Starting out from Syabrusi I knew it was going to be a long, hard day of climbing. I wasn't disappointed. The mountain above the village was crisscrossed with trails. Some went to farmhouses higher up the slope. Some led to small terraced fields scattered around wherever people could clear a flat spot of land large enough to plant some crops.
Most of the trails we had been on so far had climbed steadily but had been a moderate grade. Khim was in the lead today and as soon as we left the village he picked the straight-up-the-hill-direct approach. I was struggling to keep up even though he was carrying a forty pound pack. I was beginning to wonder if I was too old for this trekking stuff. At least I could enjoy the beautiful views of the Ganesh Himal during my frequent stops to catch my breath. But for the local hill people, this was their everyday commute to work or school or shopping or temple. There are no wimps among the hill people in Nepal.
At one point we stopped at a farmhouse/lodge - the Mountain View Lodge. Aptly named, but there must be several hundred "Mountain View" lodges in Nepal. We took a longer break and enjoyed the view. There was an old Nepali woman sitting outside the lodge that made the 82 year old lady from Syabrusi look young. I usually ask before taking pictures but this time I took her photo surreptitiously. Then it was time to start climbing again.
Because people lived and worked on this slope there were numberous Buddhist shrines along the trail. They made for good resting points and looked great in photos with giant Himalayan mountains in the background. I tried to be very careful to always pass the shrines on the left (no bad karma for me) but if I missed seeing a shrine Tasi would point it out to me and gently suggest that I walk to the left of it. He is a very devout Buddhist and it was very important to him.
After about four hours of steep climbing I was starting to wear out. We had been doing hard hiking for a week but today was the hardest and steepest. Much of the slope was open so the sun was hot and I was getting dehydrated. It was getting to be hard work but I could tell that we were getting close to a local high point. I was feeling a little woozy but finally we reached the crest of the ridge that we had been climbing all morning. Time to stop for lunch. Of course there was a small lodge there. It seemed deserted but Tasi chased down the owners. Pretty soon I was sitting in the warm sun, drinking a Coke and enjoying a magnificent view of Langtang Lirung. When lunch came it was delicious. The hard climb was forgotten and the world was a wonderful place.
After lunch there was more climbing, but it was on an easy grade. By the middle of the afternoon we reached the village of Chandanbari. There are four or five lodges there and a famous cheese factory (which we never did visit). This is where the trekking trail from Langtang joins the pilgramage trail coming up from Dhunche, so it is often a busy place. We stayed at the Red Panda Lodge. This was definitely the nicest lodge that I have stayed at in Nepal in the hill country. There are nice hotels in cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara but lodges in the hills tend to much more rustic. They had a completely separate building that was huge for the kitchen and dining room. There was another building with lots of guest rooms. Their solar shower was hot and was very luxurious after a really hard day of hiking. They had imported wine on display in the dining room. I saw Jacobs Creek and Yellow Tail - two Australian wines that are quite good that we frequently bought in Singapore. I must admit though that after a hard day of hiking they had no appeal for me. Very important - they had a western toilet. Forget about those squat toilets - a trip to the loo was something to look forward to. And to top it all off they had their own silk-screened tshirts for the Red Panda Lodge. I could not resist. I had to get one. Even though I knew in my heart that the largest size they had was probably too small for me, I could not pass up getting an official Red Panda Lodge, Chandanbari, Nepal tshirt.
There were other trekkers staying at the lodge. There was a Dutch couple and a British woman traveling by herself. They had come up from Dhunche. They had both been delayed by the strike that closed the access road. But two days before there had been a settlement so the road was finally open again and trekkers could reach the trailheads.
This had been a hard day of hiking. At dinner time I ordered a noodle dish. Seemed harmless enough. But when it came I took one whiff and all I smelled was garlic. I love garlic, but not tonight. Strangely enough, the harder I work during the day the less hungry I am when dinnertime comes. So I passed my dinner over to Tasi and Khim untouched and decided to head straight to bed. I curled up in my sleeping bag and was nice and warm. I had a great nights sleep. Maybe it was well needed rest after a hard day of hiking. Maybe it was the security of knowing that there was a real western-style toilet there if I should need it. But whatever the reason, I slept like a baby.
The next morning was perfect weather once again. Although we would be climbing all day to reach Gosaikund Lakes, the trail was more gradual and the weather was cooler so it seemed pretty easy. Just keep climbing, slow and steady. At Chandanbari we had nice views but we were on the back (facing Dhunche) side of the mountain so we couldn't see the Himalayan crest. But after about two hours of hiking we reached the top of the ridge and again had incredible views in all directions. Our lunch stop was at a spectacular viewpoint. But we were getting higher and a cold wind was blowing along the ridge crest. After a cup of warm orange drink outside where I could enjoy the view, I went inside the lodge to get out of the wind while I ate my lunch.
When we left our lunch stop the wind really picked up. It was chilly but I was fine with my wind shell on. But the wind was blowing lots of fine dust which was really annoying. It was a nuisance so I just kept my head down. Eventually we turned a corner and entered the basin that contained the Gosaikund Lakes and the wind dropped off. The trail was impressive as it did a rising traverse along a very steep slope. Finally we reached the sacred lakes.