* For a quick link to photos of our trip so far, scroll to the bottom of this post or read through… 🙂 *
Well, once again its been a while friends! But with good reason, having just returned from our 11 day langang valley trek and recovering from a stomach bug I’m calling my best excuse ever 🙂
Looking back on the experience of the trek is hard in a way. It feels like someone other than me did it. It feels surreal and separate from reality. You get so connected to the experience in the moment out there, it’s hard to connect it to the reality of your everyday life.
Its also a little depressing to be back in Kathmandu on our own, without Jesse’s parents, wthout the community of our trekking group, and with no clear reason to wake up in the morning. But tomorrow is a new day – travelling to Chitwan, with new adventures in store.
So about the trek…facts first. The Langtang valley trek is around the 3rd most popular trek in Nepal I would guess, following The Everest base camp and Annapurna Circuit treks.
We started our particular trek with a 7 hour lancruiser trip to Dhunche, a sleepy little village set in a drastic backdrop of mountain peaks and clouds. On the first evening there it rained, which didn’t bode well for our first few days of walking. The next day it rained a little on our way to Thulo Syabru, a pretty little village set atop hills cascading with terraced farmland.
The next morning in Thulo Syabru I woke to the excited screams of children running and playing outside. The cause was soon clear – it had snowed about 1-2 inches overnight – unusual for that time of year in that area! The following day we faced rain, snow, sleet and fog through our jungle-like path to Lama Hotel. At our lunch stop, snow blew in through a 5 inch gap above the window as we ate Ramen noodles. A tough day’s walk ended in Lama Hotel (a village, not a hotel, as is first believed). Over the next three days we climbed to Langtang, took a rest day there, then climbed on to Kyanijin Gompa, usually the highest village trekkers stop at on the route. After our first night in Kyanjin Gompa, the challenge was set before us – to ascend the nearby peak of Kyanjin Ri to a height of 4550m (15,000 ft).
I had already been feeling the breathlessness of altitude on the uphill ascents, and was feeling apprehensive!
Jesse, Martha and I were attempting, and the climb was incredibly tough, undoubtedly my greatest physical challenge ever! My breathing was rapid and hard as I took baby steps up through frozen mud and snow. Towards the top, the snow was up to my knees in places, making progress even more exhausting in what felt like a never-ending struggle. But finally we made it to the ridge and then the peak!
The thing about climbing a mountain, or doing an in/out trek, is that you just have to go back down pretty much exactly the way you went up. The day after descending our mountain we began to backtrack our steps, first to Langtang village which felt like home, with it’s friendly guesthouse and nights together round the fire.
We descended also through Lama Hotel, and then to a different village of Syabru Besi for our final night and pick up in the landrover the next morning.
Over our last meal on trek together we all commented that the experience had felt surreal. It was hard for us to conceive that we had actually physically accomplished it. Then the faces of the men, women and children we had seen and met in the villages, living with cows and horses and donkeys and yaks, without computers and internet and tv and even 24hr electricity. The lives who were supported only by what they could raise or grow or carry in on their backs on those steep mountain paths. They seemed surreal too, and more and more so and we travelled into Kathmandu with it’s dust, pollution and crowding, it’s office blocks and fancy hotels, and too-many trucks, buses, cars and bikes.
There’s not much I can say without turning this post into a never-ending story, and it’s already overdue.
But there is something invaluably precious about seeing how people live without hot water, 24hr electricity, television, computers, internet…without a lot by our Western standards.
And to try that for myself – first having to suffer through the freezing cold, taking a ‘shower’ in a bowl of warm water, having a limited number of food selections to choose from (oh the humanity!).
But also finding the simple comfort in that human bird bath, the treasured warmth of sitting together around the fireplace at night, and shunning the lonely solitude of Internet social networking to talk, laugh and share struggles with a family around you.
There’s really something in all that, that we Westerners have lost sight of in our desperate quest for constant safety, security and comfort.
So if I get that chance to be uncomfortable again, I will certainly take it, I think from my comfortable, empty room in Kathmandu. Anytime.