Nepal - our last hurrah (for now)

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May 20th 2012
Published: June 17th 2012
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Top of Tserko Ri  - 5000mTop of Tserko Ri  - 5000mTop of Tserko Ri - 5000m

After a 3 1/2 hour ascent over the bolder fields and fresh snow made it to the top. Great views down the langtang valley and towards Tibet.
For our final adventure at the end of our year long / 12 month ‘time out’ on the road before we headed back to Sydney, we completed 3 weeks trekking in beautiful Nepal.

Words to describe our 2nd trip to Nepal

· Breathtaking scenery! We were there in early spring so picture flowers blooming everywhere

· Beautiful! – Both the spectacular nature beauty but mainly the Nepalese people who have a beautiful nature about them.

· Highly recommend to anyone to visit here! We have been twice within 12 months and will definitely be going back.

Our Itinerary this trip comprised of two separate treks:-

1st trek (14 days) was to the LangTang Valley, Gosainkunda and Helambu Valley. This region is probably the 3rd most visited region after the very popular trekking destinations of Everest Base Camp treks, then the Annapurna/Pokhara region. Our 2nd trek (7 days) was to the Annapurna region to squeeze in some trekking with couple of days of relaxing at Pokhara before we were flying home to Sydney.

This treks we did with our own guide and porter rather than book
Doing the schoolwork.Doing the schoolwork.Doing the schoolwork.

What a cutey this little girl was.
with a large company like we did on our first visit to Nepal in September 2011. We did some research on the internet and found Mr Binod Mahat from and liked what we saw. Binod was not available at the times we were trekking but he secured the services of Mr Sunil Tamang (email: Sunil had plenty of experience in the areas we were trekking, great English and a porter, Bhartka, accompanied him. Bhartka was a lovely man who has been portering with visitors for over 25 years.

We loved it doing by ourselves, why? Well main reason is you are not held ransom to the lowest common denominator of a larger group of people you don’t know, meaning you go at the pace you want to, you don’t have to wait for others who are unfit, slow or just energy draining and/or miserable if you know we mean, you stay where you want to, change the daily plan if you want to. It is definitely the way for us. It is also great way if want to trek in Nepal with your family or a small group of friends as you have
Weather closing in on the Gosakunda Pass.Weather closing in on the Gosakunda Pass.Weather closing in on the Gosakunda Pass.

After this there was a 1000m descent through rocky terrain.
more flexibility and also lots more inexpensive.

So here is quick rundown of the regions we trekked in this visit.

LangTang Valley, Gosainkunda and Helambu Valley

You have to drive by public bus OR hire a 4WD to start your trip in Syabrubesi (1,400m); this is main town approx. 15 km from the China/Tibet border. The bus option was 10 hours so we opted for private land cruiser – done and dusted in 5 hours for $USD 195 incl. driver + petrol. Amazing drive as monsoon landslides have washed some parts of the road away. It was hair-raising in some sections but all good. We stopped for the famous meal of the Nepalese, Dahl Baht (comprises of rice, chutney/chilli, potato/vegetable curry and dahl or lentil sauce) at the café where bus stops. Refer Dave’s cool photos of the punters enjoying their lunch stop.

We stopped for rest of the day and just walked about the town, which was very reminiscent of a Wild West town from the old movies, dirt main road but some super modern buildings being constructed.

We started our main hike with an uphill day of over 1,000 m to get your heart racing. Boy was it steep and we were feeling it in the heat and dust of the day but made it. We stopped at village of two teahouses called Rimche (2,400) and had a lovely stay at the Ganesh View Lodge. Delicious food and great company - We played cards with Santo from Colombia and our Nepalese guide, Sunil. The lodge is set overlooking the valley and bathed in sunshine.

All the ingredients for your meals come of the organic home gardens adjacent to the teahouses, so if you order vegetable omelette or vegetable fried rice, the ‘suni’ or chef, will gather the spinach, onions, corn, etc from her garden. The food is so good, hearty and simply delicious. All the menus at the teahouses are the same as your travel up and down the landscape.

