2015 earthquake adventures friendly locals landscape mountain night sky peaceful place Reading week rhododendron forests river snow stories trek in Langtang valley

Reading Week

Once every semester we get a week off, the so-called reading week. As the name suggests, I spent my reading week this semester reading academic literature and preparing for my classes in advance, as well as studying vigorously for my upcoming exams. Right? Well, wrong. Rather, I like to take my reading weeks as nature weeks – finally having the time to explore this beautiful country, because let’s be honest, apart from all the adventures it has to offer,  Kathmandu is probably the least physically attractive place of the entire country of Nepal. This time, I ended up going for a trek in the Langtang valley, which had been recommended to me multiple times by several people. Langtang valley was greatly affected by the 2015 earthquake, but since a couple of years tourism there is starting to thrive again. Yet in some villages on the trek, the shock and the trauma is still almost physically tangible. And every single local person we got to talk to during our trek had a person in their family or at least knew someone who died during the earthquake. So that’s why it was sometimes a weird feeling – walking on these paths, at times literally over the pebble that once was a village – and yet having fun, laughing with my friends and greeting our fellow trekkers. But the world keeps spinning, and it is probably the sensible thing to do in an area like this, to go there, spend money there, listen to the stories, admire the nature and tell others about it.

I went there in a group of five students from RYI, some fitter than others (specifically, everyone fitter than me). But with some encouragement and the luxury of buying an expensive ice-cold coke, I successfully made it up and down again. The landscape is magnificent. It starts with rhododendron forests, and then becomes more and more alpine, until finally we stayed in the snow. The entire trail is set along a river that shows itself in as many facets as the surrounding landscape. The people of Langtang valley are one of a kind – speaking a wild mixture of Tibetan, Nepali and local languages and dialects, (almost) always friendly, smiling and welcoming. The night sky is incredible, deep black with thousands of stars, silent except for the wind pulling on the windows, and the eternal noise of the river. Thinking about it now, in the loud, hot and dusty realm of Boudha, Kathmandu, it seems almost impossible for such a peaceful place of nature to exist. But it is real (well, as real as it gets), and it now truly holds a special place in my heart. I will certainly return, and so should you. Nepal has more to offer than the Boudha bubble!
~ Maitri Berners