Thunder crashed violently outside, causing the window to shake and jolt me out of my sleep. Checking the clock, 4:30am, I peered outside into the grey gloom as raindrops pelted the window like bullets and the trees swayed precariously in the wind. My hopes sank as I stared at the torrential storm outside, silently wishing it would die down soon. Determined not to let it get me down, I struggled in the dark to yank on my hiking clothes and boots and made my way downstairs, where a few others had also congregated.
“Unfortunately the weather is too bad for us to leave on time; we will need to wait awhile and hope it clears up. For now, I don’t know whether we will be able to make it to Poon Hill now, but the best thing to do for now is catch up on some sleep, and as soon as I think it’s safe to go outside I’ll let everyone know,” Narendra said.
My hopes sank a little lower as I resignedly trudged back to bed, praying to myself that the weather would clear up in a couple of hours as I snuggled under the sheets.
Two hours later I stood outside, my prayers and wishes answered as I gazed up at the cloudy skyline of the Himalaya range. Although they were still partially shrouded in cloud, it was possible to discern the outline of the different mountains and their peaks. Although images of the Himalyan range of littered everywhere, from stores to street vendors and tourist agencies in Kathmandu, none of it prepares you for the actual enormity and expanse of the mountains. It wasn’t enough to simply look at them from a particular point; they stretched so far into the distance, that one had to walk along in order just to catch a glimpse as the range continued to stretch further in the distance. My eyes scanned each and every ridge, in efforts to memorise it in my head, when a yelp on the ground below dragged my attention away.
“Oomphf!” down below, a young man that had spent the night camped in a tent slipped in a puddle, half of his side covered in mud. An entire school group had spent the night camped through the storm; by morning, their neon orange triangular tents had been blown into misshapen, feeble positions that forced the students to drag themselves out by their elbows. Watching as a thin line of them stomped and trudged through the mud to the toilets, it was amusing to watch as them as they stopped suddenly, their angry mutterings over their misfortunes the night before momentarily subsided as they stopped to appreciate the panoramic views laid out before them. Following their gaze upwards, I resumed my long fixation at the mountains until Narendra’s voice called us to begin our trek up the mountains.
Any morose I might have felt at not reaching Poon Hill vanished as we reached the hilltop; with the weather rapidly clearing, every crag and overhang on the mountains were clearly visible. Earlier Narendra had broken the news to us that our late start due to the weather meant a detour up Poon Hill was impossible; but he promised to take us up another hill just along our path that had equally good views of the Himalaya range. True to his word, we scrambled to the top and exchanged excited words with one another, as well as other groups and out porters. Tangles of prayer flags billowed as the wind blew fiercely, and yellow, white and purple wildflowers dotted the hillside below. Undulating mounds of green were crowded against one another on one side of the hill, whilst on the opposite side snow-capped peaks pierced through the stubborn remains of clouds from last night’s storm.
For what felt like hours we sat and stared at the mountains, appreciating how varied the landscape was in such a small pocket of the world.
Eventually, after much goading and promises of more stunning scenery below, Narendra managed to convince our group to head down the hill and once again through the dense layer of trees. Just before I entered the forest, I turned around quickly for one last glance at the Himalayas before they slipped from view.
Once again, Nerendra’s hype had lived up to his promise. Small waterfalls tumbled off the nearby cliffs, eventually diverting into small droplets that fell off the petals of purple wildflowers that were rooted into the side of the cliff. Rapids and small stacks of stones, offerings to the various spirits that dwelled there, skirted along our neighbouring path, and shafts of sunlight dazzled brilliantly against the fresh, invigorating backdrop of foliage as we climbed down the never-ending stairs. Every few metres we stopped, taking photos or simply admiring and appreciating the sunshine that had been absent from the morning and night before. Soon the path began to rise again as we left the forest and another flight of steep stone staircases led up the mountain.
“Narendra!” someone from our group gasped in between breaths, “I thought you said earlier that the rest of the trail today would be flat!”
“But this is flat, it’s Nepali flat! A little bit up, a little bit down!” Narendra exclaimed, while making snaking movements with his hands. With laughter all round, we continued to huff and puff up the mountain, wondering and discussing what other alternative Nepalese definitions existed.
Entering a clearing at the top of the staircase we all shuffled into the centre and suddenly, the Himalayas reappeared into view. Nearby was our accommodation, which although very basic, provided us with the best views of Macchupuchare, or Fishtail Mountain. It is believed this mountain to be particularly sacred to the god Shiva, and as a result it is forbidden for mountaineers to summit or climb it.
With the sun out full blaze, everyone quickly assembled onto the front yard, the porters playing a Nepalese board game, Narendra flitting about and chatting to everyone and the rest drinking beer, playing cards and taking photos., occasionally stopping to admire the towering backdrop of the Himalayas. As the day drew to a close and we moved inside, Narendra organised a group huddle and explained, “Tomorrow morning, you will get the best sunrise views of the mountains, so make sure you’re up early, say 4:30am, if you want to take photos. I’ll be up to knock on doors if you like!”
Excited at the prospect of sunrise views, we all made note to rise early, and then resumed our babble around the table over steaming portions of dinner as the sun slipped from view.
I spent 12 days on Earthbound Expeditions’ Nepal Mountain and Tiger Tour, with our guide Narendra Timalsina, whom I would highly recommend. For more information about the tour, please click here.