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Last Trek Report

TREK REPORT – Langtang, October 2010

I arrived in Kathmandu a few days ahead of the other two women Sue and Kerry, on a sunny 30 degree day. The mountains gleamed white as the plane approached Kathmandu. I got through customs and immigration in record time and found Liz and Isabel waiting for me. Isabel’s height and striking white hair stood out like a smiling beacon in a sea of brown faces. We were soon catching up on all the gossip over a glass of red wine at the Shambala. I got my favourite corner room at the Muna Cottage with its own little balcony which let the breeze flow through the room. Quite a good idea as the weather was surprisingly warm – a nice change after the bleak autumn day on which I left Frankfurt. My first day I was off into Thamel. I met Jules for lunch. After five months apart, during which Jules had been to Australia, we had a lot to catch up on. We talked and talked and then shopped around Thamel. Got a few great lightweight frocks from one of my favourite little shops Le Petit Prince. Great value at $8 each and ideal for my upcoming summer in Melbourne.

Friday was another Julie day. Her birthday had recently passed without comment (pretty normal in a Tibetan household) so we had a girls’ lunch at the Garden Café in Bouda. I took Liz and Isabel and our new pal Bronwyn. Bronwyn is 22 and just up from India where she’s been backpacking around with various mates. Nice way to celebrate Jules’ 60th and the coffee and cakes at Flavours for dessert were excellent.

Langtang Trekking
Dorje and Kerry viewing the Langtang Range from Laurebinayak

Saturday 2 October
Back out to the airport this morning. Lahar had just arrived from Pokhara so joined me for the rather tedious wait. I left Lahar to go for a stroll about to pass the time only to see Sue (from Melbourne) standing waiting outside the arrivals door. That was some kind of record – 1.10 outside from a 12.55 arrival. Kerry (from Perth) was only ten minutes behind Sue and we were soon bumping and grinding over the tragic excuse of a road to Kopan. We had a cuppa in the lovely little garden at the Muna Cottage. Dzangbo and Muna have it looking gorgeous. We ate at the Shambala but both Sue and Kerry was ready for bed at 9 when jetlag and time differences started to catch up with them.

Sunday 3 October
This was a HUGE day. We breakfasted early then took a van into Thamel with Bir and Lahar. After a quick cuppa at the Weizen we set off in search of a few trekking essentials. I blew my budget as soon as we got out of the van right outside the real North Face shop. I am a big fan of their gear so I bought myself a new 70 litre rucksack, black of course. I had been promising Lahar, always my personal porter, to get a new one for ages as he has been schlepping around the Himalayas with a series of second-hand, second-rate packs for years. The shop’s staff adjusted the pack to fit Lahar personally. We are both pretty pleased. I couldn’t resist a trekking t-shirt with 10% wool in darkest turquoise. $15. I love shopping here.

Kerry found some really bright trekking t-shirts and a water bottle (bright yellow), a really, really thick fleece jacket (she will need it) and some new buffs. These handy little things are great on trek. They weigh nothing but can cover your throat when it’s cold, your ears when it’s freezing, your nose when the wind is gritty and your hair when it looks like shit – quite often on trek. They really suited Kerry’s face and she bought loads more when we finished our trek.

Sue got a great deal on a down sleeping bag and I think she took a hi-tech trekking t-shirt too. We had no luck with pants so headed back towards the Weizen (I am sure most of our readers know where that is) for a refresher. We got waylaid at Amrita Craft. Intensely purple cotton shirts, soft Daphnepaper notebooks and way too many scarves. And we can’t wait to go back. I saw Sue eyeing up silk patchwork bed covers.

While Dorje sorted our permits, Lahar and Bir cruised the old market areas of Assan Thole and Indra Chowk with us. We ran into Mangal in the street and he hung out with us for a while – a lovely surprise. We went home loaded with packages. I only have two clients for this trek, two women. Together we make a perfect shopping posse.

As I write this we have dined at Shambala (thank you Bronwyn) and packed our new gear into our new rucksacks – it did fit after all! It is closing in on midnight and I’ve rung Eric for the last time in a while, set the alarm for 5.30 and am about to hit the shower – no telling where the next one will be.

Monday 4 October
We set out on a sunny morning in a reasonablelooking jeep with our bags piled up on the roof. The drive around the ring road to the northern suburb of Balaju is a bit dismal but there was very little traffic at 7 am. We headed out of town on a fairly decent bitumen road. It twisted and wound its way through rice terraces as the valleys got deeper and deeper. It was hot in Trisuli but we found a rather superior little restaurant with a very clean dining room with overhead fans. Light, fluffy fried rice and fresh black tea were perfect. It was a very long way to Syabrubensi on some very poor roads – we hoped to make it before nightfall. We didn’t.

