Tamang Heritage Trail, Langtang National Park (part I)

02 Jan

Tamang Heritage Trail, Langtang (part I) 

Starting the Tamang Heritage Trail. My mountain guide-cum-porter, Rishi, accompanied me from the luxury of the Kopan Monastery to Matribhimi Hotel (his uncle’s hotel). The hotel was a dirty and ugly place but close to the Gongabu Bus Station (on the Kathmandu’s Ring Road). From there, we would leave the following day toward the town of Syabru Besi, situated high in the mountains. We had lunch at an eatery nearby, where I paid, and Rishi was surprised to see my boyfriend’s photo on my phone. In the evening, I sat in the hotel’s dining room and took down my notes from Kopan Monastery.

The following day, we went to the bus station, which was a mix of buses, people, animals, and peddlers. Rishi had forgotten the bus tickets at home but he somehow agreed with the bus driver. The bus was called “deluxe,” it had sockets and a TV display running Indian hits but otherwise was a jalopy. It ran with the door open and, at a bend of the road, my small backpack (with money!) flew directly out, through the open door. Rishi flew after it immediately and brought it back to me.

Most part of our trip, the bus followed tangled roads, dusty, and with lots of bumps. The bus helper had his own seat at the front of the bus, between the lines. When the road narrowed, he got off the bus and guided the driver. One knock on the door meant ‘Stop!’ and a couple of knocks meant ‘Continue! You can move on.

Our bus trip from Kathmandu to the small town of Syabru Besi lasted 9 hours (for ~ 200 km). We had a lunch break in Kalika Sthan and stopped for several controls at the entrance of the Langtang National Park. There, the police checked my passport, my trekking permits, and even my luggage. Rishi filled out a form in a big notebook and declared he would take care of me. In Syabru Besi, we stayed down the main street, at Yala Peak Guesthouse. My room from the top floor was basic and dirty but had hot running water. Especially relevant, food prices suddenly doubled compared to the ones of Kathmandu.

The Tamang Heritage Trail is a less popular trek in Nepal but close to the famous and crowded Langtang Valley. The trek lasts between five to seven days (if an optional visit to the Tibetan border is included). The trail passes through Tamang villages, including villages where Tibetan refugees live. These villages are still very alive, despite their limited accessibility (only by motorbike, horses, or walking). The trek was set up as a community-based project to improve local agricultural life through tourism.

Tamang Heritage Trail, the first day of the trek

Short description: We started the ascent from the small town of Syabru Besi. We steeply went up to Bahun Danda Pass. After that, we walked along a dirt road above the Goljung Valley and finally went down along a contour line to Gotlang village.

Long description

I gave my sleeping bag and a few clothes to Rishi to carry them. I had only a small backpack that contained my water camel bag and a photo camera. We followed a steep footpath that started a few houses away from the guesthouse where we had stayed overnight.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 1: Syabru Besi - a local shop on our way going up to Bahun Danda Pass

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 1: Syabru Besi – a local shop on our way going up to Bahun Danda Pass

After we left behind Syabru Besi (1467m altitude), the path turned into steep stone steps and passed through mustard or buckwheat fields. Two local boys, Rohan and Nima, joined us for the first part of our trip up to Bahun Danda Pass and they even asked me which caste I belonged.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 1: Going up to Bahun Danda Pass - view of Syabru Besi. The valley on the right is the famous Langtang Valley

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 1: Going up to Bahun Danda Pass – view of Syabru Besi. The valley on the right is the famous Langtang Valley

At noon, we stopped at Bahun Danda Pass (2100 m altitude), at Golgung Danda Chhangang Lodge, where we ate the traditional dish, dhal bhat (rice with vegetables and spicy sauce). I quickly climbed to the Tsamkhang Stupa, where a lama and a group of local Tamang women recited mantras.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 1: Bahun Danda Pass (2100 m alt.) - lunch break at Golgung Danda Chhangang teahouse

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 1: Bahun Danda Pass (2100 m alt.) – lunch break at Golgung Danda Chhangang teahouse

After lunch, we followed a dirt road that passed above the Goljung Valley and then descended to Gotlang village (2238 m altitude), where we found a good local lodge, Gotlang Guesthouse & Homestay.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 1: Gotlang village - asking for accommodation

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 1: Gotlang village – asking for accommodation

The dining room of the guesthouse had painted Nepali scenes (the red panda, the snow leopard, or snowy mountains). Before dinner, I tasted the Sherpa tea or suchia (melted yak butter, salt, yak milk, and Nepali tea).

