A bittersweet experience on a trek is the knowledge that height gained is often sacrificed in height lost. Thus today we could see the long descent to the floor of the Langtang valley where the path would join the main trail. Finally in the valley was a lodge where we could have a hot cup of ginger tea, though the morning was chilly as the narrow valley was still in shade.
All day a helicopter flew up the valley and back, carrying long baskets of steel for concrete pillar construction; a disruptive, angry noise in this natural area, as many as fifteen trips. We met a group returning which had climbed Yala Peak (5500m), one of the easier trekking peaks, as they are called. They mentioned that there was plenty of snow at the top.
Lunch was at Bamboo lodge, finally in warming sunshine. It’s an area where the very rare red panda lives, eating the bamboo shoots, of course. It is threatened by loss of habitat. More prevalent were the red monkeys, who were chased off by a stone-throwing girl at the lodge. Half-grown chickens scrabbled in the dirt.
Conversation turned to the cow family in Nepal. We would see Dzo on the trail, a hybrid between yak and domestic cattle. The Dzo is male and infertile, but the female, called Dzomo is fertile. Yaks are in the cow family, but buffaloes are not, in Nepali eyes. Thus the large Hindu Newari community, may eat buffalo meat, because they don’t define the buffalo as being of the cow family. Brahmins and Chhetris may eat goat or mutton as well as chicken. Madhu recognised that the universal dal bhat (lentils and rice) lacks protein, but he mentioned that goat meat is fatty, so not so healthy.
One of the saddest animal sights in Nepal is the dumping of young bulls at roundabouts where they try to forage some sort of provender, but may end up swallowing plastic refuse. They have no economic value. They cannot be eaten, but to look after them involves the expense of providing fodder. So only the cow is venerated and protected, the bull is marginalised and excluded.
We passed the cliffs where wild bees have their honeycombs and where bee collectors make a perilous descent to extract the highly valued and reputedly psychotropic melliferous product. It was not long before we arrived in Lama Hotel, the usual first day stop on the Langtang trail. Earlier in the winter there had been a fair bit of snow, particularly in the Gosaikunda area, but it was relatively mild now, in mid-February. My experience in Nepal in earlier years, is that the weather often became warmer in the last week in February, a rush of sap and springtime. So we were on the cusp of that.