Langtang Valley Trek
Day 1: Syabrubesi to Lama Hotel
Time: 5hrs walking + 1hr lunch
We eagerly awoke for our first day of trekking in the Langtang valley, ready for breakfast at 7:30, as we’d agreed with Sumish (our porter for the week). A quick breakfast later (plus the final packing of the bag) and we were ready to go.
In the morning air it was cold and we had our fleece and waterproof coats on. Within 2 minutes of setting off the sun was on us and we were feeling hot already. A couple of minutes later and we had to stop, it was just too hot in the sun to keep walking. We both took off our coats and fleeces and we were in our t-shirts already. Although we didn’t yet know it that was a pretty typical experience on this trek, in the sun it’s hot, in the shade it’s freezing, the wind is cold in the sun or shade. That’s the strange combination of the latitude resulting in a very strong sun but the altitude creating very cold air temperatures, and everyone hoping for a good balance. This trek starts with a negative vibe, I placed the water bottle (which we got for free) on the ground in the shade when I took off my coat and I forgot it. I realised about 1 minute down the road and ran back for it, but it had already been stolen! Oops. Luckily the bottle was free and we had 3L each in our hydration sacks but it’s still annoying and that bottle would have been useful at times.
On the edge of Syabrubesi we went through the first checkpoint and our names and details were logged, then it was steep downhill to the first suspension bridge. This was our first meeting with a Dutch couple we would keep on meeting up with over the next week.
Over the bridge it was a steep climb back up the opposite hillside and into the old village of Syabrubesi. Through the village and at the other side we had another suspension bridge to cross. Our porter said about taking the path on the same side but my map showed the path as over the bridge and along the other side of the river, so we crossed the bridge. That turned out to be not such a good idea. Although this was the main path it went up and down, up and down, up and down. Constantly, every bit of height we gained we would lose again almost immediately. This side of the river has steeper edges than the other side meaning the path would climb over each steep edged section then come back down. As we walked along this path we kept looking at the dirt track on the other side, maintaining a steady and level route along the edge of the river. For an hour or more we snatched glances of that other path wishing we were on it as we climbed then descended, climbed then descended.
The two paths finally merged and from here we started climbing properly, up into the woods. The path was quite steep and we had many steps to get up. After maybe 2 hours we reached a teahouse and ordered a tea each. We sat in the shade and tried to cool off a little.
Behind the teahouse was a long climb up what felt like a never ending set of steps; this was hard work. Our porter also seemed to be struggling. We were hot and out of breath but he looked worse. He had to keep stopping to rest. I know that he had about 12kg on his back to our ~5kg, but this was his job, he was supposed to be fit and strong. October and November are peak season, March and April are the shoulder season, so maybe this was his first trek in a few months and he’d lost some fitness over the winter. It was also worrying that while we had a massive bag of gear, walking shoes, walking trousers, wicking t-shirts, fleeces, windproof, waterproof coats, cold weather coats, hats, sunglasses, gloves, etc he was wearing canvas shoes, jeans, body warmer and a leather jacket. His bag was tiny and probably weighed little more than a kilo. He certainly wasn’t equipped for a week long trek in the Himalaya. But, we ignored those concerns and slowly plodded on, onwards and upwards.
After another hour of uphill we stopped at a decent looking restaurant in a place named Bamboo, strange because nothing there was made of bamboo. Beside the roar of the river over the waterfalls we ate our fried potatoes and veg fried rice (we spilt the food 50/50 for a little variety). So far the day had been tough and the scenery wasn’t great, no snow capped peaks in sight and the forest was still brown and bare, but we’d read it got better further up so we were happy; after all we were actually trekking up a valley in the Himalaya (which is only accessible on foot).
The rest of the day is a blur of slogging on uphill, stopping to allow our heart rates to come back to normal speed, then carrying on. Up, up then down, up and up more. Although we only had to gain 1,000m we probably climbed double that in the first day.
We reached our destination of Lama Hotel, actually a cluster of guest houses, about 3:30 in the afternoon. We chose the guest house based on the Lonely Planet recommendation. The room was simple, four walls and three beds. The walls, floor and ceiling all had gaps between the boards and the windows allowed the breeze from outside to blow in even when shut. Basic. But, it had a shower downstairs (and across the yard) and a toilet on the same floor as the bedrooms. We hit the shower immediately then got our warm clothing on. The sun was already disappearing from the valley floor and the temperature was rapidly plummeting.