From Rimche we had another long day making our way to the village aptly named LangTang Valley (. We passed through beautiful Ghoratabela forest following the river and some incredible waterfalls. There was still quite lot of snow on the peaks of the mountains that protect the valley. In LangTang they
Breakfast with Himalayan ViewBreakfast with Himalayan ViewBreakfast with Himalayan View

Enjoying a morning cuper. What a view.
have couple of yak cheese making shops where they produce Italian style cheese varieties. Sadly they were closed, as the yaks were not producing much milk when we were there. What the Yak!!!

We had tourist visa checks by the Nepalese Army checkpoints. In Nepal all foreigners have to carry both a) national park pass to access the region (2,000 Nepal rupees) and b) compulsory TIMS card (US$10 pp) that is a Trekkers Information Management System. Our guide handled all the paperwork and our permits before we left Kathmandu.

From LangTang we headed up to the final village in the valley, Kyanjing Gumba. In this village there was a working monastery and a holy woman who lives in a little cave. They also have a ‘German bakery’, a feature that we noticed pops up across many parts of Nepal and India.

I had a very sore knee, suspect from our first two tougher days so I rested in Kyanjing while Dave left to summit Tserko Ri (5,000m) from the village. He left with Sunil in the morning in fresh snow and ice with a suggested timeline of 8 hours but they smashed that with a return trip of 5 ½ hours. Dave was in heaven – he loved the challenge, scrambling over rocks to reach the top, the views from summit etc.

After his triumphant return, we had quick bite of lunch and then walked back to LangTang village to stay overnight before heading back down the valley.

NOTE: if you’re not feeling like walking, we did see some visitors ‘helicopter’ their up the valley and walk shorter easy sections. We were relieved to be descending back down the valley as a large very “loud” group of ‘helicopter’ trekkers had arrived at lunchtime. Can you guess from where they came?

We arrived in LangTang and stayed in a busy teahouse where they were having a family reunion so we saw the four generations of a Sherpa tribe family gathered, grand parents, parents, children, grand children. There was also a large group of teenagers camping outside our teahouse.

Each night you meet new people in the teahouse, swap stories, play cards and drinks lots of hot tea, hot chocolates etc.

We rose with a crisp clear morning with some fresh snow. It was
Endless horizonEndless horizonEndless horizon

walk up to poon hill
a beautiful but tough day of 7½ hours of primarily descending back down the valley. Some parts were like sliding down sand dunes due to the erosion from the monsoon rains. We saw some Nepalese grey monkeys near the river at the Bamboo village and also wild honeybee nests hanging from amazing rock overhangs. We stayed at beautiful Landslide teahouse (1800m) where it was so much warmer given lower altitude and we slept so well. The next morning we had a very leisurely breakfast meeting chatting with a couple from Melbourne who were spending time with their son, daughter-in-law and their babies (2 yrs & 6mth old).

The walk today was a short one but all uphill to a village Syabru Gaun. Our highlight was stopping for pot of tea at a older couple’s house where mama was spinning wool and her husband was weaving bamboo into garden fences. They had the most beautiful smiles. Refer photos Dave took.

In Syabru Guan, there was a wedding going on so all day we saw villagers heading up to join the singing, dancing and drinking.

Next morning, we rose and continued to ascent to the next village
Orange Man KathmanduOrange Man KathmanduOrange Man Kathmandu

Did a roaring trade. Went buy a little later and was almost sold out.
Sing Gompa. The highlights were endless blooming Rhododendron flowers in the pine forests. We ascended 1,000m and arrived to a little teahouse greeted by the cutest little girl sitting on top of a table doing her schoolwork. Check out photo of her.

In Sing Gompa we stayed at the Red Panda lodge and bakery. Enjoyed amazing potato bread they had baked. OMG !!! Robbo had it for lunch and dinner! And I very nearly ordered again for breakfast.

