After we arrived in Kathmandu it took us a good three days or so to try and put a trek together. I’m not exactly sure why this was – probably a combination of it being a religious holiday the day
we arrived (which it coincidentally happens to be in almost every destination we go to), and general disorganisation on our part.
We were staying at the Andes Hotel – a narrow, highrise, relatively new hotel in an old building perched about halfway down a narrow lane on the outskirts of Thamel, the tourist district. Strangely enough I’d found the hotel initially via Air BnB – it was being advertised on there by a young man named Durga who was a friend of the family who ran it, and had an Air BnB account, but apart from that, had nothing much to do with the hotel.
A family-run hotel, the Andes was a place we spent quite a bit of time, and got to know the proprietors and staff quite well. There was the friendly 30-something, well dressed ‘nephew’ on the front desk, who took our bookings and helped us with everything from our baggage to shoe-buying in the market! I developed a special fondness for the young guy (probably about Thomas’s age) who we’d met on the first night we arrived – a dark-skinned import from the impoverished Western region of Nepal, who spoke broken English, but had a big smile, and helped us with so many things during our stay. In the early days before we started the trek, we took our breakfasts up on the roof of the hotel, from where we could enjoy panoramic views out over the rooftops of Kathmandu, out to the surrounding hills. Thomas remarked that he preferred the bird’s eye view of Kathmandu from the rooftop restaurant, to actually navigating the narrow, dusty streets of this bustling city!
We found the Nepalese people we interacted with to generally be very warm-hearted and kind, and they were keen to make our visit as easy and comfortable as possible. I occasionally wondered where all the women were though, as it seemed to be mostly men we encountered in the hotels and restaurants.
Anyhow, having contacted ‘Good Karma Trekking’ by email (as their small office in Thamel was closed), we met with the young and very personable Raj Ghimire, CEO of the company, at a lunch restaurant, to explain what we were looking for, and see if he could devise a suitable trek for us.
After some discussion, which included a brief explanation of my disability and its possible impact on my trekking options and abilities, we settled on a 9 day trek to the Langtang Valley – a scenic, steep-sided valley North of Kathmandu, near the border with Tibet. We were to leave the following morning, after Raj made a hasty phone call to Tek – one of his most trusted guides who lives in a small village near Pokhara in the Annapurna region. Tek was instructed to find a suitable porter from the village to carry our gear, and get on a local bus as quickly as possible, to meet us at Kathmandu for the start of the 9 hour jeep trip to the trailhead in Syabrubesi the following morning.
After some deliberation we’d decided that because of the difficulties involved in the 100km car journey from Kathmandu to Syabrubesi, the best option was to hire a jeep and driver for the journey there and back, rather than trusting the local bus which was likely to be overcrowded and much slower.
The decision proved to be a good one. Although the jeep’s suspension didn’t exactly cancel out the bone-jarring bumpiness of the winding unsealed mountain road to Syabrubesi, it did at least guarantee a reasonable degree of privacy, space and comfort, since there were only four of us plus the driver (who predictably didn’t speak a word of English). Leaving at around 10am (late due to our national park permit being delayed), we spent the next 8 hours or so wending our way up on narrow, precipitous mountain roads, through small, dusty villages perched improbably on the steep hillside, toward our destination for the night. En route we stopped for a lunch consisting of the ubiquitous dal bhat (lentil stew and rice), which was to be a constant feature of our trek for the next week or so too. Our driver, guide and porter tucked hungrily into steaming metal plates of this rather bland fare, while we scoured the ‘menu’ in vain for something more appetising.
Writing this blog now several months after the trek finished, I remember one of the things that struck me most about the journey to Syabrubesi was how quickly the physical and cultural landscape transformed once you were 10 minutes or so out of Kathmandu. Very quickly the built-up, urban sprawl of Kathmandu gave way to a series of tiny, very basic Nepali villages, each showcasing a very simple, and no doubt fairly impoverished, way of life. If I hadn’t appreciated the fact already, this simply served to reinforce my growing perception that the influence of central government in Nepal is very weak when it comes to the life of the average Nepali person living in the countryside. A combination of apathy, corruption and ineptitude have conspired to create a culture of neglect of even the most basic services when it comes to any town or village outside Kathmandu or not directly on the tourist map.
