Trekking — Nepal’s Premier Recreation

Basic Stats * Duration: 5 days, 4 nights — September 28th to October 2nd * Route: Nayapul – Tikhedunga – Ghorepani (Poon Hill) – Tadapani – Ghandruk – Nayapul * Trekkers: 22 total — 5 moms, 5 dads, 1 college-bound student and 11 children age four to ten * Staff: 11 total — lead guide, assistant guide and 9 porters * Distance walked: 47 kilometers (29 miles) * Elevation gained: 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) * Highest elevation reached: 3,210 meters (10,531 feet) * Approx temperature range: 4 – 30 degrees Celsius (40 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit)

Our ENTIRE group!  Picture courtesy of Daeng  Kamkong

Our ENTIRE group! Picture courtesy of Daeng Kamkong

Modern day “tea houses”, strong, young porters, and well developed trails have enabled access along with comfort deep into the foothills of the majestic Himalayas. Where else in the world can you hike for miles and miles without carrying your belongings and view 8,000+ meter peaks while sleeping on a bed, eating pizza and momos and sipping your drink of choice? Only in Nepal… Our journey was smooth, comfortable, and relatively effortless. The hiking / trekking / walking was tough at times, but the trip itself wasn’t. Our guides, porters and lodge staff enabled this — and we were all so grateful…

Tea houses are usually made of brick and cement - they are relatively warm and have adequate facilities.

Tea houses are usually made of brick and cement – they are relatively warm and have adequate facilities.  Compared to a tent, it felt like 5 star living!!

The Path Millions of stones have been painstakingly brought and laid to create miles of trails in the Himalayas. Our trail contained several thousand stone steps ascending and descending the hills and ravines. We also walked on narrow, uneven, dirt trails through beautiful Rhododendron rain forests (yes, rain forests!).

Beautiful bird songs, small colorful butterflies, delicate little flowers, and so much water!  Streams, waterfalls, creeks, puddles -- it was simply amazing...

Beautiful bird songs, colorful butterflies, delicate flowers, and so much water! Streams, waterfalls, creeks, puddles — it was simply amazing…

The trail for the first and last 7 kilometers of the loop was wide enough for jeeps. All trail in between, though, is only accessible by foot or mule. A friend warmly referred to the path as “the local highway” because so much activity happens on the trail – mules carrying supplies (occasionally carrying people), ladies selling fruits or drinks, local children gazing at the hoards of foreigners, and herds of goats walking descending towards the nearest town (preparation for animal sacrifice during Dashain, the biggest festival in Nepal). This “highway” connected several tiny villages — I was surprised how many small houses were scattered about the hillsides between the villages and imagined how difficult their livelihoods must be; a small trail from your house leads to the main trail which is a several hour walk to obtain any sort of supplies or services! Our group of 33 always left at the same time in the mornings but arrived at the lunch spot within a span of 1.5 hours – we had hugely varying walking speeds! Rarely did we encounter forks in the path, so often small groups of us, even the children, were walking without the guide or porters (or parents) nearby. There is a fair amount of trust and faith, for both the trekkers and the guides.

The kids walking along the path, without guide, porter or parent nearby... Trust and faith are viewed differently here -- its a whole different world (as compared to the USA)...

Our kids walking along the path, without guide, porter or parent nearby… Trust and faith are viewed differently here — its a whole different world as compared to the USA…