We switched jeeps after a couple of hours, as planned, but still had to wait for about an hour as first an excavator and then a grader rebuilt the road ahead of us. A huge landslide had occurred during the monsoon and has only been partially patched up, necessitating constant repairs. It was a chance for a very rustic pee stop and we were soon away, opting to walk over the worst section on rebuilt road. We were a bit smug as our jeep easily pulled up the new track while a bus carrying a large British contingent was left foundering. Being British it didn’t occur to them to get out and push – though we did, politely, suggest it. (We heard later that they were forced to do so in the end.)

The road got steadily worse and I was pleased when our driver decided to fix his punctured spare tyre at Dunche giving us time for a drink and toilet break. I knew that the road from Dunche to Syabrubensi was the most difficult section. It was a bit hairy in the dark but half way down the series of switchbacks we came upon the newly-completed section of road. It was easy after that and I thought the idea of a speed bump before each hairpin bend was a good one. Our usual lodgings at the Potala were as cosy as ever. The  dear old man who runs the lodge is such a gentle host. Although he seems to shuffle around in slow motion he produced a wonderful meal of vegetable soup and potato omelettes. After a very hot bucket shower I slept like a baby.

Tuesday 5 October
Dorje woke us with bed tea at 6. Breakfast was rather slow in coming and I couldn’t find anything in my new pack. I am used to the ‘sardine can’ style where you can see everything inside your pack at a glance.

By 7.15 we hit the trail. After crossing our first suspension bridge we were soon in a lovely shaded valley of tall bamboo, nettles and marijuana. We literally had to thrash the dope out of the way to get through the trail. As the sun reached us it got really hot. Sun hat and sun cream hot. We were soon dripping with perspiration. Luckily the trees closed overhead but it was still very warm and humid. Our morning tea stop at the Waterfall seemed to take forever to reach – about two hours in fact. The bridge and enormous waterfall were a sight for sore eyes as we emerged from the jungle. We took our tea in a fine spray from the falls. We didn’t linger too long as I hoped we would make Rimche by the end of the day. Climbing steadily on damp trails in dense forest was very hard work. It was only about 45 minutes to Landslide so too early for lunch when we arrived at 11.15. We had cold drinks and found the delightful little book, published locally, sold to raise money for the school. Since last season I had somehow confused Landslide with Bamboo. The former is a dump while Bamboo is actually rather nice. It sits on an open area beside the raging Langtang River and the sun sets right down the valley. As I walked along I started to consider the possibility of staying at Bamboo overnight. It was very hot and it took over an hour and a half to reach it. So 1 pm saw us staggering, quite literally, into Bamboo for lunch and maybe a room. I checked out the first lodge which seemed to be in a safe location viz the huge landslide which reshapes this village from time to time. It was definitely good enough. Wide beds, clean loo and a location to die for. The sound of the river is almost deafening as a massive amount of water drops about twenty metres while cascading past the front of the lodge. The sunset was sensational. All three of us are a bit tired but happy to be in these wonderful surroundings.

Langtang Trekking
Repairs just completed en route to Syabrubensi

Wednesday 6 October
Figuring on only about four hours walking today we took a lateish breakfast, setting off around 9 am. This section is pretty tough on narrow, often rocky trails through extremely dense forest. We saw a baby languor and lots of flowers wherever the sun penetrated the green canopy. After a hot, sweaty hour we reached a little tea shop beside the river – the volume of water continues to astound. Onwards and upwards for the best part of two hours. Feeling pretty stuffed when Rimche came into view. We devoured our lunch like starving women. Loads of browned onions and garlic and fresh greens in the omelettes and they came out sitting on top of the lightest chapattis imaginable. We hope to repeat this meal on the way back down. We set off after a rest and a few mugs of tea for Lama Hotel. Half an hour later the upper part of Rimche was just too tempting. While Lama Hotel is ideally located between Bamboo and Gora Tabela, Rimche is set on a ridge overlooking a vast open valley. It had solar hot shower and the garden was chockablock with marijuana – very pretty. The boys went for a walk up to Lama Hotel (go figure!).

