The Langtang Trek
Beyond the spiritual aspect of Nepalese cities with their numerous temples and places of worship, I feel more and more tempted by the transcendental vision for which men dedicated their life, sometimes even sacrificing it. The carriers of this vision are recognized by their massive stature and bad character and called Himalayas. They have become the object of my desire.
The trek starts from Saphru Bensi early in the morning. The first steps are the most difficult. It has been a long time since I moved my old rusty bones and the fifteen kilograms on my back do not help. I am about to lose all hope of success after barely an hour walk inside the jungle. The sadistic path is made of ups and downs which gives me the bad impression of stagnating at the same altitude again and again. Hopefully the trek diversifies with its lot of surprises: porters weighed down under the weight of their load, mule-drivers and their mules, and spruce tourists coming back with a smile on their face whereas behind them a man carrying all their bags is breathing like hell (which kind of irritates me). “If they succeed, even without carrying their bags, there is no way I can fail!” do I say to myself, sheltered in an inner world where temperature is fresh and food is based on potatoes and melted cheese.
I am crossing various kinds of landscapes, going from jungle to a pine wood soothed by the sound of cicadas, from the pine wood to a mountain forest made of moss covered conifers. After having walked for nine hours I decide to rest in one of the numerous lodges sheltering trekkers and porters on their way to the next village, providing us beds and good hot meals.
I wake up in the early morning with fresh mind and body, amazed by the vision of the massive Langtang Lirung from which a huge quantity of snow is blown away by strong winds. The show is gorgeous and gives me the necessary strength to continue. Little by little I then reach the altitude of 3000m. From now on I will not climb more than 300m a day because of the risk of altitude sickness. I really do not want to compromise this trip because of this. I reach the cozy little village of Langtang after a few hours. Stone houses, yaks and Tibetan people that “naturally” migrated some centuries ago make this place look like we are actually in Tibet.
I am in the middle of a valley, blown by the constant wind striking every afternoon. Mountains summits start to show up and provoke me. Unfortunately it would not be careful to continue today. Then, after a fresh night in the village I can continue the trek. Little by little, the snowy summits unfold and I become trustful. Now I feel convinced that, if the mountain sickness does not show up, I will succeed.
After a few hours I then reach the final step, the last place where one can find a bed and some food, the (also Tibetan) village of Kyanjin Gumba. Unfortunately weather at this altitude is untamable and limits greatly photographic opportunities. Here you have to be a morning person as sky gets covered and wind starts to blow before noon. So I begin to climb the last steep that will lead me to the 4700m during the night, soon along with the show of the sun rising over Langtang Lirung. A vision that is now carved in my memory.
The slope is steep, the air dry, and every single step can be felt. My heart is pounding widely but I feel good, my mind being focused on one single goal: reach this summit up there, which seems so far away … The last steps are the easiest, the mind being already arrived, the body naturally following it. The view over the snowy mountains surrounded by a glacier is gorgeous and a reward worthy of the efforts provided so far. Sun is already hot and wind almost inexistent. This is a good moment to sit down and contemplate the frequent avalanches shaking the white summits which low and muffled sound gives thrills.
Wind starting to appear it is now time to go back to the village and enjoy a good hot meal cooked in the traditional wood oven. It is unbelievable how food is better in the mountains! :)
I decide to enjoy a last moment in this charming place before starting the way back to Saphru Bensi. There I have the chance to meet these two little Tibetan girls with grubby hair and red cheeks, result of the harsh climatic conditions. I spend a great moment photographing and playing with them. “Ramrooooo! Ramrooooo! Ramrooooo!” (“Niiiiice! Niiiiice! Niiiiice!“). After every single photo I made of them they seem delighted. This is the last reward offered by this village that already gave me so much in such a few time.
I cross the path in the opposite way. It takes me half the time it took to climb up. Here, I meet again some porters carrying their cumbersome loads weighting more than them along these sinuous paths. I am fascinated. How can they do this? Furthermore without being really bothered by altitude! They really deserve their reputation.
Step after step, rocks and mountains give place to forests, then to jungle in which infinite marijuana fields would probably make some of you dream for eternity. Before arriving, I experience a strange and funny misadventure. Crossing the way of a group of Tibetan women walking from a village to another, as you can often see in this area, I stop on the side in order to let them pass. One of her, in her late forties, comes to me, put her hand between my legs and asks “Heavy? Heavy?”. At this exact moment, I have no idea what to answer. This is the last thing I would have thought of! Then she goes away and continues to walk, laughing, as well as her friends… I have no other choice than to also laugh on my side. That will amuse me during the last kilometers I am crossing, nostalgic, along the track that leads me to the starting point of the Langtang trek, Saphru Bensi.
* While this post is being published, I must be somewhere around the Annapurna mountain range. Himalayas got the better of me, I have had no choice but to come back! ;)