My day started at 3am. I set an alarm every day, but I always wake up before it, anxious for what a new day will bring.
Today, the day would bring a 13-hour Jeep ride through Nepal. I went through my gear the night before and was ready to go. Lord knows I was ready to get out of the city and into the mountains.
Around 4:30am, the hostel owner walked me up the street to where I met the Jeep driver. I never learned the driver’s name, because neither of us spoke a lick of the other’s language. But he threw my pack in the crate atop the Jeep, and we were off.
We spent about two hours picking others up before we started making any ground. I sat in the second row back (there were three) and was closest to the window. The seats were made for three people, but each row was lined with four passengers. I was the only English speaking passenger.
Eventually we hit the highway. The driver was speeding like crazy, but I didn’t really mind. I trusted that this was his job, and he’d do his thing. I also learned that honking your horn is a means of passing the car in front of you.
Also, when driving through the mountains, honking is a way of letting a car coming the opposite way, who you can’t see yet, know that you’re there. This was especially helpful for sharp corners up passes.
I brought my journal and my book in the Jeep with me, figuring I’d have plenty of time to read and journal. Boy was I wrong. I spent the entire time bouncing up and down as we’d go over rocks, through rivers and up mountains. My Apple Watch recorded that I exercised for 117 minutes that day, when really I just sat in a Jeep. High heart rate, eh?
We made two major stops. Both in remote villages. It was my first time using a hole in the ground as a toilet.
I’d like to think of myself as a pretty flexible person, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the bathrooms here. After being on the PCT for so long, I’d seriously so much rather just going outside. But it wasn’t an option, there was no where to go and people everywhere. Not to sound prissy, but it was and continues to be the most foul smelling experience of my life.
Not to mention this culture don’t use toilet paper? There is just a bucket with a small pitcher for cleaning up.. and you clean up with your hands. Safe to say I’m stoked I brought my own TP, but it’s running out and I am determined to find more.
Without trying to be too critical, I am trying to embrace the different customs of a new culture. This is the way people live, and so many of them are probably so much happier than a lot of Americans. Any way to do things is a o k. Just takes some getting used to for a noob international traveler such as myself.
Wow I tend to go on tangents, don’t I?
So we were at the villages, I went pee. And then I didn’t really know what to do, how long we were staying there. Nothin. And communicating with anyone was out of the question. So thank goodness I had my book! I sat at a table and read. I was happy doing so.
Back in the Jeep we went, and through the jungle we flew. There was a beautiful, sky blue river rushing out one of my windows, and lush, green sweeping valleys out the other. The scenery kept me busy, and I watched the hours tick by.
I was a bit nervous I wouldn’t know what stop was mine. We unloaded and loaded passengers pretty often, stopping at random towns along the way. But I knew the town I was going to was called Salleri, so I figured I’d just ask.
At about the 13-hour mark we stopped in a small mountain village. The villages are lined with really colorful lodges. The lodges are often made of white or gray brick, and have green, purple, red or blue trim. They are often two stories, and the first story usually has a restaurant, ran by Nepalese women. This is where you eat, charge your devices, hangout, meet other travelers, etc.
The rooms are small and usually have two beds. The rooms often have a window or two. The beds are smaller than a twin size, and come with blankets. Sometimes. They always come with pillows.
The showers also gross me out a bit, but they’re usually warm. Made of some kind of ceramic tile, if they were cleaner they’d probably be really beautiful. The water pressure sucks, but that’s to be expected.
When I got out of the Jeep and gathered my things, I stumbled upon some nice English speaking ladies who were on vacation together. They pointed me in the direction of Hotel Everest, where I’d spend my first night.
I checked in, and was charged 200 rupees for the night. You guys this is less than $2. You pay much more for you food than you do for a night stay, and the closer I get to the Everest Region the higher prices are and the more you’re charged for things. Lodges will charge extra for charging devices, showers, using WiFi, a towel for your shower, etc.
I had mushroom curry for dinner and a bowl of fruit. I haven’t had any meat since I’ve been here and I and l o v i n g it.
I made my way to bed rather early, as I had been up since 3am.
The next day came and it was my first day of trekking. I woke up early and had an apple pancake and masala tea (kind of like chai tea) for breakfast. I gathered my things, talked to the English ladies again and some South American travelers who’d just finished a bike tour, and was out the door.
I knew where I was going and it was a bright, brisk day. I caught my first glimpse of the snow-covered Himalayas and I stopped in my tracks. I gazed at the majestic peaks and admired my first sight of tallest mountain range in the world. The mountains were breathtaking. They looked sharp, bitterly cold, and appeared to be just dusted with a frost of snow. The way my mom dusts powder sugar atop on her chocolate crinkle cookies at Christmas.