The People The vast majority of trekkers were foreigners, not native to Nepal. Most traveled with guides and/or porters in small groups (ours was by far the largest group!). Once in a while, we crossed paths with a lone backpacker – independent and carefree. Most all trekkers, guides and porters are friendly, offering a smile, a warm “Namaste” or even a few minutes of conversation – some who I remember include a man well into his 70s, traveling with a guide and a porter (usually the ratio is 2 trekkers per worker); a man from North Carolina; and 2 young porters from Gorkha, Nepal who I had a funny exchange with while they were stopped on the side of the trail… One was picking something out of the other’s hair and I asked, “Ke bhayo? Juka?” / “What happened? Leech?” And he responded… “Seto kapal!” / “White hair!” These young Nepalis were excavating a single white hair – ahhh I remember those days when there was just one or two!!. Unfortunately, we interacted very little with the families who live in the mountains. Usually they were quite busy preparing dinner or breakfast for our very large group. The few tidbits of dialogue we had reminded me of most other Nepalis we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with – simple, warmhearted, honest, content… priorities are on sustainability and family – really simple. The Scenery Breath taking, majestic, awe inspiring… just a few words to describe the beauty. How do I describe the scale, the air, the peacefulness? Massive, crystal clean and blissful — but experiencing it means so much more. When we’d gain elevation on the trail then glance behind to see the tips of the snowcapped mountains peeking through… WOW!

Notice the snowline, at about 5000 meters.  It looked so near, but was still ~2000 meters higher than we were!

Notice the snowline, at about 5000 meters. It looked so near, but was still ~2000 meters higher than we were!

However, kids will be kids… When we summited Poon Hill, after gazing at the mountains for a few moments then taking several pictures, the 8 kids that made it up to the top were up the their normal antics! Running around, playing tag, finding cool rocks and sticks – they could have been on Poon Hill or at a regular neighborhood playground. It was all the same to them. At that moment, I was in awe of their simplicity and lack of discrimination…

They poked a walking stick into the ground and were playing all sorts of running games -- maybe the unintentional aim was to keep warm!

They poked a walking stick into the ground and were playing all sorts of running games — maybe the unintentional aim was to keep warm!

The Food A 5-10 page menu at each tea house – no kidding! Glance over the fact that the menus are relatively identical – noodles, fried rice, spring rolls, pizza, momos (Nepali steamed dumplings), daal bhaat (Nepali plain rice with lentil soup), french fries, eggs, porridge, pancakes, muesli, toast – a variety of hot, fresh and clean (safe to eat for Western bellies) food is a feather in the cap for Nepal’s tourism industry. Coca cola, tea, coffee, alcohol and clean drinking water are also plentiful. The taste of the food was rarely stellar, but I was very happy given that I wasn’t cooking, carrying ingredients / kitchen supplies on my back, or getting ill from consumption!

Arthi having daal bhaat, Sajjan having pizza, Janani having fried rice and Maya having chicken curry!  Miles and miles away from town -- it was unbelievable!

Arthi having daal bhaat, Sajjan having pizza, Janani having fried rice and Maya having chicken curry! Miles and miles away from town — it was unbelievable!

Meal times were sometimes chaotic – relatively small kitchens producing a variety of food for our 33 person group was at times challenging. Yet whether we were in the middle of the mountains or a large city, feeding that many people at the same time can be tricky. Often our guides and porters would double as waiters and cooks to help speed things along! The Challenges By Day #3, our bodies were really sore – feet, back and everything in between. Ibuprofen and all other muscle relaxers stashed in the groups’ bags were in full demand. Most adults in our group took a few days to a week to recovery to normalcy. The kids, however, are made of elastic and rubber and had no body aches whatsoever! They were un-phased and running on all cylinders before, during and after the trek. All else was smooth. We are so blessed. After Cyclone Hudhud hit Nepal last week (just two weeks after our trip), pounding the Annapurna Region with snow and heavy winds, killing over 30 trekkers and porters and injuring dozens, our gratefulness soared… Thoughts and prayers are with those and their loved ones. Next Time… As you read in Janani’s post, our next trek must be longer! And we hope to see other peaks like Langtang and perhaps Everest one day too…

TREKKING!!! by Sumanth, Sajjan and Janani

Chapter 1: Car to Pokhara
I saw lots of new things on the way. The only thing that was the same from Telluride was the Manakamana Cable Cars. I saw lots of bamboo swings on the way back. They were big. I also saw mini bamboo swings.