Our first evening meal was a lonely experience, a French group coming down the valley on one side of the room totally engrossed in themselves and their porters on the other side staring at us. Sumish appeared just before 7 and admitted he’d been in bed since we arrived, the walk that day has really tired him out. By about 8pm we were ready for bed.
Day 2: Lama Hotel to Langtang
Time: 5hr + 1.5hr stops
During the night we had found that my sleeping bag wasn’t quite as good as we’d hoped. The temperature had dropped to around freezing and that was roughly how I’d felt through the night. Sometime during the night I’d had to get my warm coat and use that between the sleeping bag liner and the sleeping bag, that kept the top half warm but my legs were still quite cold. So I hadn’t slept too well. Annemarie, who had been worried about her sleeping bag had been warm and slept well, except for the toilet break.
After breakfast we were on our way, surprisingly with no aches or pains from the previous day. We left wearing fleeces and coats as the sun wasn’t on the valley floor yet. After a while the uphill walk made this too hot, so we stopped and took off the coats, but the shade from the trees was then keeping us cool. After a while the trees cleared and the temperature rose dramatically, prompting another stop to remove fleeces. After a bit the trees were back and I was cold again, then no trees and it was hot, then cold, and so it went on… Another stop to put the fleece back on, then off again. After about an hour we stopped at a teahouse for a warming cup of tea. We sat inside by the wood burning stove, warming our hands, arms and legs. Finding the perfect combination of clothing was going to be tough!
This was supposed to be the prettiest section of the walk but it quickly became apparent that we were too early in the season, the trees were bare and the rhododendrons hadn’t even budded yet. The good news is the walk was nowhere near as hard as the day before, although we climbed often, the path was usually flat afterwards so the height we gained was maintained. The sides of the valley were getting higher and looking more like proper mountains. As we walked through the section of forest which had leaves on the trees we saw some Macaque monkeys.
Lunch was at the Riverside cafe. Fried potatoes and a fried momo (fried pastry with stuff in it), which again we split 50/50. Plenty of carbohydrates for the rest of the walk.
After lunch it was a tough and steep climb to reach the village of Langtang. Again we were going slow and I was having a far tougher time than Annemarie. She was leading and I was doing my best to keep up with her, calling often for a minute to rest. Lagging behind me was Sumish, who was struggling and looked as tired as me. We were now out of the trees and the landscape was looking at lot more barren and parched. The soil was going and in its place was dust and sand.
We reached Langtang around 4pm. The first guest house we saw advertised attached bathroom and after the basic guest house the night before we went straight in. We remembered to ask the right questions; Hot water? Blankets? Shower? Yes to all! Perfect, we’ll stay. The bedroom had a bit of carpet, the beds were comfortable and we had a bathroom. The bathroom was a toilet with a bucket of water to use as a flush and a washbasin which emptied onto the floor, but that would be good enough at 3am! We were told the shower would be ready in 5 minutes, I guess to heat the water for us. Sure enough 5 minutes later I was told the shower was ready for me. When I reached the shower room I was in for a surprise, no shower but a large bucket of steaming water and a jug. This would have been fine if it wasn’t for the freezing cold draft blowing in through the door. My body went from freezing, to boiling and back to freezing every time I poured the water over myself. That was a very fast wash and dry and I quickly called Annemarie so she could use the remaining hot water. This started what became our usual procedure late in the afternoon, we put on our thermal long johns under our trousers, thick bed socks, thermal tops and thick coats then went to sit in the communal area by the wood burning stove to eat with everyone. As soon as the sun set it was cold.
The Peaceful Guest House had a well stoked wood burning stove and the room was toasty. That night there was a British guy and his Italian giggly girlfriend (she laughed at everything he said) and two women travelling together, an older Dutch woman and a younger German woman. We had an interesting chat with the Dutch and German couple and it was around 9pm that we went to bed that night, mainly because the owners of the guest house kept the stove topped up and nice and warm. That was probably the latest we went to bed on the whole trek!
