For PDF, CLICK HERE
Yo Gaadi Gurje Bhanjyang Jaancha?
The Battar-Badam Confusion
Bideshi haru ni dherai desh ko hune raicha hai?
Five Quintal vegetables
The Tube Something
No Permits, No one to make permits
The Noodle soup
The Early Morning Walk
Dui feet samma ta hidna sakincha
The Drowned Grandfather
Struggling Through the Snow
Slipping down the Ice
The Chilled Beer
The Mystery of the Mud on the Jacket
Getting down to Syafru Besi
No buses, No Jeeps
The beer and the Mystery of the wet bag
A week after I returned back from Annapurna Base Camp trek, I got another assignment. This time I was supposed to go to Langtang. I had been to Langtang back in February of 2013. Much has changed since then, the devastating Earthquake of 2015 had its worst effect on the Langtang valley. But the trail has opened up again, and I had been thinking about going there soon. It was going to be one good trek, filled with memories from 2013 which in itself was an amazing trek.
The plan was to head off to Dhunche on Friday, then a quick detour to Gosaikunda and we’d drop off to Thulo Syafru and then head off to Langtang Valley. Gosakunda came in as an add-in on the trip. Abhishek decided to go with me, he hadn’t been to Gosaikunda so we added that one the list. The plan to leave Friday was cancelled with the so called “Banda”. So we decided to leave on Saturday. By the evening of Friday it had started to rain like crazy in Kathmandu, right when we were off to buy the ticket we got drenched in rain from top to bottom. Who’d have known that the rain wouldn’t just be limited to Kathmandu, well we knew but we just brushed it aside as “Just one day of rain”. As I woke up at around 4:30 it was still raining outside, I was too lazy to look out of the window but I could hear the drumroll of rain drops outside.
“Okay! Now this could be a problem” I thought to myself, but as long as it stopped raining after few hours for at least 1 hour, by the time I reached Bus Park, I’d be in a bus and it wouldn’t be much of a problem. Just to be sure I checked the weather app on my phone. It said, it would rain all day long in Dhunche but by 3:30 it would partly stop, that would have been great for us!
“The trip is still on!”
Yo gaadi Gurje Bhanjyang jaancha?
Being late- that is my thing, for this trip, I wanted to be on time so left home pretty early, only to realize 10 minutes later that there was another “Banda” called by Biplab! There were very few microbuses on the road and it took a very long time for me to get one. I was hoping to catch a microbus that went directly to Machchapokhari but then I was in a hurry and decided to change two microbuses. The problem with getting on a microbus with a 60 liter trekking bag is that the conductor wants you to put your bag on the roof of the microbus, but I am very forgetful and have forgotten the bag in many instance so I don’t like doing that. Even though the conductor insisted on putting the bag on the roof, I decided and carried it in front of me instead. Crouched inside the small microbus with a big bag pack ahead of me, I was struggling to look out of window to see where we had reached, the microbus was full and the conductor didn’t care to pick or drop anyone off, or at least no one dropped off that early. Pushing the hands of a guy right in front of me, I looked out of the window and saw the walls of Australian Embassy. Almost there!
“Chakrapath waari cha?” The conductor cried out loud
“Chakrapath pari chha!!!” I replied, in unison with few others inside the microbus. Pushing myself off the crowd I came out of the micro paid the conductor and headed off to another side of the road to catch a microbus to Machchapokhari.
Thankfully, the microbus driver was in a hurry just like me, he speeded off, in no time I reached Machchapokhari.
The bus was supposed to leave at 7:10 Am, strange right? But yeah, 7:10 Am. By the time I reached the buspack Abhishek was already there so we decided to eat something and then headed off to the bus. The one problem that always exists in the “Pasang Lhamu Bus service” is multiple tickets issued for the same seat. As soon as we entered the bus we realized that there were already two foreigners sitting on our seats.
Excuse me! That’s our seat! I said
The guys, looked at each other’s face with surprise, but said nothing!
Can I see your ticket? There must be some mistake! This is our seat.
The foreigner called his guide, the guide who was sitting on the front seat looked back.
This is our seat, I repeated and showed him our ticket. Can I see yours?
The guide pulled out their ticket and it said “A B C” which was clearly the front seats. It was just an honest mistake. One the confusion was clear the duo apologized and switched to their seats.
Must be Germans! I thought! There was no doubt that they were father and son, and the father had definite European look. Later I found out that they were Danish.
Few minutes had gone and we were seated on the bus waiting for the driver to start the bus. We were right on the front end of the door. Seat number B3 and B4. We were talking about something and then was interrupted by a foreigner at the door.
He said something in some language that I didn’t understand!!
Sorry, I said, this time I was hoping to pay attention. But then I realized he was actually speaking Nepali!! May be I wasn’t expecting it and it just went off my head, but I didn’t even understand Nepali at that time. It was still confusing for few seconds.
“Yo gaadi Gurje Bhanjyang jaancha?” he said with pretty decent Nepali accent and fluency.
