Activity: Lodge Trekking
Inside: Story & Pictures
DAY 1 - driving to Syabrubesi (November 11th, 2011)
I'll have may legs shortened, don't worry!
Not that the seats are too close to each other.
I'll have my legs shortened, so sure!
It's me being too tall, don't bother.
I'll have my legs shortened, just a matter of time!
Man, so clear, even if insurance will not cover.
Being of western body size causes pain in Nepal. This is for sure. The lack of seat comfort is one story, however, what will kill you is the seat pitching of local buses. A backpackers heaven is an only partially filled bus, a free neighbor seat, room to stretch the legs. Too often however every single seat is occupied, too often four people share two seats, too often the aisle is completely filled up with incredibly indifferent people. In worst case they bear the horror untouched – however, not seldom, they fight back with a big smile on their face. The aura these people spread will relief you from the pain in your knees - for a second. I love traveling!
My bus ride to Shuyaphru today is one of these adventures. A bus station in Kathmandu builds the hub to remote Langtang. The place is busy and triggers pick pocketer alarm in my experienced backpacker brain. It sets me to a “be aware” state, not serious enough not to share my local guides relaxedness on the other hand. Finally our bus arrives. An Englishman, taller then me, tries to squeeze himself onto a seat. A complicated operation. He is experienced, is aware of the suffering of the next hours. Gestures and language speak clearly: he hates bus rides in Nepal. His local guide is sensitive enough to recognize the guests discomfort, politely he apologies. “Don't worry, no problem!” responds the poor Gringo. Ironic, bitter and still with some humor he continues: “Right after my return I have an operation scheduled: I'll have my legs shortened to be prepared for next time Nepal.”
Sometimes I dream of being a knight -
I'd park my horse in front of the pubs and kill all TVs inside with my sword!
Tonight I dream to be the king of this beautiful heritage -
I'd ban the stupid tomato sauce they serve with the delicious dishes, just for the tourists!
And, as I am dreaming of having power -
I'd ban the fiddling fiddle sellers on the streets of this beautiful country, they're so nerve killing!
Digging machines along the road work hard to fight the destruction of Nepals mighty monsoon rains. It is the never ending game of the infant with the adult: I drop and you pick up. No matter how hard people work to free the connection, a single monsoon day spills all away. The game starts from the beginning every rainy season.
We are heading towards Tibet. We will recognize that today - by the culture of the village that is our destination and by the fact, that three cascading control stations have to be passed. The border to the national park finally has to be overstepped on foot. The bus filled up during the ride, now even its roof is crowded with locals. Finally I am happy to stretch my legs again in Shyaphra. Two Euros a night is enough for a basic accommodation. A not really hot hot-shower is available across the street. MoMo is severed in a vegetarian version for dinner. As usually the ravioli style filled pasta tastes delicious, however for us gringos it is served with a bunch of western sauces. I am ashamed of the stupid influence we have on this proud culture. I hate ketch up!
A citizen of this country walks by. Living in Kathmandu he now travels with fifty for the first time to the mountains. “It's so beautiful, it's sooo beautiful!” he shouts out, heavily breathing. Obviously he is not so well trained. Meanwhile my local guide educates me about his opinions and believes. I learn about exile Tibetans living here, about the Hindu casts, about India, claiming to be a democracy and being more aggressive on Nepal than the other Goliath in the north. “With china” he says, “Nepal get's along better”. He has a strong believe in the fact, that Nepal needs to have nuclear weapons. “In India they teach in school that Buddha was born in India” he continuous with a harsh tone: “Also they tell their children that Mt. Everest and Kanch stand on Indian ground. Meanwhile India works on this plan: Every night the shift the boarder into Nepal.” Since decades a fight is going on in the Himalaya range between the countries, ever since the border line in the mountains has not been sharp, definitely however, it shifts to the east over time.
