Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why Langtang, Nepal?

The requirement of all volunteers set by a local disaster relief organization I found is the ability to do long and hard physical work primary with rock, at 11000+ ft altitude with minimal resources and comfort.  No running water, electricity.  Bring your own tent.

You also have to make it to the location on your own dime and time -- 9 hr bus ride (if you are lucky) from Kathmandu followed by a 2 day trek up.  As I couldn't verify much, I decided to test things out by going on a solo trek with a private guide and porter, without whom I would not have made it.

I didn't need a tent for this as we'd be staying at teahouses but I got everything I thought I would need into two 70L North Face duffels.  Had a combined weight limit of 15 kg which wasn't an issue.  I carried a 8 kg day pack with most of the weight being water.

My main sleeping bag was rated for -11 C and it wasn't enough.  My coldest night was ironically on the way down (3200 m / 10498 ft), in a room with 2 opposing windows that were so drafty, (super windy night) you could see from the curtains that some kind of wind tunnel was going on.  That night I used a silk sleeping bag liner and a summer sleeping bag as an outer bag over my warm mummy style one.

On me, I wore my icebreaker base and mid layers, fleece, insulated ski pants, wool socks, thin down jacket and my warmest down jacket on top, a ski neck tube, beanie and wool hat on top and I was still shaking.  It took forever to fall asleep that night.  Note to self:  Pick a room without windows next time, if possible!

The newly rebuild teahouses were made of floorboard instead of the traditional stone.  Families had to do what they could quickly for their sake as well as to get their businesses up and running in time for height of trekking season.  Even so, the season was very slow was what I heard over and over again.  It was obvious that many were struggling.  Trekkers were deterred by the post earthquake damage.

So the build quality wasn't the greatest.  No insulation and none of my bedroom doors closed properly.  Had to resort to using rope to close one door to only 5 inches open.  For sure awkward when you are trying to change or put clothes on after a shower when you room opens up to the main dining area...

My days were long.  Up at 6:15 am, packed up and at breakfast by 7:15 am,  and on the trail by 8 am.  Usually one 10 min tea break.  Half an hour for lunch.  Roll into the next teahouse by 5 pm if I am not having a slower than normal day.

Speaking of showers, don't expect much more than a bucket of warm water in a non insulated and somewhat open air outhouse style space.  From day 1, I decided that no matter how cold or expensive it may be, I would be taking one.

I accepted the risk of having wet hair that may not dry completely or at all, but I just could not skip it even though I had packed family size packages of wet wipes and dry shampoo.  I could tell that my request to buy shower water surprised the lodge owners.  They probably thought I was crazy for bathing at that time of day but you do what you need to do.

7:30 am Kathmandu bus station,
patiently waiting for my "Super Deluxe" bus to arrive.

Sit on the left side on the way up and pick the right side on the way down
for the most dramatic views.

Tip:  Have a headlamp with you at all times.  Those bathrooms are often dark
and could be a walk from where you room or eat.  In this case, through the kitchen.

Or completely open.

Post earthquake newly re-opened trail was covered with rock and debris.  Steep and unforgiving.
I had to take a minute to sort out the proposed route to get to that teahouse
for our tea break and beyond.  Was about 2 hours into my first day.
The phrase "Are you kidding me??!!" was on repeat in my head.

You wouldn't have wanted to be listening in on what was playing in my head 
when I was told that the trail continued up those rocks.  This was at hour 7 of day one.  
Wasn't impressed.  Needed both hands to scramble up.  Had 2 more hours to go.
Stopping wasn't an option.  You had to make it to the first village.

Newly re-opened village of Lama Hotel.
Photo taken morning of day 2 as by the time I got
there, it was starting to get dark and cool and 
you could already see your breath.

No electricity, needed to use my athletic tape to cover all the holes in the walls
between rooms.  Had to kill numerous critters before I could unpack.
Room made of wood, given small candles for light, almost 
burnt the place down when I nodded off before dinner.

Only 1 of 2 solar showers found.  They worked quite well.  
There was the occasional sparking sound that I tried not to think too hard about. 

View from dining area of tea house.
Only room that has heat -- Wood stove.  
Uses scrap wood lower down, yak dung higher up.

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