On the way down our pace slowed – by now, our legs were very tired from the long days of walking and my partner’s sore throat had gotten worse. Nevertheless we were in good spirits once we reached the village, as it was still light outside. Surprisingly we met up with the Nepali doctor from Lapli guesthouse and together with their guide went to visit a Yak Karka.
Karka roughly translates to “farmstead” and it is the place where yak’s return to before nightfall to be milked. From a distance you might even miss the place: the Karka we visited consisted of four tiny huts, all made of shoulder-height walls of loose stones with a plastic tarp for a roof. Inside was for sleeping and cooking only, though sometimes newborn yaks would be sheltered there for a while. The Karka we visited was run by the mother of the guesthouse sisters. As we arrived, she was briskly walking the steep slopes (at 74 years of age!) bringing yaks home for milking.
The Nepali couple’s guide had delivered some stocks from the guesthouse and shared news from the village as best he could in his broken Tamang – the old lady spoke no Nepali (there are over 100 languages native to the various ethnicities of Nepal, most now on the verge of extinction as many have no written form and schooling takes place only in official Nepali Bhasa). We were invited inside to share in a cup of tea. Soon enough, prepared on a charred pot over a wooden fire, fresh yak-milk tea was added on my list, right next to yak-curd.
Exhausted from the day and this unexpected incredible side-tour we made our way to the bakery for dinner, and were served the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted in my life. Truly unforgettable. I felt sad to leave this place so soon.
The morning after was worrying – my companion’s was more exhausted than the night before and her cough had intensified. We decided to move out right after breakfast. All heavy things got packed into my backpack to lighten her load and off we were, hoping that the decent would make her feel better.
I had been concerned about altitude sickness (or Acute Mountain Sickness – AMS) ever since planning the trip. I’d experienced the effects of altitude in the form of weakness and headache before – at 3800m in Chinese Tibet. It is an unpredictable condition, that should always be accounted for, even if you haven’t suffered from it before. For avoiding dangerous altitude sickness, it is recommended to ascend no more than 300m per day and take a rest day after 1000m climbed. We were in the process of climbing 3500m in 3 days. Hence I’d been wary of signs of AMS ever since leaving Langtang and I was hoping that our risk would be reduced by staying high up for only two nights. The summit must have been the tipping point for my parter with a sore throat masking her initial symptoms.
By the time we reached Langtang she was already feeling better. We were still at 3500m, but she was regaining energy and her cough had subsided. Good too, as the only local clinic was closed with the doctor nowhere to be found. Relieved that the symptoms were subsiding, we continued our descent, enjoying the sunny day and the lighter downhill walk. With her improved mood we decided to try and reach Rimché by nightfall, so we could enjoy the sunset and sunrise views over lower Langtang valley.
It was a long day of walking and by the time we reached Rimché, the sun had already set. It was hard to tell though, as the entire place was once again enveloped in clouds (remember what I said about mountain weather?). We were in good moods however, as we’d covered more ground than initially hoped and my companion was feeling all herself again. The mood was slightly miffed by an odd-tasting tuna pizza, but much improved by a delicious apple momo. The lesson here: always order local food.
We began the last day very early, to marvel the sun rise above the valley as we were having breakfast, and reach Syabru Besi early in hopes of getting a ride to Kathmandu the same day. Although we felt in our legs that we’d been pushing ourselves hard for 4 days in a row, the allure of a soft bed instead of wooden-plank beds made the path seem relatively easy. It was amusing to think how gravity makes such a difference, that the same path had been so very demanding just a few days before. We were in Syabru Besi by lunchtime and with some patience and luck, found a ride. All busses to Kathmandu had left early in the morning, but a 4×4 delivering tourists to Langtang was looking to earn some extra instead of returning to Kathmandu empty.
From the comfort of a proper seat, being tired and overwhelmed with amazing experiences, the ride back did not seem as long or rough as the way in. The driver was only mildly suicidal and in a smaller vehicle overtaking also felt less deadly. Thankfully Dashain was in full swing, which kept traffic to a minimum. By nightfall I was back home, together with new unforgettable memories.