First order of business in our trip to Nepal: trekking. Well, our first order of business was to recover from our illnesses, but after that we started trekking.
We were based out of Pokhara and chose the Poon Hill trek on Annapurna mountain because it’s a popular option for beginning hikers. We chose a five day circuit, which could have been done in four, but we weren’t really in the mood to strain ourselves. Leave that for the more rugged travelers. We just wanted to see some nature and Himalaya peaks.
The manager at our guesthouse set us up with a guide for our trek, which cost us about $50 a day. There were fees for a permit to enter the mountain grounds and a tourist pass as well. We met with our guide before the trek and learned that he had been a guiding for 10 years and passed a course and examination to become a certified guide. This made us feel like we were in good hands.
Our guide met us at the guesthouse and we drove to the entry point for the trek, which started at 950 meters of elevation. And we started walking. And walking and walking. We walked a total of 15 kilometers in 6 hours on this day.
The walk was all fine and dandy until we reached the steps. Oh god, the steps. 3285 sequential steps in total. At this point I realized that if slow trekking were a sport I would be an Olympic gold medalist. Every single upward movement took a concerted effort. At one point the guide thought I looked so pitiful trying to climb all the stairs that he took my backpack away from me and made me use his walking sticks. If ever there was I time that I felt like wimp, this was it.
During the day we talked to our guide about the treks he’s done and learned that he has summited Mt. Everest. PZ asked if he thought we were wimps for taking this trek so slowly and he just giggled. He was actually really good about keeping us encouraged.
At the end of all those stairs we found our guesthouse in Ullari village. Sweet relief that was. It had started raining during our ascent and I was beyond ready to get to our guesthouse.
We were too tired to do much at the guesthouse besides look at the view from the roof and lay in bed with our books. For dinner however, I tried yak cheese and buffalo for the first time and they weren’t so bad.
Walked 14.5 kilometers in 5 hours rising to 2874 meters in elevation. This trek was so much easier than the first day and made me feel like I could redeem myself somewhat after my poor performance the day before. There were some hard spots, but nothing like the stairway to heaven we’d climbed the day before.
The day ended at Ghorepani village where we had a fun view of village life and were able to hang out with some friends we’d made along the way. Once again, we were exhausted after the day of trekking and went to sleep right after dinner.
We woke up bright and early to catch the sunrise at Poon Hill. This put us at the highest point of elevation we would reach: 3210 meters. At the top of the hill there is a view of several Himalaya peaks, including Dhaulagiri (8,167m) and Annapurna (8,091m). It was cloudy when we got there and we hung around for a bit hoping the skies would clear.
I was absolutely freezing and convinced everyone to start descending. Of course, the clouds moved away not too long after we started our decent. Luckily there was a view point halfway down the hill. It was nowhere near as incredible as the view at the top of the hill, but it wasn’t too shabby either.
The day of trekking after the hill was the easiest so far. There was a lot of down hill which at first I appreciated and then started to dread because of the pain it caused my joints. I’m officially a fan of level ground.
At our stopping point we met up with some of our friends. I drank my first glass of hot millet wine (called “roxi” in Nepali) and played card games with the guides and other trekkers.
This day was a beautiful walk through the forest and ended with an endless number of stone steps to be descended. This put me in full grandmother mode. I started lamenting about my aching hip and calling out things like “You kids go ahead.” and “Praise the Lord Jesus” when we reached the guesthouse.
Now may or may not be an appropriate time to fill you in on the gory state of my blisters. One gnarly blister on each foot creeped up on day one and grew and grew throughout the trek. Lesson learned: do not borrow my hotel manager’s shoes to go on a five day trek. I’ll spare you the trauma of looking at an after the trek picture. I’ll just say that I lost one toe nail and developed 4 purple toe nails. Oh yeah, it’s gross.
In other news: PZ discovered her future calling as a porter.
Easiest day ever. Just 2 hours of walking to reach the taxi waiting for us at the end of the circuit. Let me tell you, that car did not smell like a bouquet of flowers with the three of us in there. Shortly after this is the point where I noticed my toenail had ripped off, but enough about that.
After the Trek
Sleeping at our hotel and eating at the restaurants in Pokhara after the trek was a treat, but part of me missed being out in the woods. Why do bother with the pain of trekking? Because I love the nature. I love being immersed in the beauty of it. Maybe one day I’ll take my ruggedness up a notch and do a longer trek like the Annapurna base camp or dare I say, the Mt. Everest base camp.