Before I start this post I must make a reference to the horrendous earthquake and subsequent avalanche in 2015 which completely destroyed Langtang village where I stayed on this trek. Since then it has been completely rebuilt. Some other places I stayed remarkably are still there.
Diary entry, Tuesday 30th March 1999, Langtang View Hotel, Dunche.
Got a taxi from Hotel at 6am. Already light and not too cold. At bus station went straight to ticket window and got last-but-one ticket for the bus – inevitably the back seat which means it is very uncomfortable. The trip to Dunche was 8 hours (90Rs) but not too bad. Had my first taste of Dhal Bhat – watery and tasteless. (lentil soup – the staple of Nepal) Spent the second half of the journey on the roof with the locals. It was much better – less dust, no aching limbs or banging knees or shins on the seat in front and a view. As we got higher it was a bit scary looking down at the river far below the road.
6.15pm at Langtang View Hotel (at the time one of two budget hotels in town. As of 2022 it still seems to be there and judging by the reviews I have seen the rooms still haven’t been updated or even cleaned!). Cost? “How much you want to pay” says the owner. My diary didn’t note the price but my old guidebook says 10Rs which is $0.15!! I did manage a hot shower which was some distance from my room but also a cold beer and Thai chicken. I wandered through town which was a single dusty street. I managed to pick up a group of snot nosed kids along the way who wouldn’t leave me alone.
I chatted to a Canadian guy who was also on the bus. Irritating bloke who liked the sound of his own voice and was pleased to tell me that the previous week an Australian girl going up this trail had died of altitude sickness. There were blokes in town offering their services as porters. There was no need for a guide as there was only one trail up the valley. I decided to splash out 350 Rs/day. I also rented a sleeping bag.
In the hotel was a clipping from the Kathmandu Post showing the manager of the hotel receiving an award for Tourism (1994) and that he was the first to build a toilet in the Langtang region!
31 March 12.05pm Syabru 2130m
So, I’m on my way! Had a good night’s sleep and after brekkie I was off with my porter just after 7am. Excellent investment! It’s so much easier to enjoy the walk and view when you don’t have a heavy backpack. A pleasant 5hr walk so far. Still very hazy so the views aren’t stunning but nice walking along forest paths. Met a few sherpas along the way and the odd tea house. Syabru is a Tea House village – I’m looking up Langtang Valley and although it quickly disappears in the haze, it looks steep and a little dark and forbidding.
4.14pm Hotel Bamboo Lodge. Quite a nice place in the valley by a river. A few older Germans here. Walk was fine, like a Scottish Glen. Three lodges here chose the top one and had a pleasant beer, foreigners all having hot showers provided by a log fired bucket of water – just what the guidebook says you shouldn’t do as there’s not much firewood here. Neck is fine – must have been all that bouncing on the bus and the antibiotics kicking in.
Sitting by a gushing river amongst pine forests staring up at the white peaks of Langtang Lirung (7200m) basking in the sun. Gumnachowk Tea House popped up quite quickly on the walk this morning. Everywhere has the same menu card but the further up the valley you go the prices rise by 5Rs. Didn’t sleep great last night. Got woken up by a group getting up at 5.30am. They were going downhill. I left at 7.45 just ahead of an older British couple. After an hour came to Ganesh View – nice views across the valley. I could see a distant snow covered peak (first sight of snow). Stayed for lunch – momo. Spoke to the manager who spoke a bit of English. 15 mins later was Lama Hotel – more like a Swiss village – solar shower, satellite phone. Pleasant spot but we carried on through. Nice walk through forest. Saw a couple of muntjac deer.
5pm Goratabela 3000m (looks like they’ve built a new hotel here called Tibetan Hotel)
I’m the only one here in a cabin of 5 or 6 rooms. The Brits arrived later and are camping. Nice place with great views of the mountains. Tomorrow I’ll hold back and just go to Langtang village just a couple of hours away rather than pushing to Kyangin Gompa. Went for a wander to a waterfall. Rather than a riot of colour from the rhododendrons or wild flowers there are just a few isolated trees in bloom. Room is fine – like a small sauna. Stone building with the beds built into the walls. In the night a thunderstorm and it poured down but everything dry by morning.
April 2nd. Langtang Village
Cold. Had porridge by the fire with the locals. Off at 8.15am. A pleasant uphill slope. Signed the park book. 45 people went up yesterday. Passed a dozen or so Germans coming down. Valley broadened and we arrived at Langtang Village at 10.30am. I found a homely little place in the village. Green Hill View or something like that. People working in the fields ploughing with yaks and digging up potatoes. Soil looks pretty barren. Yaks are wandering round the village tinkling their bells – very pastoral. Old and young women outside their houses sorting potatoes. Went for a brief stroll and got great views towards Kyangin. Looks like I’m the only foreigner here. Went for a nap and woke up to find a French girl Sofia had checked in. Very laid back. She had cycled from France to Nepal and then onto Tibet. She stayed a month in Kashgar (where I had visited a number of years previously) chatted in the small hotel restaurant but we were both knackered so off to bed at 7pm. That night it looked like it was going to snow. Also had some thunder and lightning.
