Monday, 6 October 2014

Back in Kathmandu

Nepal's staple diet, Dal Bhat
Friday 4 April: I've arranged an afternoon cookery course and am going to learn how to prepare Nepal's national dish, Dal Bhat. Sherpas and porters eat this twice daily, once mid-morning as a late breakfast and again in the evening at the end of a days work. If it's good enough to get them up mountains it's good enough for me. The main elements are dal (a sort of lentil soup), sag (steamed spinach), a lightly spiced potato and vegetable curry, rice (of course) and chili pickle which is mixed-in on the plate to get the right level of spiciness to suit your taste. It's a great course run by Social Tours.
Sunday 6: To break up my journey back to India I overnight in the Village Lodge at Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace. It's a relaxing place to stop and the proprietor kindly offers me a lift to the border for a small fee.
Monday 7: Back in India and a three-hour shared taxi ride to Gorakhpur where I have a 2nd class sleeper booked back to New Delhi.
Tuesday 8: Overnight in New Delhi.
Wednesday 9: Depart India for Thailand.
Slideshow of Back in Kathmandu.
Slideshow of Lumbini from January 2012.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Tamang, Langtang, Gosainkund & Helambu Trek

Sacred lake, Gosainkund trek
Tuesday 18 March: From Kathmandu I get up at dawn to take the 'Super Deluxe Express' bus, which is not quite as described, for the steep winding torturous nine-hour ride to Syrabrubesi.
Tamang Heritage Trail
Wednesday 19: From Syrabrubesi it's all uphill to Ghatlang (7,342ft), a pretty but basic Tamang village set high on a hillside among terraced fields. It has a Medieval feel about it as the Tamang share their homes with their animals, people on the first floor, cattle, goats and chickens below. This is where I first meet Nina from Germany and a French couple, Pierre and Elodine, playing with the local children. In the afternoon I walk up to a lake but there's not much to see but there are fine views back down over Ghatlang.
Thursday 20: From Ghatlang it's down, then up, to Tatopani (8,553ft) where naturally hot spring water tubs (no photos) sooth aching muscles, fantastic.
Friday 21: I'm walking with Nina, Pierre and Elodine now and we head ever upwards past pretty little terraces to overnight at Nagthali (10,383ft). It starts snowing during our afternoon stroll so we retreat to our cosy lodge for the night.
Saturday 22: By morning the snow is six-inches deep so it's difficult and dangerous trying to follow the steep path down. Fortunately a group of trekkers with a Tamang guide catch us up and are happy to blaze the trail for us. By the time we get to Thuman (7,670ft) the snow has cleared and it's a difficult muddy section steeply downhill through dripping woodland and across the Bhote Koshi (river) to Lingting for a lunch stop, to avoid the rain, then steeply uphill again to Bridim (7,346ft).
Sunday 23: From Bridim (7,346ft) we take the high trail to link to the Langtang route at Rimche (7,874ft). In the afternoon we happen across a wedding party taking the groom, on horseback, to his fiance's home where he will await her appearance later in the evening. We are offered, and accept, complimentary food and hooch - the celebrations last until morning.
Langtang Valley
Monday 24:  Fron Rimche (7,874ft) the ascent continues along the Langtang Khola to Lama Hotel (8,104ft) and more steeply upwards to Langtang village (11,220ft).
Tuesday 25: From Langtang (11,220ft) it's only a morning hike to Kyanjin Gompa (12,401ft) where there's a monastery and a cheese factory selling delicious Yak cheese.
Wednesday 26: From Kyanjin Gompa (12,401ft) we climb Kyanjin Ri (15,649ft) for great mountain views in the distance, spectacular views of glacial moraine and of the village below. On the ascent I'm lagging behind the others. It's not age or fitness, but altitude. The thin air is affecting me badly on this trip.
Thursday 27: From Kyanjin Gompa (12,401ft) we retrace our steps back down the valley.
Friday 28 March: From Lama Hotel (8,104ft) we continue to retrace our steps down to Bamboo Lodge. It's below here, just beyond a wobbly bridge, that we say goodbye to Mina, who is heading back to Syrabrubesi and Kathmandu. She's a music journalist and I'll miss English conversations with her (Later I listen to some artists Mina recommended - Laura Marling is the pick of the bunch). Pierre, Elodine and I continue to Thulo Syabru (7,152ft) then onto Sing Gompa (10,662ft) and Laurebina Yak (13,208ft) on the Gosinkund trail.
Gosainkund Lakes
Saturday 29: From Laurebina Yak (13,208ft) it's down then up to Gosainkund (13,451ft)
Monday 31: From Gosainkund (13,451ft) it's up through deep snow past four icy sacred lakes to Laurebina La (15,124ft) the pass which eventually leads to the basic lodges at Phedi and the slightly better ones at Ghopte and the Helambu trail. Again I'm struggling with the altitude and am glal to reach Ghopte.
Helambu Trek
Tuesday 1 April: From Ghopte it's all downhill on the Helambu trail through Tharepati, Magan Goth, Chipling and Cisopani.
Thursday 3 April: Eventually we drop down to the outskirts of Sundarijal where a local gentleman befriends us and, before we realise, has paid for a round of Tongba (hot millet beer) and some snacks. We try to pay but he insists. So all that is left to do is fit in a barber-shop shave before jumping on a bus for the half-hour ride back to Kathmandu where we say our goodbyes.
Slideshow of:
Tamang Heritage Trail
Langtang Valley
Gosainkund Lakes
Helambu Trek