Langtang Trekking
Langtang Village – learning early

Thursday 7 October
We awoke to a cloudless day and great views down the valley as Bir brought around the bed tea. The porridge was good but the chapattis left a lot to be desired. We looked in on some old friends at Lama Hotel. Our friends have retreated from the big lodge at the bottom of the village and now just run their old original lodge with just four rooms. They are getting old and their kids don’t want to run a lodge as they’ve been well-educated and have their own careers. We were ready for an early lunch at Riverside at 11 am. I like this lodge, located in a clearing in the woods almost on the bank of the river with a shaded dining area. We did the veggie omelette and chapattis for lunch, again, but this time they were lovely. Soon we were slogging uphill again – always a bit of a shock to the system after a rest. The jungle was terrific. Tangled vines creeping around gigantic cedars. Gullies full of rhododendrons. Ferns and nettles filled every nook and cranny and water frequently crossed the trail in streams and waterfalls. Across the valley of the Langtang River vast torrents of water appeared to be gushing out of the mountains. The sound of all this rushing water often made normal conversation impossible – not that we had much breath for idle chit chat. Dorje dashed ahead to secure our rooms at Gora Tabela and reappeared half an hour later to take some day packs for the last fifteen minutes. I gave the lodge owners a lovely photo of their kids using Denise’s water colours last season. Sherpa stew on the way. Goodo!

Friday 8 October
An easier day today as we climbed much more gradually to Langtang village. Still, at times, the uphill sections felt tough as we were now over 3,000 metres above sea level. The awesome scale of this landscape is astounding. The walls of the old glacial valley loom straight up from the valley floor whose open meadows are a blaze of autumn colour. There are the strikingly blue delphiniums and little butterfly-shaped yellow flowers which I have yet to identify. We lunched within sight of Langtang which left us only half an hour to trek after lunch. The everfriendly Eco Lodge was so welcoming. We visited the bakery after a hot shower and a rest. The owner is a really nice guy. We bought bread rolls and a bag of cookies and a wonderful teardrop-shaped cheese. We ate some of this with our potato and garlic soup for dinner.

We met Kaspar this evening – really good company and someone we were destined to meet again. The mist had totally closed in around our house as we went to bed, tired and just a bit too full.

Langtang Trekking
Langtang Village nestled in an ancient glacial valley
Langtang Trekking
En route from Langtang Village to Kyanjn Gomba
Langtang Trekking
Dorje and Bir at Kyanjin Gomba

Saturday 9 October
We headed up to Kyanjin Gomba on a clear, sunny day. This was the coolest day so far and we needed to wear our fleeces after lunch as a strong, chilly wind sprang up at our backs. The views were stupendous. We stopped at a crummy little tea shack for lunch but they didn’t have any eggs, or vegetables, or anything much at all. We had our bread rolls left, a huge chunk of cheese and a bag of yak butter cookies. We bought some more biscuits and Snickers chocolate bars and put the whole lot in the middle of the table for a picnic with the porters. It was actually very good – plenty of carbs. Anyway.

We had to climb around the yak gate as it was wired shut. The field below was full of yaks, horses and very smelly goats. As the landscape changed to a mass of boulders and low shrubs we finally heaved ourselves over the last ridge to see the wondrous sight of Kyanjin Gomba’s lodges. Kasper cheered us on with a huge ‘Hullo’ from atop the ridge. Our booking at Yayla Peak was a dud as they were holding all their good rooms for a big group booking next day. Bugger! We soon found rooms in the Nurling Lodge where our new friend Kasper was staying. They even gave us single rooms. I am writing this at 5 pm and the clouds have completely enveloped the village, though a tantalising tip of Langtang Peak is just peeping out of the clouds. The stove has just been lit downstairs so I’m off. No plans for tomorrow till we see how we pull up. It has been a tiring five days. All well and happy.

Sunday 10 October
Today dawned absolutely perfectly clear. My cold had become worse so I opted not to join Kerry and Sue on their day walk out towards Langshisha Karka. They had a marvellous day. Dorje got together some fresh rolls and cheese from the local dairy and they took boiled eggs and a big thermos of tea from the kitchen. The pictures they brought back were stunning. They wrote all their friends and family’s names on prayer flags and put them up above where they had their picnic. I heard that Kerry and Dorje tried to go a bit further up the valley after lunch but some large yaks were blocking the trail just a tad inconveniently so they called it a day. Best not to stay out too late on that trail as the winds can be very cold and in your face on the way back – memories of Chhukung!

We had a great crowd at the little Nurling Lodge. The rooms were warmed by the dining room underneath them with its yak dung stove. There was Kasper, our friend from the Eco Lodge, two Swiss women, and two French. The Swiss were both medicos and one  of them had spent a busy afternoon stitching up a poor guy’s broken head. We had a cassette player in the dining room so we played some folk music and danced a little in the evening. We turned in well before nine o’clock, tired and happy.

