A Grand Four – Day Mountain Trek in Nepal – Just Right for Our Age and Ability
Like many travelers, we had long read and dreamed of visiting this magical country. The idea of being able to trek into the lap of Mt. Everest only added to the mystic. However, being 68 and 60 left us a bit concerned about taking on a serious trek into the mountains. Now we are in great shape, mind you; we walk an average of four to six miles each day while sightseeing and exploring the places we visit…and we are on an extended world tour…so we have visited a lot of places. Still, before taking on such as trek, we decided a reasonable amount of research needed to be done. How far, how high, how long, how difficult?
We reached out to the experts at Great Nepal Treks and Expeditions, Amrit was our primary contact, and he was terrific. He immediately addressed our concerns, did not focus too much on our age and offered a few suggestions that he thought might fit our wants and more importantly, our “needs.” After some tweaking, we settled on a five day adventure out of Kathmandu.
Our trek started from downtown Thamel after breakfast. We met our driver and our guide. The vehicle was newer, clean, and comfortable. Both our driver and guide spoke excellent English and the drive out of the city and up into the mountains was great. We soon left the improved roads and found ourselves winding up a narrow, patched road switching back and forth through small villages and homesteads. We reached the lookout point above Nagarkot at about 7,500 ft. This is where we began our trek. We opted to carry our own packs since they were light and we were only hiking for five days. In hindsight, we should have accepted the offer to have a porter, but our pride and desire to prove we “still had it in us” kept us from making the right decision. In the end, for less than the price of a couple of western meals in Kathmandu, a local fellow would have gladly carried our daypacks, made our trek so much easier, and we would have contributed responsibly to the local economy. Hindsight sucks…smile.
From the lookout we climbed the 100 or so steps to the viewing platform hoping to see the “great ones.” What we got were lots and lots of clouds. We shrugged it off, it was early, we had been warned well ahead of time that views would be limited early in the day, and we trekked on. Our guide led us off road and onto one of the many trails that lace the mountains in this region. We wandered through small canyons, over lush ridges, and through countless terraces of rice, sweet potato, cabbage, and radish. So many farmers were tending their crops and they all met us with huge smiles and a wave. We stopped for photos and chatted with many of them frequently. With the help of our guide, we learned about their crops, their families, and the area. Our first day was going to be well over 16 kilometers so we were taking our time.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at midday. Perched on the side of the mountain, the skies had opened up and the views of the mountains and valleys that lay before us were breath-taking. We were joined by a young boy who we learned was 12-years-old and on his way to attend his sister’s wedding in a nearby village. He offered to show us a shortcut, and our guide also said it would be fine. Be forewarned that a “shortcut” offered by a local boy, may end of being a treacherous downhill adventure through thick bamboo groves, fields of corn and sugar cane, and the unexpected buffalo. We laughed at ourselves, trying to keep up with our temporarily adopted “grandchild” as he glided through mud cervices and hauled over rocks that stood in our path. In end I think it was him that enjoyed the shortcut, more simply watching us trying to keep up! Our guide went along with it, knew we were having a grand time, and laughed along with our leader. An hour or more later we reached the improved path once again and decided to take the road “more traveled.”
By early evening we had reached our first night’s accommodation in the village of Dhulikhel. We were amazingly tired from the eight hours of trekking. This was early season and we were the only guests for the night. The restaurant staff were overly attentive, the cook came out several times to offer additional suggestions, and eventually joined us in some lively conversation. We shared photos and stories and retired early to a hot shower and comfortable beds.
We were warned that a very early start would begin the day. Up before dawn and fully rested, we stepped off after a hearty breakfast. After wandering through the village, we started our climb up to 12,000 feet, the highest we would go on our trek. The ascent was slow, it had warmed up a bit, and our guide knew we needed a bit more time on each ridgeline we approached. Along the way, we visited a charming huge Buddha. The site was closed this early in the season, but the caretaker did not hesitate to open the gate and let us in for a short peak. The statue was at least thrity feet tall and faced the valley we had just crossed, and in the distance, we could see the village where we stayed the night before. We had planned to stop at a local village ‘dahba’ for lunch. However, along the way, we met a young woman carrying what must have been at least 50 pounds of cucumbers in a basket strapped to her back. She stopped us, peeled a few and offered us a cool and refreshing snack. They cukes were great, very crunchy and tasty…and when we offered to pay her, she waved off our hands, smiled, and gave us a humble bow and a sweet namaste.
We were a bit more tired that we had hoped we would be and by midafternoon, and ten miles into the day’s trek, we were both silently thinking of how we were going to make it to our next accommodation before dark. We later admitted that each of us was waiting for the other to fold…and in the end…it was me. At the next small village with what appeared to be a paved road, I asked our guide if there was a chance we could hire a car to take us the rest of the way today. He smiled, made a quick call on his mobile, and made the arrangements. While we waited for the car, we wandered the village a bit, got a cold drink and had a nice chat with a fellow making shoes and a woman weaving a basket.
Our driver arrived and we headed off to our next accommodation. We had picked a mountain resort high up, overlooking the valley below. The Balthali Village proved to be a fantastic surprise. Once again we were the only guests for this time of year, the room was fabulous, perched right on the cliff, with a balcony overlooking the valley and the mountains in the distance. The staff were happy to have guests and we were treated like royalty. From the crisp cotton sheets and ultra-comfortabel king bed, to the delicious meals, we could not have been treated better.
Our trek package included two nights with a rest day, and we took advantage of the schedule. We lounged on the terraces, enjoyed a short hike to a small mountain Buddhist village nearby, and enjoyed the views. Our waiter, the night before asked if he could join us in the afternoon to practice his English. This ended up being a pleasant conversation with a delightful young man. He told us about himself, and his family, his education and goals, and about life in the valley. He had a lot of questions for us as well and we enjoyed sharing our stories and photos.
We slept like well-fed, and well-loved babies that night and woke up to a clear, picture postcard view of Mt. Everest and her companions the next morning. We sat for two hours on the balcony staring at the sight of those magnificent mountains, finally showing themselves, and JUST FOR US!
Our last day started later in the morning after breakfast with a hike down the mountain to the nearby village where we toured an historic Hindu temple, wandered the streets of the large village for a bit, and were met by our driver early afternoon. The drive back to Kathmandu was about an hour long and we were dropped off at our hotel. It was an amazing trek. AMAZING in so many ways!