Gosainkund & Helambu – day 6

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

Chisopani 2165 – Sundarijal 1460m

Last day. I’d bus to Kathmandu from Sundarijal, the end of the Helambu.

Up before dawn again.

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Pot of milk coffee on the hotel roof.

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The Helambu finishes with a walk through Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, established 2002.

The trails have been recently improved. That means stairs, stairs, stairs.

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And some trenches.

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There are brief glimpses of the high peaks all the way to the capital.

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I was feeling pretty mellow, my long trek ending. It had been a success.

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What would the world do without Peruvian potatoes?

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It’s a bit surreal walking back into civilization.

sidewalks?

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Here’s one of the main water supplies of Kathmandu.

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You can’t get lost finishing if you follow the water pipe.

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I got lost.

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Finally, a local musician pointed me the right direction to the bus park.

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One of the finest Tibetan artists in the world sat down beside me. How about that? He and his wife were on the way to Sikkim, India for a big commission. He’d have between 40-60 artist assistants on the project.

It took about an hour to get back to Kathmandu by bus, far better than the 7 ½ hours it had taken to get started.

The Army was using scissors to cut the grass on the main square. Very Gandhi.

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The crappy streets of Thamel were being paved. :-)

roller

What’s going on?

Nothing is ever fixed in Kathmandu.

Ah ha. A few days after I quit Nepal, there’s a major international forum in Nepal. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. I’m happy to get away before that happens.

In the afternoon I relished in the best travel bargain in Asia, a Nepali barber shave. Smooth as a baby.

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I finished the Helambu with a Korean couple who I’d been with on and off for the past 13 days. They are Himalayan fanatics, this being their 3rd major trekking holiday. They took me to their favourite Korean restaurant, Festival.

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Cost of this meal was about $5.

Crazy good value. Better than anywhere in Korea. The chef had lived their 14yrs and was fluent in language and cooking. :-)

see all my high resolution photos from this day

day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | day 5 | day 6 | info | … Langtang

Gosainkund & Helambu – day 5

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

Mangengoth 3420m – Chisapani 2165

Though I struggled to wake in time, I did walk back up to the Green View viewpoint for dawn.

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This morning the teahouse owner led the trip up to point out all the mountains from Annapurna to Everest. In fact, this might be the very best of many famed Himalayan viewpoint hills.

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This same owner told the story of a big stupa near Phedi. One like this.

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He’d been commissioned to build it in 1992 by the family of a young Japanese man who’d been killed when a Thai Airlines plane crashed into the mountain.

I talked most to 3 young Germans just starting their adventure, hiking the opposite direction. (The wrong way.)

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One keener was planning to cycle from Munich to the Rio Olympics.

This day I got on the trail as quickly as possible. I had a long, long way to go to get to the famed viewpoint of Chisapani, a hill station popular with residents of Kathmandu.

It looked pretty easy on the map. Long but mostly downhill. Unfortunately Nepali down = equal ups and downs.

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Quite quickly I was back in summer. Rice was still being harvested!

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The ridge walk went on and on.

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I stopped only twice this day, once here for lunch.

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My dogs were barking.

Down. Down.

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The sun was failing. I was worried. Late in the afternoon there’s nobody left on the trail.

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Exhausted, I finally stumbled up hill in the dark to the relatively luxurious lodges of Chisapani 2165m. You should never hike the Himalayas in the dark. I’d done it 3 times so far this trip!

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see all my high resolution photos from this day

Gosainkund & Helambu – day 4

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

Gopte 3439m – Mangengoth 3420m

Good morning Gopte.

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Nepali toilets are as unsanitary as any in the world. I walked past down the mountain past this one to do my business.

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There’s a strange and popular instrument here, called the sarangi, with a carved dragon? head. Something like a fiddle. But with only 4 strings. Nepali Bluegrass. :-)

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Starting out today late, I’m happy to be still above the clouds. :-)

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Have you ever seen frost like this? Like hair?

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Nobody talks about distance in the Himalaya, only elevation change. Today I dropped only 19m, my easiest day yet. I wanted a rest after the exhausting day over the Pass.

I stopped for lunch at Thatepati, the only hiker to do so that day. It’s a little off the beaten track.

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Egg Veg Noodle soup, my usual.

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High on a ridge, the owner had to make several trips down a day carrying up barrels of water. The Helambu trail is mostly on a ridge. And there’s not much water available on ridges.

Hotel Green View, Mangengoth came highly recommended. And it was worth the stopover.

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One of the best viewpoints in Nepal is a 25min climb from the guest house. My first thought was to tent up there, to see both sunset and sunrise. The Green View owner (who looked ex-military) and another guide both felt that was a bad idea. I deferred to their judgement. Even hiking independently you get a lot of smothering advise in Nepal.

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I walked down in the dark.

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see all my high resolution photos from this day

Gosainkund & Helambu – day 3

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

Gosankund 4380m – Gopte 3439m

My toughest day in the Himalaya 2014. Up and over the Lauribina Pass 4,610m.

I’d not slept well, getting out of bed 4 times during the night to check the auspicious full moon over sacred Gossankund lake.

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In fact, myself and an Israeli guy had hoped to (early morning) follow a guided group up the popular trekking peak called Surya (Sun) 5145m.

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He was worried that no guided groups were scheduled. And he was right. Later we learned that there is too much snow and ice at the top. Guides were not going up right now.

First light a chopper landed.

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They were evacuating a lady, altitude sick. She looked in rough shape. Could barely walk.