Next day we were heading UP again (+1,100m) to reach 4,300m at Gosainkunda. This is a very holy religious place and in August/September there are thousands of pilgrims coming to pay homage and seek blessings. Today it was a steep, rugged trail but adequately compensated for by dramatic views; to the west Himal Chuli (7893m), Manaslu (8156m), and Ganesh Himal (7406m) and some of the Annapurna range. To the north across the valley is Langtang Lirung. We passed some tea lodges in the high pasture of Laurebina, cross a small ridge and have our first views of the holy lakes. There are more then 6 lakes. According to legend Lord Shiva created Gosaikunda, when he pierced a glacier with his trident to obtain water to quench his thirst after having swallowed some poison.

We started our day in clear sunny conditions but the weather took a 360-degree from lunchtime onwards when we were walking in rain and then snow and freezing cold temperatures. Guess who was still wearing her shorts? Tough or stupid?

The lodges at this altitude do not have much wood, as tree line is almost non-existent so the teahouses are very chilly. We sat with all other guests, guides and porters dressed in many layers trying to keep warm.

It was cold windy old night at this lodge.

So we awoke to sunshine and lots of fresh snow and ice and we started what was one of the toughest days of trekking we have had to do thus far.

1st we had a climb over the Gosainkunda pass and then massive descent over rocks down to Laurebina pass and the site of where a Thai Airways plane crashed into a mountain 20 years ago. It was solid going. We had pot of tea before heading out for more UP and DOWN sections, it was unrelenting!!!!. You had to just put your head down and do the work. Some of the passes were very slippery and little scary and I had to thank Sunil and Bhartka so much for holding my arm to guide me down the slippery steep rocks.

We stopped at Ghopte and our guide was ready for us to stop for the day but Robbo made decision to push on for 2+hours further after a quick bite of late lunch. Reason: the day before we arrived at teahouse at lunch and they don’t light fire until evening so you just sit in freezing cold so I thought why not keep going for the full day! It was just about to start pouring rain & snowing again when we reached Therapati. Dave agreed it was a good call in the end as it meant we had a shorter ‘descent only’ day the next morning and the teahouse we found was so toasty warm. Robbo went straight to bed at 4.00pm as she had her ‘grumpy pants on’ and woke up the next morning refreshed and with her ‘happy pants’ on. One thing that Robbo especially suffered from was the sleeplessness at attitude,
Bus back to KathmanduBus back to KathmanduBus back to Kathmandu

It was a fun experience taking the local bus back from Melamchi to Kathmandu. Certainly a full house (both inside and on top)
for some reason we did not have deep restful sleep until we dropped down below 2,000m. Less sleep = more grumpiness

I woke and enjoyed yummy porridge and played ‘I Spy with my little eye’ with Dawa Omo, little girl from the teahouse who was on home as it was school holidays. Many of the children go to ‘boarding schools’ at larger nearby villages and just return home for holiday breaks.

So today’s walk (Wed 4 April) was beautiful, we were going down into towards the Helambu Valley. We descended 1,000m down through beautiful old growth forest with so many wild flowers. We met a lovely couple from UK, Catherine and David Pickering, who chatted to for the next two days as we stayed in same teahouses. They have been visiting Nepal on a regular basis, I think this was David’s 9th visit. They were so organised and brought lots of little stuffed toys, games and little books to gift to the children who they met on their travels.

We stopped in the large village, Melamchi Gaum. There was a large ceremony with the whole village involved, they gathered 21 days after the death of a local villager. Picture the men drinking their beers, all the married women singing/chanting in the temple, all the kids running around wild outside as it school holidays and later in the evening, everyone comes together to sing and dance. It was a wonderful atmosphere. As we were sitting reading and washing our gear, little groups of kids would come past and ask us:‘Where you are from?’, ‘ what is your name? etc. I was taken on a tour of the village with some of the young girls. They were keen to point out their school, including their English-speaking zone tree house.