Monday 11 November
Today got off to a bad start. I woke up feeling dreadful. Figuring my cold had developed into a sinus infection I dosed myself up with the appropriate (hopefully) antibiotics. With some paracetamol and a slow start I was just beginning to come good when we hit the trail. I just got better and better all day.

The walk back to Langtang was really good. A little cloudy – our first cloudy day – but gently downhill through lush alpine meadows which were a riot of autumn colour. The yoghurt vendor gave us back the 600 rupees overcharge from the way up (both Dorje and I had paid him). We allowed him his facesaving excuse that he thought I had paid for more yoghurt on the way down – as if!

This walk down to Langtang is easy and the Eco Lodge was happy to have us back. We hit the bakery for toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches and a fresh supply of yak butter cookies. Mangal turned up over dinner. He was up here with his Swiss godparents. Our lodge mates were nice people from Frankfurt, Claudia and Roland, who work in Nepal. They were travelling with their teenage daughter and two dogs. As one of the dogs had a sore paw Roland carried it in a purpose-built basket.

Tuesday 12 October
Today was beautiful at first. The long, gentle fall down to Gora Tabela was as nice a walk as you could wish for. After a great lunch in the hot sun with some Danes for company, we plunged into the forest to begin the steep descent to Lama Hotel. We were extremely glad of a break at Riverside for a cuppa. As we set off on the second half of the torturous descent, it began to spit with rain. Because it was rather warm we quite liked the spitting rain and didn’t bother with jackets. The river pounded downhill beside us and the forest became a labyrinth of rocks and logs and trees and vines. At one point we stopped to watch a troupe of about twelve languor monkeys cavorting in the trees nearby. With thick white manes and black faces they were a delight to watch. Their tails were over a metre long and many of the mothers were carrying youngsters. We had toyed with the idea of going all the way down to Bamboo but by Lama Hotel, as the rain got a bit heavier, we were all certain we didn’t want to go any further today. We soon changed out of our damp clothes and rested our sore knees – which is just what I am doing as I write this in fading light at 5.30. Easy day tomorrow so a late start is planned. Goodo!

Langtang Trekking
The 'happy family' at the original Lama Hotel
Langtang Trekking

Wednesday 13 October
This was a fab day. We saw off our new friend Pema after breakfast. What a delightful breath of fresh air she brought to the lodge last night. A qualified dental hygienist, Pema is from a Tibetan family, she lives in America with her partner but currently works in Alaska with ‘First Nation’ people with whom she feels some kind of spiritual connection. Really interesting. We invited her to dinner back in Kathmandu – hope she can make it.

Dorje had a useful confab with some Polish trekkers who were planning to take on the Ganja La. We skipped a proper breakfast at our lodge (planning to repeat the omelette and chapatti experience at Lower Rimche) and set off around 8.30 after a rather hysterical photo session with our lodge owners. Breakfast at Rimche did not disappoint. We chatted with some young Nepali trekkers – an increasingly common sight these days I am happy to report. All three were medical students, one of whom Dorje knew. His mum and dad run the famous Barnes and Noble bookshop in Thamel. One of them had a most impressive camera and has promised me a few nice shots for the website.

The day sparkled and it could easily have been too hot but we were almost always in the shade of the forest. We had one anxious moment when a landslide we were crossing started a trickle of stones and a cloud of dust above us. As soon as the dust settled we hot-footed it across and took a rest in one of those divinely shady spots one finds here where a continuous gush of air, chilled by spray from the raging torrent beside us, acts like an outdoor airconditioner.

Before long we came upon the tea shop above Bambu. We bought a couple of the recently-woven belts. I gave a teenage girl a couple of flowers to put in her crocs and noticed a rather horrible wound. I cleaned and dressed it only to find two more near her heel and some swelling there as well. These wounds needed more than iodine so I tried to scare the girl into going down to the clinic at Syabrubensi by telling her she might well lose her foot if the wounds were left untreated. There are some aggressive fungal infections here which can be fairly easily treated – if diagnosed! While the kit was open we asked if the rest of the family were OK. Mum had very sore, itchy eyes – no surprise if you saw the conditions in which she had to cook. We left our eye ointment behind. I hope it helped.

We stopped a couple more times in the woods just because it was so lovely. We were in no hurry at all to reach Bamboo as our previous lodge there was no great shakes. Coming into Bamboo from above it was obvious that the upper lodge was a much better prospect. The washing line was full of clean sheets  and the windows were all open with mattresses and pillows set up to air. We took this to be a good sign. I am writing this in my typical little lodge room overlooking the dining area and the river. The trail passes directly below our windows. All those happy trekkers blissfully unaware of how stiff the climb up to Lama Hotel is about to become. I am a bit sorry I dragged my customers up to Lama Hotel in one day last year – sorry guys!

