Langtang Trek - Day 7, Woodlands to Langtang Village (3,500)
A lot cooler this morning with a ground frost which is an indication that we are gaining altitude.
Not long after leaving camp we cleared the tree line getting into open ground, which afforded a better view of the mountains. It also allowed the rising sun to reach us and soon the temperature warmed, as the sun's rays were quite strong. At times it was very warm indeed, as the bright light was reflected of the mica in the path we were following. Following the advice I had been given for these conditions I placed dabs of sunscreen on my nostrils and under the ear lobes to prevent being burnt by the reflection. I also started to use my sunglasses and a wide rimmed hat. Before long the mild headache that I had been experiencing the last few days, which I had attributed to the altitude, disappeared.
Stopping for some tea at a small building I noticed that the terrain and views were substantially different now. Langtang Lirung, the highest mountain in this part of the Himalayas, was just peeking above the valley walls. The river was now further below us and the path could be seen sweeping ahead to our next destination.
Later, we stopped for lunch using a small field where the tarpaulin had been stretched out again. By now a cold wind was coming up from the lower valley and I was grateful that there was a stone wall protecting us from it. I noticed that cloud was starting to build in the valley below and it looked to be blowing our way. As we sat and ate I noticed that above some of the mountains to our left a peculiar wispy cloud formation had formed. One of the locals told us that this was snow that had plumed up from an avalanche way up towards the ridge.
We continued making our way to the village of Langtang, which we could see in the distance, but en route, took a small detour to see a small disused monastery. The place was no more that a rock built building with nothing special to signify it was anything other than an ordinary building apart from the prayer flags which were making snapping noises in the now strong wind. A smiling woman wearing a typical Tibetan apron and pieces of jewellery let us into the building. On getting inside I had to let my eyes adjust to the gloom before I was able to see anything. When I did it was fantastic. The walls were covered with old paintings with a shrine dominating one wall on which tan image of Buddha, adorned with white scarves, had centre stage. We were allowed to take photos and I hoped that the small flash on my camera would work in these dark conditions.
Camp was reached at about three in the afternoon our tents having been pitched at the edge of the village. By now the clouds, which had earlier been swirling in the valley below, had risen to surround us in a low mist, causing the temperature to plummet. The village consisted of a mixture of traditional stone buildings and some more modern versions where wood and glass had been used in the construction. Earlier in the trek I had seen porters carrying big loads of wood up the valley and assumed that these were how they got the materials up here to use in the new constructions.
I was in the process of sorting out my gear in the tent when I was besieged by a couple of young boys demanding to know if I had pens money or chocolate to give them. I told them I hadn't but they wouldn't give up and almost came into the tent itself. This was really persistent begging and I was both dismayed and sad. Considering the relative isolation of the village and that this was not the most popular of routes, I wondered how much worse it may be elsewhere. I felt distinctly uneasy too about the boys almost climbing into the tent and I wondered how safe it was going to be leaving the tent to go for the evening meal tonight.
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