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RHODODENDRONS & SECRET VALLEYS:


A YEAR IN NEPAL (1999)




























The reasons for making two visits to Nepal in one year are many and varied: suffice it to say, that like a twig carried away by a swirling stream, I was to find myself taking two small parties to this remote and beautiful land in 1999.


The first visit was straightforward: I had never seen the Himalayas in the springtime and, although I am not a natural history photographer, I wanted to see rhododendrons in their native land. We set out, a group of four, and spent ten days walking the high ridges of the Helambu area. In the foothills we walked through immaculately terraced farmlands clinging, seemingly, to the steep hillsides. As we climbed higher we walked into rhododendron forest, the trunks knarled and twisted and hung about with Spanish moss. A dry winter had left a hazy atmosphere and this sometimes obscured the high mountains: on other days the high peaks of the Langtang and Jugal Himal had an ethereal beauty as they appeared through the mist.


That November we returned to trek in the Langtang: a remote region to the north of Helambu. The ancient Tibetan Buddhists believed in the existence of 'beyul', secret valleys whose existence was hidden for much of the time. The Langtang valley is such a 'beyul'. After an approach trek through cultivated foothills and resin-scented forests we found ourselves in Langtang. The first Westerner to visit the valley was the legendary Bill Tilman. In 1949 he wrote 'Langtang has not only the austere beauty of ice mountains accentuated by the friendly smile of flowery meadows alive with cattle - but it has the charm of reticence and the witchery of the unexpected'. The walk from Kyangin Gompa towards the end of the valley was charming... As we walk down the valley to find our transport for the return home we start to think of other places to visit...


No trip to Nepal would be complete without visits to the streets and squares of Kathmandu and Patan, and on this trip we also spend time in Bhatgaon, the third city of the Kathmandu valley.