Thursday, 16 Jan, 2020
We had arranged breakfast for 9am and Simon and I woke much earlier. Two cups of coffee later, Simon and I were ready for breakfast. Georgia turned up next with Jonno a bit later. Seems Jonno had the best night's sleep as he didn't wake at all. Bedtime at 4am Australian time must really suit his body clock.
We all had the full breakfast including sausage, omelette, potatoes and toast and jam accompanied by Nepalese tea. We then headed into the Thamel area to meet Mr Nava at Nepal Environmental Treks and Expeditions and confirm our trek plans. Over another cup of Nepalese tea we filled in our forms, confirmed our itinerary (and its flexibility) and arranged for an 8am pick up. We then changed our AUD into wads of Nepalese rupees.
Our next stop was the NTC Telecom head office to arrange a tourist SIM that had some coverage in the Langtang region. The much more common and readily available SIM for tourists, NCell, has minimal coverage in Langtang, making it useless for us. Rather than walk the main road, we wandered through the back streets, dodging people, cars and motorbikes. At one point, a guy walked past and said to Jonno, "I like your beard". We all laughed. There were lots of little shops selling all kinds of stuff from shoes to electronics. First level balconies were used to display a range of goods including mannequin parts. There was even a little street dedicated to cycle shops.
There were a number of steps involved in acquiring the SIM and a kindly young assistant in a security jacket took Simon and Jonno through each step. 45 minutes later we were sorted with 12 GB of data on two phones. Just have to hope there is some mobile cover along the way.
We had lunch at Yala cafe and tried some of the local recommendations including delicious chicken momos. We had a little time before we were due to meet our guide so checked out some of the trekking shops. We were on a mission to find some crampons given the likelihood of snow and ice on the pass. At $23 a pair, it seemed a reasonable price for peace of mind. I also spent $7 on a pair of water proof gloves. Not sure that they will make it home but will hopefully last a few wears.
We then met up with our guide, Puncha, who seemed friendly, relaxed and familiar with our route. He agreed that we had plenty of time to complete our trek and gave us some insight into what to expect and a little of the history. He a!so suggested we buy some gaiters in case of snow and took us to his preferred shop where we bought four pairs at $8Aud each.
We checked out a few more stores and Simon bought a north face soft shell. Having seen the prices of the genuine article, at $33 we knew it was a good fake. Georgia paid $20 for a pair of Matt waterproof gloves that looked like they could even make it home.
Shopping complete, we picked up our duffel bags for the trek and headed back to the hotel. We detoured a few metres to check out the nearby Bhumi Nepalese restaurant and agreed it would be a good spot for dinner.
We returned to our rooms to shower and pack. Everything fitted easily in the duffel bags which had the additional advantages of being waterproof as well as much lighter than our bags. With a limit of 25kgs between two, it's helpful to have bags weighing round 1kg each as some of our packs weighed 3-4kgs when empty.
We all tried baji plates for dinner, with Jonno, Georgia and Simon trying the buffalo plates whilst I had the chicken. It was an interesting mix of dishes, including beaten rice, smoked meat, fried fish, spinach, weirdly crunchy soy beans, soup, a delicious !entil pattie and a few other tasty morsels. According to Jonno, buffalo is like a lean, chewy beef.