Just before bed we went out to attempt some night photography. With the moon shining and no clouds in the sky the snow on the peaks and the sheer rock faces were illuminated in the brilliantly bright moonlight. We had the tripod for the camera and took a few 15 second shots but there was a very strong wind blowing up the valley and the camera just couldn’t stay perfectly still long enough. We tried again and again but the shot was impossible because of the wind and the freezing temperatures, which reduced our patience and willingness to continue trying.
Day 3: Langtang to Kyanjin Gumpa
Time: 2.5 hours + 30 minute stop
We weren’t sure what this day was going to bring when we set off. We’d trekked to and spent the night at Langtang, 3,430m above sea level and experienced no ill effects. Today we would climb another 400m taking us to about the same altitude as we’d done in Switzerland above Zermatt when we went up the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car. We’d both felt sick, a little dizzy and nauseous when we rode that cable car, all of which are signs of altitude sickness (we didn’t know that at the time. Plus it’s safe so long as you don’t stay at that altitude). So it was with some trepidation that we set off that morning.
As usual the sun was shining but the air was now much colder. The landscape now was much more arid than before, far less trees, smaller bushes and less grass. This was where we started to see the yaks wandering. We had a bit of a climb out of the village, promoting the usual stop to remove our coats, but the fleeces had to stay on. The sun was warm but the air was very cold.
This section of the walk was pretty easy compared to the previous days, mostly flat or a very gentle slope. The sides of the valley was now very definitely mountains, snow capped and jagged. We could see the mountains at the end of the valley, covered in pure white snow and touching the clouds. We walked at a reasonable pace slowing only when we hit the few real slopes. One short stop for tea after almost two hours was all we needed, we knew we’d reach our destination before lunch time.
The landscape was stark as we passed a large stupa and crossed a concrete bridge over a fast flowing steam. Upon reaching a section of huge rocks we slowed as we climbed up then down a little then up again. The altitude was clearly affecting us and we had little energy for getting up any slopes. On the final slope we stopped and leant on a rock for quite a few minutes before continuing. Almost immediately, we walked around a particularly large rock and saw the village of Kyanjin Gumpa below us (pronounced Kan Jin. Gumpa means monastery).
Using our trusty Lonely Planet we went to the recommended guest house to take a look around. The rooms were the same as always, all wood, four walls and two beds. Shared toilet down the corridor and a dodgy looking shower room downstairs. We said we’d look elsewhere to see if anyone had an attached bathroom (trust me in the middle of the night when it’s well below zero an attached bathroom is worth the investment). The lady said her brother’s place had attached bathrooms, so we agreed to take a look. Across the village we entered what looked like a brand new guest house. The rooms had attached bathrooms with squat toilets, but worse, the place was empty. No guests, but also no staff. Worried we’d have no service we opted for the first guest house, the Yala Guest House. When we arrived at 11:30am we were the only people there. Lucky us.
We decided that as it was so early we would have an early lunch then continue up the valley for an hour or two and see around the corner. The walk took us onto a massive riverbed which was almost the width of the valley floor. We walked up and over the loose stones, over a fast flowing stream of perfectly clear water and along the valley floor. The valley had many yaks wandering and grazing on the bushes. Kyanjin Gumpa had a cheese shop selling yak cheese (fact of the day: yaks are male, naks are female. Only females produce milk so technically it’s nak cheese not yak cheese) and Annemarie had already bought some cheese almost as soon as we’d settled in the guest house. After an hour of walking the ground had a layer of snow, but we could hear water running underneath it. We very carefully followed previous footsteps over the snow until we reached a massive pile of rocks at the corner of the valley. These rocks were below a frozen waterfall.
A little further on was a mound which was covered in prayer flags. We decided we’d go that far, get a look what was round the corner of the valley then make our way back to the village. Getting back to the village was a little harder. The stone slope we had walked down on the way up the valley now had to climbed back up. It didn’t look much of a slope, but at 4,000m we found it harder than expected.
