Tag Archives: trekking

What to Pack for Hiking in Peru

salkantay trail feature

With its varied terrain and altitude, Peru can be very difficult to pack for, particularly if you are hiking and have to keep weight to a minimum. Listed below is a recommended list of stuff to take with you in general, as well as a recommended list for trekking.

Kit List for General Rucksack

– Passport (with photocopies)
– Travel insurance and list of any allergies or medical conditions (with photocopies)
– Airline tickets (with photocopies)
– USD cash (or Soles)
– Credit or debit card
– Any entry visas or vaccination certificates required
– Camera and film
– Reading/writing material
– Cover for backpacks
– Pocketknife
– 2 fleece tops
– Windproof/waterproof jacket
– Travel towel and swim wear
– 4 shirts/t-shirts
– Sun hat (very important!)
– 1 pair of shorts
– 2 pairs of long trousers
– 1 pair of pjamas
– Hiking boots/ sturdy walking shoes
– Sport sandals
– Sunblock
– Sunglasses
– Toiletries (biodegradable)
– Watch or alarm clock
– Water bottle
– Purification tablets or filter
– Flashlight
– Buff
– First-aid kit (should contain lip salve, Aspirin, Band Aids, anti-histamine, Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, re-hydration powder, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)

When packing for trekking, weight and usefulness are key. Make sure you pack items that will be durable and last for multiple days of trekking, i.e. merino wool, hiking trousers over jeans, etc.

Trekking Pack List

– Inner sheet (for sleeping bag – make sure you choose a fleece or silk one for extra warmth!)
– Wool hat, mitts or gloves (preferably waterproof – these will be essential in the evening at high altitude)
– Raincoat
– Dry sack to keep gear dry
– Sleeping bag
– Self-inflating or foam mattress (essential for keeping the cold and sharp rocks from disturbing your sleep)
– First-aid kit
– Thermal underwear/pajamas
– 2-4 hiking tops (choose a mixture of loose-fitting short and long-sleeved options; the bugs are fierce in the rainforest and their bites will make you bleed)
– 1-2 hiking trousers
– Swimsuit
– Camera
– Reading material
– Snacks
– Water
– Walking pole (very useful when walking across landslide sections, or steep parts of the trail where the terrain is mostly scree)
– Sunglasses
– 2 pairs of socks
– A good sports bra
– Rain cover for bag

Do you have any suggestions? List them below!

Tagged , , , ,

#take12trips challenge: The Salkantay Trail, Peru: the Alternative Inca Trail

11999737_10156172346610201_4800713801399040305_o

First and foremost, choosing our big #take12trips challenge was easy; Peru has Macchu Picchu, varied scenery and some of the best food in the world. Choosing how to get to Macchu Picchu however was more difficult. For ages we thought the only way of reaching Macchu Picchu was through the Inca Trail or by train, but after speaking with the good folk at G Adventures we were all on board with the Salkantay Trek.

Unlike the Inca Trail, the Salkantay is a high-altitude trek that takes in varied scenery through the Salkantay mountain pass and down through the Amazon Rainforest. The trail gives trekkers the opportunity to do lots of side trips in between the main trek, which we took ample opportunity to do.

Salkantay sunshine 2 Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Really Help Nepal

Annapurna Nepal River

With the endless images of collapsed buildings, reports of lost heritage sites and the varying statistics and numbers of lives lost, injured or missing, it can be difficult to compute, and easy to feel unable to help those in Nepal from thousands of miles away. And with the various aftershocks hitting the country, it looks like things are only going to get worse before they get better. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

#Take12Trips Challenge, Trip One: The Cotswold Way and Heart of England

 

After spending Saturday night filling up on excellent wine and generous portions of steak and triple-cooked chips and dark chocolate and salted caramel cake at The Bell Inn in nearby Willersey, we awoke slightly groggy, in need of a good breakfast and long walk to revive us. In what I liked to think was a stroke of good planning but more likely luck, the Cotswold Way ran right past our hotel, and was our route of choice for the day. This national trail, running for approximately 100 miles between Bath and Chipping Campden, takes in the Cotswolds’ most postcard-perfect villages and landscape, and so we eagerly wolfed down bacon sandwiches and started on the trail.

cotswold-way-sign

 

In another stroke of good fortune, the weather was cool and misty, a small respite against hiking up hills with hangover sweats. After slipping and sliding our way up Fish Hill, we sped past Tillbury Hollow, normally an excellent picnic site in good weather, and continued onwards.

The terrain was invariably flat farmland on this portion of the Cotswold Way, but with those dry stone walls iconic to the Cotswold region lining the walk and a random abandoned Cotswold cottage thrown in for good measure, the walk had a romantic, ‘old English’ feel you would expect.

