Forgetting that Hugo had to collect his Indian Visa, we were stuck in Kathmandu for another four days. I could have happily spent four days chilling out drinking good coffee and maybe seeing a bit more of Kathmandu but we felt we needed to do something. Last minute we decided to catch the local bus north to Sundarijal to trek through the National Park and Himalayan foothills.
In the mad rush I dropped my headlamp in the gutter so it was covered in piss, fantastic. It took us over two hours shouting “Sundarijal” to find a bus going our way. Of course, everyone else wanted to get on that bus too and war broke out with ladies screaming and fruit from the stall flying into the air. We saw a guy jump through the open window at the back and seized our chance to get on. I took a run up and hurled myself head first through the window much to the surprise of onlookers. Hugo’s attempt looked more graceful and most definitely less painful than mine but we were on and we had a seat!
Sundarijal is a quiet hilly village and we found a room in someone’s house pretty easily. Food was harder to find but we ended up eating with a family who served us their homemade “healthy” green soup, fried potato and egg. I was kept awake most of the night by the dog outside our room and the earthquake which happened around midnight. It was Hugo’s first experience of an earthquake and we were both pretty shaken up. Breakfast was toast and honey, late as usual but only by half an hour or so. Our mission was to do the two day trek to Nagarkot in just a day covering over 35k of mountains.
The first part of the day was mostly up hill with sections having stairs – something I hate. We felt a large Army presence with check points and training camps dotted around. It was around $5 to enter the National Park but we didn’t need a trekking permit or guide. Considering we picked a fairly popular route, I did not see a single tourist.
By midday we reached Chisapani where we had planned to stop for lunch. We still had another seven hours of trekking ahead of us so we decided just to stock up on snacks. Although we had a map and a GPS the inevitable happened and we got lost. A group of school lads showed us a “short cut” helping us jump down the mountain to cut out the long winding road. Little did we know, we had taken a wrong turning a few hours previous and we had no choice than to walk back up the mountain and backtrack uphill another 10k. Hugo wasn’t best pleased with my enthusiasm to go along with the lads ignoring his hesitation about possibly going the wrong way.
We attempted to take a short cut through the forest but ended up with wet and muddy shoes after stepping through a swamp. Navigating in the dark for the last hour or two was tricky and we finally reached Nagarkot around 19:30 after 13 hours of walking without a single stop for food.
We were exhausted and decided to splurge at Nagargot Holiday Inn (not THE Holiday Inn) on a twin room with hot water and questionable wifi. There are plenty of eateries to choose from in Nagarkot but like most places in Nepal, you get what you are given. We had an awful overpriced Daal Bhat but it was food and we certainly needed it.
We resentfully left our cosy beds at 5am to hike to Nagarkot View Tower for sunrise. With no one about to ask we got a little lost and failed to make it up in time. Hugo went on but I was determined not to miss the sunrise views so I stopped at a nice spot to set up my SJ Cam and take it all in. The 360 degree panoramic views were spectacular.
I met Hugo for a breakfast at the view tower where we discussed the route we were going to take to Dhulikhel. It was then I realised I still had the key to our room as we had planned to go back after sunrise unaware that we were over an hours walk away in the opposite direction. Despite the two hour back track I just couldn’t leave with their key, bad karma and all that.
We got chatting to a local couple who were on a first date and they kindly offered to drop the key back to Nagarkot for us as they had a car. We were free to start our trek south back to Kathmandu. The walk was less hilly than the previous day but we were tired and sore, not to mention hungry.
The thing that surprises me most about Nepal is the lack of choice in food and sometimes lack of food itself. We struggled to find anything substantial on our walk and there is only so many crisps and chocolate one can eat before feeling like my insides are being ripped out. I even struggled to find water so took a risk and filled up my water bottle from the village tap – stomach of steel wins again.
Amazingly our prayers were answered and as we turned the corner we saw a wedding taking place on the rice terrace above. An old guy signalled for us to climb up and we were invited to join them for a feast. It was the second day of what seemed like a fairly modern wedding with the groom wearing a tank top and Flo Rida on the radio. It still had its traditions though and we were blessed with tilaka made of corn and sugar before being given an envelope to leave a token for the bride.
The food was absolutely incredible, the best we’ve ever had in Nepal. I over indulged in two full plates of rice, breads and curry plus two servings of sweet fennel fruit pudding. It was a fairly civil affair without alcohol although we arrived only an hour in so maybe come evening people were dancing from the rafters. The groom’s brother offered us lift in the local bus but we wanted to walk off our food coma so politely declined.
I walked more than 50km across hilly off-road terrain in two days. I wore my old “fashion” trainers purchased in 2009 while Hugo had half a shoe after the tops had torn off. We were pretty satisfied by what we had achieved but more importantly, our walk allowed us to experience some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen and attend my first Nepalese wedding.
With a new found love of trekking, however painful it may be, we’re off to Pokhara to attempt to hike to the tenth tallest mountain in the world. Updates coming soon…..