bathrooms with stoicism and made me proud. Power was generated by a tiny hydro dam that each villager contributed money to for its development. The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) has maintained a policy to only develop what the local villagers want. They also maintain a clean water filter policy so tourists don’t keep buying bottles of water and wasting the plastic. On many parts of the trail you cannot buy mineral water; you can only fill your water bottle with ACAP-approved filtered water. The second day of the hike was the most torturous. We had to traverse 3,500 vertical steps on the way to Ghorephani; Dahl Baat Power 24 Hour! This was also the first time we got a really good view of the giant mountains of the Annapurna region. The Machapuchare (Fish Tail) with an elevation of 6,993 metres was the first and the most aesthetically pleasing. Once we reached Ghorephani, the temperature considerably dropped with the rise in elevation – we were now at 3,000m and 6 degrees Celsius and this was where we first started to see the famous strings of Tibetan flags that are hung for good luck. Luckily, we had dahl baat waiting for us when we arrived.
The next morning we woke up at 3.30am to begin hiking to Poon Hill, our highest elevation of 3,210 metres, for sunrise, which was a mild disappointment considering it was cloudy and we really only saw the peak of the Fish Tail for a couple of seconds and Walking is the primary mode of transportation then it was 5am in the morning. After a breakfast of – you guessed it – dahl baat, we hiked along several ridges of eerie jungle forest covered in dense fog. At one point we were above the treeline with tall green grass and it almost felt like Scotland. There was even a herd of sheep on one of the mountain tops. It began to rain and we finally made it to Tadapani where we spent the night. The next morning at 5am we finally had the view we had been waiting for. There they were in all their glory, all four peaks: Annapurnas, Machapuchare, Nilgiri South, and Dhaulagiri, three of which are 8,000plus metres. It was the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. At that moment, standing at 3,000 metres and looking at the enormity of these mountains just absolutely towering over you, it makes you realise how small you are and how big the world is.
It was all downhill from here to the beautiful little village of Ghandruk, which is built into the side of the mountain where the locals would terrace farm to make the most of the land. Remember that there are no roads in any of these villages and they are all essentially vertical where the locals just walk from one place to another. They are completely self sustainable. The architecture reminded me of a medieval village, yet with brightly coloured accents.
Walking around, we ran into a young Tibetan man who invited us into his home where we learned the story of the Tibetan people. He explained to us the architecture of the Gurung house he was staying in as a helper. The home was designed to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter with an open fire in the middle and a small window for ventilation. We sat and talked for a while before parting ways, and he gave us some Tibetan flags for good luck.
After going to sleep at our now usual time of 8pm we woke up at 6am ready for the final descent back to Nayapul. We dodged buffalo dung, witnessed a buffalo fight, walked with the horses, donkeys, mules, and dogs, and made our triumphant return to sort of civilisation. We opted for a plane back to Kathmandu rather than a bus, and rather than stay in Thamel we stayed at the independent state of The Hyatt Regency surrounded by walls and security guards, completely separated from the chaos of Kathmandu. Sometimes you need a vacation from a vacation. Nepal can be one of those countries, especially in the cities.
When you’re out in the wilderness, the real vacation is in the mind; it has time to think and not worry, time to observe and accept the world around you. Your body might need a vacation from the exhaustion and lack of amenities, but you will never forget the sights and sounds of the Himalayas. The feeling of accomplishment when reaching your destination is empowering and seeing the view for the first time is unforgettable. Nepal will take you out of your comfort zone and while it may be challenging, it’s certainly a vacation from the everyday.
Now it’s back to the digital world in 2013 where we are striving for self sustainability. Who knows? Maybe by 2070 we will have figured it out.
Bright colours make light a hard existence