¨It is the 23. December 2014. I'm sitting in the lounge at a fine little lodge in Kanjin Gomba, while I type these lines into my tablet over a mug of milk tea (with sugar – I almost don't drink without it anymore, I'm so adjusted already). Kanjin Gomba is the last place on the Langtang Trek.
CHRISTMAS ON LANGTANG TREK & TRAVEL IMPRESSIONS
Only for tomorrow I have taken all my computer equipment to trek in the hope to have contact home for Christmas. However I already know. There is no wifi or cell phone reception in Langtang or Kanjin Gomba. There is only one landline.
I would have loved to see their faces on Skype, even though I know it would have meant a lot of tears.
Now I unnecessarily dragged an even heavier backpack around with me. I almost have to praise my former work (for those who don't know: I worked in a medical training therapy). The carrying does not cause me any problems (no sore muscles, no tensions).
However, my legs are now quickly tired when it goes steeply uphill, especially in the afternoon. Without my two trekking poles to help me, I sometimes have the feeling that I won't make it up the mountain at all. Secretly I often call my trekking poles crutches for this reason. But the Langtang Trek was fortunately quite easy until now. At the Tamang Trek it was very often steep uphill or steep downhill. Very exhausting with heavy backpack.
But the efforts are worth it. There are such beautiful views here. Sometimes I hardly get on, because I have to take a photo all the time.
At the moment it is trekking-off-season. It is cold. There is (some) snow. The water soon freezes as soon as the sun disappears behind the mountains. In some places it is frozen all day long. But there are less tourists. I find this very pleasant and brings in the lodges, which advertise for each person, price advantages. In addition, you do not have to worry about not finding a place to sleep. Already twice I was the only person in a lodge.
9 days ago I left my homebase guesthouse in Bhaktapur. I left some things there. So I will definitely return to Bhaktapur again and maybe take a few days break again.¨ (23.12.2014)
PREPARATIONS FOR TREKKING IN THE LANGTANG AREA
On the day of departure (15.12.), a long time ago, there was a lot to do:
- the visa extension in the immigration office in Kathmandu
- Getting a TIMS Card (Trekking Permit) at the Tourist Service Center and a ticket for the Langtang National Park entrance fee
- the search for a new hostel for the night
- and the purchase of a bus ticket for the next morning (for the sake of simplicity I reserved it by phone)
The errands went so fast that I left for Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) already in the early afternoon. Since I had promised a friend (Sonja) to visit some friends of hers who have a hotel (Dechavan) nearby, I did this. Afterwards I walked through Thamel and bought some food for the trekking.
DEPARTURE TO LANGTANG: SYABRUBESI
At three quarters of six the next day a cab picked me up and took me to the ¨Marcha Pokhari¨ bus stop where the bus left for Syabrubesi. Syabrubesi is only 120km away from Kathmandu. But the route is extremely curvy and so the planned driving time from the beginning was 6 hours. We have used approx. 8 hours. A lunch break, countless army, police and park entry checkpoints were passed (at each one we had to show our trekking permissions) and the muddy road (it had rained the days before) extended our travel time. Towards the end a bus got stuck in front of us and only with the combined efforts of the men we were able to get it going again.
I had already met some people in the bus. With Geraldine and Dimitri from Belgium I shared the first lodge room right away. But we parted ways in the morning. They set off towards Langtang trekking. I started the first day into the Tamang Trek.
ON THE WAY ON THE TAMANG TREK
Day 1 took me from Syabrubesi to Gotlang, in an incredibly impressive typical Tamang village.
Luckily for me, I was half adopted by the guide of two Dutch girls (Michelle and Erin) on the same evening because of my Nepali language skills.
After half a day of hiking together I realized that I had forgotten my cell phone at the charging station in the lodge. Pasanta, the guide, immediately started calling around. He tried to arrange for someone to bring my cell phone down to me to save me another climb to Gotlang. It worked out. I waited on the spot. The others went further. After a good hour and a half the assigned person reached me. I paid and set off alone to Tatopani. However, Pasanta, the guide, was so worried that he extended the lunch break of the Dutch to a maximum until I reached them. I was almost a little uncomfortable. Michelle and Erin took it with humor. Until I left in another direction, I mostly hiked with them from then on.