Strangely, I replied back to him in English!
“I’m not sure, you can ask the conductor or the drive, they must be somewhere around here”
“Kaha jaane gaadi ho yo?”
That time I replied to him in Nepali, no way in sane world would I talk to a foreigner in English when he was talking to me in Nepali.
“Dhunche jaane gaadi ho” I replied
“Eh dhanyabaad” He was gone!
What just happened? Did I talk to a foreigner in English who was talking in fluent Nepali? Strange!! My thoughts were interrupted by the engine of the bus which had no roared to life.
“There’s a strike today so you have to take the upper road” someone yelled to the driver from outside. By upper road he meant the one through Ranipauwa, the lower road being Galchi-Trishuli route. The last time I was there, few sections of the road was under construction but I had no idea what was about come. I knew the road section till Mudkhu was pretty bad, but even the section after that was in similar condition.
There was a landslide somewhere along the road may be because of the rain. An excavator was pulling its way through the mud and throwing it off to the hill right above the road. What seemed like a few minutes work later turned out to about 45 minutes long, we were stuck in the middle of the road just like that as the excavator was ploughing its way through the mud. Finally the road was cleared and less than 10 minutes into the journey right around the corner a school bus was stuck on the way, which again had to be dragged with a help of a dozer. But the one after Ranipauwa was out of this world.
The bus stopped at Jurethum for the lunch, usually they would stop at Dhunge for the lunch but we were already too late so they decided to stop at Jurethum. I was basking in the sun after the lunch and saw few kids playing on the road and funnily enough the toys they had were Dozers and Excavators. Ha! It was funny in some sense, may be the kids want to play with whatever they see around their place. It’s all about Excavators.
Life in the Dozer lane, eh?
It looked like road expansion gone wrong, the muddy road and the overnight rain meant the road was extremely slippery.A quick turn about 50 meters and then another truck was stuck, it took at least 30 people to push it off to a mudless place. While doing so the bus we were got stuck as well, it was all about getting stuck. The road from there onwards was extremely bad, I was just hoping that we would cross the Tadi river soon and from there onwards the road would be good. We did cross Tadi river without stopping, Finally! Just when I was rejoicing in the thoughts of having left the worse part of the road behind, a huge landslide and a mud laden road had found yet another victim, a truck and a bus. Sigh! It was well over 30 minutes before the bus started moving again. From there onwards there wasn’t much trouble on the way for a long time.
The Battar-Badam confusion
Finally the bus was on a roll, hitting maximum speed. The straight road of Trishuli passing the intersection to Devighat and straight ahead. We are going to reach Dhunche in time, I thought to myself.
“We need to drop off the Badam (Peanuts) somewhere around here, around some chicken farm” the bus staff said to the driver.
Both of them had no idea where to drop it off, but the drive stopped near a shop which looked like a chicken farm. The staff opened the door and asked few bystanders “Badam ho Badam?”
The woman on the road nodded her head
The staff returned to the bus and started carrying this massive sacks of peanuts, 4 of them. It was huge, it had occupied the whole of central passage way. Finally when the staff had managed to squeeze through all of the sacks down on the road, he started asking for the money!
Who will pay for these? He asked
Bewildered at his questions, the woman replied “how would I know?”
“Isn’t this your stuff?”
No! It’s not mine, the woman replied
Then why did you say it was yours when I said, “Badam ho Badam!”
I thought you said, Batar ho Batar, and I need to go to Batar!!!
Ha! The staff wasn’t even angry, he started laughing, may be at himself. The whole bus erupted in laughter. The driver went out of the bus because he knew that the staff would need a hand to carry all those sacks.
Finally the sacks were loaded back into the bus and we were on the move, few minutes into the road and we reached the chicken farm, this time the right one!
“BADAM” tapai ko ho? This time the staff was careful while asking
“Ho mero ho” the woman replied moving towards the bus.
The sacks were unloaded again, the bus was on the move again.
Badam ho bhanda battar ho sunnchan maanche! The staff said while entering the bus and laughed it off.
“Let’s go to Badam” he cracked a joke!
Bideshi haru ni dherai desh ko hune raicha hai?
The bus had finally caught of momentum, we were climbing up the hill to Kalikasthan, we had just cross the bridge at Betrawati and entered Rasuwa district. Everyone was relaxed after all the hectic bus ride up to Dhunge. The woman in front of me was talking to the guide of the foreigners, the same foreigners who were in our seats in the morning.
“Bau chhora hun ini haru? (Are they father and son?)
Yes they are! The guide replied.
“Kaha bata aaeka hun? Bideshi haru ni dherai desh ko hune raicha hai?
The guide laughed and replied, Yes different foreigners are from different countries. These guys are from Denmark
My first assumption was that they are definitely European but I had thought they were Germans but I was wrong.
The woman went on to explain her theory on why the foreigners travel to cold and high altitude places. After she completed her theory she asked the guide if they can reach high altitude without any difficulties.
The guide replied “Sakena bhane chil gaadi le bokcha”
Chil gaadi being Helicopter!
