Part 1: Tamang Heritage trail
The Tamang Heritage trail is a 3-5 day trek outside Langtang National Park and is new on the list of short treks…We only did 3 days, since our outdated map didn’t outline the trail, and we ended up taking a shortcut.
Tour agencies promise amazing cultural experiences, like traditional dances by the fireside and elaborate religious rituals being enacted just for the trekker’s entertainment.
Having walked on our own, we didn’t see any rituals or ceremonies. But I still enjoyed it all the same… It has the feeling of authenticity. The trail doesn’t see many trekkers, so locals are still curious and friendly about any who happen to come along. Kids don’t (yet) ask for rupees or candy. Villages aren’t overrun with teahouse lodges.
Definitely a good trek for cultural experiences though the trail can get pretty steep at times.
Day 1: Kathmandu to Syabru Besi
It’s only a 117km/73mi trip from Kathmandu, but the road to Syabru Besi is not one of Nepal’s finest, and crosses several high, steep ridges. So, the trip couldn’t be less than 8 hours. Especially when you factor in the countless stops and the various loading and off-loading of not only luggage but also the important necessities of food, live goats and holey bags full of rusty nails.
We were banished to the very back of the bus, where the backs leaned forward at least 15 degrees further than the usual already uncomfortable 90-degree angle. I found myself seated next to a Nepalese dude with motion sickness, and every so often he’d uncrumple himself and fling his head out the window to heave out last night’s contents of his stomach. The bus shook and bounced with every fricking pothole, and we had to hang on for dear life. In short, it was a long day (though we did nothing but sit).
Day 2: Syabru Besi to Tatopani
5 hours 30 minutes; ascended 1,147m
Our rudimentary map and guidebook didn’t outline the Tamang Heritage trail– it was published in 2009– so we decided to just go to where we knew the hot springs were. Pani means water, and tato means hot.
After turning off the road just beyond Syabru Besi, we took the upper trail at a fork and pretty much didn’t stop climbing for the rest of the day until we got to our destination. Comparatively, it’s not much of a climb but after two weeks of pastries and laziness, it was a taxing one for me.
We did take a break in Pajung, where the villagers were curious about us foreigners and word spread quickly about our visit. No lodges or homestays here yet, just one small shop (coca cola available). A kindly gentleman invited us to see the village’s shrine and meet the local lama, and children tailed us, smiling shyly.
After lunch and laundry, we soaked our not yet sore muscles in the rust-colored springs. The springs are considered sacred to the mountain folk, and some people walk many hours to immerse themselves into the healing waters.
Word of advice though: if you’re planning on a dip, bring either disposable swim wear or plan on washing your suit repeatedly before you can get all that iron out… My bra kept leaking orange water for days afterwards.
Day 3: Tatopani to Lingling
6 hours 30 mins; 705m up, 1565m down
Fabian, a German, joined us from Tatopani and provided a map when we needed it. Started the morning with a two hour, 558m climb to Nagthali, a settlement on a saddle of the ridge above Tatopani. Stopped in Brimdang on the way.
By the time we reached the top it’d become overcast and we couldn’t see Pangsang Lek right in front of us. We went on down to Thuman, where we stopped for lunch around 12:15.
After that, it was down a steep set of switchbacks all the way down to the bridge at the river Bhote Kosh. Ancient folks smoking cigarettes laughed at our plight as they passed us on their way down.
My legs were jelly. Barely mustered the energy to climb 137m to Lingling, but I was glad we did. The homestay was an unique experience, and offered an almost personal insight into what village life is like. We chatted with the lodge owner and his wife in their kitchen, sampled fresh meat and quaffed Nepali water that warmed me right to my bones (raksi–a homemade liquor distilled from rice and millet).
Day 4: Lingling to Sherpagaon
6 hours 30 mins; 826m ascended
This day wasn’t any easier than the last two and I complained a lot today. It was 492m up to Briddim, the village just above Lingling, but we had to scale a ridge and drop down to cross a bridge before we could get there.
In addition to the endless flight of rocky, uneven stairs, it was a scorching day and beads of sweat dripped down my face. Y’know how eyebrows are supposed to be positioned above our eyes to protect it? Well, it didn’t do anything to deter the waterfall that was streaming from my scalp and forehead.
“Dammit! I hate these stupid stairs! We’ve done nothing but go up and down and up and down!”
(a brief pause as I catch my breath)
“Tell the Himalayas to go flatten themselves!”
That kind of thing.
I cheered up during a pit stop in Khanjim where we happened upon some, uh, assertive villagers, each with a burning desire to become a photographer and/or model.
Well, eventually, we got to Sherpagaon and I thre–lightly tossed my backpack down on the wooden platforms we’d be calling a bed for the night. Xiker had himself a shower at the public fountain behind the lodge, and that cheered me up too.
********To read about the Langtang Valley, click here: LANGTANG