Sunday, May 26, 2013

Namaste, Nepal!

Thankfully Mark enjoyed his trek so much that he was willing to re-do a portion of it so we could trek together. After a couple of days in Kathmandu, we took to the foothills north of Pokhara, and were off for 5 days of trekking! Starting and ending our loop in Nayapul, we went counter-clockwise through Ghandruk, Tadapani, Ghorephani, and Tikkedhunga.

Mark, fresh off of 23 days of trekking through these mountains, acted as both my guide and porter, lucky me! He carried a big pack with our combined stuff (which he said weighed less than his pack, so really, I was helping), and I carried a small pack with the really important things, like snacks.

But still, barely weighted down, the often ceaseless steps (3,280 in one particular stretch!), steep ascents and abrupt descents were grueling and exhausting. A month of doing yoga 4.5 hours a day did not prepare me well for all this cardio. But of course all the effort was worth it to get beyond roads and honking cars and zipping motos and fully into nature. And after a month in dry, hot, dusty Rishikesh, my lungs were so happy to have fresh, crisp, sweet-forest-smelling mountain air.

Tantalizing glimpses of frozen mountain peaks rose up beyond cloud-filled valleys of green foothills (mountains in their own right!). Tiny villages of quaint and charming stone houses, strung along the terraced hillsides in clusters; blue roofs indicating tourism dollars (a guesthouse or restaurant) contrasting sharply against more traditional slate-stone roofs, or rusted corrugated metal roofs held down with rocks. Deep valleys plunge into depths unseen, but the distant whisper of rushing rivers and plummeting waterfalls echoed up to meet our ears. Pink carpeted trails of spent rhododendron blooms wound through beautiful, ancient forests dripping with moss and colourful prayer flags.

Children play and chase each other, stopping us to demand “sweets?” Naked, pudgy babies getting bathed and massaged in the sun. Locals and other trekkers greet us, namaste, as we pass with a smile. A ding, ding, ding, signaling a lumber-laden mule procession, causes us to pull over (mountain side) to let them pass. Rounding a corner, we are greeted by an enormous, horned, huffing, puffing buffalo, and we watch, mesmerized as it tackles the stone steps with such impossible grace.

Goats bleating and frolicking in fields and along the trail – one pair stood sentinel on a bridge we needed to cross, and when I stepped onto the bridge, one of them bit my knee! Thankfully their teeth aren’t very sharp, and we were able to shoo them along with our hiking poles. They’re lucky they’re so darn cute and endearing, even with their bitey tendencies (you’ve all seen this, right? Or this?).

As Mark mentioned, making friends along the trail is easy – when there’s only so many villages, with only so many guesthouses, chances are you’ll end up in the same place. And if you’re traveling in the same direction, you’ll likely keep running into each other. I even led my first yoga class (!!!) one afternoon to one such friend after she found out I’d just become certified.

It was incredible being on the main “road” that ran between villages – we were on the trail the entire time; no wasting time getting to and from the trailhead each day. Even in the biggest village, we were only ever a few steps from the main route.

Accommodation on the trail is unfathomably cheap. Cheaper than the food. A room with shared bath costs about 200 Nepalese rupees per night—about $2.50—for the both of us. But for these cheap rates, you are expected to have your meals at the hotel restaurant—in fact, if you don’t, you are charged an exorbitant surcharge. Dal Baht cost about 350 rupees, and western dishes would cost a little bit more, maybe up to 500 per dish. On Mark’s trek, in the higher and more remote villages (where supplies and fuel have to be hauled in farther), dal baht could cost up to 520, but the rooms might be even cheaper.

As it was the beginning of monsoon season, it would start raining daily at about 1 or 2 pm, and continue raining off and on for the rest of the day. Sometimes it would clear a little bit at sunset to expose an illuminated snippet of some massive rock face, looming impossibly high in the sky. Without their full majesty and grandeur laid bare against clear skies, they seemed even more frightfully massive.

Because of the rain (and also because we were lucky if we made it to 8:30 pm before falling asleep), we started our days early, and did our 4-6 hours of daily hiking before lunch. In Ghorepani, we woke up even earlier to ascend neighbouring Poon Hill for sunrise. And though the Annapurna range remained hidden, we were treated to a glorious and theatrical reveal of the Dhaulagiri range. Our small feast of delectable yak cheese made it a perfect morning before the punishing descent to Tikkedhunga (partly in the rain). On our final day we met up with the road again, and it was jarring coming back to the world of cars and crowds; Pokhara felt like a bustling metropolis after a few peaceful days on the trail!

Alright, let's do this!

Walking through Nayapul.

A nice view to wake up to!

Leaving Ghandruk, headed for Tadapani.

The huff-puff parade.

Fishtail (Macchapucchre)

Tadapani in the morning light.

Perfect storybook tree.

Oooooh, these mountain views are glorious!

Savouring some yak cheese on Poon Hill while waiting for the mountains to show up.

The Dhaulagiri range

2,280 steps down, only 1,000 to go...


  1. I love that picture of the donkeys. You've got a great eye for photos, my dear! sounds like an incredible time.

  2. Your first yoga class!? How special! You two look soooo cute on your reunion trek.

    Katelin xo

  3. Beautiful pictures but I love those brilliant red Geraniums against that wonderful blue door. Spectacular vistas. WOW! Love Mum & Dad

  4. Awesome that you and Fidel got to share that experience together!

  5. So great you got to experience Nepalese trekking too!