In 2008 I travelled to Nepal on my first solo overseas trip to go trekking and see a part of the world that was completely different to home. During my four weeks I was offered to make some make some money involving jewellery, trek Langtang and Gosaikunda and go white water rafting on the Kali Gandaki River. I had an amazing time and fell in love with the country and the people and have since travelled back to Nepal a number of times.
Coming out of the airport for the first time and being swamped by taxi drivers can be a bit overwhelming the first time but I ended up choosing one and he took me to his beat up car, I threw my backpack in and we were on our way. I distinctly remember the drive from the airport to Thamel, it was a hot and humid day, the roads were dusty, bumpy full of rubbish and there were people, cars and motorbikes everywhere. After weaving in and out back streets and busy main roads we ended up in Thamel at the Blue Horizon Guesthouse which my driver recommended. I was shown a couple of rooms and decided to stay there. It actually ended up being a really good guest house with quite good staff, I have been back to stay there at least 3 times over the last few years.
When I came down from my room there was a local travel agent there waiting for me. I had told myself that I would look around and speak to a number of people before I made any solid plans but within two hours of landing I had the next two weeks planned out. In hindsight I am happy I did it as I ended up with a great guide, had a great trek and had a great time. I had an idea of what I wanted to see all ready so the agent really just confirmed what I had planned and arranged a guide and transport. In two days my guide would come and pick me up at 5:15 am and we would be on our way to Syabru Besi.
Once my trek was all sorted I headed out to explore Thamel. Not long after I’d left the guesthouse a young Nepali working in shop called me over and offered me tea and to chat with him so he could practice his English. I was extremely hesitant but ended up agreeing – I was after all wanting to meet local and not just have a tourist experience. We sat and talked for a while, I sipped the tea wondering if I was being drugged. After twenty minutes or so a friend of his came by and offered to show me around Thamel, I agreed and he took me around to a few of the temples and markets. He started to tell me about a party that they were going to have that evening and that there would be lots of other foreigners there as well. I thought it sounded like heaps of fun so agreed to go, we just had to stop off at his work first. We headed to a jewellery shop and they offered me a beer and we hung out there for a while. When it was time to go headed back towards my guesthouse and then to a car park, we were going to be driving to where we were going. It seemed a little suspicious and I asked where we were going and they said not far and to their bosses house. I reluctantly got in and we drove for a while a and ended up a very large house, even by Australian standards. I began to thought that everything they had said was true and they offered me a beer and we sat out the back. After some time I started to wonder where all the other foreigners were and then I did see two foreigners arrive and they were ushered straight inside. Not long after I saw them leave and then not long after that the guys took me inside. They sat me down in the lounge room and there was a guy sitting there with long slicked back jet black hair and in front of him was a silver brief case. I started to get a little nervous and they broke out into their speal and essentially asked if I’d be interested in smuggling jewellery back to Australia so that they could avoid import taxes… Needless to say I declined as politely as possible and left. I ended up on the street in the middle of Kathmandu not having the slightest idea where I was. I made my way back to what I thought was the main road, eventually found a cab and made it back to the guesthouse. I then headed up to my room and locked the door and didn’t go out again until the next day. I didn’t sleep very well thinking I was going to get my door bashed-in in the middle of the night but I made it through and I never saw any of them again.
I spent the next day exploring Thamel (avoiding the street I had meet the guys in) and also Patan. I just spent the whole day walking around, people watching and finding my feet in a strange city. I went to bed early that night, tired from my ordeal the day before and to get a good nights rest before setting off for my trek early the next morning.
Trek Day 1 – Kathmandu to Syabru Besi
Kasim was at the guesthouse to meet me at 5:15am as promised and we got a cab to the bus station. There wasn’t any tickets left so we would be riding on the roof of the bus which I was actually quite happy about. It wasn’t the most comfortable ride but I thought I’d get through the six hours that the Lonely Planet notes as the travel time, little did I know I was in for a seventeen hour trip. There wasn’t too many people on the roof at the start of the trip but by the time we were a couple of hours in there was a lot more luggage and a lot more people, it was packed. It was still all fun as we climbed the winding dirt roads up the mountainside ducking under branches and power lines as required. I actually felt safer on the roof thinking that if the bus went over I could jump off rather than be stuck on the inside as the bus tumbled down the mountain. A couple of times we all had to get down and squeeze in side when we approached and passed through check points. Then about three hours into the trip we had to stop because a jeep was broken down on a one-way stretch of the road.
