“Mum, look, there is a yak!” My daughter comes running back towards me after she had already turned the next corner of the trek that is winding its way through the mountains. She had wanted to see a yak since we started this trek, so this moment is super exciting. With every step I take I can see more of it. First the horns, then the hairy head, and finally the entire animal in all its beauty. It is lying on the grass, chewing uninterrupted, with the snowcapped mountains in the backdrop. Could a view be any more perfect?
The Langtang Trek in Nepal is one of the most famous trekking routes in the country. The Langtang National park lies north of Kathmandu and borders Tibet. There are three main treks that you can also combine if you have enough time: Langtang, Helambu and the Tamang Heritage Trail. Unfortunately, the area suffered a lot during the 2015 earthquake, but reconstruction efforts have been swift. Last spring my eight-year-old daughter and I chose to do the Langtang Trek for eight days and had an amazing time.
We started our trek in Syarubesi after a bumpy 10-hour bus ride. We stayed the first night in Syarubesi, but if you reach here early it might make sense to already start and sleep on the other side of the river – it is much calmer there. On the first hiking day we had to cross several suspension bridges. My daughter had so much fun crossing them, while I suffer from fear of heights, but I made it across them anyways.
The Langtang Trek basically follows the Langtang Valley up to Kanjin Gompa, where most trekkers stop. Almost the whole the way you follow the river, which makes it a great trek with children. I cannot tell you how many times we stopped to put our feet in the river, play with boats made from leaves and sticks or just climb the rocks on the shore.
After only slight increases in elevation until Bamboo, the second half of the day was uphill. Over many stairs and along the river we made it up slowly, and finally reached Rimche, where we stayed the night. Everybody at the guesthouse was super impressed with my daughter’s achievement and we really enjoyed the evening, playing cards in the common room.
The next morning when we woke up, our luck with the weather had left us. We were in the middle of the clouds, and we could see no more than five meters. Nevertheless we started to walk, and it actually made for a very interesting experience. The fog dampened all sounds, and sometimes we felt like we were walking through a fairytale land. Through thick rhododendron forest we slowly made our way up the valley. We had lunch at Gumna Chowk, where we had the best cheese momos I have ever tasted.
After that, the clouds thickened and it started to rain. We braved this weather for two more hours before we decided to call it a day and spend the night in Thyangyap village. We had reached here early, so my daughter still had time to play with her dolls, and I got to read and enjoy a cup of tea. Our room was at ground level and faced the main square. After a while we even got a visitor – our hosts’ cow came by and stuck its head into our room to check out what we were doing.
On the next day the weather looked much better, and we made our final push to Kanjin Gompa. The landscape opened up and we left the forest behind us. With the sun out, I realized that the clouds on the previous days had actually been a blessing, as it would have been much too hot otherwise. On this third day we saw our first yak as well. My daughter was so excited and took many pictures of it. We stayed at a respectful distance though, as we had heard many stories about them not being amused when they are startled.
Crossing the huge landslide that had annihilated the Langtang Village in the 2015 earthquake was very hard for us, as we still have to deal with our own memories of the tragedy. To see that people are rebuilding and upholding the memory of the beautiful village was uplifting though, and after having a delicious lunch of dal bhat here we continued to Kanjin Gompa, our last stop.
We had decided to stay a couple of days in Kanjin Gompa to explore the area, instead of rushing back down, so we took a little bit longer to find a really nice guesthouse that would be our home for the next three days. My daughter immediately made our room her home by setting up her dolls and making a little house for them: our hats were their beds, books made for perfect tables and the windowsill was their balcony.
Kanjin Gompa is at an elevation of 3860 metres, so the altitude can be felt and can become an issue. Children are not more prone to altitude sickness, but nevertheless you should keep an eye open for early symptoms. Make sure your kids drink enough water and talk to them repeatedly about the first signs. If you notice your children behaving differently and cannot find an explanation for it, consider going down immediately. Fortunately, we had no such problems and my daughter dealt with the altitude better than me.
In the next three days, we ventured out and did some smaller hikes in the area. On the first day we climbed up to the glacier that you can see from Kanjin Gompa and had a long picnic on a beautiful plateau. That is, until we were disturbed by a yak. Apparently, we had been camping out on his favorite grazing spot, and the yak definitely won the argument over who could stay.
On our second day we went to a lake a little bit further down, and spent hours on its shore, playing in the sand and just enjoying the calm. Our biggest trip was on the last day, when we ascended part of Kanjin Ri, the mountain overlooking Kanjin Gompa. The views from there were spectacular, but we also really felt the altitude and were glad when we could climb down again. When we reached our guesthouse, we felt the first snowflakes on our faces, and over the next hours a storm raged through the valley, leaving the houses covered in a thin crust of ice and snow. We were so happy to witness this from the window of our room with hot cups of tea in our hands.
The next day it was time to descend again, and with a heavy heart we said goodbye to Kanjin Gompa. The first hour we walked over a thin layer of snow, before the sun came up and melted everything away. Walking under a blue sky was a completely different experience, and even though we took the same way down than we had up, we barely recognized anything. With an overnight stop in Gumna Chowk and another plate of delicious cheese momos, we made our way back to Syabrubesi.
These eight days were an amazing experience, and my daughter had the best of times. The locals were very welcoming of her, she was very proud of her achievement, and the natural beauty we saw up there is unparalleled. But she is very vocal about her favorite part of the trek: “The best was seeing yaks!”