I never thought I would be saying this, but I went trekking. I am definitely not, what one might call, an outdoorsy person, so for me to have gone trekking is a big deal. Not only that, mind you. I have several big fears in life (petty if you wish): mice and rats, snakes, leeches, and sharing a bathroom with strangers. Needless to say, all of these were a real possibility on this trek. Luckily, I bravely faced my fears and survived, and I am here alive and kickin’ bringing you this incredible story from the foothills of the Himalayas. What? I like a bit of drama.
The perilous journey into the unknown began in a travel agency in Pokhara. Not so dramatic. Mr. B and I walked in saying we only have 3 nights 4 days for a trek, and we needed help in making it happen. There was pretty much no choice – it was going to have to be Poon Hill trek. Before I could back out, I was stuffed in a jeep and taken up some pretty steep and bumpy road (more like a goat path) to where the road, quite literally, ends. There was no turning back at that point. The only way was up, and on foot. Our guide, Keebal, in his efforts to motivate me, showed me our final destination for the day, uphill. It was not motivational. He might as well have pointed to Mars, that’s how far it seemed. I took a deep breath and started up the stairs. I gladly replayed Mr.B’s words in my head: one foot in front of the other, as we climbed 3380 steps (or some crazy number like that – I was delirious so don’t remember precisely) up to the village of Ulleri. Not sure how, but after many gruelling hours of walking, we reached our guesthouse. Clean and simple, but with a shared bathroom! Luckily, we were the only guests so we had it to ourselves. Not much sleep had been slept that night. The house is made of plywood and thin metal sheets. Whenever someone walked in the house, the whole establishment was swaying. Not a good feeling after having been through an earthquake. There was also an old demented grandma in the house who walked around all night knocking on people’s doors and producing ghost-like sounds. I was terrified. At that point, I think I would have preferred a mouse in the room.
Swollen-faced and tired, we continued our walk the following day. Although I was promised the stairs ended when we reached Ulleri, I came to find out that was a false promise, and those darn stairs will be making a reappearance multiple times during the trek. In fact, by the end of day 2 I stopped believing anything Keebal was saying, as I realised he will say whatever I want to hear to keep me moving. In retrospect, he was a great guide. Day 2 was fairly uneventful as we walked for about 4-5 hours mostly through the jungle. Again, I was promised there were no leeches. Thankfully, that promise was true. Tired and hungry we reached Ghorepani, a fairly large settlement with a large number of guesthouses, and some pretty spectacular views of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. Our guesthouse was quite nice (with an attached bathroom and hot shower!), so we spent the rest of the day sitting by the fire, looking at the most amazing view out the window. Come 5 am, we were up and ready for our climb to the highest point on the trek, Poon Hill. It was dark, cold, and steep, and hard trek is an understatement. I barely made it to the top. Half way through I was gasping for air as the thoughts of altitude sickness went through my mind. Determined to make it to the top, we kept on going, and lo and behold, we reached the top as others were already climbing down. We missed the sunrise, but whatever, we made it! It wasn’t as spectacular anyways. It was cold, windy and dusty, and after spending full 5 minutes up there, we headed back to our guesthouse for a well-deserved breakfast.
Days 3 and 4 were mostly downhill, for which I was incredibly thankful. We’ve seen some stunning views of the mountains through the forests of red and pink rhododendron. Those views made the climb worth it. Day 3 guesthouse in Tadapani was the worst though. Thin sheets of plywood kept no secrets between the rooms, and throughout the night I was hearing, well, how gassy some people are. To make the matters worse, there was only one toilet, meant to be shared amongst about 30 people. Talk about my nightmare coming true. But, the important thing is, I survived, and coming down the hill that last day, I was literally jumping and skipping with joy, thinking of our comfy room in Pokhara, a hot shower, and some spa treatments I had lined up. I mean, I deserved it, no?
In retrospect, I really enjoyed the trek, although it did not feel that way as it was happening. I faced some of my worst fears (none of which actually materialised, except the bathroom thing), and I also learned some important life skills, like using the squatty potty. All in all, something I could possibly do again. Definitely with Keebal as a guide so he can lie to me about everything from beginning to the end.