The view from the plane window over Kathmandu valley is quite incredible. Terraced cliffs shone bright green from the rice fields and as the clouds cleared, snow capped mountains rose above the now sprawling city of Kathmandu. After a minor mishap where Sarah’s bag went missing and then magically reappeared, we were in the van towards Thamel. Our trek in the Langtang Region was in a couple of days as we still needed some gear – namely a jacket and Thamel was the best spot to get it. Our friend, Claire, had put as in touch with her friend, Romy, who had got in contact with his friend, Bhim, to be our guide. We met them in town for a quick dinner to say hello and find out what our next adventure entailed.
Over our first of many, many Momo’s, Romy asked if we had ever trekked before. We said yes, once we did an 18km trek over Tongariro in New Zealand.
‘We would call that a hike, but I’m sure you will be fine.”
We spent the next day in the thousand trekking stores getting the rest of the gear, re-packed our backpacks to make them as light as possible before heading out into town where we discovered the closest thing to a curry pie in a long time. To celebrate such a discovery, we celebrate with more Momo’s and a couple of cheeky Gorkha beers above the bakery at Curry Kitchen. We had an early start so headed to bed. Scarily, it seemed the altitude in Kathmandu was already having an effect as after seven flights of stairs, we were exhausted wrecked. Oh dear.
Day 1 – Kathmandu to Syabrubesi (1450m)
It was all about the bus today. A local bus. We bumped and swerved for five hours along the sides of steep mountains as more and more people squeezed on or climbed on the roof. Eventually, we stopped for a delicious lunch of Dahl Bhat as Bhim mentioned the smooth part was over.
What we thought were steep mountains before were in fact slight inclines compared to what lay ahead. Thankfully, the road turned to gravel an narrowed considerably. We slowly crawled along a cliff face, while squeezing past the oncoming buses, the backhoe repairing a landslide and the hundreds of locals taking the harder, but clearly safer option, of walking.
As we edged nearer to the er… edge, the bus tilted a bit too far for a certain 20 year old German man who made a similar sound to a scared piglet. What made it more hilarious was behind him a 18 month old baby girl hung out the window looking down over the edge while cackling histarically.
We registered at the National Park office at the town of Dhunche perched at 2030 metres, before the last of our perilous bus journey was spent zigzagging down to the cliff face to our starting point of Syabrubesi As we arrived, we looked back up the mountain to Dhunche. I turned to Sarah and said we just drove down half of the same altitude of where we had to walk tomorrow. With that lovely thought we ate some Momo’s and Dahl Bhat before bed.
Day 2 – Syabrubesi (1450m) to Llama Hotel (2480m)
Well this was it. The beginning of 5 days constant trekking in the Himalayas. To say there wasn’t any trepidation would be lying. But nevertheless, we began. Straight over a suspension bridge and we were in a tiny village of wooden houses, playing children and chickens. As we left, we began walking amongst the thick greenery of ferns, bamboo and a lot – a lot – of the type of herb that gives the inspiration to those people who carry guitars everywhere they go (including trekking in the Himalayas) just so they can strum a few cords, talk about philosophy before doing a terrible rendition of Tears in Heaven. You know who you are – stop smoking!
We digress! After 8 hours and with a couple of rest stops in some very interesting outhouses, we made it to the Llama Hotel completely exhausted and very very smelly. But we were prepared – we had baby wipes! We had a quick dinner of Dahl Bhat – fuel for the Himalayas it seems – and played some cards before heading to bed for a well needed it sleep.
Day 3 – Llama Hotel (2480m) to Langtang Village (3540m)
With weary leg, we woke and started again. So far it was nothing as we expected, it was more tropical than anything else, but as we climbed higher along the thundering river, the lush forest gave way to small shrubs which exposed more mountain and more animals. One of which was a mountain pony that really didn’t like our outfits. Thankfully, or more scarily, it had a bell around its neck so as we walked we would hear the tingling of the bell as devil horse stalked us. At one point galloping past with a swift kick missing our heads by inches.
We normally love horses. Not this one though, I think we mutually disliked each other. At a certain altitude, we lost him and stopped for lunch. We had heard about himalyan pepper from Bhim, so when we were invited into the kitchen and saw a whole tub of the stuff, we took the opportunity to see if the kind owner would let us take some for our travel salt & pepper shaker and he obliged. We waited patiently for our Dhal Bhat, while two terror children played around us with their toy guns.. As we arrived in the early afternoon at the Red Panda, in Langtang Village, we saw a lot of building work taking place and assumed it was due to the trekking season that would start in a week or so. But we found out that the previous night, an avalanche occurred on the back of the mountain at the same time as a huge gust of wind swept throughout the valley causing major damage to the roofs and building,s as well as dumping a couple of feet of snow in the village.
