Walking the walk – Langtang and Helambu Section
22 February 2012 Kathmandu
It’s a joke! I’ve been travelling to the most remote places, eating in homestays where no tourist has been before, no problem at all. I’m back in Kathmandu and I got the worst diarrhea ever! No Delhi Belly, but Kathmandu Belly. I spent half the night on the toilet, and feeling quite sick. But many things to do, so had to keep on going….
23 February 2012 Kathmandu-Borderlands
At 6.30 am I had to report at the office of Asian Treks. To my surprise I found almost the whole crew there, they all went to Kathmandu as well. Besides I met 2 new additions to the team: Elizabeth Fox from US and Paribesh Pradhan from Nepal. During the trek, Paribesh is going to collect stories about climate change, which he will put on his website: www.myclimateinitiative.org. Besides, he wants to raise funds to provide children from poor families he meets along the trail: www.trek4education.org. Elizabeth has been asked by Asian Treks to write a blog about the trek.
At about 11 am we arrived in Borderlands, where I met Apa Sherpa, Dawa Steven, Samir and Saurav again. This time their partners were also there, nice to meet them as well (except for Apa Sherpa’s wife who is in the US). Especially great to see the baby of Saurav, who is just 2 months old!
In the afternoon a press conference was organized, after which I went back to bed, unfortunately I was still not feeling well. Elizabeth had organized a very good Nepali band, Rudra (also known by the sarangi player Shyam Nepali), and their great sounds made me come out of bed. I even danced, but afterwards I had to rush to the toilet again . But they did manage to make me feel a bit better!
24 February 2012 Borderlands-Barabise (870 m)-Jalbire (830 m) 8 hrs
After another night with regular toilet visits, I was a bit afraid of the day lying ahead of me. As most of the days are quite long and a bit tough, will I be able to keep up? And what I have to go all the time, how will I manage??
We drove back to Barabise, so we could start the walk again where we ended. I found out we had even 2 more additions to the team: Sahana, the girlfriend of Dawa Steven is joining us for a week. Besides, we have our own GHT mascot: Setuk, a beautiful black dog joined the team in Thame (Everest Region) and even crossed the Tashi Lapsta with them!
The day started nicely, with a climb of about 800 m till 1650 m. It was quite hard for me, of course all this diarrhea makes you weak. And it was not getting better. But strange enough, although the diarrhea didn’t get less, my strength came back and I could catch up with the rest without too many difficulties.
We walked through beautiful landscapes, with views of the Sunkoshi Nadi valley and the hills, which are completely terraced. A beautiful sight and a sign of hard work!
It was a long day again, and the last descend we had to do in the dark. We arrived at 7 pm in Jalbire, a bigger village, which you could almost call a town. As the group is quite big now, we have been divided: Elizabeth, Paribesh and I stay with our crew in one place and the rest in another. We are staying in a simple local guesthouse and I am sharing the room with Elizabeth.
If the people in the room upstairs walk, things are falling on top of us, let’s hope they don’t walk too much!
25 February 2012 Jalbire (830 m)-Khobre (2435 m) 7 ½ hrs
Today we climbed all together 2180 m my gps said. And I can tell you it was tough, especially after another night spent on the toilet….
It is strange, during the day I am more or less ok, but in the evening I get cramps and it all comes back. Very annoying! To make things worse, it is suddenly very hot during the day, which makes climbing a lot harder. When I was in Kathmandu it was Shivaratri, a big festival to honor Lord Shiva. It is said that the fires made during this festival bring the heath back into the country. That seems to have worked!
Fortunately I could also enjoy the beautiful forests and Himalaya views. Especially seeing Dorje Lakpa (6966 m) from so close is impressive. You can see Dorje Lakpa from Kathmandu, and from there it is a beautiful view already. So seeing it from so close as here is stunning!
Most of the villages in this region are Hindu or Tamang (Buddhist). It was surprising to find out that Khobre was a Sherpa village. We camped on the field of one of the Sherpa families, from which we had an amazing view over the Langtang Range and Dorje Lakpa. We gathered around the cooking stove in the kitchen of the friendly family, who kept offering tea and biscuits, which were offerings from Lhosar (Buddhist New Year, which also took place when I was in Kathmandu). A beautiful evening! But unfortunately my cramps came back again.
