The Trek (Part Deux) – A

It was the eve before our intended climb up Poon Hill for what we hoped would be an incredible Himalayan sunrise (please read “The Trek (Part Une)” if you haven’t already). We went to bed, hoping for Dorche’s pre-dawn knock on the door – the signal that skies were clear and we would make the climb. We were told by the family running our guest house that it had been rainy and cloudy the previous two mornings, and not to get our hopes up.

But in the dark hours of the morning, we heard it: KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK! “Drew, Brenna – it’s clear!” Oh, happy day! Now, waking up at 4:30 a.m. is certainly not one of my favorite things to do – in fact, I would put it at the very bottom of my list – but of course, I couldn’t have been happier about it on this particular morning! We dressed quickly, grabbed our flashlights, and were out the door within 15 minutes. We walked through the quite mountain town of Ghorepani with Dorche and some other trekkers on the same mission. We reached the entrance to Poon Hill and began our long, steep climb in the dark. Those of you who have been to Poon Hill know what I’m talking about – every time you think you’ve neared the top, there are just MORE STAIRS… Up, and up, and up! But the promise of a Himalayan sunrise kept our adrenalin pumping and our legs moving.

FINALLY, we reached the top – a little tired, but mostly just excited. We’d made it! We looked around to find… (drum roll)… clouds. Yup. Clouds. Noooooo!!!!

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Yes, we were disappointed. Yes, we were feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. BUT we sat at the top of the ‘hill’ waiting anyway, juuuuuust in case the sky might clear up. After all, they say patience is a virtue… and, sure enough, little by little, the sky began to clear!

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As the sun rose, the clouds shifted and the great Himals became more and more visible to our eager eyes. And what an amazing sight it was!

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The atmosphere was festive – everyone chattering, smiling, snapping pictures, some even clapping and singing. Here are a few pictures of us, the triumphant and happy trekkers…

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Happy, triumphant and… COLD!

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And here’s a video too, to give you a better sense of the scope of our view (and our giddiness about being there)…

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After some time, we reluctantly decided to head back down the hill. We had a 7-hour day of trekking to the next town ahead of us, and we needed to get an early start. (Which I delayed a bit by taking tons of pictures all the way down the hill – I couldn’t help it! It was just SO BEAUTIFUL!)…

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We went back to the guest house to pack-up and eat another hearty trekker’s breakfast – this is when I discovered “Tibetan bread” for the first time (also known as “Gurung bread”). Deep fried and served with honey, similar to the “sopapillas” you’ll find in New Mexico, but not as fluffy. SO GOOD!

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After breakfast, we bid farewell to our friendly hosts and headed out for our long day. Just outside of town, we walked through a bit of jungle, and then out into a lovely hilltop meadow. It was so gorgeous – sunny and green with white wildflowers growing everywhere, a single stone path cutting through the center. And when we reached the top, we found the Himals again, peeking out at us from above the treeline…

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We continued up this ‘hill,’ until we reached the top, and found yet another spectacular view…

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There was even a white horse grazing here…  I mean, come on!  Could it get MORE picturesque!?

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After this we began our great descent. If the first day was ‘The Day of Stairs,’ then this was ‘The Day of Down.’ After all of the UP from the previous two days, we’d have to head back down at some point, right? So down we went, and through the most incredible rhododendron forests I have ever seen. The trees were so tall and magnificent – much bigger than the small, squat rhododendrons I know from the mountains of Western North Carolina, that’s for sure! These pictures barely capture how it felt to be there…

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The root of this rhododendron grew over the rock – amazing!