Eventually we reached Dover’s Hill, home of the original English Olympic Games and the rather painful sport of ‘shin-kicking’ (I don’t understand it either). The National Trust spot is a natural amphitheatre with a Roman vineyard nestled away in its landscape, making it an ideal spot to rest.

 

dovers-hill-color

 

dovers-hill-antique

 

But not for too long, as Chipping Campden is only a mile or so away, and arguably the quaintest of all the Cotswold villages we had seen so far.

 

chipping-campden-high-street

 

Having reached Chipping Campden in breakneck speed, we decided that four miles wasn’t enough hiking, and with the day still early trotted off to the tourist information board for recommendations of nearby hikes.

It was quite good we did really, as otherwise we would not have discovered what was one of the most beautiful walks I’ve ever taken in southern England: The Heart of England Way.

 

heart-of-england-trail

 

heart-of-england-house

 

Measuring 100 miles in distance, the Heart of England Way links the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Staffordshire, with the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Gloucestershire, and a healthy amount of mileage in rural Warwickshire thrown in for good measure. Encompassing remote English villages off the track of the main Cotswold Way, to dramatic hillscapes and historic monuments, the Heart of England Way is an excellent choice for hikers wanting a varied scenery, or lots of stopping points for food and drink.

 

broad-campden-cottage

 

We embarked on the eight-mile stretch of the trail between Chipping Campden and Moreton-in-Marsh, stopping in Blockley to refuel. Almost immediately on the trail, we were led through achingly beautiful English hamlets and gently rolling hillsides. The small village of Broad Campden in particular was so serene and picturesque I had to stop for a few minutes and appreciate the view. With its thatched-roof cottages, regal manor house and fields dotted with flocks of grazing sheep, it so perfectly encompassed the Cotswold stereotype I had expected on our trip.

 

broad-campden-church

 

 

 

broad-campden-house

 

The scenery only improved the further we journeyed on the trail. Woodland and farm fields gradually changed into small villages, and in the hilly village of Blockley the lovely folk at the adorable Blockley Village Shop and Cafe gladly refilled our water bottles for us.

 

heart-of-england-trail-house

 

Our journey continued on through more forests and villages, until we reached our final destination, Moreton-in-Marsh, managing to catch the train with two minutes to spare!

Breakdown of our weekend in the Cotswolds:

Return train tickets from London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh for two: £52.00

Bus fare to Broadway for two: £6.20

Two nights, including breakfast, at the Farncombe Conference Centre in a double superior room: £115.00

Total: £173.20

If you are interested in trying the walks out for yourself, we used the Pathfinder Guides’ The Cotswolds Walks for our first hike to Broadway Tower, and the National Trails‘ website for information on The Cotswold Way. For the Heart of England Way, it is listed on the Ordnance Survey EXPLORER maps, but is also clearly signposted on the route. Otherwise, The Heart of England Way guidebook is available on its website. PLEASE NOTE, the Heart of England Way does NOT pass through Moreton-in-Marsh, it ends in Bourton-on-the-Hill. To follow our route, follow the signposts for the Heart of England until just after Blockley, then follow signage for The Monarch’s Way.

Have you done any of these trails? Tell me about your experiences below! 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

BMS Releases Winter Skills Help Videos

 

 

The helpful people at BMC sent their latest project into my inbox today: a nine-part series of winter skills videos to help everyone make the most of the outdoors in the winter months, in association with the Association of Mountain Instructors, Lowe Alpine and DMM.

Here is what they had to say:

The hills in their snowy winter garb are beautiful and exciting, but they also pose hazards you don’t have to contend with in more clement conditions.

So how do you deal with sub-zero temperatures, slopes of hard névé, cornices, avalanche hazards or whiteouts? There is no substitute for having skills and knowledge imparted face-to-face by an experienced instructor.

But we all need a refresher from time to time, so to help you reinforce your skills we have teamed up with the Association of Mountain Instructors (AMI)Lowe Alpine and DMM to produce this new series of instructional winter videos.

Filmed in harsh winter conditions at Glenmore Lodge, they feature AMI instructors taking you through a raft of winter basics, from matching up boots and crampons to being aware of avalanche hazard on the hills.

Watch, learn, and above all, have fun!

Given the accidents up in the Lake District in previous months, now it is more important than ever to learn more about winter skills, to potentially save your life and others. The BMC do an amazing amount of work

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Things to Consider When Choosing your Macchu Picchu Trek

 

Photo credit: justin_vidamo / Foter / CC BY

Easily one of the most popular destinations in the world, Macchu Picchu is one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips. So when choosing how to get there, obviously it is important to choose the right trek that will meet your expectations and time-frame (not to mention your hard-earned cash). However the different treks, especially when combined with add-ons and other excursions can be bewildering to say the least, and overwhelming at most.

After visiting the Destinations Travel Show the other week and speaking to countless tour operators, I have put together a helpful overview of the three most popular trekking options to help you decide which is best for you.