Arrived in Tatopani I had a bath in the hot thermal pools. Wonderful! Not only because it was very pleasant to relax in the warm pools, but because it also served as a warm shower.
The next day my way led me from Tatopani to Nagthali. From there there was the possibility to do a 2-3 hour hike to Taruche. But there was snow. Before me Caro and Christian from Germany with guide Dowa (I already knew all of them from the bus) had already set off there. I follow their footprints in the snow. In only two hours I reached the intended viewpoint. Tibetan villages can be seen from there in the distance.
AT THE BORDER TO TIBET
On day 3 I went steeply down from Nagthali via Thuman to Timure. Although the route was along the road, I really wanted to visit the Tibetan/Nepali border point and the ruins described in the Lonely Planet (LP). Said, done. Arrived in Timure, I set off in the afternoon to the border and the ruins of Rasuwaghadi. In retrospect I advise everyone against this day of excursion. Apart from a huge Chinese border building, a bridge, three stone walls, where a lot of garbage is lying around, and the dam project next to the road, there is nothing to see. Already the way there was terrible, on the way back fortunately a truk took me with him to Timure.
Also for the next morning I hoped for a ride on the road. On the whole way of about 1,5h from Timure to Lingling not a single car passed by. Only 1km before Lingling I was lucky and I could walk the last part of the way on the back of a car.
From Lingling it was a steep climb up to Briddim and Khanjung/Khangjim, both super sweet places. However, it was noon when I came through the villages. So I only made a lunch break in Briddim. I wanted to continue.
In Khanjung I took the wrong turnoff. The correct trekking route seems to go through the whole place and is supposed to go comfortably up to a view point about 2 hours away from Sherpagaon.
A good hour later, I was stopped at a school by helpful teachers. They send me up a steep slope where I should meet the main trail again. The ascent, which took only about 1.5 hours, was insane and gave me one of the most exhausting days of trekking!
Shortly before the viewpoint I found the main trail, it took me another 2,5h to reach the village Sherpagaon.
I declared Sherpagaon as my destination for the day, as I was much too tired to continue my way for another hour to the next place. In addition, there was a wonderful Dhal Baat offer, which I accepted ravenously with thanks.
ON THE WAY ON LANGTANG TREK
On day 5 the Tamang trek ended after only one hour in Rimche. I had now arrived at Langtang Trekking. Because I felt very comfortable in the hostel in Sherpagaon, I decided to make a shorter day and stop at the hostel of relatives in Thyangsyap. The early stop allowed me to wash my clothes before the water was frozen. Since the lodge only accommodated me and two other people, I dried my garment in the heated common room. Too close I stored some clothes which are now slightly scorched by the heat.
From Thyangsyap I went directly via Langtang to Kanjin Gompa, where I spent two nights and also celebrated Christmas. Hard to believe, but that's what I made:
A group of mountaineering guides had a ski training week. I was also allowed to ¨probieren¨.
At Christmas the altitude took its revenge. From Kanjin Gomba at 3860m above sea level, I climbed up and down twice more than 1000 meters in altitude. Physically I was really fine. After I had eaten an extensive Christmas dinner (Veg. Chowmein & Snicker Momo), I visited still other travelers in another hostel, in order to toast with them with Raksi (= self-distilled rice wine) on Christmas. I almost fell asleep and I got a headache. The efforts of the day and the alcohol had been too much at this altitude. Besides I had been sad, because there was only a short phone call home.
Still with headache I dragged myself the next morning slowly downhill to Langtang. My legs felt incredibly tired – both signs of mild altitude sickness.
Therefore I was not surprised when I became faster with every meter of lost altitude. My strength returned. The headache disappeared. I was fit again.
With several tea and food stops we went until late afternoon to Bamboo. I wanted to get as far as possible. I knew from Rimche there would be the possibility of cell phone reception to contact the outside world and check the weather forecast. I was unsure how long the fantastic weather would last. I hoped very much to be able to cross the pass to the Helambu Trek at Gosainkunda Trek. There were different rumors about open and closed passports along the way. I had imagined to have seen clouds in the weather forecast. Clouds would mean fresh snow and make traversing impossible. So the thought was to try to get there before the weather changed and hope that others had already crossed.