The long and winding road – KTM to Syabrubesi
On our journey we started chatting to and getting to know our guide Tek – a youngish man of 36 with a wife and two children back in his home village. He told us he’d been a guide with Raj’s company for the past 10 years or so, and before that, he tended the farm with his wife, who he described as a “parmer” (it took me a while to realise he was trying to say “farmer”)! He was a very friendly and attentive man with a big smile, and a humble, helpful manner that was instantly engaging. We quickly felt as if we could call him a friend, and on the track he proved to be worth his weight in gold in dealing with my many and varied problems.
We stopped for lunch on the way, and it soon became clear Tek and Surin weren’t too adventurous on the food front – although the lunch selections were fairly limited, they liked to eat dhal baat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we often teased them about it!
Unfortunately we were not able to communicate much with Surin, our porter, another youngish man with a family who spoke not a word of English. I wondered why he hadn’t been provided any basic English tuition by the trek company, but then found out that he wasn’t a regular porter – just more or less a “ring-in” for this particular trek. Although fairly quiet and introverted by nature (he liked to walk by himself a lot), Surin proved to be kindhearted, reliable, and willing to join in with our evening card games at the teahouses. Fortunately card-playing (and games in general) are a pastime that’s wonderfully free of language barriers between participants, as we’d also discovered in Iran when we played a board game with our non-English speaking Couchsurfing hosts in Qazvin (Iran).
Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, we bumped our way into Syabrubesi, the trailhead village and administrative centre for the Langtang Valley, and checked into our first proper ‘teahouse’. Syabrubesi is a fairly unremarkable place – a collection of dusty stores, houses and guesthouses, clustered along a main street, and located at the confluence of two major rivers – the Langtang Khola, which goes up the Langtang Valley, and the Bhote Koshi, which follows an ancient trade route up to the border with Tibet. Emerging from the ‘Buddha guesthouse’ in the morning, enthusiastic to begin our trek, we got our first clue about the unforgiving topology of the Langtang Valley, as Syabrubesi itself is surrounded by steep-sided valley walls that seem to loom rather forbiddingly above the village, and cast long shadows.
Day 1: Syabrubesi to Rimche
A river trips and lurches down steep canyon walls, scours, carves its relentless path through warped, toffee-like layers of rock…
In hindsight, Day 1 of the trek counts as one of the most difficult days of my entire life – a day in which I was confronted, repeatedly, with the stark reality of my physical limitations as a disabled person.
Our “easy” trek began with a gradual ascent up through the valley, following the river closely for several hours, and criss-crossing it at times, using wire rope bridges to avoid landslides or other obstacles. The valley walls on this part of the track are very high and steep, and it was easy to see how this valley (and its inhabitants) had become nature’s cruel target for fatal rockslides in the immediate aftermath of the Kathmandu-based earthquake of 2015.
Marijuana growing wild everywhere!
At first I was able to cope with the varying terrain without too much trouble, and I was reasonably pleased to be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery, and not be puffing and panting too much. Tek (or guide) proved to be a pleasant and amiable trekking companion, and we chatted away to him about all kinds of things. However soon the trail became very steep, with lots of scrambling up around rockslides and beside waterfalls and other physical obstacles. Despite having brough my two newly purchased trekking poles, I began to need a lot of help from Thomas and Tek to maintain my balance and negotiate these difficult bits. It was exhausting, and around 2pm when we reached Bamboo for lunch, I was more than happy to take the weight off my feet and enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee and some food.
Bamboo is located in a beautiful setting, at the top of a series of plunging waterfall, with flowers blooming all around. It’s a delightful place to break the trek, if you get a chance to stop here. There are a couple of teahouses, and plenty of tables to accommodate more than one trekking group.
