Tuesday 3rd October
Wednesday 13th September
After a glorious night’s sleep we have a nice breakfast on our hotel’s roof terrace. The walk up 6 flights sure gives us an appetite!
Today we need to unpack all our luggage and put the trikes back together. There’s a narrow street outside the hotel and with mopeds, pedestrians and the odd car passing by we set to it. We quickly draw a crowd of interested watchers.
After about 3 hours work we finally have both trikes together and give them a quick test ride up and down the street. A couple of our more dedicated audience members also have a go – a reward for wasting 3 hours watching trike reconstruction at its best.
Time to get washed up and head out for food and a spot of sightseeing.
Kathmandu is the vibrant capital city of Nepal, where modern internet cafes and organic restaurants are nestled between medieval palaces and temples. Originally split into 3 separate city-states – Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur – the modern amalgamated city is home to 7 UNESCO world heritage sites such as Patan Durbar Square, Swayambhunath Stupa and Pashupatinath Temple. The pace of life in Kathmandu is fast by Nepali standards, with bustling narrow streets filled with rickshaws swerving around tiny shrines and ancient courtyards. It takes a little getting used to the culture shock when you get off the plane, but once you’re settled in it’s a hugely rewarding location in which to be fully immersed in modern Nepali life.
We enjoy a Nepali Thali curry and wander down the packed streets to Basantapur Durbar Square. The square is one of the most charming architectural showpieces of the Kathmandu Valley as it highlights the ancient arts of Nepal. The golden effigies of kings perched on the top of stone monoliths, the guardian deities looking out from their sanctuaries, the wood carvings in every place-struts, lintels, uprights, tympanums, gateways and windows-all seem to form a well-orchestrated symphony. Pottery and weaving are its major traditional industries.
We are agog at the beautiful temples and shrines, but feel very sad about the severe earthquake damage (2015) which is still widely evident. Then feeling tired after a hard day we soon drag ourselves home.
Thursday 14th September
Today Daz has an appointment with the passport office to apply for a new passport and we also need to drop our trikes off at the British Army camp in Patan district. We need somewhere secure to store them whilst we do our workaway and trekking. A friend of a friend who is posted here in Nepal has kindly agreed to look after them for us. After that we also want to visit our workaway hosts to say hi and sort out when we need to start.
We’re about to enjoy our first experience of cycling in Nepal. We head out through the narrow streets of Thamel packed with pedestrians and mopeds before joining one of the ringroads. The traffic is very heavy but flows safely around us. At one point we stop to watch the Nepali Army parading around a large field in the city centre. It looks like a practice Parade for an upcoming event.
We cycle on and manage to get to the passport office unscathed. Whilst I enjoy a nice coffee Daz goes off for his appointment. He is back pretty soon and no problems. It all went very smoothly and he should have a new passport in 6 weeks time. The Army camp is not too far and we meet up with Mark who stores our bikes and kit and shows us around the camp. We agree to meet for a beer later in the week. Now trikeless we grab a local taxi and negotiate a price to the Animal Shelter we will be volunteering at. It’s about 4 km south of Kathmandu in a quiet suburb and down a rocky dirt road! We meet some of the staff and another 2 volunteers, Alex and Vivi from Germany. There are about 120 dogs in the compound, most of them loose and running around. Or they were until we arrived, now they are saying hello… loudly and boisterously!! Fortunately the noise soon dies down and we sort out the work arrangements. Our first shift is tomorrow and we will move into the accommodation tomorrow as well.
We return to Thamel and relax for the remainder of the day!
Friday 15th September
After a relaxing morning of sightseeing and a breakfast at the Big Belly Restaurant we leave our hotel and get a taxi to the Animal Shelter.
We have allowed an hour for the 11 km journey but only make it with 1 minute to spare for our shift!! The traffic, and the taxi drivers route choice conspire to nearly make us late. We dump our bags in the office and are shown around the complex. Our main tasks will be cleaning up after the dogs, feeding them, cleaning the compound and any other odd jobs that might spring up.