DAY 2 - Syabrubesi (1467m) – Ghora Tabela ( 2973m) (November 12th, 2011)
Start 6:30 | up 2010m | down 512m | arrival 15:00
The greatest beauty is found in the smallest things.
A warm smile of the people who will accommodate you for the night.
A simple honest meal, filling your stomach after a hard day of hiking.
A carefully fired stove in a freezing cold night.
People of a different countries sharing bits of their lives with you.
Rare moments in a in our ultra fast lives.
The daily backpacker account is balanced. Bad weather and too many hikers point on the minus scale. Great nature and met animals however finally save the day. Most of the hikers only go to Lama Hotel for the first day. We will pass bye there at midday. Due to a lack of time we must go the route one day shorter then it is commonly done. As I have been trekking shortly before on the Dhaulagiri Circuit it should not be a problem in the end, however today is going to be a long day.
Nasty weather will accompany us while we are following the Langtang river against its stream. The valley is always impressively sharp cut, sometimes the path climbs steeply, sometimes it goes along the same height for a while and sometimes we even loose height. Many times the footpath has obviously been repaired recently. Monsoon rains are constantly threatening the main access route for the people living in the valley. Building a road here is only possible with enormous effort. Building tunnels however is not an option for one of the poorest countries in the world. The river itself is an impressive whitewater, rapids and waterfalls cascade while we walk up the river. Rainforest surrounds us all day.
My guide hands me some fruits. The ball shaped ones taste quite like strawberries, however look totally different. The longer ones have a cranberry taste. Traveling sends you back into your childhood, seeing completely new things, tasting completely new things. I like traveling. As we walk along the branches of the trees above us move strangely. I follow the pointing finger of my guide an see monkeys above us. I am advised that it is better not to come close to them. “The apes will attack you,” tells me Nischal “they bite and scratch and worse: they may throw stones on you with their tail.”
Some time later my guide triggers alarm again. “See, a red panda!” I can see nothing. “Seems I mistook.” apologizes my nepali friend. The species is endangered, but a small population lives in the Langtang Nationalpark. It is quite unlikely to see one of them, same for the leopards living here – especially close to the trek. Today between hundred and two hundred hiker were going the opposite way.
Finally we arrive at a guest house that will accommodate us for the night. We have a delicious dinner, filling the hole in my stomach. The menu is all vegetarian but the food is so great so one would not miss meat. Our hosts have always a polite hearty smile on their face. Their English is little, but people understand each other. The common room is shared by the guests, a Japanese couple and a Spaniard. We have a friendly conversation while sitting around the stove in the centre. I am happy for the nice company and for the fact, that the stove is fired with wood. In other regions Yak shit is used, cousing a smelly smoke in the room.
Trying to place a joke I ask for the saturday night party. I earn laughter and questioned faces. The saturday in Nepal is our sunday, if there would be a party it would be on frinday night. Finally there is no party. Life of the people is simple. Sun goes down before six, they fire the oven for a while to fight the bitter cold of the night in Nepals mountains. The house is hardly isolated and wood is rare. In the end I am recommended to go to bed at a quarter past six. The stove is not going to be heated any more.
DAY 3 - Ghora Tabela ( 2973m) – Kyangjin Gompa (3870m) (November 13th, 2011)
up 1010m | down 190m | duration 5:00
Characters in a faceless world
A warm rain relieving from a summer days heat
Believes in a faithless time
A childs smile making you forget about all your troubles
Authentic individuality above a uniform mass
A walk through this timeless place
The morning surprises us with good weather. A blue sky makes a good start in the day. Tibetan bread is served honey and egg for breakfast. Not only the weather is more friendly now, also the scenery changes. The formerly depressing narrowly cut valley opens up. Rain forest changes into wide farm land, mountains and clouds now make way for views on Langtang II. First time to see this impressive mountain on our trip. We pass two control posts today, military is checking our TIMS passes. Although I expect not much to happen I still feel discomfort in the presence of heavily armed people in uniform.