Chillies drying at Bamboo
At this point I was starting to feel very worn out -we’d been trekking relentlessly uphill already for 5 hours or so, and Tek asked us to decide whether we would stay here for the night, or try to press on for our night’s destination – Lama Hotel. I asked how long that would take, and he replied with a fairly vague “3 hours or so”. Perhaps unwisely, Thomas and I made the decision to press on rather than end our day’s trekking here – persuaded by the argument that our second day would end up much longer if we didn’t press on.
That decision nearly proved the undoing of me. Rather than becoming easier between Bamboo and Lama Hotel, the trail seemed to become even steeper, more slippery, with more difficulty to find footholds. I’m unsure if this was objectively the case, or if I simply had no more ‘gas in the tank’, but at times I felt on the verge of tears, and my legs felt wobbly and on the verge of buckling underneath me. I became very conscious of how slow I had become compared with the other three in our party – Surin (even carrying his heavy pack with all our gear) was now miles ahead of the rest of us, and I was frequently pausing to catch my breath and strength, or asking Tek or Thomas to help me. I don’t remember much about this portion of the trek, other than the fact that it became a battle of mind over matter for me. My legs didn’t want to propel me forward, and it took all my mental strength to keep going. At some point Tek advised us that we probably wouldn’t reach Lama Hotel that night, and so our revised destination became a smaller village called Rimche, which had just a couple of guesthouses.
I’ve lost count of how many times I asked Tek “how much further is it?”, and his response was always the same “not far now”. At some point I became angry with him, and I remember yelling something like “you keep telling us the village is close, but it’s not!!”, and then “I want to go back to Bamboo”. I remember sitting down for 10 minutes, tears rolling down my face, trying to regain my strength. By this time I’d transferred almost all the weight in my day pack to Thomas.
There were frequent landslides to contend with
Somehow, we staggered on, and eventually, just before nightfall, we reached Rimche. The rooms were very small and spartan, and our lodge was perched on top of a spur, and felt very exposed to the elements. I took off my boots, collapsed onto the bed, and slept for an hour or so before dinner. I think Tek must have been wondering at this point what on earth he’d signed himself up for! After recovering my energy a bit and having some dinner (usually some kind of carb-heavy selection between dal bhat, fried rice and fried potatoes), I started to feel bad about having yelled at Tek. After some lengthy discussions to try and work out the difficulty of the track ahead, I decided to continue, rather than turning back and giving up on the trek. I asked Tek to try to plan shorter, more manageable days for me (and we formally abandoned our original itinerary, which had been to try and tack on a 3-4 day trip up to Lake Gosainkunda at the end of the trek). Tek told me he thought this would be too steep and difficult for me. Instead, we would do a 9 day amble up the Langtang Valley and back – finishing 3 days early, which would allow Thomas and I to do some sightseeing in the Kathmandu Valley.
Day 2: Rimche to Tyangsyap (5 hours)
Day 2, although still very steep, seemed a lot more manageable somehow, as I was no longer having to scramble up steep-sided waterfalls -the terrain had flattened out a little.
Our route had us continuing to climb through the lush forests, navigating our way across bridges and around rockslides and other obstacles as we went. After some steep climbing in the morning, with occasional exciting glimpses of Langtang Lirung – one of the biggest peaks in the valley, we broke through the treeline at Ghota Tabela (3000m) – an army occupied outpost with spectacular views up and down the valley. We had lunch here – chatting with a very intense young Israeli man who had recently completed his military service back home, and was on a lengthy “OE” in India and Asia.
It wasn’t long before I found myself embroiled in a “debate” about the Israeli government’s policy toward the Palestinians, and despite trying to extract myself from it, it wasn’t till we finished lunch and started the trail again that I was able to escape. Later, at Tyangsyap, we found ourselves in the company of the same young Israeli man again, and he button-holed us with a similar intensity we’d experienced at lunchtime -but this time it involved his vision for saving the world, one Nepalese valley at a time!
That evening with Tek and Surin we were able to break out the pack of cards, and teach them to play ‘Hearts’, which they both became very proficient at in a short space of time. It became a nice way of interacting with them after dinner, and especially with Surin who spoke almost no English.