April 3rd Kyangin Gompa
Got up at 5.30 to go to the (outside) toilet. Dawn was close but the snow was glowing in the light of a full moon. Set off at 8.15am today with trousers not shorts. The forest thinned to rough tracks and scrubby grass on the steady climb. Stopped by an abandoned tea house – but it wasn’t abandoned as a woman popped out and served tea. Sofia showed up a few minutes later. She had started out after me.
We carried on. Not long after we came over a small rise and there was the small settlement of Kyangin Gompa. It was nestled on a small flat plain surrounded by snow capped peaks and glaciers. This was the head of the valley and the far end of the trek. The settlement was like a small Scottish crofting village with low stone buildings and shist walls. No colour except for the black signs with yellow writing bearing the names of various guest houses: Yala Peak GH, Namaste GH, Tibet Hotel, Mountain View Guest House. Where was Langtang View Guest House I wondered? Every other settlement had one.
I walked up to the base of the glacier, then across a river. That night there were a few others in our unremarkable guest house all gathered round the stove. We were strangely quiet. I went to bed and listened to the Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race on the World Service. I don’t know who won.
April 4th Kyangin Gompa
Didn’t sleep well but up at 6.15 up for porridge. Left with Sofia and my porter to climb Tsergo Ri (Cherko Ri). (The porter obviously didn’t have my backpack today as we would be returning to Kyangin Gompa. He must have just wanted to climb the mountain with us.) It was very cold and then the path very steep on slippery stones and then snow. Soon I felt like a zombie. Gritting my teeth and tramp, tramp, tramp up the hill. Eventually after 3 hours we reached the summit where I collapsed. I couldn’t focus on the view until I regained my breath and then I could see we were surrounded by snow capped peaks. The village of Kyangin Gompa could be seen way, way down in the distance. We were 1200m higher. This was the highest point I had ever been: 5033m.
I had climbed Mr Kinabalu on Borneo but at just over 4000m that was a mere pimple, even the Khunjerab Pass, crossing from China into Pakistan was only 4700m. Mind you that was in a wheezing bus. We then went down a different route, not quite so steep and had time for a snack – yak cheese and muesli.
Back in the village I had a well deserved beer. I was all in and feeling a bit dizzy. I also had a headache, either from the altitude or exertion or maybe I hadn’t got over my bout of mumps. Probably all three. The lump in my neck was still there but smaller. Even my porter wasn’t well as he asked for some of my paracetamol. That night we were joined by a party of Dutchies and the restaurant was packed. I went to bed at 8 but couldn’t sleep – this is common with altitude sickness – likewise the nightmares and claustrophobia I suffered. I wasn’t too worried as the key is to sleep below the highest point achieved during the day and I certainly did that and tomorrow I was to go back down the valley.
April 5th Ganesh View, Rimche
How good it feels to be back down in the relative warmth of the forest. My nose is still runny but I think it will clear up as will my chapped lips. The upper reaches were a bit desolate for me, I prefer the forests with moss dangling off the trees, more full of life. When I look back at the photos I expect the cold, sore limbs and sleepless night will soon be forgotten.
We trudged on and reached Ganesh View, Rimche at 1.30. I had a shower and settled into my pleasant little room. I got all my kit out and there was a pang of sweaty socks. I got some clothes washed, hopefully they will dry. I had the first look at my face for a while – rather ruddy to say the least. I also just worked out this trek has been completely meat free. Later on there was a steady stream of people arrive, Japanese, Swedish, English, two Dutch guys an Ozzie and an American. We had a good chat and watched other trekkers stagger up the hill. After the relative luxury of a solar powered hot shower at Kyangin Gompa, here it was back to a bucket of water in a tiny shower cubicle. I didn’t sleep great again not helped by the fact a Japanese girl screamed in the night – I think she had seen a mouse.
NB I went on Google street view and took the screenshot below. This is how Ganesh View looks now (2022) – the building in the centre is the same as the one earlier in the blog – still standing! However, Rimche and Ganesh View according to google are in very different places!
April 6th. Day 7, 14:45, Snowland Tibetan Hotel, Syabru Bensi
I arrived at 1pm – Bila (my porter) started giving me his hard luck story. He got out a little book for me to give him a reference and then asked me where I was staying in Kathmandu and to send friends etc. I must admit it was quite sad to see him go. It was strange in that most of the trek he was very quiet but now it was over he was keen to talk. I decided to stay overnight here to rest up before the hubbub of Kathmandu. I looked at my room – blue concrete on one side, the other compacted mud – the ceiling was just planks as was the floor, no doubt harbouring plenty of creepy crawlies. What do you expect for 25Rs! I went out side to have a bucket shower.
After resting, I visited the Swedes and Dutch who I must have befriended earlier. They were staying in another hotel. Town was just one road and soon enough three buses appeared, loaded with tourists all eager for information from me, the expert hardy trekker about the trek! Tomorrow Back to Kathmandu.