Langtang Trekking
Helping out at a tea shop above Bambu

Thursday 14 October
This was a very big day indeed. Leaving really early we reached Landslide in an hour for a quick cuppa and to pick up our delightful little books we’d bought on the way up. Twenty minutes later we took a small trail uphill, away from the river and started the long, hot climb to the tea shop at Sherpagaon. It was overcast but warm and humid so we were happy to crash in the shade of the thatched bamboo dining area of this tiny bhatti. Lunch was a long time coming but here everything is prepared totally from scratch, even the bread. Kerry gave the little boy there some toys and he amused us and himself while we waited for the tucker.

The trail onwards to the bridge clings to a steep slope covered in dense bamboo thickets criss-crossed with tunnels used by locals and animals alike. More than once we stopped to watch monkeys leaping around in the big kapok trees. Later we saw two troupes of monkeys having a ding-dong battle up on the rocks. I saw one fall a very long way and can’t imagine he survived unscathed.

The climb up to Thulo Syabru was brutal. Even when one reaches this big village it’s a long walk up stone stairs through the village to the top where the lodges are located. The Peace Lodge was a treasure. A labyrinth of doors and stairs where the lowest level opened onto a flagstone dining terrace and the third floor, where our rooms and the dining room were located, had a secret door leading onto street level at the back of the building. Handy for the cyber café where the dusty, achingly slow computer service was almost not worth the effort. Our hostess had a washing machine (I dread to think how it got there – it’s a very long way to the road) so we offloaded piles of dirty clothes.

Our afternoon and evening were leisurely; having no plans to move on the next day we could relax and spread out a little. We met Tom and his wife. She headed on up towards the pass the next day but Tom was having a rest day too and we soon became friends. Eric rang from Germany during dinner – a lovely surprise. It had been a long, hard climb and we slept heavily and well.

Langtang Trekking
Looking upriver towards Landslide
Langtang Trekking
Sights along the way to Thulo Syabru
Langtang Trekking
Sights along the way to Thulo Syabru
Langtang Trekking
Sights along the way to Thulo Syabru

Friday 15 October
We had a blissful rest day. Not much to write as we’ve just dagged around reading and eating and generally enjoying being clean. Birgit, from Germany (where else with a name like Birgit?) joined us for dinner. She was a bit of a Spartan with fairly strong opinions about everything. Sadly (?) she is trekking way faster than us.

Saturday 16 October
Today started with a real pig of a climb to the first break at the ‘Lovely Morning View’ lodge. We were all hungry when we got there. More eggs? Boiled this time. I swear we are going to start clucking soon. The climb through the woods that followed was quite hard but extremely beautiful. We stopped at the ancient chorten in the middle of the forest. It started to rain a little so we broke out the jackets and pieces of plastic. It is lovely here. Every available surface is covered in moss and tiny ferns. The deciduous trees were turning on their autumn colours and the hemlocks and cedars were impossibly huge. The misty rain only seemed to enhance the atmosphere and created an eerie light in which the green colours seemed to fluoresce.

The grassy, open hillside just before lunch had turned to mud by the time we arrived and was really tough going. Half an hour later (it felt like longer) we were wedged in with 20 other people in the steamy dining room of the Dursagang lodge. We changed into dry tops and downed steamy bowls of vegetable noodle soup. We soon felt a lot better. We met some folks who had come over the Gosainkunda La and had yet to see good weather a week into their trek. We didn’t feel so bad about our two hours of rain.

The weather continued wet up to Sin Gomba but it only took an hour or so. The forest of giant cedars and moss-covered rhododendrons was enchanting (to borrow Sue’s description). Hobbit country perhaps. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way than soaking wet and full of life. You could almost feel the forest growing.

Langtang Trekking
'No idea' (Dorje took it with my camera)
Langtang Trekking
Enchanted forest near Sing Gomba

The Red Panda lodge was holding a couple of rooms for us. Ensconced in the warm dining room playing Dal Mara (10-killer) with the porters we passed another cosy evening. Sue’s cold is no better though – our only real concern health wise.

Sunday 17 October
Sue had not improved this morning and agreed that a hard climb up to the pass would not make her feel any better. Lahar stayed down to take care of her, having had the same cold himself over the past couple of days.

