On the 1st March 2010 we flew back to Nepal from India for about 6 weeks trekking. We had two treks planned. These were:
1. Four short treks combined into one. The Tamang, Langtang, Gosainkund, and Helambu
treks are located in the mountains to the North of Kathmandu.
2. A circuit around the mountain of Manaslu.
1. Tamang, Langtang, Gosainkund, Helambu
It was strange being back in Kathmandu again. When we first arrived in early October 09, it seemed wild and very alien. Now we felt we knew it much better and were more relaxed! In Thamel, where we stayed, the streets were narrow but it was possible to stroll around with only minor harassment from motorbikes and the occasional taxi which was really quite restful.
Our first trek back in Nepal was a combination of 4 short treks - the Tamang Heritage trail, the Langtang trail, the Gosainkund trail and then part of the Helambu trail. It was our best trek so far. The Tamang trail was very quiet, with hardly any tourists (it has only been open a couple of years and people say that it is like Langtang was 20 years ago). We arrived at Syabrubesi after the usual nightmare 10 hour bus journey from Kathmandu. At one point the bus broke down and later we had to descend on hairpin bends down a steep sided hillside on a gravel and mud road which was made 300% worse by having roadworks all the way down! We spent about 5 days wandering around 3 valleys close to the Tibet border. We had some great views of Tibetan mountains and the villages were really interesting but usually very poor.
Children in the Tamang district.
Housing in the Tamang district.
It was spring in Nepal.
Rhododendrons were flowering.
We then linked into the Langtang valley trek on a totally stunning high level path which clung precipitously to the side of the valley - which gave us superb views.
The Langtang valley was busier with far more trekkers but there were terrific views of snowy peaks on all sides. We spent an extra day at the head of the valley, climbing a small peak, Kyanjin Ri (4,773 metres) above Kyanjin Gompa before descending right down the valley and then climbing up again to start the Gosainkund trail.
Looking back down the Langtang valley, the village of Kyanjin Gompa in the foreground.
Looking across the Langtang valley to the peaks in the South.
The Lirung valley and its peaks.
An icy peak seen from Kyanjin Ri.
Descending from Kyanjin Ri.
A view up the Langtang valley.
Another of those great Himalayan views.
The lodge at Renche in the Langtang valley.
We had to make quite a big ascent from the base of the valley which was quite tough. As we climbed towards the high pass the weather started to go off (up to then we had had brilliant sun and cloudless blue skies). Then at Gosainkund, just before the high pass, the Laurebina La (4,610 metres) there was a terrific thunderstorm which lasted all evening and into the night. This was accompanied by a substantial dump of snow, so when we left at 6.30 the following morning we were wading though new snow which often came up to our knees (and sometimes to our waists!). The climb up to the pass and then the long descent the other side was really hard work and we were both very tired by the time we reached a rather basic lodge at Gopte. Then we continued descending (and often climbing to get over ridges) to join the Helambu track.
Kanchha had forgotten his sunglasses and had to buy these at Syabrubesi. We thought they were hilarious on him!
The approach to Gosainkund.
On the way to the Laurebina La.
At the Laurebina La pass (4,610 metres).
The mountains at the side of the Laurebina La pass(4,610 metres).
Helambu was less high alpine mountains and more cultivated hillsides and we enjoyed descending through dense rhododendron forests (these are starting to bloom - brilliant carmine red, white and pink). Then down through the terraced valleys until we picked up the bus for Kathmandu at Melamchi Bazaar.
Beautiful spring flowers in the Helambu.
On this trek we had walked for 17 days and climbed a total of 12,030m up and 12,490 down. We had averaged 707.6m up and 734.7m down each day so it was roughly comparable to both the Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna treks we had done in the previous autumn.
Then we had 3 days rest in Kathmandu before departing on our last long trek - around Manaslu.
2. Around Manaslu
A trek too far!
It started OK with the journey to Arughat in a 4x4 landcruiser with Maila, Kanchha and 2 other porters. There isn’t much lodge accommodation on the Manaslu trek (often only really basic “bhattis” or porter’s lodges) so most Westerners do it as a camping trek. Maila had suggested we do the circuit “adventure camping style”! This was a rather cut-down version of the full ensemble. We had Maila as our guide as usual; Kanchha, his brother, and two cousins as porters/cooks. One couple we met on the way had 20 porters, cooks, under-cooks etc etc! All the luggage was piled high on the roof of the landcruiser so was covered with a THICK layer of dust by the time we arrived - the unmade roads here are unbelievably dusty! This was a much more comfortable way to get to the start of the trek than the ramshackle Nepali buses we have used on other occasions. Arughat is only at about 500 metres above sea level and the heat and humidity was almost at South Indian levels. This made the first 2 days walking hard work.