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 1: Gotlang village - Gotlang Guesthouse & Homestay. Serving Sherpa tea or suchia (melted yak butter, salt, yak milk, and Nepali tea)

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 1: Gotlang village – Gotlang Guesthouse & Homestay. Serving Sherpa tea or suchia (melted yak butter, salt, yak milk, and Nepali tea)

Later, four Frenchmen came to stay at the same guesthouse as we did. The small dining room quickly filled up with people. For dinner, we had a local dish called dhendo (mashed maize flour with vegetables and spicy sauce).

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 1: Gotlang village - Gotlang Guesthouse & Homestay - preparing the dhendo

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 1: Gotlang village – Gotlang Guesthouse & Homestay – preparing the dhendo

Tamang Heritage Trail, the second day of the trek

Short description: We descended from Gotlang village along the Bamdang Khola Valley. When we reached Chilime village, we crossed the river, and then steeply hiked to Cherka hamlet and Gonggang village. We ended our trekking day in Tatopani village (which means “hot water” in Nepali).

Long description

In the morning, there was 10 degrees Celsius in the room where I slept. I ate an omelet with chapati (flat local bread) and went out for a walk through Gotlang village. Gotlang was a picturesque village where houses had wooden shutters, with carved, colorful Tibetan decorations.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 2: Gotlang village - traditional houses of stone, carved wood, and slate

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 2: Gotlang village – traditional houses of stone, carved wood, and slate

A line of chortens started from the center of the village and continued out of it for a while. A chorten is a pyramidal construction of stones that have written mantras on them. It usually belongs to one family and is built in memory of the dead.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 2: Heading toward the Bamdang Khola Valley along a line of chortens

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 2: Heading toward the Bamdang Khola Valley along a line of chortens

When we left Gotlang village, we followed the line of chortens towards the Bamdang Khola Valley. In a courtyard, a woman winnowed the millet and, in another courtyard, a Tibetan woman wore a traditional hat (syadi), an apron at her back (guni), and big round earrings of mixed metal.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 2: Heading toward the Bamdang Khola Valley - local woman at work

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 2: Heading toward the Bamdang Khola Valley – local woman at work

When the Bamdang Khola Valley narrowed, we followed a path paved with stone steps and descended close to Chilime village (1762m altitude). As we approached the junction with the Chilime Valley, we passed other chortens and walls of stone, with carved and painted mantras. On the right, we could see Goljung village and Bahun Danda Pass where we had been the day before. Ahead, far above the clouds, the lofty Langtang peak (over 7000 meters high) appeared for a few minutes.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 2: Heading toward the Bamdang Khola Valley (with my guide-cum-porter Rishi)

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 2: Heading toward the Bamdang Khola Valley (with my guide-cum-porter Rishi)

We crossed the Chilime River on a suspension bridge and started a long and exhausting hike (860 m difference of altitude) toward Tatopani village. On our way to Cherka hamlet, we met a Nepali man who had been working in Malaysia for the past thirteen years. He was coming home to his wife and child, who lived in Gonggang village. The man carried only a bag on his shoulder and was happy to have someone to talk to on his way up to his village. He didn’t seem to hurry and we left him behind when he met another Nepali man he had known beforehand.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 2: Crossing the Chilime Valley on a suspension bridge

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 2: Crossing the Chilime Valley on a suspension bridge

We quickly reached Cherka hamlet (2038m altitude) and stopped there for lunch, at Cherka Hotel & Waterfall Viewpoint. While I was eating potatoes with vegetables and eggs, the three children of our host gathered around me. A few drops of rain started to fall outside, and I heard them on the roof of the house.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 2: Cherka hamlet - woman with her children at Cherka Hotel & Waterfall Viewpoint

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 2: Cherka hamlet – woman with her children at Cherka Hotel & Waterfall Viewpoint

From Cherka hamlet, we continued the exhausting ascent to Gonggang village (2227m altitude). We passed among traditional households and plots of agricultural land, situated on steep terraces.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 2: Going up from Cherka hamlet to Gonggang village - local households

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 2: Going up from Cherka hamlet to Gonggang village – local households

After we passed Gonggang village, we walked along a contour line that constantly climbed to Tatopani village (2607m altitude). Tatopani means ‘hot water’ in Nepali and there had been hot springs for many years. The 2015 earthquake damaged the hot springs, though and only the empty pools remained.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 2: Going up from Gonggang village to Tatopani

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 2: Going up from Gonggang village to Tatopani

In Tatopani village, we stayed overnight at Eco Guesthouse, where two Americans, Matt and Heather, were staying, too. They were very glad to see their first tourist in two days, me. We didn’t have shower or WIFI at the guesthouse as we had read on their visit cards. Nevertheless, there was a stove with a wooden fire in the dining room. I ate again dhendo and chicken balls to regain back my physical condition after two long trekking days.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 2: Tatopani Village - dhendo for dinner at Eco Guesthouse

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 2: Tatopani Village – dhendo for dinner at Eco Guesthouse

Tamang Heritage Trail, the third day of the trek

Short description: We went from Tatopani village to Brimdang hamlet and then continued the ascent to Nagthali Ghyang.