Kerry and I set off with Bir and Dorje on a misty morning. The going was really very easy at first and, with no big views to look at, we focused on our immediate surroundings. We discovered more and more flowers and plants as we went along. The climb through the woods was a delight on a well-made easy trail and the Chalang Pati lodges soon hove into view. The owner was a bit pushy as she tried to sell shawls, take lunch orders and knit something all at the same time. The noodle soup, with crumbled scrambled egg and wild dried mushrooms in it was fantastic, especially with a liberal sprinkle of chilli/ timur on top. Dorje is right, of course, chilli is just as effective as Diamox for altitude. Approaching 3,900 metres on the last leg of the day Kerry and I both did just fine though it did rain half an hour before we got in. I am writing this sitting on a tiny stool in the kitchen drying my wet hair in front of the stove. We hope for a clear day tomorrow.

Langtang Trekking
Dawn from Laurebinayak
Langtang Trekking
On trek towards Gosainkunda

Monday 18 November
What a morning! A quick peep out of the window at first light revealed an OMG view. Kerry and I hastily threw on everything warm we could find and charged downstairs and outside. The view defied description so I won’t rave on. Clear views from the Annapurnas in the west through the Manaslu Range, the Ganesh  Himal dead ahead and Langtang Lirung to the East. As the sun alighted on first one then the other the assembled trekkers gasped and clicked away on their cameras. We were almost hysterical with laughter at our great good fortune. It was apparently the first really clear day for a week.

The climb after breakfast was a pig. Really! 300 metres pretty much straight up. By the time we made the Binayak (Ganesh) Temple the mist was soaking our hair. Not wanting to get cold we didn’t rest for long and continued on a much-improved trail up towards Gosainkunda. It isn’t really a very difficult trail but everything you do over 4,000 metres feels harder. While the mist obscured the view below us I was glad Kerry couldn’t see the frightening chasm below us. As we crested a cornice the first lake, Surya, came into view and the mist evaporated in front of our eyes. After slogging on for another half an hour, marvelling at the acid yellow and coral red lichens, the next lake came into view. I could just see the bathing ghat and the lake’s edge. I turned to get something from my day pack and when I looked back the whole valley was as clear as a bell below us – way below us. In poor conditions (I’ve done it once in deepest snow) this trail can be quite scary. Today it was perfect.

We staggered into the lodge around 1 pm. 4,370 metres. Phew! I had a hideous headache – felt as if I had a hatchet buried in my skull (whatever that feels like??). A Diamox, a coffee, two paracetamol and a lie down was in order. Kerry was in much better shape and went off with Dorje and Bir to hang her prayer flags at the holy lake. They did a complete circuit of the lake which I thought rather impressive. Her prayer flags were for ‘sorry day’ for the adoptees organisation she is involved with in Perth. Nice one Kerry!

Langtang Trekking
Gosainkunda Lake

As I bumbled along the dark corridor of the lodge I thought I saw Mangal. You can get a bit of ‘fuzzy logic’ happening at altitude so I didn’t register at first. But it was Mangal. He was up here with his Godparents to cross the pass to the Helambu – I had quite forgotten. His godparents are well into their sixties but seemed remarkably chipper. This is their tenth year of trekking in Nepal and, being Swiss, they have lots of experience trekking at altitude.

The dining room was very full and cosy in the evening with a well-stoked fire in the middle. It was a cold night though and we wore our down jackets, hats and socks to bed. While Kerry had no trouble with the altitude during the day she spent half the night sitting upright feeling extremely short of breath. It can be a bit scary when you wake up gasping for air at 2 in the morning. The shallow breathing pattern we all use when we sleep just doesn’t quite get you enough oxygen above 4,000 metres.

Tuesday 19 October
Heavy boots clumped up and down the corridor to the loo at first light as trekkers prepared to ascend the pass early. It’s a long way down the other side to the first lodge so there’s no time to waste. We were heading back to Laurebinayak and I wanted to arrive while the views were still clear so we set off fairly early ourselves. It was a brilliantly clear morning. The lakes were perfectly still reflecting the mountains on one side and affording a clear view into the deep water on the other.

Before we were even half way back to the temple ridge above Laurebinayak the snowy peaks started to appear. At the ridge the whole beautiful range of peaks was visible. Not quite as clear as yesterday but from 300 metres higher up the view was STUPENDOUS. We could easily see Tibet. The switchback road to Rasuwa Ghadi was clearly visible in the distance. After taking heaps of photos we dove downhill. It’s a bit of a knee-cruncher, especially with Dorje in the lead. He tends to favour the most direct track whereas I look for the trail with the shallowest descent. 2 hours from Gosainkunda to Laurebinayak, not a bad effort. We dawdled there over tea and biscuits, having discarded our thermals. It was a lovely surprise to see the ‘two Swiss guys’ appear off the trail. The only people in the Langtang trekking more slowly than us. They had spent the night at Chalang Patti, only one hour (downhill) from where we were now. We were soon there ourselves. We met a lovely young woman, Elgin, who turned out to be a doctor. Having stayed a couple of nights at the Red Panda, down in Sin Gomba, she had been taking care of our Sue. We had heard from Mangal that Sue was doing OK but it was nice to have professional confirmation.

