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Monday, December 13, 2010

A December Trek to Langtang

We just returned from an incredible 10 day hike through the Langtang Valley with our good friends from Yosemite. Tomorrow we are off to raft the Seti River for several days to Chitwan National Park for some elephant riding and rhino spotting... I'll try to summarize the trek before we head out of town again... and before the power cuts out!

Langtang is a high alpine valley "just north" of Kathmandu, right up against the Tibetan border. As the crow flies, it is one of the "closest" treks to Kathmandu, but the boulder-strewn winding dirt road, and 10+ hour bus ride, really make it less accessible and visited than either the Annapurna or Everest regions. This is my 3rd time trekking up in Langtang, and Eliza & Karen's 2nd, and the area still surprises us with its amazing scenery, abundant wildlife, and quiet "undiscovered" trail options...

The "road" to Dunche and Syabrubensi is famously nauseating, so we opted to skip the crowded local bus & hire a Jeep to get us to the trailhead. Uncle Shankar got us the largest 8-seater he could find, and we crammed all 9 of us into the vehicle. This is another advantage of traveling with kids, as 5 of our group are children... very easy to stuff them into small spaces! We'll likely take the bus back home after the trek.

You can begin hiking up to Langtang on any of 3 trails. The most popular seems to be the direct route from Syabrubensi, following the Langtang Khola (river) right up the bottom of the cold shady canyon. As this is the typical option, we chose to avoid it... Far more enjoyable, from my perspective, is the sunny south-facing slope through Kangjim and Syarpagaon. Ten years ago when we were last here, neither of these villages had any real lodges or tea-houses, but now there are a few simple places to stay. The thing we appreciate the most is that these are authentic functioning villages, with a few recent lodges. On some of the main trekking routes, so many clusters of new lodges have sprung up in "convenient" locations to trekkers. We much prefer to stay in the "wrong" places (according to the standard guidebook itineraries), because the village experience is so much more fascinating. So.... up the steeep pine clad slopes to Kangjim and then the magnificent traverse to Syarpagaon. It's a high somewhat flat several miles, thousands of feet above the Langtang Khola, with warm sun and brilliant views.

After a couple of days we rejoined the main trail, and headed up the riverside canyon past Rimche, Lama Hotel, and Gumnachowk to GhoreTabela ("horse-table"). The oak/pine/bamboo/rhodedendron forest is a magical place, where you really wouldn't be surprised to spot elves or hobbits in the mossy understory... We did see loads of lovely birds, and several large groups of Langurs moving through the trees. In this area you begin to see glimpses of the stunning snow-clad peaks of the Langtang group... Langtang 2, Langtang Lirung, etc...

There were days that we hiked up up up, gaining over 3000 feet of elevation. The kids didn’t even notice as they were discussing world politics with Maya and Dawn, or crooning over “cuuuuuuuuute” animals like goats, baby chicks, yaks or the most sacred of all, (to Eliza anyway), the horses and ponies!

One of Lupin’s highlights was, “…hiking up to the windy place…” (that would be Kyangjin Ri…with its tasty views, high winds, glaciers and a glimpse of the Tibetan border peaks! “There were some really different birds up there that I couldn’t believe can live in that wind and cold!"

Eliza says, "The Langtang trek was so awesome! We got to ride Tibetan ponies twice. We got to hike up a huge steep hill that was so hard and steep, but it was really worth it because even though I thought I was going to die of altitude sickness, we got to the top we could see into Tibet!

We began in the lower elevation with banana trees and the views unfolded as we climbed up so high that we were 3000’ from where we started. The final traverse to Sherpagaon was great. We just hiked and talked with our friends and we seemed to be there so quickly! The next day was mostly flat & down until we were at the bottom of the river canyon, then back up through oaks, bamboo, rhododendron forest…hoping as we walked to see a red panda. Even though we didn’t see one, it was one of the most beautiful places on our whole trek. That night was really cool because we were at Tsering’s house. She is the girl who I played with on the Langtang trek in 1999 when I was just one a half years old. I still remember that she gave me my first Pringles! ™ It is hard to imagine that that little girl I have thought of all these years is 13 years old and in school in Kathmandu now! We gave photos and letters to her family and will send them some photos of us together 11 years ago! As we started the next morning, we passed big ice sculpture made by a spraying, leaky hose! We posed for photos with it and broke it up a bit with our bamboo sticks.

We arrived in Langtang later that day where we walked around the pastures of yaks and ponies and met 3 little girls and gave them horseback rides which they loved! We got to help them put their goats in the stable for the night! On our way home we got our feet really muddy and were scared that the parents would be mad at us. They were happy that we had made some local friends and we just had to deal with our own frozen feet.

When we got to Kyangin Gompa the next day we stayed in a tiny little guest house with a man who owned a tiny little black Tibetan pony named Karma. He let us ride that afternoon. It was so awesome because I got to ride double with Dawn! It was soooooo fun. Here we got to do some amazing day hikes. Up the super steep trail which gave us a great view into Tibet. I loved that. I really love Tibet and loved to see Tibetan soil. I hope so much to go there someday. I just love the people and the culture and I want to learn more about Tibet because I now have so many friends who are Tibetan.

The next day we went on a great “ice adventure” crossing icy streams that we could have fallen into and got to break and bust tons of frozen ice…it was cool! We explored around in a little drainage and wanted to get to the other side, but there was so much ice in the way. We had to make our way around carefully so that we didn’t break through the thin places and fall in. I really LOVE that kind of thing! We walked across an abandoned air strip that had white rocks surrounding it. I can’t imagine landing on that incredibly bumpy surface!

The morning we were leaving town, a helicopter landed near our guest house! Out came a couple of travelers with big cameras and smiles. The pilot let us sit in the helicopter and take some funny pictures. We talked with the 3 tourists who came out and they were really interesting. So we got a later start hiking down the canyon, walked all day long, and pulled in to Lama Hotel, our destination, way after dark. When we got there I was soooo tired but the food was great!

The next day we hiked up a really steep hill to Thulo Syabru. I loved this village and the place we stayed with the cute black kitten. We got to sleep with our friends in our own room! We stayed up LATE talking and playing and were so tired the next morning. It was worth it!

I was sad to finish the trek because it was beautiful and I love the life of trekking; the adventures, the exercise, the scenery and meeting new people every day. Then, we got on the bus home…Achhhhh! Nothing to say, but maybe the videos or photos will sum up the ride!

1 comment:

  1. Hey there,

    Funny, we're heading this way to with the kids next march... How long were you gone for ? As spectacular as the Annapurna ?

    Cheers !