Five Quintal Vegetables
We had crossed the check point at Kalikasthan and almost reached Ramche, a small jeep filled with vegetables was in front of us. On one of the sections along the road, the jeep too some time to cross the muddy slipper road, the staff offered a preposition “Load your vegetables on our bus and return from here, it might be hard for your vehicle” The jeep driver declined and pushed his way up the puddles and mud.
About half an hour or so later, right around the corner near Grang on a small uphill, the jeep was struggling to climb up, alas it had to give up, and it could go no further. And then the driver came to our bus and requested the driver to drop off the vegetables at Timure.
“Kati cha tarkaar?” The staff asked
The jeep driver replied “Five Quintal”
Five Quintal? Now we have to wait again till they load 5 quintal of vegetable on the bus? I looked at my watch and it was almost 3 pm. We would be able to reach Deurali even if we reached Dhunche by 4:30 so it wasn’t a big problem! I hope they hurry up!!
I have no idea how long it took but it did take a very long time to load up the vegetables. I swear we had travelled for less than 4 hours but we had stopped for twice that time! We left Machchapokhari at 7:30 and it was already 3:30 and we hadn’t still reached Dhunche!!
The Tube Something
Just when I thought we would reach Dhunche soon enough, my hope exploded with a sound of a large hiss, as if air escaping out of a tire that just drove over a large nail. At first I thought it was a puncture, but it wasn’t. A puncture would have been solved easily, I’m not even sure what it was but the driver and the staff were saying there was a leak in the tube, something of the tube. The bus staff was under then bus right on the side of the front tire, the right one and apparently there was a leak.
They first sealed it off with a black tape, the driver started the bus and few seconds later there was the same sound, the sound of air leaking off something! I have no idea what it was but it was definitely something! Hence, The Tube something!
I looked at my watch and it was almost 5 now and the staffs were nowhere close to making it work, they were looking for a tube or something to seal off the pipe, but they didn’t find anything. Someone had the “Eureka” moment and yelled out loud “A condom would work” The bus staff hurriedly started asking around for a condom, but sadly no one in the bus had one, or they just didn’t want to give it. Few minutes later, a truck game in, the truck that goes to the Tibet border-Kerung. Luckily the driver had one and gave it to him, ecstatically the staff returned to the bus, only two realize few minutes later that it didn’t work as well. He had sealed it off but as soon as the driver started the engine it leaked again!
That means we will have to stay at Dhunche today! I thought to myself.
No Permits, No one to make permits
We were 1 kilometers away from Dhunche, it was around 5:30 by the time they repaired the bus, they had to cut the pipe and insert a new socket, but they had finally managed it and were had reached the army check post at Dhunche. The whole area was covered in mist and not even the check post was visible even though we were just around 100 meters apart.
It would take some time at the check post, well because of the checking and of course the trekking permits of the foreigners, there were 4 of them, the Danish father-son and two others. But the assumption was it would only take few minutes, funnily enough the guide didn’t care to make the permits at Kathmandu, and they had to make one there, and the problem was there was no one at the check point to make the permit. No one had idea on when the person was going to come!
Dhunche was just 1km away and we were too hungry to stay in the bus forever, so we decided to walk.
The Noodle Soup
Every time I am in Dhunche, I stay at the same hotel, well actually there are 3 hotels that I have stayed in and for the last 5 visits I have been staying in the same one. This time around I headed for the same one as well.
At the hotel we dropped our bags and headed off to the Dhunche bazar, well it’s not so much of a Bazar but we had to eat something and buy few things for the road as well. Down the road from the hotel, there’s this small local hotel where I had a good noodle soup the last time I was there, so I went there again. A small stair and you end up on what was supposed to be the front porch of the house, now turned into a small hotel with partition of steel.
“Can we get two cup of black tea and two bowl of noodle soup?”
“Yes of course” replied the hotel owner.
I guess she was the same person who was there last time around, she made a very good noodle soup, that is why I had walked all the from the hotel where I was staying to the small hotel for just a noodle soup. We both sat down, and right at that time the steel roof of the hotel started roaring out in the melody of the raindrops.
Shit! It’s raining again! I hope it won’t rain tomorrow morning!! We have a long way to go and it would be pain in the back to walk in the rain.
Can you also put some eggs on the noodle? Abhishek said, completely tucked inside his hat, a muffler wrapped around his nose, the only visible thing on his face were his eyes.
Two foreigners entered the hotel, smiled at us and asked the hotel owner
“What food do you have?”
Unable to understand the question, the woman looked toward us.
We turned into a translator for a while, but it’s a small shop and she only had noodle soup. They wanted Daal-Bhaat and she said it would take a while to cook it so they thanked the lady and left.
Before too long we were sipping the warm cup of tea as the roof of the hotel still rocked against the heavy raindrops. The noodle was almost ready, the lady was pouring it down on the bowl. We both were hungry like crazy, we had the morning lunch at Jurethum and since then all the stops in between and getting stuck in the middle of the road was tiring and we were extremely hungry.