We all took our gear off the roof and walked around, we then waited for three hours for another bus coming from the other direction to take us back to where it came from. The second bus driver was crazy and drove incredibly fast on these rough dangerous roads but it wasn’t too long before we had to jump off this bus as a landslide had blocked the road. We all got off and walked under and across the landslide and then again waited for another bus. Another couple of hours later we were on our way again but by now the clouds had moved in so it was foggy and starting to get dark so we were moving at a snails pace dodging cattle, goats and the edge of the cliff. We stopped at every village along the way and it seemed to take forever. At one point fireflies descended on us, something I had never seen before except in cartoons so it was very cool. Finally, with an aching body from sitting on a roof rack for the better part of seventeen hours we arrived at Syabru Besi. After some dinner we called it a night and went to bed.
Trek Day 2 Syabru Besi (1,400m) to Lama Hotel (2,470m)
I found my first day of trekking incredible difficult, it was really hot and humid and I was carrying too much weight in my pack. It was a beautiful day up until the afternoon when it clouded over a bit. The sky up there is a very deep blue, much bluer than I am use to in Australia. Throughout the day there were a number of steep ascents and by the end my legs were aching, I’d also split my new pants and my camel-back burst in pack and wet everything. Despite this I still had a great day as we trekked through dense forest, saw plenty of amazing waterfalls, trekked alongside some massive raging rivers, saw a huge snow-capped mountain peaking out behind the hills (my first for Nepal) and wild marijuana growing next to the track.
Trek Day 3 Lama Hotel (2,470m) to Langtang Village (3,340m)
Today was a much better day as I started to get use to the weight of my bag and it was beginning to cool down the higher we went. We continued through dense forest until we broke out above the tree line. Not long after lunch the clouds set in and hid the snow-covered peaks that dominated the horizon. I saw more waterfalls today and crossed more suspension bridges, we past water powered prayer wheels and mani-walls. Not long after we got into Langtang Village it started to rain but it wasn’t too heavy and I was able to explore the village where I ran into a couple of cheeky kids who insisted on a photo.
Trek Day 4 Langtang Village (3,340m) to Kyanjin Gompa (3,870m)
It was cloudy from about 8:30 in the morning and was much cooler than it had been just a couple of days before when we set off from Syabru Besi. It was only a short two hour walk to Kyanjin Gompa through Yak pastures and alongside the longest mani wall in Nepal. The views from Kyanjin Gompa are suppose to be quite awesome but I could see nothing but clouds. After some lunch my guide and I headed up the glacial valley which was barren and desolate covered in stones and sand that have been left behind by the retreating glacier. We got fairly close but could hear the ice cracking and breaking and without the right equipment (crampons) it was too dangerous to go any further. I explored the area some more but we had an early night as the intention was to climb up to Tsergo Ri or Kyanjin Ri
Trek Day 5 Kyanjin Gompa (3,870m) to Lama Hotel (2,470m)
The weather was worse than it was yesterday so we stayed in bed until 7am and then after some breakfast started our way back down towards Langtang Village and Lama Hotel. It was easy going heading back the way we came and we made good time to Lama Hotel, I wanted to keep going by my guide insisted we spend the night here. That evening a few of the porters and guides from the other trekers were all smoking weed, my guide also got me some of the local wine to try with is drunk hot or cold and tastes like moonshine.
Trek Day 6 Lama Hotel (2,470m) to Thulo Syabru (2,230m)
The weather had cleared up a bit today and we were back down in the heat but at least the beginning of the day was quite easy as we continued to descend through the valley before crossing it completely and then heading up the other side. We saw some monkeys and I’m sure I saw a Red Panda run across the path in front of me but it was too quick to know for sure. It was then a solid up all the way to Thulo Syabru which was a large, long village that nestled on the peak of a ridge. I had plenty of time to explore the village that afternoon and then that evening after dinner one of the local men was selling local knitwear including some baby booties. He has if I had kids and I said I didn’t he then looked to his daughter and said that I could take her and then in one year I would have babies… Everyone laughed, except her, she was a little embarrassed.