Enormous bamboo swings -- my Mom's turn!

Enormous bamboo swings — my Mom’s turn!

Chapter 2: Map
Our first lodge was Tikhedhungga. Our next lodge was Ghorepani. Our next lodge was Tadapani. And our next lodge was Ghandruk.

Chapter 3: Things I Saw on the Trek
In my binoculars, I saw the first wobbly bridge that we went on. It was made out of metal and string. I saw lots of cairns – they are stacks of rocks and the rocks are really really flat. And when I saw cairns, I saw a big one and then I said to my mom, “can I make a cairn?” And then mine was really small, but then when my dad and sister and brother and my friend Dan came then we all made lots of cairns. On the last day of the trek I saw a horn of a buffalo. It was on the path. Lots of horses too. One time the horse whacked its tail into my eye.

Sumanth next to the cairn he built

Sumanth next to the cairn he built

Chapter 5: Games that we played
First we were playing this game that we should not get seen by anybody. Even the people in our trek. Then we played another game which we were all shooting everybody, but not the Nepalis. In the last lodge which was called Annapurna Lodge, we played this game that someone was the Zombie and if the Zombie or the guy who had the stick touched you then you had to be another Zombie. Then we played a game which was wrestling.

The End

by Sumanth
Day 1
On the first day we had to walk along the river for the whole day. There were lots of switchbacks so there was lots of shortcuts. The trails were very bumpy. There was one river and there were lots of waterfalls coming into that one big river. We had a nice lunch then kept walking and fell asleep in the lodge in Tikhedhungga.

Trail following the river

Trail following the river

Day 2
We woke up after a quiet sleep. Our destination on that day was Ghorepani. The second day we had to walk half jungle and half not. Later on we saw some monkeys in the wild that looked like they had a long stripy tail of black and white and they were hanging on trees and jumping from tree to tree. There were even some little little ones. The monkeys’ faces looked extremely round. He had a very long tail. There were trees in the middle of the path so you could go around the trees in two different directions. Then we kept walking and slept at the lodge called Hungry Eye in Ghorepani. It had a fire so it was a warm lodge.

Day 3
On Day 3 we woke up at 4am. Then we put on lots of layers on us because it was very cold. It was dark so we used head lamps. I was one of the first people so when I looked back I saw a stream of head lamps. It was beautiful. On Poon Hill, we took lots of photos. On Poon Hill there was a flat cloud on top of a mountain so that made the mountain look like it had a flat top. The sunrise at Poon Hill looked like the same sunrise as Lion King with purple clouds.

Sunrise at Poon Hill...

Sunrise at Poon Hill…

The mountain children and how they survive up there is very interesting. Because there is basically nothing up there like toys, paper, clothes, swings, electricity, education, cars, bicycles, buses, trucks – they just have to get around by foot, everywhere. We don’t use the nature much as much as they do.

Day 4
On Day 4, we walked from Tadapani to Ghandruk. It was so short. The snow capped mountains looked very steep. We kept seeing the same set of snow capped mountains from different places and different elevations. The porters were very entertaining to the little kids. We ate lunch at the lodge. We did not do much walking so we had lots of time and lots of fun in Ghandruk. We played a game called Mille Bornes, a French auto car racing card game. We also played a wrestling game with the other boys in the grass.

Dan and Sajjan playing the Mille Bourne card game

Dan and Sajjan playing the Mille Bornes card game

Day 5
On Day 5, we walked from Ghandruk to Kilyu. We took a jeep from Kilyu to Birethanti. We ate lunch there and then walked to Nayapul and took a bus back to Pokhara. We walked 41 kilometers in total. Our highest elevation was on Poon Hill at 3210 meters from sea level.

by Sajjan
My First Trek

In my family there are three kids — me, Sajjan and Sumanth. All three of us wanted a video game called Wii. Our parents had explained to us that we had to walk 1,000 kilometers to earn the Wii. We decided to go on a trek. It was my first trek! I was very excited to walk a lot of kilometers and so were my brothers. At last, the first day of the trek arrived. We were on our way to Pokhara. In the car, I saw so many beautiful and interesting things. I saw a lot of brick factories, flowers, trees, forests, and even a few snow-capped mountains! We also saw some roads that were decorated for Dashain. It was like silver streamers hanging from long strings which were tied to poles next to the road. It was really beautiful.