We were all travelling separately but there were the same people on the same trekking route, so we would bump into them at lunch and in the evenings. As everyone settled down for a hot chocolate and some biscuits, Bhim asked if we wanted to go for a walk. Obviously as we had just trekked 2000m over 2 days we said Of Course! And we are glad we did. We backtracked to a small village that we had passed earlier and turned off the main track. We walked into the original village of Langtang, off the main track, where life was still going on as it has for years. The ladies were drying grass to feed the animals for winter, as chickens scratched around and the little kids with bright red cheeks from the cold watched on.
We walked up to Langtang Gumpa, the monastery, and started taking photos. As we arrived the caretaker was locking up. He noticed us and invited us in. It was dark, and most windows were shut, so it was hard to make out what was what. He began to explain everything about the monastery and how Langtang got its name while Bhim used his phone to light up the incredible paintings on the woodwork. He said they had lost half the roof the night before due to the avalanche and as we circled the building clockwise for good luck we saw the extent of the damage. They said it will take 6-8 weeks to repair it, as everything gets carried up by the porters. (Turns out it takes the same amount of time in Australia – but that’s because of crap builders) We were invited for tea by the villagers but it was getting dark and we had to make it back to our hotel so, unfortunately had to leave. Getting to see the village and monastery was completely worth the extra walk and of you are ever in the area we suggest you do the same. No matter how jelly-like your legs are!
Day 4 – Langtang Village (3540m) to Kyanjing Gompa (3900m)
Another early start as we left the villagers working on their damaged roofs. After one minute we spotted a herd of yaks. Obviously this distracted us for half an hour as we took photos and watched the babies run around. You never know of this would be the only yak heard we would ever see. We eventually continued trekking, past the Buddhist rock formations and the numerous more herds of Yaks. We also saw the cross breed of yak and cows that we repeatedly needed reminding of the name – and still cannot remember. We said goodbye to the cowyaks and moved on upwards.
We had spotted a few snow peaked mountains on the way up, but now we were heading up the valley towards the most incredible view, if not slightly obscured by clouds. We passed a small village with a smiling lady chopping up the greenery for winter. When asked if we could take a photo, she said yes, as long as you buy something from my shop. Quite the entrepreneur. She said she she has no customers and needs the money. We bought a drink and made a joke to her about having no customers but her face, neck and teeth were draped in gold. Bhim translated which she found hilarious.
By 11:30 am, we had made it to our home for the evening at Viewpoint Lodge. We stopped for lunch and after deciding the weather should be okay, we made the call to climb to the viewpoit, rather than waiting until the following morning.
An hour and a half later we were perched on Kyanjing Viewpoint at 4500 metres. The clouds came and went giving us a view of white from time to time, but it made it more fun as we tried 20 times to get a selfie with a view of the mountains.
Back down in the lodge, and after few hard days we were feeling pretty exhausted. We were weary of the side effects of altitude sickness, namely severe migraines and the um, poos! Thankfully, we managed to avoid the most of it, with Sarah getting a minor headache while I just had to be selective about breaking wind by choosing to only going above a squat toilet (as safety precaution). We had a quick rest before dinner of Dhal Bhat, Momo’s and a celebratory Everest beer.
Day 5 – Kyanjing Gompa (3900m) to Llama Hotel (2480m)
We woke just before dawn broke ,the following morning, to be awarded the cloudless view of the Himalayas in Langtang Valley. And what a sight it was. One of the most spectacular sunrises we have seen. Surrounded by Yaks and yak cows we watched as the sun slowly lit up the previously grey-blue peaks turning them golden. We couldn’t linger any longer, as we had to start trekking back down the valley and cover as much ground as we did the previous two days. But then the yaks distracted us again. This time, with their cheese. There was a small yak cheese factory on the way out of the village. We just had to stop, it was cheese! As we bit into a small pice, we discovered it was a better version of Comte, so bought a bigger chunk.
We passed all the familiar sights from the previous days. Beautiful pagodas, Yaks, Cow-Yaks, the happy lady who wanted another photo and for us to buy a drink and tiny kids learning how to carry large loads of straw like the incredibley strong porters we had seen and been so envious of. We also passed some new sights. A porter who had managed to carry a large hot water system up 3000m and was still going, and the bizarre site of a elderly man (not to dissimilar to Prospector Pete from Toy Story) who was accompanied by a 19 year old blonde girl with the hairiest legs, who was only carrying a guitar. Oh and she also wore no shoes.
Then it rained – hard! The last 3 hours were spent being completely drenched as we wandered back into the green forest section before eventually making it to the Llama hotel for a few cold beers to celebrate my brothers birthday. It was colder then the previous time we were there so everyone sat inside. But, with the river flowing below the garden we thought it best to sit outside. Then we worked out why everyone else was really siting inside. The only, one other, person outside the lodge had a guitar and was singing Tears in Heaven. We went inside too.