Back at the Yala we were joined by a German lady who we had seen frequently over the last few days whilst walking up the valley. She mostly kept to herself, spending almost all the time reading her book. We ate as usual near the wood burning stove but this stove lost its heat very rapidly and faced with a cold and empty room we opted to go to bed. It was bitterly cold outside and had been snowing since about 6:30pm, we were cold and tired so bed seemed like a good idea. Annemarie now said she was feeling some effects of the altitude, a different type of headache and a bit weird, so she decided to take a Diamox tablet which is supposed to aid the body in acclimatising to altitude. Outside was at least -5° and I was now using my North Face soft shell jacket which I’d bought in Kathmandu as my bed clothing. As cold as it was, the building had no insulation and the curtains would blow in the wind even though they were on the inside. We slept well, apart from the usual middle of the night toilet break (the subconscious mind must have a perverse sense of humour, when it’s the least desirable conditions you can guarantee needing the toilet in the night, but in a nice, warm, comfortable hotel room you’ll never need a toilet trip in the night)!
Day 4: Kyanjin Gumpa
Annemarie was feeling better in the morning so we decided today would be the day we’d walk up to the viewpoint looking over the village and get a good view of Langtang Lirung, a peak over 7,000m high, plus hopefully get a good panorama of the mountains on all sides.
Our porter decided he would come with us even though he wasn’t equipped for the climb. We had windproof trousers, fleece, windproof coat, hat and sunglasses. He was still wearing his canvas shoes (with the sole now falling off one), jeans and his leather jacket, although he now produced fingerless gloves and a woolly hat. He led the way and took us straight onto the wrong path. We had looked at the paths from the village below and worked out that the zigzag route up the front of the mountain was best, instead he was taking us straight up the side, far steeper and a much more difficult climb. This route was also taking us into the valley between two peaks rather than up the peak we wanted to see. After about an hour of tough climbing he saw a path which lead back across the face of the mountain towards the peak we had wanted to climb. So back over we went and up, very slowly with many rest stops on the way. Finally after about 2 hours we were on top of the peak looking over the village. The GPS on my phone showed us to be at 4,330m above sea level, a good achievement.
But, we were only halfway. A knife edge ridge lead up the the Kyanjin Ri Viewpoint, our ultimate destination which was at 4,600m above sea level. As we looked up at it we decided we didn’t want to take the knife edge route, there was a strong wind blowing and the path was quite narrow, not to mention the massive drop of about 350m down to the valley floor. We decided to rejoin the path which went up the valley between the peaks to the top of the valley, then it looked a gentle slope up to the summit. We would shortcut this by maintaining our altitude and walk across the hillside rather than go down to the path and then walk back uphill, a plan which soon became apparent to be a bad one. The hillside was rather steep and we were walking on a flat bit of ground only slightly wider than our shoes. If we slipped we would roll a long way down the hill! We reached the path and started climbing uphill again. This was hard. We were now only just managing 20 steps before having to stop and rest. 1 step a second or less and we still couldn’t manage more than 20 at a time. We kept on doing this, 20 steps, rest, 20 steps, rest. Up and up we went, over big stones, dusty paths and through sections of thick snow. We didn’t know how much longer we could continue but we didn’t want to give up. After an hour on this path we reached a ridge at the head of the valley. To the left was a short but steady climb to the viewpoint summit, to the right was an even higher summit, covered in snow from the night before. Our porter decided to stand on the edge of the snow looking down into the valley hundreds of metres below. My legs went weak but I had enough strength to get (quickly) off the snow and into solid rock, if he was going to be stupid enough to stand on snow and ice ledges I didn’t want to be on it when it collapsed (obviously I made sure Annemarie was off the snow too). It was now only 10 minutes to the top, but this was still a slow slog even though the gradient was much easier.
After a total of about 3.5 hours climbing we were at the summit of Kyanjin Ri viewpoint. 4,600m above sea level, the highest we had ever been with our feet firmly on the ground. And even better, unlike in Switzerland where most things like this were reached by cable car, we had got here under our own power, on foot! A fantastic achievement! As we looked around we had a chain of peaks to the south, all 5,800m and higher peaks, covered in snow and shining brightly in the sun. Directly in front of us was Langtang Lirung, a 7,200m peak, making it the 99th highest mountain in the world. Annemarie took a few photos then we sat and ate the jam sandwich we’d prepared at the guest house. (At this point I should point out that we had climbed this with a rucksack with 3L of water in it. Jam sandwiches. Chocolate granola bars. And some chocolate. Our porter, Sumish, had nothing).
