Never have I imagined that I would get to see the Himalayas in my life, even from afar.
Activity options and my personal selection process
When I joined this group of travelers to Kathmandu, apart from experiencing the culture, the only thing that I’ve aspired to do is to visit the beautiful temples that are pretty much everywhere.
Way back, I’ve read a few blogs on how to see the Himalayas through a chartered plane, and I would have considered that back then.
So, when I signed up for this trip and read the activity options laid out by Escape Travels, I did not hesitate.
There were actually three options (copied from the Escape Travels):
1. White Water Rafting
“This is a full day rafting trip down the Tirsuli river. No previous experience is necessary as each raft will have a professional guide and the group will be supported with guides on kayaks.” > It’s a bit intimidating. This might be a bit extreme for my persona.
2. Kathmandu’s Religious Sites
“The 3rd option is to take on Kathmandu’s 2 holiest sites; Budhaddist and Pashupatinath. Bouddhanath is an enormous Buddhist stupa that pulses with life with thousands of pilgrims. Pashupatinath is Nepal’s most important Hindu temple and stands on the banks of the holy Bagmati River.” > This might not be challenging enough.
“This is a half day hike in the nearby mountains. Anyone (all ages) can do this hike as the difficulty levels vary and your guides will assist you. During the hike you’ll pass by temples, rice paddies and see the nature of Nepal.” > “Anyone (all ages) can do this hike”– why not?
Additional information was:
“This hike is not technical; it does not require any special skills, you’re just walking.
For the most part you will be hiking in a forest. Once you reach the top you will have a view of the Kathmandu valley & the Himalayas (depending on weather).”
It wasn’t a tough choice. I could back out anytime before the golden day. But of course, I didn’t. How bad could it be, right? And it isn’t everyday that I get to travel and be given an opportunity to trek and see the Himalayas. Plus, I could do more sight seeing next time.
The day of the trek finally came.
We were set to hike the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park-– specifically the Shivapuri Hill with a peak of 2732m located at the Kathmandu Valley.
Our day started early and we left our hotel at around 8 am.
First, we passed by two different Buddhist monasteries as one would say a “warm up” for the said activity.
**Update (07 24, ’13) I’ve decided to make a separate post on the monasteries we’ve visited prior to the trek (here). I’d like for this post to focus on the trek with the rest of the day’s activities (add to the fact that the beauty of the monasteries deserve a post of its own!). **
The much awaited trek has finally started…
Apparently, this is the pre-trek of the actual trek.
We started to walk through the cemented road outside the monastery (2nd one–Seto Gumba), eventually going off the main road through a village with a group of small houses.
It was gradually ascending, and due to small talks and conversations with different walking buddies, it was a bit tiring. During this time, I was still a part of those who were walking ahead of the rest of the group.
This photo of our group was taken by Korinna/escape-travels during the start of the trek. I was the one in blue+violet top & white shoes 🙂
We took a quick stopover at an old tree that was said to be an old temple for the villagers around. I can’t remember if it’s a Buddhist or Hindu temple.
The temple under a very old tree
The view from the temple
When our guide said that we still haven’t reached the start of the trek, I was a bit mortified. OH MY GOD! This is not part of the trek yet???
Of course, I was all smiles. I can’t show weakness. There’s a grade school and a high school kid with us, and although their energies were much higher than mine, I need to be fearless just like them.
We eventually continued to walk.
Passing through the rice paddies was a bit of a challenge, because the soil was a bit coarse and I am afraid to fall on my butt! (And I realized, I was too cheap to buy myself an insurance for the said activity).
By this time, I was already in the middle of the group.
This photo of me somewhere above, waiting for my turn to go down, was taken by Korinna.
We continued to walk through the villages on our way to the starting point of the “actual trek.”
This photo of myself was taken by Nayla.
A view from the middle of the “pre-trek” trek.
We took another stop over again at a village temple with a small grave beside it. During our rest, we were told that we are near the start of the trek.
Say… WHAT? Okay, if there’s something worse than feeling mortified, that’s probably what I was feeling at that point.