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Then we walked along a rushing waterfall and river that cut a path through a deep ravine – down steep slippery stone steps, the tall craggy cliffs rising high above our heads…

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After a few hours, the clouds rolled back in, and we walked along a misty ridge…

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Here we found some flowers I’d seen before in Nagarkot, and was curious to know more about. Dorche explained that this was a “chicken flower,” and then demonstrated by separating and rearranging various parts. With a few swift movements, he assembled this funny, purple ‘chicken’ that was quite charming, indeed – just another moment to appreciate the ‘big kid’ that is Dorche…

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After five long, tiring hours of walking (just because it’s downhill doesn’t mean it’s easy!), we finally arrived at a guest house where we stopped for lunch. I was utterly exhausted by this point, and feeling a bit upset by a discovery I’d made just a few moments before arriving – the LCD screen on my camera had somehow broken (not for the first time, I’d like to add – I’d already had this same problem fixed once before in the States). Sigh. On the bright side, I got this funny shot of Drew looking into the lens to see if the shutter was opening when I pressed the button…

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So the camera still technically worked, but I couldn’t really see what I was shooting, nor could I make any adjustments to the light meter and other camera settings, as that’s all done using the LCD screen. But no matter – Brenna, ‘The Planner,’ had come prepared for this! I had an extra camera with me (that, ironically, I’d purchased the year before to replace this very same camera when its LCD screen broke the FIRST time)… all was not lost!

Our meal arrived and homemade Nepali cuisine did not disappoint, once again. Wow! I don’t know if it was because I was so exhausted and hungry, or if it really was just that incredible, but this was probably the best dal bhat I had during my entire stay in Nepal. I still remember it vividly… hhmmmm… so tasty…

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I saw two other notable things during our lunch break: 1) A gorgeous moth, unlike any I’ve ever seen before…

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…and 2) the card that Sunil (our friend and Dorche’s son) passed out along his “Trek for Change,” a 128 day trek through Nepal’s Himalayan region that Sunil completed SOLO (!) in 2011. (If you want to learn more about this, check out this article or just search for “Sunil Trek for Change,” and you’ll finds lots of press coverage!)…

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After lunch, we dragged our poor bodies out of the guest house and back onto the trail. To be honest, the last two hours were a bit of a blur. I was so incredibly tired – I just walked and walked, my mind focusing only on where to put my feet. It was a meditative state of sorts – putting one foot in front of the other, moving beyond the pain, discomfort, and exhaustion I was feeling. I didn’t take very many pictures in these last hours, but here are a few…

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An interesting way to store firewood – I’m sure there’s a good reason for this, but I never found out why…

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Finally, we arrived to our destination for the night: the adorable village of Ghandruk. After only a few minutes walking through this idyllic and quaint place, we dubbed it “The Shire” (yes, yes, another nerdy reference. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars… what’s next!?). It really was just so cute…

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On our way into town, we were spotted by a young girl who chased after us (for a surprisingly long time), her hand outstretched, repeating, “Chocolate?! Chocolate?! Chocolate?!” Drew explained that we didn’t have any chocolate (in Nepali, of course), but she wasn’t convinced. Maybe bideshi trekkers make their way through the mountains handing out chocolate to all of the children, and we somehow missed the memo? Regardless, we had nothing for her, so eventually I just gave her little outstretched hand a ‘high five.’ Then I offered my hand to back her, and she gave me a ‘high five’ – thus our little game was born. We did this back-and-forth ‘high five’ exchange while walking down the stone path for a minute or so before she turned back home, smiling and giggling….

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A few more minutes and we arrived at the “Breeze Guest House,” where we would spend the rest of the night. It was adorable with a great view of three Himalayan peaks, South Annapurna, Himjulie (sp?), and Fishtail…

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This was the best guest house of our trek – plentiful clothesline for hanging our wet, sweaty clothes (gross, yes, but a reality one must deal with when trekking!) and… wait for it… our own PRIVATE bathroom with a western-style toilet! Huzzah! Oh, isn’t it funny how these ‘little’ things we so often take for granted in the States become luxuries in places like Nepal? I was positively giddy about our good fortune!

After a shower and some rest, we spent the remainder of our afternoon sitting on the patio, sharing a well-deserved beer and watching the sun go down over the Himals…

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“Fishtail” – you can see how this peak got its name from the shape…

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SORRY, TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES – PLEASE GO TO “The Trek (Part Deux) – B”

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