When we had started this trek we actually looked forward to the walking down part. How wrong we were. Instead of running out of breath when going up, our legs just turned shakey and jelly-like. A terrible combination when faced with a squat toilet after 8 hours of solid walking – as Sarah described when she returned from a not so successful toilet break. The poor girl got the wobbles and managed to pee on her flipflop. I imagine this sort of thing happens quite a lot around here.
Day 6 – Llama Hotel (2480m) to Syabrubesi (1450m)
The final run home. With our legs week and clothes wet, we slowly walked out of the llama hotel for 6 more hours of trekking. As we grunted while picking up our bags, we noticed some very energetic people doing lunges and stretching for the day ahead. All with cigarettes hanging out their mouth. Irony.
Eagle eyed Sarah had spotted a few places on the way that were selling had woven items from the local ladies. So we, and I’m sure for the first time in Bhim’s trekking life, spent the last day on the himilayas shopping. Not only did Sarah manage to obtain some unique items for her pending hat business, but we also got to stop walking. Win-Win.
From lunch time on, all I’ve could think about was delicious Dhal Bhat and Buffalo Momo’s that we had previously eaten five days ago. Our mouths were watering and as we crossed over the very last suspension bridge where we began we actually got a skip in our step. We dropped our bags, had a warm shower and relaxed out the front of the guest house. It was a festival so people were coming in and out talking to the lovely owners and eating peas. The came over with big pile of peas for us so we triumphantly podding peas and drinking beer in self congrats on for our gallant effort.
Bhim joined us and before we knew the beers were going down fast and we were playing cards. After some persistence, they allowed us into the kitchen to learn their incredible Dhal Bhat and a delicious Nepali Chicken Curry. While we were taking notes, the owner said to me that if I want Dhal Bhat recipe, all I need to do is take her to Australia with me and she will cook it. I said I was married and she laughed and said “I have husband. You have wife. I just cook!”
Day 7 – Syabrubesi (1450m) to Kathmandu
We said good bye to our favourite owners and as we walked out the door, she said “See you next year. But next year you bring your children. I want you to have two of them!” We queried the two in one year and left with a compromise that we will have to come back two years in a row, one child each year.
Staying here at the end of the trek was a great way to end. But then we got on the bus. We started by zigzagging up the mountain which, after 3 minutes, had every child vomiting everywhere. The next nine hours were spent in the heat of an overcrowded bus with vomit, on a cliff edge, while occasionally stopping for food. It was at these food stops where the mothers would feed their kids Momo’s just so they could throw them up minutes later. To say we weren’t hungry is fair enough and as a poor street dog wandered by with half of its skull and back missing, we had really lost our appetite.
When we finally reached Kathmandu we were happy. Romy had lined up a friend who ran a guesthouse, so we checked in, were given a shot of vodka, said goodbye to Bhim and found some quick street food. Romy’s friend was in a band, and as it was a festival, they had commandeered a shopping centre rooftop to play some music. We were invited as well so went on up. As soon as we walked out on the roof we were made welcome. We were given a huge plate of grilled chicken from their bbq and then were constantly fed whiskey and water while the band tried to steal electrics from somewhere.
Eventually the power worked and they began to play. And they were incredible. We sat on the roof top edge watching the sun set over the Himalayas, illuminating the sky in red and purple hues. The silhouette image of the band playing on the roof over Katmandu with a whiskey in hand will stay with us for ever. Well, it has to as I accidentally deleted all the photos.
We met Romy afterwards for few more whiskeys on top of our guesthouse before saying goodbye.
Kathmandu and Nagarkot.
Today we were meant to head out to Nagarkot for the night. As it was a festival, we were unable to get seats on any bus. And with strict instructions from Bhim and Romy not to get into a private car, we opted to stay in Kathmandu. Thank god, as we had the worst hangover from the night before. All we could summon the energy for was to slowly walk into town and watch the NRL grand final.
The next day we got on the “tourist bus” to Nagarkot for the opportunity to see a glimpse of Mt Everest. We arrived with no accommodation and as we picked up our backpacks to search for a room, the rain started. After 45 minutes and six guesthouse, we finally found one. The owner was a bit creepy but with our own balcony overlooking the Himalayas we were happy. Not only was the view good, but at 5am when the sun rose, we could walk from our bed, take some photos and fall back asleep. Easy. We woke, the sun rose, Sarah wore her duvet/doona and we tried to search for Mt Everest. I say we saw it, Sarah is unsure so we don’t really know what we can take from this.
Anyway, we returned to Kathmandu for 2 more nights at the strangest hotel, The Royal Penguin. It was a good hotel but they have a very strange room menu (starts normal, then gets bizarre). We spent the time walking the streets of Thamel trying to find the only souvenir that would always make us remember Nepal. So we spent a few hours looking for a bell that sounded exactly like the horse’s bell that stalked us so many days again.
Of course, in between this we would go back to the bakery under Curry Kitchen for the Chicken Curry Puffs as well as heading upstairs to eat Chilli Momo’s and drink cold Gorka beers. One of our all time favourites. The beer and the country!