Trek Nepal Part 2: Langtang Valley

Langtang National Park

Having completed the Tamang Heritage Trail which formed part 1 of a 2 week trip, our small Intrepid group continued trekking from Briddim into the Langtang Valley.

The Langtang National Park is located in the north of Nepal, close to the Tibetan border. It is home to a range of animals including monkeys and red pandas. The landscape is diverse and includes pine forests at lower levels and mountainous scrub land as you get higher.

As mentioned in Part 1, each morning for a small charge we were given 2 litres of boiled, cooled water. The others each had a water hydration pack ie a bag filled with water that resides in your backpack and the water is sucked through a tube. This means you don’t need to stop and reach for your water bottle each time you want a drink.

However I didn’t have a hydration pack, I had a filter bottle with me. I therefore took a ‘belt and braces’ approach. I had my two water bottles filled with boiled water each morning then tipped this into my filter bottle. This worked well for me and I didn’t need to use a single water purification tablet.

Day 7: Briddim to Lama Hotel (2420 m)

We left our Briddim teahouse at 08:00 and walked for 1.5 km along an uphill track.

Fresh mint tea with a view

Further along we stopped at a beautifully scenic teahouse for our morning tea break.

And had the most incredible views for the rest of the morning as we walked through the Khangjim and Sherpagoan regions.

We followed this track towards Lama Hotel
Drying yak meat

At lunchtime, we stopped at another scenic teahouse which had a row of yak meat drying outside (I thought it was chillies drying in the sun until I had a closer inspection…)

Throughout the afternoon the scenery became even more dramatic and reminded me of Macchu Picchu and Maui

Lama Hotel (the village)

We arrived at Lama Hotel at around 4:15 pm having walked alongside a scenic river with lovely autumn foliage. We had also seen some monkeys along the way!

Our room at the Lama Hotel

I had also discovered that ‘Lama Hotel’ is actually the name of the little village and not the name of the teahouse we would be staying in! Slightly confusing… anyway, we stayed in ‘The Original Lama Hotel’ in Lama Hotel, the most basic of all of the teahouses of the trip.

Basic in at this place meant:

  • No electricity so we were unable to charge our devices
  • A shared outside toilet
  • No hot water

In spite of this, the room was clean, the bed was comfortable enough and with the background sound of the nearby river, tucked up in my sleeping bag I had one of the best nights’ sleep of the trip!

Lama Hotel is the main entry point to the Langtang Valley trek and its teahouses can be busy with trekkers on their way either up to the village of Kyanjin or back again.

Early morning setting off towards Langtang Village

Day 8: Lama Hotel to Langtang Village (3500 m)

From Lama Hotel to Langtang Village and Kyanjin there are no roads or tracks. The only way to transport goods is by people or donkey both of which carry large baskets on their backs. This means the prices, for example, for food and drinks are slightly higher as you go further and higher into the valley. You can hear the donkeys coming as they, like the yaks, all have bells!

The snowcapped peak of Langtang Lirung ahead

This mornings walk was varied and scenic. As we followed the river we walked through autumnal forests and open grassy meadows giving an almost alpine feel at times.

Crossing the river by bridge

The weather was fantastic on this day with clear sapphire blue skies. I was fortunate that for the entire 16 days I was in Nepal, I had very little cloud and no rain at all. This is typical for October and November in this part of Nepal which makes it a popular time for trekking. The monsoons happen during the summer months and this is a time when landslides are common.

Tea break venue
A random stall selling supplies

We had lunch in a teashop en-route. We passed the occasional wooden stall selling essentials such as snicker bars and bottles of coke! And some woolly hats πŸ™‚

As mentioned, such supplies are more expensive here. As an example, a snicker bar in Kathmandu is 90 rupees (about Β£0.60) whereas high in the Langtang Valley they were 250 rupees (about Β£1.70). I was happy to pay this as a) snicker bars were a daily treat and b) the bit of extra money is helpful income for the locals.