We could all laugh at ourselves and each other over cards, and discovered that humour is indeed a universal language! The guesthouse we stayed at that night was run by a young Tamang man in his early or mid 20s, who had a younger sister in her teens.
Our merry group of four!
We discovered, through the Israeli man, that this family had lost both their parents in the earthquake and rockslides of 2015, and that now they were trying to run the guesthouse themselves, and that the young man was trying to support his sister’s education. It was a very sad situation, but unfortunately not an unfamiliar story as we spent more time in this tragedy-stricken valley. Here is a wonderful article written about efforts to rebuild in the valley. The author describes the strange sight of pine trees broken in half like matchsticks – we saw these lying on the trail as we trekked up the valley -the product of rockslides.
As we went further up the valley it also wasn’t difficult to see why it was so prone to avalanches and rockslides -the valley walls were steeper than anything I’d ever encountered before, and the trail and villages were located directly underneath the steep valley walls. For much of its length this valley is less than 1 kilometre in diameter from one side to the other. At times I didn’t feel particularly safe!
Steep valley walls
It was at Tyangsyap that I wrote the first of my poems – I was inspired by the looming, steep-sided valley walls, to try and imagine what life was like for the ordinary inhabitants here. Here’s an extract from a poem I wrote here:
A river trips and lunges down steep canyon walls
Scours and carves its way through layers of rock
Slate, ochre and caramel, warped like toffee
Older than time itself
Higher up tiny purple violets peep
Cling to rocky crevices
Unbroken by wind, footprints
Or nosy cameras
A snowclad mountain peak
Casts its haughty shadow
Down this steep sided tunnel they call a valley
I remember looking out from the window of my guesthouse room, watching a very old, nearly blind man sitting outside the guesthouse’s kitchen room. I imagined he must have been the grandfather if the family. It was a touching sight to see him being attended to by younger members of the family, and I admired his ability to just sit and soak up the autumn sun, deep in contemplation. I tried to imagine what his earlier life had been like, and ended up writing a poem about it, called ‘Old Man’. Here is an extract:
He rises with the birds
Over rough hewn flagstones
Mind that knee!
This is no place for the infirm
He plants himself on the wooden bench
Wrinkled hands splayed on each side of his body
Like a set of antique scales
An old cardigan droops
from his sunken frame
He wraps it tight
Like the years that bind him
To this barren place
We had the small guesthouse virtually to ourselves that night, with the Israeli guy housed next to us in a private room. Unlike on the Pamir highway in Tajikistan, we found our interaction with the guesthouse hosts along the Langtang trail to be fairly limited in comparison -rather than talking to us, typically they would invite our guide and porter into their kitchen to sit on the floor and chat. Although from different ethnic groups, they shared the similarity of speaking Nepalese and being from mountain regions, so there was an immediate affinity between our ‘staff’ and the guesthouse families in most of the villages we stayed at.
Day 3: Tyangsyap to Langtang
Day 3 from Thyangsyap to Langtang involved some gentle climbing, followed by a tough portion where we had to cross a big landslide where rocks were still audibly falling around us. I needed a lot of help on this portion to get up and down some steep bits, over loose rubble. with small boulders breaking loose constantly and falling down. You could hear them as you crossed the landslide, and it was pretty scary and disconcerting!
Looking across the landslide to Langtang village
After the ‘landslide’ (as our guide called it), we crossed the rubble field that is effectively a mass grave site for the buried Langtang village. Mani memorial stones and plaques with the names of the dead mark the site, and coloured flags have now been planted to mark where houses once were. Accounts of what happened to the village that was home to 400 people are nothing short of horrifying. Following the May 2015 earthquake centred near Kathmandu, an avalanche of ice and rock broke loose from the face of the Langtang Lirung glacier just up from the village, and came careening down the valley toward Langtang village, with a pressurised blast of ‘avalanche wind’ so strong that it took the roofs off every house in the village, and then the village itself was simply buried underneath ice and rubble. There was no warning or time to escape, and everyone at home in the village that day (the majority of whom were elderly people) were killed. A number of tourists were also killed. The total numbers were 175 locals, and 41 foreigners.
