- The history of Nepal´s Capital
- Voids and chicks
- Starting the Langtang Trek
- Teahouses and bamboo – the Nepalese trekking experience
- High altitude bloodbath
- Two days in scenic Langtang
- Reaching Kanchen Gompa
- Descending with our new Georgian friend
- Back to civilisation
Back in Kathmandu! I can barely move my legs and my body needs at least 2 more days of chilling to recover, but it was definitely worth it!
The history of Nepal´s capital
But let´s catch up where I left you. We were still in Kathmandu and about to go shopping! Kathmandu is amazing for shopping as you can get all sorts of outdoor stuff for a very good price. We both bought a very nice down jacket for around 30 euros each, which is a bargain for such a jacket. After this, Narayan, our personal driver, was already waiting for us. Basically Dee Besh’s family has a 24/7 driver with the best car that I have seen so far in Kathmandu, a nice Asian limousine with ac and everything. We had him at our disposal the entire day and he drove us to Patan.
Kathmandu was once was composed by three different cities, but because of their growth they merged to one big Kathmandu. Each of the three has an own centre and one of them is Patan. We had a walk around there and the rest of the time just enjoyed being driven around in this amazing car gazing at the chaotic world outside. Afterwards we tried unsuccessfully to find a Kareem board in Thamel, the part of Kathmandu we are living in and the most touristy probably. Kareem like I told you is THE Nepalese game but apparently the westerners don’t like or don’t know this game and when we asked locals here for it they started laughing and said that it was the first time they had to answer such an enquiry. Well we resigned and went to bed at 9pm.
Voids and chicks
Bus ride from Kathmandu to Syabrubesi! I already wrote explicitly about bus rides and I thought what I had lived through was bad, well let’s say that comparing the bus ride we were about to have to the ones we had in India would be like comparing a field track in Europe to a German highway! Its 110km distance and it took 11 hours.
But first you have to imagine what it means to build roads here. The whole of northern Nepal is valleys and mountains, but not little hills, but 6000 or 7000m high peaks. To build roads means to find a windy way around these hills to get into the next valley. But let´s start from the bus itself. We got there at 7am, had our two reserved spots and got into the bus, then we took a look to the left: somebody had filled 6 places, right next to us with day old live chicks. Around 1000 or even more one day old chicken which someone wanted to transport I don’t know where. Around midday it was 30 degrees and it stank like hell and the chicks were obviously screaming the entire time. So for 10 hours we had these chicks right next to us, and the fact that after 6 or 7 hours they started dying didn’t make the smell any better. But this is Nepal.
Buses are the main means of transport for people, goats, chicken, rice, waste, concrete, etc….of course the music was at full power, so loud that you could barely talk to your neighbour. And then the road. In the good parts it was just mud, but in the higher regions it changed from rivers, waterfalls, 15% steep stony slopes and so on. After 7 hours. everybody out, we didn’t know why exactly as we were in the middle of nowhere in around 2500 m, everybody started taking their stuff and walking and we followed them. A landslide had destroyed the road at one point and everybody had to walk half an hour to catch the next bus.
After this bus ride I understand why Nepalese roads are by far the most dangerous in the world and I was not even looking at the 2000m void and just trusted the bus rider. Plus some people are sitting on top of the bus as in the bus everything is already packed. These people have to be careful every second not get thrown down the void because of all the bumps. Crazy! Well we made it and the fact that I am here writing means that I survived the way back as well! After 11 hours we arrived in Syabrubesi, which is a little mountain village close to the Tibetan border and the starting point of the Langtang trek. We successfully looked for a Kareem board and went to bed at 8pm.
Starting the Langtang Trek
So let´s start trekking! Basically the Langtang trek follows a river from 1400m to nearly 4000m in the Langtang valley which is dominated by the Langtang Lirung, a 7300m high peak. It starts in the jungle and ends in high Himalayan plains.
When we started the trek we found out something quite disturbing: we had only 2000 rupees with us, 20€ for one week between two people, that’s not enough even in Nepal! But we had some dollars and a bottle of good old Indian whisky left and hoped that we could exchange that for food further up the trek. So the first day we walked up this jungle trek, waterfalls, bamboo, amazing butterflies, birds, very nice. The lonely planet, our beloved guidebook, strongly advises not to drink the water from the rivers and waterfalls as you would get diarrhoea from it. My natural instinct and years of experience trekking in Italy tell me that the water coming from glaciers is the best and purest water of all, so we decided to take the risk and drink the water for the entire trek to save money and plastic bottles. We were the only ones to do so and what a miracle, we didn’t get diarrhoea!