Sneha Care is one of the largest animal welfare charities in Nepal. Established in 2014 by animal advocate Ms Sneha Shrestha to protect the street and community dogs from torture, cruelty or ill usage of any kind, it have long campaigned to develop the welfare of man’s best friend. There are dogs here that are awaiting operations or are recovering from them. One kennel houses those dogs with skin complaints and another the paralysed dogs. Other individual kennels house recently recovering dogs. The rest of the dogs, from puppies to big alsatians are free to roam around. We spend our shift getting to know the routine and the dogs. The heat and humidity is fierce and we haven’t sweated so much since the desert of Kazakhstan, but at least there it was a dry heat. The worst job is cleaning up in the paralysed dog kennel. All the dogs have use of their front legs, but either drag their rears or balance on their front paws and totter around.
Unfortunately this means they invariably drag themselves through their mess after toileting. But we keep on top of it as much as possible to ensure they are clean. After our shift is over the ambulance driver gives us a lift to the apartment, saving us a 20 minute walk. Tomorrow we have the morning shift, 7am to 1pm, so we will need to be up early to walk there in time.
Saturday 16th September
Our alarm goes off at 620 am and we walk through the early morning fog down to the shelter. It sits in a valley with rice field terracing of a vivid green up each side. It’s a pleasant walk to work. We greet all the local passersby ‘Namaste’ and receive a smile and return greeting.
Today our shift is very busy. All the staff are around, as 2 vets are visiting to carry out some procedures on the dogs, and a cat as well! Some of the dogs are getting spayed but 2 are having large tumours removed from their flanks.
There are also a number of visitors to the shelter, we think they are possible donors. By the end of the shift we are starving. Fortunately everyday we get a meal cooked for us at the shelter, real local food and it’s delicious. As well as this meal we also share an evening meal with the local staff that live at the apartment too.
It’s rice and dal bhat again, but just as tasty. We all sit around chatting and enjoying our meal. The Nepalese eat with their fingers, mixing the rice and dal bhat with their fingers and scooping mounthfuls. Us and the Germans stick to our forks, not yet ready to divest ourselves of our western ways!!
Sunday 17th September
The Germans have a day off today, so it’s just us and the locals at the shelter. We arrive again having enjoyed the walk and set about cleaning up the dogs and kennels. We bring brew kit with us daily so during the day when we have a moments rest we can enjoy a cup of tea. It’s quiet today being Sunday but later more staff arrive. Another volunteer, Noi from Israel, also shows up. We show him what we know, but we’re new too and often the staff like to contradict each other.
Sometimes we use the hose to wash out kennels, sometimes we need to scrub them with brushes then mop them dry. Most of the mops and brushes have seen better days and the hose has more holes and makeshift connections than we have ever seen. So we always end up wet after a clean down, but it’s not a problem in this heat.
Monday 18th September
After our shift at the shelter and meeting another new volunteer, Forest from Australia, we catch the local bus into Kathmandu. It only costs 12 pence each. We are going in to see Patan Durbar Square, a UNESCO site. It’s 1000 rupee each to enter, but weirdly you can also walk up a side street and get in for free, which we do.
There’s an ancient Malla royal palace with many temples and idols in the area. There’s alot of scaffolding up as well, helping the buildings stand after the earthquake of 2015. We pick a restaurant with a rooftop terrace and enjoy a drink and some seriously delicious but spicy food.
The square is lit up as the sun goes down and it’s a marvellous sight. Later back at the flat we get everyone playing cards, including the local Nepalese. Of course Daz wins, as he is the only one who knows all the rules!
Tuesday 19th September
Nothing much to report today at the dog shelter, we have the morning shift with Forest (she has a brother called River and a sister called Bhindi… hippy mum!).
There’s a problem with the water in the well so no hosepipe, which means we have to wash the kennels down with buckets of water drawn from a tap, a slow and monotonous job. Oh and Hels decides to take some treats into the paralysed dog kennels, but this is a disaster, a fight ensues and in the melee Hels receives a nasty bite on her forearm. Fortunately we think she hasn’t got rabies so the dog won’t need a course of vaccinations!!