Long description

The porridge (tsumpa) with only one spoon of muesli was not enough for my breakfast after two trekking days, and Rishi told me I had to pay anything extra ordered. In the morning, I walked through Tatopani village, which was a mini-resort, with half of its houses transformed into lodges for trekkers. I saw the former pools for thermal water, abandoned in decay after the 2015 earthquake. However, the children seemed happy and greeted me with the traditional ‘Namaste’.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 3: Tatopani Village - little boy saying "Namaste"

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 3: Tatopani Village – little boy saying “Namaste”

When I turned back to the guesthouse, Rishi was ready to go and wanted to reach Thuman village the same day (6-8 hours of hike for the third consecutive day).

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 3: Leaving from Tatopani Village

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 3: Leaving from Tatopani Village

We left Tatopani village and went up toward Brimdang hamlet. I was very tired after the previous two trekking days. However, the picturesque subtropical forest with climbing plants revitalized me for a while. Sometimes the path went down, even though we had to reach 3000 meters. In the background of the Sanjen Khola Valley, I could see Ganesh Himal peak, over 7000 meters high.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 3: Passing through a subtropical forest with climbing plants (Ganesh Himal peak in the background)

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 3: Passing through a subtropical forest with climbing plants (Ganesh Himal peak in the background)

We reached Brimdang hamlet (2848m altitude), which had a few dilapidated houses and an abandoned gompa. I entered inside a small cottage, where a woman was cooking nettle sauce for dhal bhat. The household where she lived with her husband had a garden with vegetables, a small bridge to a stream, and a store for dried corncobs.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 3: Brimdang hamlet - local woman cooking nettle sauce for dhal bhat

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 3: Brimdang hamlet – local woman cooking nettle sauce for dhal bhat

The path from Brimdang hamlet to Nagthali Ghyang went up gently most of the way, but we climbed steeply when almost reached 3000 meters. When the fog came up from the valley below us, I realized I wouldn’t be able to see the view of the Langtang Range. I asked Rishi to put off the descend to Thuman village for the next day and stay in Nagthaly Ghyang (3165m altitude) over the night.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 3: Going up from Brimdang hamlet to Nagthaly Ghyang

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 3: Going up from Brimdang hamlet to Nagthaly Ghyang

We checked-in at Nagthali Great Wall Lodge, where the ‘not enough food’ story repeated. The spaghetti had a teaspoon of tuna with tomato sauce and a bit of yak cheese. Consequently, I was scolded when I asked for extra topping. I created a scandal, solved the problem, and received more topping for my spaghetti. However, I also ordered a pancake with a few slices of apple just to be sure I wouldn’t be starving until dinner.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 3: Nagthaly Ghyang - Nagthali Great Wall Lodge

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 3: Nagthaly Ghyang – Nagthali Great Wall Lodge

In the afternoon, I walked around Nagthali Ghyang and found the two Americans sitting on a sleeping pad. They were waiting for the view of the Langtang Range to appear from the clouds. I sat next to them and we froze together for a while. After that, I went down to my guesthouse, where an old woman asked me for food. Further, I watched the clouds moving up and down while I was sipping hot lemon tea, kept warm in a thermos. As I sat there, I hoped the mountains would come out of the clouds (which actually happened over small areas but just for a couple of minutes).

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 3: Nagthaly Ghyang - local women with children

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 3: Nagthaly Ghyang – local women with children

In the evening, the four Frenchmen who had stayed with us in Gotlang village caught up with us and checked-in at the same lodge where we were staying. As a result, the owner of the guesthouse (a lama) started to cut firewood when they arrived. For dinner, I had potato momos and pancake with yak cheese. Finally, I wasn’t hungry anymore. When we ran out of firewood in the dining room, we were sent upstairs to our rooms.

Tamang Heritage Trail - Day 3: Nagthaly Ghyang - a local kitchen

Tamang Heritage Trail – Day 3: Nagthaly Ghyang – a local kitchen

Tamang Heritage Trail (part I) is the first part of my trekking diary in the Langtang National Park (find the version in Romanian at Tamang Heritage Trail, Parcul National Langtang, Nepal). Its continuation, my second post can be found at the following link Tamang Heritage Trail (part II). And here are all my Travel Diaries from Nepal (x12).

Have you done a trek or you’re planning to do one in the Himalayas? Leave a comment below this post and tell me what you like about trekking or what you expect to find in the Himalayas.

