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A holy man layin' down some holy tunesMar. 19-22, 1999  Langtang Himal Trek I, Nepal

Kathmandu to Dhunche
"Whoa now THAT was a tight one! One slight slip or wrong move, and we're all done for . . . "
"Yeah, let's hope that our driver didn't have greasy fried chicken or something else like that for lunch" cracks one of the Australians in the seats behind us. Most likely out of a need to release some nervous tension, I can't stop giggling at his silly remark.

From out the window of our cliff-skirting transportLaura on the other hand, finds it less than amusing. "It's not funny! I just can't look" she says as she turns her head away from the window, unable to watch as we slip around yet another blind curve, the outside back wheels of our bus seemingly hanging off the edge of the single-lane gravel road - about 4,000 feet above the bottom of the gorge below.

Typical Buddhist temple at sunset with flags a flyin'Our cliff-hugging, nail-biting, nine hour bus ride up to Dhunche turns out to be a fitting initiation to the wild, untamed Himalayan range that we're about to spend the next eight days trekking through. We've chosen the route known as the Langtang trek, primarily because few others do. It's a walk scaling of over almost 6,000 vertical feet through a wide diversity of cultures, geographies, and vegetations. It promises to be a journey of breath-taking views, breath-robbing ascents, and occasionally I hope, a few breath-catching tea breaks.

Dhunche to Syabru Village
Dawa explaining the inclines we can expect on the next day's hikeOur first day 'on the trail' begins at sunrise. Over breakfast, we review the highlights of our route plan with Dawa, our guide. Although he seems to understand English better than he's able to speak it, he's well versed in the language of the mountains. It's second nature for him. It's in his blood. He's from the Sherpa caste, a family group known world-wide for their guiding prowess on the many ascents on Everest, as well as the Himalaya's other towering peaks.

Dawa and Scott just putting one foot in front of the otherI'm still half asleep (the coffee from breakfast has yet to kick in) when I realize that we've already made it almost ten kilometers from Dhunche - and just by putting one foot in front of the other. Ya know, sometimes I think that's the best way to get wherever it is you're going - to just put one foot in front of the other. Today will prove to be a test of this theory, as tonight's destination is still hours and hours away.

Laura perched atop the mountian sideThe trail only rarely offers us the reprieve of a level stroll, but instead almost always serves up the challenges of either a rising up, or a tumbling down, pathway (most often times at rather precipitous angles). But helping to take our minds off of our physical exertions, are the hosts of visual rewards in the ever-changing mountain vegetation.

Attention grabbing RhododenronMost expressive are the twisted and contorted Rhododenron screaming 'look at me, over here' with their exploding blooms of red, white, and pink. Serving as both a complement and a contrast, are the straight and stately pines, shooting high above the other trees, almost bragging about their resiliency through this, as well as each of the other three seasons.

Laura takes a break to chat with two new friendsWe take a welcomed break at a small 'tea house' for lunch. 'Tea house' is a general term for an expanded farmhouse, always with a few tables and serving meals cooked in the family kitchen. Sometimes with a few tiny rooms of sorts with wooden platforms and thin mattresses offering rest for weary trekkers. As I ponder my selection of Nepalese mountain delicacies, I remember the good advice I'd gotten from our guide's T-shirt just earlier that day.

Nepalese villager watching the world go by from his front stoop'Dal Bhat My Life' it proudly proclaimed to the rest of the world. A Nepalese staple, dal bhat is large plate with generous servings of rice, lentil soup and seasoned boiled potatoes, and sometimes greens, served hot and constantly replenished until you beg your hosts to stop. It’s loaded with starches and carbos. From what I'd seen so far, that's all Dawa ate, and if it works for him, It works for me. "I'll have the dal bhat please."

Youngster proudly giving us a tour of his family's teahouseOur attention's drawn by mischievous giggles from a teenage boy on the stoop behind us. He's entertaining himself by using a broken, dirty mirror to playfully reflect sun into his aunt's eyes as she does the laundry about 30 feet away. This little game continues through her soaping and rinsing, soaping and rinsing, until she finally tires of the pesky little light in her face. Without warning, she abruptly drops the laundry, picks up a rock, and chases her nephew, dust kicking up behind her bare heels, across the lot and through the family's small two room house. We didn't see what happened next, but the aunt soon reappears to finish her chores in peace.

Sharing the trail with the hairy, horned YakO.K., time to get crackin' - back on the trail. Looking down to assure our steps are solid ones (and to avoid the ever present and slippery piles of yak dung) we notice the midday sun reflecting off of the bits of silver mica in the dusty soil, making it sparkle under our feet. The sounds of an occasional gushing waterfall, ringing yakbell, or baaaing sheep break the silence of our thoughts. The day drifts on and the mountains and surrounding valley begin to take on a surreal, almost heavenly appearance. The season's thick, heavy air, combined with smoke from the farmers burning of their crop stubs, creates a light, hazy blurring by mid-afternoon.

The Langtang Range in the hazy mid-afternoon sunAt this point in the day, the majority of our steps are upward. Upward and over increasingly rocky terrain. Some stretches of the trail have fallen away from the mountainside and collapsed in a tri-angling cascade of dirt, pebbles, rocks, and boulders. Other sections have been covered by rockslides and landslides from above. We look across the gorge at one whole section of the mountain that has completely fallen away, leaving two new peaks on each side of what was once a ridge. Laura asks Dawa about earthquakes. "Yes, sometime" he replies, obviously hoping to end the conversation at that. We agree, and let his last words just hang there as we all keep walking in silence.

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Last modified: June 02, 1999    Photographs and text 1998 Scott and Laura Kruglewicz. All Rights Reserved.


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