Seriously the puncture wounds are quite deep. The staff tell us it’s best to leave them uncovered so for the rest of the shift she is dripping blood all over the place. She’s also in a lot of pain but like the true professional she soldiers on until the end of shift.
Wednesday 20th September
Baisephati to Thamel Kathmandu
Our 6th and final day volunteering at the dog shelter. The dogs have been noisy and boisterous but fun. Some of the injured dogs with half their faces missing have been hard to stomach. But the staff at the centre do a fine job rescuing and caring for them. The accommodation and food has been excellent as have the other volunteers, even if they are all younger than 23!! One of the dogs passed away and was lieing in the treatment room waiting for us this morning. Fortunately the shelter staff dealt with it. Apart from that it was a run of the mill day. We say goodbye to everyone and head into Thamel via taxi. We hope we get a chance to see Alex, Vivi, Noi and Forest again before they leave Nepal.
Back in Thamel and the Bright Star Hotel we have a little siesta and then it’s time to meet Mads. Mads is a friend of Nick Marlow and Nick and Daz (and Gary) trekked here together in 2000. Because Nick wasn’t able to meet us out here he suggested we contact Mads at Himalayan Trails. We’ve already arranged to take their trek to Manaslu in early October so we’re going to meet for a beer and a chat. We meet at the Jazz bar. Mads brings his wife Claire and his son Oscar and a colleague Amanda. We pick their brains on Nepal and various treks and other activities to do whilst we’re here. It’s a great evening but once again the beers go down too easily.
Thursday 21st September
Today we’re busy organising ourselves for our trek up the Langtang Valley. We’re leaving tomorrow and we’re going alone so we need to book our bus ticket, sort permits, get a map and we desperately need a rucksack or 2. After booking our bus ticket we head to Mads’ office. They need some paperwork for our Manaslu trek but he also goes over the Langtang route recommending several side routes and various teahouses. He also lends us a rucksack because there’s nowhere to hire them. Then it’s time to head home and organise our kit. We had hoped to get all our gear in one rucksack but it’s too heavy so we decide to take one of our Ortlieb panniers with the back harness – who knows how this will turn out. Then it’s bed time, we need to be up at 0630hrs tomorrow.
Friday 22nd September
Kathmandu to Syabru Bensi
We’re up and out the door in good time but our breakfast venue destroys our detailed scheduling. Bugger. After 30 minutes of waiting one of the staff arrives with the bread!! So now we need a taxi. At the bus station it’s pandemonium. People, buses and bags everywhere. It’s festival week and everyone is heading back to their home villages. It takes us a while to locate our bus and then our kit is thrown up onto the roof.
Since Daz is a giant amongst men (well the teeny tiny Nepalese men) he then passes up a load of other people’s gear. Safely but not comfortably (the seats are only designed to fit the teeny tiny Nepalese) seated on the bus we await the off. At 8am we leave and then it takes about 2 hours to get out of Kathmandu, the traffic is horrendous at the best of times but there are several festival marches going on to ensure even more chaos. We stop for a toilet break and everyone just pees by the bus – nice! We had expected this trip to take 6-7 hours but it’s 12.5 hours of hot, sweaty, stinky discomfort with the locals puking into bags. These aren’t discrete airplane sick bags made of white waxed paper but clear plastic bags so other passengers can play ‘guess the meal that’s just been ejected!’. Curry was very popular which was fortunate because it still smelt like a fairly decent curry once it was out. Not the usual acrid stench of vomit which often induces sympathetic vomiting.
The roads and traffic were horrendous. There were numerous delays the most memorable of which was a bus that had slipped sideways on the narrow quagmire of the road, causing one rear wheel to slip over the edge. When we arrived the traffic was already backed up in both directions and we watched in fascination as a truck (after completing a 16 point turn on the narrow road) reversed down and towed the bus to safety.
A JCB had been summoned and did a great job of repairing the road. We’re literally on the cusp of the end of the monsoon season and these hillside roads that access the interior of Nepal never escape unscathed from the monsoon. Frequent landslides are not uncommon and after the rains extensive road repairs are required.