Trek Day 7 Thulo Syabru (2,230m) to Cholang Pati (3,650m)
It was a long climb up to Sing Gompa (3,330m) where we stopped for lunch after passing through Rhododendron, Heamlock and Oak forests. We had had some great view during the day especially up to Sing Gompa and then out to the south from Sing Gompa and then onto Cholang Pati.
Trek Day 8 Cholang Pati (3,650m) to Gosaikunda (4,380m)
The weather was perfect today and after a very steep ascent to Laurebina Yak (3,920m) it was an easy stroll into Gosaikunda. From Laurebina Yak we had some amazing views and the path cut across a ridge line and the side of the cliff face. It was only about a two hour walk in total so I had plenty of time to explore the alpine lakes.
The main lake is believed to have formed when Lord Shiva pierced the snow so that he could drink the water to remove that poison that he had just consumed. The lake is also believed to drain via an underground channel to a well in Patan (Kathmandu). Many Hindus travel to the lake each August full moon on pilgrimage to bath in the lake.
That night I had a little bit of difficulty breathing given the lack of oxygen at this altitude, this would be the highest stay of my trip so I wasn’t to worried because after crossing the pass tomorrow I would be heading back down towards Kathmandu.
Trek Day 8 Gosaikunda (4,380m) to Therapati (3,640m)
Today’s trek was long and arduous. The initial hike up Laurebina La (4,610m), the highest point on my trek, wasn’t too tough, I was quite excited to see that the whole pass was covered in snow, it was however also covered in low cloud so the view wasn’t that spectacular. From here the weather and the track got much worse. It was cold and foggy for the whole day and the track was really rough and rocky and was up and down all day. We arrived at Therapati mid to late afternoon after leaving Gosaikunda at around 7:30am. There was an older group of american trekkers who had set off before us and who still hadn’t come in after 7pm. When they finally made it they were exhausted but relieved to be in the warm guesthouse. That evening I met a British couple who my guide and I played cards with.
Trek Day 9 Therapati (3,640m) to Gul Bhanjyang (2,140m)
It was a fairly easy day as we continued our descent. Some sections were very steep downs and I was very happy that we weren’t doing this trek in reverse. Gul Bhanjyang, at least the part that I saw, was a very poor and dirty village and I don’t think that my guide liked the look of it either as we walked all the way through it and ended up finding a house on the very outskirts where he negotiated a room for us. The British couple from the night before weren’t to far behind us and asked if they could stay as well.
Trek Day 10 Gul Bhanjyang (2,140m) to Chisopani (2,140m)
Although no height was gained or lost today it certainly was not a level path to Chisopani. We head along a road for sometime on the edge of the forest until we reached a couple of ruined houses, from here the trail just went down, and down, and down. We eventually made it to the valley floor and passed through some villages until we reached the other side of the valley and it was then time to head up and up and up. The trail was very steep and it was very hot as we were totally exposed to the sun as the way up is quite exposed. Once at the top it was a fairly level walk into Chisopani where we made it for lunch. We stayed here the night but in hindsight we probably could have made it back to Kathmandu in the same day quite easily.
Trek Day 11 Chisopani (2,140m) to Kathmandu (1,400m)
The sunrise at Chisopani is suppose to be unreal with the view of the Himalayas stretching from Mount Everest in the east to the Annapurna Range in the west, the morning I was there all as we had was cloud. The first part of the walk is fairly flat through the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, there is an army barracks and then you come out to the other side of the ridge and you can see the Kathmandu Valley to the south. From here it is a step descent on stone and cement steps through a village all the way to the bottom at Sundarijal. It was then a 15km car ride back to Kathmandu.
Pokhara is the third largest city in Nepal and is about 200km west of Kathmandu at the base of the Annapurna Range. It is a beautiful town and is where many trekkers base themselves from treks in Annapurna, white water rafting trips and paragliding. It is a much more relaxed and peaceful place to stay compared to Kathmandu and I spent a couple of days here either side of the my rafting trip. There are numerous travel companies in town so it is easy to organise treks and rafting tours when you arrive. The three day two night rafting trip I did down the Kali Gandaki was a great way to finish my trip in Nepal.