Thursday, October 17, 2019

Langtang National Park - Tserko Ri

This will be the 4th time going to Nepal to trek.  And this time, we opted for something different, not base camps, but basically scenic lakes surrounded by mountains. GokyoRi, supposedly to rank together with many high altitude lakes around the world.  But, sadly, the timing of our trip was off, or the wet weather was longer than usual, and we were not able to fly into Lukla, for this airport was closed, and we were told that it has been closed for close to 2 weeks already, due to foggy and misty situation over at Lukla.

We spent a good half a day waiting at Kathmandu domestic airport waiting for our flight that never materialised.  We could have guessed that it will not be happening, as the “very eager to charge you extra for extra weight” somehow overlooked all our over weight luggage, without charging us a single cent!

Sadly we returned to our hotel in Thalmel, and have to decide for the next course of action, as we have planned this trip for close to a year, and also that we have lost 1 day in our stay in Nepal, and the back end constraint of leaving for home cannot be negotiated.

Fortunately, we were offered an alternative trek which required no flight, and supposedly to be near to Kathmandu, to the Langtang Mountain Range, and to trek to TserkoRi (4,984 m).

In the 2015 earthquake that struck Nepal, Langtang was very badly hit.  Till now, many of the trails have been covered with landslide, suspended bridge that were damaged, and we were told that whole village has been wiped out.

Kathmandu to Shyaphru Besi (1,460 m)

And so started our journey to the North Eastern part of Nepal.
But to get to our starting point in Shyaphru Besi, entailed an arduous and occasionally dangerous 9 to 11 hours drive from Kathmandu.

Roads in Kathmandu is generally not in very good shape (by our standard), and roads leading to Kathmandu (if there is road) is in even worse shape.  Most time, it is nothing more than dirt road that has been heavily used such that ruts have been formed, and when it rains, these depressions quickly filled up with water, making the road slippery and muddy.  Most time, the bus ride was very bumpy.  I am wearing one of those smart exercise watches that can register my steps, and for that 9 hours journey, my watch clocked closed to 24,000 steps!

Along the way, we would see some of the local going about their business.  This local was using a common tap.  Water is not in short supply in Nepal.  But delivering water to home requires local ingenuity, of laying their own piping and hoses from the mountain to their own home.  Tap is not necessary, water just gushed out continuously.

Road is narrow, and occasionally a bus will be very near to ours.  This cute little child was looking at us, could not help it, but to register those gaze and innocent "smile".

Overlooking some town.  (Photo has been enhanced)

And this will be the last leg to Shyaphru Besi, that is after those winding road!  At least this is a hard road unlike the muddy road that we have been travelling.

From Shyaphru Besi to Lama Hotel (2,470 m)
As we have lost 1 day, and then another day on the road, the schedule that have been planned for us is not considered ideal, for you will notice that we were ascending at least 1,000 m every day.

And so from our base at Shyaphru Besi, we made our trek to Lama Hotel.  This part of the trek would see us walking parallel to the Langtang river.  And it would be considered as one of the most difficult part of the trek to TsekoRi, for we would have to cross a trail that is on the landslide itself, not much foothold or handhold.  A bridge that has no sides, but wide enough to be used “safely”, and plenty of rocky paths.

This part of the journey would see us ascend most of the time, and honestly I was asking myself whether it was worth the trip to trek here, for there was not much scenery, and the trail was difficult.

From our hotel in Shyaphru Besi, we started to walk towards the starting of the Langtang Trek.

The trek will be running parallel to this river, the Langtang Khola.

The frist suspension bridge to be crossed

And passing houses before we can reach the Langtang Trek

Langtang Khola

The beautiful fauna along the way


And many more waterfalls along the way

Finally the Trek

Walking towards the landslide area, we were told that a trekker has died last year, not because he slid, but because of being hit by fallen rock.  Thus our guide wanted us to walk in group of 5s, and walked very quickly across.

Closed up of the landslide trail

Suspension bridge with its two sides somehow pried open! Still walkable, but requires steady nerve. At least for us.

From Lama Hotel to Langtang (3,430 m)
Today, the journey to Langtang was delightful, for the space opens out, and we were now in the midst of the beautiful valley.  Weather was good, unlike the day before when it was rainy and wet.  There were many opportunity for photo taking.

According to the map, Lama Hotel is at 2,470m, which is what is closer to the sign on the right.  But why this "Friendly Guest House" stated theirs at 2,840m is anyone guess.  However, we stay in this lodge, and have to say that this lodge is in very bad shape, most rooms have no light, 2 floors, and only a toilet per floor, and leaking.  Wooden beam is sprouting with fungus.  These shortcomings were compensated by the friendly owners!

Morning trek towards Langtang

And we started to see the majestic mountain before us.

And the powerful Langtang Khole next to the trek.  Wonder anyone has done any water rafting here.

Occasionally, the mist would shroud us, and threatened us with rain.

Right of way, we human are no match for these horses.  So right of way given to the ones that are bigger than yourself.  And always lean toward the mountain side and not at the edge of the trek.  A slight knock from these animals would easily send one down the ravine.

In the midst of the mist.