I tried to imagine what the avalanche that day must have felt and sounded like – probably like a jumbo jet heading directly for you, and being unable to get out of its path. The force has been compared to a 7 kilotonne atomic bomb going off. Only one house survived, and only because it was located directly underneath an overhanging cornice that protected it from the tons of ice and rubble that came careening down the side of the valley.
The blast of rock and ice created a wind gust of approximately 200 miles per hour, which blew the roofs off houses, lifted people into the air, and even flattened trees on the other side of the valley. Perhaps the only saving grace (if it can be described as such), is that the 2015 earthquake did not cause any of Nepal’s many high glacial lakes to burst and flow down their mountain valleys. If that had occurred, there would have been many more fatalities in this and other regions.
Negotiating the landslide just before Langtang
The ‘new’ Langtang village has been built on the same side of the valley, about 500 metres further up the valley. It’s a site of intense, noisy activity, as the locals use what must be a considerable amount of foreign NGO money to rebuild their devastated village. These resourceful local entrepreneurs have been tremendously successful too – with many multi-storied, brightly painted wooden guesthouses having already gone up in the two years since the quake and avalanche. In the highlands of Nepal, it seems that every second local man is a talented builder or artisan of some kind. The construction method is ingenious – only local wood and stone are used, and the houses are made of rocks cobbled together with sticky clay.
On this part of the trek we shared the track with a group of friendly, 30-something American women – co-workers who had got together to do the trek. One of them unfortunately had fallen prey to altitude sickness and had had to stay at Thyansyap. At one point we stopped with them on a steep part of the track to watch a group of monkeys swinging through the trees.
We stayed at a very pleasant guesthouse near the top of the village. As we’d arrived early, Thomas went out for a walk on his own to explore the surroundings. The deep, muddy track through the village made it a bit difficult to get around easily, so after going to look at the site of the old village again, I spent the afternoon and early evening at the guesthouse, reading and writing poetry. I felt inspired by the wonderfully scenic surroundings and the brave, resilient local Tamang population, who had refused to let themselves be defeated by the tragic natural disaster of 2015.
Leaving our guesthouse in Langtang on a cloudy morning
I did feel some anger on their behalf though, for a couple of reasons. The first was that all the rebuilding activity seemed to be taking place on the same side of the river as where the village previously had been (and it had been completely wiped out by the rockslide). The valley walls on this side of the river were much steeper than on the other side, and it baffled me as to why the locals had decided to rebuild on this side, and possibly face the same risk again from avalanches and rockslides. Someone in a guesthouse told me that much of the land on the other side of the river (the flatter, safer side), is government owned conservation land – it’s not ancestral land belonging to the Tamang, and has not been made available for building. This seemed completely ludicrous to me, but perhaps hardly very surprising, given the laissez-faire attitude of the Nepalese government toward helping its poorest citizens.
The second (related) reason was that the locals here were relying almost solely on foreign aid to rebuild their devastated community. The government aid agencies seemed nowhere to be seen in all of this, and even the evacuation of the injured directly after the earthquake was organised by tourists and climbers, not by the government. I think these people were entitled to expect more than this from their government.
I can’t resist a misspelled sign – and a corny adage!
Day 4 – 6: Langtang to Kyanjin Gompa (3850m)
The trek from Langtang was another relatively short, easy day, with just a gentle, gradual uphill climb towards Kyanjin Gompa – the last real village in the Langtang Valley, and the end of our trek before turning round and coming back. This part of the trek felt much easier and more pleasant for me than the earlier part -where the steepness and unevenness of the terrain had made it so difficult for me to keep going. I was now simply content to look around me and enjoy the wonderful natural panorama of snow-capped mountains, sparkling river, wildflowers, mani stones, and rolling blue hills surrounding me. The beauty of this valley can’t really even be put into words, and even photos don’t do it justice – you simply have to experience it!
