I woke up just after sunrise, got dressed and went out to stretch. The moment I got out, plans changed.
Ghoda Tabela sits on the ledge of upper Langtang valley, none of which was visible when we arrived in the dark. But by morning the clouds had cleared up and in the distance, towering over the valley in resolute majesty, was Langtang Peak – 7227m tall and bathed in golden morning sunlight. From the guesthouse one could see the valley gradually rise higher and curve east, with small villages dotting its floor. At the very farthest corner, you could see the houses on Langtang – our destination for the day. That is, if we didn’t decide to continue straight to Kyanjin Gumba.
Shower, packing, breakfast omelette was the morning routine, this time regularly interrupted by photographing the view. We made acquaintances with the “sister” running the guesthouse and after she heard we’re heading all the way to Kyanjin Gumba, she requested us to deliver a parcel. Before we had a chance to say anything she had already disappeared to the kitchen and soon emerged with a cluster of mint – to be sent to her sister in Kyanjin Gumba (“you can’t miss her, looks exactly like me”) who also runs a guesthouse there. After the kindness she had shown us we could not refuse – the mint weighed next to nothing and we were heading there anyway. Besides, the though of fresh mint tea at 4000 meters did have a certain special appeal to it.
As we were about to leave, we decided to take a last picture of Lapli guesthouse – a photo of us with the sign to better remember the place. It is a good thing we did, as otherwise we might still think the name of the place is Lapli, not “Lovely Guesthouse” as clearly written in large letters. Talk about Nepali pronunciation. Regardless, the place will forever be “Lapli” to me.
Upper langtang valley sits mostly above the forest line, though we still came across the occasional patch of taller vegetation. The hike was much easier than the day before, as the steep sections were shorter and further apart. This makes upper valley also more populous – contrary to the sparse teahouse spots of the day before, here we could see farms and quite a few tiny villages along the path.
Not far outside the village we came upon a small shack built on top of a stream. It was built to house and cover two Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels. To my great surprise it had been constructed to take advantage of the stream to turn the wheels – automatic prayers, that’s a first. Further down the path we found a small station and a makeshift helipad manned by the Nepali military. Our trekkers’ permits were again checked and our personal details copied down, only in duplicate this time.
After 2 hours of walking we decided to take a small break and give a try to the local yak curd. The Nepali doctor had praised it on the night before and he was not the first one to recommend tasting the local delicacy. And what delicacy it is – especially on a warm day after a long hike. A cup of cool yak curd with honey tastes like refreshing yoghurt, or ice cream. This definitely belongs on my “must try in Nepal” list of recommendations. We also learned that in Nepali, Yak refers only to males of the special. Females are called Naks. You live and you learn.
Langtang village arrived sooner than expected. We’d been walking for barely more than 4 hours and didn’t yet feel like stopping, especially in a place as sprawling and crowded as Langtang. The size of the village took me by surprise, though I reckon geography has a lot to do with it – Langtang village is surrounded by the only larger area of cultivatable land in the entire valley. Lower down it becomes to narrow on steep to support farming. Higher up it becomes too cold for it. So we slowly wandered through the village admiring the sights: the intricate wooden carvings on doors and windows, horses playing and grazing in their stockades, children running around having fun and adults going about their daily business. Thus we wound up on top of the small ridge behind the village for a great look back – the view reached all the way to the edge of the upper valley where we had begun the day’s journey, Ghoda Tabela.
For a while the path continued between fields and farmhouses, all the way until the village of Singdum. We took our lunch there – a hearty bowl of noodle soup – as the clouds began drifting lower and lower. The sun had been hidden since Langtang, but the initially light overcast had been steadily taking on a more menacing look and now the clouds were almost grazing the ground as they sped past us. A light drizzle began to fall.
After Singdum the trail turned rocky again. There were no more villages or teahouses between there and Kyanjin Gumba, other than a few abandoned looking karaks and a solitary prayer wheel turning over a tiny stream. There were no more trees to give protection from the growing wind and rain – I was only grateful that the wind was from behind, saving us from having to fight it on the uphill. Kyanjin Gumba still required a 500m ascent. The only other living things around were yaks and a pair of exhausted porters.
We reached Kyanjin Gumba shortly before sundown. Fortunately the drizzle remained a drizzle, though the clouds had now enveloped everything and visibility was down to about 100m. Thanks to a bright white stupa we first found the Kyanjin monastery. From there a path took us past the cheese factory and the bakery down to the guesthouses. We found the sister (indeed a complete lookalike) and delivered the mint which was accepted with great thanks. Immediately we got lodged into a comfortable room and after a quick shower (unfortunately in less than warm water) we decided to explore the bakery. There we remained for the rest of the evening, munching chocolate cake with tea and listening to the owner tell the story of how he started the place and learned to be a baker.
Outside the wind was howling in foggy, cloudy darkness. Inside, around the fireplace, was cosy and warm.