I was reminded of why I was there when I saw those mountain peaks, and I felt like just for a second I could feel their energy. Everyone that I know who’s hiked in the Himalayas say these mountains are the most healing range they’ve ever trekked in. Wooo I’m all in for some mountain therapy.
I kept walking. It was mostly road walking for the first six miles. A few jeeps passed me, and I was in a cheery mood. I was keeping my PCT pace of 20-minute miles and I was pretty stoked about that.
I heard there was a restaurant I could stop at about 6 miles in, in a town called Ringmu. I knew I must be there when I saw a smaller village that looked a bit like Salleri.
I dropped my pack next to several others and ordered lunch. I had the fried potatoes and soup. I had no idea the portion would be so large.
There I met a girl named Heidi, 44, from
Norway. She was another solo female trekker, and we shared lunch and talked about our ups and downs of the trail so far (literally and figuratively).
I took the food I couldn’t finish to go, and Heidi and I prepared for a climb ahead.
I’d say the next four miles were my first real taste of what was to come in the next couple of days. Similar to the roads, the trails are extremely unmaintained in the first part of my trek. I compare this trek to the PCT, and I really shouldn’t, because these trails don’t have an association that looks after them. I’d like to say they’re as rugged as it gets, but I haven’t been everywhere. Yet.
There are boulders and sharp rocks lining the thick, muddy trails. The incline is steeper than I’ve climbed before and I think I actually prefer the uphill to the downhill. If you know me, you know this is a BIG deal, I am your downhill gal, but maybe not in Nepal. Poles are definitely necessary for the decline, and yup you guessed it I fell on my ass numerous times.
Anyway, we made our way up, and it was another couple miles down to Nunthala, where we’d be staying for the night.
OH I totally forgot to mention! These trails have mules coming up and down, hauling massive amounts of supplies all the time. It’s extremely common to have to pull over & wait for a heard to pass you. That being said, the trails are also filed with mule shit in every direction. So on top of dodging sharp rocks, trying not to step in mud, keeping balance on steep trails, you are also dodging animal shit constantly. Sometimes I can’t believe that I paid good money to be here!
Also, my heart literally breaks for the animals. They look tired, and I bet if they could talk I bet they wouldn’t want to be hauling supplies up remote trails. Poor things. But in a way, I contribute to this cause by being a tourist in this area. In a lot of the villages, there is no other way in and out other than on foot. So to supply the tourists with food, etc, pack animals must be used. This is the ugly truth. I don’t have a solution for this, but thought it was noteworthy.
You also see natives carrying THE BIGGEST load of supplies on their backs! I can’t even believe it. The straps of the weaved baskets they carry are actually atop their head, not attached to their back. In addition to having crazy back muscles, their necks must be strong af. The most respect for these people & the work they do. Truly unbelievable.
Ok, tangent over.
Once we got to Nunthala we saw a heard of mules just hanging out. I walked over and pet them, telling them I was happy the were done working for the day. They are so stinking sweet. I’m such a sucker for animals of any kind. Except fuck mosquitos.
There were several lodges to stay at, but we picked one called Hotel Everest (there are a lot of Hotel Everest’s in the area). It was a tidy, white, two story building with forest green trim. It had a small courtyard in front that had tables and chairs, and a garden.
The stairs walking up to the second story, where I’d be sleeping, were so steep!! I guess the people who build trails and stairs in Nepal aren’t messing around. I set up shop and chilled out for a bit after my first day of hiking.
That night, Heidi and I had dinner together with another couple who are living in Switzerland. They were very kind and shared stories of their travels all around the world. They used to live in America, but moved out of the country in 1994. They’ve been working and traveling ever since.
It’s so nice to meet people from around the world and share like stories. It reminds me that living a life of travel and adventure is possible, because so many people do it.
After dinner I read for a while and then went to bed. I had no idea what the next day would have in store for me, but geeeesh I was in for it.
That story will be on my next blog 🙂
⁃ When you order food in Nepal, plan for it to take at least and hour. This is because everything is made from scratch by family members in the kitchen. The food is quality, but I don’t think things are prepped as they are in the US. Truly homemade. This is a good thing, but makes it so easy to get hangry!
⁃ I didn’t wash my pack between the PCT and this journey and ya it definitely wreaks.
⁃ Ketchup is used as widely here as it is in the US.
⁃ The pollution here is terrible. My jeep driver threw his plastic water bottle out of the Jeep as he finished it and I think my mouth actually hit the floor. All of the rivers are extremely polluted with plastic and other debris.