26 February 2012 Khobre (2435 m)-Pokhare Banjang (1574 m) 9 hrs
Today not so much climbing, as we mostly had to go down, but a long distance to cross, 22.5 km.
On the way, we passed beautiful Tamang villages like Bote Namla (1795 m) and Chinde (970 m). In between we passed the Hindu (Chetri) village of Tar Namlang (1440 m). It is interesting to see how people living in villages that are so close to each other still look completely different: different faces, different dress, etc.
We passed some very traditional looking Tamang villagers, and I asked if I could make a picture. Even the men wore their traditional dress. I could make the picture, but then he also wanted to make a picture of me with his mobile. Quite unexpected !
I was most of the time walking with Elizabeth, or close to her. At a certain moment I was waiting for her, but she didn’t appear. I walked back, finding Dawa Steven and Sahana, who where behind us before. That means she must have walked the wrong way! I was quite worried, but Dawa Steven would go and find her, and said it was better if I continued. Fortunately he found her quite soon, as we found out during lunch. The system with the arrows is clearly not always waterproof!
It was a long day indeed, and we arrived just before dark, at 6.15 pm. While it was getting later and later, we were still waiting for Elizabeth’s and my porter. At 8.30 pm part of the crew even went on their way to find them! But they returned soon: they managed to have contact and it turned out that the way was too long for them and they stayed overnight 2 hours before our overnight place. That meant Elizabeth and I had to manage without our mattress, etc. I guess this proofs that our days are really long!
The long days are bearing it toll anyway. Elizabeth’s feet are full with blisters, and Sahana has blue toes with blood below, because of which she has to return to Kathmandu. She will join us again later. Also there are more diarrhea victims. May be the sudden heath is part of the cause here as well?
27 February 2012 Pokhare Banjang (1574 m)-Gyalthung (985 m) 2 hrs
Fortunately we had a short day today, so the porters could catch up with us easily. The short day was because of a function which was being organized. People from the Guinness Book of Records came to honor Apa Sherpa and hand him over a certificate for having the world record for summiting Everest 21 times. He has had a world record already for 10 years, but up till now he always got the certificate by mail. This is the first time the Guinness people came to hand it over to him personally.
Meanwhile for me it was very good to have a short day, as I still haven’t recovered completely. Besides, because of me being sick and of not having a computer yesterday, I was behind with my blog and day by day itinerary, so good to have time to catch up!
28 February 2012 Gyalthung (985 m)-Samundratar (915 m) 8 hrs
It was almost 25 km from Gyalthung to Samundratar, first of all climbing to Gul Bhanjyang at 2111 m and then going down again. But as a big part of the way is going over a dirt road it was not too difficult to do this stretch in one day. We even arrived early at 5 pm, how nice!
Before lunch it was climbing all the way, finally arriving at Gul Bhanjyang (2111 m), a village with Tamang and Sherpa people. Gul Bhanjyang is on the Helambu trekking route to Lake Gosainkund, so there are nice lodges here and we had a great dahl bath.
We saw a leaflet of a small charity hanging on the wall, Hands Nepal, run by a Dutch couple. They help to improve the local school and the access to education for poor children in the nearby villages. A good initiative, so I thought it would be good to mention! www.handsnepal.com
Bhanjyang means something like pass, so after lunch we went down again. Mostly on a dirt road, but there were many shortcuts, and we were walking through the fields, passing a few Tamang villages, like Thulo Golbu (1938 m) and Dadagaon (1700 m). Seen the fact that you are so close to Kathmandu – it is about 25 km as the crow flies – it is surprising to see how traditional the life in these villages is. Both men and women are often dressed in traditional dress, the houses are in traditional style, and you see many plugging the land with oxen.
We are staying overnight in a homestay in the little town Samundratar (915 m), a nice town with a mix of Hindu and Tamang people.
29 February 2012 Samundratar (915 m)-Betrawati (605 m) 9 hrs
“We are marching,” Dawa Steven said once, and I can tell you, we are. Today we walked 30.17 km, with a total ascent of 1547 m. I once mentioned that 20 km is a lot in the mountains, I ain’t knew nothing yet!
