all of our rupees and US dollars in order to pay the fees, and even supplied us with free tea.

Confident we could organise this trek without a guide, we set off by ourselves early the next morning. However, after taking the wrong road to the bus stop, the very straightforward, 20-minute walk to the bus stop turned into a much longer journey. Will reminded me that we weren’t lost, but that we were exploring. And, with a little help from the locals, we were soon on our way to Syrabrubesi. Little did we know that 24 hours earlier, on the same route, a local bus skidded over the edge of a cliff, with terrible tragedy. After seeing the shell of the vehicle littering the cliff-face, it was a sombre start.

Day 2: Syrabrubesi (1503m) to Sherpagaon (2563m), ~5 ½ hours

We were extremely fortunate to breakfast with a Spanish couple who informed us that, due to the earthquake, most of the guesthouses we had planned to stay in along our trek were not actually open.

Although we had researched the route beforehand, and even went to a trekking agent to verify our itinerary, it seemed that only those with first-hand experience really knew the full story. We were soon to become one of the few to pass through Langtang village post-earthquake; we were told it only opened for tourists 2 weeks prior.

With map in hand, we set off across the river, climbed up through steep jungle (mistaking buffalo for bears) and passed along high ridges to be welcomed fondly by our first guesthouse. Here, we enjoyed an amazingly hot solar shower, played numerous games of Yatzee with the family running the Super View hotel, and listened to stories of mountain escapades, including one heroic tale of how the father lost his leg to frostbite after rescuing an altitude-sick foreigner.

Day 3: Sherpagaon (2563m) to Langtang to Kyangin Gumpa (3830m), 9 hours

We knew we were in for a long day when we found out we would have to continue walking through two of our scheduled stops, as they were both now abandoned following the earthquake. As we set off very early, it was made all the more bearable when a friendly dog decided to accompany us (we like to think he was our guide/Sherpa-dog); he was obedient, patient, paused when we did, and even scared away a big pack of monkeys (Will was especially grateful).

Some of the trekking route was now dictated by new rock that had come to a stop following landslides. Across the valley, we could see forests uprooted and sprawled down the hill, having been bowled over by the falling boulders.

Further along, we reached deserted villages, and in some cases, only the remains of buildings, partly collapsed or simply left as piles of rubble. Langtang itself was unrecognisable as a village, buried by rock. It was extremely sad. We were stunned into silence, and as we continued to trek onward, our thoughts were overcome by the devastation.

Temperatures that night dropped below freezing. As we huddled around a wood burner, we reflected on the optimism, strength and determination shared by many Nepalese. It was interesting to discuss whether a belief in one’s luck, whether you are inherently a lucky or an unlucky person, may make personal outcomes easier to accept and come to terms with.

Day 4: Kyanjin Gumpa (3830m) via Kyanjin Ri (4770m) to Mundu (3400m), 5 hours

After masala tea and Tibetan bread, we spiralled up the mountain that was now visible in the glistening light of the morning.

Marching up, with the hope of a summit around each corner, I began traversing the steep slope side-on in the spirit of efficiency, becoming impatient with the endless switchbacks. After only a couple of hours, the path took us to a ridge leading to Kyanjin Ri, where a 360-degree panorama awaited us, and only us.

The mountains of Langtang Lirung (and the glacier), Kimshung and Yansa Tsenji reminded us of their majesty and stood like kings of the earth. We took a lot of time absorbing our surroundings, finding it difficult to advert our gaze.

Eventually, we scrambled back down and retrace our steps to Mundu, where a man who spoke a little English stood before his crumbling guesthouse and pointed to a two-man tent. We had experienced the bitter cold the night before and anticipated much the same, but here we knew we were lucky to get shelter at all, and the tent turned out to be very cosy.

Day 5: Mundu (3400m) to Sherpagaon (2563m), 7 hours

Today, we were en route to Super View hotel and back to the Yatzee family guesthouse. The fond memories of our previous stay with them gave us the momentum needed as we passed back over the buried village of Langtang with the knowledge that some Nepalese helpers had just uncovered three bodies while sorting the rubble.

It only took an hour or so into our trek for mittens and woolly hats to be pulled off, and for the tropical climate to welcome our return to the lower altitude. At Super View, we were warmly received and met some fellow trekkers who had been instructed that the Langtang route was not yet open (and considering the guesthouses, we couldn’t help but agree).

Langtang, village, earthquake, 2015
Langtang Village
Day 6 & 7: Sherpagaon (2563m) to Syraprubesi (1503m), 3-hour trek; local bus back to Kathmandu

A short day with a steep descent took us back along the trodden path to our starting point. As we arrived in Syraprubesi before noon, we decided to book two spaces in a jeep, eager for a quicker and more stable journey back down to Kathmandu. “All full” said the ticket man. Without the option to reserve space in a jeep for the next day, we resorted to catching the local bus. Thankfully, the only alarming thing here was how close the men and women queued at the fuel station.

Posted by Lindsay

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