Site of the 2015 Langtang landslide

We crossed streams and waterfalls and shortly before reaching new Langtang village we came to the horrific sight of the 2015 avalanche and landslide. This was caused by the earthquake which on 25th April caused a massive landslide from the Langtang Lirung mountain to obliterate the original Langtang village. Only one house survived and over 200 people were killed… we had to walk over the landslide in order to get to the newly built Langtang village…

Prayer flags at Langtang memorial site
Langtang village memorial

We reached the Langtang village memorial site and spent some time looking at the plaques where the names of all of those who died were displayed. As a popular tourist and trekking village, as well as local Nepalese there were names from many different nationalities.

Slowly since that catastrophic time in 2015 Langtang village has started to rebuild itself with new properties. We arrived at the newly built Sunrise Guest House and as we were the only group staying, I was able to pay a small additional sum for my own room.

Sleeping bag rolled out and at the ready!

My room even had an en-suite although the water was freezing so back to using wet wipes again! However I did have power to charge my phone for the first time in 2 days. I unrolled my sleeping bag so it would be ready for later…

Once we had settled in, Rianne and I eagerly made our way back to the Himalayan bakery we had walked past as we entered Langtang village. Chocolate brownie and Americano! The first ‘proper’ coffee, i.e. not the horrid Nescafe instant for a week πŸ™‚

Yaks wandered freely throughout the village however I gave them a fairly wide birth as their horns looked sharp and menacing…

Darkness falls by 6 pm each evening and at our usual time of 6.30 pm we had dinner in the cosy dining area of the Sunrise Guesthouse. After dinner Hari, our Intrepid guide gave us a printed sheet containing altitude instructions. At 3500 m we were now staying at 1000 m above the levels where some people start to experience altitude sickness.

  • No alcohol (check)
  • Eat lots of carbs (check)
  • Don’t do strenuous exercise… erm… we’re on a trekking trip…

Using the gadget shown in the photo above he also measured our heart rate and oxygen levels. Mine was:

  • Heart: 93
  • Oxygen: 94 (this was good apparently!)

I was concerned my heart rate seemed high but I felt better when our super fit Nepalese guide Gorek had a similar measure and he is almost the same age as me!

Blanket added to sleeping bag…

I was in bed by 9 pm reading my book under the sleeping bag with my head torch as it was ffffreeezing! 3500m altitude and no heating in the thin-walled wooden room. As well as my sleeping bag I also had a massive heavy (and colourful) thick blanket thrown over the top! Thankfully I was very warm and snug and slept with just my nose poking out.

While we had electricity there was still no working wifi; I saw a radio mast and tried to send text but that didn’t go through either. I was starting to feel a bit cut off from the world…

Day 9: Langtang Village to Kyanjin (3830 m)

This morning we had a fairly easy and pleasant walk for 3 hours between Langtang Village and Kyanjin, picking our way through frozen puddles as we walked out of Langtang. We arrived at our Kyanjin teahouse at 3830 m in time for lunch.

En-route to the glacier

After lunch, at 1.30 pm Gorek led us for an afternoon 3 hour round trip trek to the nearby Langtang Lirung glacier.

Glacier

This was a fairly steep trek but we had amazing views of the glacier and of the Langtang Lirung mountain. We spent about 20 minutes resting in the sun on the wide grassy plateau before heading back down again.

Me in front of Langtang Lirung

At 7,227 m Langtang Lirung is the highest peak of the Langtang National Park and is apparently the 99th highest mountain in the world. By way of comparison, Everest is 8,848 m. Two Japanese climbers made the first ascent to the summit of Langtang Lirung in 1978.

