On my last two days in Kathmandu, I decided on a trekking trip through Wayfarers, a reputable budget travel agency in Kathmandu, recommended by my Lonely Planet guidebook.
Trekking in Nepal is popular with many travelers. Nepal is known for its intensive 2-3 week treks to Mount Everest, Pokhara and the Annapurna regions. But I was short on time, so I opted for a $60 tour of 2 days/1 night trek through four villages: Bhaktapur, Changhu Narayan, Nagarkot and Sankhu with a view of the Himalayan Mountains .
What is trekking?
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?” Along the way, resident dogs from the local villages occasionally keep you company on your nature walk.
If you ever wondered why they call it “trekking” and not “hiking”, I could not tell you. This is my first time doing it.
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, which you can only reach on foot. It’s worthwhile to take a trekking tour just to see a more natural lifestyles away from the crazy hubbub of city living.
The view, when I wasn’t looking at my feet, was gorgeous, untouched. I’ve never taken so many landscape photos in my life! The villagers and farming communities both, intrigued and inspired me with its pure simplicity and persevering lifestyle. Man, woman and child work tirelessly to push the land, its crops & soil.
Trekking route: Bhaktapur to Changhu Narayan to Nagarkot
My trekking guide, Bacchu and I took a local bus out to Bhaktapur, a once ancient rice village, with lots of woodwork temples. The city is a UNESCO site, known for its hand-carved woodwork in buildings, art and temples. Bhaktapur is also a hub city for buses going to many destinations, including Nagarkot. We entered the city and explored some of the temples on the way to the bus stop. We spent about an hour touring the city, because I signed up for the trek at the last-minute in the afternoon.
Ordinarily, there is a trekking route from Bhaktapur to Changhu Narayan and straight to Nargarkot. It takes around a day. But I was starting already a half a day into it and we had to get to Nagarkot before nightfall.
At Bhaktapur we waited for the local 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 from a local produce lady on the side of the street: bananas, water and apples .
My trekking guide
Trekking guides in Nepal are trekking guides for life. You can get a guide with much experience or very little and this will ultimately make a difference the more challenging your treks are. You want to make sure you’re in good hands (and note: I did purchase travel insurance on this trip to be safe)
My guide, Bacchu (meaning: “small” in Nepalese) is small, considering I’m a 5’8″ Asian female! He probably stands at around 4’11”. But he’s no smaller than the average Nepalese, which I’d guess is 5’0″. Nepalese folks are small framed and wiry. But don’t let Nepalese sizes fool you, he was strong for his size. As a guide, he was perfect: attentive, considerate, thoughtful and someone I felt safe with, despite he was a man. His English was enough to manage simple conversations about Nepali lifestyle, his own life and family.
Nepali lifestyle & Changhu Narayan
Trekking into the hills from the town of Changhu Narayan, I learned that the Nepalese work hard to earn their money and they make very little.
People in the mountain villages don’t make money anything at all, but seem to get around with bartering or living off their crops. But urban Nepalese, like Bacchu and his family, had to earn a living to pay for all the normal stuff city that 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!
The Changhu Narayan hills are alive with a quiet life of farming families. Some houses are simple with a dirt flooring, and a couple of goats or cow parked outside, where an urban family might sport a car port. Kids are playing and local dogs are accompanying us, turning themselves into guides leading us on a well-worn footpath.
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. Bacchu asked me if I wanted to continue on foot or take the bus. I chose the bus as it seemed at my pace, we’d be arriving after nightfall.
An over-stuffed bus arrived at the local bus stand (it doesn’t look like a bus stop at all) 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…
view from top of bus
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!
Staying in Nagarkot
The Hotel Viewpoint Nagarkot is a favorite of the trekking tours (I know- I went through a handful of different tour agency quotes and itineraries). It is a large mid-range lodge hotel which has spacious and clean rooms. The hotel has a fabulous hillside view facing the valley and surrounding hills. There are many hillside hotels in the vicinity which look equally nice however.
I’m trekking in late September so the weather seems nice and there is no haze in the distance. I hear the haze can get bad though and there isn’t much clarity to see the mountain ranges in the distance.
Blackouts and Asian-styled bathrooms
My room was large and the food at the restaurant is tasty. Blackout period occurs daily in Nepal so when there was blackout at dinner, the waiters served me by candlelight and there were backup power generators.
One shocking feature is the Asian-styled bathrooms. They are mildly reminiscent of showers at the YMCA, where there’s only one central drain in the middle of the bathroom. This takes some getting used to. While bathing under the shower, you’re splashing water all over the toilet, sink and room. You need to place your clothes up high.
I imagine in the long-run this also makes cleaning the bathroom simpler and more efficient. You can just hose everything down!
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