Friday, February 26, 2010

Tamang Heritage Trail: Part II

So I left off talking about our arrival in Tatopani, where there were numerous lodges and best of all some very nice hot springs. The water was that brackish rust color, but it was warm and wet, very similar to the stuff you see in Iceland. The water coming out of the large spout felt awesome on the back of my neck and getting the last couple days of grime and salt off of me was well worth the foray into the public bath.

After that night we got to an early start and made for the Rhododendron forests that clung to the side of the mountain at this elevation (roughly 8,000'). The trees here are covered in moss and vines as this is the elevation where clouds regularly form from the rising hot air that comes up from the valleys providing thick moist air for the trees and whatever grows on them.
After a mile or so out of Tatopani we came across a large troop of Nepal Gray Langur Monkeys. At first I just caught a glance of a few running across the trail, but after standing still for a moment and looking around it became evident that the forest was full of them. My guess would be that the troop consisted of at least twenty five, though there may have been more that we didn't see. As my camera is useless at taking pictures of anything that isn't right in front of you, I had to rely on Kim and her large lens to get all the shots, which I think she did a good job of considering she had no tripod.
Onward we went, through the very picturesque village of Brimdang, and then up the side of what was the highest and steepest part of the trail. Every ridge promised better and better views with the Ganesh Himal on the West side and the Mountains of Langtang in the East. I'm not afraid of heights, but there were several parts here on the trail where if you jumped you would have several long tens of seconds to consider your mistake. The trail would bend and it was like being at the edge of the world, something I haven't experienced before at only 10,000' of elevation. Anyway when we got to the top, we were rewarded with an almost complete 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains and a little monastery at the top of the place called Nagthali Ghyang. Here though the fields were covered in a good amount of snow, and the trail was anything but clear. Lucky for us a pair of Buddhhist monks were on their way to the same village as us. Although they couldn't wait for us, as they had to be there to assist with a ritual, they very kindly showed us where to go, gave Kim a walking stick and left a trail of arrows in the dirt for us every once in a while.
Now this is the part of the trail that shortened the whole expedition. Kim did very well going up, despite the precipices and steep trails, but going down the same kind of steep trails in the snow and fresh mud was not on her happy list. As the above picture shows, I occasionally got the look of death. Watching someone come down a mountain that is convinced that at any moment they just might die is not something you want to watch or put anyone through. We agreed after a short while, that the trek would be adjusted to avoid any other steep downhills with snow and ice.
After what seemed like an eternity we did finally reach the village of Thuman, which was fairly good sized and had a monastery that was preforming some special rights, I think for Losar (Tibetan New Year). We shared a guest lodge with a pair of French chicks (mother and daughter) and also got some really great pictures in this village. This village also sat facing the peak of Langtang Lirung, giving another set of gorgeous mountain views. The above picture shows monks blowing horns as part of the ceremony that they were preforming during our stay.

The next morning we made our way north across the ridge, neither gaining or really descending until after we passed the small village of Dahal Phedi. From there the trail descended steeply again, and Kim reminded me that she hates hiking again. We finally got to the bottom crossed a suspension bridge and made our way along a new "road" to the village of Timure. From here Kim rested and I took a stroll up to the Chinese/Tibet border.
The above picture is taken from the ruins of a stone fort on the Nepal side. On the Chinese side you can see they are building a very large bridge. In fact the whole road that was being built was being built by Chinese workers, with Chinese equipment, and it looks like the Chinese are serious about getting roads down to India through Nepal. I've read they are doing the same in Lo Mantang, and in one other place, giving them four routes through Nepal.

On the last day we followed the road south back to Syrabru, only problem was that just North of LingLing we ran into a Chinese dynamite team. The road aint quite done. So we had to turn around find the old trail, take it several hundred feet above the dynamite team, and then descend back down after LingLing. It was a little scary walking within a foot or so of very long drops knowing dynamite could be going off under you at any time. Some did go off a little bit before arriving in LingLing and scared the bejeezus out of me. After that and a slight worng turn we found that the trail suddenly terminated about 80' above the new road, and the very steep dirt made it so sliding down was not an option. After a little backtracking we followed a path through some nomads camp and found our way down to the road. From their it was mostly smooth sailing to Syrabru.

Lucky for us the bus ride home was much more comfortable, and a little quicker than the one up there. The suspension on the bus was much nicer and the seats more comfortable. Any bus ride in Nepal can be a little scary though with the second rate roads, sharp switchbacks, and very very long drops that are very evident right out your window. We made it back in one piece though and over all had a great time.

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