Kyanjin village

This evening Hari took our pulse and oxygen levels again and thankfully mine were all good! I am fortunate not to have suffered any altitude issues and other than having weird dreams most nights, which is one common symptom; I was thankful not to have suffered even a slight headache. And a week without alcohol is a good detox πŸ™‚

Sunrise on Langtang Lirung

Day 10 Kyanjin 2nd day

We had two days in the same teahouse in Kyanjin so on this day we didn’t have to be up, packed and out by 8 am as usual. Oh no… instead I had to set my alarm to 4 am for a sunrise mountain hike! I must say that when my alarm went off and I could feel the cold air outside of my snug sleeping bag, I did question myself and wonder what the hell I was doing… why was I dragging myself out of bed to be climbing a steep mountain in the middle of the night in the pitch black freezing cold?

Anyway, layers on and head torch firmly in place our little group left the teahouse in the dark at 4.30 am, walked a few meters outside and began the steep and slippery climb up the mountain… it wasn’t long before we started to remove a few layers… I had started to get warm with my 6 top layers and my 3 trouser layers (leggings/walking trousers/waterproofs).

This was one of the toughest climbs, steep and shingly and for me involving a bit of scrambling. It took a couple of hours to reach the summit by which time it was starting to get light.

Views from the summit
At 4,300 meters

The views at the craggy little cluster of rocks were breathtaking and a real wow factor! This made the effort so worthwhile and really lifted my spirits. We stayed on the summit for about 20 minutes and celebrated with high fives and a Snicker bar! For perspective, Ben Nevis is 1,345 m, so this was over 3 x higher.

Descending back down to Kyanjin

We were back in Kyanjin before 8.30 am and headed straight to the bakery next door for breakfast. We watched as a Korean girl who was suffering badly from altitude sickness was lifted out of the village by helicopter. Other than a 3 day walk, the only way out is by chartering a $1500 helicopter.

Yaks

We had free time for the rest of the day and I was able to have my first (tepid) bucket shower in 4 days. I tried to get wifi again using some kind of ticket system where you have to put in a code but it didn’t work. So throughout the trek I had a digital detox as well as an alcohol one.

The 4300 m peak we had climbed at sunrise

Rianne and I had lunch in the teahouse and for dessert we had coffee and awesome carrot cake in a different bakery. And later fresh mint tea in the third bakery of the day… other thank hiking there wasn’t much to do in such a small mountain village. So a bakery crawl was in order…

Day 11 back to Lama Hotel

This was something of a transfer day… not in the usual sense with a jeep or mini bus, this was an on-foot transfer. We hiked the 15 km or so back down the valley, past Langtang Village and back for another night in Lama Hotel.

We stopped for our morning tea break at the Himalayan bakery in Langtang but disappointingly no Americano this time as the Government turns off all electricity between 10 – 11 am each day…

Yaks
Celebration beer

Back at Lama hotel at around 4 pm, Rianne and I celebrated with an Everest beer! We had descended by 1600 m and back to reasonable altitude levels so we could now freely consume alcohol πŸ™‚

Dhal bat Nepalese lentil curry

Day 12: Lama Hotel to Thulo Syabru (2130 m)

This was quite a tough day as we had a steep climb down the valley, carefully crossing over several landslides and down to the suspension bridge at the bottom.

We spent the morning walking through the lush rain forest; we saw some monkeys but unfortunately didn’t see any of the red pandas!

Wild bees nests

Difficult to spot but above are wild bees nests where locals risk their lives by throwing a rope ladder down and capturing the honeycomb.

We had lunch overlooking the river at the address ‘Landslide 7’, yes, this was the actual address!

After lunch we had a steep climb back up the mountain through the jungle and the bamboo towards Thulo Syabru. It was amazing how diverse the Langtang Valley is with such dramatic scenery changes each day.

We walked round and underneath the above bridge we had just crossed
Millet drying on the left of this picture

As we entered the village, we saw millet drying in the sun… millet used to make local alcohol called Raksi, as I tried in Kathmandu at the beginning of the trip.