Small farms were established next to the trail. Many of them see their chances in making some money with tourists. So we pass bye plenty of guest houses. Most of them ask us politely to buy some food or to stay the night. The steady questioning is nerve killing in the end, especially since few of the inhabitants ask us more in a harsh way.
It is windy and dusty as we enter Langtang village. We stroll around the place for a while. There is not much to see and therefore we soon continue our way. Today I am tired, we are walking all time above 3000m and the 2000m in height we climbed yesterday did not leave me untouched. Around midday we arrive at todays destination, a place called Kanjin Gumba. I have soup and mixed MuMu, a vegetable Calzone, for lunch. The menu is as usually, excellent and truly vegetarian.
We use the afternoon for a walk. People are tall here. They have a very own appearance, different to all other ethic groups I have seen in Nepal. The dresses people wear seem very traditional, are of beautiful colors – mainly read. The womens bodies carry beautifully crafted gold allover. Many times people talk about the DalaiLama. Their cultural origin is the Tibetan Buddhism. The ties to these believes are strong, many religious sites were build along the way. My host actually seems to know the Dalai Lama, it is said, that he also has visited the villages here. I love these people for being such stong individual characters in a world that becomes more and more uniform. I love them for keeping their old believes and their tradition. A heritage of uncountable value. I love traveling.
My young guide is more the opposite type. His studies aim is to deliver him a good job. He is pushing it hard, trying to become the perfect gear wheel in todays fast live of the big city as soon as possible. What a pity I think for myself. As we stroll through the village we reach the YAK cheese factory and the monastery, being there now already for six hundred years. First I was smiling about a heli rescue landings spot, now Nischal tells me that a Korean Mountaineer is waiting to be flown out, however bad weather does not allow flying. The poor guy is suffering from altitude sickness.
Naively I have been astonished about the amount of time people spend talking here. Everybody seems to have a word for the other. Now I learn that most of it seems to be boring small talk. My guide complains about being asked too many times where he was going and what he would be doing.
DAY 4 - Kyangjin Gompa (3870m) - below Lama Hotel (2460m) (November 14th, 2011)
up: 580m | down: 1900m | duration 8h
A stove is radiating warmth in a freezing night
The grandmas smile carries away the childs fear
A blond haired tourist is operating her ipad
the grandpa next to her is astonished, not being able to read though
two worlds are meeting, having not much in common besides
being in the same room for some hours tonight
There were two options for this morning: An early start at four a clock in order to hike up on a hill for some good views on Langtang Lirung or a normal start of the day at 6:30. The weather did no look very promising, neither in the evening nor when I stood up in the night. So I went to bed again. Now it is seven a clock, porridge, a fried egg and some ginger lemon tea give me a solid start into the day.
Still it is cloudy, however windows of blues skies fight their way through. Again we change the plan, originally we wanted to start hiking back after breakfast, now we give it a try to catch some views on the surrounding mountains. The hotel takes care of our luggage while we stroll up a hill. We are lucky with our decision, the weather allows now to catch some views on the majestic peaks of the mountain ranges north and south of us.
So it finally is a while later as we now start our way back out of the valley. It is the same way in reverse direction, basically known, however, the perspective is different. It are the same locations we come across, in opposite direction though. Our way starts with open farm land, then changes to a pleasant forest, then again to a deeply cut, narrow rainforest valley.
We pass bye again the two military control posts, showing our papers again, it is noted that we left the region. The langtang national park is one of the more dangerous regions in Nepal, frequently incidents happen here. My local guide will later also tell me a short story on the Tims registration principle. Basically every trekker need this registration. However there is a main difference between going for yourself or being with a guide of an official tour operator. The registration in the second case includes the recording of the trekkers name and the companys. Whenever there is an incident with a trekker the tour operating company will immediately have big problems. Also the guide is threatened to loose his license, to loose the basis for his life. So being with an officially licensed guide is a good life insurance.
