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…

One thought on “Trekking — Nepal’s Premier Recreation

  1. Prakash, Neeta, Sajjan, Sumanth, Janani
    You have been writing some amazing stories. Keep it up.
    We read them and enjoy . Just do not write our comments every time.
    Regards,
    Happy Diwali, Thanks Giving !
    Vidyamawashi and Ashokkaka

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