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  • Writer's pictureHannah Bywater

Trekking to the Base of a Sacred Mountain

Nepal is famous for trekking and it is something that I came here specifically to do. I have my heart set on the Annapurna Circuit but first I wanted to do something small to test what I would need and/or not use in my bag. My friend Louisa and I decided that we would set out to trek Mardi Himal together. This is a short 4-5 day trek roundtrip. Our journey started in Pokhara where we took the bus to Kande. Our bus arrived around 13:00 to the trailhead. We grabbed some lunch at a restaurant just beside the starting point. With a few hours of daylight left we decided to start to see how far we could get. I was so excited to finally be trekking, it was a dream coming true. At the beginning we were walking through a little community with rice fields and farm animals. On the trail were very many donkeys carrying loads on their back full of deliveries for the mountain communities. While it was still light we came across the first guest houses but decided to continue to the next one. We still had a few hours before it came dark and we figured if we didn’t reach we could always back track to this one. We ended up hiking for a total of 4 hours before settling in for the night. The guesthouse was very simple but you don’t need much anyways. For dinner I had dal bhat, this is a very typical dish here in Nepal. It consists of rice, lentils, vegetable curry, spinach and some sort of pickle. I had never had it before because I knew it would be a very common dish to eat in the mountains, so I saved it for this moment. The great thing about this dish is that you can have as much as you want. If you are still hungry after the first serving you can ask for more and all for the set price. This is great for my budget and my stomach.

We woke up at 6 AM the next morning for our first full day trekking in the Himalayan mountains. The sky was clear and the sun rise over the mountains was beautiful, it made me very excited for the day to come. The day before we walked through the rice fields and jungle type forest. As we continued the forest turned into a Rhododendron forest. The trees looked like fingers coming out of the ground. In the spring these trees have beautiful pink flowers but unfortunately, I couldn’t see them at this time. Around 3 o’clock it started to rain. Thankfully we we’re close to a camp and were able to wait it out. I am glad that we decided to stop because shortly after the rain had turned into hail and then snow. However, it didn’t last long and we were in the clear to continue. We trekked for another hour or so before reaching our final destination for the day. After trekking for it 8 ½ hours and gaining approximately 1000m in altitude, I was ready for a hot shower. If you don’t already know, hot showers are a luxury. I ended up needing to pay Rs.700 for this shower but I enjoyed it.

I would love to tell you that I had a good sleep, but it was just okay. At some point in the night a small furry creature ran over my body and face. It definitely wasn’t a puppy and it definitely wasn’t the kitten, if I had to guess I think it was a rat. Unlucky for me, it wasn’t the first time this has happened, so I was familiar with the feeling and recognized the scurrying in the wall. I must say I am not proud to admit that I am familiar with the feeling of a rodent crawling across my face in the middle of the night. We woke up again at 6 AM for yet another exciting day of trekking. The sunrise literally took my breath away. The pink hues that lit up the mountains were incredible. Something that I have learned to appreciate is doing ordinary things in unordinary places. This morning it was brushing my teeth in the Himalayan mountains. It just makes something simple so special. We didn’t have far to go on this day and ended up reaching our next camp in three hours. High camp is the last place possible to stay on this trek. You can trek higher, but you have to come back down to stay at high camp. It hadn’t even reached noon so I dropped my bags in the room and hiked further to the view point. It took about an hour and I met with some new Israeli friends for a warm drink at a tea house up there. The owner of the tea house, Bhim had Turkish coffee which they were thrilled about so we ordered a round. When the clouds started to move in we started to make our way back down.