The noodle soup wasn’t as good as it was last time but as the proverb says “Bhok mitho ki bhojan”.
It was raining as we left the hotel, drenched in the rain we had to walk back to the hotel which was about 4-5 minutes’ walk. On the way we stopped to get some supplies, it was late, 7 pm I think. Most of the shops were almost closed, there’s this wholesale shop where I buy all the stuff every time I am in Dhunche.
Quickly changed the clothes and jumped inside the bed, the T.V was on, it had taken the hotel staff about 10 minutes to open it so we had decided to leave it open, just in case. I switched through the remote hopelessly without finding a good show or anything to watch. Finally I gave up, got back to my phone, I had enough Ncell data to spend.
About 45 minutes later, as I realized that the charge on my phone was draining, I looked around for the power adapter of the USB, I looked around for about a minute or two but couldn’t find one. Then I turned around to Abhishek and asked him for the adapter, before I completed the sentence he told me
“I didn’t bring one! I thought you’d carry one for sure so I left mine at home” SHIT! Haha!
We had a week or so of trekking to do and we both didn’t have a charger, we ran outside to look for a shop, it was still raining, Abhishek had carried an umbrella this time but it wasn’t much help. All the shops were already closed! It was done! We would start early in the morning tomorrow so we’d not have a chance to buy it the next day! We’d have to charge everything without the adapter!!!
The early morning walk
The plan was to start early in the morning, leave the hotel at 6, but well nothing goes according to the plan, we did wake up before 6, but it took us almost 15 minutes to get off our bed. By the time we were ready and about to leave the hotel it was already 6:35 Am.
The owner of the hotel wasn’t around so we actually had to wait for about 5 minutes to check out. We left the hotel, just few minutes from the hotel, Abhishek noticed a small shop, a mobile accessories shop, open at that time in the morning. We rushed to the shop and bought the adapter, finally we didn’t have to worry about the charging problem.
The first 10-15 minutes of walk from Dhunche bazar is quite boring, the walk along the road as the village starts to get thinner and thinner, then you descend down to the river, Ghattekhola, and the trail begins.
The first time I was here, we had walked straight towards the small village, instead of descending down to the river, as there was no sign on the road. Every time I reach that place, the memories come back to me! Who knows where we would have reached if not for that old man who told us the right way.
But this time, it was my nth time and I knew exactly where to go! We started to descend down to Ghattekhola. There are few houses along the trail as we go down, a dog was sitting on the front porch of the house, as soon as we started walking down from the small ladder in front of the house the dog started following us. It’s the same wherever you go, the dogs just keep following you, it was the same in case of Annapurna Base Camp few weeks ago and I remembered that a beautiful mastiff followed me on one of my trek to Gosaikunda a year ago, it had actually followed me from Gosaikunda to Thadepati.
We were thinking about staying at Ghattekhola to drink a cup of tea, but the tea-houses were closed. The only option now was the small hotel about 40 minutes from there just below Deurali. We started climbing up the hill with the dog following us. The most tiring part of the Gosaikunda trail for most of the people has to be the trail up to Chandanbari from Ghattekhola.
Right when we started climbing up the trails, the dog ran with full speed towards the hill, I saw something move in the ground, at first I couldn’t make anything out of the object but later as the animal moved into the open space I realized that it was a Yellow Throated Marten. It’s good to trek when the traffic is low, you get to see tons of animals. Just few minutes into the trails and we saw two Kalij pheasants.
With the trail climbing up, the temperature gradually started to go up as well, it was getting hotter and hotter with time. In about 45 minutes time we reached small tea-house. We ordered two cup of tea and two coconut biscuits.
“Heading off to Gosaikunda?” the hotel owner asked
“Yes” Abhishek replied
“People are saying that there’s too much of snow up there?” I added
“Yes! They say that there’s over 3 feet of snow at Lauribina, a group of tourist and one group of Nepali guys returned from Cholangpaty yesterday. People say that foreigners are stuck at Gosaikunda for few days, they can’t come down because of the snow.
We both looked at each other in disbelief. But we decided to go up to Chandanbaari, only at Chandanbari would we have the idea about the trail. In situation like that it’s better to return than to get stuck for few days at place like Gosaikunda. But still we had to try, so we started climbing up to Deurali.
The dog followed us…
As we left the tea-house behind, about 10 minutes later or so, we saw the first snow on the trail. Just a small patch on the broken branch of some tree. I picked it up and it was very soft as if it was fresh snow, from last night, I thought to myself. From there onwards the coverage of the snow started getting more and more. Right on the brink of the hill just below Deurali, the dog saw something below the hill and rad at the speed of sound. Abhishek saw something move in the forest below, “Definitely a mammal of some sort” Abhishek said, still gazing at distance into the thick of the forest.
Right then a loud screeching noise came from the same spot.
“Did the dog catch whatever it was after?”
The sound predominantly resembled the cry of a dog, but it seemed as if it had caught something. A Marten again? May be!