Langtang Trekking
From the temple at Laurebinayak (Binayak is another word for Ganesh)

It was wonderful to see Lahar strolling in to meet us at Chalang Patti. Of course he insisted on taking our day packs. It was a very easy stretch of trail anyway but without packs we strode freely down to Sing Gomba in under an hour. Despite the mist coming and going all morning the sun is pouring into my room as I write this. We really need a shower but just can’t be bothered. Going a bit feral and liking it!

Wednesday 20 October
Another beautiful day weather-wise. We knew that we had a big job ahead of us; five hours was the best estimate. A good breakfast and off we went at 8.15. It was almost two hours to the Deorali bhatti and it was as seriously downhill as it gets without being a staircase. We had dense forest cover all the way though and that kept us a bit cooler as we dropped the first 600 metres.

After a long break we got stuck into the final 700 metres. Not quite as steep as the first half but often in the sun. The weather was actually perfect for anything except a punishing descent. At the last a hideous concrete staircase ascended then descended around a cliff overhanging the Gosainkunda River. We emerged into a little paradise on earth. Nepali families were splashing each other at the river’s edge and lithe brown children played in the deep shade on a tranquil little bend in the river. Sue and I had fallen about twenty minutes adrift of Dorje and Kerry so we decided to have a proper sit-down break and a cold bottle of Sprite. (Heard later that Dorje and Kerry had done the same and we just missed catching them up.) The locals assured us that it was 30 minutes into Dunche, 45 minutes ‘slowly slowly’. One hour and forty minutes later we lurched into Dunche. The others had not long arrived and found us digs at the rather gloomy hotel. Still, this is the pick of three or four equally dreary lodges. Miraculously we got single rooms so no complaints. Feels a bit weird to sleep in a concrete bunker of a house.

Thursday 21 October
Our jeep driver had stayed with us overnight so we were ready early for the big drive back to town. Departing at 7.15 I think we reached Kathmandu around 5 pm. Many folks despair at this long ride but in a roomy jeep with a few good stops it was pretty good. It was the penultimate day of the Dasain festival so the public buses were loaded to the max, often more than thirty people on the roof. The roads were pretty crowded too but there was a bit of a festive atmosphere and all the small jams and squeezes were sorted amicably.

We had a good lunch at Trisuli and then watched as what must surely be one of the world’s most beautiful valleys, opened up before us. A patchwork of intense complexity on a massive scale in shades of green and red. The earth colour here is reminiscent of the Pilbara where I spent some of my teenage years. The ripe rice had been cut in many places and was drying in mosaic patterns across hundreds of fields.

Re-reading what I’ve written I see that my writing is just not up to the task of conveying the beauty of this place – you need to come here and see for yourselves.

Back in Kathmandu, so-called civilisation was a bit of an assault on the senses. Trucks, buses, micros, cars, rickshaws (one driver holding a baby in one arm), motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrians swarm like bees as we weave our way along the ring road. After the plain, dark clothing of the mountain folk the city women are a dazzling array of colour and glitter. Purple with yellow, red with turquoise, glitter on everything – it’s a provocation to us Bideshi (westerners) with our drab khakis and sensible greys. Many people had been to the temple and wore flowers and a few spikes of blessed greenery pinned into their neatly-dressed hair. We were back in town!

We dined with Isabel and Liz, Lahar and Netra over a bottle of barely-bloody-drinkable red wine – it was Portuguese. I should have known better.

Friday 22 November
Reviewing my notes for this day I can’t find anything meaningful until the evening. I think perhaps we just totally blobbed. Can’t remember at all. The Garden Café was a big hit tonight. Pema, the delightful woman we met on trek, showed up as promised. She knows one of Dorje’s friends in Alaska – I imagine Nepalis are a bit thin on the ground up there. She has volunteered to take a small gift of wild dried mushrooms to him upon her return. Liz had done the Panchesi trek out of Pokhara with Purna. Bronwyn had headed off to Pokhara for a trek with Lahar who was whizzing down there to meet her as I wrote this.

It was a farewell dinner for Liz and great fun to swap a few trekking tales over a couple of bottles of wine. The moon was full and Bouda really turned it on. Throngs of Tibetans doing the kora circuit, thousands of lighted butter lamps on a warm, breezy evening. Perfection.

