We ventured to Pokhara on March 12th for a couple of relaxing days before our trek. We had free time to explore the renowned lake, shop for goodies, and prep for the upcoming days. Our guides, Gokul and Raj, walked us down to one of the many trekker shops to rent our warm sleeping bags and winter coats that would soon save us from freezing in the Himalayas.
Since Pokhara is a major trekking hub, there are many western food stops, including KFC, Baskin Robins, and multiple pizza places. However, the group favorite seemed to be the Belgium waffle stand that served warm waffle-ice cream sandwiches.
The day before the trek we went on a hike up to the Peace Pagoda, a Buddhist stupa that overlooks the city, to prepare our bodies for the upcoming week of nonstop walking. We all piled into a few canoe-like boats to cross the lake and begin the hike. As we were paddled on over, we had an excellent view of the mountains. And once we reached the Peace Pagoda, we caught the best view yet of the Himalayas.
After we found our way down, we took a trip to the mountaineering museum. We saw numerous exhibits ranging from the tallest peaks in the world to how climate change is affecting the mountains. We learned about Sherpas, first summiteers, and about the mountains’ histories. We left the museum with a good bit more knowledge about the Himalayan mountain range, and a whole lot more excitement for the next 9 days ahead of us.
The day we started the trek we drove up from Pokhara into the mountains by jeep. It was quite the bumpy ride. Our drivers did not hold back, whipping around mountain corners with reckless abandon. We were dropped off in Nayapul. After a quick lunch of noodles and rice and much readjusting of our packs we set off. Our first setback was Tom running into stinging nettle 20 minutes into our trek. Our guides took care of him and we were off again. We passed many a stray water buffalo on the path. But eventually made it to our first tea house in a couple hours. Some of us were tired and sick but all of us made it to the end of our first successful day of trekking.
Thankfully, the youth international group was not on its own during the trek. We had the help of two amazing Nepalese guides to ensure that nothing happened to us inexperienced climbers. Gokul and Raj were our two faithful guides, who led us, supported us, encouraged us, and most importantly, kept us safe throughout the trek. Personally, I can think of many times where Gokul helped me through times where I wasn’t feeling especially good and had many negative thoughts running through my head. Also with me being a slow trekker, especially on the downhills, Raj was very helpful by staying back with me and ensuring I took my time so I didn’t fall or suffer a gruesome injury. I’m positive that the other members of the team had positive experiences with both guides, as did I. Even with the setback of us having to turn around before reaching ABC, Gokul and Raj were able to find an amazing destination in Poon Hill that provided us with the feeling of accomplishment that we all craved. At the end of the day, the Youth International team consisted of a bunch of determined, but inexperienced trekkers who needed a helping hand in many ways. Gokul and Raj were just the people we needed to extend us that helping hand so we could accomplish our final goal.
Avalanches proved to be difficult to cross and ended up being the reason for our turn back
The difficulties of trekking
Proelium, Latin for battle, and that’s what this story is, the battle all of us took head on with every single step in every literal sense.
The journey starts the same way it ends, what really matters is what you took from the experience, how much did you learn about yourself, What new knowledge took your mind by surprise?
The 9 day trek didn’t have to be a battle at all, yes physically it was tough, for some more than others, But what it all comes down to is how you mentally perceive your journey.
And that’s where my “battle” was, my mind and it’s miss interpretation on what I’m enduring, something that should be perceived as a beautiful experience, was instantly painted as an enemy wrapped in the achievement of reaching the end. And that’s what made my 9 days seem as a life time of focusing on the finish line and not my present surroundings, like the spectacular Nepalese mountain ranges described by Trevor as “Titans”.
9 days of unraveling the package which allows you to say you completed something is the complete opposite of what I wanted to take away from this experience, and at the start that’s the direction I was heading in. Until Trevor and Charlie spotted me in a dark place, physically and mentally, and that’s where MY journey did a 180, the simple action of taking my pack off my slouched back, allowed me to really stop only focusing on each step and the days end destination, but instead look at where I am, and really take it in, it was a slow burner but by day 6 that’s when my experience took a light, and for the first time I realized where I was and what I was doing, all because a helping hand took the weight from my shoulders that kept my head down freeing the vision of someone who was blinded by what was envisioned as a battle and instead opened my eyes to the sheer breathless view that let my imagination run wild with the knowledge of where I am and what I’m doing right now at that exact second.
Moral of the story, your experience is what YOU make it.
Eve and Sophie battle the cold, which proved difficult to deal with once the sun went down
It was with light hearts and ambitious souls that we arrived in Deurali, just a few short hours from our penultimate goal of Machapuchare Base Camp. And it was with twinkling eyes and a smile that Nathan crushed our hopes and dreams the following morning, announcing we were turning back and switching destinations. At around six o’clock that morning we were awoken by an avalanche just a few hundred feet from our beds, indicative of the treacherous conditions that had manifested overnight. The excess and unseasonal snowfall had made the path towards our initial goal untenable. The group’s reaction ranged from disappointed to furious, but we picked ourselves up and made the best of the remaining time on the trek, and Poon Hill, regardless.
It was early in the day when we saw her. The eyes of an angel, she quickly shot arrows through all our hearts with her adorable tiny paws. It all started with a belly rub and ascended into a companionship. We found Sasha in Tadapani outside our lodge. This puppy was only looking for love and she found it within our group. We satisfied her need for good old fashioned Puppylove, filling her life with playful cuddles and her stomach with glucose crackers. We protected Sasha from charging horses, carried her over rapids and up mountains. She rewarded our stewardship with her loyalty. As we trudged up the snowy trail to Ghorepani she dashed ahead of us but always stopping at the top of a ridge watching and waiting for us to arrive. This pattern continued throughout the day mixed in with plenty of playful rest breaks. As we made a stop for lunch we approached the snowy town of Deurali. This town was patrolled by one alpha dog, a fully grown snow beast bear dog. Sasha quickly got on it’s bad side with her high pitched barks to it. They proceeded in a battle of cat and mouse. We constantly lost sight of Sasha throughout lunch as she tried to escape the jaws of this Nepalese monster. We could only blindly search for her through the slushy dirt roads as we heard her cries for help. She finally reappeared, limping and covered with mud. We could do little to protect her in this dog eat dog world. We eventually lost sight of her again never to see her again. No one is to say the beast did not take our Sasha away from us. Our hope is that she made her way down the path to safer for familiar lands. Let this story serve as a warning to all who think trekking is only physically difficult. For the rest of the day, our legs were tired, but our hearts and minds were restless.
Hiking is given a whole new meaning when trekking the Annapurna mountain range. The Youth International team has had some previous hardships on the pilgrimage to A.B.C (Annapurna Base Camp) described in this weeks blog elsewhere. After the turn around in Durali though the team was redirected to a new location called Poon Hill and this wasn’t a base camp, but a view point for the of Annapurna mountain range at a height of 3200m (10,500 feet). This location is known for its 360 degree view of over 10 spectacular peaks. The lookout point is no cake walk to get to, there is a central tea house town on the A.B.C trek called Chomrong. This point is the rough starting point for the new trek to Poon Hill and from this location to Poon Hill it is all up hill, and the team just happened to get lucky enough to get rained on the majority of the migration. Once the team reached a town called Gorapani, which is below the lookout point, it was a solid feat for the Youth International team. That next morning the team was assigned a 4:45 wake up time to make the last leg of the trek to the look out point before sunrise to see the true capability of Poon Hill. To say the least this view was tear jerking in all ways possible, absolutely an honor to see mother nature’s beautiful creation called the Annapurna Mountains.