As a warm-up prior to tackling the Annapurna circuit, I went for a 5 day hike around Helambu.
The trail starts in Sundarijal. Elevation gain is the word of the day and after literally climbing steps alongside a water mains, the trail turns into a "real" one.
Some reprieve was granted just prior to reaching the first stop of the day, Chisapani. Fog rolled in during the afternoon, erasing the views. Sadly this would be a theme for most of the trek.
Bamboo swings can be found in most villages and are enjoyed by young and old.
Chisapani is a basically a small cluster of 4 hotels. Only one hotel had a few guests, the others closed early in the evening, realizing no other trekkers would make it up that day.
Some shots at sunrise from the next day. As during the rest of the trip, the only cloudless period was before 7 am or so, after which clouds rolled in, with higher elevations blanketed in fog.
On the way past Chipling, I ran into these two characters, hauling water from one of the many water spots. There are literally hundreds of small streams running down the hills everywhere. My water filter came in handy.
The higher the elevation, the more authentic the houses seemed to be.
Stupas are everywhere. You have to walk around them clockwise, or at least that's what the Nepali's do.
Arriving in Gulphu Bhanbnjyang, I was not impressed by the two small lodges that were open and hiked back for half an hour to stop at the one pictured below, which proved to be a very good choice. I was the only guest and ate with the family in their kitchen. I was the first one to stop there this season.
A rare morning view looking away from the Langtang range. Langtang was already clouded in by the time I got up.
Looking back on 5 hours of hiking. The small white square at the top of the ridge I came along was the lodge pictured above.
A last break in the clouds for the day and one more stupa beaming in the woods.
After that, everything turned gray and visibility dropped to a 20 or 30 feet. The route was steep and the trail not marked, with lots of small side trails disappearing into the fog. I was basically scrambling up a dry creek bed. By 1 in the afternoon I was making contingency plans to hike back down a 1,000 meters to Kutumsang, where I had passed a few lodges earlier. As the deadline drew nearer, I bumped into a set of prayer flags with a small stupa, and right behind it, a lodge and restaurant. Seems I was on the right path all along.
I was even more surprised when I met two Brits coming out of the restaurant. They were a few hours ahead of me and had started in Kutumsang that morning. We met up again in Tharepati a few hours later. ZoŽ and Simon live and work in Kathmandu. They also speak Nepali, which was quite useful the next day, as we lost our way a few times.
After a sumptuous lunch and with the assurance I was on the right trail after all, I ended up in Tharepati a few hours later. The trail was well marked from the lodge onwards and even leveled out for the most part. Thick cloud cover was the prize for reaching 3,640 meters. Supposedly the views are spectacular from here when it's sunny.
Again the views in the morning were the only good ones. Simon and ZoŽ had planned to cross from here to Langtang but decided to descend with me to Helambu given the weather.
The terrain changed constantly, but fog was our omnipresent friend.
We had lunch in Melamchi and browsed through the village before a long descend and subsequent climb to Tarkeghyang.
In Tarkeghyang, we were invited to attend a memorial for someone from the village who had died a month prior. The priests were doing their thing and the villagers danced in a separate hall.
A lot of locally brewed spirit was consumed. We saw few people in the village early the next morning. ZoŽ and Simon hiked towards Sermathang, not wanting to tackle another grueling descend. I went on to Thimbu and Kiul, another long day, but with the reward of a bus stop, a ride to Kathmandu, a hot shower and a soft bed. The way down was even worse than the day before. With each step I lost more altitude than a regular staircase. Sadly there were no stairs. A few porters overtook me, carrying bags of potatoes and wearing plastic slippers. Some things never seize to amaze me.