Choosing Dhunche as starting point for a trekking trip is perfect when going to Gosainkunda or Langtang Valley. Less optimal in monsoon time though. So it proved for 34-year-old French traveller Florent Avella, who went on a four-day journey, starting September 1, to digitally capture the famous Gosainkunda lakes. Learning about the religious significance in addition to the amazing natural setting, this was a must-destination for him, being a professional travel photographer. The journey was interesting, but he never got to see the lakes.
Gosainkunda Lake situated in Langtang area (file photo)
It seemed straightforward. He booked the short hiking trip with an office in Thamel. Clear instructions given for the bus to Dhunche, permit and accommodation arranged, and the guide would be waiting for him. The next morning, they would start to walk from there, fresh and full of energy. All handled in good order at a competitive price. It would only take a seven-hour bus trip to the starting point. Normally it does. However, the monsoon decided differently this year.
The bus ride turned into a full-size trekking adventure, matching the hike he supposed to start the day after. Hours into the journey the bus stopped and it soon became clear that everybody had to abandon it with all their belongings. A landslide made it impossible for the bus to continue. Sure, a landslide is a common occurrence during monsoon time, but this one was one of larger scale. Everybody had to walk for at least a few kilometres, wading through newly developed rivers and following narrow mud paths, to a point where the next bus was waiting for them. Part of travel adventure. However, it felt less adventurous when everybody had to get off bus number 2 and hike for another few kilometres, to get into waiting bus number 3, and everybody felt completely exhausted after another long journey by foot, meeting up with final bus number 4. This had turned into serious unplanned hiking before the planned hiking trip.
Did this damage happen overnight? Nobody in Thamel seemed to know about it, or failed to mention it. Clearly it was not important enough for the daily news. No people died during the landslides. Only road damage occurred, on a large scale. Even local people did not seem to be informed or they took it as the usual burden that coincides with monsoon season. Turning around is not an option. Two people on motorbikes did not even decide to return to where they came from, but chose to drag their bikes up the slippery and narrow paths kindly helped by locals, taking the same route as the bus passengers had to take, oblivious to any risks of personal injury or bike damage. Clearly getting there was more important, no matter what.
As for Avella, he cut his trip short, knowing that two days later he had to do this unplanned hike again on his return to Kathmandu. Thinking of the local people, let’s hope that they do not have to embark on this journey on a regular basis, as the landslides on the route Kathmandu-Dhunche are not likely to be cleared very soon. Nature has done too much damage here. Stay informed before visiting this region at this time, or you might also be trekking before trekking! -THT
(The writer is a freelance writer / journalist from The Netherlands)