If there’s anything I knew about Nepal beforehand, it is the reputation it has as a “must” for anyone interested in trekking. Around 75% of the land of Mount Everest is covered in mountains and therefore offers various amazing options for both amateur and hardcore climbers. With my very small amount of experience and expertise, I can honestly identify as one from the firstly mentioned groups.
As India had drawn all my energy and Nepal was the last destination of my intense three month journey, I was more than exhausted when arriving in the country. Right after crossing the border I was luckily both happy and relieved to see the huge differences on the cultures of these two neighboring countries. In Nepal the atmosphere was unbelievably chill, people more relaxed and the whole country way less crowded. Instead of collecting proper equipment or even making any further plans, I figured out it’s the best time for me to just relax and enjoy the atmospheres of Kathmandu, Pokhara and a couple of smaller Nepalese towns.
After a couple of weeks I started to feel the pressure of my schedules and the cold climate of upcoming off-season telling me to get my ass moving. Finally after a chat with an American girl next me in Movie Garden, I ended up joining her in her plans to starting the Mardi Himal trek the following day. The next morning I left part of my junk at the hostel safe and rented hiking boots, a sleeping bag and some warmer clothes for this 5-6 day trek for 10-20 euros or so. As one of the few tourists to do so, I decided to spare my pennies and just carry all my own bags instead of hiring a porter to do it for me. It kind of felt like I needed to do this challenge all the way to let myself feel good about the achievement in the end.
Let’s just say that I had good few days to re-evaluate my life choices on that one. Climbing up was nothing but pure pain and devastation especially for the first couple of days when getting used to it and not seeing any inspiring views on the way through the thick mist. As I didn’t know any better, I had still taken way too much stuff with me and regretted those extra kilos with the mental and physical battle it was to keep on climbing. Luckily the surroundings slowly started changing from deep forests into more open spaces and wild mountainside nature. With the clouds momentarily moving over, we could finally have glimpses of the surrounding mountains that we were reaching for.
Now that the off-season was starting, there were only from a few to a dozen tourists I met on the road throughout the whole day of hiking. On fair distances along the trek, there are simple tea houses and guesthouses where tourists can stay overnight for a decent price. Some of these places surprisingly even have a modest WiFi connection, yet heating and warm showers can mostly be only dreamed of. On those freezing nights wrapped in a ton of clothing and with the growing altitude, I could never sleep too well. Waking up somewhere in high altitudes and sipping my breakfast tea in cold mountain air sure makes a nice memory.
On the last day of ascending, I could leave my backpack at the guesthouse as we were supposed to come back down later that day. A burden was literally lifted off from my shoulders and I finally felt like flying. The huge motivation of having the sunrise viewpoint and the final destination; base camp at sight sure did it’s part on energizing me. It was still a one damn long road we had to climb up, so we got started already in the middle of the night.
After a couple of hours of climbing in the dim lit darkness, I had one of the most incredible sights of my young life. Once we decided to have a break and turned off the flashlights to sit on the grass, I could see the starry sky blow up right before my eyes as we had just passed the clouds. From these heights and with the total absence of light pollution, the sky was as clear as it gets with even Milky Way Galaxy being totally visible. Gadzillion stars also provided us enough light to see shades of the surrounding mountains and the clouds moving some way down our feet. The views and the vibes both reminded me clearly of this song “Voices” from Immanu El and it’s album cover. I did turn that song on on the way, and I advice you to do so too.
When finally reaching the sunrise viewpoint at the height of about 4 100 meters, I was surprised yet delighted to see that even there, there was some crazy guy waiting for us with a pot of tea. What was a battle of life and death to our Big Mac and beer infused bodies, is just a road that this guy takes to work. Apparently he lives in a village couple of kilometres down the mountain. Occasionally he carries water, tea and wood up to the viewpoint on tourist season and mostly stays with his family and yaks in wintertime. Two euros wasn’t much asked for the obscure possibility of having a cup of hot tea in those altitudes.
The actual sunrise we experienced was definitely worth all the days of pain and cursing, as seen from the pictures. The other few tourists were too exhausted to keep climbing to basecamp, but I got extremely lucky as my friend’s porter offered to show me the way. Climbing further above the clouds up to 4 500 metres offered some stunning views again. Seeing helicopters flying couple of kilometres below us from a cliff was another surreal sight that I remember the best. The last part of hiking took about six extra hours to go back and forth, so I can’t press enough how incredibly friendly that porter was to ensure I have the time of my life.
Getting back down wasn’t totally effortless but at least way faster. It took us less than a couple of days to speed down to a village and then get a jeep ride back to Pokhara. Despite the insane condition of the bumpy road, I enjoyed the ride through some authentic and adorable, non-touristic villages.
Before heading back to my hostel, I took a withdrawal not only to pay off my part of the jeep ride, but to give Kabindra a big tip also from my behalf. Where other porters ran off to wait for their customers at tea houses, this guy actually walked all the way with us and did all the guiding and food serving even for me. Not to mention the half-day extra service for someone who wasn’t even his customer. In the end he got like three or four times the amount of money he was asking for, which probably made this young student quite happy about his choices in life.
And so was I.