Saturday, 29 October 2011

Our first Himalayan trek- Langtang, Gosainkund and Helambu

Room for one more?
Our first trek in Nepal started with a very long bus journey. This was actually a lot of fun, especially the part where we all had to get out and walk- a truck had got stuck at a landslide and men from all the buses behind it helped to push it up the hill amid lots of cheering from us on the sidelines. The bus was PACKED, everyone ended up with a Nepalese lady or baby on their lap, and there were about 20 people on the roof too.

We trekked for 14 days, and climbed about 8500 metres (similar to the height of Everest). Starting in the hot and humid forest of the lower Langtang valley, complete with monkeys, and after climbing extremely steeply for the first 2 days, we came out above the tree line into a high alpine valley very close to the Tibetan border. All the villagers were Tibetan, descended from exiles from the Chinese invasion in the 50s, and there were Buddhist prayer wheels, carved stone walls and prayer flags all around. One of the best things about the trek was having the opportunity to meet the Tibetan lodge owners and get to know a little about their lives.
At one of our highest points- 4600m
We stayed for a few days at the high summer settlement of Kyanjin Gompa- a 500 year old monastery, now with a large collection of tourist lodges. From here we could explore the upper valley of summer yak pastures with soaring peaks above. We climbed to our highest point in the world so far- 4600 metres- beside the glacier and snowslopes of the 7000m Langtang Lirung.
After another few days trekking and our coldest night ever we arrived at the sacred lakes of Gosainkund, a pilgrimage destination for both Buddhists and Hindus.

Approaching the pass of Laurebina La

From here we crossed the 4600m pass of Laurebina La before descending from snowy highaltitude scenery into the heavily terraced foothills of Helambu, walking for the last few days through farms and villages full of animal and human life all the way back to the outskirts of Kathmandu.
Bizarrely, after 2 weeks walking with packs every day, we have no injuries, don't feel we need to rest and have actually started to (almost) enjoy the steep uphills??! We're pleased that we could keep up with those who had a team of porters and a guide and enjoyed the independence of trekking 'self-supported' this way. The first day Harriet almost collapsed with exhaustion, but now we feel fitter and stronger and ready for the next trek! So in 2 days we fly to the tiny airstrip of Lukla to start trekking in the Everest region. If conditions are good and we have no altitude problems we hope to climb to passes over 5000 metres and get a view of many of the highest peaks of the Himalayas.
Dense forest of the lower slopes
Prayer flags adorn every pass and summit

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