We began retracing our steps, starting, as usual at 7:30 after breakfast in a busy dining room. We hadn’t gone far when Tendi and I got up to some shenanigans on a snow covered slope above the trail. I took my pack cover and he his pack. We climbed to the top and took turns sliding down. We got a fair bit of speed and as there was a large granite rock at the bottom of our slide path had to put on the breaks. As we left, a fellow from another group climbed up to to the same thing. A trend has been started.
We continued our journey through the wide valley, the sun thankfully at our backs, so it was easier to see where we were going than on our way up when it had shone relentlessly into our eyes.
Eventually we passed through new Lang Tang village and on to the rubble field of the old. From above we could better see and appreciate the scope of the carnage. I stopped to take a picture and Tendi stood beside me. “Terrible,” he says. We continue together through the rubble. As he walks, he tells me how it was.
First a shock wave blasted down, throwing people into the air. When they fell to the ground they either died from impact or were seriously injured. The shock wave was so powerful it spread up and down the slope rising on the other side of the valley and knocked down the trees for about half a kilometre in either direction. Now the trees lie row on row, one next to the other all pointed in the same direction. The order of the decimation seems incongruous. The shock wave was rapidly followed by megatons of rock that buried everyone and every thing. There were approximately 160 people at home that day. Cocking meals, washing clothes, feeding animals, nursing infants – then they died. Horribly. I spoke to a young man from another village who told me a couple of his friends lost their entire families in that moment. They also lost their homes. They lost everything.
And here we were, walking across the burial grounds of an entire village. I had wanted to see the area again, but in this moment I realized I needed to pay my respects.
I asked Tendi about the woman whose guest house we’d stayed in before the earthquake. I have a picture of her as she stood smiling by her wood stove making me my dinner. She died that day with all the others. Being here again has taken on a different meaning. It is no longer about seeing a place again. It is about honouring an unimaginable loss.
We continued down and down, taking a few pauses for tea and lunch and walking more and more. Finally, after 7.5 hours on the trail we stumbled into Lama Hotel. We’d descended in one day what had taken us two to ascend. Dinner was delicious. We were ravenous as well as tired.
Michel was sawing logs by 7 pm and I was only a few minutes behind him. (Not that I snore of course.)