Not to give up under any circumstances should be the motto of our life: we shall try again and again, and we are bound to succeed. There will be obstacles, but we have to defy them. So do not give up, do not give up! Continue, continue! The goal is ahead of you. If you do not give up, you are bound to reach your destined goal.
I awoke early, excited and secretly nervous to undertake my first trek in Nepal. Rubin told me it would be easy compared to where we would be trekking later on, and he wanted to gauge my level of fitness, so this trek would be a good start. I felt like I was somewhat on a test, and I was eager to pass!
I lathered my face up in sunscreen, ate a light breakfast and walked with Rubin and Rekesh (Rubin’s nephew) to the bus station.
Luckily, catching the local bus (minivan) early in the morning meant it wasn’t overcrowded and I could find a seat. We got off in Kathmandu and caught a larger bus to Sundarijal, a small village on the North Eastern outskirts of Kathmandu, in the Kathmandu Valley.
The old bus seemed to go at a snail’s pace, my stomach was in knots and I suddenly needed to go to the toilet. Perhaps I had eaten something bad the night before? The bus ride was painfully slow, bumpy and overcrowded, all the while I was holding in the urge to empty my bowels, which made me feel sick. This was not a good sign before a 6-hour hike!
We arrived in Sundarijal 1 hour later, I hurriedly scrambled off the bus, and Rubin steered me in the direction of a toilet.
To access the toilet I climbed down a rickety ladder that was balancing against a wall, at the back of an old grotty café and I opened the cast iron door to the smell of shit, which made me want to dry wretch! The squat toilet was as dirty as they come and I tried to not spend too much time in there!
Feeling relieved, I climbed the ladder back up to a table where there was a cup of tea waiting for me. Feeling a bit worse for wear, I wondered if my tummy would settle down so that I could walk without needing to take more toilet stops.
Luckily I had packed my homeopathic first aid kit in my overnight pack so I downed a few pills and mentally prepared myself to leave the toilet.
We followed a shaded concrete path around the river towards some shops and walked uphill beneath the heat of the morning sun, until we reached a waterfall.
Already tired, I sat down and thought about giving up. I was weak and I didn’t feel well. Rubin asked me if I was okay, my strong-willed and determined voice yelled at me to keep going so I said I was fine and we continued on. We had come all this way and I was going to make it to Chisapani whether my tummy liked it or not!
As I was dragging myself up the hill, I passed some school kids and I thought to myself, they must be really fit to walk up and down this steep path to school and back!
The path got steeper the further along we went, but at least there was shade from the sun, which was getting stronger by the minute.
Puffing and panting, and with sweat dripping off my forehead, I made it to the registration booth where I paid 500 rupees to enter Shivapuri national park.
I felt like I had just climbed Mount Everest and apparently we hadn’t even started the trek!
I showed my ticket to a uniformed park attendant who was sitting at the gate and I walked on ahead, appreciating the cool breeze through the forested path. I decided I’d take it slow and steady, that way I would conserve my energy.
Until then, the longest hike I’d done was probably an easy hours walk through the New Zealand bush. I suddenly realized that this hike was going to be just as much mentally challenging, as it was physical.
I had always doubted myself, I lacked confidence, I never thought I was good enough and somehow my self-doubt was translating itself out here, on this hike. Did I really think that my legs were not capable of carrying my body to its destination? Was it a fear of failure? Whatever it was, I was tired of listening so I decided instead, to focus on the beauty that surrounded me.
The mountain air was fresh and I could hear unfamiliar sounds of wildlife amongst the brown oak tree and rhododendron forest. The path wound around and opened up to clear blue skies, which gave a perfect backdrop to the surrounding green mountains scattered with terraced rice fields and small villages.
Up and up we went, huffing and puffing, step by step, dripping with sweat beneath the hot midday sun. One foot in front of the other, gulping down warm bottled water, until we reached a café.
I untied my boots and pulled off my socks, allowing my feet to breathe. Ahhh bliss! We were half way there already. Rubin ordered eggs and Tibetan bread for lunch and I ate the bread thinking that would be the best thing for my sensitive tummy.
After enjoying a much-needed pit stop, we followed the path along, up the steep steps, one foot in front of the other, beneath the hot sun. Passing through sleepy mountainside villages, herds of goats, corn drying outside makeshift rustic houses, free range chickens and weathered, wide-smiling Nepali faces.
The path led into dense forest and brilliant green moss lined the dirt walls. What felt like a million steps later, we seemed to have reached the top of the mountain. Clouds were floating by and I felt like I was on top of the world. We sat in a patch of grass for a while to rest, and I took a few moments, breathing in the crisp mountain air and relishing the exquisite mountain views.
Breaking the silence, Rubin, who was acting as Rekesh and I’s guide, clapped his hands and yelled out some words of encouragement and Rekesh and I jumped up and eagerly followed him along the path down towards Chisapani. My tired legs were not used to walking downhill, nonetheless, I carried on like a trooper!
It was nearing 3pm, and we had been walking 5 hours already. Surely not long to go now, I thought.
Another hour passed, and at a height of 2,200 metres, we finally arrived at Chisapani. As I looked around at all the earthquake-damaged buildings, wondering where we were going to sleep for the night, other hikers who were in the same plight joined us.
Luckily we found some recently built huts further down the mountainside and we decided that that was going to be our best option to sleep for the night. A young Nepali guy showed us inside the huts and I chose the best looking one that was set apart from the rest.
We ordered dinner early, and sat at the outdoor table admiring the red sunset hues behind the clouds. Being up high meant it was cold, and I was glad I had brought my fleece top.
Dinner arrived soon after and starving hungry, I gobbled down a plate of veggie noodles and a potato spring roll.
After some camaraderie, my newly seasoned hikers body was exhausted and I fell asleep by 8pm.
We awoke at 6am, and as I stepped outside onto the dewy grass I was treated to the early morning sight of glistening white, snow-capped peaks of the Langtang mountain range, before the clouds set in.
Not a morning person, I sleepily walked up the stairs to the rustic dining area in a small wooden shack, where I, along with two Israeli trekkers, ordered breakfast. I decided I quite liked Tibetan bread from trying it the day before, so I ordered it again and smothered it in jam.
At 8am, we set off down the same path back to Sundarijal and this time I was feeling in good mental and physical health. I had already proved to myself that I was capable of walking uphill for 6 hours so downhill was going to be a piece of cake!
It must have rained heavy during the night as there were landslides along the soggy path and a leech fell out of a tree and onto Rekesh. I had not worried about leeches up until then, so I decided to cover my upper body with my fleece to avoid them and we ran through the wet, leafy parts in between enjoying the clear snow-capped mountain views in the open parts.
I was glad Rubin took us down an alternative route, as it gave a different view and it would have been much harder going up the day before.
We arrived back in Sundarijal within 5 hours, Rubin and Rekesh were eager to find a bus home as Nepal was in the grips of a petrol crisis. Since the new constitution, India were stopping petrol coming in at the border and the Nepalese government had started rationing it’s petrol supply. The buses were overcrowded and ran less frequently, there were long lines at petrol pumps causing traffic jams and chaos on the streets, people were not allowed to drive their cars, motorbikes were limited to 3 litres of petrol a week and odd and even licence plate numbers could only drive on certain days.
We must have had luck on our side as a bus was there waiting.
I asked Rubin on the bus if I had passed ‘the fitness test’ and he smiled at me and said, “You are ready to trek to Poon Hill.”