Monday, March 28, 2016

nepal: trekking

Rule of mountain: Walk like tortoise, fast like rabbit. The tortoise always finishes. Even the fat tortoise.

So said our guide, Ratna, who has led 82-year-olds and five-year-olds on trek, as well as parents who brought along a five-month-old. (baby was carried by the porter I think)

I’m not sure if we were tortoises or rabbits, but in line with the animal analogies, here’s what I think we were:

Teng: Penguin

Every time we went downhill, he flapped his arms like a penguin. I think he does that for balance.

IMG_7724
* Teng, flapping up. Note drying socks on his backpack, and umbrella in his pocket

Choon: Crab

Every time we went downhill, he went sideways, like a crab. “So I can use new muscles,” he said.

IMG_7772
* Choon crabbing his way down with Ratna in front. Ratna is very bored. He says he sometimes falls asleep while trekking. He must be fed up of all these slow urbanites.

IMG_7533
* Ratna, sitting and waiting for us to come up the stairs

Me: A very old crab

I had it real bad. I had completely over-estimated my abilities, forgetting that I’m no longer 23 when trekking was pure joy all the way.

I had also stupidly wore my old track shoes (the type that moulds around your feet like a pair of socks and allowed me to painfully feel every rock in Nepal) instead of high-cut trekking boots which protect your ankles (I didn’t want to pay for an expensive pair which I’d probably not use again for a long time), and used a haversack which was markedly heavier than Choon and Teng’s. Because the two were faster than me, I probably walked faster (bad) than my comfortable pace.

After Day 1 when we had to mount something like close to 4,000 steps up to Ulleri, I was whacked.

By Day 5, the last day, my Bus Number 11 (ie my legs) were two puddles of painful jelly. I’d stand still, sway alarmingly and collapse. There was no way I could squat to pee, which was often the requirement. Once, I tried to squat and keeled over in a muddy toilet. It wasn't pretty.

Trekking was agony. I actually had to fight back tears when on Day 5, I stood at the top of what looked like thousands of steps going down. My entire leg from the top of my thigh to the tips of my toes (which had been ramming into the front of my shoe) hurt.

But. I did it! One painful step after another!

* My Old Lady video. My back, my butt, my thigh, my calves, my toes, hurt. I absolutely could not bend my legs.

IMG_7824
* Ratna carrying my red bag on Day 5

IMG_7561
* Trying to yoga it out, didn't quite work for me

IMG_7528
* Nightmare! Nightmare!

IMG_7968
* My big toe nails post-trek

Our five-day trek was the Ghorepani-Poon Hill circuit. There are many different walking trails in Nepal, this is one of the shortest. We didn’t go very high (3,210m above sea level at our highest) and we didn’t see snow.

What the trek is, is walking from one mountain village to another, going up and down, up and down, lots and lots of rough stone steps. We start early, 7-ish, and trek for between five to seven hours, with a tea break in between.

IMG_7514
* Tea break in tea house with a view

Thank God for Ratna and Saita.

IMG_7705
* Saita, who is from a Chinese-looking caste, and Ratna, who is an Indian from the Chhetri caste.

IMG_7709
* Ratna and us

IMG_7769
* Saita, carrying his 20kg burden (our luggage and sleeping bags)

Going uphill was agonizing, but what really killed us was going down. Logically, going down seems easier because gravity is on your side. But the aftermath of going down told a different story. It’s a lot more painful and damaging on the joints and muscles.

Teng also had the dubious distinction of being the only trekker we saw to carry an umbrella. The umbrella was mine: I brought it for rain. But when he realized on Day 1 that it was going to be hot – he had no hat and he refuses to apply sunblock - I passed him the umbrella and it became part of his trekking uniform. Nepalese girls laughed at him. But that umbrella always made for great photos.

IMG_7507
* Choon's sun protection, and Teng's


IMG_7828

IMG_7771

IMG_7589

Along the way, we appreciate the scenery, which is, well, great, especially since you work so hard to see it. It’s not like taking a tram or a helicopter up to see a mountain, which is kind of meaningless.

IMG_7640
* Sunrise on Poon Hill

IMG_7820
* Ratna shows us things along the way, this fruit being something the mountain folk use to make soap

IMG_7817
* Rice terraces

IMG_7583
* Trekking through villages with the ubiquitous snowy peak in the background

IMG_7785
* Waterfalls and streams, which Teng loved

IMG_7596

IMG_7749

IMG_7529
* Suspension bridges aplenty

IMG_7794
* They demanded I take their picture, then chorused: Money! Money!

IMG_7579
* Mountain kids who scamper up and down 4,000 steps every day to get to school. Along the way they pick fruits for tea. For them, its really just a neighbourhood jaunt, not an arduous physical and mental challenge.

IMG_7566
* Er their school timetable which I found interesting. In Nepal, the year is 2072.

IMG_7554
* And er, a page from what looks like their Health Education textbook which I also found interesting

Because it was spring, there were also heaps of beautiful wild flowers. I like.

IMG_7819

IMG_7776

IMG_7774

IMG_7732

IMG_7833

IMG_7692
* Blooming rhododendron trees (white, pink, red)

IMG_7666
* A pink rhododendron close up

6 comments:

xia0haizi said...

Hi, your pics and stories are tempting me to travel Nepal! Could you share the tour agency u used and the tour package taken? Thanks!

Sher said...

but... but i'm sure i don't make it sound very comfy! really? ok we went with Nepal Environmental Treks.

http://www.environmentaltrekking.com/

they're v sound, will pretty customise whatever trek u require.

crabbycrab said...

hahahah, your old lady video cracked me up! gosh, must have been hellish coming down those steps! thanks for sharing about Nepal, stunning scenery, raw beauty .... it's on my after-40 bucket list, but i worry about the food(not v adventurous) and WC(couldnt find a pix in your posts!).

xia0haizi said...

Thanks for the link! will go check it out. Yea that's what I was thinking too when I saw the pics of food there hahaha

Sher said...

I did take one WC pix, but its a fairly standard looking squat toilet the sort you'd find in malaysia.

generally, the toilets are sit-down in the lodges and squat if you go by the wayside (ie someone's house). they are actual toilet bowls and actual squat toilets... not holes in the ground. the surrounded floor tends to be concrete (not tiled). i think its pretty clean but then my standards are lower.

there WAS a sitting toilet on the bus (which we had to sit in for 7 hours) which i REFUSED to go to, though. i didnt even dare to look at it. simply because all the men who go in have to hold the railing with one hand and their dong with the other, and everytime the bus hits a bump the spray goes up and pee hits the seat. i just didnt drink a lot of water during the ride but tts fine when ur just sitting down...

food is actually very easy for us to eat, if we're used to indian food. rice, asian flavours, curry, naan, chapati.

Dawn said...

Beautiful Country. Hope to visit there sometime. Teng is such a unique guy.. I hope he will meet a wonderful lady to 'balance' him and toughen him up! haha