Sitting in the airplane heading back to Delhi, flying high above the jagged snow topped peaks of the Himalaya Mountains, I realized I already missed Nepal. The five days had gone by entirely too fast. The beauty, culture and adventure had left a lasting impression on me and I was already thinking about the possibility of a return trip.
A couple of important things to note. Indians do not need a passport or visa to visit Nepal but they need a voter’s ID card and one other piece of ID. Also, if you are wondering if Nepal has recovered from the 2015 earthquake, the answer is both yes and no. There are obviously many buildings that were completely destroyed and still need to be dealt with, but not enough that it interfered with our trip in any way.
We arrived in Kathmandu late on Friday afternoon and wasted no time investigating all the cool places within walking distance to our guest house. Sporting goods stores specializing in trekking gear are everywhere, and their prices were incredible! Kirti needed some hiking boots for our three-day trek and we were pleasantly surprised to find a pair to fit his large feet. There were also tons of great Napalese handicrafts. We had a particularly good time in a knife store admiring all the intricate kukri knives. They had a range of sizes, from pocket knives to huge swords. Each one was handmade and we were so impressed that I bought one for my own collection. It has a jeweled sheath and is absolutely stunning!
Day 1 of the Trek
The next day Kirti, Pam (my friend visiting from America) and I were all up at dawn for our first day of our trek in the Himalaya Mountains. It would be my first ever overnight backpacking trip and I was really excited! Our guide arrived at 7:00 and gave us a little speech about what to expect on the trek. Day one would be the hardest, mostly up hill and would take about five hours. Day two and three would apparently be much easier. I consider myself to be in good health and average fitness so I was confident I could handle it. Boy was I wrong!
Turns out day one took us over nine grueling hours, all of which was straight up hill, climbing staircase after staircase with 20 pound packs on our backs. It was literally concrete stairs 90% of the climb. I expected it to be hard, but it was nothing short of torture. Luckily we got a few glimpses of the beautiful views to come, but mostly we were climbing through the jungle. I was surprised that we didn’t see a single animal, not even a monkey or a deer. By the time we reached Chisapani it was dark and very cold and we had spent the last hour hiking down steep stairs by flashlight. I must admit, it was a little scary!
Chisapani is a very little village with only a couple of guest houses for trekkers. It was hit hard by the earthquake and one particular home still sits tilted on its foundation looking like it could go sliding down the mountain at any time. It is like a shrine to the horrible tragedy that must have changed the lives of many Napalese people forever.
Day 2 of the Trek
I awoke early the next morning and stepped outside to have a look around. All the previous day’s efforts were rewarded by the most beautiful sunrise over the Himalayas! I quickly woke up Kirti and we all stood in awe of the gorgeous view before us. It was breathtaking and a moment I will never forget! One hour later we hit the trail again. Day two was much easier, but we were so sore from the nine-hour torture of the previous day that our pace was too slow. After having lunch at a little dhaba in the middle of nowhere we decided to call a jeep to take us to Nagarkot, our final destination. Pam finished out day three with our guide while Kirti and I stayed back to enjoy a day of rest and relaxation in the mountains. What I learned from the experience is that I don’t enjoy hiking with a guide. I prefer to trek at my own pace without the pressure of a schedule. I’m sure it’s better to learn such a lesson now and not in the middle of a seven-day hike!
Nagarkot was wonderful and I could have stayed there for weeks. The sunrise is so gorgeous that everyone sets their alarm and heads out onto the rooftop terraces to take in the splendor. I’m not even sure that there are words to describe the majesty of it. In the evening we were feeling better and went on a short 5 kilometer hike to take in an equally beautiful sunset.
On our final day we had to take a couple of different buses to get back to Kathmandu in time to retrieve our bags and catch a 3:30 flight. We got on the first bus at 9:45 and were told it would take about one and a half hours to get Kathmandu. It was an enjoyable ride through beautiful lush farm fields cut into the steep mountain sides, but it took us a total of three and a half hours! We somehow managed to get to the airport on time and in fact enjoyed a heavenly real beef hamburger before boarding our airplane. It was a wonderful trip full of culture and adventure, but the thing that impressed me most was the Nepalese people. They are so happy, accepting and helpful that I am going to do a separate post just about the people. If only Americans could be so content living such a simple life.