Nepal!!! People come here for the Himalayas so we’re skipping over our time in Kathmandu and Pokhara to get right to the good stuff. Nepal is home to the tallest mountains on the planet. The sheer magnitude of these mountains is mind-boggling. It’s hard to capture in photos, but the peaks, even from a distance, go so much higher into the horizon than any mountains I’ve ever seen.
When most people think of trekking in Nepal they envision climbing Mount Everest or other such peaks where your life is on the line and you must be in absolute peak physical condition. While that sort of expedition is certainly available, most treks are far easier than you’d imagine.
Nepal has what is known as “tea house trekking”. Tea house trekking is where you hike between the tiny mountain villages that dot the Nepal countryside, eating and sleeping in basic guest houses. This allows you to hike with a small pack since you don’t need sleeping bags, shelter, or food. The available lodging has rock hard beds, limited electricity, and no heat, but they provide plenty of blankets and hot food.
Pricing for rooms is extremely low. In fact, our friend Alice who accompanied us on the first few days of our trek let us in on a nice money saving secret: if you aren’t traveling in high season you should be able to get your room for FREE! When the hotel owner shows you your room simply say “pay for food, sleep for free” and you’ll have a free place to stay. This technique does require you to purchase all your meals at your hotel, but this is not really a downside as all of the guesthouses use the exact same menu and there are no other restaurants outside of the guest houses in the villages.
The main meal you’ll be eating while trekking is a dal bhat. Dal bhat is the national dish of Nepal and what many locals eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It consistes of steamed rice, lentil soup (dal), and an assortment of mixed vegetables called tarkari. Second helpings are always free, and much welcomed after a day of hiking.
We chose to go on the Poon Hill Loop trek (also called the Ghorepani trek). This is one of the shorter and more popular treks as it takes about 5 days to complete and is considered relatively easy.
Beware though, even the “easy” treks can be strenuous in Nepal. The Poon Hill trek included many segments of steep steps. The entire second day of the trek is uphill, so you also have to take altitude gain into account. However, the distances are short (6-7 miles per day) which leaves a number of hours to recover and relax at the next village.
The first couple days were frustrating as the cloud cover would not let us get views of the mountains, but the beauty of the hills and forests along the way surprised us. Laligurans (rhododendron arboreum) is the national flower of Nepal. Unlike typical rhododendrons, the laligurans can grow to 30m tall and cover vast sections of the Himalayan hillsides. They only bloom for a few weeks every year and we were a week late, but the remnants of their blooming still enchanted us.
All that is nice, but we wanted MOUNTAINS! The pinnacle of the hike comes on day 3 where you get out an hour before daylight and make your way up to the peak of Poon Hill to see the sun rise over the Annapurna range. Sam, Alice and I woke up at a ridiculous 3:30am and unfortunately got lost before finding our way out of the town. This set us back a good 20 minutes and, due to the vertical nature of the hike up to the top of Poon Hill (it took Sam and I a while), we arrived to the peak 15 minutes after the sun had risen and the clouds had taken over.
Sam and I decided to stay another night and attempt the sunrise hike again the next morning. While we easily made it to the peak before sunrise, the cloud coverage was much thicker this morning and the views were only slightly better. Getting up at 3:30am two days in a row with no payout made Sam an unhappy trekker.
We left the hill and started heading down only to have the clouds start to open up. We rushed back up to the top and were able to finally score a couple pictures.
From Poon Hill we slogged through a long day of rain, muddy trails, and steep steps but found a wonderful guesthouse at the next village. We stayed here for 2 nights and were rewarded with some amazing views right outside our bedroom window.
I mentioned this in the Snapshot Sunday, but these mountains range from 22,943 ft to 26,545 ft, nearly double the tallest mountains in the continental US.
Simply put, if you’re going to Nepal it should be mandatory to go on a trek.
And OK, one more tiny goat picture.