With much enthusiasm and fear, I choose the simplest route out of all the available hiking trip and that will be the Poon Hill 7 days journey.
I know my capacity, I don’t think I have the capability nor the time to do the Annapurna Circuit or the Upper Mustang Trail; maybe it is better to reserve them in the future when I have enough confidence to do a harder route. For now, I simply want to dip my toes into the hiking culture of this beautiful country and enjoy every moment as much as I could.
Before I began telling my 1st day experience, allow me to share with you few things that might help those who are planning to do similar activity.
Unlike in Japan where most mountains including Mt. Fuji are considered as part of so called “National Parks” where permit to hike is usually not required, in Nepal everything must begin with acquiring two permits called TIMS (Trekker Information Management System) and another one issued by National Trust for Nature Conservation, if I recall correctly.
These permits can be easily arranged for you by local travel agents. I would recommend finding one that can arrange everything you need- permit, guide, porter to carry your bag(optional), tea house at the mountains and food.
For my case, I choose to do the seven days trek and requested the agent from the hotel at Kathmandu where I stayed to arrange the permit, transportation and guide. No porter, no advance reservation on teahouse and no food. I plan to carry my 10kg backpack across the mountains and eat and sleep anywhere.
Meet my guide Sujan. He is 22 years old and has been doing this job for almost six years, right after he graduated from high school.
He is one of the many guides or porter that I will soon met on the road. Their job is to show you the path, tell you the name of different mountains in the Himalayas range, help you find a lodge and food; most importantly they are here to assist you in case of any accidents.
Usual rate for guides are 15-20 USD per day which includes their food, transportation and accommodation.
Their job description might be quite simple but the risk involve is serious. There are many who died accompanying those who aim of conquering Mt. Everest or K2. Often, their names are not even mentioned but without any doubt that they are the main man behind those who proudly claimed to reach the peak.
Guides are not tasked to carry your bags; though Sujan offered to help me in case I wanted help. If you want to make your life easier, for a 13usd per day, you can hire a Porter who can carry up to 30kg of luggage.
From young to old porters, I am personally amazed how strong they are, carrying such heavy load at their backs but often I feel bad seeing how physically demanding their to work is.
On the brighter side, there is something inspiring about them. They are very well versed in English and can speak more than one language, usually depending on the demand of the tourists. During breaks, they teach themselves new language in preparation for the next hiking season, like my guide Sujan who is planning to learn French.
I enjoyed talking to the guides and porters. They are more than the person we pay to show us the way or carry our bags. Each one of them has a story to tell and above all else it is inspiring to know how proud they are of what they do.
Going back to the story of my Day 1 hike, after a quick breakfast we made our way to the town of Nayapul, the start of the trek. The day started gloomy and dark but the weather then later turn into a beautiful sunny one. The drive to Nayapul is amazing and the accompanying view is like a promise to what to expect on the next coming days.
After a few minutes, my guide went to a small office to show my trekking permit.
Like the rest of the succeeding journey, if there is one thing that I enjoyed the most is passing by the mountain villages. Seeing the simple and quiet living of the Nepalese is a calming experience. A “Namaste” greeting will surely reward a warm smile.
My body and my mind still adjusting to the load on my back and the hours of walking. We reached the village of Sufame just in time for lunch.
Obviously, Sujan will go for Dal Baht, while I choose a Tibetan bread and fried noodles. It was a good lunch and I met few people on the trail including a Thai & Brit couple.
Continuing our journey way up, the route is a combination of stairs and slopes, testing my spirit and stamina once again.
Like the small community school with on-going program despite the gleaming sun heat that we passed by, seeing the villagers busily attending to their daily tasks with the beautiful openness of the terrain in the background is such a humbling view that for a moment all I wanted to do is sit, watch them and abandon this hiking trip for the next day.
My backpack is proving to be quite a challenge to carry but how can I sigh and despair when I saw several villagers passing by the same slope carrying even heavier baskets? Not to mention the school kids who happily cross these terrain everyday for an education.
After a few hours, we reached the village of Hele for a Coca-cola break. There I met a Nepalese teenager whom I fondly referred to as my Nepalese sister.
The bond started when they asked my guide if I am a Nepalese and was surprised on learning that I’m not.
More stairs, more way up, test of patience and endurance.
We passed by another small town of Thikadunga where the view of Annapurna South served as an inspiration to push and continue the way up.
I was quite slow, and my guide Sujan is patient enough to match my phasing. We are done on the getting to know you stage and we made a deal that the 7 days hike will be based on two local term; “gam gam” meaning “let’s go” and “bistare, bistare” which means “slowly, slowly”.
My backpack surely is slowing me down. I have to stop and rest for a while whenever I can. On one of the mid-stairs stops that I did, an elderly foreign man hiking his way down passed me by and asks why I was carrying my bag, bluntly pointed at his porter remarking how cheap they are. I replied with a nudge but honestly I did not appreciate his way of addressing the porters, as if they are just an object bought and not a person.
Finally after 6 hours of walking, we reached our destination, the village of Ullire.
Staying at a teahouse at 1950m elevation, with the view of Annapurna South and Fishtail mountains in the background and a sense of accomplishment on finally being at this place which I only once dream of, I can’t think of any better way to mark my first day hike but with a high five with Sujan, a hot cup of tea in my hand and my feet finally free from my hiking boots.
Day 1 Route:
Pokhara – Nayapul – Sudame – Hele – Thikadunge – Ullire