Langtang Day 1: Thursday 13th February, 2020. Dunche to U Kyang

Madhu said there was no point in trying to get transport to Syabrubesi from Dunche, as it is infrequent and already full, but this was just as well as it provided the opportunity to make a new approach into the Langtang Valley, and we had the time.

The road ahead: this time on foot, but earlier times on a bus

As we left the town, we could see the road ahead hugging the mountain, and how it had been carved out of the rock. Some sections had buttressing and support below. Simple but impressive engineering, but how secure was it? There were no safety rails anywhere to be seen. This view was instantly recalled from earlier visits, how alarming it looked, and how you had to trust; not only the road itself, but the driver of the bus, full as it was of talkative, unmindful fourteen year olds, the grade nine students from our school.

Winter is a time when the vast northern Indian plain sends its terrible air quality seeping up onto Nepal. It joins with Kathmandu’s local pollution and continues on into the Himalayas. While the air in the early hour after sunrise appears clear enough, as soon as the sun’s rays start to slice the atmosphere the refraction of the light shows up the myriad small particles that have come all this way from the cars and factories. Nepal, which has supposedly the highest and purest mountain air in the world, is not being spared the planetary curse of polluted air.

So maybe the air is not so clear after all: PM2.5?

The extent of the pollution could be seen on the weather app, which has layers showing air quality and the various pollutants – take your pick from nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5 and aerosol; then you can check the ozone reading too. So the information from satellites had been distilled into this amazing app, and allowed us to compare what we saw with our eyes with the online map confirming the air quality. Yes, there was air pollution, and it stretched all the way to the Tibetan plateau. The question was: at which point would we come out into pristine clarity on this trek?

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