Unpacking the landcruiser at Arughat.
Camping/trekking Nepali style, even at our reduced level, is extraordinarily elaborate. We carried a full kitchen complete with pressure cooker so that the “dal bhaat” could be prepared and served up twice a day. This meant that we had to stop at about 11.00 each day for lunch since it usually took at least an hour for food to be prepared. Our team of 4 were really nice and good fun but even so we found it all a bit too cumbersome for our taste and we are definitely not comfortable with being waited upon in the fashion that seems to be the tradition for Westerners in Nepal. We also had to stop at camping places where there were shelters which could be used as kitchens. This caused some problems when there were too many groups all trying to find camping places. The number of groups doing the trek surprised us, we had assumed that it would be relatively quiet but in fact it was often quite busy.
Maila carried this carton of eggs during our entire trek (17 days)!
The valley of the Buri Gandaki was very narrow lower down and didn’t really open out until we got to Samagaon. It was pretty spectacular though with great views of Manaslu as we got higher up the valley.
Views up the Buri Gandaki valley.
Martin having tea and biscuits in the tent.
On the trail up the Buri Gandaki valley.
Beautiful spring flowers on the way.
Maila warming his hands in a “bhatti”.
A lot of the children had bad skin conditions and were very dirty in the Upper Buri Gandaki valley.
Our problems though started on day 3 when Martin developed a digestive problem which rapidly deteriorated into diarrhoea. We took a day off walking to give it time to improve but it continued to be a persistent problem for the next 7 days.
Approaching Samagaon on a cold afternoon.
The Manaslu massif.
Looking up the valley from Samagaon.
Morning light on the mountains, the Upper Buri Gandaki valley.
Then Tilly developed a sore throat which turned into really nasty cold before finally becoming a chest infection. By this time we were at Samdo at 3,900 metres staying in the last lodge before the high pass. Tilly's health problems really exploded at this point. She developed violent diarrhoea, felt sick all the time and had a terrible rattle from her chest. It was clear that the altitude was, at the very least, making her condition worse so we decided that we had to abandon our attempt to cross the high pass (the Larkya La, 5100m) and return to Arughat the way we had come. Maila managed to get hold of some Imodium (ours had long since run out) which helped and Tilly started to take antibiotics as well.
Tilly on her sickbed at Samdo.
The first couple of days of the descent were really hard. Tilly was very weak and found climbing even modest slopes really difficult. Unfortunately, since the trail followed a river valley, there was a lot of up even when one is descending. One of the worst moments was at a place called Lho (rather apt in the circumstances!). Tilly was very weak and we both were feeling pretty depressed. Then Maila tried to mend his head torch using superglue and ended up squirting it into his eye! Fortunately rapid application of copious amounts of water prevented any serious damage and he just had a very irritated eye for a day or so. Still it was a nasty moment.
A lizard we saw on our descent.
Tea shacks on our descent.
Things gradually got better as the drugs took effect and Tilly recovered some of her strength. It took us 7 days of hard walking to get back to Arughat where Maila organised the 4x4 landcruiser to pick us up and return us, somewhat battered, to Kathmandu. We both felt totally "trekked out" at this point and looked forward to our return to the UK after 6 months in India and Nepal!
The boys made us a celebratory, or rather a commiseration cake!
The Manaslu trek took 17 days and we climbed 8,890m up and 8,900m down. We had averaged 522m up and 523m down each day. It was a lot less than our other 3 treks but then we hadn’t made the pass.
Back in Kathmandu, Maila invited us around for dinner in his room. This time we asked him to lay off the chips and we had a lovely “dal bhatt” on the gold plates; spinach and potato curry, two different types of chicken curry, mushrooms as well as the dal, rice and lots of beer. Then we walked back through the dark Kathmandu streets (the power is often not working in the city and there isn’t much street lighting anyway) with Maila to our hotel.
Flying home a few days later we got caught by the Icelandic ash cloud whilst changing planes in Delhi. We were there for a week. Delhi was experiencing a heat wave – temperatures of up to 45 degrees centigrade! It was a rather frustrating end to an amazing 6-month trip!