Passing a mani wall with ancient inscriptions en route to Kyanjin Gompa
We stopped in Mundu village for morning tea – a small village with just a handful of guesthouses. The views on upper this part of the track were nothing short of spectacular, with the snow-capped mountains looming large everywhere we turned.
Writing this blog some months after finishing the trek, I distinctly remember our arrival in Kyanjin on a sparkling clear sunny day at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The feeling of accomplishment as we climbed to the top of the last small summit, and got our first view down over the blue and green houses in this pretty, bucolic village for the first time, is hard to put into words. This was a photo op like none other, and we stopped with a number of other trekkers to take pictures of the village, and of the peaks further up the valley.
We stopped to visit a beautiful Buddhist stupa near the top of the hill.
We then descended to the well laid-out village, passing a small white stupa on the hillside, and then passed a field of buffalo lazily chewing the stubby grass, who paid no attention whatsoever to our arrival.
Looking down to Kyanjin Gompa village
Tek quickly disappeared to find us a guesthouse, while Thomas and I discovered the delights of the local ‘Hard Rcok’ cafe run by the lovely Dorje – a rotund local 40-something Tamang man, who spoke excellent English.
We ordered and ate homemade pizza and cake, while listening to Dorje’s story about his late father’s vision for a cafe/bakery serving great coffee and food, that would become a hub for locals to mix with tourists and swap stories. Apparently his father died suddenly, and Dorje has vowed to carry on his father’s vision for the bakery, which has indeed become an excellent place for tired trekkers to relax, and enjoy some delicious, ‘Western-style’ home baking. We became so fond of this place during our 2 day stay in Kyanjin Gompa, that we actually managed to offend our guesthouse proprietor, by not buying enough meals at her establishment!
We sat in the sun and chatted to the baker and other tourists for a while, before going up to our guesthouse which Tek had scouted out for us. It was smaller than some of the others we’d stayed at (I’d expressly asked Tek for a smaller guesthouse), but this one was probably my least favourite of the entire trek, unfortunately. I found the woman who ran it to be not especially friendly, and she was quite fixated with extracting as much money from us as possible. The other thing Thomas and I became frustrated with is that despite having advertised “hot water” for showers, she didn’t turn the hot water on for most of the day, and we eventually had to ask Tek to sort this issue out for us. The language barrier probably didn’t help.
The stupa on the hill
We’d decided to spend a whole extra day in Kyangin Gompa, instead of doing the Lake Gosainkunda part of the trek that had been on our original itinerary. This meant we’d be returning 3 days earlier than the 12 days we’d originally planned. Thomas, Tek and Surin got up early (around 6.30am) the following morning to trek up to the top of Kyanjin Ri peak to watch the sunrise. I stayed back at the lodge for breakfast, but then decided to head up past the village and explore the valley North of Kyanjin Gompa a little bit on my own. It was absolutely stunningly beautiful – I skirted along the hill as far as another landslide, which had created a sort of ‘delta’ effect all the way down the valley, and this area was full of pretty wildflowers.
Vivid blue wildflowers
It was pretty cold though – I had my heavy jacket on the whole time.
Incredible views up the valley from Kyanjin Gompa
I arrived back at the guesthouse around 10.30am, and did my washing by hand in the cold water provided by the guesthouse. I spent some time after that trying to find beg, borrow and steal pegs to hang it out to dry. Predictably, the guesthouse owner had none! Soon after, Thomas, Tek and Surin returned from their trek up Kyanjin Ri.
Thomas came back saying this had been the highlight of the trek for him -and he got some beautiful GoPro footage from the summit of Kyanjin Ri. Thomas and I had lunch again at the Dorje Bakery – I persuaded Thomas to try the homemade pizza, and then we went for another short walk around the village together.
Our village ‘sightseeing’ included a visit to an old, now decrepit monastery a short walk above the village. There wasn’t really much else to see in Kyanjin Gompa!
We then relaxed at the lodge for the rest of the afternoon.
Scenes of Kyanjin Gompa
I remember this being a pretty lazy day – Thomas and I went for a short walk in the afternoon, but apart from that, didn’t do much. That evening there were some French tourists staying in the guesthouse that I didn’t much like, so I made excuses to the others to finish dinner and get to bed early!