ON THE WAY AT GOSAINKUNDA & HELAMBU TREK
Day 9 had begun. Early I left to have a longer lunch break in Thulo Syabru. I knew there would be internet and therefore the possibility to check the weather one more time and give a short life message. This was the first day I did not meet any of the people I had met during the last days. I think they were all at least one day behind me by now. I walked up to Sin Gompa on this day. Again I was the only person in the lodge. The lodge owners told me that only 3 other trekkers had passed by that day.
Since I did not need any further acclimatization, I went directly from Sin Gompa to Gosainkunda. Mostly stopped otherwise in Laurebina. As I already knew, there was only one hostel open (by rotation). The hostel was nevertheless not full, but for me unusual, busy. I spent the evening with a Japanese tour group and I got my first personal Christmas present: an instant vegetable and egg soup. Doesn't sound so great, but it tasted great.
The weather was great, the sunset a dream. Only it was very cold.
Already on arrival I learned that the pass was open. The last two days were crossed by people.
With the Japanese group respectively. whose porters I crossed the pass the next day. But since they were very slow they stopped in Phedi. I had gone as far as Gopte. On this day I was not only the only person in the lodge, but even the only trekker in the ¨Ort¨. It was the 28th.12. – New Year's Eve was approaching and after successfully crossing the pass I knew I could make it to 31.12. to make it to Bhaktapur. Assuming I would continue my way briskly. So I decided to walk every day as far as my feet would take me before nightfall.
Started early, took alternating tea or food breaks, or both. I fell into a walking flow, didn't want to stop anymore. I was satisfied and full of happiness. In Gul Bhanjyang I finished my daily stage.
Unexpectedly, the next day I already reached Bhaktapur. I left early, stopped for lunch in Chisopani and reached Sundarijal just as the last bus to Kathmandu was leaving. On the way (Chynbil) I changed the bus and arrived about 20:30 exhausted again at my homebase guesthouse in Bhaktapur. As I had hoped, there were again some of the people I knew from my previous stay.
NEW YEAR'S EVE IN KATHMANDU: WELCOME TO 2015
On 31.12. first I had a long sleep. In the afternoon I started to wash all my trekking clothes by hand. Ganga, who works in the hostel, followed my washing technique with amusement. He finally gave me a proper Nepali hand washing lesson. I was much too slow, was his resume.
Indecisive what to do, started the New Year's Eve. Bhaktapur or Kathmandu was the choice. Finally we decided to go to Kathmandu. Several times we had to change trains until we reached Kathmandu. It was already late (20:00). There were only a few buses. (Buses here only run until nightfall, at most until 19:30/20:00.) A big openair party in Thamel was our destination. In the crowd we danced into the new year. Still not enough (the music was turned off at 0:30) we changed to a local and further to another one… with the first bus we returned to Bhaktapur.
BREAK IN BHAKTAPUR
In the meantime the 7. January 2015 and I am already since one week in Bhaktapur. New Year's Eve is behind me and now also my birthday (because of this I postponed my departure again). A few days ago I met Diku and Puspa, two of the Nepalese girls from the Sherpa Women project. To say goodbye – to the girls and to Nepal. All others were either on the road or not available. Unfortunately.
In Nepal I settled in well. Here I feel really comfortable. I start to understand more and more the language. Can distinguish inflated prices from correct offers. And the longer I'm here, the more often it seems to me that I automatically get the local prices – without having to negotiate.
Whereby possibly the impression is deceiving: in Bhaktapur I already have fixed ¨Vegetable, Nuts and Curd Dealer¨, who recognized me also on my second visit. And at the market you just have to be patient, stroll around and ask around: no rush is the motto.
Moreover, the more I read into my planned destinations, the more desperate I become. So much to see, so little time I have at my disposal. Soon it will be half time of my travel time.
¨I can't see everything¨, I say to myself daily or rather hourly.
I have already crossed off several countries on my wish list. Too much I resist against fast travels. Too much is lost in the process. It takes too long to dive intensively into a new culture.
Time flies here. When there was no power outage, which was very often the last days, I spent my time in front of the tablet. I went to the movies, met the Nepali girls, walked around Bhaktapur with other travelers, had many conversations and relaxed. For my birthday I ordered a birthday cake. In the hostel we celebrated.
Now I am already excited. I still have to pack. This afternoon I get on the night bus to Kakarbhitta, the eastern border station to India. Darjeeling is my next destination. After that I would like to enter Bangladesh directly if possible. But I am still unsure which border crossing I will choose.