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Trekking Nepal – Poon Hill Trek, Nayapul to Ulleri – Day 1

There’s probably something to be said for researching in advance.  Or buying a guidebook.  Both things I never do.  Today’s trek from Nayapul to Ulleri was intense.

 

What’s the benefit of my intentional ignorance?  Surprise, and deep immersion into messes adventures that I would never attempt if I were more educated, thus resulting in misery hilarity and more stretch of the comfort zone than a pair of pantyhose on an elephant.

 

Stairs!

Some of the easier stairs of the day.

 

Ignorance is bliss.  Until you’re in way over your head and think you might die it’s not.  I told Kaji I wanted to trek.  Clearly, I had no idea what that meant.

 

The day started so innocently.

 

I awoke in Pokhara and Kaji and I made our way to the bus station.  There, Kaji secured a cab to take us the 45 minutes to Nayapul, where my “easy” trek would begin.

 

Being transported anywhere in this country is an act of faith, with no functioning seat-belts, seemingly no rules of the road, and plenty of animal and human obstacles, it is an adventure.  Horns blast as we wind up the mountain, passing colorfully-painted trucks decorated like glittering shrines.

 

Nayapul sits at a height of 2070 meters.  It’s a one-road town lined with shops catering to trekkers.  This is the start of the popular and difficult Annapurna Base Camp Trek and the easier Poon Hill Trek, which we intend to do.

 

Walking through town, children approach us: “Namaste! Gimme chocolate!”

 

Trekking to Ulleri

Trekking to Ulleri

 

While I appreciate this no-nonsense approach, I am not endeared by it.  With no chocolate to give, we continue on.  The children make it clear that without chocolate I am a useless intruder that has ruined their day.

 

By the time we finish breakfast, the sun is already baking.  We walk along a dirt road for hours, occasionally stopping for milk tea at one of many brightly-colored restaurants on the way.  I am taken by the Nepalese love for color.

 

Love the colors in Nepal! Nayapul to Ulleri

Love the colors in Nepal!

 

Happy foreigners walk past, well-equipped with the latest sweat-wicking, light-reflecting, water-resistant, color-changing, memory-stimulating, shock-absorbing, skunk-repelling, rip-resistant, body-enhancing, sun-protecting, age-reducing, odor-eliminating, reversible, breathable, atom-splitting, ultra-light, hand-warming, ipod-accommodating, drawcord-adjustable, ultra-compressible, brand-new outfits.

 

Behind them come the porters, carrying the gigantic bags of the clients, no doubt filled with more sweat-wicking, light-reflecting, water-resistant, color-changing, memory-stimulating, shock-absorbing, skunk-repelling, rip-resistant, body-enhancing, sun-protecting, age-reducing, odor-eliminating, reversible, breathable, atom-splitting, ultra-light, hand-warming, ipod-accommodating, drawcord-adjustable, ultra-compressible, brand-new outfits.

 

The loads are too large for any human to ethically carry; the weight, perhaps 100 pounds (45 kilos) or more, carried by a band around the forehead.  The porters’ clothes are soiled with dirt.  Their t-shirts soaked with sweat.  And their shoes unfit even for a walk down the street.  “Agency”, Kaji says, indicating that tour agencies often exploit and abuse porters, who are largely uneducated and have no other employment options.  He also tells me the men are probably happy to have work.  They are paid around $8 US/day for their Herculean efforts.  Sobering.

 

I passed on the porter option, confident that I could carry my load.  Not the brightest move I ever made.

 

Nepalese chicken.

Nepalese chicken.

 

For hours we walk, gaining elevation slowly.  By 1 PM, I am super tired but confident that we must be close to our destination.  Wrong.

 

As we cross a suspension bridge, Kaji informs me that we will have to “walk up a little bit” before arriving in Ulleri.  We arrive at stone stairs.  “We go up there”, Kaji says.

 

I nearly perform a back-bend to see “up there” — the top of a very high mountain.  Surely he must be joking.

 

He’s not.

 

As we ascend we walk with heavily-loaded donkeys, old women, children, and locals carrying cages of live chickens on their backs or huge baskets filled with heavy goods from the city.

 

Stone memorials dot the path frequently, marking the place where villagers have been killed by landslides due to monsoons.  Fresh blood spatters dot the stairs for an hour, the source unknown.

 

Roughly two hours and 3200 grueling stone steps later, we arrive in Ulleri, an ancient village of stone houses sitting above terraced farmland and drop-off cliffs.  The snow-capped mountain of Annapurna South (7,219 m (23,684 ft)  is in the distance.

 

I am a whimpering fool.  I want to cry but am too proud.  Have I ever been this tired?

 

The village is dotted with guesthouses.  Kaji chooses one and there I have a room of my own.  I am stunned by a full menu offering delights such as pizza and enchiladas!  Here?!  To think that nearly every ingredient has been hand-carried up those stairs is mind-boggling.  My gratitude for a meal and a bed overflows.  I am asleep by 7 p.m.

 

Surely, tomorrow will be easier?

 

Photos of Day 1, Nayapul to Ulleri:

9 Comments

  1. So Naypul to Ulleri took you 6.5 hours ?

    • I’m sorry, but I do not recall exactly how long it took.

  2. Just got back from ABC. Having a guide and porter was defintely easier and also supported the local economy. Great pics!

    • Thanks! The guides and porters certainly do need tourist dollars, especially now.

  3. A porter who speaks English, a guide porter is what I hire. He will carry two packs…total 40 pounds, take you for long or short days, and charges less than a guide.Usually I travel with a friend and we share a porter guide.,

  4. Totally miss it! Will finish the rest of the trek tomorrow, but I’m already reminiscing. Loved the food up there, despite the “high” prices, but after seeing the porters carrying all that stuff you realize it’s cheap!! Nice to feel like you deserved the apple pie or whatever after a long day trekking. I remember filling out that trekker’s permit thinking I have no idea what to put here and just taking a stab at an itinerary I pulled off the net. Getting cabin fever!!

    • I can’t say I feel the same about missing it Tyler! So you didn’t have a guide? How did that work for you?

  5. Great writing!! I felt for you. Been there/done that. What? – are we sometimes nuts!? Ah, but the aftermath of memory makes us forget til the next time. Hang in there.

    • Thanks Danielle! Yes, we are sometimes nuts. Now that it’s over, I am GLAD I did it!

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