Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Langtang trek (Nepal) | Dec 25th '09 - Jan 9th '10

I'm more than a month due on the report, for reasons more than plain laziness.... Anyway, here goes

The overall breakdown:
Dec 25: Having only one day after returning from TFN, the packing was hurried.... But left to Attibele to help Vinay finish his packing.... Then took a bus to Hosur.... And from there to Tirupattur... and from there to Jolarpettai, where we waited till evening for our train to Gorakhpur....

At Jolarpettai railway station

Dec 26: Lot of dumb charades, pictionary, cards etc on the train... nothing particularly interesting through the windows, as we were goin through the drier regions of Andhra

Dec 27: There was fog all through the day, even at noon, as the train chugged through it.... Reached Gorakhpur at ~8pm and took the last bus to Sinauli (Indo-Nepal border).... The bus conductor entertained us with poetry and songs, as the driver rode through zero visibility fog at terrifying speeds.... Halted at a guest house at Sinauli for the night.... Faced a low of ~12 C

The foggy northern plains

Dec 28: After a cycle rickshaw ride to the border proper, we walked into Nepal.... Took a Mini (a van kinda thing that seats ~12) to Kathmandu.... The road was almost entirely on the banks of the Trishuli river..... After checking into a hotel, we went shopping in Thamel, particularly for gloves.... At Kathmandu, the temperature was manageable at ~12 deg.

Trishuli river

Dec 29: We missed the morning bus to Syabrubesi cos of some confusion.... So took a bus to Kalikasthan..... This was a useless step, cos the next day, we would catch the same bus that starts from Kathmandu.... The final bit of the bus ride, meself and Vinay decided to sit on top of the bus like many other passengers..... This was one helluva experience...... With the bus rattling along the edges of the road with just a few cms off cliff edges..... And we holding tight and somehow just managing to stay on it..... And the guy sitting next to us finds it the right moment to tell us "People keep falling off the bus often... And sometimes buses fall off the cliffs too"..... Scared to shit, we gripped with hands and legs, while this chap happily lights a cigarette holding onto nothin.... Finally reached Kalikasthan well before sunset..... And this tiny village in the middle of nowhere, and far from touristy activities.... had a snooker table!

View from Kalikasthan

Dec 30: This time, we dint have an option of getting seats inside the bus..... So, all of us were on top..... And learning from yesterday's lessons, found a comfortable spot, cushioned by bags on all sides, and put my center of gravity in a potential well, to ensure stability.... So, i was stable enough to venture taking photos from the top, although still a pretty unnerving thing...... And whenever a town or village came.... we had to duck under the cables running across the street..... We took the trekking permit at Dhunche, where the bus waited for us to finish the business...... And finally reached Syabrubesi after a scary descent from Dhunche...... Some of us ventured to take a dip in the friggin cold stream.... Vinay actually got swept by the strong currents, and was saved by a quick reflex rescue by Santosh

The road to Syabrubesi

Dec 31: The actual trek begins! In all our excitement, we actually missed a junction, and went the wrong way.... We climbed all the way to Thulosyafru, and then realised that we had to descend all the way down in a different direction, and we might actually make it to Pyro (aka... Landslide lodges).... We also went and bathed in the hot water spring (Tatopani) there.... But we ended up being stinkier, cos of the hydrogen sulphide(the rotten egg smell u should remember from chemistry lab) dissolved in it!..... The nights were getting colder..... But, the dining hall was warm, thanks to a wood stove.... The folks at the lodge we stayed (Namaste guest house) were really hospitable... and together we chit-chatted, sang, listened to music, exchanged knowledge about each other's culture etc.... It was a lovely new year's eve.... the only thing lacking was the booze!

View of Langtang from close to Thulosyafru

Jan 1: We started as quickly as the sun let us, cos we had to cover for lost time...... By lunchtime, we reached Rimche..... And around tea time, the group split, as my vision is terrible in low light... so, me and vinay headed off, minimizing breaks.... while the others came at a leisurely pace...... We encountered our first few patches of snow..... We made it to Ghoda Tabela before it got unbearably dark.... And the others were there soon enough..... And this night, we got drunk on the local brew Nepali Rakshi, and splurged on food, celebrating new year!

