Nepal is full of wonderful hiking opportunities. The numerous trails take you on journeys full of spectacular scenery and charming local interaction. I recently visited the country on our Highlights of Nepal tour and here I share my experience of hiking in the Himalayas.
The morning before we started our hike we visited Shanti Stupa, the World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara. Driving up to the viewpoint and climbing the stairs, we were met with magnificent views of the Annapurna range. As you can imagine, this breathtaking sight got us very excited about the hike.
We returned to the hotel to get our bags ready. We were allowed one small bag for our overnight clothes, which the sherpas carried to the camp. In our day bags we only packed our cameras, money, and water. Jumping back on the bus, we headed into the hills towards the small village of Kande.
In Kande, we met our guides and the sherpas who would be walking at their own fast pace. Our destination was Australian Camp, named after the Australians who first camped here when trekking in the Annapurna region.
We had already met our trekking leader Mr Dawa Jamba Sherpa back in Kathmandu. He had entertained us with tales of his trekking experience including summiting Mount Everest five times – four from the south side of Nepal and once from the northern side of Tibet. Instantly we were in awe of him and fascinated by his stories. He soon fondly became known to us as ‘Mr Everest’ or ‘Old Mate Everest’. Preparing us for the trek, he said that with our group of mixed fitness levels, the hike would take one and a half to two hours.
The guides walked amongst us, one leading the way, one in the middle, and Mr Dawa at the back. We learned the trekking leader will always stay with the slowest walker. The sherpas, however, quickly overtook us. We took a couple of brief rest stops along the way for refreshments of cold tea and juice, to enjoy the views and mingle with the locals, including an encounter with a local astrologer.
After a couple of hours, we arrived at Australian Camp. The view didn’t disappoint – it was absolutely incredible. I easily could have spent hours gazing at the vista imagining what magic lies deep in the mountains. In front of us were views of Machapuchare, translated to mean ‘fishtail mountain’. This mountain has been declared sacred due to its importance to the Hindu god Shiva and its summit has never been climbed.
We stopped for lunch and enjoyed a beer to celebrate reaching 2,100 metres, the highest point of our hike. After lunch, we continued on to the village of Dhampus where we were greeted with tea and biscuits. The tea lodge where we spent the night had a number of small and simple, yet comfortable, rooms.
Surrounded by the incredible views we made the most of watching the sunset before huddling around the fire. The temperature dropped quite considerably once the sun had gone down. Our dinner was a bowl of hot soup and a plate of vegetable momos. After my favourite meal of the whole trip and a few more teas to warm me up, I headed to bed.
The next day
The next morning, we woke up to breakfast and another stunning view of the Himalayas in the soft morning light. We headed off on the trail shortly after and started descending the hillside. I found going down much harder on my knees as it stepped all the way. But before we knew it, we had come to the end of our trek. After a cup of tea and a few leg stretches, we said goodbye to our sherpas and jumped on our bus back to Pokhara.
On the way back we stopped off at a Tibetan school and refugee camp. It was an informative and profound experience, learning about those who had fled Tibet and migrated to Nepal after the exile of the Dalai Lama.
For keen hikers
Prior to joining the tour, I arranged to hike in the Nagarkot hills close to Kathmandu. The Nagarkot trek is 15km and took six hours to hike. It was definitely a tougher route due to the many ups and downs between Nagarkot and Dhulikhel. The views were not as spectacular, however, it took us through more villages and was a great insight into country life.
Many of the villages we visited were still rebuilding their homes after the devastating earthquake of 2015. We passed children playing in the streets and gave them little koala bear toys, and others, pairs of flip flops. On one snack pit-stop, we met a lady who was making delicious popcorn in her tiny shed.
Hiking in the Himalayas was the highlight of my time in Nepal. The stunning views of the Himalayas will stay with me forever. Most of all, these two short hikes have inspired me to return to Nepal and trek to Everest Base Camp.