Not sure whether this was the result of the earthquake, with rocky trail, we have to be very careful with loose rocks. One wrong twist, and that will be bad news.

Sometimes as cameraman, to take this shot, you wonder how long are you going to take to catch up with the main body, especially in this high altitude.  Well for perspective, still have to take the shot.

From Langtang to Kyanjin Gumba (3,870 m)
And finally to Kyanjin Gumba, this is a village with new buildings, for the old village has been wiped out by the earthquake.

It was a leisure walk from Langtang, journey wise could have been less than 2 hours, but then there were so many nice scenic spots along this trail, that we spent many happy moments delighting ourselves with God’s wondrous creation.

Ater we have reached Kyanjin Gumba, and settled into our lodge, we decided to do an acclimatised climb on a ridge just behind the lodge.  This was to follow the maxim of climb high and sleep low, to allow our bodies to acclimatise to the high altitude.  After lunch, we embarked on this walk, and managed to ascend 100 m over 2 hours.  And we were wondering, for the next day, we are supposed to ascend close to 1,100 m, that is to say between 5 to 6 hours of climbing.

On the way up, the mountain beckons us.

Finally on the way down to the lodge. This village has many new buildings, result of the earthquake that has wiped out the old village.

Taken outside the lodge, this fence may have served its purpose before the earthquake, now these stand as sentinels of the plain.

From Kyanjin Gumba to Tserko Ri (4,984 m) and back to Kyanjin Gumba
I guess the result of the previous acclimatisation climb has given a good idea of the time we need to reach the summit, that our guide told us to be on our way by 6 am, reached the summit by noon, and hopefully back to this lodge by 3 pm!
Indeed, that was the time we took to ascend to Tserko Ri.

On this track, we were now above 3,800 m.  Breathing was labourious especially when we are ascending.  But the scenery was fantastic.  We were being overshadowed by the high mountain, and the weather was good, that we were able to be awed by the majestic snow covered mountains.  Here words to describe those sceneries escaped me, do appreciate the pictures.

Some of us who were fitter, managed to reach the summit by 11 am, and the last trotted in at about noon.  To say that we have reached the summit, is also not correct for we were dwarfed by the mountains of even higher elevations.  But for us, we have reached Tserko Ri.

This morning, the weather was perfect.  And this picturesque view warmed us though it was cold.

Glacier on the mountain top.

So near, yet so far.  TserkoRi summit is just to the right with masts and flags.

But the final lap, was the rocky trek. Short on breath, and wobbly legs, making every effort not to miss any footholds.

And finally, the summit was in sight.  What a great relief.

From Kyanjin Gumba to Lama Hotel (2,470 m)
The descend can be faster than ascend, as acclilmatisation is no longer an issue.  Moreover, after being high up for a few days, I guessed our body get a boost from the “richer” oxygen at lower altitude.

Since we were taking the same trek back, and we were covering more ground than our ascend.  Pictures taking were kept to a minimum, as most of us somehow wanted to dash to the next destination!

From Lama Hotel to Shyaphru Besi (1,460 m)

And again on this same trek that we have made to ascend, we would have to pass rocky trails, landslide path and bridge with no sides.
Thank God, all of us, made it safely to Shyaphru Besi, albeit some of us did slid over some of the rocky and pebbly trails.

Bee's nest

This "mess" was certainly not created by the earthquake, but by a Chinese company doing some construction work in this area.  The beautiful waterfall has been marred by this bad "heck care" attitude.  

This same waterfall looks so much elegant, having to crop out the mess below.

From Shyaphru Besi to Kathmandu
And again the long auduous 9 hours journey back to the capital.
Along the way, on this single road, we would encounter 3 vehicles that have broken down and blocking the traffic.  One was a big truck, and according to all the chatters, we were told that fuel was not reaching the engine.  Thankfully, somehow they managed to solve that problem, and the vehicle came to live, and was parked on one side of the road.  Then it was followed by an over-heated jeep, that after a few minutes of coaxing was able to move under its own power to the side.  But the third one, was an impossible to resolve, a trailer somehow has come to an “L” shape blocking the whole road.  And this time, nothing can budge that trailer with its flatbed.  Thankfully our driver knows a detour, and made use of it.

Sad that we are leaving the mountain for the city.  One last look.

Along the way, buying organic vegetable.

The flatbed and trailer that has jackknived and obstructing traffic from both sides.  

One of the saddest thing to see, is mountain of trash.  Without proper disposal, the rubbish are just randomly and collectively disposed as and where the people like.  Just a terrible eye sores on this beautiful land.

Along this track from Kyanjin Gumba to Tserko Ri, there is a flat plain that we were told was an aborted attempt to build a domestic airport.  Alas, this will be a very good opportunity for trekkers to skip the arduous land journey, and still within 4 to 5 days can make the trek to Tserko Ri.  

Well, I told myself, till there is an airport or they fix the road, I dare not want to take the arduous bus ride to trek there.  The bus journey may be arduous, but it is the danger of falling off the cliff that discouraged most of us for making a return trip.  

This one trip, glad we have made it.  A blessing in disguise from the aborted GyokoRi Trek, to this Langtang Trek.  To view this majestic mountains, and humble us at the creation of God.