Well, this is the positive side of being with a guide. On the other hand, while being with a guide, you will have to bear a person that is foreign to you all time, not only foreign on the personal level, also in the meaning of being of different culture and having different habits. Basically I feel being in a perfect trekker flow today, being in some trance state, walking, watching – watching the inner and the outer world. However I feel disturbed by the Aura of my guide. Hectically we walks around me, keeping not much distance. The difference in the reasons for us both being here may explain the unequal attitudes. I came here self chosen for getting away from traffic and hectic back home. He however is here to earn some money and he has to do this by walking. To him walking must be a waste of time, wherever you want to get to in this country, it will take ages, and you are likely to have to walk for long.
Nature set up a fairy tale scenery today, changing from clear weather in the open plains to surrounding mist in the forests that hundreds of years old. Moments like this allow for reflections, allow to see clear and to make decisions. So do I. I have the firm opinion to stop eating meat on weekdays, to stop drinking alcohol on weekdays, to reduce my weight, to do regular meditations, to play more guitar, to do less things, to focus more on the few things left and to work harder on my goals. Nearly one year later I will try to type down story of this trek – I will be astonished how such clearly felt decisions will be forgotten in such short time.
Lama Hotel as well as the neighboring guest houses are booked out and we are sent away. Just below we find a place for the night. But also here rooms are short, I will have to share the my place with my guide. Obviously he feels discomforted, but I earn respect from him as I say that this is not a problem.
The main building of our guest house consists of two rooms, the eating hall for the guests and the kitchen. The trekkers accumulate around the stove, gathering some warmth. Unquestioned the seats are shared with the host family and the guides. Grandma takes care of the infant while the mother cooks our food. The picture is strange: A single room is filled with traditionally clothed locals of distinct appearance and western trekkers, wearing high tech briefable membrane clothing and hacking into their iPads. Two worlds meet for few hours, a coincidence for a night. Sometimes I try to change rolls in my mind. How would it be if people would come bye my place, having equipment and clothing that I would have to work all my life for, knowing on the other hand I never will be able to buy myself?
These are moments when I feel guilt. But then I look in the faces of the people here. They are so friendly, such polite hosts. The warmth in their smiles seems to be born in an endless warmth of big hearts. There is no sign of regret or celiouscy in their appearance. In return I recognize that we should be the once that should be cellious, we have everything but this is not preventing us from being unhappy.
DAY 5 - below Lama Hotel (2460m) - Syabrubesi (November 15th, 2011)
up: 370m | down: 1300m | duration 8h
Marihuana for my mates
Incense for the gods and
Berries for the tourist
Friends are needed where the state is corrupt
Having the gods and tourists in a good mood
has never been a disadvantage
Smells of incense and freshly baked ciabatti climb my nose. I have an early morning today. In one hour the eating hall will be filled up with tourists and I will enjoy a milk coffee, chocolate pudding and ciabatti with jam for breakfast. The insence is brought to the outside. Some of the tourists will hug each other while saying good bye. A single evening made them friends. Here seems to be a place of peace and power, at least in the hikers projection.
Today it will be only a half day hiking out the rest of the valley, no need to rush. I study the clothing of the female “tibetian” habitats. Colors are only used in a tiny, however very tasteful dose. The dominant color is a dark black. Two layer of skirts are worn, a blue patterned one above a black. Also the upper body is covered with several layers of tissue, a violet vest is covered by a dark one. The tall appearance is emphasized by a narrow edgy face. Thick, black and long hair is falling from the head, tied together in beautiful long pigtail. The proudly shown silver handy craft witnesses of wealth.
Our return track leads us through a narrowly cut valley. The walls may be 400 meters of height and 80 degree inclined. It is strictly impossible to build a road here. We pass bye some bee hives of wild bees. Scarily installed ladders provide an idea of the enormously adventures honey harvest that the locals do here regularly. My guide passes me some fruits once in the while. I do not know them, they taste good. For himself he picks some green leafs. As I look on him he responds: “My friends like smoking this. Well of course it is illegal and I might get in trouble when caught, however taking care of friendships is one of the most important things in such a corrupt state.”