So it was a long day. And quite harsh as well, with a steep climb in the burning sun and a few rain showers in the afternoon. But we survived . And tomorrow a rest day!
The walk started on a dirt road, and it was easy and flat walking through the countryside, with fields full of bright green wheat and yellow mustard flowers. So here it was easy to make kilometers! But after a couple of hours, we entered a trail, climbing up steeply, as just mentioned in the burning sun. It was as if our lunch place never arrived. We took lunch in the small village of Narja, on the map put as Narjamandap. We soon had a big audience of school children, and even a few adults, watching with interest how we were drinking our tea. Fortunately we had our food inside!
After another energizing dahl bath, we continued our journey. In the afternoon we mostly walked on small trails, first through the fields and later through the forest, following the Phalakhu Khola. The scenery was quite nice, but to be honest we were so concerned with reaching our destination before it was getting very late, that we didn’t enjoy it as much as the landscape deserved to be enjoyed.
At 6.20 pm, it was nearly dark, we finally saw the lights of Betrawati (605 m) in the distance! Before that we were not really sure how far it still was, so we were quite happy to know we were finally arriving! We are sleeping in a local restaurant, using the room of the daughters of the family. And our crew is sleeping on the veranda. Improvising!
1 March 2012 Betrawati (605 m)
Today is a rest day, but how busy these days are! First washing clothes (in the river), washing yourself (cold water hair washing at the tap, no shower but still nice and fresh), and then time to work on the day by day itinerary, blog and selecting pictures. As the days are quite long, on a normal day it is difficult enough to find the energy to write the blog and day by day itinerary (especially the last one takes quite a lot of time each day). So it is good to have a rest day once and a while to have time to select pictures as well, and to edit what I have written.
We were working on the veranda (where the crew slept the night before), and as always, get an audience once and a while.
Keshi, Elizabeth’s porter, will go back to Kathmandu, as it is a bit too hard for him, especially as he also fell during one of the first days. Chauriron arrived from Kathmandu, who is a bit younger.
In the late afternoon we were suddenly called to a big hall, where a function was organized to honor Apa Sherpa. The people only came to know about his presence today, so this was very ad hoc. They had managed to organize a nice program though, with cultural dances of the youth and Apa was even handed over a certificate with a very personal text. This confirms what I experienced before in Nepal: everything always happens at the latest moment, what I hate, but everything is always possible at the latest moment, what I love.
2 March 2012 Betrawati (605 m)-Chautara (1591 m) 9 hrs
Today was a very long day: we walked 28.5 km and climbed 2460 m. Pffff!
The next press conference will be in Gorkha. However, on the planned day it is Holy (big festival day, where people throw colored water at each other).Therefore we decided to try to cover the distance in one day less, 4 instead of 5 days. In this way we can have the press conference the day before Holy, as otherwise most journalists will not come!
We left before 8 am and arrived at 7 pm, in the dark, and quite exhausted. We had to climb all the way to 2130 m, after which it went steep down to the village of Gairagaon (1692-1611 m). As it was already 6 pm, we hoped we would camp here, but no, at the end of the village we found another arrow, put by the first ones in the group. So another hour to the next village! It was so good to finally arrive in the village of Chautara (1591 m)…
We are staying in the house of a local family. I am just imagining that somebody would ring my bell: “Hello, I am with 3 tourists and 3 staff, can we stay here for the night, eat here and use your kitchen, dining and sleeping rooms?” Because that is exactly what happened! Paribesh told me that in Nepali custom you can’t refuse if anybody knocks on your door and asks for a place to sleep. But still, how weird must it be for them! I asked Kancha, and they never had guests before, except for relatives. But actually they were excellent hosts, very friendly! Our host was telling about an old Tamang Palace in the surroundings, that could be interesting for tourists. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to check it out.
Chauriron, the new porter of Elizabeth, also took the long way before lunch. He arrived at the lunch place after we already left. Right now it seems he is lost, and for sure he won’t make it to Chautara. So again Elizabeth’s stuff won’t arrive!
Tomorrow to Arughat Bazar, another 30 km…..
Langtang and Helambu Section – Flickr Photos