Sparkling Dashain decorations

Sparkling Dashain decorations

After looking out the window, we watched a movie. The car that we were riding in was the first car that I saw in Nepal that was able to play movies! We all crowded around the screen as we watched The Lion King. I loved it. Then we stopped to take a walk on a bridge, over a massive river. We had to take stairs down to the bridge which I found very slippery. The bridge was huge! We only walked halfway across it before we came back.

One of many pedestrian bridges across the river along the drive to Pokhara

One pedestrian bridges across the river along the drive to Pokhara

Then we got back into the car and drove to Gorkha, an old town. We ate lunch there at a restaurant called Rest and Test. We all ordered noodles which were very spicy. A man brought us tomato sauce and chili sauce. I wondered why he brought chili sauce when it was already so spicy. After that, our father told us a story about how the king of Gorkha united Nepal. It was very interesting. Finally, we reached Pokhara. We settled down in our hotel called Splendid View. Then we walked to a Punjabi restaurant for dinner. On the walk, I noticed a lot of differences between Kathmandu and Pokhara that I wasn’t expecting. The roads in Kathmandu are a lot busier than the roads in Pokhara. In Pokhara, there are a lot more tourists than in Kathmandu so there are more hotels, taxis, travel agencies, tourist buses, and many more things for tourists than in Kathmandu.

The next day, we took a boat ride to the bottom of the hill that the World Peace Pagoda is on. It was very beautiful. There was also an amazing view of Pokhara. It looked a lot like Kathmandu does from Swayumbhu (a temple in Kathmandu on a hill) except for a big lake in the middle of the town.

World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara, built by the Japanese

World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara, built by the Japanese

Then we ate lunch at a restaurant called Sweet Memories. We also went to Devi’s Fall which is an enormous roaring waterfall. There was a lot of mist which felt very refreshing. Then, we went to our friends’ hotel called Hotel Temple Tree. Our friends’ names are Maanav and Zoya. Maanav is 7 and Zoya is 2. We went swimming with them.

The next day was the start of our trek! We quickly ate breakfast and went to Hotel Barahi to meet our friends. There were four girls and seven boys – eleven children total. The girls were Charlotte, Maya, Riya and I and the boys were Sajjan, Sumi, William, Olli, Dan, Jack and Nicky. We all got into a bus and drove to Nayapul. On the way I saw a lot of goats walking down the road. What would happen is about 100 goats would come with 1 goat herd at the back. The goats would split in the middle and about half of them would go on one side of the bus while the other half would go on the other side. It was very cool but I wondered why the bus never stopped when the goats were passing. I found it extremely interesting because I never saw that many goats before.

At last we reached Nayapul. We trekked mostly next to the river. There were a lot of bridges that we had to cross to get over the river. They were very wobbly so what I did is go on the bridge and move around a lot and then the bridge would swing a little bit. It was very hot but there were a lot of waterfalls so we could wash our face in them. The water was so clean compared to the water in the rivers in Kathmandu. You could actually see through them! One time, we passed such a big waterfall which was flowing across the trail so we had to take our shoes off to go through it. It was so fun but suddenly a bunch of goats came to cross the river so we had to rush to the other side of the waterfall and move to the side because we heard that if you get in a goat’s way, he will push you. The expressions on the goats faces were so confused. Some of them were about to jump into the next waterfall. It was so funny!

Crossing the trail in 8 inch deep water - see the goats on the other side?

