Letter from Langtang

IntroDear Monica,

I have very special memories with you. Last year, we spent the entire day in Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Together, we watched erotic wood carvings and visited the pottery square. We deeply observed the beauty of 55-window Palace and talked about art, history and life. You talked about books and Buddhism. I talked about Hinduism and explained the concept of trinity (Brahma, Bishnu and Maheshwar) to you.

Finally, you hugged and kissed me and when we returned to Thamel.

But this time I am not giving you hugs and kisses. I want to share my diary of four days when I was in Langtang area – the third most popular trekking destination in the country – after the devastating earthquake of April 25.

Day 1 (July 6, 2015)

‘You are a fool,’ family members, friends and seniors told me when I told them I was going to Langtang. I know it was their love and care for me. I am thankful to all of them.

One a fine July morning, me, a fool, left for Langtang along with some friends. Noted tourism entrepreneur Deepak Mahat and friends bade us farewell at Thamel. As we are traveling to a very risky area, Mahat suggested me to cancel the trip the moment I feel it is not safe to proceed forward. “Life is more important; you can make a trip to Langtang later on if you are alive,” he told me.

Our bus moved through Galchhi of Dhading and Bidur of Nuwakot. It was already midday when we reached Dhunche – the headquarters of Rasuwa district. There, we met Chief District Officer of Rasuwa and district chiefs of Nepal Army and Nepal Police. Though they didn’t call us fool directly, their facial expression and body language spoke were telling us the same. They wished us a happy journey. The Colonel of Nepal Army suggested us to be aware of possible avalanches, landslides and rock falls. He also gave us helmets for our security.

Langtang village lies under debris.

Langtang village lies under debris.

We headed toward Syafrubesi which lies few kilometers away from Dhunche. It was raining heavily. Just before we reached Syafrubesi, we encountered a fresh rock fall. It was very cold in Syafrubesi. We warmed up ourselves by enjoying few pegs of whisky and boiled potato. I talked with my friends till late into the night. Conversations ended with good night from both sides.

Day 2 (July 7, 2015)

The morning was quite good though no one wished me good morning. The sound of murmuring river was refreshing. We started trek toward Khamjing early in the morning. Altogether we were 15 in the team – 11 locals of Langtang village joined us in Syafrubesi. Though they were mourning their near and dear ones, who lost lives in the avalanche triggered by the earthquake, they seemed to have resumed their normal life. That made me happy. These locals were not only guides, they were our teachers. They gave me valuable lessons about live offering our team a helping hand with smile.

They led the trek, and we followed them. By singing local songs, they made the walk refreshing for us.

Finally, we reached Khamjing. There we met some local people who said they can arrange food and accommodation to visitors. I felt they were waiting for tourists like the previous season. After having tea and some snacks, we started our walk toward Sherpa Gaun. Before Sherpa Gaun, we reached Dalanche where there was a temporary camp of Nepal Army with around 20 army personnel. They welcomed us and offered us tasty lunch.

After lunch, we headed toward Sherpa Gaun. Everything was normal till Sherpa Gaun. The trail was okay and we found it safe. It was raining when we reached Sherpa Gaun. The hotel where we stayed had a broken roof. But the owner’s warm hospitality touched our heart. He attended to us like a guardian. As I was tired with the day’s walk, I slept like a log. I saw a village just above the landslide in my dream.

On the way to Kyanjin Gompa.

On the way to Kyanjin Gompa.

Day 3 (July 8, 2015)

After early breakfast, we left Sherpa Gaun and headed toward Rimche. Before reaching Rimche, we came across a big landslide. We had to make a steep climb and make a descent to the track. Langtang Khola was gushing just below the landslide. Life is beautiful, but fate decides your future. Many lodges and hotels in Rimche were in operation despite damages in the building. Rimche is the meeting point of two trails – one trail leads to Syafrubesi via Bamboo, while the other leads to Syafrubesi via Sherpa Gaun and Khamjing. We could see Langur monkeys jumping from one tree to the other. I felt they are welcoming us.

Our next destination is Lama Hotel. It is not a name of the hotel, but a village. There are around half a dozen hotels and lodges at Lama Hotel. But all of them were damaged. The locals of Syafrubesi got some beer, cigarettes and biscuits from the debris. It helped us a lot. After a walk of about an hour from Lama Hotel, we reached a placed called Gumna Chowk which is also known as Chunam. The situation of this place was no different than Lama Hotel. Then we reached a place called Riverside, as foreigners love to call. It is from this place that Langtang Valley starts.

The first view of the Valley was breathtaking. There were tall mountains on both sides of the river. The river was flowing smoothly. When we filled water in our plastic bottle, it froze immediately.

Beautiful flowers are still there to greet you.

Beautiful flowers are still there to greet you.

After spending sometime at Riverside, we headed toward Ghodatabela which literally means horse stable. However, we neither saw horses, nor stable. There was nobody in the village. There used to be an army camp here. But it was nowhere to be seen. A few minutes after we reached Ghodatabela, a big rock detached from a nearby hill and came rolling toward us. My mound stopped. The rock fall triggered landslide and debris started flowing downward. Our mind stopped for a moment. After we recovered from the trauma, we talked about disasters and fate for some time then started our trek toward Thangsyap. Here also the situation was the same. We passed through settlements like Chaarting, Chyamkidanda and Gumbadanda before reaching Langtang village. Langtang village lies in Ward No. 7 of Langtang VDC. But there was no village. It looked like huge debris of rock and pebbles. We found nothing but stones and pebbles for about a kilometer. Locals of Langtang village, who were with us, were lost in memory. They were remembering their childhood days. Their eyes were longing for the beautiful moments that had spent in their birthplace. They had nothing left. All their property and belongings as well as near and dear ones lay below the debris. But their hope, belief and love toward life were intact. After seeing the situation they are in, we were lost for words.

After spending some time in the village, we moved toward our next destination Mundu. We found accommodation in a home where we meet a couple and their son. They offered us typical Nepali meal and some local liquor. After dinner, we were in bed as we were very tired. It rained throughout the night. As the roof of the hotel was leaking, rain drops fell near my head. It was very cold outside. Temperature was sub zero outside.

At Kyanjin Gompa

At Kyanjin Gompa

Day 4 (July 9, 2015)

We left Mundu early in the morning and walked toward Sidhum and Nespalle. It was very cold. We were exhaling ‘steam’. I was enjoying every breath I take. I was in the heavenly world. There were snow-capped peaks all around. There was silence and spirituality. Sounds of birds, river and wind were so appealing. Everything around me was smiling — flowers, birds and rivers. Later I knew we were in Kyanjin (4,000m). The earthquake had no impact in the village. All houses were intact and life was safe as usual. We visited Kyanjin Gomba – the landmark of the village. I kissed the monastery and bade adieu to the Langtang Region.

We were the biggest group to trek to Langtang Region after the devastating earthquake. I was happy as I was the first journalist, writer and tour guide to reach the place after the disaster.

 

This much for now. See u soon. Kyanjin is waiting for you.

Thank you Monica.

 

Your’s,
Ashok Silwal

ashoksilwal@gmail.com

(Silwal is a writer/journalist. He is also a licensed trekking and tour guide)

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