Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Trekking in Nepal

Our one month tour comes to an end

The bus trip to Kathmandu was long; a 9 hour travelling day stretched to 10 when a car crash brought traffic to a standstill for an hour while we waited for police. Within minutes of the crash locals carrying all manner of sweets, water, pastries and the like were wandering past the cars and buses selling their wares. Once in Kathmandu we organised for a flight over Everest and the Himalayan range. If we weren't going to trek it then we should at least see it. This was the end of our Tucan tour, we were on our own. We'd decided against trekking to Everest base camp due to how busy it gets now, our issues with cold and my issues with altitude, and considering the small window of time we had available. This ended up being a good decision as we would have been there during the recent avalanche. Our thoughts go out to the brave sherpas who died up there.

Kathmandu at that time of year was not my cup of tea, as it was too polluted and noisy. (Elizabeth went with the tour group girls to the old city, Bhaktapur, which was much nicer.) A fellow traveller had facebooked me about a homestay just outside of Kathmandu and we decided to go there for the 10 free days we had. Homestays are a brilliant idea: you spend time with a local family in their home, eating home cooked meals and exploring the nearby area. We had a great time with Babu and his family, and the meals were delicious and varied (still a lot of dhal bhat but different dishes in it). We were there during their Hindu new year and went to the local lake to join in the festivities for New Year 2071.

Babu's place
Babu had trekking options available and we decided to do some trekking. A new one Babu had created and that only seven other groups had attempted was for five days and called the 'Hidden Nepal' trek. Babu organised the guide and porter (sherpa) and after a couple of days relaxing we set off on our longest trek ever.

True to his word this trek was in areas where most trekkers and tourists never go. The locals would stare as we walked past, as fascinated by we strange people as we were by them, and slightly suspicious. We would smile and say 'Namaste' (roughly Hello) and their faces would start beaming and they would put their hands together and 'Namaste' us back. Our gregarious guide Nil stopped and chatted to many locals on our travels and relayed to us their interesting stories. In the whole five days we only had one child ask for something.

Sherpa House lodgings
I won't bore you with a blow by blow of the five days but try to give you a feel for the trek as a whole. Distance wise the first day is a killer at 28km, mostly steeply up or steeply down, climbing over a km and then descending 800m. In total 88km were trekked. Only basic accommodation was available. This meant no Western style toilets were ever seen, only the Eastern squat type, and only the first night's accommodation had a working shower (albeit cold). One town had no running water that day and one hotel, Sherpa House, only had an outside tap (so 'showers' those days were bucket jobs). On our last night we showered under a waterfall in an icy river.

mmmm Sal Roti
Lunch and dinner was dhal bhat each day but breakfast had a bit of variety depending on the speciality of the area. One breakfast offered was corn porridge but it turned out to be a very solid lump of polenta with a vegetable curry; another time it came turned into a soup with freshly picked curry leaves. Once we had boiled eggs with a fried potato and bean mixture, and universal in all areas were my favourite fried doughnuts (sal roti).

We met the most wonderful and genuine people and saw some of the most fabulous scenery, and had a brilliant time with our guide and porter. We even met an Australian who basically lives at Sherpa House and was very interested in catching up on the current goings on in Australia (not that we are that up to date). We both agree it was one of the most favourite things we've ever done, and we had the good news when we arrived back at Babu's house (which he did not think important enough to impart earlier) that we were the first group to complete the whole trek from his house and back on foot, doing the trek as designed in five days. Others had taken a taxi to the furthest point they could on the first day to complete the trek in four days, or caught a bus or taxi back on the fourth day and other combinations.

Please don't skip the last day if you do this trek. You will encounter the most untouched forests, reach one of the highest points of the trek, and get a marvellous panoramic view of Kathmandu (best time Oct to Jan) just before the 1km altitude drop completed almost entirely by stairs. After five days of wear and tear on the old bones this is an experience of its own.

I think I might let the pictures tell the rest of the story. Sorry for how many there are, I just had so much trouble choosing...

Bush restaurant

The town's only water supply

The town's flour mill, powered by a stream that
flows underneath

Mmm, is that a plate of Sal Roti I spy?
Don't know what they were,
but from plant to mouth they were delicious

We found a working pool table and taught our
guide and porter how to play

So cute

In my bowl as a soup only half an hour later

Having a break to enjoy the

An Australian living at Sherpa House

88 years old and smashing rocks to sell by the
side of the road as gravel

We visited a small Buddhist temple and were
treated to Fanta by this friendly lady

She thought it very funny that
we were all the same age

Us, our guide Nil and porter Raj

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