Crossing the trail in 8 inch deep water – see the goats on the other side?

We continued going until we reached the lunch spot. I had fried rice and so did my brothers. I really liked it. The meals are so different from the USA because whenever we hiked there, we always picniced for lunch but in Nepal there are teahouses in the middle of the trails so we stop there for lunch. Saddly, when we continued to Tikhedhungga, Riya felt sick so she had to ride on a horse. I wish she wasn’t sick because Charlotte, Maya and I weren’t able to keep up with the horse. At the lodge, the girls and I played a lot of hand games. We played Concentration which is a hand game where you keep saying words that have to do with one topic and you cannot hesitate or repeat words. We also played a hand game that we made up and we kept making up different versions and were silly about it.

The next day was the hardest day. We had to gain 2,756 feet of elevation. Riya, the lead guide and I were the first to reach the lunch spot. A few minutes later, Ollie came with his porter and then some other porters came. And then a long time later, everyone else came. I was really proud of myself because I got to the lunch spot first and I had never reached first before. In the beginning, it was hot so I wet myself a lot in the waterfalls. But when we started gaining more elevation, I started feeling cold and sick. After lunch it started raining. That made me feel even worse. FINALLY we reached Ghorepani. The porters were the people who carried our things such as clothes, sleeping bags, medicines, small toys and some other things that we didn’t carry. They were men who carried big bags of our stuff on their heads with a little string. It was so amazing how they climbed all of the steep steps and went across all the waterfalls with those heavy bags on their heads.

Our porters were in their late teens or early 20s

Our porters were in their late teens or early 20s

The next morning we woke up really early to climb Poon Hill and see the sunrise. I was SO tired. Riya and Maya both didn’t come, so it was just me and Charlotte. At the top, the sunrise was beautiful and we were surrounded by snow capped mountains but I don’t think that it was worth climbing Poon Hill because it was dark when we started climbing and I was tired. We came back to Ghorepani and had breakfast. Then we went to Tadapani and on the hike we climbed up and down steep hills. I was VERY tired. I bought a box of Pringles and ate it as I waited for my friends who were behind me. When they reached, we made up a silly song called “My Butt’s Rubbin’ on the Wall”. We sang it until dinner time and then a few more times before bed time.

The next day was the easiest day. I hiked at the back of the line with Charlotte, Maya, Riya and William. We all pretended to be different people and change our names. Charlotte was Georgina. William was George. Maya was Clara. Riya was Ashley. And I was Molly. We started talking about things that were made up. I found it very funny. When we reached Ghandruk we had lunch. Then us girls went into the “girls room” to write songs. We wrote a lullaby and a Jungle Song. We preformed the Jungle Song with singing, dancing, acting, mouth noises, costumes and props. Then after dinner we sang the lullaby around our only camp fire on the trek. It was really fun.

Charlotte, Maya and Janani performing the Jungle Song

Charlotte, Maya and Janani performing the Jungle Song

The next day we were going to Nayapul. It was a long way but it was all downhill. On the way, we saw a bamboo swing. In Nepal, when it is Dashain, Nepalis build bamboo swings. The one that we saw was gynormous! It looked like it was as tall as someone’s house! It was really cool. We walked a little more and stopped to catch a jeep because we were too tired to finish the walk. The jeep ride was very bumpy because I was sitting with the three other girls. When we reached the restaurant we wrote a song while eating. We planned to perform it in Kathmandu. After lunch we walked to the bus which went to Pokhara and the next day we drove home.

I’m really glad that my friends came because when they were with me I felt like I walked faster because I was having fun. One other thing I really liked about the trek was the horse bells. When I saw horses passing by, they had bells on their necks and even though some of them were with the same shepherd, all of their bells were different. It sounded really nice when one would come after another and as they would pass by me, their bells would all make different sounds and it sounded like a song.

PS – Next time I want to go on a longer trek!

by Janani