Cost would be something under $10,000. Hopefully paid by insurance.

The chopper crew all rushed to Gosainkund to collect holy water and take selfies. It was this water that Shiva once drank to quench his thirst after having been poisoned.

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So … instead of an extra day scrambling Surya, I headed towards the Pass with everyone else.

There are 108 lakes in this area, actually. You pass a series of them on the trail. They should be frozen by now, but are not.

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Laurabina Pass 4610m

Laurabina Pass 4610m

For some reason I found this day very, very tough. The Pass was fine. But the long descent to Gopte was taxing.

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On the bright side, I saw a rarely spotted Red Panda en route. Surprising him on the trail itself, he jumped uphill instantly. Then, happily for me, dashed back across the trail downhill. It’s a tiny beast with a huge, unmistakable tail. Two distinct colours.

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But I was a bit of a wreck arriving Gopte 3439m, early in the afternoon.

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I went straight to bed in order to prevent chills.

Happily, I awoke just in time for one of the best and strangest sunsets. People compared this sunset with the best they’d ever seen.

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My preference is to eat as late as possible. This evening, however, chatting with an adventurous couple from Rocky Mountain House, I waited too long. The kitchen shut down about 8pm.

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I begged a chance to join in the Dal Baht feed with the porters and guides, only the second time I’ve ever got the chance to eat with them. It’s not done in the Himalaya. :-)

see all my high resolution photos from this day

Gosainkund & Helambu – day 2

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

Foprang Danda 3190m – Gosankund 4380m

Enjoying my morning coffee in paradise.

Rick Coffee

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The Lodge owner walked me out to a shortcut trail through the haunted forest, skipping Sing Gompa, saving perhaps an hour. Since I was already acclimatized for altitude from the Langtang trek of the previous week, the faster I got high, the better.

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Mountain vistas got better and better. The Ganesh Himal is impressive. These peaks are rarely climbed.

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Cholangpati village 3600m is impressive. Laurabina 3910m, even better.

For lunch I had local fried potatoes for the first time. With local mushrooms. Delicious.

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On one side of me was a group of loud Israelis. The other side a group of Germans. None had been born when Hitler committed genocide. I wondered how big a rift remains.

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Up. Up. Up.

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I love hiking above the clouds. :-)

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Ganesh greeted me.

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I knew I must be getting close to Gosainkund, the lakes sacred to Buddhist and Hindu. Pilgrims flock here during monsoon, braving leeches, floods and landslides. About 30,000 come each summer. There are places to sleep for about 300. :-(

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Sunset from Gosainkund village was spectacular. No surprise there!

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Spent most of that evening chatting with a couple of young ladies who holiday together. One from France, one from Turkey, now living in London. You meet some interesting people in the Himalaya. Especially when hiking independently and solo.

see all my high resolution photos from this day

Gosainkund & Helambu – day 1

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

Syabrubesi 1500m – Foprang Danda 3190

To the sacred Gosainkund lakes. :-)

I’d just finished an 8-day trek of the Langtang valley, finishing in Syabrubesi.

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While enjoying my room in the the BIG city of “Beshi” after 8 days deprivation on the Langtang trek, I got a knock on the door in the morning asking me to check out by 9am.

I hung around the dining room, using the slow wifi after 8 days without internet.

One MORE hot shower, then I crossed the bridge out of Syabrubesi once again and, once again, started climbing up the Langtang gorge. It was (almost) the same start as Langtang trek 9 days earlier.

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school

school

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garbage removal

garbage removal

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In the forest I ran into a guy hacking away at a live tree. For no reason I could see. Nearby was a stack of human faeces.

His?

Perhaps he’s a village idiot.

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I stopped for lunch at Thulo, a beautiful location.

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Salty veg, egg, noodle soup.

What else?

Climbing again after lunch was a challenge. It was tempting to stay for the evening.

This is a rich farming valley. At this altitude, harvest was on.
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Though there are many more Hindus on this trek than on Langtang, it’s still primarily Tibetan Buddhist.

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Happily, views got even better the higher I climbed.

This route is empty compared to Langtang. There is far less litter on the trail.

My goal was the lodges at Foprang Danda, reputed to have fantastic views.

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Hotel Sunset View view.

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I was the only guest at both lodges that evening, most everyone else continuing to Sing Gompa, which has no great views.

I spent the night chatting with the lodge owner and his wife. And playing with their little dog, Tommy. Their two kids were away at boarding school in Syabrubesi.

No solar powered lights in this lodge. Only candles.

The owner called his brother, “Bishal Sherpa”, a guide, and arranged for him and I to meet next evening. We’d talk about a future possible trek on the Tamang Heritage Trail, a much promoted new route.

Nice.

see all my high resolution photos from this day

I saw a Red Panda

About an hour down from Gopte 3439m, on the Helambu Trail in Nepal. :-)

The red panda (Ailurus fulgens), also called lesser panda and red cat-bear, is a small arboreal mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and south-western China that has been classified as vulnerable by IUCN as its wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 mature individuals. The population continues to decline and is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression …

The red panda is slightly larger than a domestic cat. It has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs. It feeds mainly on bamboo, but is omnivorous and also eats eggs, birds, insects, and small mammals. It is a solitary animal, mainly active from dusk to dawn, and is largely sedentary during the day. …

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I saw mine in the middle of the day. I surprised it, walking up the trail quietly.

It dashed uphill, instantly out of sight. Then sprinted back across the trail downhill. It looked tiny. Mostly tail. Two distinct colours.