Our guide briefing us during the stopover before the start of the actual trek.
A small grave in the vicinity of our stopover
Going uphill. Finally trekking through the forest-hill.
I can’t remember where the supposed start of the actual trek was. I remember that there were army men somewhere along, quite possibly at the start and end of the actual trek.
Anyhow… we started to go uphill, following a dusty trail passing through lots of trees. Our ascend has made the air thinner and the climb more difficult. The pain in my feet was nothing compared to the exhaustion of my thighs. My legs were shaking.
The heat of the sun was stronger than the promised cooler breeze uphill. I tried to keep hydrated to fight the exhaustion and to help with the blood circulation (I tried to only make smaller sips during the start of the trek because I don’t want to empty my bottle soon enough!).
At this point, I was a part of the last few trekkers of the group. But we weren’t the last in the last group. Although there were older men/women ahead of us, there were stronger and bigger men behind us.
I could keep up with my own pace and push myself to my own limit. I knew I can’t go beyond that because otherwise, I might hurt myself badly. (I was starting to imagine the thought of it and I can’t bear that!). And yes, I don’t have an insurance.
I thought, “Where’s the forest? When the itinerary said ‘a hike in the forest,’ I imagined a forest with flatter grounds! This is a mountain, not a forest! And it’s name is ‘National Park.'”
Our guide smirked and said, “in Nepal, a hill is just like what we were climbing, and when you say mountain, it is something like the Everest.” And, to think that this was a different route compared to the usual one.
Now, I get it.
And the abundant trees must mean that the hill, being surrounded by it is considered forest-y.
We also noticed that there were a lot of colored flags (like banderitas) hanging everywhere as we get higher. According to our guide, when the wind blows, they sound like horses running, and these colored flags have prayers inscribed on them for blessing.
Apart from hoping that I don’t hurt myself, I deeply prayed in the span of our trek for the sky to be clear. It’s the other pre-requisite in order to see the Himalayas. Otherwise, we’d probably just see smog.
Arriving at the destination.
After the 3-hour hike, I finally realized that all my efforts were worth it.
At first glance…
Just in front of me was the Himalayas. Something I didn’t even dream of seeing with my own eyes. It might be miles away, but it was literally just in front of me. How surreal can that be?
The sky was clear and that feeling of having accomplished something that I haven’t done before and seeing such a beauty was very gratifying.
I bet seeing the Himalayas during sunrise is the best.
There’s a viewing deck that we climbed to get a better view of the Himalayas.
Old, rusty, semi-reliable viewing deck. totally worth it!
This is the panoramic view through Nayla’s lens.
The Langtang Himal with the highest peak of 7227m.
My favorite, probably because it is the most picturesque from afar, the Ganesh Himal which is 70km NW of Kathmandu. Its highest peak is 7442m.
Ganesh Himal with its highest peak at 7442m
A high peak that I am not sure of.
Langtang peak on the right
At the top of the hill, there was also a Hindu temple and a group offering their prayers.
A group of men and women at the temple located at the top of the Shivapuri hill
I joined the rest of my group and took a quick break and ate some snacks.
This photo of me was taken by Korinna during the snack/break time.
I had my photo taken by another friend with the Himalayas but it still hasn’t been sent to me 🙁
Just before leaving, we took a group photo (thanks to Korinna) and unfortunately, it was a smoky one. It’s okay though, atleast I’ve got the Himalayas behind me.
Last look at the Himalayas before saying goodbye.
Going down was bittersweet and a tad hard as well!
On our way down was a combination of dusty trail and concrete stairs. Somehow, I felt that going down was more difficult. Maybe because my thighs were really exhausted? Or maybe because of the concrete stairs? I feared of overcompensating my knees and seeing my thigh cause a sprain on it.
This time, I was a part of the first few going down. Our guide was probably left with those who were behind. Thank goodness, the kid who walked a lot faster ahead of everyone left marks on the trail. Such a smart kid.
Only saw this at the exit–probably the entrance for those who opted to climb uphill via the stairway.
