So as I mentioned in the previous post, Paul and I decided to do a 4-5day trek without a guide. The guides, you see, are quite expensive, and we thought it might be kind of awkward walking with some stranger for 4 days. In preparation for our trip we got all of our hiking permits (which took like 2 hours!) and then we hit the grocery. We got peanut butter, bread, granola bars, nuts, chocolate, all of the essentials for hiking. After this arduous process we were tired, so went back to the hotel to relax and shower. Well, evening rolled around and it began to rain. We didn't feel like venturing out to get maps and hit the ATM and figured we would do it in the morning in the town where the hike begins. There's got to be an ATM and hiking supply stores at the beginning of the trail, right?
The answer is no, there is nothing in Nayapul. You can buy duck eggs and a bottle of Jack, but no maps, no ATM. We assess our situation; 4,500 Rs. We were told you need about 1,000 Rs per day on the mountain. We thought that meant for both of us, turns out that's per person. Hm, so a 4 day trek would only leave us 500 Rs allowance, not a good situation to be in. What if it rains and we get stuck and need to stay extra days? We are also hugely underprepared. We didn't have backpacks (our hotel graciously held our packs while we were gone) we had our purses. We packed a long sleeve, some socks, food, and that was about it. What if we needed additionaly supplies at the top? Well the answer is go without, because we don't have enough money.
Day 1 start. It's absolutely gorgeous out. Sun is shining and the walk is beautiful. Our first obstacle, only 20 metres into the path and there's a river flowing through it. Hm, not to be detered we take off our shoes and walk through. As Im taking pictures of Paul wading the river we notice the bridge behind us. Oops. Two idiots go for a hike. Anyway, finally get going and it's a flat wide road that passes through charming villages where you can buy waters or have lunch. It goes for miles just through the valley, we're thinking "This is great, no mountain climbing."
I should back up. As we're signing in with the Ranger we ask about how far we can expect to go in a day (again 2 idiots go hiking). The ranger says to xxxx about a 4 hour hike. Hmm 4 hours, it's only 10 am what do we do the rest of the day? We ask if we can make it to the stop for day 2 in just one day, to which he replies, no impossible. But there's a guide behind us, for a Korean couple, and he says, "You're young and fit....it's 10am....1 hour for lunch...you make it by 6pm to Ghorapani." Asa, we have ourselvesa challenge.
We arrive at the day 1 stop right at 12:30, have a peanut butter sandwich and continue on. This is where it starts to climb. Not only are you climbing up the mountain, you're walking up stairs. Millions and billions of stairs. I have never seen this many stairs in my whole life! We walked what must have been 4 million stairs when we passed someone and they assured us, the stairs continue all the way to Ghorapani. So 5 more hours of stairs?? YES. We stopped at a few guesthouses along the way for some water, which has a 9x mark up in the mountains, and who can blame them. This is totally unchartered territory. There is no way to get here but hike. I can't even imagine stocking these places, it's hard enough walking with my purse! Every place we stopped we told the owners that we were going to Ghorapani and we got the exact same response from each, "Oh, no, not today! You won't make it." Oh yes we will!
So climb on we did. Around 2pm it started raining. It rained and rained and you know what rain brings in the mountains in July? LEECHES!! No joke. I always thought they were kind of an urban legend. You can't go swimming there, you'll get leeches. Nope, they really do exist and Paul and I have at least 10 leech hickeys between us as proof. Walk, stop, pick off leeches, flick them from your shoes, walk. This went on for hours. 9 hours day 1. 18km, 16 of which were vertical up. But we made it to Ghorapani, right at 6 as the man predicted. We had the cutest little guest house, just us and old man, his wife and 2 grandkids. We got in took off all of our wet clothing, hung it by the oil can fire place, took a luke warm shower and put on fuzzy socks and long sleeves. It's cold 2km up in the mountains!!! We sat eating our noodles by the fire and then enjoyed some homemade Raksi- a clear booze made from millet. One night with dinner and breakfast (only Paul) cost over 1,000Rs. Hmm we're not going to make it 4 days. At this point it's raining and only getting wetter so we decide we want to book it off these mountains as soon as possible. You thought day 1 was impossible, well bring on day 2.
We awake after a pretty miserable night's sleep, totally sore, put on our semi-dry shoes and gear, and start out for Ghandruk. Again we're told this is not to be done in 1 day, but hey, we like a challenge. We took a brief detour in the morning. I should mention, the trail day 1 was in no way marked. I mean there's really no where to go but the follow the path in front of you, but if you happen to veer off, you're screwed. Day 2 there were flags spread intermittently throughout the path, but you could go hours without seeing a flag, person or guesthouse. What if you got hurt? I suppose this is why you bring a guide! Anyway, the scenery day 2 was beautiful. Youre on the top of these mountains in this thick mist. I'm sure it would be totally breathtaking if you could actually see out into the mountains you're there to see. But no, this is monsoon, so you can see about 15 ft in front of you. Periodically you'd hear a bell, then out of the mist antlers would appear and there'd be a pack of cows or ponies. That was kind of cool. Then you're out of the meadows and into the forest! It is by far the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The vegetation changes every hour or so; I felt like we hiked in 4 different countries! Meadows, to forest, to jungle, to white water waterfalls, ahh! And best of all, NO snakes!! Day 2 treking was much easier, mostly downhill. At one point we came accross a group of Koreans. We followed them for a few hours, stopped for lunch, then caught them again. The one girl in the back was SOOOO Korean. I guess she had just bought new Nikes and didn't want to get them muddy (ummm hello mountains in monsoon, everything's muddy) so every time she'd step in mud she'd give a little scream and wave her arms. haha Paul and I had a good time laughing at her, but at some point enough is enough and we left her in the dust.
6:30pm, another 9 hour day, and we arrived in Ghandruk! Hurrah!! Again found a sweet little guesthouse, the Shangri-la. Stripped down, had a HOT shower!! and had more noodles. The servings at these places are nuts, enough for 3 people. So we ordered one, I had a bit, but Paul mauled most of it. This kid eats more than anyone I have ever seen and with minimal exercise can't gain a pound. He lost a bunch of weight in Korea, and since we've been walking on this trip, despite the copious amounts of chowmein, he's still losing weight!! We finished the meal with a couple glasses of Raksi and called it a night.
Day 3 was the easy part. Down hill for 4 hours. Well you know what, downhill, down STAIRS, is tough. Our bodies were already in full on sore mode, and walking down 100s of stairs just added to the burn in our quads. But we kept on keeping on. And the last day, as we were out of the clouds, was breathtaking. The scenery was so beautiful and the sun was on full blast. 2pm and we finished the 4-5 day trek in 2.5 days. Go Team Under financed, Under prepared, but totally spandexed out!
Today we are more sore than ever but uber proud of ourselves! Just when we thought our bodies couldn't go any further, they did. We walked, climbed, jumped, fought leeches, and we're all the better for it! As for today we plan to eat and sit. There is a Korean restaurant in town so we're treating our selves to samgapsol (korean bbq!) for dinner.