“Seems like it caught whatever it was running after, but it surely sounds like a dog” I said
“May be it did catch another small dog?” Abhishek replied
We started walking up the hill to Deurali. Just one small hill and we’d be there, I told Abhishek, I know the trails like back of my hand. And just like I had said we reached Deurali within few minutes. We rested there for a while, the old woman from the tea-house in Deurali said tha same thing, it’s better to return and come back later, there’s too much of Snow.
“How about Langtang? Do you think it’s possible to reach Kyanjing?” I asked
“Khoi Kyaanjin ta jhan lek ma ho, ke jana sakiela ra”
Technically, Gosaikunda (4830 meters) would have to be more “Lek” than Kyanjin (3870 meters), but I guess she said so because Kyanjin lies further north from where we were.
“Babu haru kaha samma jaane?” She asked
“Jana ta Gosaikunda bhanera hideko, tara heram k huncha” Abhishek said
“Esto bela ta nagaekai thik” the old woman suggested
“Tei ta! Chandanbari samma pugchhau ani bichaar garchhau” I replied
Just when we were about to resume our walk, we saw the dog!
That is when we learned what that screeching sound came from.
The dog, at about 15 meters far from us was limping off towards us. That sound was actually the dog crying as he hurt its leg! Poor guy! No wonder the sound felt so similar to a crying dog. He stopped at the nearby puddle and started drinking the water from there. By the time he was done, we had carried our bag and started walking already. The dog looked as us and started walking very slow.
“Stay there! Don’t come” Abhishek yelled!
The dog didn’t care, he did try to walk but after a time he gave up. As we were looking down at Deurali from a certain height, the dog looked at us as if he was saying goodbye, he looked sad. But we knew it and so did he that he couldn’t have walked with that leg!!
Dui feet samma ta hidna sakincha
The trail after Deurali was completely laden with snow. We could barely see the soil in the ground. That particular hill is kind of steep itself and the snow wasn’t helping at all. Thankfully we were the first one to walk so it wasn’t that slippery. We had left Deurali behind and it wasn’t even visible below us, the thickness of the snow was growing with altitude as we went higher.
In the silence of the jungle we heard some voices, it was coming from above. After few turns we saw a group of foreigners descending down. We stopped for a while and had a small chat with them.
The guide of that group told us that there was about 2 feet of snow at chandan baari and from Cholangpaty onwards there was more than 3 feet of snow. We thanked them and started climbing up the snowy hill, this time it was slipper since those 8 people had just descended down the same trail.
Right around the next corner after we lost the sight of the foreigners, Abhishek said “Dui feet samma ta hidna sakincha”
“Haha! Sakincha mula, ek chin ma thaha huncha” I replied and we continued to walk.
And before too long it was evident, well before we had even reached Dhimsa the snow was getting thicker and thicker and the struggle was obvious. When we reached Dhimsa there was well over a feet of snow! I looked at Abhishek and said
“Dui feet samma ta sakincha” both exploding in laughter
The Drowned Grandfather
Dhimsa looked absolutely stunning, with snow all over the place. We stopped at the new tea-house in Dhimsa for a cup of tea. At the dining hall, they were heating up a large chunk of snow on the heater. We ordered two cup of tea. Just like in Deurali the hotel owner told us that it would be a bad decision to keep on continuing the trek up to Gosaikunda.
“We will go up to Chandanbari and then decide, if not we will return back to Dhunche” I replied.
“Will we return the same way?” Abhishek asked
“Yeah! We could descend down to Thulo syafru and then to syafru, but I don’t know that way” I said.
I had done this trek numerous times, I had done every single route, and there wasn’t a single route that was left except the “Chandanbari-Thulosyafru” route. It’s a well-known route among the foreigners who do the Langtang trek first and then go to Gosaikunda. But I hadn’t done it, so I was a bit skeptic about that route. If it wasn’t all covered with snow we could have done it, but then, first of all I didn’t know the way and secondly there was just too much of snow and if the trails were covered we could get lost as well. So I told that we might have to return the same way.
“How’s the trail from Chandanbari to Thulo Syarfru?” I asked the hotel owner.
A kid from inside the kitchen replied,
“People don’t usually use that way so there’s not a good trail there, plus there’s too much of snow so you might not find the way”
So that was it, I looked at Abhishek, that means we have to return the same way.
“Thank You” we paid for the tea and headed off to our destination.
A minute of walk and we were at the old hotel of Dhimsa, the one we just had tea was a new establishment, less than a year. This one was old, it was there the first time I was here, some 7-8 years ago. I had a cup of tea there at that time. Two years ago when I was there I had stayed there and bought a kilo of Yak ghee.
I saw the old woman outside the hotel.
“Namaste Aama sanchai hununcha?”
“Ah Babu sanchai” She smiled with her wrinkled up face.
“Maathi jana sakinna bhanchhan ke cha awastha?”
