18, 2011 was the official start date of the Langtang trek. We had a relatively short day trekking from Dhunche to Thulo Syaphru, 2250 m. It was such a change from the incessant climbing of stone steps at Annapurna that I thought wow this is going to be easy! It was much more vegetated and the trails seemed much more like the trails we have at home. It was a very pleasurable and relaxing hike. I had another interesting experience when I passed through an army checkpoint exiting Dhunche. The guide and porter had gotten ahead of me so I passed through the checkpoint on my own. I was stopped by an army guard with a rifle who spoke quite good English. He asked me where I was from and what I did for a living. Upon hearing that I was a physician from Canada he started to tell me about his life and his wish to come to Canada. He was insistent that I help him achieve this goal. He said he had six more years of military service but then would be thrilled to come to Canada to be my personal secretary! I related this story subsequently to a very humorous Scottish woman I met later on during the trek who at that time asked me ” was there anything in your manner that led him to believe that you were required a secretary?”. We had a good chuckle over this. Fortunately, the guide came back and saved me from this situation, however, I could not leave until I gave him an e-mail-thank God for phony e-mail addresses.
I had a lovely evening at the Lama guesthouse in Thulo. They had the most wonderful hot shower in all of Nepal. Even in Kathmandu I did not have as hot a shower as I did at this guesthouse. The food was excellent. The owners were very friendly and obviously of Tibetan origin. This was a recurrent theme on this trek. There was a very strong Tibetan influence throughout this entire region. Obviously many Tibetans had emigrated to Nepal as Tibet is located very close to the Langtang valley.
November 19, 2011 was an extremely long trekking day. We initially lost 300 m hiking down to Bamboo, 1970 m and then steadily climbed up to our eventual destination of Langtang, 3430 m. We must have hiked about 28 kilometers and we had a cumulative elevation gain of approximately 1500 m. We arrived at Langtang after nightfall at about 5:30 PM. Our porter struggled with the distance and elevation gain but did not develop altitude sickness. At one point at the army checkpoint entering the valley at 3030 m we had to stop as our porter was not following us. We waited for about 10 minutes and then the guide went back to find him and actually took his pack and carried it. I think he was just exhausted. We were all tired that day. So much for easy trekking. We stayed at a very small guesthouse that evening that was very basic and did not provide lighting in the sleeping area. Thank God for the headlamp. We ate dinner in their actual kitchen which was a wonderful experience. I met the whole family and the very proud grandfather of a newborn granddaughter. It was very different from the ubiquitous dining halls of Annapurna. Subsequently, my guide told me that kitchen dining was a particularly unique feature of trekking in this area. I grew to love this concept. So personal and friendly.
November 20, 2011 also involved climbing but was a much shorter day as we only had to travel to Kyanjin Gumba, 3830 m. We arrived midmorning under very clear and sunny skies. It was absolutely spectacular in this area. We found ourselves surrounded by the peaks of the Langtang Himal to the north and the peaks of Kangja La and Dorje Himal to the south. There was a completely different feel to the village of Kyanjin as opposed to Annapurna Base Camp. I felt completely relaxed here and even though we probably had as many guesthouses and trekkers it was much more spread out and seemed quieter. It was on this day that I finally let go of any disappointment I had of not reaching Everest and simply immersed myself in this wonderful area. In the afternoon we did a relatively steep climb to a viewpoint near Kyanjin Ri and got up to our high point of approximately 4300 m. The views were even more spectacular from this viewpoint. We were the only ones up there and we had a brilliant diamond blue sky overhead with white Himalayan peaks bright enough to hurt the eye when you looked at them. I felt so relaxed I was able to set up the tripod and hopefully get a good panorama photograph of the Langtang Himal. Fantastic! The guesthouse was wonderful and we met a wonderful Dutch fellow, a French couple, a lovely young American woman and three Irish individuals so the evening was full of wonderful conversation and cards. What a fantastic day.
November 21, 2011 was again a massive trekking day as we descended from Kyanjin all the way down to Landslide at approximately 1900 m. We had an extremely fast pace and I must admit I was somewhat exhausted at the end of this day. We again stayed at a very quiet guesthouse in Landslide, in fact, I was the only guest. I did start to develop a worsening of the cough I had in Bhutan. Would it effect the subsequent trek?