TOR­TUR­OUS TRAILS

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Escape -

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.

FI­NAL DE­SCENT

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

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