“Sakinna baabu ke sakinnthyo, agi baaje aaeko yaha ko, Lauribina bata jhareko 3 feet hiu maa dubera aaechha. Kasari jaanu testo ma”
I remembered that old guy from the previous trip.
3 feet of snow? That’s bad!!
“Pachi aaunus, ahile najaaunus”
“Huncha Aama bichaar garchu Chandanbaari samma pugera”
We continued up the hill, just above the house, I stopped to take a photo and realized that the top half of the house was completely submerged in snow!
Struggling Through the Snow
The trail from Dhimsa to Chandanbari was absolutely scenic, completely snow-clad, about a feet or so, at least a feet! The struggle was real, the sun was up and the snow had started melting.
“We have to return back from such a way” Abhishek was murmuring behind me.
We were talking about the options that we could take, the conversation was interrupted by a guy right in front of us. A foreigner!
“Is this the way to Syafru Besi?” He asked
“No, this is the way to Dhunche, you have to take a different trail from Chandanbari”
“Where is Chandanbari?”
I realized that Chandanbari is famous among the foreigners as Sing Gompa.
“From Sing Gompa” I repeated
“Oh! So this goes to Dhunche?” he sounded disappointed
“So you guys are coming from Dhunche?
“Yes we are” Abhishek replied “You are coming down from Gosaikunda?”
“Yes and no, I wanted to go up there but there’s just too much of snow so I wanted to go down to Syafru to wait for the snow to melt and I want to try it again. My shoe is torn pretty bad!
Both of us looked at his shoes and it wasn’t torn bad, it was as if someone put a small TNT there and it had exploded. There was no sole on the shoe and he was dragging it around on that snow laden floor.
“No worries, you can go to Dhunche from here and then you can catch a bus to Kathmandu from there was well, you don’t have to go to Syafru besi”
“No, I actually wanted to go to Langtang valley, unless you want me to go back to Kathmandu?” He joked!
“Ha! No, you can stay as long as you want!”
“What will you guys do then? Will I meet you guys in Dhunche?”
“Most probably” said Abhishek
“Yeah! Most probably, we will go up to Chandanbari and then decide, we don’t have enough time to wait for the snow to melt so we might have to head home if the condition is too bad”
“In that case, see you in Dhunche”
“See you in Dhunche”
We parted ways!
Chandanbari- one of my favorite places! For so many reason, I just love the atmosphere of that place, the location, the beautiful lodges there and an amazing view of Lauribina and the hills around Gosaikunda. And unlike other times, it looked absolutely stunning this time around, snow-clad houses, with over two feet of snow on the trails, it looked amazing!
It was cold as well and we were hungry so we headed right to the Red Panda, ordered the Daal-Bhaat and stayed in front of the heater. It would take about 10 minutes to warm everything up so we had 10 minutes to spare in front of the heater. The same story came from the staff at the hotel
“It’s too risky to go up”
And we knew they were right, and about 30 minutes later the debate was over. It started snowing at Chandanbari! So there was no point in even trying to go up, there was already more than two feet of snow and it would be madness to try going up in such condition. Going up wouldn’t be a problem, we could have reached anyways, but getting stuck up there would have been bad!
As the conversation ended, the Daal-Bhaat was ready, I love the Patanjali (Not the raamdev one, the herb Patanjali) ko achaar they sever there! After the Daal-bhaat we went to the Cheese factory to buy some cheese, a trip to Gosaikunda will definitely be incomplete without buying/eating the cheese at the cheese factory.
We paid the bill and started to go down to Dhunche, Abhishek wasn’t happy about returning back to Dhunche, because of the way! There was just too much of snow there and getting down would have been twice as hard as climbing up! But we had no choice.
I was making a small video, Abhishek had walked ahead, apparently he met few foreigners’ right at the end of the lodges, who were trying to go to Thulo Syafru, and by change two foreigners arrived at Chandanbari from that exact trail. He asked them if there was difficulty for them to find the way, they said;
“No! It’s easy! We just came and you can follow the trail”.
Abhishek was happy! And so was I!
We then, along with the three foreigners heading off to Thulo Syafru started our descent down to Thulo Syafru.
“HI! Where are you guys from?” one of the girls from the group asked us!
“We are from Nepal”, Abhishek replied
“Nepal? Woah! Are you students?”
“I am a teacher and he is a student” I replied
“Cool” She said, with excitement.
“Where are you guys from?”
“Czech Republic” She replied!
“Woah! Nice, he had actually applied for PhD there! Abhishek said, pointing towards me.
The girl looked towards me ecstatically
“PhD? Which University? On what subject?
“Zoology and University of South Bohemia” I replied
“Ceske Budejovice! Such a great place, so many beautiful castles there!”
“So I had heard”
From then onwards the conversation kept on coming.
She asked Abhishek what he was doing and he told her about his plans and PhD in Physics, she was ecstatic again!
“You guys are scientists, I am….how do you say …. HR…Human resource?”
“Human Resource Manager?” I asked!
