Suddenly the bus came to a halt. Peering out the window I could see nothing but dense cloud beyond the edge of the rough unsealed mountain road we were traveling along. Up in front there were shouts exchanged in Nepalese & our driver shut off the engine. A few passengers got off, so I decided to follow suit & see what the commotion was. A few vehicles ahead a crowd had gathered, with a mechanical problem clearly the reason for the halt. The road was so narrow that passing was out of the question, so in the meantime traffic slowly backed up in both directions. A flock of sheep came through & the clouds cleared, revealing a deep lush valley below, dotted with small villages. After the chaos of Kathmandu, it was exciting to finally be in the mountains. Before too long the mechanical issue must have been resolved as more shouting in Nepali & engines starting could only be interpreted as ‘all aboard’. A few more hours of rough, gut churning bus travel along narrow winding mountain roads later I was emptying the contents of my luggage (but luckily not my stomach) onto a table at an Army checkpoint. This was also the location of the permit office for trekkers entering Langtang National Park. A few kilometers further my bus terminated at the town of Dhunche. The place my trek was to begin from was however a further 12km of winding roads later, which I decided to walk instead of hailing another bus. I didn’t come to Nepal for bus travel after all.

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L: Sheep passing my bus whilst stopped for a breakdown. R: Clouds parting & revealing the deep valley below

The Langtang Trek can be found one day’s road journey (via bus or jeep) North-West of the country’s capital of Kathmandu. Following the Langtang River Valley upstream, most trekkers (including myself) begin walking from Shyapru Besi (1400m). There is a vast network of trails in this region, but the most popular itinerary is a return journey up the valley to Kyanjin Gompa (3750m). Typically this will take from 6-8 days, depending on your pace & how long you stay to explore up the valley. Trekkers have plenty of options, from signing onto an organised tour, hiring your own guide/porter or simply doing it solo & self supported. From my research the trail was well sign posted & easily within my experience level, so I chose to trek solo.

Sometime around nightfall I finally arrived at the roadside village of Shyapru Besi. There were plenty of guesthouses to choose from, so I just picked one that looked promising & settled in for the night. Chatting to some trekkers who’d just completed the hike over dinner helped fill in some blanks about what to expect along the way.

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L: Crossing the Trishuli River near where the Langtang River joins. R: Sunshine, jungle & another river crossing.

Day 1

Waking at 5:50am, I quickly packed & enjoyed my pre-ordered omelette breakfast. The weather looked promising & my walking day began at 7am. Naturally another police checkpoint appeared before long, followed by one manned by friendly Army soldiers. Next a suspension bridge led across the Trusuli River & I followed the trail through Old Shypru, then out into the forest beyond. There was plenty of foot traffic, with continual friendly Namaste greetings being exchanged. Everything has to be carried into the Langtang Valley on foot or beast, so I was regularly encountering stout men & women carrying bulging loads of everything from food to building supplies. My trekking pack quickly seemed insignificant in comparison.

Soon the heat & humidity became overwhelming & my clothes were soaked through in no time. Upon reaching the village of Bamboo I decided it was as good a place as any to stop for an early lunch of the local specialty, Dal Bhat (Rice, vegetable curry, dal & usually a chutney). After lunch the trail’s gradient definitely increased & the going was quite tough & steep for the next couple hours. I won’t name them all, but every hour or so a small village or teahouse would appear. Always on offer were refreshments, food & accommodation. This allows for trekkers to break up the hike, but also choose how far they wish to travel each day.

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L: Bamboo village. R: Dal Bhat for lunch

Having kept up a fair pace, I arrived at the village of Lama Hotel (2470m) just before 2pm. There was plenty of daylight left but I decided to stop for the night & enjoyed an afternoon relaxing whilst watching the clouds drift through the steep jungle covered mountains above. My room was simple but clean, the hosts friendly & the food filling. Sometime early in the evening a lightning storm broke which made sitting by a warm fire & sipping tea all the more satisfying. Aside from a few rodents inhabiting the roof, I was the teahouses’ only occupant & enjoyed a peaceful nights sleep.

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L: My room at Lama Hotel. R: Clouds drifting through the mountains above.

Day 2

Hoping to beat the steamy heat, I woke early & was on the trail again by 7am. For the first couple hours the trail wound through dense forest, but before long the trees thinned & the valley opened up to reveal a much more alpine environment. The thick jungle gave way to low scrub & cleared land for grazing animals. There was still plenty of cloud around, but I began to see glimpses of bigger mountains in the distance. After another early lunch I carried on, passing herds of yak, donkeys & the occasional trekker or local. My legs were thankful for a gentler gradient, however my lungs were beginning to notice some affects of the increased altitude.

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L: Flowers in the dense jungle beside the river. R: Donkeys crossing the landslide.