Finally we arrived in darkness at Syabru Bensi. We walked into the nearest guesthouse and after eating a quick dinner it was time for bed.
Saturday 23rd September
Syabru Bensi to Riverside Guesthouse, Langtang Valley
We were on a slow simmer this morning and didn’t start walking until 9am. The sun is out as we walk up through the village above a roaring river. We soon drop down to a suspended footbridge over the river and cross. It’s warm and humid and the going is distinctly uphill.
The Langtang river cuts deeply into this valley and tumbles down over the rocks and huge boulders, with never a quiet moment. We climb all morning, crossing the river occasionally and stopping every hour for a quick break and a drink of water. We are both sweating heavily, and swap bags on the hour for a respite. The heavy bag is at least comfortable, but the lighter pannier bag is very uncomfortable due to the design of the carrying attachment. After 3 and a half hours we reach a small hamlet called Bamboo and stop for lunch.
We chat to a group of Americans who had arrived just before us. They are travelling with a guide and porters… slackers! Two of their group arrive about 20 minutes later. We passed them earlier on the trail and they were looking distinctly worn out. They only have enough time to order and wolf their food down before the whole group is on the move again. We set out just after them but soon have to pass as the pace is too slow, these young Americans don’t have the pace (even the ex ‘force recon marine’!).
Refreshed after our lunch we push on, the gradient is much steeper now and there are rocky steps along the way to aid passage, not just for the tourists, but the local porters and villagers too. We pass Rimche and see a couple from our guest house last night. They’ve stopped for the day. We walk on up and through Lama Hotel, a village full of guesthouses (the Americans will be stopping here today), but we carry on. We ignore the guest house proprietors trying to get us to stop. We are heading for a guesthouse recommended by Mads, away from the madding crowd. We think about another hour and a halfs walk. Half way there we are beginning to regret our drive towards this recommended stop. The light is fading and it’s getting cooler as we’re really tired now and fading fast.
But finally we see the guesthouse ahead snug up against the roaring river. We dump our bags and share a bucket of hot water (200 rupees or about £1.50) then order food and several cups of milky tea to wash it down. We will sleep well tonight. We have walked 14 km and gained 1375 metres, stopping at 2770 m above sea level. After months of cycling (and absolutely no walking) we’re absolutely cock-a-hoop with our efforts today – we really weren’t sure if we’d manage; there’s a lot to be said for muscle memory (Army combat fitness test anybody?).
Sunday 24rd September
Riverside Guesthouse to Mundu, Langtang Valley
Well we slept like the proverbial logs last night, but someone must have been sawing on Daz’s! We get up at 820am and there are already hikers passing our teahouse. After a lovely breakfast we pack up and head out just after 9am. The Americans from yesterday are just passing so we walk with them for a while. They have been up since 630am as their guide wanted an early start… we pity them! We don’t feel too bad after yesterday’s walk and soon leave the group behind. When we woke this morning we had a great view of the snow-capped mountains ahead of us, resplendent in the early morning sunlight.
It’s another scorcher of a day and after an initial climb through verdant green forest we break out onto some flattish trail. That’s the last we will see of forest, now we are walking through brush with a few stunted trees. After a couple of hours walking with some quick water stops we come across a tea house and decide to have lunch. The menu has certainly improved since we were last in Nepal trekking. Before there would have been 3 or 4 items on the menu; soup, noodles, omelette and noodle soup. Now there’s pancakes, fried momo, dhal bhat, fried rice, chow mein and lots more.
As we eat the German couple from our guesthouse 2 days ago also stop for lunch and the Americans pass by. We have deployed our new solar charger over lunch and it’s done a great job. Hopefully it’ll be robust enough to survive our travels in the future. In the afternoon, we continue up the valley which has now widened out. Tall cliffs soar above us on either side. Soon we can see a scar across the landscape ahead. This is the huge rockslide that destroyed the village of Langtang during the 2015 earthquake when a great slab of cliff sloughed off the mountains above. It’s very eerie as we cross the scree slope. A new river runs down part of it and has already cut a gouge into the jumble of rocks. We constantly see and hear rocks falling and sliding into this new gully.