“Yes! Yes Human Resource Manager”
She told us about all the previous trips to Nepal, this had been her third trip to Nepal. And upon knowing that Abhishek was from Gorkha she was elated again!
“I have been there before, though I don’t remember the name of the places”
That part of the trip was fun! We talked a lot about different things. The trail was spectacular as well. We took photos on the way, slipped a lot! It was fun!
Slipping Down the Ice
This was my first time on this particular trail, I hadn’t done this section previously. So I had no idea where we were headed to, I didn’t know how long it would take us to reach Thulo Syaafru, for all I knew we had been walking for over an hour and still the snow was way over 2 feet and Thulo Syafru seemed far far away.
Strangely enough, right when we got out of a jungle I saw two houses at distance. Lodges at the middle of now where, the whole area was covered with snow! It looked stunning!
The sign board said! Had never heard of a place called Phoprang on this trail! Anyways, the only way that was left to check out on my trails of Gosaikunda, and I was finally here!
The trail up to Phoprang was kind of straight from Chandanbari, but from Phoprang onwards, the trail went down steeply and it was extremely slipper, few tourist had waked that way and that made the trail even worse. A steep downhill on melted ice!
Only the forest knows how many times I slipped!
The Chilled Beer
I don’t drink, I rarely drink, usually when there’s something crazy associated with it. This time the plan was made back in Kathmandu.
“How high will we be going?” Abhishek had aksed me
“As high as 4600 meters!” I had said
“We’ve got to have a can of beer up there” He said
I agreed! That should be fun! I thought to myself.
So we had bought 4 can beers at Dhunche with hope of drinking them at Lauribina pass and Kyanjin Ri. But now that the plan had failed, we still had the beer.
“Beer khaaidium garmi bho” Abhishek said from the back!
“Okay! Done” I replied!
We decided to keep the cans inside the snow for about 5 minutes.
Five minutes later, the beer was chilled with the Snow from the Himalayas! Not sure if it was the moment or the beer itself but the beer tasted amazingly good that time.
“Seems like the water is leaking from your bag” Abhishek said
“Really?” I took out my water bottle and saw that it was full, No leak”
“May be it’s because you slipped on the Snow” Abhishek said
“Oh! That makes sense”
And it did! There was no other explanation for the wet bag and drops of liquid dropping from the back end.
We continued drinking the beer as we walked down the trail, it was still as slippery as ever and a steep downhill. The Czechs had caught up with us as we were delayed while chilling the beer on the snow.
“Beer?” The girl asked
“Yes! You want a sip?” Abhishek asked
The girl replied something in half English half Czech.
“Sorry?” Abhishek said
“Okay sure”! The girl replied, took the can from his hands and drank few sips!
“All the beers are” Abhishek replied
We stopped few times to chill the beer in different places, it tasted extremely good!
“That was fun! Let’s drink the other two back at the hotel in Syafru” Abhishek said!
Thulo-Syafru: I loved that place the first time I was there. Such a beautiful place! Finally slipping down the ice we had reached a place from where the village of Thulo-Syafru was visible, the wet mud and melted snow had replaced the thick snow of the higher hills, and it was even more slippery now. At least slipping on snow meant no dirty trousers, but slipping on mud meant super dirty trousers.
We reached a village, just few houses on the top of the hill overlooking the village of Thulo-Syaafru below. There were two small Tibetan mastiff running around the house. I had to play with them!
Cute little dogs!
We had a small conversation with the locals there, about how much snow there was on Chandanbari and how we couldn’t make it to Gosaikuknda. While in the conversation about places one of the old man asked me if I was from Dhunche!
“No! I am from Kathmandu”
“You do know lots of places around here young man!” The old man said!
“Yes! I have been to all these places!”
The Mystery of the Mud on the Jacket
We had parted ways from the village after a good and fun conversation with the locals. We had descended down considerably, at least 15 minutes I guess. While stopping for a sip of water, I realized that there was a thin line of mud on the front end of my jacket right around the chest.
“What? I don’t remember falling down! How the hell did this get on my jacket?”
It drove me crazy for more than 10 minutes, I couldn’t think of any event that could do this. Definitely not from the slipping on the snow! It has to be recent! But how?
After continually fixing up on the thought I realized that it was the dog with which I was playing that did this. The dog had climbed up my leg and ran his hand against my chest, while in attempt to lick my face. Which he couldn’t!
Getting down to Syafru-Besi
We reached Thulo-Syafru in no time, sliding of the short cuts hanging on to the trees. The place had changed quite a lot from the last time I was here, mostly due to the Earthquake. I did remember the way though, we headed down to the village, I remembered the hotel where we had noodle soup that time and went to the same place again.
We ordered two soups and headed down to Syafru-Besi.
Right when we leave the villages behind we headed off to the forest, the dense pine forest, through which we would descend down to the village of Syafru-Besi. I remembered one of the places, we had seen a Himalayan Black Bear at that place. Memories rushed back in the head when I reached that place, it was one hell of a trek back then. My first time in Gosaikunda.
