aka ‘Marks Second Walk in Nepal’
Entry number 11 22nd January 2009 (drive from Kathmandu to Syabrubesi)
Having got back to Kathmandu on the 16th January after my first trek, I took time to wash my kit, discuss the merits of generators with Basnant (our landlord), eat well and drink a few beers and of course catch up with my lovely wife, who arrived back from Bangkok a few days after me. This was nice but by yesterday I was looking forward to my second trek which started today. This time I am off to the Langtang region and undertaking a week long trek that should not only present me with excellent mountain views but also an insight into the Tibetan culture that is very prominent in this part of Nepal. It is not so much a region where Tibetan refugees have settled since the Chinese invasion in the later 50s (I know I should really know the exact date of the invasion!) but more an area for Nepalese inhabitants with Tibetan ancestry so I am looking forward to this trek. It is also an area of Nepal that I have not been to before and one I don’t really know a lot about.
No walking today, we left Kathmandu by 4WD for Syabrubesi which is the start point for the trek. I say we: I have the same crew except for my Sherpa as we are trying out a different Sherpa on each trek with the intention of employing all (or some) of them on a full time basis when we are ready to launch our initial trekking program some time later in the year. My new Sherpa is called Pemba. He is much younger than Nabin (at least half his age I am sure and Nabin was 42) and seems fine although I haven’t really had a chance to talk to him yet.
We needed a 4WD as it took 6½ hours to cover just over 100KM. By bus it is apparently double this time.
Just before dinner I gave the porters, Santosh and Kanchha (from now onwards known as the boys) a t-shirt each which Kirsty had got for me when she was in Bangkok. For Santosh, a Man Utd top but as Kanchha does not like football Kirsty chose a surfing t-shirt instead, appropriate given surfing is such a prominent sport in Nepal (a joke my love!). Santosh wore his Man Utd top to dinner over the top of his jacket (especially for me I think) and I was amazed that medium fitted him perfectly (when you have three layers on underneath I guess it will??), I was convinced both of them would be super small in size but Gautam said medium would be OK and he was right.
Entry number 12 23rd January 2009 (walk from Syabrubesi to Lama Hotel)
Walked for about 6 hours today, bumping into a Dutch couple and a single Korean female along the way (all staying at the same teahouse as me this evening). Didn’t find the walk too challenging today but equally I didn’t find it too interesting either. We climbed up, as you usually do on the first couple of days of a trek, but there were no mountains and for the best part we walked through forest. The Nepalese like to call it jungle but by my definition it is definitely forest. For a start it isn’t hot and horrible and you aren’t constantly being bitten to death or at risk of running into something that’s going to attack you. For those that don’t know, I am not a big fan of jungle and find it pointless. So, it was pretty boring; iPod on, head down and see if you can beat the recommended trekking time as well as other trekkers to your ultimate destination, which I did by the way (competitive, me???). Had a decent hot shower and put my thermals on so it is just the smaller matter of dinner and then it was off to bed.
Cultural difference of the day; Gautam was convinced that the reason Kanchha got sick on the last trek was because his hair was too long and he didn’t dry it properly (he probably has a point) and so he told him to cut it short for this trek which he promptly did. Can you imagine this happening in England (Mr Manager; ‘Tracy you need to cut your hair, it is not a suitable length for the job in hand’ Tracy; ‘Well Mr Manager why don’t you stick your job up your Annapurna Base Camp’). You get the picture?
Entry number 13 24th January 2009 (walk from Lama Hotel to Kyanjin)
We were only supposed to walk to Langtang today, a journey of about 4 hours, but instead decided to walk two days in one and get right into the heart of the Langtang Valley and allow a free day to take an excursion further afield. This worked fine. I had the usual for dinner and set off for bed. Once in bed I read in my Lonely Planet guide book that, under no circumstances, should you walk beyond Langtang if coming from Lama Hotel; the reason being you climb 1000m from Lama to Langtang and it is the author’s opinion that 1000m in one day is plenty, with the walk to Kyanjin being only 400m the following day. So in effect we climbed 1400m in one day. What a night I had, no signs of altitude sickness what so ever but I got the right fear and had a terrible night’s sleep, thinking I wasn’t going to wake up! As it was I was perfectly fine in the morning but potentially a stupid thing to do I know? Mentioned it to Gautam and he said that because we had been on the Annapurna side recently we had nothing to worry about. Kyanjin is at 4200m in elevation.
Entry number 14 25th January 2009 (day trip to Langsisa Kharka)
I had a ‘bad day at the office’ today. We left the teahouse around 8am for our day excursion to Langsisa Kharka, which takes about 8 hours there and back and takes you up to around the 5000m mark. To begin with the walk was fine but once we entered the valley the weather changed and it started to cloud over and got very windy and cold indeed and after about 4 hours I was really starting to struggle (I had no battery in my iPod and the views had all but disappeared so what inspiration was I left with??). I am sure the sleepless night described above didn’t help matters but what really wound me up was being overtaken by three French guys who went bounding past me as if they were strolling in Hyde Park and so I decided (on behalf of us all!) that we were going to give up, have our lunch and head back. On the plus side, lunch was good; Tibetan bread (which is a bit like a pizza base) with tined sardines and chilli flakes plus the customary sweet tea and a Mars Bar, but the walk back was worse than the walk there as we headed headlong into the wind and dust. Got back about 4pm, knackered and cold but (again on the plus side) I got myself a ‘Tibetan tan’ as I like to call it, which you get more from wind than sun and I think looks really cool (makes you look like a real trekker!!).
