In good spirits, we left early the next day to begin an eight hour bus trip to Syabru Besi where we spent our first night in a lodge. After breakfast we started our climb to Langtang at 12,400 ‘. Our trek followed the glacier fed Langtang Kola river. The scenery there is varied and breath taking and the trek more adventurous as the area is visited by fewer tourists. The first two days we trekked through forests with temperate and sub-alpine vegetation along the river, past numerous waterfalls, and monkey’s frolicking in the high trees. Wildlife included migratory birds, deer, monkeys, Tahr and Pika. At several different spots during the next eight days, Roddy, a veteran hiker and traveler, looked at me with an exhilarated look on his face and said, “Sydney, every day the scenery is different and spectacular. I’ve never seen such variety. “
Each morning I woke to dim light and made my way to the dining tent where our cook put out a thermos of masala tea wrapped in an orange towel on top of the green camp table outside the dining tent. Inside, Buddhi and three guides were usually sleeping. As quietly as I could, I poured two cups of tea, one to take to Karin, my tent mate still in our tent, and the other to take with me to a rock where I could sit and watch the sun rise over the mountains while sipping my tea and feeling the warm cup in my hands. While I was reveling in my experience one morning at our camp in Riverside, I was surprised to see trekkers and staff who had already started trekking in the dark!
Along the way we met Tibetans who operated lodges and offered us a place to camp. Many had yak cheese, jewelry, and hats they had made or spun for sale. It was heartening to see group members really take an interest in the people we met and their culture and was inspiring to meet people who’d experienced such loss and devastation rebuilding and who seemed encouraged and pleased we were there.
The trail gradually climbed through small villages and yak pastures as the valley opened out further and the views became more expansive. One of our high points en route to was our night at Hotel View Point, Gumba Village. operated by Nima Lamat Tensig Lama and her husband. She enjoyed talking with us as much as we enjoyed talked with her. And one of the best parts at this point in our journey, was her solar shower. Each of us enjoyed a hot one before dinner which was inside her lodge with light and heat from a stove burning dried yak dung.
Gumba Village is about the point were we were above the tree line and the trail took us towards Langtang. We carefully and made our way down one side of the avalanche across the glacier and up the other side. It was a sad, but fascinating part of our trek. After that, the views became extensive as we hiked through yak pastures and the valley surrounded by giant snow capped mountains opened up before us.
While the guys set up our tents in the dramatic setting in Kyanjn Gompa at 12,696 surrounded by mountains, made a bee line to the German Bakery in town to chat in a warm place drinking beer, tea and coffee supplemented by chocolate cake and other treats. Mean whiile, our crew played soccer with each other for a couple of hours after setting up camp. It was delightful to watch these young men laughing and having fun after carrying our bags, tents, kitchen equipment on their backs for several days.
Every night after dinner, Buddhi suggested splitting up the group the next day so the younger more vigorous hikers in our group could join him to climb higher to see the glacier and reach a pass. It was a great idea. At dawn the next day Hans, Ingrid, Dave, Elizabeth and Karin started their climb while the rest of us descended slowly to Ghora Tabla and our next camp site. A guide stayed with Barbara, Carol and me while we stopped at every stupa, mountain view-we were euphoric and wanted to soak up the energy and beauty in the area as long as possible.
By dusk, we reached our next camp site in a field surrounded by pine trees near Ghora Tabla. The pine scent was intoxicating. I couldn’t identify the source at first because of its purity and subtly. Others with me had expressed concern about them covering such rough terrain in the dark. One person said, “They better stay in a lodge along the way. We won’t see them tonight and someone may get hurt.” I kept it to myself but I knew Bhuddi well enough to know everyone would be fine. Sure enough, they all made it in time for dinner exhilarated and thrilled by their adventure.
Our last day, we descended and wound our way through sub-alpine forests, across bridges slowly down through alpine terrain, verdant midlands, and welcoming teahouses en route to Syabru Village, perched on a ridge over looking Ganesh and surrounded by Nepal’s Langtang Himal and other ranges in Tibet. The path itself was a packed earth and the views were unique . The very steep climb that day lead us to a breath taking view of the surrounding green mountains and gorges. In the distance one could see a picturesque Syabru Village, the adjacent hamlets and etched farming plots on the mountainside. Once we rounded the mountain there was a gradual decent to the bottom of the gorge and the steep one to the village. We crossed a long suspension bridge near the bottom of the gorge and the climb to the village was easyier than we anticipated. We were awed to look back at how far we had come.
During the final climb, there was a stone crushing quarry and the village appeared to be somewhat progressive in overall appearance with their new walkways and numerous high quality structures. Some of the rebuilding taking place from the 2015 earthquake looked superior relative to reinforcements and overall workmanship. Once we reached our campsite perched on a ridge overlooking the valley there was the relief similar to the finality of, “Pilgrim’s Progress.”
The next morning we descended to Syabru at 6,233.5 feet. It was a relatively short day of walking along a dirt path looking at the mountain ranges in Tibet and back at the mountains in Langtang under a crystal blue sky. Barbara asked one the guides, “What do you all think of us?” Grinning ear to ear he answered, “Old but strong! After a couple of hours chatting among ourselves and taking photos, we walked primarily on the new road being build to Syabru Village to the only lodge in town while large colorful flat bed trucks driving back and forth to the Tibetan Border to pick up electronics from China sped by. What a contrast to where we’d just been.
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They were all basically the same size and normally driven by younger men. The majority of the trucks were from Tata Motors, an Indian company. We only saw one driver dealing with a flat tire which indicated that trucks were very well maintained. With the dire road conditions, it was surprising that there were not more problems with flat or damaged tires. One could tell that the truck drivers were experienced and knew their limitations when driving, especially close to a ravine. I imagine that there were unwritten rules for overtaking or generally passing one another when the road was not wide enough for the trucks to pass each other unimpeded.
Once we were settled in our rooms, Our staff used the kitchen in the lodge to prepare a celebratory dinner for us and we used the room on the same floor as the dining room. By this time our group members had adjusted and easily accepted the accommodations. The rooms had two beds, a bare floor, a light hanging from the ceiling, gaps between the wood slats in the walls and cracked newspaper on the seams between the walls and the ceiling. While I sat on my bed, each group memoer gave me the tip money for our staff and others ventured out to buy a beer and were invited into people’s shops and homes. Roddy, who I met through Wander Birds, a hiking group in the Washington, D.C. area said, “The people are impoverished, but they don’t act impoverished.”
Our last night together was festive because we celebrated the completion of our trek and a job well-done by our staff. The cook and his team prepared roasted chicken, vegetables, potatoes and a cake. On the cake a piece of note paper was erected on it, with “Congratulations- Langtang Trek 2017” written on it. After I gave the tip money to Buddhi, he sorted it into separate envelops with each person’s name on it to give them after dinner. We were impressed with his friendly management skills. His team loved him and he has a way of making each of them feel part of the journey. He explained that many of them are from the Basa and Langtang region. He took pride in teaching them the multiple skills required to take people like us on a trek. One of the parts we really appreciated was how well our guides paced us to the trek. On journey’s like this one, it is easy for some to go to fast and get injured or exhausted. All of us ended a great trek in good spirits and in good physical shape.