Once over the scree we come to a memorial stone just before the site of the new village of Langtang. It’s only been 2 and a half years but the village seems to be back on it’s feet again with several guesthouses offering rooms and food for trekkers. We push on through and after another short climb pass several long burial mounds edged in engraved stone. We then arrive in Mundu our stop for the day. It’s still early and we can sit in the sun relaxing as our clothes dry off. We’ve made good time today, even the old lady who runs the guesthouse says we are fast.
We’ve walked 10km and gained 770 metres of height, stopping at 3540 metres above sea level. A refreshing bucket wash and afternoon snooze await us.
Monday 25th September
Mundu to Kyanjin Gompa and Kyanjin Ri Peak, Langtang Valley
Another good sleep, must be the mountain air, or the walking! We haven’t got far to go today, only 5km up to Kyanjin Gompa. We will stop here for 3 nights and enjoy some day trips without the big heavy rucksack. There are a couple of peaks to summit, a glacier to see and a lovely valley walk. Before we leave our teahouse this morning we chat with the owner about our options. He reckons we can get to Kyanjin quite quickly this morning and then do the smaller peak in the afternoon. So that’s the plan. It’s actually an easy walk up to Kyanjin Gompa and we pass a beautiful temple on the way where we get given free tea and biscuits.
Once in the village we hunt out Everest Teahouse. This has been recommended by Mads in Kathmandu. Well he’s done us proud. It’s a beautiful little teahouse only 4 rooms, and for the first time with ensuite toilet and shower! The young couple running it are very nice and give us a discount on the rooms too. We dump our gear and order a fried apple momo and some apple pie with coffee (we couldn’t tell the difference!) before setting off for our first peak. We set off and immediately it’s a steep ascent, zigzagging up the hill. There are occasional steps but alot of it is loose dirt and gravel. It’s hard going.
We puff and pant. We are nearing Little Kyanjin Ri and it gets quite rocky at the top. This is a false summit, as the true summit is across a saddle and up another steep ascent. Having taken some photos at Little Ri we carry on. We pass a young guy sat in the shelter of some rocks. His friend has gone on but he either can’t make it or doesn’t like the look of the knife edge ridge to the true summit! We also don’t like the look of it especially with the brisk wind but we push on. It’s even steeper and possibly more slippery (remember we’ve got no hiking gear, we are climbing in crocs!!) but we finally make it to the top.
The views of the mountains and the nearby glacier are breathtaking, if we had any left! We have a quick picnic of biscuits and bombay trail mix whilst enjoying the views. Fortunately we have noticed a trail leading off the back edge that leads down to a saddle and to a gentler slope back down the mountain. It’s still hard going. Descending is painful on our knees and the occasional slip doesn’t help, but it’s an easier way down… just!
Finally we reach the bottom, some yaks greet us, huge beasts with ginormous horns. Luckily they let us pass and we step down into the village and back to our teahouse. It’s been a grueling walk but we are glad we did it. The snow capped mountains, glaciers and clouds whizzing passed below us were magnificent. We’ve walked 5km to the village gaining 316 metres stopping at 3870 metres above sea level. We also climbed 4.5 km to Little Kyanjin Ri (4300m) and Kyanjin Ri (4604m). Time for our first hot shower of the trek and a well deserved snooze.
Tuesday 26th September
Kyanjin Gompa to Tserko Ri, Langtang Valley
We’re a bit concerned this morning after listening to the guide chatting to a German group staying at our teahouse. We knew this was the festival period but we’d heard it would only affect the bus service from Syabru Bensi on 28th September but the guide said it was actually the 30th September, the day we planned to return to Kathmandu. We don’t have any internet or phone coverage so we can’t ring anyone to check. We ask our host, Nawang, if he can find out if the buses are running 28th, 29th and 30th. We might need a new plan! Today we’re heading up the large peak of Tserko Ri. Apparently the views from the top are stunning. A panorama of snow capped peaks. It’s the toughest day yet. It takes us 3 hours 50 to reach the summit at 4985m.