The beginning of the trek is also characterised by the biggest marijuana fields I have ever seen. Just plains of 5 or 6 m tall plants and it smells of them everywhere. Obviously we took a few “find the Basti in the weed field” pictures :).
Teahouses and bamboo – the Nepalese trekking experience
Trekking usually looks like this: wake up rather early, walk as much as you want, maybe stop for lunch and then towards 4 o’clock you find yourself a beautiful little hut in the middle of the forest and decide to spend the night there. These huts are usually very simple. There is one where you can sleep, for free, which does not have heating and is made 100% of wood. It just has two or three simple beds. Then there is one next to it where the house lord lives, usually a 60 or 70 year old Tibetan woman, she has a wood fire oven in there which is used to heat and especially to cook. Electricity does not exist. Whatever you order will take at least an hour to be ready, but it´s amazing what they manage to cook on it. Their menu ranges from pizza, pasta, sandwiches, Kaiser Schmarren (true story) and all other sorts of western crap. We went for the Nepalese/Tibetan food, namely Chowmein (fried noodles with vegetables), Momos (pasty filled with vegetables, meat or even sweet ingredients), Dhalbat (rice with a lentil-beans soup), and Momos, Momos, Momos. This food just tastes so amazing after 10 hours of walking and these huts are maybe among the cosiest places I have ever seen. You get a blanket, and then you start reading a nice book with the light of your head torch waiting for the amazing food to be ready!
We saw that she was preparing something we didn’t know for the lumberjacks of the area and we asked her if we could have that. It was fresh bamboo, a plant they for everything and the young little top bits are cooked for hours until they are soft and then mixed into a very very spicy curry. Good stuff. As always we went to bed at 7, which we did for the entire week as it just gets dark at that time and you are so tired that everything else would feel wrong. So going to bed at 7 and waking up at 7.
High altitude bloodbath
We had made our way up to 2400m from 1400m on the first day, which is quite impressive considering the fact that Yassin hasn’t done any sports in ages and me too because of the injury, plus we had a 12kg backpack each. On the second day of trekking we got out of the lush jungle vegetation and reached one with forests, lots and lots of waterfalls and it got less steep. The aim was to reach Langtang, the “biggest” village, around 50 inhabitants, in 3500m altitude.
But the day began in another way. I was trying to cut myself a walking stick from bamboo. Usually I use my Italian knife which has a mechanism which prevents it from closing while you use it. Well I was using Yassin Swiss knife which doesn’t have something like this and the moment I cut through, BAM, into my finger. It was quite a deep cut and it went under my skin into my muscle as well, but we reacted perfectly and put alcohol and everything on it, but then it started bleeding like a fountain. I remembered that my mother had given me this weird chemical which stops any kind of bleeding immediately and I put it on and it worked but it was not a solution. I kept on walking the entire day with that thing on my hand until we reached Langtang. We met a 21 year old guy from Mexico who was very well equipped and had a first aid kit with him. I got rid of that chemicals, washed it and we made kind of tape and fixed it with a little bamboo stick. I can tell you now that it healed very very well and I can bend it again nearly as before, but in those days it was a little bit of a shock.
Two days in scenic Langtang
Well coming back to the nice stories. We were in Langtang and took a guesthouse which lies under a 300m rock cliff with lots and lots of waterfalls coming down from it in 3500m, gorgeous. We also decided to take a shower under one of these waterfalls which was the roughest thing we have done so far, as it was not only pure glacier water but also so strong that it felt like being whipped by water I did one stupid thing though. I decided to wash my long pair of trousers. But it was my only change of clothes and as a result I froze the entire afternoon. At night I got high fever and had to take everything I could find to alleviate the shivering.
When I woke up after 14h sleep I still felt like shit, everything hurting and a bit of fever and so we decided to stay in that guesthouse one more day, which didn’t bother any of us as it was amazing, the food was great, the view incredible and our room sooo cosy. So we had a day of chilling and gazing at the mountains when they appeared. As it is monsoon season, the peaks are usually covered by clouds and it rains every day. But we didn’t find this at all disturbing as this also meant that the vegetation was very lush, with flowers everywhere, waterfalls reaching incredible dimensions and the air and the view after a few hours of intense rain are just beautiful.
