We started with a 7 hour van ride from Kathmandu to Pokara where we stopped to pick up supplies (aka toilet paper and snacks). Day 1 was a very short, maybe 30 minute hike from where the van dropped us to our first tea house in Naya Pul. I took advantage of the opportunity to take my last hot shower for several days before getting to bed early. There is something about a long car ride that just knocks you out. Starting on day 2, and each morning along the way we would wake up around 7am, have breakfast at 7:30 and hit the trail by 8am. This was not a difficult schedule to follow since we tended to go to bed around 8pm each night. In fact, many mornings I would wake up around 5:30 and watch stars fade as the sun rose over the mountains. Watching this sight never got old and was always stunning. The stars seem so much brighter here, I like to think because I am closer to them at this altitude, but probably due to the lack of electricity. At 5:30am the stars are still shinning so brilliantly, and you can just see a hint of a glow from behind the mountains. As the time ticks by the glow becomes stronger, painting first a pale blue, then purple, then pink, then finally orange and yellow light along the ridge of the mountains. The stars decide to yield to the sun around 6am, giving way to reveal the most perfect sun rise you could ever imagine. No picture and no words, no matter how poetic, could do it justice.
But back to day 2. In day 2 we got our first taste of OneSeed coffee and a delicious tea house breakfast. The coffee is prepared by our guides-in-training, and in my opinion got better and stronger as the trek went on. The guides and GITs also used a steri-pen to prepare up to 2 liters of water for each of us. Day 2 was probably our toughest day as we hiked uphill for around 8 hours. The trail was a mix of make-shift stairs and actual trail. I swear, after this day I could confidently walk the steps of the Empire State Building from bottom to top 5 times over. I expected my legs to be incredibly sore the next day but that never happened, not once, during the entire trek. The first day was a long one but the scenery was fantastic. We walked through many farms and villages with terraced fields being tended by a water buffalo powered plow. It was incredible to see how simply the people in this region live. The company, as we all got to know each other was incredible as well. We all totally lucked out with a great, low maintenance and fun group, including the guides and GITs.
The first town we stopped in was called Tirkhedhunga. Here the tea house accommodations were questionable at best. I learned to not expect much from these mountain side tea houses. A few were pretty nice, but they were all extremely basic, with paper thin walls (literally sounded like you were sleeping in the same bed as the person in the room next to you), thin and in many cases dirty bedding, and outdoor, shared bathrooms that were mainly Asian toilets (a hole in the ground and a bucket of water for you to pour into the hole to flush). Electric was also spotty at best as it became a rule to always carry around your headlamp after dark.
At this particular tea house I had a little visitor spend the night with me - a spider that bared a crazy resemblance to the hybrid killer spiders in the movie Arachnophobia. How do they always find me! Also, it sounded like there were rodents scurrying around the ceiling. It's safe to say that I was excited to get up and going the next morning, leaving that place in my rearview mirror. That was definitely the worst of all the places we stayed along the trail.
The weather was spectacular during the first few days of the trek. It wasn't long before we were all peeling off our down and fleece layers. But each evening it definitely got chilly. As we ascended I was adding layers on as I slept, until at the highest point I was sleeping in my down jacket, with my -20 sleeping bag, and a thick blacket offered by most of the tea houses.
More to come in part 3....