Saturday 23 October
Today Kerry and Sue have gone out to Changu Narayan and Bhaktapur – playing proper tourists. We had a breakfast date with Bir’s two eldest daughters Bina and Mina. Dad and Bina had not been reconciled since Bina’s elopement with an ‘inappropriate’ young man so it was touching to see her kneel and bow before Dorje and then her father in a traditional gesture of apology. We invited the girls to join the day-trek and apparently they talked to their Dad nineteen to the dozen in the car and even rang Mum in Lukla to share the good feelings. It’s these little things that bring me the most pleasure these days.

Saw Liz off at the airport but will see her in a month in Australia. Wow! Australia! Can’t quite believe I am going home soon. Life is good.

We spent a couple of hours sorting trekking gear and preparing for a busy day tomorrow, Kerry’s last. I managed a long Skype chat with Eric today so I’m feeling pretty pleased with life in general and Eric in particular.

Sunday 24 October
Another huge day though we did try to pace ourselves. We took a pretty light breakfast at Muna Cottage as we knew we had to eat a big daal bhat at Dorje’s house at round 11 am. There was a small panic when Dzangbo informed us that our real coffee had run out. Shit! I scooted up to Niru’s house and retrieved my supply from there. Phew! Nearly had to drink Nescafé.

It was a delight to eat with Dorje’s family and the food was really good – very traditional. Laki and Dorje want to open a small momo kitchen soon so it’s good practice. Great to relive Sue’s previous Everest trek on DVD. Thanks Cass. We taxied over to the Benchen Gomba’s Guesthouse, dumped our gear and headed into town for some serious ‘girl shopping’. Bina’s jewellery shop in Kimdol was first, lots of rings, bangles and earrings were chosen.

We got a taxi (quicker) into Thamel and went straight to Grace in Sherpa Mall at Durbar Marg for up-market Nepali clothes. Kerry picked up two pairs of shoes at Woodland (a kind of sub continental Timberland) and then we walked back into tourist Thamel. By the time we had done the video shop, trekking shop, Amrita Craft (two beautiful patchwork silk bed covers for Sue) and even the felt shop, we sorely needed a feed and a drink. We were a few doors down from the Weizen so it was a natural choice. Spinach and mushroom cannelloni is my favourite dish there but we ordered extra salad as we’d all been missing it a bit on trek. The red wine was as rough as guts and Kerry nearly baulked at the ‘burra peg’ gin and tonic. They give you 60mL here unless you say otherwise and that is a double in Australia. She managed, somehow. Since the salads were huge and consisted mostly of finely shredded cabbage we all felt a bit bloated as we waddled out of the restaurant.

The Kashmiri vendor with the wallets was downright rude and the prayer flag shop was shut so we hailed a cab for the bumpy ride back up the hill to Swayambu. The internet facilities are really good up at the Benchen Guesthouse so I got in a couple of Skype calls before bed. The rooms have all been renovated and electric overhead fans installed. No sign of monkeys.

Monday 25 October
We breakfasted at Mangal’s house with Juna. Julie came too. Always a treat to eat in people’s homes.

It was a rather hot morning as Kerry and I rode out to the airport with Bir as a helper. Sue stayed at the BPD for another couple of nights R and R. The plan is for Dorje to take her to the Fred Hollows Foundation tomorrow. (I heard it was an exceptionally interesting visit and well worth the effort).

Langtang Trekking
Hanging out for lunch at Gumma Chok
Langtang Trekking
Kerry takes in the view from Laurebinayak

After putting Kerry on her flight – bye mate, see you in Perth in January – we scuttled down to Arrivals for Elizabeth arriving from Brisbane for the Muktinath trek.

We’ve had a couple of days of overlap but even Sue has now gone home – see you in Melbourne (I’ve got your jewellery from Bina).

I’ve finished up this report sitting in David’s dining room in Altona Meadows. The glass doors look straight out over the wetlands to the bay. Writing the report always brings back happy memories. This trek was nothing like work. We were just three friends having a good time in a wonderful place.

If you enjoyed reading about Kerry and Sue’s exploits in the Langtang do consider joining us next October when we propose to do the exact same trek.

TeresaWe will take another trek up to Muktinath in November if that is better timing for you. Contact me by email: or

Cheers, till soon,



Thanks to Frank Jones, Desktop Dynamics, Geelong for editing & layout.

Trek Report - 2011

Trek Report - 2010

Trek Report – 2009

Trek Report 2008

Read also trekking report – 2006 and 2007