It was so tough I was tempted to quit. Towards the end we have to stop frequently to catch our breath. Both of us feel dizzy at times. We haven’t seen a soul since we left the village so I feel rather isolated and worried should something happen. Still panting hard we finally reach the summit and find 2 other groups there already. A single guy with a guide and a couple with a guide. The couple left the village at 0630hrs, 2 hours before us!!! We sit and admire the incredible views and have some biscuits and bombay mix.
I have packed lunch envy – the couple have sandwiches, boiled eggs and a flask. I know this because I sat right next to them staring and drooling. After a relatively short break (no point hanging around without more food) we head back down. I think we’ve timed it perfectly because there’s cloud blowing in over the peak.
The descent is tortuous with numerous slips and falls but we make good time. We’ve refined the ‘chicken run’ taught to us by our Via Ferrata guide in Rhonda, Spain. He taught us the safest way to descend was with wide, bent legs and arms out as if trying to catch a chicken. It actually works incredibly well for us on these slippery tracks in crocs but we must look bizarre!!! We make it back to the village safely. It took us 6 hours to walk the 9.2km in total, with a height gain of 1103m and a maximum altitude of 4985m. We are really pleased with ourselves so decide to have a treat in one of the bakeries in the village. I have blueberry cake and Daz has black forest, both are small and overpriced but it’s the thought that counts!
Nawang has checked the bus service from Syabru Bensi to Kathmandu and there aren’t any buses running on the 30th but he thinks we’ll be able to find a jeep that’s brought up trekkers from Kathmandu but will have to return empty. We hope he’s right!
Wednesday 27th September
Kyanjin Gompa to Langshisha Kharka, Langtang Valley
Oh how we ache! Rolling over in bed is a triumph over pain. Yesterday’s up and down has left our legs, particularly our quads feeling bruised and battered. So what better way to enjoy the aches and pains than to go for a lovely walk up the valley, at least it will be relatively flat! We have breakfast and order some picnic food, Tibetan bread and yak cheese with boiled eggs for after.
It’s a bit breezy, but the sun is out again to keep us warm. Our legs soon warm up and only squeal when we have to step up or down over rocks. We have to cross a huge moraine early on with a small river flowing down it. Our feet are soon wet, but as we are only in crocs they dry out quick… well Daz’s do as he isn’t wearing socks but I am so they stay wet longer (I know, I know, crocs and socks, the shame of it!)
The valley floor is wide and flat to begin and we pass herds of yaks and wild horses. Yesterday I tried to cozy up to a young yak, but when I mentioned this to our host he said we should be wary of older yaks that might charge… now I steer a wide path around them and shout and clap to move them on if they are on the trail. We do manage to pet some of the ‘wild’ horses, they are quite sturdy little things but very beautiful.
On we trudge, the valley narrows and we are now climbing alongside the river. Our goal today is a temple/memorial about 10 or 12 km up the valley. But after 3 hours and only 8 km we are worn out from the last few days and decide to stop early. We find a bit of shelter from the wind and enjoy our picnic. The views of the snow-capped mountains are again spectacular. If you’re reading this and fancy an adventure then we can highly recommend this Langtang Valley trek. Most the people we have seen walking it have porters and or guides, but we have managed without. A local map is very cheap and shows all the villages and teahouses, but Maps.Me on your mobile phone will also suffice.
In the evening we’re invited into the iitchen and we eat with the family.
We head back down the valley and now we have a head wind, but it’s mainly downhill except to cross the moraine again. We feel knackered so head straight to the bakery for some more overpriced cake! Tomorrow we will head back down the valley, we think it will take us 2 days, then hopefully we can catch some transport back to Kathmandu as there will be no bus due to the festival. We are hoping that a tourist 4×4 dropping people off and returning to Kathmandu empty will take us.
Thursday 28th September
Kyanjin Gompa to Rimche, Langtang Valley
This morning we’re determined to set off early so we book breakfast for 0730hrs. After packing and saying our farewells we manage to hit the track by 0815hrs. We’ve promised Nawang that we’ll promote his teahouse, Everest, to the trekkers coming up, which we’re more than happy to do because he’s been really helpful,and the food and accommodation has been excellent (ensuite bathroom with a shower and plentiful hot water!). So we stop to chat to every group to recommend Everest which does slow our progress. But generally we’re feeling strong and set a decent pace. For lunch we stop at Potala Guest house in Pasang Tamang. The young owner has a very sad story.