Langtang is not in the forest and is located on a little plain within this steep valley. and when the sky lights up you can see this peaks surrounding the valley, all between 6000 and 7500 m tall and you just feel so small intimidated by these biggest mountains in the world.
Reaching Kanchen Gompa
After another solid 12 hour sleep we woke up and I felt strong enough to start the last bit of the trek, up to Kangchen Gompa in 3900m altitude. This is the end of the valley and from there you get an amazing view of the glaciers and peaks of the Langtang massive. It got really cold walking up there and we were definitely not equipped enough for this sort of stuff., I mean we had one change of clothes and up there it was maybe 10 degrees, plus a freezing wind. Well we made our way up there and found refuge in this beautiful guest house where two other westerners had already been chilling for a few days. Maltasar from Malta and Georgi from Georgia (these are really their names). We spend the day playing chess, board games, drinking tea, telling stories, reading (I finished 1984 by George Orwell there, crazy book), helping the old woman cooking and eating the best Momos so far. Yassin and me we wanted to stay up there one more day as the location was amazing and invited to walk around in the area, but I got a sore throat and had the feeling that the high altitude and the constant cold glacier water did not help me feeling better, therefore we decided to go down the next day.
Descending with our new Georgian friend
Maltasar had left already as he wanted to do another trek and ever since we have been walking and chilling with George. He is a 29 year old, 120kg, bold huge Georgian guy who studied business and earned his living in Moscow and Almaty in Kazakhstan. He is now travelling the world both to find investments possibilities and to find his spiritual self. He is a very smart and inspiring person and is going to study at Harvard Business School in a year. But until then he is travelling the world trying all sorts of weird stuff. He is very funny as well and I started talking to him about business and I have to say that ever since I have had some really good ideas for the future and the moment I get back to London I want to start working on all these ideas and thoughts that I have had while talking to George and walking in the mountains.
So we have started walking downwards and reached the bottom in two days. But with George its very chilled trekking and we stopped everywhere for some tea or some food. We even had an old local make us some ganja soup, with leaves that we collected ourselves in their garden, very tasty and interesting stuff, but since the plants growing there are all male, it does not contain THC. The walk down was even nicer then the way up, as we could enjoy the view even more not thinking about the meters that we still had to walk up.
But I must be honest, my legs were already hurting a lot and I couldn’t have done many more days of trekking. I mean I am very happy that my foot didn’t hurt at all for the entire trek, which is amazing considering the fact that it hurt after 1 hour of walking in London. And here, 1000m of altitude per day, no problem. Quite happy about that and it might be the Tibetan treatment which I am still doing every day, but nevertheless the muscles are absent and it hurt a lot towards the end.
Back to civilisation
When we reached Syabrubesi again the pain reached its peak and during the night I could feel how my body tried to cope with the pain and I got high fever again. But I took a paracetamol and the next day at 7 I was ready for the amazing 11 hours bus ride back!!! But this time not one landslide, but two! Yeay! We thought, if the bus falls down the void, we die anyway, so we might as well get the whole experience and climb on the roof. So we were sitting with around 30 other people on the top of this bus, holding onto the rail, speeding around turns where the bus did just fit, scared and amazed at the same time.
Now we are back in Kathmandu, and we will stay here for 4 more days, before we make our way to India, Darjeeling, and then Calcutta to catch our flight to Phi Phi. There is lots to do here, and we want to do some more shopping and send a parcel back to Europe, but most of all I need to rest and gain some energy again after this trek. I am definitely going to come back when I am in a better shape and with more time to do another trek as it has been amazing. The solitude, the time to think, the nature, the people, the food and the mountains themselves are just amazing and I know I will be back. But now we are in the capital without electricity and with tab water which has the colour of a mud stream. We have found a place which makes amazing meat Shawarmas and we are finally eating meat! Until now we have eaten meat maybe 3 times in the entire journey and it feels soooo good to nibble on some nice chargrilled beef again!
Well guys this was a long mail, but a lot happened. I will go eat a Shawarma now, maybe two and try to move my legs a bit!