“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”
~ John Muir
We had no idea this quote would be so true when I planned our trip to Langtang Valley with my cousin, Eve, that faithful November in 2014 before the devastating earthquake struck 5 months later that left some of the places we hiked through beyond recognition and in total ruins. We would have never guessed the faith of Langtang Valley and going through the photographs now, it just feels like that is all thats left.. the memory of the wonderful place and people we met along the way.
It was just one of those spontaneous things we planned for ourselves. My cousin and I used to be very close growing up but I hadn’t seen her in over 8 years because we went to different countries for further studies. This trip was our getaway from day to day monotonous lives and the means to catch up where we had left off all those years ago and more importantly spend a few days together on our own terms.
We had no idea where we wanted to go but we knew we wanted to get close to the majestic mountains that Nepal is so famous for which is why we went to Thamel to browse for maps to popular trekking routes. Fortunately, the lady at the counter suggested we take a map of Langtang National Park which is the closest you can get to snow capped mountains from the Kathmandu Valley. We immediately wanted to go for it as soon as we found out the trek was attainable in as little as 8 days. With the help of a travel agency, we got hold of a guide, Purna dai, and the rest is history!
Day 1 (Kathmandu to Syaphrubesi at 1955m) :
We took a 7 o’clock local bus in the morning which would take about eight hours to get to the starting point of our trek in Syaphrubesi. Traveling in a local bus had its own charm with their old fashioned ACs and sound system and we got to watch a very bad but entertaining Nepali movie on the way which kept us amused most of the time. Nevertheless, we were happy that we were finally taking the long awaited trip together.
The road to Syaphrubesi was tarmac most of the time so it was a more or less comfortable ride with beautiful landscapes that you expect when you go to rural Nepal. We reached Langtang Valley National park at about four in the afternoon and decided to go for little stroll around the village.
Day 2 (Syaphrubesi to Lama Hotel at 2420m):
After a good night’s sleep, we were up early in the morning and ready to start our trek.
The route was very scenic and we basically followed the course of the river upstream. It took us about four hours to get to our lunch break spot in a village named Bamboo. The surrounding was breathtaking and we had our lunch just a few feet away from the river.
We were in no rush to leave Bamboo and stayed there for nearly two hours just soaking in the sun and playing with this really spoiled kitten as every tourist that stopped here seemed to feed it and give it a lot of attention.
We left Bamboo at around noon and continued our trek to reach Lama Hotel at around five in the evening which was going to be our pit stop for the day.
We were really relieved to reach our pitstop but quickly found out that the village was very dingy because it was surrounded by forest and did not get enough sunlight.
Our disappointment quickly turned as soon as the host of a guest house there greeted us at the front porch with the widest smile I had seen in the entire trip. He was a funny old man who was friendly and always willing to help. He made our stay comfortable with what little amenities he had in his guest house. For dinner we had vegetable noodles and played some games with fellow trekkers we met there.
Day 3 (Lama Hotel to Langtang Village at 3400m):
The next morning, after breakfast, we headed towards Langtang at about 8 in the morning. The trek from Lama hotel to Ghodaa Tabela was a breeze and as we trekked through the dense forest, the trees started thinning out and we could finally see the mountains.
“The mountains are calling, and I must go”
The trek from Ghoda Tabela onwards proved to be the hardest because there were continuous steep climbs and before lunchtime, we were exhausted and were just about ready to drop.
Once we ate lunch, we got our energy back and got excited again as we headed closer and closer towards the mountains. Before we knew, there it was, a glimpse of Langtang Village, with snowy peaks as its backdrop with waterfalls from the hanging valleys on both sides.
The village was like no other village I had ever seen. It almost felt like I was entering a village in Tibet with its long path with big stoney walls on either side.
We had about a hundred hotels to choose from but the bright orange newly finished hotel caught our eyes which was named The Moonlight Hotel.
The hotel was bustling with tourists and we made some great friends from Germany, Malta, USA and Switzerland. It didn’t matter where we were from at this point because we all had one dream, one goal to experience this epic journey in the wilderness.
The ambience in the hotel was great and at dinner time, we all gathered in the dining hall that had a traditional fireplace. Since we were well above 3400m, we were feeling pretty chilly and the warmth from the fireplace was very comforting.
Day 4 (Langtang Village to Kyanjin Gompa):
The next morning, we woke up fresh and ready to ascend to Kyanjin Gompa. We had such a good night’s sleep that we were smiling from ear to ear at the start of our next journey to reach new heights.
The scenery from Langtang to Kyanjin was the best of the trip and we couldn’t help but take it slow and really appreciate where we were. We were surrounded by huge glistening mountains on all sides. We had never seen anything like it before and felt very lucky to have experienced it.
Another four hours of trekking later, we finally reached our final destination of the trek in Kyanjin Gompa at 3860m. We were greeted by the owners of hotels right from the entrance who were looking of possible guests. After some haggling, we decided to stay at the lodge closest to the mountains on the east side.
During the trek, I wash’t even paying attention to how hard it was getting for me to acclimatize with the altitude but as soon as we ate our lunch and went to our room, I was falling sick with a mild headache and cold. My cousin wanted to go outside to look at a helicopter rescue but I just couldn’t get up and soon enough, I was deep into my sleep.
Once I had my share of rest, I felt much better in the evening and went down to the dining hall where a bunch of Tibetan, Tamang women had gathered around a fire. That warm fuzzy feeling of being near a fireplace came right back and I had already started to feel at home. The women started to sing their local songs and we talked about their heritage and life in the mountains.
Day 5 (Kyanjin Ri and back to Langtang):
My headache and cold was getting worse at this point and our guide suggested we go down to Langtang instead of staying another night in Kyanjin Gompa. We thought it would be best but we didn’t want to leave without at least trying for Kyanjin Ri. So, we had our breakfast and started climbing up. There were no specific trails to reach Kyanjin Ri so it was a struggle, add to that, the ever increasing altitude and it was a recipe for disaster.
The view could not have got any better which was a big boost of encouragement for us. Everywhere we looked, it was like a scene out of a movie. It literally took our breath away.
The stunning views made the climb up all the more worthwhile. We stayed there for about half an hour and began our descent. After lunch, we planned to head back to Langtang village. My cousin and I saw a couple of Tibetan horses and immediately knew we wanted to ride on them at least for a half of our way down to Langtang village. We thought it would make a great story to our already exciting trip.
Once we reached Langtang Village, we went to buy some cheese in the Cheese factory and my god were they one of the most delicious and fresh cheese I’d ever had.
Day 6 (Langtang Village to Lama Hotel):
We were still high on our experience and kept talking about how it had been the best plan we had ever made together. We felt rejuvenated and ready to take on anything. On the way, we also encountered some wild yaks.
Day 7 and 8 (Lama Hotel to Syaphrubesi and back to Kathmandu)
We had experienced all that we thought we would and more. It was one of those things you don’t get to do very often but we made time for it and the result was one we will be remembering for a very long time.
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in an office or mowing your lawn. Climb that Goddamn mountain. ”