On the day of the earthquake, 25th April 2015, he was leading a trekking group that finished in Syabru Bensi that day. But his parents and younger sister had gone to Langtang to celebrate his grandfather’s death (it’s quite common for families and villagers to gather in celebration / remembrance on the anniversary of a relative’s death). Sadly all died in the quake and their teahouse in Pasang Tamang was destroyed and his other sisters badly hurt. After dealing with the immediate medical needs of his sisters they then spent months living in a nearby cave. Today his guest house is rebuilt and he runs it with his sisters. Such a terrible tragedy to live through. After lunch we push on, continuing our Everest advertising campaign and reach Riverside Guesthouse (our first stop on the way up) at 2pm. We bump into a fellow Brit, Dennis from Surrey. He is travelling for 6 months in India and Nepal having rented his house out in the UK for the period. We swap details and maybe we will catch up with him in India. The afternoon drags on, we’re struggling now and starting to tire. I stop more frequently, using the birdlife and butterflies as my excuse. There’s quite a variety – wish we had some binos. Finally we reach Rimche. We think this is far enough although we had wanted to reach the next guesthouse but it’s better to quit whilst we’re ahead. We’ve walked 19km and dropped 1384 metres. Time for a shower and a nice relaxing evening.
Friday 29th September
Rimche to Syabru Bensi, Langtang Valley
We had planned to get up early but we woke even earlier so we were walking by 7am!
We want to get to Syabru Bensi early to maximise our chances of finding a lift back to Kathmandu. By 11am we’re in Syabru Bensi but there’s barely any traffic. We check at the bus station and we’re told if there’s sufficient demand then he’ll request a special bus for tomorrow. So that’s the back up plan but meanwhile we head to the Green Guesthouse – apparently the proprietor has the necessary contacts to arrange a lift in a jeep. At the guesthouse we meet Ben, Alys and their 2 young children, Percy and Olive. Ben’s an NGO working in Kathmandu and Alys and the children have flown over for a holiday. They had intended to do the Langtang Valley trek but Percy became very poorly, with a high temperature and so they had to cancel their trek and return to Syabru Bensi . They would also like to return to Kathmandu and their home comforts if any transport becomes available. We sit on the patio watching for empty jeeps. As the hours pass numerous trekkers come into the village hoping to find some return transport. There’s a Nepali guide with a South Korean trekker who is desperate to return and he believes there’ll be a jeep in about an hour and would we share the costs. But more hours pass and our potential jeep fails to materialise. Finally at about 3 pm a jeep comes into the village, packed with trekkers. Daz chases it down and negotiates a rate for a lift back to Kathmandu. There’s us 2, the Nepalese guide and his client and Ben and his family decide to join us. The bus journey took 12 hours but the jeep only takes about 6. We finally reach our hotel in Kathmandu about 10pm after everyone has been dropped off.
Saturday 30th September
Today is the main day of the Hindu Dashain festival.
During the month of Kartik (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. Dashain is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Throughout the kingdom of Nepal the goddess Durga in all her manifestations are worshiped with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritual holy bathing, thus drenching the goddess for days in blood.
Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram after a big struggle slaughtered Ravana, the fiendish king of demons. It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorised the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo.
Gopal and her husband invite all the hotel guests to participate in their festivities but first we need to consume a ‘Big Belly Breakfast!’ Yesterday we didn’t have a chance to eat much so today we are starving. Over breakfast we discover Vivi and Alex (workawayers from the dog shelter) are in Kathmandu. We go and meet them and play some cards. Then we take them to our hotel to participate in the festivities.
Then we are joined by Claire and Danny (2 British guests also staying in our hotel) we proceed to indulge in a bit of a pub crawl – bizarrely not that simple when most of Kathmandu is closed for the festivities.