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  • Andrei Stoica

Nepal (Part 2): Poon Hill Trekking


Having just left the comfort of our hotel in Bhaktapur, a new adventure was awaiting us: trekking in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas. It's one of the most popular trekking itineraries in the region due to its relatively low difficulty and abundant facilities along the way. The trek will take us to Poon Hill, the highest point of this itinerary that also offers spectacular views of the Annapurna mountains.

"Trekking" is not a word I hear often in the US, so I had to look it up: dictionary.com defines trekking as "1. To travel or migrate, especially slowly or with difficulty and 2. (South Africa) To travel by ox wagon". The second definition certainly didn't apply to our trip for practical reasons... Another feature of trekking is that luggage is usually carried by porters, leaving the trekker the liberty to enjoy the views and, in our case, photograph as much as possible.

A stop in Pokhara before the trek brought a few more photo ops. This is where I got the first glimpse of Machapuchare (translates to "Fish Tail") Mountain, part of Annapurna Himalayas in Nepal. By the end of our trip, I had the opportunity to it view it countless times from a lot of angles and they were all striking.

Day 1 - Nayapul to Ulleri

The starting point of our trek is Nayapul, a small village in the foothills of the mountains., busy with the loading and unloading of trekkers. We soon got on our way to higher altitudes, although at first the climb was minimal.

One thing that sets this trek apart from anything that I've seen before is the actual trail: I'm used to well-beaten mountain trails that meander upwards, zig-zagging as needed in order to make it easier to approach the steeper segments. But we had none of that: the path is often going straight up, with very little concern to my knees' well being. Also, most of the path is covered with well-fit rocks to create steps, millions of steps! While that sounds like a good idea, offering a stable, rain-proof surface, it actually puts a lot of strain on joints, especially when going downhill.

Picturesque villages mark the path along the way, most of them catering to trekkers' needs. These villages hug the trail very closely so you can step right into houses.

The so-called "tea houses" are essentially hostels offering shelter for a few dollars a night and a good, hearty meal throughout the day. All rooms we stayed in were stripped to the bare-bones of a traveler's needs: a basic bed and a door to close behind you at night. Oh, and did I mention there was no heating in any of the rooms? That explains the thick, warm cover over the bed that really did help going through the frigid temperatures at night, especially at higher altitudes. The only heated room was the "lobby" where everybody gathers around the central stove for meals, to talk, laugh and, of course, warm up a little.

Some houses are perched on the mountainside, surrounded by rice paddies.

Just like elsewhere during our trip we met locals (some in flip-flops vs. our heavy boots), donkey trains (carrying supplies) and porters (carrying trekkers' bags) flying up and down the stairs as if going on a leisurely walk. And speaking of porters: I still cannot reconcile these people's ability to carry large and heavy bags with their relatively small stature and skinny appearance. Here's a group of porters carrying bags 2/3 of their size and weighing an average of 65 lbs (30 Kg) each! And you may think they're all men, but you'd be wrong: one of our porters was a woman and she was carrying bags no smaller than every other porter.