I spent the afternoon cuddling with some dogs and enjoying my friends playing the guitar and singing. It was an early night for me as we had plans to wake up early to hike up to the viewpoint again for the sunrise. The next morning I woke up at 4a.m. to get ready to hike up. The stars were out and you could see the mountains glowing from the moonlight. Slowly you could start to see this bright orange line appear over the horizon. We were so lucky to have such clear conditions to enjoy this sunrise. As the sun started to rise over the mountain peaks I enjoyed watching it light up the adjacent mountain with gorgeous hues of orange. The sunrise and sunset are my most favourite part to any day. It is a short moment of breathtaking beauty where I feel completely present. I know that it won’t last forever so all my attention is focused on enjoying pure bliss. After watching the sunrise we went to Bhims tea house to grab a warm drink. I was quite fond of the coffee I had the day before so I ordered another one. We huddled around the fire in his tea house to warm up before making our way up to the Mardi Himal Base Camp, the highest point on this trek. It is located at the base of the Machhapuchhare, also known as the fish tail mountain. This is a sacred mountain in Nepal and it is prohibited for anyone to climb it. Which is why the Mardi Himal trek ends at the base camp which sits at 4,500m. When we reached base camp I sat down and to soak in the wonders around me. I was feeling so much happiness and accomplishment. I enjoyed a snack and the sun beating down on my face. It was so silent and everything was so still.

I could have stayed up there all day but we had a goal to make it down to Siding that day. Bhim has a guest house there and offered for us to stay. It was a bit of an ambitious goal but I knew we could do it. We went back down to high camp to collect our things and started to descend. Having been at the top in the morning and walking all the way down you could really notice how diverse the mountain is. The transition between all of the ecosystems were so smooth but very obvious. We were on a mission to make it down so we didn’t make many stops. This was so hard on the legs because there were so many stairs. We took one nice long break in this magical looking jungle area with a small waterfall. After a couple cookies and a release of strange noises trying to stand back up we continued to make our way down. We came across a group of men building stairs. There were men splitting the rocks into slabs by hand with mallets. They were also slinging around these huge rock slabs while wearing sandals. I am sure there is history of a few broken toes. You know, before I was really not a fan of these stairs, they are a pain in my legs. But after seeing how hard these people were working to build these stairs I felt guilty for having any negative feelings towards their work. Also I realised that it’s not about me lol, along with most things. These stairs were probably helpful to the people walking up and down this mountain on a daily basis to make deliveries and going to and from the main village. I could suck it up for a couple of days. Around 17:00 we arrived to the village of Siding. We were thrilled because our legs felt like jello and our body batteries were almost dead. Unfortunately for us our mission was far from complete.

Finding the way to Bhims guest house proved to be an adventure within itself. At the top he told us to just ask anyone and they would point us in the right direction. Well we asked three different people and they all gave us different directions. This one lady seemed pretty confident with her answer so we decided to go with her directions. She motioned her arm like a snake indicating for us to go back. up. the. road. (we were not thrilled) and then told us to go straight. We followed this as best we could but at the cross roads there was no option to go straight. Of course. We just went with our gut and figured if we couldn’t find it before dark maybe someone would have some floor space for us to sleep on for the night. It was starting to get dark when we finally reached a residential area again. We were trying to navigate the map but nothing was making sense. Once it got completely dark we started asking everyone we came across if they knew of the guest house. Again, everyone have us different answers. Finally, an angel appeared and she showed us the way. The worst part was that we had walked passed it two times before. It was just tucked behind the house on the road. It was nearly 19:00 by the time we arrived. Bhim was so surprised to see us, he didn’t think we were coming. Him and his wife cooked us the best dal bhat I have ever tasted, and I have been eating this 2 times a day for the past 5 days. After the food I could barely keep my eyes open I was so tried. I could also barely walk which made it rather challenging to make it down the stairs to the room. Remember, we started hiking to catch the sunrise at 4a.m. that means we were walking for 15 hours. I am unsure how I was even standing. Although it was an absolute mission to get here I am so glad that we decided to stay at Bhims house. I woke up in the morning after a nice restful sleep to go up and enjoy tea on the balcony. It was dark when we arrived so I hadn’t seen the view. I was sitting there sipping my tea looking up at the mountain and I could clearly see the exact point we were at the base camp just the day before. Not only that but as I was admiring the view I counted 9 waterfalls in only a blink. I was in paradise.


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