Langtang Lirung glacier
Day 7: Kyanjin Gompa to Tyansyep
On Day 7 we reluctantly set off back down the valley again, but this time we were able to gain a new appreciation of the beauty and splendour of this valley, because we weren’t battling fatigue and altitude headaches, as we had on the way up. The track down seemed very easy in comparison with coming up the valley, and we made great progress. We could also focus on getting some decent video footage, which I eventually turned into a short video.
Back down the track toward Thangsyep
Arriving back in Tyangsyep early afternoon, we stayed at the same guesthouse we’d been at before, with the young man and his sister whose parents had apparently been killed in the avalanche.
Here we had a confusing episode. Tek got talking to the young guesthouse owner (the 20-something son who was now running the place), who told Tek that his parents were in fact alive and well, but living in another village. This wasn’t what the Israeli guy had told us, so rather than leaving well alone, I resolved to try and clarify the situation. I got Tek to speak to the young man, and it was pretty embarrassing, as he virtually admitted he’d lied to Tek about the situation with his parents to avoid probing questions from foreigners (i.e. people like me). I felt bad about this, and wished I’d had the good sense just to leave the situation ambiguous. I felt very sorry for these traumatised people who, although coping very well with the practical aspects of the tragedy, were coping less well, I felt, with the psychological aspects.
Our group resting on the track
Day 8 – Tyangsyep to Thulo Syabru
The walk down the valley felt much more relaxing, and I was able to really look around me and enjoy the greenery and wildflowers everywhere.
On the way back down the valley from Tyangsyep we had trouble finding a vacant guesthouse for the night. I remember stopping at a small settlement where the Tamang proprietor offered us some small, basic, dorm-style accommodation in a dwelling he’d knocked up after his old guesthouse got blown away in the rockslides of 2015. It was sad to hear him describe in his broken English how the only remaining part of the old guesthouse was a water fountain our front that had remained standing. Now he was mostly offering overnight accommodation for the many young local men who ply their trade as porters up and down the Langtang Valley.
Guesthouse at Thangsyep -amazing cabbage garden out the back!
Having rejected that offer of accommodation, we ended up spending the night further down the valley in what was probably the worst and most basic guesthouse we’d stayed at so far. So there was no hot water, and very little light either, as the electricity was off. I sat in a dark room, and I remember we ate our meal by candelight that night as well. The place was quite dirty and shabby, and there was a group of young Indian men smoking dope in their room, and the smell permeated everywhere. Marijuana is one herb there is absolutely no shortage of in the Langtang Valley – it grows wild!
I’ll finish this blog with a few last photos. The final day – walking back towards Syabrubesi, felt very relaxed, and Thomas and I chatted a lot. It was hard to believe that only a week earlier I’d been slogging up this same track, wondering if I’d ever make it to the end of the valley. It’s amazing what a difference a week, and a downhill gradient can make! I remember arriving in Syabrubesi late morning, and as we walked through the town, we watched the young mothers with their kids going about the daily business of the village. They waved as we walked past – used to the familiar sight of trekkers no doubt.
When we arrived back at the same guesthouse we’d stayed at the first night, we asked for some lunch. I remember Tek being uncharacteristically a bit grumpy with me, and I realised I’d not yet given him his tip, so I made sure we went to the ATM machine to get the money out for tipping Tek and Surin. We arranged to leave for Kathmandu that same day rather than spending an extra night, even though it would mean a long day for us in the car.
Overall, we were very lucky to have had such a great guide in Tek, and in our porter, Surin, both of whom helped us so much on this trek. I was pushed to my absolute physical and mental limits, but I’m so glad I did it. I have a slight pang of regret in not having been able to do the Gosainkunda part of the trek – but maybe another day I can attempt it! If there’s a lesson in this trek for me, it’s to not give up when the going gets tough. It would have been so easy to turn back after that draining first day, and take the easy way out, but if I’d done that, I’d have missed one of the most amazing experiences of my life!