Monday, 8 April 2013

an ascent into madness

Don't worry, I just was very proud of that play on words so I wanted to use it in this post- we aren't really going mad. We did spend the last week ascending higher and higher above sea level though (that's the pun- you get altitude sickness and go a bit mad if you go too high too quickly).

After leaving Chitwan we caught the bus to Kathmandu to deal with some beaurocracy and have some real coffee, then we had an extremely long and at times terrifying bus ride north. From Kathmandu to the town of Syabrubesi in Langtang National Park is only 190km...the trip took 9 hours. There were cliffs involved and buses that were at 3 or 4 times capacity- from this I think you can probably guess how we felt when we arrived. (Funnily enough, that wasn't the worst bus trip we have done in Nepal).

The trek through Langtang National Park was lovely and scenic though- if a little tough on the legs. Syabrubesi is at 1470 metres above sea level and at the end of 3 days walking we were at 3870 metres. It was a steep climb but there was no lack of tea houses, restaurants or snack shops along the way if we needed an energy boost. As well as enterprising Nepalese, we saw monkeys rustling in the trees above our heads, waterfalls and the occasional snowy peak in the distance. As we got higher the scenery slowly changed and the monkeys gave way to yaks, the forest to open plains dotted with shacks and Tibetan prayer flags until we were walking in a valley surrounded by mountainous forest on one side and snow-covered mountains on the other. It was a spectacular view.

Although we weren't at a ridiculously high altitude (by Nepalese standards) the air did get thinner and thinner and on our last morning of walking we were stopping every half an hour or so, just to catch our breath. Admittedly I did have a cold, which didn't help. I was exhaustedly relieved when we came over a peak and saw the final town sitting just in front of us.

The town, Kyanjin Gompa, is home to 10 or 12 lodges, 2 bakeries (one of which sold us the best apple pie we had in all of Nepal), yaks, ponies and lots of mountains. It sits in a valley entirely surrounded by them. The mornings were quite sunny and warm so we sat outside with snow on all sides and enjoyed the vew. It also snowed every night, so every morning we would wake up to a thin layer of white over everything- unil the sun came out and melted it all, ready for the next evening.

Will has developed a new passion now, in the form of mountain climbing. So while I lay in bed trying to get rid of my cold, he was out in the cold, climbing the highest easily accessible peak in Kyanjin Gompa. He made it to the top and can now proudly say he has climbed to 5000 metres above sea level (for the un-mountain inclined that is only 500 metres lower than Everest Base Camp).

After that success we headed back down to warmer weather, to reward ourselves for our efforts with a deep-fried snickers bar. (We were rewarding our brains and tastebuds, not our hearts or arteries). And since then we have had the most horrendous 36 hours I have probably ever had. I'll put that in a new post. Stay tuned!

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