View from Rimche

Jan 2: From Ghoda Tabela, we went to Langtang Village.... And there again, we split due to light reasons..... Me and Vinay again managed to get to Kyangjin Gompa just before it got dark, while the others came in when the temperatures were negative Celsius, and the light low..... We managed to get the last two rooms available

View of the Langtang range from a little before reaching Kyanjin Gompa

Jan 3: From now on, it was all descent.... So we could be much faster...... But thanks to my stereo vision problems, i usually descend slowly...... So it again meant the group had to split...... We had lunch at Ghoda Tabela and reached Rimche by evening

Sayin goodbye to the snow

Jan 4: Late lunch at Pyro and Syabrubesi by evening.... More Rakshi and laughter

Fragile bridge on a gushing river

Jan 5: Syabrubesi -> Kathmandu, this time, inside the bus!..... Shopped at Thamel for souvenirs and gifts.... And ate amazing Buff momos at a small eatery

Jan 6: Took a bus from Kathmandu to Bhairav (Nepal side of Indo-Nepal border)..... The bus was totally crowded. And although i was sitting, i couldnt move my legs even by a cm..... To top it, there was a Maoist strike blocking the highway.... if it stayed, we would definitely have to miss our train next morn...... One peculiar thing we saw: As soon as the vehicle stopped due to the big long queue of vehicles waiting for the strike to get over, folks got down from the bus, spread a towel on the street, and started playing cards..... They'd pack it all up in a jiffy when the vehicle moves forward a little..... Then onto the street again when it halts, to start the card games..... After sitting the longest duration in a day, for 13 hrs, and with the butt threatening to commit suicide, we finally reached Bhairav.... we got to the border by Cycle rickshaw and crossed the border by foot. After a brief interrogation by the immigration office, took a cab to Gorakhpur

The first vehicle from the other side..... sign of the end of the strike

Jan 7: Train to Jolarpettai from Gorakhpur
Jan 8: Recollecting trek..... Dumb charades, pictionary, cards
Jan 9: Got down at Jolarpettai. Jolarpettai -> Tirupattur -> Bangalore

- The whole trip costed ~7k, batteries included, Bangalore to Bangalore.....
- The train to Gorakhpur is always four hours late at destination!
- Nepali women look absolutely gorgeous! And Nepali men think Indian women look gorgeous (specially the tanned kind)
- The price of accomodation was a uniform 200NPR (~120INR) per room throughout the trek route, irrespective of whether the room could hold 2 people or 6
- On the trek route, the price of food increased with the distance from Syabrubesi.... At Kyanjin Gompa, a plate of Dal Bhaat(Rice + cereal curry, their staple food) costed 300NPR (~200 INR), where a room costed only 200 NPR..... The price hike is cos the porters need to lug it on their backs, for multiple days, for it to reach there.... The food prices are standardised by a committee.... So, there wouldnt be a point to go hunt for cheaper food
- Their local drink, Nepali Rakshi, tasted awesome.... Tasted a bit like port wine, and only mildly stronger if at all
- The porters lug upto 60 kgs on their backs and climb all the treacherous slopes for such long distances.... And, the earnings from a 15 day trek, can suffice to run the porter's family for 6 months!
- Transliteration into english is not specific.... i.e. Syafru, Syabru, Syapru are all the same (However, Thamel and Jhamel are not!)
- The Nepali script is the same as Hindi script... So an Indian can often read Nepali signboards... But u still cant read an essay and make much sense.... However, lots of the locals know at least broken hindi
- The Nepalese listen to a lot of flop Bollywood songs from around a decade ago..... Refreshed my memories of nauseating songs that were around when i was a kid

Current mood: Nostalgic
Currently listening to: Why go home - Pearl Jam