When we were planning our trip back in Denmark we did not plan to spend much time in Nepal — we just needed to go to Kathmandu to have the documents for our Tibet tour sorted. However, as we have learned by now, things tend to change when you are travelling for a while 😉
To our excitement we got the opportunity to join an overland tour to Tibet from Nepal instead of throwing money at an expensive flight to Lhasa. However, this created an acute need for acclimatisation before going to Tibet, as our first stop there would be at about 4500 meters altitude. Kathmandu is only around 1300 meters.
Solution: Go on a trek in Nepal first 😉 Besides being hugely practical this also turned out to be quite enjoyable!
We decided to trek through the Langtang Valley, as the trailhead is just on the road to the Tibet/Chinese border. Langtang Valley was hit hard by the earthquake that stroke Nepal in 2015, and the trail has been closed for some time for the infrastructure to be rebuilt. However, the trek is now fully restored and the same goes for most of the villages along the trek.
However, signs of the disaster are still evident, and when walking through the narrow valley it is hard not to imagine how terrifying the earthquake and the following days must have been for the many villagers, tourists, and trekking staff who were in the valley on that day. Along with these scaring imaginations we had quite a few discussions on what we would do if we were in that unlucky situation. We have learned a thing or two 😉
To get started with our trek, we first needed to get to the trailhead at Syabru Besi. We headed out from Kathmandu early morning with the “deluxe bus”. “Deluxe” was more a name than a description of the services on board, but we got our seats and Ulrik could almost fit his legs in there (if Gitte had her legs on the seat, so he could use all the room in front of both seats 😉).
Our luck was short though. After just one hour of driving we were at the foot of a big, muddy hill — impossible to pass for any heavy vehicles, and after a few hours of everybody trying to pass anyway the hill became impossible to pass for any vehicle.
After two hours or so it had been arranged for a backhoe-loader to clean the hill for the thick layer of mud. Our driver had spend the waiting time making sure to place us first in line to get through, and with the help of locals pushing the bus we made it through.
Just until we hid the area with some recent landslides blocking the road…
After 11 hours or so we reached Syabru Besi (1450 m) and got a good nights sleep before we started on the real adventure: 6 days of trekking in the Langtang Valley.
Day 1 was some 8 hours walk gaining about 1000 meters altitude. Unfortunately, every meter up was followed by half the amount of meters down, so by the end of the day we were cursing anything downhill as it just ruined the hard work of walking uphill 😉 Nonetheless we made it to the popular guesthouse village Lama Hotel (2480 m) where we met a few other groups of tourists all complaining about the same thing 😛 Here we relaxed and found a third player for our beloved Bohnanza game, Leif from Canada.
The next day we planned for another 1000 meters altitude gain. Luckily, we had reached the part where we just walked up and not wasting all the hard work by walking down again 😉
The views here also got much better! Unfortunately, our camera had not been charged properly, so we only have a few pictures taken with our phones.
However, what made the biggest impression on both of us during this day was crossing the landslide that back in 2015 destroyed the entire Langtang Village. Hundreds of locals, tourists, and trekking staff died. Today nothing is left — and you could probably walk by without noticing that there has ever been a village in this spot.
Walking through devastated villages like this really made us realise how fragile our lives are — and how little good planning and preparation will help you if you are simply in the wrong spot at the wrong time.
With all the new impressions and discussions in mind we reached the small village of Mundu (3500 m) and got dinner and a good nights sleep. As we were the only tourists in the guesthouse we went to bed early — and were back on the track the next day at 7.30. New record for us we think 😉
We had just a short walk with about 500 meters altitude gain and about 1.5 hours walk ahead of us. Unfortunately, Gitte really started to feel the altitude that just ate all energy – not even the great views could regain energy.
After about 2 hours we reached Kyanjin Gompa (3850 m), the destination of the day, but we had to skip the planned walk to the top of Kyanjin Ri, the mountain giving name to the village. Instead we got some early lunch, a hot shower, and endless rounds of Bohnanza — with our third player, Leif from Canada, who happened to stay at the same guesthouse as us once again 🙂
Recharged with new energy we attempted both the Lower Kyanjin Ri (4300 m) and the real Kyanjin Ri (4600 m) the next morning. Again, we broke our record and were on the trail at 7 am. The weather in the Himalayas are simply better in the morning than in the afternoon.
The trek was very steep, and we had to practice a bit to find a suitable extremely slow pace — but when we reached the top we forgot all about the hard work. It was so beautiful!
We were back in Kyanjin Gompa around lunch time. Once again Gitte could really feel how the altitude was draining her for energy, so again the afternoon was spent on a hot shower and relaxation. Good that the main goal for going here was to adjust to the altitude before going to Tibet, and all we needed to do was being there 😀
However, we also had to get back down again. Convinced that we needed to adjust to Chinese time (they are 2 hours and 15 minutes ahead of Nepal), and to avoid the bad afternoon weather, Ulrik convinced Gitte to be on the track at 6.30. Definitely new record!
This early start gave us the opportunity to walk down 2000 altitude meters and some 22 kilometres in just one day — including trying to save a French girl from blisters én route. While Gitte was struggling to keep up, Ulrik had the opportunity to take plenty of pictures on our way down 😉
As we approached the village we had planned to stay at it was only about 14.30, so Ulrik convinced Gitte to walk another 30 minutes to make the next day shorter (he promised pancakes at the lodge 😉).
However, we had mixed up the different spots and when we arrived it turned out that there was no lodge — just a teashop selling drinks and souvenirs. It costed Ulrik a cold coke to get Gitte back on the trail and walk another 30 minutes to the small village of Bamboo (2000 m). And here it costed the promised pancakes, and a considerable amount of Haribo Peaches to regain her energy 😛 Luckily, there were a very tired Swedish couple as well, and we could spend the rest of the afternoon exchanging travel tips for the region.
Due to our 2•30 minutes extra walk the day before, our last day on the trek was only about three hours walk back to Syabru Besi — and with the new preference for waking up with the sun we arrived at around 9.30. Time for a shower, washing clothes, and repacking. Ready for new adventuresin Tibet!