The view of the rest of the Kathmandu Valley upon leaving the park.
Once we reached the main road, our van drove us to a small house and we had our lunch outside. We grabbed a cold Everest to savour our accomplishment of the day.
Our lunch area, almost empty because we were leaving when i took this photo.
Such a beautiful tree.
Post trek activity #1 : TV instead of getting some well deserved rest.
After lunch, we headed off to our hotel. Me and my new friends decided to meet each other at the lobby to grab dinner and drinks and possibly shop for a few that evening. I was supposed to get a much deserved sleep when the movie “White Chicks” was on TV.
Go figure who won.
Post trek activity #2: Socializing, eating, and drinking whatever came along the way!
That night, most of us headed to the hip New Orleans, where a live band was playing and travelers alike frequent. It was so hip that most of the foreigners who were already there looked like they’ve already made themselves comfortable and have blended in.
Being with a big group made us feel very touristy. It’s undeniable and blending in was out of the picture. We had our own world and it was touristy but it was fun. I embraced where I am from and I am happy to be a part of it.
I ordered the yummy dumplings (known as “Momo”) that I had the night before, had a few drinks and had a really great time.
**The dumpling Momo were originally from China. They have both meat and vegetarian versions. I prefer the meat more, although the vegetarian version is yummy as well! 🙂
When we reached our hotel, we decided to cap off the night with the leftover from the bottle of whiskey we had the night before. My new found friends made the trip a lot better than what I had hoped for.
There were so many highlights all throughout the day, and I feel it’s almost a tie between hanging out with my group and seeing the Himalayas (and seeing the Himalayas is such a great deal!). Such a surreal wonderful experience all in all.
Quick Tips when Trekking:
1. Research on what trekking is all about (obviously) and prepare not only mentally but also physically.
2. Wear comfortable but durable foot wear, and make sure you break it in before you use it. I wore a white rubber shoes by Adidas, and guess what? It was still white after the trek! I remember someone asking me the night before if I was “going to wear that?” and telling me “goodluck!”. I didn’t have a choice and that pair had to do. I only had one blister (probably because I didn’t break it in as much as I should’ve) but my shoes didn’t kill me in the course of the trek. I think for someone else, it did.
3. Bring snacks, other than fruits or sandwiches, I recommend candies/chocolates/chips/cookies/biscuits as well. It’s good conversation starters and of course, good for energy especially for someone who has a sweet tooth such as myself.
4. If it’s an option for you, extreme sports/activities are worth buying an insurance for. Don’t be a cheapskate like me. I probably just got lucky.
5. The best lesson that I’ve learned among other things is to stay hydrated whatever the circumstance is. Before, during and after the trek… and of course — always!
6. If ever you feel like giving up, just think: 10 more steps over and over again. It is okay to take a pause from time to time. There’s only so much that our mind and our body can tolerate. There’s nowhere else to go but up. Think about that, and you’ll find yourself soon enough at the top.
7. Pray for the clear blue skies. It’s good to arrive just around lunch time, that way, it isn’t cloudy to cover the view of the Himalayas. If you could get there very early in the morning, then I guess it’s all good too. I feel like seeing the Himalayas at sunrise is the most beautiful one. My batch arrived just before 2 pm and we were able to see the Himalayas.
8. Enjoy the view. That’s the best reward you could give yourself. You deserve it.
The day after would start a bit weird because of my lack of H2O, but I wouldn’t trade this day’s experiences for anything. It was my first time to trek ever in my life, and guess what I saw? The Himalayas. How surreal could that be?
**Some of the photos here (group photos where I can find myself) were taken by Korinna, Nayla (esp. the panoramic view), and Allison and they’re very nice so I have to thank them for that. 🙂
***This is only the day 2 of my 3-day Nepal trip. You may check out Day 1 of my visit to Kathmandu where we experienced a cultural show during a traditional dinner/meal and Day 3 where we explored some of Kathmandu’s most beautiful temple sites: Patan Durbar Square, the Golden Temple, and Bhaktapur.)