Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gushing rivers, mystical forests and wandering off a trail to Tibet

Up at nearly 5000m in Langtang

It's already been a week since I proudly walked into my hostel in Boudha after walking all the way back from my starting point 150kms in the Langtang area north of Kathmandu.  However, after nearly 30 days of continuously long days of up and down trekking, my body sort of cracked it, the friendly gastro bug i've been nursing has come alive, and now; literally the flight up to my room, or three turns around the stupa leaves me drained.

So a mixed week. BUT, i have managed to practice more yoga, visit Buddhist lamas and hear some teachings, as well as just sleep and relax; so that's all good to. There's much i hope to write about Boudha, where i am now, but before i lull you into the peaceful / rush hour of monastery drums, people doing puja (prayers) and the mst auspicious days in the tibetan buddhist calender; i'd better jot down my last trek.

I really did come here to trek..after finishing Annapurna i knew i needed to do more, and this time alone. I guess i wanted to see how far i'd push myself, how lonely i'd get, what rhythms i'd establish. And so i found out.

Turns out that....
  • i like getting up and hitting the trail by 6am,
  • that a slightly doughy apple pancake gives me more lasting energy than porridge,
  • that i can storm up 600m on a switchback uphill path after 8 hours of hiking if it's below 3000m no problems, but walking in the morning above 3000m zaps my energy,
  • that i rarely take my pack off when i stop, that i don't stop for lunch,
  • that dal bhat/fried rice/fried potatoes doubles up for dinner and lunch the next day,
  • that i sorely lack protein,
  • that i'm ok about turning back - but rarely do,
  • that i'll happily go off trail,
  • that miraculously i can get up with my body feeling good after collapsing in bed the night before and do another 9 h 2000m ascent day,
  • that i like walking alone, but miss the comradery of chatting at the end of the day,
  • that you really can easily go 10 days with little clothing providing you handwash like every single day,
  • that ponchos really are handy against rain, that sometimes even if you can't see more than 5m in front, you just stick your head down and continue up the path,
  • that herbal sunscreen doesn't cut it,
  • that leeches hide themselves in that wet rubbish that you stick in your pocket,
  • that biscuit wrappers are the most common forms of rubbish,
  • that great conversations and friendships come from unexpected times and places,
  • that it's helpful to have something good to read as from 7pm to 5am its dark and you're probably sitting alone in the dining hall or your room,
  • that solar hot showers are awesome,
  • that you're inspired and surprised by people everywhere.

A unique guide!

keeping cool
I started the trek with a 6 hour bumpy busride from kathmandu to shyaphru besi, where i decided to see some tamang villages before starting langtang. I met a schoolgirl on the bus, and following her entire extended family who had been caught in kathmandu during the protests, we walked to gatlang, where her sister lived and she went to school. Gatlang is a traditional Tamang village - and one of the moments that i wished i had a local guide.

Gatlang Village

It is traditional in the wooden houses, local kids slightly corrupted with tourism, in the intricate maze of paths winding in and out of wheat threshing front porches, and a sort of past age air about it. I was impatient though, and not looking for a 'cultural experience' so instead of a homestay i lodged and he next morning, climbed down to Chilime and up up up t Tatopani.

A game called...Carrom - played alot here

Tato means hot and pani, water, and indeed the town is built around some yellow mud hot springs.  Bt that's not why i stayed 2 nights... I had seen on my map a trail that led to the border with Tibet. I really, really wanted to just get there, step over and back. My 7minutes in tibet so to speak. For the 2 tries and 13 hours i spent trying to get there, i composed wonderful, witty and inspirational blog entries about those 7 minutes, but alas i did jot make it. There was close to 1000m elevation gain up to 4000m, i had to get there and back in 1 day, and i just didn't really want to climb the next switchback (and slip ans slide my way back down) yet again. The locals do the journey in 7-8 hours TO tobet, then 5 return so ehat i was attempting was a tall order. But it was still a beautiful, quiet walk, and following up steeply a gushing river would five me a taste of what was to come in Langrang. The next day was a series of 'epic' days...

I was knackered - trying to get to Tibet

There it is...Tibet

I continued about 2hours from here steadily following the river and climbing - but in the end probably about 2 hours shy and lots of rocks to climb, i turned back
The days that i did long exhausting days at fast speeds (doing the equivalent of 2 days hiking in 1). Tatopani to landslide/hotspring, then the next day following the huge, steeply rising ( 2000m ascent ) gushing Langtang river to Kyanjin Gumpa at 3830m altitude. My small pleasure..i kept pace and even overtook local porters!! which for those of you who've been here know how amazing those people are. 

On the way up to Kyangin Gumpa - Langtang

The non trail i decided to follow up to Cherko Ri - ie. scrambling up a landslide

But well worth it! I would be going to the other side of the mountains next

The highlights of my 2 night stay in kyangin gumpa was the yummy food and spotless kitchen of Jaggat, the cook/brother of the lodge owner, and my morning off trail ascent of Cherko Ri (4984m). It was one of the most stunning panoramas /views if the tibetan and nepalese himalayan ranges, and after my scramble up the side of a landslide (i had completely missed the path) to be greeted with faded still colourful prayer flags and THAT view, was magical. Definitely the highlight view-wise of the trek. After Langtang i pulled another epic day to reach the sacred Hindu lakes of Gosainkund that sit at 4165m altitude.

Totally different landscape

Pilgrims on the way up to Gosainkund

They are beautiful and mystic and placid and out of a tolstein novel.. Sitting glittering like jewels amidst rocky, craggy mountains. But the serendipitous occasion happened the night before on the way up which was meeting a French/Japanese couple who on their same trek had decided to stop and volunteer for the month at the local school at Thulo Syaphru. I later noticed a trekking agency sign 'don't go gently' who had sponsored the health clinc, and have since found out that they also support the same school which has now sparked all sorts of ideas in my part.

But, unfortunately, i being still a bit selfish and gung ho about continuing, i left the next morning, passing about 300 hindu pilgrims that were coming down from a big festival at the lakes. Unfortunate as i had missed seeing a big festival, but good in that i would have somewhere to stay.

This night was my social night - i met a great group of trekkers coming the opposite direction - 3 nepali guys with a dutch girl. We had such a great evening as the fog and sunshine came over the lakes talking shit and hatching up plans to climb a 5000m peak the morning after. By this stage though, i was sort of exhausted, tired and wanting to he back. Yes, it happened-i got tired of trekking!!

Whether because i was lonely, or bodily exhausted, i'm not sure but i knew i was 2 or 3 long days away from 'home'. So the next morning; instead of scaling up yet another landslide, i watched on as a group of intrepid first time mountaineers scaled up a scary looking (as it turned out, perhaps wrong) peak to peer across the beautiful majestic ranges. They were little people on a BIG rock!!

Making Chapati in a lodge

Road BEFORE wet season. hm.

I went down though, out of the clear skies and into mist. It sort of stayed like that for the final 2 days of the hike, until i reached the final morning when i walked from across the mountains, and into the city of Kathmandu. Epic end (3 days of hiking into 1.5) to the hike but was i glad to be back!! Hot shower, 'new' clothes, and some non-standard lodge food and i was a happy girl!

Oh yes. I was happy. This was my final up hill bit finished! I was nearly to ...

My victory kitkat chunky!

Walking the road back to Boudha

I've pegged out my next set of treks, but theese are a ittle more ambitious and require a rested and fit body, so will have to wait until my next visit to nepal. Which will happen i do believe! sometime well when I have a bit of a bank balance again:)

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