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20 Responses to “Tamang Heritage Trail, Langtang National Park (part I)”

  1. JOI January 18, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

    great photos i can see some of them being a postal card: Have fun exploring

  2. Jen Morrow January 31, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    What an adventure! I love all day hiking for a day trip. Three day treks and limited food would be tough, glad that you are having fun.

    • Authentic Travels February 1, 2017 at 9:06 am #

      I hiked the mountains for 15 years in Romania, but it was never so tough as in the Himalatas. These mountains are so steep that I would eat all day long.

  3. Sarah Kim January 31, 2017 at 2:34 pm #

    You really captured the experience through this post. I can’t believe the bus ride was 9 hours! That llunch break in Kalika Sthan and stop at Langtang National Park seemed like a good break.

  4. Megan Indoe January 31, 2017 at 8:46 pm #

    This trek seems great, we are going to Kathmandu in 2 weeks. We have an organized trek and some activities to do but this is not on the list. We have a few extra days before we have to leave and perhaps we can fit this in!

    • Authentic Travels February 1, 2017 at 9:08 am #

      Normally, this trek lasts 5 days if you walk every day at least 6 h; otherwise, you can do just a small loop of it, the first 3 day or the last 2 one. However, take in mind that you’ll need another trekking permits.

  5. Soraya February 1, 2017 at 8:16 am #

    This sounds like a great and super authentic experience. I would have loved to try the Sherpa Tea & dhendo – it sounds so interesting. So lovely as well that you got to see local village ladies cooking and preparing traditional style meals. And the views look so wonderful! I hope to experience Nepal one day.

  6. Candy February 1, 2017 at 9:14 am #

    Wow! You had quite the adventure. I must say that I really enjoy the photos of the food and women cooking. The scenery is gorgeous, but there is something about the cooking photos that are really intriguing to me. For example, when I saw the photo of the women sitting down and cooking I thought, “I don’t think I have ever been in a house where sitting down and cooking was the norm.” The only time I can think of Westerners sitting down and cooking is when we are roasting marshmallows over a campfire, but that’s not real cooking 🙂

  7. Hallie February 1, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

    I love all of the info you provide, even the things that seem small but speak so much to the entire trip. How close were you sitting to that open door to have your stuff fall out of it though!?! That would have given me a bad omen for the entire trip. Seemed like all turned out well though.

    • Authentic Travels February 1, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

      It wasn’t me that I was sitting close to the open door, but my backpack. Yes, everything turned out well. 🙂

  8. Patricia February 1, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

    Honestly, this sounds like an amazing trip! Not only the views (which were gorgeous in the pics, even with the clouds descending — in fact, they added to the magical quality), but because of all the people you met and the authentic life you encountered. I have to say that my hiking skills aren’t up to this yet even with a guide, but your diary of the trek is inspiring! Sorry to hear that the earthquake took out the hot spring pools in Tatopani, though — that sounds like exactly the kind of soak I would need after walking that far!

    • Authentic Travels February 2, 2017 at 10:17 am #

      I did another trek near Annapurna, and there I extended the hike with one day to reach the hot springs. So, don’t worry, it was my ideal, too.

  9. Jo February 1, 2017 at 6:44 pm #

    Nepal is beautiful. I have visited around 10-15 times but can you believe that I have barely ever left Kathmandu? sigh! Time to revisit and explore the lovely mountains and trails this pretty country offers. Tamang heritage sounds like a good starting point. thanks for sharing.

  10. Jojo February 2, 2017 at 3:11 am #

    The hike looks really intense! It does look like an indescribable experience though. Those houses made of stone and wood are so interesting to see!

  11. nicki February 2, 2017 at 3:20 pm #

    This looks amazing. I have never been big into hiking because I get elevation sickness. Did you have any issues? I have been trying to figure out ways to get around it.

    Beautiful photos by the way!

    • Authentic Travels February 2, 2017 at 5:26 pm #

      I didn’t go too high, just 3000 meter altitude. You usually have problems over 4000 meters.

  12. Eric || The Bucket List Project February 25, 2017 at 1:10 am #

    wow, all of your pics of the Nepalese people especially that little boy was amazing! I would love hiking across that suspension bridge!
    Was it cold?

    • Authentic Travels February 25, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

      Cold, not at all. I was very warm in Nepal by the way. Maybe if you go higher than 4000 m altitude, but otherwise I wasn’t cold at all.

  13. Sandy N Vyjay March 10, 2017 at 5:40 am #

    I have begun to admire your posts a lot. Your choices of places to travel to is off beat! The trek you had through the villages must have given you some incredible experiences. There is nothing better than exploring a place the local way. The settlements nestled in nature is incredible. You have given me some huge travel goals.

    • Authentic Travels March 10, 2017 at 11:16 am #

      I am happy that I challenged you. I also follow your blog and I like the places you post about a lot. 🙂

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