The trail from Thulo-Syafru to Syafru-Besi is a fun descent down to the banks of Langtang River. You hear the roar of the Langtang River as soon as you start descending down, from there it’s a walk down a small trail into the village of Syafru-Besi. To the right of the trail, you can see the thin trail that goes to the Langtang valley. To the back, you can see the small houses at distance, the settlement of Landslide (Pahiro) on the way to Langtang.
On the way we saw to beautiful male Kalij Pheasants. And strangely and funnily enough, right near the village of Syafru-Besi on the other side of the river, on an agricultural field, I saw a flock of bird, which was thought was a flock of hens, but as I went closer I realized that it was flock of Kalij, 12 or more, they sky rocketed into the small hill under the cover of the shrubs as I went close to them.
No Buses, No jeeps!
Finally we had reached Syafru-Besi. Two suspension bridges to cross and we’d reach the main area of the village, the one with the hotels. Found a decent one, went in kept our bags in the room and headed off to the ticket counter to get the tickets.
Worse than slipping on the ice, we both slipped from an imaginary hill down to the rock bottom when the guy at the ticket counter said
“There are no buses, its holi so everyone is celebrating so there’s not a single bus at the moment! You’ll have to wait till day after tomorrow!”
“Aren’t there any jeeps” I asked
“The jeeps are occupied, there’s not a single seat left! But if something comes up I will let you know! Where are you staying?”
“Hotel Village view” The hotel was just 5 meters from the ticket counter.
“Oh! You’re right here so I will call you if something comes up”
“What if something doesn’t come up? What the hell are we going to do all day long in Syafru-Besi” I thought to myself!
We went back to the hotel and ordered a cup of tea. Even before we had completed the tea, we were called by the guy at the ticket counter.
“There’s a Jeep coming from Timure and I can get you two seats”
“GET IT!” Both of us said at once! We didn’t care where it was!
The Beer and the Mystery of the Wet Bag
Back at the hotel, we were in the room discussing the events of the day, it was just 7 pm or so, we got a knock at the door. It was the staff from the hotel, she was there to tell us that the dinner was ready!
“Who eats dinner at 7?” Abhishek exploded as we had asked her to make it ready in about 45 minutes and that we weren’t hungry at that instant. Right around 7:45 she knocked our door again, the dinner is ready, it’s getting cold! Hurry up! She said.
We had no choice! Abhishek was still murmuring!
“8 baje bhaat khuwaaune bhayo yaar”
After the dinner, which both of us couldn’t complete fully because we were full from the noodle soup we had few hours ago. We went back to our room, the Wifi was good so we were checking out twitter and talking about different stuff that were to happen about 3 4 months later.
At around 9:30 Abhishek said
“Let’s drink beer! I’ll take out the Snacks”
We had bought some snack for the beer back at Dhunche.
He came out of his blanket, took the snacks out and asked me to take the beer out.
As I grabbed my bag and opened the chain to the lower cabinet, a gust of beer smell hit my nose, and as I put my hands inside the bag! All I could feel was spilled beer and two empty can of beers lying inside the bag!
“How the hell did this happen?” I thought to myself
We looked at each other in disbelief.
“So that’s what was leaking out of your bag!” Abhishek said
“Ha! Now you wish it was water, don’t you!
We stayed there in disbelief, how could a can beer explode inside the bag just like that?
All the talks and wish of drinking the beer at the hotel at night vanished in to the atmosphere just like the diffusing smell of beer and the beer that vanished inside my bag.
We just laughed for a while and then there was nothing to do but sleep, sleep in disbelief.
What seemed like the improbable last evening when we had reached Syafru-Besi had now turned into the possible. We were waiting for the jeep, there was no need to wait another day to get the bus to Kathmandu.
The jeep was supposed to be at Dhunche at 8 am. It was 8:15 already and not even a bird had flown from Timure to Dhunce. We were both getting restless, but at about 8:20 the jeep arrived. We rushed without bag to the counter, placed our bags on the roof and then went to our seats, the last seats of Tata sumo, right behind the glass that said “Tata Sumo- Naam nai kaafi cha”.
Before too long the Jeep left Syafru-Besi, speeding off towards Dhunche. Right around the corner at the Dhunche, right after the APF check point the jeep took a sharp turn and a bike coming from Dhunche bazar didn’t see us and almost collided with the jeep.
Worst that than, the jeep nearly collided with a bus near Betrawati, but we did reach Kathmandu without any troubles.
Though we couldn’t reach Gosaikunda or Langtang valley, the trip turned out to be amazing. At times like that, when the weather isn’t clear you should really think it through before attempting. Taking risk at high altitude could be fatal. Getting stuck at Gosaikunda for few days would have been bad for so many reason, so it’s better to skip it off for later.
I picked the title of the story as “The Unexpected Journey” because well I had been to Gosaikunda during the winter, even before the time of the month I went there this time, and I wasn’t expecting there to be so much of snow, but the unexpected weather resulted in such scenario. It definitely was an unexpected journey, just like the one Bilbo Baggins had!