It was a clear, crisp day; the type of weather ideal for the trip we were embarking upon. The time was around 6 am and we were waiting in front of the Baneshwore branch of Standard Chartered Bank for the remaining members of our group and also for our carriage, the fondly named “Deerwalk Yatayat”. Upon arrival of our noble steed, we were driven to Sundarijal, which served as both our breakfast spot and the starting point of our hike.
The very first part of the trip involved a 30 minute climb up to the Shivapuri Rastriya Nikunj, where we decided to break for the first time. The climb was fun, but tiring; by the end of it, we were delighted to see a flat path ahead (especially Pritesh and I). After walking through a village for about an hour, I, along with Abanish, decided to take the main trail that would lead to Chisapani, while the rest of the group decided to try out some shorter route. After walking through a lovely forest for 3 hours, we finally arrived at Burlang Bhanjyang. Situated at 2400m, it is the first view we had of the Himalayas, stretching from Annapurna to Gauri Shankar. We also ran into the rest of the Deerwalk team here, and were delighted to find that we were only 10 minutes behind the people who had taken the so-called “shortcuts”.
Next stop was Chisapani, where we stopped for lunch at around 2:30 pm. Dorje Lama was our fine dining establishment of choice. Somewhere along the way, some members of the group had picked up a rooster which was promptly turned into a curry. This, along with Dal, Rice and Mula ko achar made up the grand feast which filled our stomachs.
As Chipling was our final destination of the day, we didn’t waste much time in continuing on our journey. At this point, we started a slippery and steep descent, which finally ended up in Thankuney Bhanjyang. A glance at our watches told us it was 7pm, so we decided to spend the night where we were.
After waking up early, we had a light breakfast and we were on our way. We arrived at Chipling, our intended destination from the previous day, and had a short tea break. Upon setting out, Saroj Dai started playing the proverbial clown and making everyone laugh. We continued to walk at our own pace, leading to a gap between us and the rest of the group. In spite of the hot sun, a cool mountain breeze kept things bearable. At one point, we were under the impression we were going to have to climb a 700 meter incline, only to find out that this was untrue. Talk about a sense of relief.
At around 1 pm, we finally reached Kutumsang for lunch. This was supposed to be final long break of the day. Once starting to walk again, we decided to take it slow, as some locals had told us that we only had 3 hours to get to Chhanauti, which was where we were supposed to stop for the night. However, after completing the aforementioned 3 hours, we were told, in true Nepali fashion, that it would take another 3 hours to get to Chhanauti. At this point, it was already 6 pm. Needless to say, we started going as fast as we could so that we would not get stranded in the middle of nowhere. The way was steep and kept going through paddy fields. There was a significant risk of one of us getting hurt even if a small mistake was made. Somehow, we managed to traverse the treacherous path and finally met up with our separated team mates. Apparently, some of them had gotten worried and come back to look for us; a big thanks to them.
From that point on, we decided to walk as a cohesive group, save for 3 people, who went on to look for a lodge where we could spend the night. Once again, a journey that we thought would take only 30 minutes took close to two hours. This had to do with the fact that the locals who we were getting our information from, were used to walking quickly and were also familiar with the trails. We finally got to our destination for the night, but, much to our chagrin, found out that our teammates who can done on ahead were unable to find a lodge that would put us up for the night. In our desperation, we turned to the one source of solace we could find: Noodle soup and Dudh chiura from Aamai. What was even more amazing was that she told us that we could stay in her home. We wound up sleeping in the Family Planning Office’s guest room, which was more than what we had hoped for.
Once again, we started the day early at 6am. Our final destination of the day was our final destination for the entire hike: Melamchi Bazaar. We set out along a gravel road with the Indrawati flowing on our left. After almost 2 hours, we took a break in a small bazaar and had a quick breakfast. Heading out again, we reached Melamchi bazaar at around 10:30 am, where we had an early lunch. Our aforementioned noble steed, “Deerwalk Yatayat” had also arrived to pick us up. However, before the big lunch arrived, we decided to play cards while waiting. After a 2 hour game, we had our lunch and headed back to Kathmandu. As fate would have it, our adventure still hadn’t ended, as the road wasn’t the best and the ground clearance of our Van wasn’t as high as it could have been. We had to push the van a couple of times and dig the road once before finally making it to Dhulikhel, where we stopped for organic coffee and refreshing lassi. Kathmandu being as close as it was, in 40 minutes, we got to Koteshwore, where, at approximately 5 pm, we ended our three day journey.
