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Langtang Valley - , Nepal
The Langtang Valley
At the end of September 2022 the Bevan family, two parents, three sons pus a fiancé and a girlfriend arrived in Nepal to walk up the Langtang Valley. Here's how it went.
Day 1: Kathmandu
Having arrived in Kathmandu via Qatar and Qatar Airways we were greeted by our Kandoo Adventures guide, Pimba Tending, a man who had been to the top of Everest three times. We spent our first day in Kathmandu and the holiday would certainly have been a poorer experience if we had not spent some time in the city looking around. Kathmandu is a wonderful bustling Asian city with wonderful medieval Durbar squares and magnificent temples. We also saw the Monkey Temple, a holy goat and a Living Goddess, the Kumari Devi, who is selected for her role at a very early age. And I was treated to a gourmet Nepalese dinner in the smart hotel in town, the Dwarika, to celebrate my birthday.
Day 2: Drive to Syabruesi
We left early in two jeeps with our two guides and four porters and embarked on a bone rattling drive north towards Tibet to Syabruesi, the start point for the walk up the Langtang Valley. The road is not good as the distance is only some 150km and takes some seven hours. Those with vertigo should not look out of the windows for large sections of the trip. We arrived shaken and stirred.
Day 3: Syabruesi to the Lama Hotel
The walk started today at about 1300 metres and we set off walking beside the noisy, glacial Langtang Khola river. The v-shaped valley is impressive rising thousands of feet both sides. A couple of us were munched by small leeches that lived in the rain forest. We crossed several foot bridges decorated with prayer flags and stopped at a small tea house for some lunch. Dahl Bhat is the staple meal here and was consumed voraciously although our enthusiasm for the meal diminished during the trip as we saw it so often. We stopped for the night at the Lama Hotel which was a low point in terms of accommodation. There was only electricity in the main ‘common’ room and there were two squat loos for all thirty of us. The girls were not happy. The boys were happier as beer was available. It became apparent that the price of beer increased as we climbed and at the top of the valley costs were equivalent to those in Norway. The food at all the tea houses was fine but basic and we soon learnt that the Langtang Valley was all vegetarian.
Day 4: Lama Hotel to Langtang Village
As we walked alongside the river today the valley suddenly opened up and we glimpsed wonderful Himalayan snowy peaks. We moved from the rain forest into alpine forest and then into alpine meadows that opened up as the valley widened. We saw the enormous scar on the side of the mountain showing the enormous damage of the 2015 earthquake when the mountainside collapsed burying a large part of Langtang village. We walked past stupas and prayer wheels and stopped for another tea house Dhal Bhat lunch. I lost my hearing aid down the squat loo; given the state of the loo there was not even a momentary thought that I should try to retrieve it. We arrived at tea time at our tea house in Langtang Village at a height of some 3800 metres.
Day 5: Langtang Village to Kyanjin Gompa
Today we walked the short distance up to Kyanjin Gompa, the highest tea house on the trek at 3800 metres. The teahouse was in a small village with a monastery and a yak cheese factory and, as expected, we walked past numerous shaggy yaks. After dropping our bags we then went on a short walk to a nearby ridge to soak up some of the views. The mountains here are wonderfully big and make those in the UK and the Alps look like pimples. Today was the first day we had altitude problems and Mrs Bevan remained in the tea house with a cracking headache.
Day 6: Kyanjin Ri
Many of the treks advertised only spend one day in Kyanjin Gompa whereas we had three days. It is short sighted to have made the effort to get to the top of the valley and then spend so little time walking in the wide-open vistas of the Himalayas. Mrs Bevan was still unhappy but the rest of the team set off up to Kianjin Ri at 4400 metres, a small peak overlooking Kyanjin Gompa and then up a ridge to Menchhyamsa Ri at 4600 metres before walking back down through a different valley with scattered yak and yak boy huts.
Day 7: Tserko Ri – the big one
We were all up before dawn and set off at about 5.30am with head torches on. We passed a footprint of Bhuddha decorated in yet more prayer flags and then started the long climb up the ridge. Once again the guides set a sensible slow plod of a pace. The Kandoo team were as good as they could have been, carrying bags and sharing water and with their big smiles and much needed encouragement we reached the 5000 metre summit of Tserko Ri and shared a tin of Kendal Mint cake. To say that the views were worth the climb underestimated the beauty of the Himalayan world around us. It’s fair to say that some of us had struggled with the height and the effects of last night’s supper and so there was enormous satisfaction that all the team made it to the top. And we weren’t even walking in snow as the snow line was at 5500 meteres. We saw soaring eagles, numerous grazing yaks as well as a covey of Tibetan Snowcock with their distinctive call. We all saw a Pika a small tailless rodent and admired the alpine flowers that covered our path. Nine hours after we set off we arrived back in Kyanjin Ri and were a happier crowd particularly after some beer and some roof top yoga.
Day 8: Back down to Langtang Village
Today we had a later start, visited the monastery and the cheese factory and sampled the pretty decent yak cheese. Then as we left the tea house we were again presented with scarves from the charming appreciative host (we had consumed more beer than most other guests) before we set off. We then walked up to a small lake looking up at glaciers that we suspected had recently been rather larger. Then a gentle walk back to Langtang Village.
Day 9: Back to the Lama Hotel
We were not looking forward to a return to the domestic hardships of the Lama Hotel but the Kandoo team secured places in a different tea house which was an improvement. We had four rooms all sharing the one squat loo between us and a friendlier team of hosts. There were some problems with an enormous spider that made an appearance in the loo in the middle of the night. And Mrs Bevan did mutter something about feeling like a prisoner of war as she climbed into her sleeping bag on her basic pallet bed after a visit to the even more basic loo.
Day 10: Back to Syabruesi
We had a downhill walk through the v shaped Langtang Khola valley sadly walking in the rain. We spent our dahl bhat lunch admiring the agility of musk deer and past large bee hives clamped onto overhanging cliffs. When we arrived back in Syabruesi the Bevan Bootcamp was complete we had a happy dinner with the whole team with the Bevan boys acting as waiters. We then embarked on a sing-off between the Kandoo team and the Bevans.
Day 11: Back to Kathmandu
Again we embarked onto two jeeps for the drive back to Kathmandu. The recent rain did not help the drive. At one point we had to dodge an enormous boulder the size of a small car that had descended onto the road. Then our driver managed to temporarily wedge his jeep on top of a very recent landslide across the road – not a happy place to be stationary. We arrived in our hotel in Kathmandu and relished the clean sheets and hot showers followed by cocktails and spring rolls eaten in the rooftop bar beside the rooftop pool. Then it was out for a restorative Indian feast on another hotel rooftop.
Day 12/13: Kathmandu and Home
A day and a half in Kathmandu were welcome. The hotel spa did well from the Bevans as did the local cashmere shops. The Boudhanath Stupa was visited as was the Durbar Square at Bhaktapur, a few miles east of central Kathmandu. There are some busy Asian cities that one can look forward to leaving but Kathmandu and Nepal with its wonderful scenery and memories and friendly people make us all a tad wistful as we drove to the airport. And then we climbed slowly and reluctantly into our economy class seats for the flight home. We will be back.
By Hugh Bevan ()