The trail kept climbing upwards, but the terrain undulated up & down. It was at one of the high points I recognised a large swath of grey rock cutting across the valley in the distance. Triggered by the April 2015 earthquakes that devastated Nepal, a large landslide came down & destroyed the village of Langtang (3300m). It was sobering to see just how little of a once thriving town was left. Over 300 hundred people died in the disaster & many more were injured. But these are resilient people & several buildings had already been rebuilt beyond the edge of the landslide. It was only early afternoon, but once again I chose to call it a day & stay in one of the few guesthouses that had re-opened. Any income, however small would clearly help, plus I’d developed a dull headache from the altitude so stopping made sense. The remainder of my afternoon was spent chatting to other trekkers & exploring around the village a little.

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L: Selfie looking some of the rebult Langtang Village. R: Rainbow over Langtang Village

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L: Sun breaking through the clouds. R: Tending the cooking fire.

Day 3

Today was set to be a shorter walk, so I allowed myself a slight sleep-in & was on the move by 7:30am. The dense jungle already seemed so far away as I walked through the crisp alpine air, with snow-capped mountains soaring above in every direction. Not long after leaving Langtang I came upon some Mani Stones, large stone plates inscribed with Buddhist prayers. These continued on & off up the trail, often dividing it into two lanes. The affects of the ever-increasing altitude meant that I was easily out of breath & still had a dull headache. After passing a couple more small villages I came to a large swing bridge. My map told me the bridge spanned a river fed by the Langtang Glacier, but low clouds rendered this only to the imagination for now.

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L: Donkeys passing Mani Stones. R: Porters trekking down the valley.

A little further I came to my destination, Kyanjin Gompa. It was a surprise at first to find such a large village so far up the valley. There were plenty of guesthouses to choose from, so I went with a recommendation & chose the Panorama Hotel. A solid looking 3-story structure, it’s crowing glory was the unobstructed mountain views up the valley. After lunch I retired to my room & feeling a bit unwell decided to have a nap. Waking sometime later, what I thought was only a bit of altitude sickness turned out to be a nasty bout of food poisoning. I’ll spare readers all the gory details, but needless to say I was exceptionally glad for my room’s attached bathroom! Likewise the gastro medicine in my first aid kit was put to good use.

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L: Kyanjin Gompa. R: The view from my room.

Day 4

After a very, very long night (let’s leave it at that…) I woke to find I had survived, but was decidedly worse for wear. My plan was fortunately always to stay two nights in Kyanjin Gompa & explore the surrounds. So, had I not instead spent the majority of the day in bed, I’d likely have hiked to the top of one of the nearby peaks. The temperatures had gradually been dropping & outside there was fresh snow dusting the mountains above. Alas, my fate was instead to gaze at the views from my room & attempt to regain some strength.

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Forced rest-day at the Panorama Hotel.

Day 5

Having rested & managed to eat some plain food, I was gladly feeling much better & stronger in the morning. I’d decided to tackle the return journey in two days rather than three, so made an early start back down the valley. The clouds were still quite thick, but they did permit me a glimpse up at the Langtang Glacier this time around.

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L: The Langtang Glacier. R: The Big Rock Cafe.

One of the marvels of trekking at altitude is that whilst you feel ever weaker on the climb upwards, the downward journey has the opposite affect. Overall I dropped almost 1500m in elevation throughout the day, so the air was certainly getting thicker! The countryside was obviously familiar, but I’ve always been impressed at just how different a landscape looks in reverse. At about 3pm I wandered into the now-familiar village of Lama Hotel & called it a day.

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L: Lama Hotel. R: Sunset from my Teahouse.

Day 6

Hoping to once again beat the heat, I was up early & on my way by 7am. There had been a lot of rain, so some extra care was needed on the steep sections of the trail. By 10 the humidity was stifling so I allowed myself a refreshment stop, again at the village of Bamboo. I was astounded to see the progress that had been made on stone building the locals had only just begun constructing as I passed though 5 days earlier.

The remainder of my walk was uneventful & just before midday I spied the village of Shyapru Besi in the distance. With the anticipation a shower & lunch not far ahead I pushed on & crossed the Trishuli River to complete my trek. Reluctantly I booked a bus ticket for the following morning, resigning myself to the necessary 8-plus hours of discomfort that it entailed. Already my mind was wandering to thoughts of real coffee & wood fired pizza that awaited Kathmandu.

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Overlooking the Trishuli River, with Shyapru Besi in the background.

About The Author

Lachlan Gardiner

Lachlan works as a freelance photographer, writer and videographer. He loves spending time in the outdoors whenever possible - be it hiking, mountaineering, climbing, or just being on the road - He'll take any excuse to get into the mountains! He also works in our Paddy Pallin store in Fortitude valley, Brisbane. Drop in and say hi!

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