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Friday, 01 January 2016

Trekking in the Lantang Valley in Nepal, Before the 2015 Earthquake - Page 4

Written by Jean-Marc Theodorowicz
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When gazing at the farm houses built with stones and mud and thatched with straw I sensed that little had changed over the centuries. Wooden plows pulled by oxen or water-buffalo's have been used for two thousand years. Nepal is still primarily an agrarian society where agriculture employs 70% of the population. The total farmland is only 20% of the total land area of the country, with forests and mountains making up the rest.

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The road soon zigzagged up and down the mountainside to the Trisuli gorge and our driver maneuvered the bus on this treacherous terrain with the ease of a skater speeding around an Olympic ice rink. A slip of the wheel and we would have met our maker down in the river below.

 

When we arrived in Dhunche, the air was crisp, and the silhouettes of mighty warriors, dressed in white capes, stood up defiantly in the glowing sky, as the sun was setting. This small town of 2,500 at an altitude of 6,600 feet stands as the administrative seat of the district and serves also as a commerce hub for the local villagers getting their supplies and for the trekkers spending the night.

 

Early in the morning, it was time to head to the mountains, and before we had breakfast, everybody packed their backpacks and dropped them in front of the hotel. The porters then divided the load, based on size and gender, put them in plastic bags, and scrolled on the trail ahead of the group. When we arrived at a specific lodge, after 4 to 6 hours of trekking on average, all we had left to do was shower, relax and re-hydrate with a few cups of Nepalese tea.

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We walked through a forest of oaks, maples, alders, and sals. In places, there were large stands of bamboo and rhododendrons. A group of langur monkeys gave us a little spectacle of gravity-defying aerials. The narrow trail meandered up and down a gorge, leading to our first lodge, which stood hazardously on the steep river banks. On the way, we met villagers carrying produce and goods, up and down the trail. All the loads are carried in bamboo baskets, held on the back, by a strap around the forehead. The locals are capable of moving huge weights over a long distance and have developed special muscles. They are very efficient at it, according to research that was done on the Sherpas of Mt Everest.

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The forest is home to a wide range of animals; among them, wild dogs, wild boars, the rare red panda and snow leopard, and the Himalayan black bear. According to some elders, living in the villages down the valley, the yeti (the abominable snowman) roams the highest wastelands.

 

On the 3rd day, we climbed steadily to the high country and the coniferous trees of the forest below gave way to firs, blue pines, spruces, and hemlocks. When we arrived at the village of Lantang, in the early afternoon, we could instantly feel the uniqueness and the charm of this small village of stone houses sitting on a wide plateau framed by lofty peaks. Herds of yaks were grazing in the rocky fields, literally at the foot of Lantang Lirung, the highest peak of the Lantang range, which is shaped exactly like the head of an arrow piercing the sky at an altitude of 7,227 meters (23,711 ft). Everything seemed so eerie and timeless, like stardust gravitating in the Milky Way.

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We stayed the night at the Everest Guest Lodge and the Lama family were our gracious hosts. We felt honored to share a little part of these people’s daily lives, and their kindness and humility won us over. 

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The next morning we continued on to Kyanjin Gumba, the last bastion of civilization on the trail, some 4 hours walk from Lantang at an altitude of 3,900 meters (12,750 ft). We would spend 3 additional nights there in order to acclimate for the ascension of Tsergo Ri, at 5,000 meters (16,404 ft).

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We woke up in the early morning on the second day to a few inches of snow carpeting the ground after an overnight storm. It felt like being kids again on Christmas morning. A few snowball fights later and we were ready to conquer that ‘monster’, which stands taller than Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. I guess it would be a real privilege to be part of the 5,000 meters club!  The last 200 meters to the top proved pretty exhausting for me, due to the altitude and the deep snow cover, and I had run out of water. From the summit, I swear I heard the echoes of Tibetan chants, bouncing around the other side of that formidable mountain range which had the menacing angularity of a great white shark’s teeth!  A huge cloud cover and high winds were coming our way, so we didn’t linger at the top very long.

(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Friday, 01 January 2016

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