Treking in the Langtan National Park - Nepal
18.09.2007 15 °C
'You must get off and walk to the next bus,' the guy sitting beside me said.
'Yeah, alright, no worries,' I smiled ,slightly confused by seeing the bus parked a few metres in front.
I climbed down off the roof then stood around the second bus waiting with my back pack, turning down the offers of sweet milky tea from the bamboo road side stalls.
"Hey mister not this bus, you have to go the other bus!" He pointed into the distance to the road disappearing into the fog with my fellow bus passengers walking along it negotiating the huge landslides that had washed out the road hundreds of metres to the river below.
I walked along chatting with the bus attendant who was very concerned for my well being carrying my small pack. I had to explain that I was training for climbing mountains and then he happily continued with his guided tour as we walked the kilometere to the next bus. I settled in only to go another two kilometres then repeat the process walking 3 km to the next waiting bus. I can only imagine that this bus was caught in between the landslides and now acts as a ferry. I arrived at the small town of Dhunche at about 4pm finding that my pillow of a sack of onions was quite comfy for the ten hours roof top bus ride from the hot dirty streets of Thamel in Katmandu. The roof was a good laugh; the Nepalese thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen to have a foreigner up there with them. They would joke away and nip down every time we stopped and come back with a tasty, and some times not so tasty, treat for me to try. The best joke was every time we came to an army check point they would check the bus even though there was only a very small Maorist presence in the area I was trekking. The Soldiers would make everyone get down off the roof and cram into the already overloaded bus. We would sit anywhere we could find room from the dash board to the steps. This would only last for as long as the road was straight and the second we got around the corner the bus would stop and a mass evacuation to the roof would take place.
In Dhunche the driver kept saying: “no boss, no boss!”
"Well you didn't need your boss to get here did you mate" I said waving my ticket to Syabru Besi at him only to realise that he was actually saying “no bus” not “boss”. Slightly embarrassed I asked how long to walk to Syabru Besi to find out it was another 3 hours further down the valley. I set out to a chorus of "nameste" from little kids who followed me along the road then asking for sweets or pens (Yes even in the Himalaya there is Western corruption). One child, must have been 3 years old, she stood there looking at me with her big dark eyes, I was towering above her and she stood to attention in her bare feet, placed her hands together as if praying and bowed saying “nameste”, she was the cutest thing I have ever seen, all two feet of her, in this village perched on the side of the hill in the Himalaya.
Had a quick stop at an Army check point that got the blood pumping a little more than the usual thin mountain air. After checking passports and trekking permits the questions turned to money. I suddenly thought, “ hmmm 5 armed, bored, soldiers and I am in the middle of nowhere and let’s face it….. a mobile ATM. However my imagination was soon put into check as they showed me a short cut down the side of the hill and were offering me cheering moral support which echoed across when I made it to the other side of the valley. At this stage I was chatting through a guy that spoke English to school kids dressed in their Navy Blue bottoms and pristine white tops carrying their school bags and getting wet in the rain. Now that the road was out they had to walk the 3 hours to Dhunche to attend the only school in the area … how is that for commitment!
The Police officer signed me into his book at the beginning of the track, just below was the convergence of two of the fastest flowing rivers I have ever seen. He looked me up and down then tilted his head to the side and said "Where is your guide? It is very dangerous to trek alone!"
"Ah I am from New Zealand man, I'll be right. You know Sir Edmund Hillary he taught me everything I know!" I grinned cheekily
He looked at me quizzically, "You know Tenzing Norgy?" I sighed. His wrinkled narrow eyes lit up and a huge smile that only a dentist would love spread across his weathered face. "Yes Yes the second man to climb Everest!" he beamed. "Yeah him" I smiled shaking my head really wondering who was right and who was wrong.
"Okay Okay Sir you enjoy your trek" he said shaking my hand. I walked off chuckling to myself wondering what really did happen up there that day.
The trek up to Lungtang took two days from Syabru Besi at 1460m I followed one of the wildest rivers I have ever seen through the hot humid leech infested jungle. Luckily the leeches did not like the Marmite bred blood stock of the Kiwi, but seemed to feast on the odd trekker that I met along the way. With the wet season in full swing the track was full of land slides that in some places plummeted into the white water far below. Even with the latest hiking equipment I found myself in some precarious situations, only then to marvel at the porters supplying the villages negotiating the same terrain in Jandals (Flip Flops) with 40kg loads supported by the foreheads. These Guys work for pretty good money by Nepalese standards at 500 rupees ( 7.70 USD) a day. I steadily climbed out of the lush jungle and discovered weed is just that, as it grows everywhere and anywhere. I finally stopped just out of the tree line at 3000m at the Tibetan guest house at Ghorayabela.
The owner was a very gracious and polite man who had come over the border from Tibet during the "Cultural Liberation" and had never returned. His wife lived 1 hours walk (Two for the normal human) in the next village down the valley and he would walk down to stay the night only if he did not have any guests staying. It was here that I teamed up with an American couple who had been teaching English in Japan, Megan and Dennis. They both shared the same love for the outdoors so we hit it off right away. When I say teamed up, I really mean that I left at the same time the next morning and tagged along with them for the next week.
Most climbing literature states that a climber should not gain more than 300m net altitude gain per 24hrs, meaning that you can climb as high as your body will let you but you must come back down to 300m above where you started that day. With this in mind we climb a total of 850m in four hours and promptly I felt like crap when we arrived in Kyanjin Gompa (3850m). I sat in our smoky tea house drinking milky sweet tea that had been cooked off a yak dung fueled fire. A comedy developed, an old lady, in tradition Tibetan dress, was chasing a cat about that was determined to get inside her hut. I had developed a sharp pain in my stomach a few days ago and it seemed to get progressively worse as I got higher however the bonus was that it only hurt when I breathed so it was optional if I was in pain or not.
We attempted to walk to Lang tan base camp but decided to turn back after we reached the glacier with bad weather and the altitude kicking our ass, we walked back down, and were offered cups of tea from people huddled around their fires inside stone Yak huts sheltering from the storm.
We tried throwing rocks into the river to create stepping stones but looked in horror as we realised it was a futile effort as the current of this dirty brown torrent washed away the 20kg rocks we were struggling to move. Out of frustration I took a flying leap and was 100% sure I was going to make it to the small island, I was 100% committed when I found the rock I had used as a take off platform moved from under me, and I less than gracefully landed with one foot on the safety of the island and one foot plunging into the cold raging water. Fortunately only my pride was hurt in my attempt to keep my feet dry and I suppose I did prove that Kiwis really don't fly!
A porter ,struggling under his load, gave us directions to the start of the trail that lead to the summit of Tsergo Ri. After yesterday’s effort we flew up the mountain and reached the yak huts half way up in no time, it’s amazing what a bit of acclimatisation does for you.
We reached the summit in a white out and sheltered under a rock at 5000m, clutching my side and eating peanut butter and granola, as the rain started. We we're considering snaking a trekking peak a little higher but the risk of a $1000 fine and the fact I had forgotten my gloves and was losing feeling in my fingers made drinking hot tea in Kyanjin Gompa much more attractive option.