I’m not a hiker and I’ve never been ultra keen on the outdoors. You can imagine that leaves me a bit at odds with the typical crowd you find hanging around Kathmandu or anywhere in Nepal. But when in Rome, right? When some friends invited me to walk (or climb!) some of the lesser-known paths of the Langtang region, some sort of frenzy must have come over me because I said yes. And I’m so glad I did.
While the trip held its fair share of challenges, I’ll never get over the fact that I actually accomplished it. I’m here to tell all of you non-hikers that if I can do it, so can you.
Our itinerary looked like this, though there are many variations you can take as there are multiple guest house stops along the way:
Day 1: Drive to Dhunche from Kathmandu
Day 2: Walk from Dhunche to Sing Ghompa
Day 3: Walk from Sing Ghompa to Laurebina
Day 4: Walk from Laurebina to Gosaikunda
On the drive from Kathmandu to Dhunche I wondered what I was getting myself into. Everyone in our small adventure caravan seemed to be thrilled. Later, I sat timidly and silently as we made ourselves familiar with the trail in our long, skinny hotel room. Beds were pressed edge to edge like one long sleeping bench. I needed rest because in the morning we would start our ascent to Singh Gompa, 1350 meters higher than Dhunche. But the blaring concert outside argued otherwise.
The hike the next day started off easy enough — a quiet, flattish walk through thick jungle and small village towns. We took a rest for a moment at a trickling river. A girl in a tattered Paul Frank t-shirt, with a long black braid, played with a pony in the water and urged it home. It all seemed like a fairy tale until we crossed the bridge. “And now we go up,” my friend said drily. And up we went.
I don’t remember a lot from that day except for constant switchbacks and many breath and water breaks. We stopped in Deurali for lunch. When we arrived I collapsed onto the padded bench where we would fuel up on daal bhat for the rest of the walk. After some grub and a nap in the sun, my friend pointed straight up. That’s where we were headed. Up.
We arrived in Singh Ghompa around sunset. Two of the group had made it already. I waved lazily as I passed them sitting atop a hill drinking steaming chiya, already cooled down from the walk and wearing their down jackets and beanies.
I spent more than a couple moments face down on my bed. I didn’t even take off my shoes. My legs were pulsing, my head was pounding. I truly couldn’t understand how I would get through five more days of this. But the view in the morning would show me exactly why.
While the way there was a bit brutal (to my ill-experienced mind and legs), the destination left me with scenes I’ll remember forever. Waking up to the panorama of white-capped Himalayan beauties the next morning left me more breathless than the eight hours spent getting there. Little did I know, the scenes were only going to get better from there.
From Singh Ghompa we hiked to Laurebina, through thick forest and the peaks of the Langtang range between the trees. A nice couple from Mexico passed us, then we passed them, then they passed us again. They were photographers. We often ran into each other on the trail, trying with all our might to capture the beauty that surrounded us. We weren’t all that successful. I was surprised, resting at a lookout, to find I wasn’t nearly as tired as I had been the day before. It was difficult, yes, but my spirits were miles higher than they had been when I started (literally!). I guess conquering what I never thought I could have the day before gave me a new outlook on the whole trip.
We all ended up at a guest house that rested just above the tree line. We were greeted by the hosts with warm tea to ease the sudden awareness of the bitter chill whipping through the air. I remember feeling a sense of victory, sitting so high up and seeing all the way down from where we had come. I was doing this, and there was no turning back now. The guest house in Laurebina was cozy, tidy, and very inviting. At dinner time, a spunky child served us daal bhat, a welcome meal after my hours of surviving on protein bars and pre-packaged trail mix.
From Laurebina we headed to our final destination: the Gosaikunda lakes, a well-known Hindu pilgrimage site. I could see the small village town and the twin lakes from the trail. Just around a few hillside curves and after dodging some slippery melting snow was one of the most beautiful places I’m sure I’ll ever lay my eyes on. Deep blue lakes in between white mountains. Icy wind whipped our flushed cheeks. Some devotees were collecting water from the holy lake to take home and bless their homes.
As we rested in Gosaikunda, my legs throbbed and my feet bulged out of my shoes, begging me to loosen the laces. But I was happy. If you don’t usually choose to go hiking, I’d be the first to beg you to reconsider. While it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, that simple fact is what made it so much sweeter. I’ll admit there were some setbacks, some bumps and bruises, some altitude dizziness and discouraging tiredness. But I made it. Outside of your comfort zone is where you find yourself most vulnerable, most ready for life and new experiences. It’s there where you’ll find stories you’ll tell for a lifetime.
Article by Taylor May.
Top image: Ivan Borisov / Flickr