After an exhausting day we had a pleasant surprise when we arrived in Thulo Syabru. This time the accommodation was more of a guesthouse with proper en-suite bathrooms and a pleasant dining room.

This was the last evening we would spend with Gorek and the porters. They joined us for dinner and we happily gave them our tips, grateful for Gorek’s mountain guide expertise and for having lead us safely to this point, and grateful for the huge effort of the porters Ram and Sanem who carried our luggage.

Day 13: to the farmhouse at Nuwakot!

It as with mixed feelings as we left the comfortable guesthouse and did our final three hour hike. The walk was lovely, again with stunning views. Nothing too strenuous as we made our way along the track to meet the awaiting jeep.

Nepalese mountain road

Our luggage was tied onto the roof rack, we waved goodbye to Gorek and Ram and Sanem the porters and set off on a very bumpy journey…

Nepalese mountain road with steep drop and landslide…

It seemed a long way as we bumped along making our way out of the Langtang Valley region back towards Kathmandu. We were not going to Kathmandu just yet… we had one more night on the way back in what was promised by Intrepid to be an ‘idyllic organic farm…”

Nuwakot Durbar

Shortly before reaching the farm at around 3 pm we stopped to visit to Nuwakot Durbar (Palace) which, following damage from the 2015 earthquake was being renovated. As explained by Wikipedia, Nuwakot has quite a history having once been an important trading hub between India and Tibet. With its diverse monuments, statues and stupas this was a fascinating place to visit.

Nuwakot Famous Farm

Now for one of the highlights of the entire trip! We arrived at the ‘Famous Farm‘ in Nuwakot and our jaws dropped… it was awesome! We were greeted with a cup of refreshing cold lemon juice and sat in awe as we took in our surroundings…

My room with its two double beds!

I was given a key to my own room which had a hot powerful shower, candles, a balcony overlooking the valley… it was really wonderful and luxurious.

Evening at the farmhouse

We sat outside for dinner and enjoyed a glass of wine with our 3 course meal which included roast chicken with freshly prepared vegetables from the garden. (I had a day-off from being a vegetarian…)

Breakfast terrace overlooking the valley
Organic vegetables growing

Day 14: back to Kathmandu

Slightly sad to be leaving the lovely Famous Farm we set off on our bumpy journey for the last time. The main road to Kathmandu had one single lane and as this was subject to delay we took the mountain route, literally traversing the mountains high above the valley…

After 3 hours we arrived back in the Moonlight Hotel, slightly shaken up and in need of 20 minutes to recover from the journey…

Later that evening, Hari took Rianne and I to the nearby Ship restaurant where we had our final Dhal Bat; Mr and Mrs X wanted to spend the evening on their own. This delicious Nepalese lentil curry was around Β£3.

Overlooking the valley from Nuwakot Famous Farm

Summary

I’ve done a great deal of trekking and climbed several mountains throughout the last 5 years, as well as sleeping in tents, barns, hostels and all manner of basic accommodations. However none have been for more than a long weekend. This was the first multi day trek and the first time I had spent nearly two weeks in such basic accommodations. The Philippine rice terraces was basic but that was only for 2 nights as was wild camping in the Okavango Delta.

And for 2 non-stop weeks this indeed was a tough trek which I found to be physically and mentally exhausting at times.

Physically because of the daily steep ascents and descents as we traversed through the valley. We in effect climbed around 1000 meters every day, so pretty much the equivalent of climbing a mountain each day.

Mentally it was tough too… very little opportunity for any warm water for a shower or hair wash, mostly Asian style toilets which were often not the cleanest, hard mattresses, freezing cold temperatures at times, no luxuries, not even a mirror to check how rough I probably looked!

However it was an amazing experience and one I’ll look back and treasure for years to come.

4 comments

  1. What an unbelievable adventure. It sounds fantastic and you did amazingly well hiking in that altitude with no problems. Scenery looks stunning. Great photos too. Really enjoyed following your trip and reading these posts, brilliant.

    Like

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