On my last 2 days in Kathmandu, I decided to do a trek with Wayfarers, a reputable budget travel agency recommended by my Lonely Planet guidebook.
Nepal is known for its intensive 2-3 week treks to Mount Everest, Pokhara and the Annapurna regions. I was short on time, so I opted for a $60- 2 day/1 night trek through 4 villages (Bhaktapur, Changhu Narayan, Nagarkot and Sankhu) with a view of the Himalayan Mountains .
What is trekking?
If you ever wondered why they call it “trekking” and not “hiking”, I couldn’t tell you. This is my first time doing it.
Trekking seems to be like a really long and intense hike. Half the time, if there’s nothing to see but woods, worn path and rock, you spend your time looking down at your feet, while thinking deep thoughts like “Why my feet taking me farther or faster than I think they should?” or “Are we almost there yet?“
Why do people trek?
Most of the time, travelers trek to see the mountain view, the simple lifestyle of villagers and to experience the untouched purity of remote mountain regions.
The view, when I wasn’t looking down, was exquisite. I’ve actually never taken so many landscape photos in my life! The villagers and farming communities both, intrigued and inspired me with its raw simplicity and persevering lifestyle. Man, woman and child work tirelessly to push the land, its crops & soil…
Ganesh statue (Hindu) is placed at farms to symbolize prosperity and good farming.
My guide, Bacchu (meaning: “small” in Nepalese) is small, considering I’m a 5’8″ Asian female! But he’s no smaller than other Nepalese. But don’t let Nepalese sizes fool you, he was strong for his size. As a guide, he was perfect: attentive, considerate, thoughtful and I felt safe with. His English was enough to manage simple conversations about Nepali lifestyle, his own life and family.
Bacchu and I took a local bus out to Bhaktapur (an ancient rice village) and from there we waited for the bus to Changhu Narayan, where I would start my trek. While we waited for our bus, Bacchu stocked up on some fruit for our journey : bananas, water and apples .
Nepalese work hard to earn their money and they make very little.
People in the mountain villages didn’t make anything at all. But those that lived in the city, like Bacchu and his family, had to earn a living to pay for all the normal stuff city life comes with. We were nearly the same age, but Bacchu had a family, children who were going to school and rented a home with utilities to pay. Only after talking to him for sometime, did I realize that my tip may just cover his rent and utilities for the month!
What is the standard Nepalese diet?
The normal Nepalese meal consists of a breakfast of daal baat (a kind of lentil curry poured over rice), a lunch of light bisquits and daal baat again for dinner! Most of the meals are daal baat. Now I like daal baat a lot, but how Nepali people can eat daal baat so often is amazing. It also boils down to the fact that meat costs money. Daal is the simplest and cheapest food to make.
Riding on the roof of a Nepalese singing bus
Nagarkot summit is the highest peak of my trek, but due to the fact I had booked a late start, we had just a few of hours of trekking before nightfall. Thus, we had to the cut the trek time short and catch the bus to the top.
I was bummed about my loss of exercise time. But my silent sorrow immediately changed moods, when an over-stuffed bus arrived and I realized I might get to ride on the roof of it. Inside, the bus was garishly ornate; better yet, it was blaring Bollywood music. I call this my “Nepalese Singing Bus”! Riding on the rooftop, I didn’t actually get to hear the bus jingle and strut its Bollywood vibes; but I was packed in tight with a group of young Israelis who provided song on their own…
Seeing the majestic mountains and valleys from the vantage point atop of a moving bus…
There are no words or pictures to explain the feeling! I felt the urge to belt out The Sound of Music movie theme OR to explode arms open wide into lip-sync’d song, like Shah Rukh Khan in DDLJ or Veer-Zaara!
How is fare collected when you’re riding on the roof of a bus
It’s all pretty awkward but phenomenal. The fare collector collects money from passengers AFTER (and not always immediately) they have boarded the bus! The collector goes to each passenger, even if he must slice through the packed crowd to get the people wedged in the back. The passengers riding on the rooftop of the bus are no less exempt from his duty tasks either. He merely launches up to the roof , while the bus is motion and climbing over and squeezing through people, he continues to collect fares!
We stayed the night at the Viewpoint Hotel in Nagarkot.
The Viewpoint Hotel is a favorite of the trekking tours (I know- I went through a handful of different tour agency quotes and itineraries). The reason why this is so popular? It’s large mid-range hotel, spacious, clean and its got a great view, although there are many hotels in the vicinity which look equally nice. It’s definitely a comfortable stay and feels reminiscent of a ski lodge resort.
My room was large and the food at the restaurant is tasty. Blackout period occurs daily in Nepal and so when it does, we go to eat dinner where we are serving by candlelight and backup power generators.
But it occurs to me, no matter how nice or clean these hotels are, my inescapable culture shock is with Asian- styled bathrooms. It’s not that these bathrooms are unsanitary, just reminiscent of my experience of Western communal showers at the YMCA, where there’s only one central drain in the middle of the bathroom. This kind of system takes some getting used to as while you’re bathing and splashing water all over the room. But I imagine in the long-run this also makes cleaning the bathroom simpler and more efficient. You can just hose everything down.