Lisa Owen

The first thing I noticed about my Nepali tour guide was that he laughed a lot. The second thing was that when he smiled, his eyes smiled too. And that became the tone of four days of trekking in the Nepali mountains with warm smiles and laughter pushing us on through hills, thousands of steps, sweat, dirt, and mountain cold.

Nepali tour

I set out on my four day trek from Pokhara with my tour made up of seven fellow Australians as well as two others from the UK and Germany; our ever smiling Nepali guide Bimal with his assistants Hari and Shobha; and five porters. I don’t think I laughed so much as I did on that tour – which was necessary to make it up the 4000 steps we encountered on the first day of the trek – and the many that followed. Setting out from Pokhara, we drove 90 minutes to the starting point in a little village. On my request, my guide devised a route that took us over a swing bridge. I’d spotted many beautiful swing bridges hanging over the Trishuli River on the drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara and wanted to cross at least one during my Nepali adventure.

nepal trekking

We crossed an icy blue river via the swing suspension bridge before passing paddocks populated with big dark brown cows, and Nepali people working their land. It wasn’t flat for long before we started ascending – gradually putting the river far below us. I was surprised how warm it was. It wasn’t long before we were soaked in sweat and were losing layers rapidly. Then came the stairs as we started the steep ascent to our teahouse at Ghandruk. Steadily we climbed, one step after another.

Nepal trekking

On the journey, we were rewarded with views of mountains, valley and rice paddies as sweat poured from our brows. We passed under prayer flags, crossed rocky creeks, and walked through small villages scattered with children asking for chocolate. We watched the sun set over the mountains and darkness fell quickly.

rice paddies

We climbed more than 4000 stairs to reach the Excellent View Guesthouse – our home for the night. We arrived in darkness so didn’t know at the time how good that ‘excellent view’ was. We rested our weary legs, showering quickly to try to ensure everyone got some hot water, and then some of us found our way to the kitchen to warm our hands by the fire. The temperature dropped quickly and I piled on my thermals, down jacket and merino socks, and warmed my hands with a cup of masala tea. The tea went down easily and then we sat down for a group dinner. The dinner turned into laugh after laugh among seemingly old friends even though we’d only known each other for a few days. Day two started with that excellent view. I rolled out of bed at 7am feeling the cool air as I slipped out of my sleeping bag. Walking out the door of the room I shared with two other girls, I was greeted with a view that literally took my breath away. Right in front of me was majestic snow capped mountains – crisp in the morning sun. The most impressive mountain in front of me was Machapuchare – or Fishtail - due to its shape. As I waited for breakfast to be ready, I sat down and took in the view as the sun brightened the landscape.

mountains in nepal

After a breakfast of eggs, porridge and more masala tea, we learnt that what goes up, must come down. We headed out of Ghandruk village the way we’d come the night before, and back down to the river before crossing it and heading up again.

mountains in nepal

Today we were making our way to Tolka. We passed more snow capped mountains, paddocks and many more cows, and were greeted by schoolchildren singing Nameste and a hopeful ‘Chocolate’. Luckily we had our very own Willy Wonka with us armed with Mars Bars and Snickers to give to children who asked for a sweet treat.

nepal trekking

We spent the night at the Nameste Guesthouse. Once again we arrived after sunset, but this time we knew there were mountains out there somewhere. The night was filled with warm and sweet apple fritters, masala tea and dancing – tourists, guides, and porters dancing together as one in the small dining room. Once again, it was a cold night and I was rugged up in thermals, socks and a beanie as we gathered in the dining room. I woke up just after sunrise to be greeted by the other side of the snow capped mountains we’d seen the previous day.

nepal mountains

We set out at 9.30am with an easier walk than the previous day – but we still couldn’t completely avoid stairs. This time, we entered the jungle and trekked through dense terrain up hundreds of stone steps before a coffee stop led us to flatter ground.

nepal mountains

But soon the terrain changed to dry scrub that reminded me of the Australian bush. On our third night we stayed in a local home near Dhampus. We were greeted by Nepali popcorn and baby chickens, before crowding around a fire and eating a traditional meal of dal bhat prepared by the local family. We sat on the floor for the meal, chatting with our guides and porters. The night consisted of more dancing around the fire, Everest beer, and more laughs. Another excellent view greeted my group the next morning as we slowly rose and had a breakfast of fried dough, chickpea curry and black tea.

nepal

The fourth day of trekking was all downhill as we made our way to our transport back to Pokhara. Our legs were weary, but our hearts were full of laughter and smiles from our time trekking in Nepal. I fell in love with Nepal and I’m already planning my return there next year.

Things You Should Know:

  • September to late November is the best time for trekking in Nepal as days are mostly clear and still warm. On the route I did from Ghandruk to Dhampus, the days were hot but nights were cold. I hiked in lightweight gear during the day but needed thermals and a warm jacket at night.
  • You can hire many of your hiking gear needs in Kathmandu or Pokhara for your treks. Sleeping bags and down jackets can be hired. Hiking poles can be hired as well. Hiking clothing is easy and cheap to buy in the Thamel area of Kathmandu or Pokhara, however gear is copies of the real thing unless you buy them from the North Face or Mountain Hardwear store.. It’s advised to bring your own hiking shoes so they’re broken into before your trek.
  • There are many trekking options throughout Nepal and treks range in altitude. You can join an organised tour or hire a guide once you arrive in Nepal. The Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp are popular treks but need a time commitment of about three weeks due to altitude and acclimatisation requirements.
  • Items such as toilet paper, chocolate bars, biscuits and bottled water can be bought at small shopfronts on your trek but cost more than in city areas. To save on bottled water costs, it’s recommended to bring water purification tablets to treat tap water.
  • Mountain guesthouses or teahouses are easy to find along your trek. The teahouses are basic with single or double beds and in most places you’ll need a sleeping bag. Some teahouses have hot showers but you may need to pay extra for hot water. Toilet facilities are located outside rooms and can be western or squat toilets. Meals are served at teahouses and range from traditional to Western meals.
  • One thing I’d wish I’d brought on my trek was a packet of lollies or some chocolates. We met many children along the way who asked for chocolate or pens and I would have loved to hand out treats to those I met along the way.
  • When in Nepal, you have to try masala tea (a spiced tea) and dal bhat.
  • To reach Nepal, you’ll need to fly into Kathmandu Airport and then there are connections to Pokhara or Lukla. Pokhara can be reached by bus from Kathmandu in about six hours.

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.

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