Entry number 15 26th January 2009 (walk from Kyanjin to Bamboo)
Gautam and I worked out last night that over the six month period we would be trekking for a full 90 days of it; scary, especially after yesterday’s nastiness. Anyway, we headed back down today and had a great day of walking. You get to appreciate the valley a lot more on the way down as opposed to on the way up when the descent is gradual and I had managed to get a bit of juice for my iPod so all was well with the world. All’s well that is until the final hour when we had to go steep steep down to our teahouse for the night. The pressure on your knees is sometimes really painful and this was one of those times. The boys are teaching me how to run down and use the front part of my foot and the back part of my knee to take all the pressure off but I have yet to master this and will need to keep practicing! Tonight was a good night. We all had a hot shower (not together I hasten to add) and I was sitting there having a beer and I noticed the boys muttering in a corner and was told that they wanted to haggle over a chicken and cook it for dinner tonight but they didn’t know how to suggest to the owner of the teahouse that she should sell a chicken to us and give us free reign over her kitchen. Eventually negotiations started and we could either have the older chicken for 1500rs (about £15) or the younger (and therefore fresher one) for about 2000rs (I’ll leave you to do the maths!). There was also four cockerels kicking around the place and I hate cockerels and suggested we bought all four and then throw them in the river or feed them to the dogs but my idea was rejected and in the end we opted for the older 1500rs chicken. Once the deal was done everyone (except me) was given a job; Santosh killed it, Kanchha got it ready for the pot and Pema cooked it. It took time to prepare and cook so I stayed on the beer and the boys drank thumba (no, we didn’t also kill a bunny rabbit, thumba is a millet based alcoholic drink that you keep pouring water over and sucking up through a straw; horrible!) and we finally ate at 9pm (very late for the mountains). I went to bed about 10pm and the boys around 11pm.
‘Hat’s off’ of the day; How do you get two 10ft planks strapped to your back up a mountain path that is about 5ft wide? Simple if you are a porter: you come up the path sideways!
Entry number 16 27th January 2009 (walk from Bamboo to Sin Gompa)
Normally by the time I am up and dressed (about 0645am) Santosh and Kanchha are up, having breakfast and waiting for our bags so they can get a head start but could we get them up this morning? Could we ever! 11pm to bed for both of them is unheard of apparently and both struggled to get up. Even Pemba didn’t arrive with my bed tea until about 7am (yes I get bed tea, well in my case bed coffee, delivered to my room every morning!).
We climbed up today, which was nice for the knees (as I’ve said, I prefer going up rather than down) and covered a very good distance. At one of our tea stops I tried on the load that Santosh is carrying (see picture) that has my kit bag in it. Needless to say it had the boys in stitches and I nearly broke my neck!
Our teahouse in Sin Gompa is very nice indeed and I know I bang on about hot showers (if you do a trek you will know why?) but here the shower was so hot I had to turn on the cold tap as well! The menu was also a bit better than usual and I managed to have spaghetti with tomato and chilli sauce and a nice bottle of Everest beer to wash it down. I almost forgot. I also managed to get some juice for my computer and iPod so even managed to go to bed and watch a movie. Happy days, or what????
Entry number 17 28th January 2009 (day trip to Gosainkund)
This was a brilliant day of trekking. The weather was perfect and we climbed up, up, up to the holy lake at Gosainkund (4460m). The lake is sacred (mainly for Hindus) and it is believed that Shiva pierced a glacier with his trident to create the lake. I thought it was a great place and the lake itself was frozen and you could hear the ice moving which I thought was amazing. Got back around 3.30pm and guess what, I had another hot shower mixed with a dash of cold to taste, a beer and spaghetti with tomato and chilli – no point in experimenting when you have found a formula that works!
The sacred lake at Gosainkund
Entry number 18 29th January 2009 (walk to Dunche and drive back to Kathmandu)
Santosh has a great scam going at breakfast. He orders plain Tibetan bread and Gautam and I either have it with honey or peanut butter (which you are given in the jar so you can help yourself) so Santosh waits until we have ours, he then heads over and sits with us and when the owner isn’t looking tucks into the spread on offer and eats it as fast as he can so not to get caught. He then laughs to himself, gives us a cheeky grin and heads off to get ready for the trek ahead!
Only 3 hours today and then we were back in the 4WD and heading back to Kathmandu where I enjoyed a hot shower (never!), four cold bottles of beer and a nice burger with bacon and fries and a catch up with the Missus……
Mandatory group shot
It is the big one next: 22 days in the Everest region but before that, we have Andy and Mandy arriving tomorrow, I only hope they don’t want to do too much walking!!!