The next day we had another descending and climbing through the Helambu valley which is main hub of agriculture in Nepal; We stopped in small farming village and stayed at only teahouse. Our highlight today was sitting in the actual kitchen watching the suni cooking our meals and then sitting cross legged on the floor by their fire to enjoy the delicious organic vegetables and goodies she cooked for us. There was no electricity running so we ate and chatted under the soft lighting from butter oil lamps.

Our next day was continuing to head down the valley to Kakani. You can actually see where roads have been graded up & down the valley here but not people have any cars or bikes so you don’t see much traffic. No doubt that will change. As the teahouse owner noted that with the roads it will mean that trekking days will be halved as you can bus or jeep in and then you don’t need porters or guides for as many days. But it does bring the visitors. It seems that the Nepalese government is funding the building of more walking trails otherwise in some parts you will actually be walking on the road rather than trails.

As we headed down the valley, you knew you were coming back to civilisation as more litter on the trails, some trucks and local buses popping up. We stayed at Kakani and met two English girls who were doing the same trek as we were doing but in reverse. Not a bad idea.

We had our last ½ day of hot dusty hiking down (-1,000m) to Melanchi Bazaar. This town was very reminiscent of being in northern India – lots
Lunch StopLunch StopLunch Stop

Lunch stop on trip from Kathmandu to Syabru Bensi
of traffic, sounds of horns, rubbish, and lots of flies, dusty. Sadly we couldn’t secure bus tickets to drive back to Kathmandu (5 hours drive) so we had to stay in the town. Highlight was Dave getting his cheapest haircut for the year – A$, 60cents and his neck cracked by the barber. We had to stay in a dodgy hotel and Robbo was covered in bites by the morning (yikes)

TIP: Don’t stay here – try to book a bus OR jeep to head back to Kathmandu.

We jumped on the 1st bus at 6.00am; it was packed but fun drive back to capital city. We were so lucky we had seats as we were on from 1st stop. Many people ride on the roof of buses. You see so much going on from the bus.

So arrived back at Kathmandu and checked in with Binod at the Mala Hotel to confirm and pay our next trek. Had nice hot shower, did some quick shopping, had remedial massages at the Healing Hands blind massage clinic and prepped our bags for early start next day to travel to Pokhara for our next adventure.

Local FestivalLocal FestivalLocal Festival

Grandma getting into it

Monday 9 April – we caught tourist bus to Pokhara (so difference between tourist bus and local bus is you have booked seat and they stop for set toilet breaks and/or lunch stop – some of them you can pay extra for lunch included, DVD on bus, Air Con).

The trip out of Kathmandu was quick as there was a general strike called so only police, army, limited taxis and tourist buses could be on the roads. We had a nice drive to Pokhara following the rivers where you can do water rafting and beach camping trips. Pokhara (1,100m) is a popular spot as it is a staging point to enter the Annapurna range, it is very quiet compared to Kathmandu but you have lots of guesthouses, resorts, restaurants, cafes, arts and crafts shops etc. It is a spot you can hang for couple of days and you can hand glide or take a boat ride on the giant man made lake. As one girl said to us, it is good spot to send your parents to hang out if they are not trekkers.

We had a delicious thin crispy pizza at Café Concerto.

Our trek was a short circle outing to see bit of Annapurna region including Poon Hill but we did it in reverse of how many groups do it. We only had limited days but you can spend up to one month+ in this region if you want.

Tues 12 April - We took jeep to Phedi to start of our 1st ascent (up 1,000m) following the beautiful stone step paths – you can’t really get lost on these trails as well marked. We decided to push on to Tolka and found little teahouse that had a room for us. We are now pretty good as assessing quickly if we want to stay at a teahouse – you check cleanliness of room (e.g. have bins been emptied), mattress, pillows etc, check out the toilet.