The wind at the top was incredibly cold. Any exposed flesh would start to hurt very rapidly. My hands were in agony (I didn’t have any gloves) and I’d had to hand my walking pole to Annemarie so I could walk with my hands in my pockets. Not a recommended method of walking but frostbite would have kicked in if I’d continued with my hand exposed. Our hoods were up and zipped as high as possible so only our cheeks were exposed to the sun and wind, a very powerful combination.
Our descent was slow and hard on the knees. We spent about 90 minutes getting back to the village from the summit. Our porter disappeared when we were below the first viewpoint. We looked around and had no idea where he’d gone. Not sure where he was we continued regardless and noticed him about 100m below us on another path. A stupid move we thought, what if we’d been really concerned about him and gone back to try and find him? He hadn’t said a word. Even more annoying was that his path was far quicker, we were still quarter of the way up the mountain when we saw him get back to the guest house, a good half hour before we would finally get back.
That night along with the German woman (who had been to the viewpoints and back much faster than us) we had the company of a Irish guy and American girl, also travelling around Asia for many months and having already completed the South American part of their trip. We sat around the wood burning stove talking, but, just as the night before, it lost its heat very quickly and soon we were all feeling cold enough that we would have to go to bed. The guest house was bitterly cold and getting ready for bed was, as always, horrible. Once in bed we were warm; wearing thermal underwear, soft shell jacket, thermal hat and two blankets over the sleeping bag, plus the hood of the sleeping bag over our heads.
Day 5: Kyanjin Gumpa to Langtang
Time: 2 hours (including coffee break)
Over breakfast we decided that we would leave today. The guest house wasn’t a warm and friendly place, warm in both hospitality and warm in temperature. The door to the outside was open all day and evening allowing the bitterly cold air into the building, then the door to the dining room wouldn’t stay shut without having to pin it shut with a chair, causing a freezing draft every few minutes on a night, which coupled with the poor heat from the wood burning stove. Also the lack of friendliness, in other lodges the owners either sat in the room or would come in often and check and add more wood to the fire to keep everyone warm. Not here. Even getting food required a bit more effort than other places. We wanted to go back down to Langtang to a nice warm fire.
Most people skip Langtang village on the way back down the valley and continue to Lama Hotel, but that would get us back to Kathmandu too early and we had already paid for 10 days with the porter. We decided to go for a walk up the Langtang Lirung valley for a few hours, see the glacier from below, then eat lunch and walk back to Langtang in the afternoon.
The Lonely Planet recommended a route but the 4 hour walk was summarised into a couple of lines, too vague for us to follow. So we set off along a path from behind the monastery which gives Kyanjin Gumpa its name. The path was a bit vague but we followed it until it ended. Then we saw another path to the right. We followed that for a bit then it ended to. Argh! We eventually ended beside and very clear river, freshly melted from the snow and ice at the end of the valley. We walked/scrambled beside it for a few minutes but the boulders were huge and we eventually gave up and went searching for the proper path. We’d seen a couple walk up the proper path, making much faster progress then us and they were now almost out of sight up the valley. We found the path quite quickly and progress up the valley was fast. We crossed a rickety bridge made from a couple of tree trunks and before long we had caught up the the couple who we’d seen from the river, it was the Dutch couple that we had spoken to and seen quite a few times. They were also having a morning wander before going down to Langtang in the afternoon. We all continued up the valley, trying in vain to follow the path for more than a couple of minutes. The path would just disappear and we’d have to force our way through some bushes to get to another path a few metres to our left or right. Luckily the rhododendrons were only just starting to bud, otherwise it would have been almost impossible to see these other paths, let alone actually get to them.
Our aim had been to reach the top of the valley and look at the glacier, but progress was very slow and the altitude was making even this steady gradient a challenge. We decided we’d stop on top of the ridge of boulders and get some photos of the glaciers. When we climbed the boulders we found our view blocked by another, even higher ridge of boulders. Well, we came this far, might as well climb them too! It took about 10 minutes to get on top of the next ridge of boulders. And what did we see? Yet another, even higher ridge of boulders. They were quite close, so we decided we’d stand by them and get the photos we wanted, then walk back down.
The walk down was fast and easy because although we had little energy when climbing, once we were on the flat or a slope down we could walk quite fast. Also from the high ground we could easily see the route the path took and not lose it so often. The path still split many times and often we would follow a ‘false path’ for a minute or so before getting back onto the correct path. I have no idea why the path was so hard to follow, either many walkers in the past had just wandered around and created these new paths or maybe there was a yeti out there, luring us in and trying to get us confused and lost. We eventually made it back to Kyanjin Gumpa with no yeti encounters!