The hikers share their stories:
I enjoyed this hiking for three reasons:
1. I was always dreaming to hike to Helambu region. Even though we could not reach to the main Helambu village, we touched the periphery of the valley (I do not know why do they call it valley - I did not see any valley). The hiking was like a roller-coaster when it comes to the trail.
2. Some new friends of Deerwalk Nepal joined the hike and I got an opportunity to get closer to them and share ideas.
3. The trip became more interesting and adventurous because of late night run from Kutumsang to Chanaute - what a scary downhill. This is when even going downhill is tough if we do not plan and execute properly.
Things could have been better:
1. Food was awful - those vendors along the trek just know how to manipulate foreign trekkers rather than please locals with good food and service. They are missing the huge opportunity by ignoring local tourists. Someone, please wake them up.
2. We could have covered more distance on the first day.
3. I had more luggage in my bag than I actually needed.
Being a rookie, hiking always excites and makes me nervous too. First couple of hours of hike from Sundarijal towards Chisapani was really changllening due to steep climb, it was also going to lay the foundation for rest of the hike. Though we could not keep up to the speed of others, we were proud hikers end of the day.
Helambu is a beautiful place to hike. Every steep climb, no matter how tough it was, took us closer to the nature. It was a breathtaking view of the Himalayas during the day and stars in the night. When we reached Chisapani, 6-hr hike from Sundarijal, the meal was so delicious and thanks to Saroj and his team for carrying local kukhura almost half of their hike.
We started our second day's hike 7 in the morning and reached Chanauti around 10PM. Our steephike ended in Kutumsang and it was down hill from there towards Chanauti and then Melamchi. We spent the night at Chanauti after dangerous downhill hike and it was worth it. Thanks to the wonderful team for their support and making this hike a very memorable one.
In the first day of the trek, we rested in Dorje Lama hotel, almost for an hour, watching crystal clear view of Gaurishankar range.
We met many foreign tourists (good sign for the Visit Nepal 2011), they were returning from their trek. One of our friends asked them about their trip, one of the groups said they were returning from Langtang and it had been 21 days, other group stated it was their 15th day. We said ours is first day!
During our second day, on our way to Chanauti, we asked the villagers for the directions, they stated we won’t make even by 11:00 p.m if we do not take the short cut. However, we decided to take the shortcut, and it had very narrow trails. In some places, the trails were missing and we had to guess the directions. There were streams flowing through middle of the trails (one mistake and you go down the hill, you could take shortcut to heaven).
Overall, it was fun and a memorable hike.
We kicked off our hike at Sundarijal and trekked towards Chisapani. Instead of walking on an easy trail, Rudra dai chose a shortcut and we resorted to walking through paddy fields. So we walked on a tougher than strictly necessary route. We bought a local rooster from the Mulpani village and carried it for half our hike for the day. We enjoyed meat like never before!
We crashed at Chipling on Friday night at Sherpa Logde and then started with jokes; “Raambaan”, “ Baagh le dhoka bata Chiyayo”, we let go of our fatigue but had to put up with sound of snoring from people who will remain unnamed, and of tap dancing by mice on our roof. The mice will also remain nameless.
The worst of the day came while walking in close to pitch darkness from Kutumsang to Chanauti. We then slept on the floors of a healthpost. Best nights sleep in a while :).
The Helambu area is a paradise for photographers of any level. The breath-taking mountain views, scenic row of green hills, village settlements, local culture and people; all provides countless opportunities for taking good photos. The fresh air and cool environment was certainly refreshing and the walk along the hills tested our mental and physical capabilities to the fullest. Talking, singing, joking, laughing all along the way kept the morales high and offered a great bonding experience. The help that we received from the villages during one of our hardest moment will always keep reminding me that the true Nepali spirit is alive in those remote villages. All in all, it was a great trek with lots of adventure leaving behind firm and fond memories. Will never forget Saroj dai dancing "Kodo-baari maa ho....Kodo-baari maa!". Special thanks to my dear friend Ashish Bujhel for lending me his cam without which I would not have been able to capture all those amazing moments. Keep exploring!