Wed 11 April - We walked about 5-hours uphill today, pretty steep in sections but the trails are so well established so not technical. We stopped for lunch at Jhinu Danda (home of natural hot springs) and then after lunch stopped, we kept going up to Chhomrong village at the Himalaya View Guest House and we had our first views of
A wake at the Ghopte GompaA wake at the Ghopte GompaA wake at the Ghopte Gompa

20 days after death there is a day long wake for the whole village
Annapurna Mountains. Just spectacular. This teahouse was beautiful, great rooms and great food.

Thurs 12 April – we awoke to a clear crisp morning and the views were breathtaking. We went and up and down to our next destination of Tadapani. Again we had another big afternoon storm with heavy rain, giant hail stones, thunder and lightening but thankfully we were settled in our teahouse sipping on hot lemon tea and reading our books.

Fri 13 April – enjoyed our breakfast with magnificent views of the snow capped mountains. Today was steep ascent to Ghorepani / Poon Hill. It was a busy day on the trails as it was Nepalese New Years day so public holiday and lots of locals were enjoying it very much. We came up through beautiful forests and rivers and waterfalls.

We stayed at the Sunny Lodge and Sunil booked us one of the special suites with our own attached shower and toilet. We stayed in the Sir Edmund Hilliary suite, just so cosy. The local villagers had a special concert to celebrate New Years day and so we watched the elders singing and giving blessing, some dancing and even some
Magic Carpet RideMagic Carpet RideMagic Carpet Ride

Thought this was hilarious. This string of guys carrying carpets walked past. Not sure where they were going.

Sat 14 April – we arose at 4.30am to head up to Poon Hill to see sunrise over the Annapurna ranges. It is a short walk from Ghorepani and all you can see is stream of trekkers’ headlamps lighting up the trail up to Poon Hill look out tower. Dave set a cracking pace so we were at Poon Hill in less than 30 mins (normally 1 hour) and we had nice cup of hot coffee while waiting for the sun to rise. It was packed with visitors in no time and the views were spectacular.

We then headed back to the Sunny Lodge for yummy breakfast of pancakes and omelettes before packing up to trek down to Tikhedhunga Hile. We descended more than 1,700m down steep flagstone steps. It was interesting to see how many trekking groups were coming up the trail – tough going and often if someone is unfit, then you pay for a pony to help take you up. We were pretty shattered at the end of it and pleased to relax at lovely guesthouse, The Chandra Guest House, overlooking river/waterfalls.

Sun 15 April - short day of walking to down to Nayapul village and then we were met by car/driver to take drive us back to Pokhara. Again another general strike had been called so we were not sure the driver was able to come to collect us, but all good in the end.

We had a quick change/shower at hotel before we had celebratory pizza lunch at Café Concerto with our guide and porter as they had to return to Kathmandu that evening. At the lunch we gave the guys their tips for looking after us and some trekking gear we didn’t need anymore.

We bid Sunil and Bhartka farewell (until we saw them again in Kathmandu) and then relaxed.

Mon 16 April – we had another day at Pokhara so we had a remedial massage at the Healing Hands blind massage clinic – wow those guys are strong and go deep into our tired muscles. We pottered around Pokhara and enjoyed yummy dinner at the Moondance Café.

Tues 17 April – we caught early flight (25 mins) from Pokhara to Kathmandu. Then back to the mayhem of Kathmandu we did our last shopping, had a swim at the hotel and then packed up for our exit from Nepal.

Wed 18 April – We arose, finalised packing, had leisurely breakfast before Sunil and Bhartka popped in to give us some gifts (white prayer scarfs, marigold garlands and plaques of our trek with them) and farewells before we headed to airport.

All smooth sailing with our flights back to Sydney and we even had little upgrade on the Qantas leg from Bangkok to Sydney we were moved to Premium Economy (niccce) as flight was full.

So back to Sydney (Arrive 18 April)….will keep you posted on our next steps……ummmm!!!

Additional photos below
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Dinner in the Tea House KitchenDinner in the Tea House Kitchen
Dinner in the Tea House Kitchen

Multiple meals prepared on the tiny stove.

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