My guide orders the same lunch as I do. Onion Soup and mixed potatoes. He has copied my order several times in the last days, obviously he wanted to try what my taste is like. Obviously he does not like the food I do, this is not the first time he only eats up half the portion. I speak to him about this and ask him about his favorite food. Only little knowledge of Nepals culture is needed to guess right: Dhal Bat!
It is early afternoon as we arrive in the settlements of Shyraphaya. The small farms keep many people busy, also it is a trading and travel hub to this region. The school building is filled up with lively and friendly children, playing volleyball and other games. Small kids lough and talk to me, I do not understand them. It is fun, we are kidding and we start a race running down the street. Beautiful and deeply honest fun.
The Chinese workers push hard to finish the road that will connect this place to Tibet in the north. An “Eicher” truck drives down the road. The famous expression of Che Guevara sticks on the front window. The Latin American revolutionist made his way to Asia. How much may they know about him here? A Budda Travels Bus is waiting to depart at the street side. Hopelessly overcrowded, filled up inside and on the roof top.
The place that accommodates me for tonight has a cold hot shower. It employs a little girl, twelve years of age. She works for 2000 Rs (20EUR) 30 days every month. Her destiny is a drinking father, an all time sick mother and a housemother alike a dragon. She smiles a lot though.
I meet David during a hot ginger lemon tea and a beer in the afternoon. He wears flags of countries he has visited on his vest. It are many, however there also is half the space left. The Franco Canadian tells me he is only traveling since three years now, by far he is not finished yet.
DAY 6 – Driving back (November 16th, 2011)
“Where are you coming from? Where are you going to?”
“From Mount Everest and to the moon!”
“Can I drive you?”
One day everything comes to an end. Not always it is a good one. In my case the trekking ends with a full day bus ride adventure. The day starts early, the bus is quite full but for the first hour there is still some air left to breathe. The number of stops to pick up and drop passengers is countless. We pass 3 military control posts, in order to leave the national park we must leave the bus and walk for a while.
Monsoon rains worked hard on the roads. For long there is no good way, landslides were diged away recently. Basically we drive down a valley to Kathmandu, however for few short sections of the road we have to pass uphill passages. The first one we only can manage with the passengers walking and some brave maneuvers of the driver. At a second tricky road section we get stuck behind some trucks and buses, being unable to climb a hill passage. The road is in a bad shape and water runs down. It takes long for the vehicles in front of us to finally pass the point. Long ropes are taken out of the buses and locals as well as tourist mange to bring up the the bus before us and ours by supporting the wheel drive with rope pulling.
Having managed these adventures we enter better roads. We stop in a little city for lunch - a dhal bat party of course. Later we enter a more densely populated area. The bus is now filled up to the last cubic inch. Once again we are stopped: A bus in front of us broke down with a flat tire. The narrow road does not allow to pass bye, again we wait for an hour. Two female Spanish backpackers are on the bus with me. I learn that they are unemployed at home. Traveling in Asia is cheaper then living back home in Europe for them. It is a strange world we live in.
In the afternoon the valley gets greener, then the air is getting worse and finally we enter the wide spread outskirts of Kathmandu City. It still takes us a while to reach the center. A taxi brings me to my hotel, I have a shower and walk into the city for some dinner. The food tastes good after some days in the remote villages, so does the beer.
While walking back to the hotel I have to pass several Rickshaw drivers. I hate them, many of them offer their service in a very impolite and nerve killing way. Speaking a single sentence with them may make them follow you for minutes. Again one of them is trying to throw his hook on my: “Where are you coming from? Where are you going to?” Unnerved I answer: “From Mount Everest and to the moon!”. Preprogrammed I harvest the answer “Can I drive you?”. A smile returns on my face and will remain there for the rest of the evening!