The walk back down the valley was uneventful. The sun was warm but the wind was still very cold. With a fleece on this balanced out to a comfortable temperature and we walked at a good pace with almost no stopping. About 15 minutes before Langtang village we passed a cafe called the Tip Top. The sign outside boasted real espresso! I couldn’t resist, so we stopped for a coffee break. It was real coffee and tasted so good after a week of drinking ginger or lemon tea of various qualities. Refreshed from the coffee stop we quickly completed the walk down to Langtang.
We had decided to go back to the Peaceful Guest House (better the devil you know was our justification) but upon reaching it the dining room looked full. Sure enough all the good rooms were taken, so I followed Annemarie up the hill to the Red Panda Guest House. For the same price (we paid 200 rupees for every lodge in the valley) we got a room, with carpet, walls of plywood sheet and no gaps in the wall, an attached bathroom with flushing toilet and a shower with hot water. Absolute luxury! We couldn’t believe our luck! Unfortunately, the water was a couple of degrees above very cold, but it was enough for a quick wash. Dressed in our thermal underwear again and thick warm coat we went downstairs to the dining room. This evening we were joined by the American and Irish couple again and two British women, one had been travelling for 6 months the other had flown to Nepal to trek with her friend. The wood burning stove was under the close supervision of the lodge owner and he kept it well stocked, the room was hot!
As we went to bed I started to feel ill. I’d eaten pasta, which had been cooked in soy sauce (not a taste I like) and now I was feeling rather sick. I attempted to ignore it but I couldn’t sleep properly because of the feeling in my stomach.
Day 6: Langtang
The next morning I still didn’t feel well at all. Still sick, dizzy and light headed. I skipped breakfast and stayed in my warm sleeping bag dozing on and off. I tried a warm Seabuckthorn juice (made from a berry which grows in the valley and is apparently packed with vitamin C), it was extremely bitter but tasted OK, similar to a mixture of orange and lemon. I spent the morning in bed and as the sickness went away the dizzy, light headed feeling stayed.
In the early afternoon Annemarie decided I needed more fresh air and made me sit outside. For lunch I had chips, and although they tasted good I felt sick again quite soon after finishing them. The rest of the afternoon was us sat in the sun reading our books on the our Kindles. With the coat on to protect us from the cold wind the sun felt warming. Late in the afternoon it became too cold to sit outside and we moved into the dining room to warm up by the wood burning stove.
That night the lodge had a group of three French and Serbian women coming down the valley and an Australian couple heading up. We spent most of the evening talking to the Ozzie couple, the subjects ranged over a wide spectrum from politics to geology, our travels to religion. A very interesting evening of conversation to end what had been a rather dull day.
Day 7: Langtang to Lama Hotel
Time: 4 hours
The next morning I was feeling OK so we had our usual breakfast of porridge and honey. Neither of us actually felt like eating it in the end and we both left at least half, a horrible waste of food. Annemarie was now feeling a bit iffy, but insisted that she was OK to walk down to Lama Hotel. The owner checked that I was feeling better and we had a chat, this was by far the best lodge we stayed in on the whole trek, very friendly owner and a very good lodge.
It had taken us 5 hours of walking to get up the valley and we expected to get down far faster. As it turned it the steep steps, dusty and slippy slopes and the rough path made our descent only a bit faster than our ascent. We saw a few more monkeys as we walked through the woods, but we kept on walking to get to Lama hotel before lunch.
At Lama Hotel I picked a lodge and taking advantage of the early afternoon sun we both had hot showers. We hung the towels to dry in the sun while we sat outside and ordered some food. The chips had been good the day before and I was starting to crave the usual western junk food I’d been missing out on in the last week. So I had chips and a bottle of Coke. The funny thing about the lodges is they all have a glass cabinet, usually padlocked shut, containing all the precious items. These items would be beer, Coca Cola, Sprite, Mars bars, Twix, Snickers, toilet roll and some even had a bottle of whiskey. These items were luxury items and cost far more than the usual food and drink. Ginger tea costs 80-100, Coke costs 250-350 depending which lodge you visit. My Coke, usually the cheapest drink on the menu in a restaurant was now a true luxury item.
