I almost didn’t go. I was asked last-minute by my friends Sarah & Stephen to go trekking… I didn’t really know where we were going or how much it would cost. I didn’t know if it would be hard or easy. I knew it would be really different from other hiking experiences I’d had. I had just taken a week off for Christmas, and wasn’t sure if I should take a second…
But I decided to go.
The first day we took a bus for several hours up to our starting point. I slept most of the way… for some reason sitting on buses is one of the most exhausting things you can do in this country.
Always love these cheesy banners.
Skyline is right!
We had fantastic weather! After arriving at the trailhead, we hiked for about 2 hours before arriving at our first guesthouse, which had a natural “hot spring” (it was a warm spring). We took full advantage!
These suspension bridges are quite common. However, in the past most rivers were crossed by means of a suspended rope, much like a ridiculously dangerous zip line!
“See that valley? That’s where we’re going!”
Stephen enjoying the warm springs
Standard barefoot in the Himalayas photo.
The guesthouse was cozy! We enjoyed our dinner around a warm stove before heading to bed (yes, in actual beds!).
Stephen read to us from Mark Twain’s “Roughing It” each night. His performances created great hilarity!
I’ve had worse breakfast views.
I had a friend… cats always seem to know and flock to those who are most indifferent to them.
Our first full day of hiking was gorgeous! We followed the river east along a valley, and went though beautiful forests. Steep forests. Very steep forests. Boy was I glad my pack wasn’t heavier!
This was a trip of celebrations: Stephen’s birthday was one night, and New Years Eve the next! For Stephen’s birthday we celebrated with Tim Tam slams (it’s an Australian thing…) and craft beer that he brought all the way from Australia!
Tim Tam slams! Drinking your hot drink… through a cookie…
After our first cheers, we took our beers and stood outside, looking at the stars. What a joyful, peaceful, moment.
We took the next day a bit slower, as we were now at a pretty high elevation (around 3,000 metres, or 10,000 feet). Stephen made sure we were properly fed and hydrated… I swear I’ve never drank so much water in my life!!
Donkeys and horses passed us quite frequently, carrying goods up the valley.
Our shadow cast down on a huge valley we crossed.
We barely saw any other trekkers on the road. This time of year is fantastic.
We arrived at a small town around midday, and just took some time to relax, take photos, and enjoy the scenery.
Yet another suspension bridge.
The view from our guest house’s dining room!
The town from above!
Sarah and Stephen took a nap near the stove, while I spent the afternoon reading.
A few friends of the guest house owner’s.
Drinking chiya (tea) is a survival mechanism.
That night, we were too tired to stay up late, so we woke up just before midnight to celebrate the dawning of the New Year. Although hilarity ensued (were the fits of giggling brought on by altitude? tiredness? girliness? the world may never know), we also recognized what an EPIC beginning to a new year it was.
Stephen also lugged sparkling wine up the mountain. What a champ!
That morning, New Years Day, we summited our highest point on the trek: Kyanjin Ri (at 15,679 ft / 4,779 m). Phew! It was slow going, but we made it, and boy was it worth it.
From the peak we were able to look West into the valley from whence we came, SouthEast towards higher mountains, and North towards Langtang peak and the glaciers that lie in its valley. All of us were blown away by the sheer size of it all, as well as the peacefulness of the mountaintop. Later we met another hiking group, who was kind enough to share their tea with us to warm our hands and bellies. One man gave us each a Polaroid of our group. What a fun memory!
On our way down the mountain, it began to snow. We left the little town behind and tramped through the snow, to the great pleasure of Sarah, who is from Sydney and has rarely seen snow fall. Stephen and I enjoyed it as well; there’s nothing quite like hiking in falling snow, watching the world become a wonderland around you.
Our final day began in snow and ended in rain. Although we got wet, there were warm stoves and hot drinks to keep us going when we needed it. Boy were we glad to reach our final destination: we retraced nearly all of our uphill steps from the first three days in our final day of downhill travel!
Due to the rain and snow, the waterfalls were very active.
The Misty Mountains… oh wait those are in Middle Earth
Our final evening was full of laughter, talk, rich food, and this guy:
Old Nepali dudes: keeping it real since 1935.
The bus ride home was a bit hairy… the roads are narrow and slippery. But the worst part was that our driver sped down the mountain, several times causing the passengers to fly out of their seats and some (including us) to hit our heads on the ceiling. My two saving graces were: the ridiculously sexual and violent and just plan hilariously bad Nepali movie, and the amazing views.
One thing that struck me many times on this trek was the prominence of religious symbols. Most people we interacted with wore several necklaces with charms to ward off evil spirits. There were long lines of ancient prayer stones in the middle of the path we walked. Every town had a small temple, and every summit had prayer flags. There was even prayer wheels powered by a few of the streams we passed!
Religion and spirituality is inextricable from daily life in Nepal, much the opposite of our attitude in the US, which often relegates God to Sundays and/or personal, unexpressed opinion. Spiritual concerns cannot be forgotten in this country, no matter where one is! One can take feel oppressed, or one can take it as a reminder that we are spiritual beings just as much as we are physical beings.
Temples, temples everywhere.
Prayer flags send prayers to the gods as the wind moves them.
Before this trek, I wasn’t sure how I felt about staying in guesthouses (as opposed to camping in tents). It felt… I don’t know… strange somehow. Like cheating a little bit: I’m not a serious trekker unless I carry all my food and a stove and a tent, right? I’ve got to be a typical Westerner and do everything independently. I don’t need anyone else!
But you know what? I ended up loving it. It was truly wonderful to engage with the people who live in this fantastic valleys, those who have been born and raised in the shadow of the mountains’ majesty and power. I was able to converse in Nepali (a little) and together we laughed with our kind and happy hosts.
Exploring mountains in wilderness areas is wonderful: wild and exciting. Here in Nepal it is very different. On this trek I felt like I was experiencing someone’s home, like these mountains belong to the people who welcomed us there.