We spent the afternoon sitting on a huge boulder, beside the river, in the sun. A nice relaxing spot and because we had now dropped to only 2,800m the air was much warmer.
The evening was still cold but the lodge owner made sure we were all warm by topping up the wood burning stove often. That evening the band of French and Serbian women were staying in the lodge too and a British guy who had a few weeks to spare so had come to Nepal trekking. We chatted with the French women and found they all worked for the same company in Istanbul, one was French, one Serbian, one Turkish. We talked a bit, but, by 7:30pm it was bedtime again.
Day 8: Lama Hotel to Syabrubesi
Time: 4 hours (including a snack stop)
After the experience of the bus journey from Kathmandu to Syabrubesi (which you can read here) we wanted to get to Syabrubesi as early as possible and either book the super express bus or a Jeep back to Kathmandu. We were up early and ate breakfast quickly eager to get going.
We set off down the hillside at a good pace. The path went down and down, then up, then down. We’d forgotten just how difficult the first day had been! The path was mostly down, but we still had a lot of steps back up to contend with. Still we pushed on as fast as possible. The temperature was climbing all the time and the wind which had been a constant for most of the last week was now gone. We had a short snack stop and treated ourselves to a Mars bar each (paying dearly for the treat) but then quickly resumed our march downhill.
We reached Syabrubesi a little after midday and headed straight to the bus ticket office (a metal shack the size of a portable toilet). It was closed! Someone kindly came over and told us the next day was a holiday, the festival of Holi, a very important date in the Hindu calendar. There would be nothing happening the next day and we would be stuck in Syavrubesi for two nights probably. Dammit! All that rushing down the hillside for nothing.
We went to the hotel we’d stayed at on the way up, but hesitated in getting a room, sticking just to food. I ordered more chips and Annemarie had a whole apple pie. We sat outside looking over the road waiting for a Jeep to arrive from Kathmandu. The plan was to haggle with the driver and get a reasonable priced ride back to Kathmandu that day. As we sat there we spotted the Dutch couple again and Annemarie quickly ran after them seeing if they wanted to join us in a Jeep and thus reduce the cost. They were pretty tired that day and also dubious about the next day (they’d heard that on Holi people got high, but still drove, so the roads would be very dangerous), but agreed to look for a Jeep too.
Just as our food arrived (almost an hour after I ordered it) a Jeep pulled into town and dropped off some trekkers. The Dutch guy approached the driver then called up to us saying he found a Jeep (Jeep here is a colloquial term for any 4×4) that was returning to Kathmandu that day. I ran down and price negotiations started immediately. He wanted 12,000 rupees ($120), I offered half that. He came down to 8,000 rupees ($80), at which point the Dutch guy said he’d rather wait. OK, these prices were at the very top end of what I wanted to pay and probably more than what most people would be willing to fork out. I left to eat my chips.
Sitting with Annemarie we mulled it over. $70 would be acceptable to us (just) and I was certain the driver would accept (I had a gut feeling he’d have taken less if I’d started at a lower number). Sure enough the guy was wandering around waiting for desperate trekkers like us to fling themselves at him, so I asked for 7,000 rupees to Katmandu and he agreed. We took some bags down to the vehicle and whilst I was paying Annemarie found an American woman who was willing to share the ride with us.
It took 5.5 hours to get back to Kathmandu. The road is so incredibly windy and feels like it is making almost no progress. Often as we drove along the hillside we could see the road coming back on itself on the other side. Such a depressing sight. It was 7:30pm when we were dropped off in Thamel after a much more comfortable ride back. This was where the day took a turn for the worse… the American woman hadn’t negotiated to spilt costs with us, she’d agreed to pay extra on top of our price. So we were left with paying the full $70/£40 ourselves. To get an idea of my anger I wrote more here.
Because we were a day early and also due to the festival the hotel where we had left our bags was full. I went down the road to the first hotel we’d stayed at in Kathmandu, but they were full too. Their sister hotel, the Peak Point was just over the road so I tried them. They had a room available. The price was OK and it was clean and reasonable size so I accepted it. At the end of the road was a restaurant we liked, so we ate and relaxed in there after a long and (at times) stressful day. The trek was over and although we had enjoyed it we were also glad it was complete.