Inca Trail: Easily the most popular route to Macchu Picchu, it also means there is an approximately six-month waiting list to get a permit. Book well in advance if you desperately want to go on this trek, particularly between the high season of June to August, or you will wind up disappointed.

With a maximum of 500 permits a day allowed on the Inca trail, it is the busiest trail to Macchu Picchu. Many tour operators claim tour groups leave in a staggered rota in the morning so the trail is not too clogged with people. Regardless, with 500 people on it at any one time, you’re bound to see some groups on the way, and if the idea of potentially sharing the trail with several tour groups leaves you feeling irritable, then perhaps a quieter option is best. On the other hand, if you enjoy the camaraderie of meeting new people on your travels, then this might be the one for you.

The Inca Trail is supposedly the trail with the most archaeology to see, but is also the most touristy. In addition to this, because it is the most popular trek, it is generally cheaper than the other options.

Salkantay Trek: If you are looking for a challenge, then the Salkantay trek is for you. Following a high-altitude trail that passes by the Peruvian Andes, and in particular the impressive Salkantay peak, this trek is a good choice for those wanting breath-taking scenery. Permits are not required for this trek luckily, and as it demands a certain level of fitness, it is also the most quiet. Speaking of fitness, this is a fairly demanding trek that requires an excellent level of fitness – good for those with time to train, not for those wanting a last-minute trek to Macchu Picchu.

The trail goes through the ‘back-door’ of Macchu Picchu, through Santa Teresa and ending at Aguas Calientes. There, you have the option of either walking the last kilometre to Macchu Picchu or getting the train. Whichever you choose, just make sure you arrive early!

Lares Trek: For those wanting a glimpse of traditional rural life in Peru, then this is the ideal trek. The Lares trail goes through remote mountain communities that still retain a strong sense of local culture. As it is a slightly shorter trek (three days) and does not require a permit, the Lares Trek is a good option for those short on time, booking a last-minute trip, or wanting squeeze in a trek while backpacking through South America.

Similar to the Salkantay Trek, it also ends in Aguas Calientes, with the option of the train or hike up to Macchu Picchu.

 

Which trek have you gone on, and what made you choose it?

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Exploring the Tranquillity of Lake Bohinj and Slavica Waterfall

Upon seeing Lake Bohinj (pronounced baw-heen), Agatha Christie once famously said that it was far too beautiful for a murder.

This might not sound like high praise to us, but admittedly Agatha Christie was on to something.

Take a visit at any time to Lake Bled, or mention the two lakes to Slovenians, and the age-old debate will ignite over which one is more beautiful. Admittedly, Lake Bohinj does not have the fairytale charm of Lake Bled, with its cliff-top castle and island churches in the lake, but instead it possesses a more natural, peaceful beauty that is breathtaking in its own right.

I guess the best way to compare is to see Lake Bohinj for yourself.

 

lake bohinj

 

Lake-Bohinj

 

In the summer, the area is awash with swimmers, canoes, kayaks and standup paddleboarders, but come the end of high season, and the area is free to explore in relative peace and quiet.

 

kayaking-bohinj

 

Hiking trails and winding roads abound in the area, making it relatively simple for travellers to explore the region’s natural sites. Undoubtedly the hike to Savica waterfall is one of Lake Bohinj’s most popular trails. After getting dropped off by the bus stop on the western side of Lake Bohinj, follow the number three hiking trail signs for Ukanc to Savica. The trail is a long, white pebbly trail totalling one hour, 20 minutes walking time in total, and takes in several quaint villages and natural forests in the region.

Warning: Walking on this trail may give you cabin fever (the kind that makes you want to pack-up and move into a quaint log house in the mountains, not the other kind).

 Bohinj cottage

 

Bohinj capital sign

 

Driving to Savica waterfall, or even walking along the road, is equally scenic, and offers several surprises along the road.

 

slavica forest

Bohinj tree boulder

 

Lake Bohinj, and the surrounding area, was once an important stop-gap along the way to the Isonzo Front in WWI. Railway stations and trains were constructed by POWs to allow the Austrians to stop for supplies before continuing their journey to the Isonzo Front. Today remains of this history, including a WWI POW cemetery, and pieces of the disused railway, can be found in pockets of the forest along the side of the road, and parts are still being recovered. As recently as 2010 more than 130 unexploded WWI mines were found in the bottom Lake Bohinj, after an Austrian train derailed and drove into the lake – the train remains in there today!

 

Bohinj WWI cemetery

 

Not to worry though, as Lake Bohinj continues to be a safe place to swim.

 

Both trail and road eventually lead to the Savica hut, with the waterfall a 20–minute walk up a mere 500 steps from that point – make sure to wear comfortable shoes! Cutting into a gorge 60m below, it’s turquoise waters originate from melted glaciers high in the mountains, and heavy rains in the area.

slavica waterfall

 

slavica-waterfall

The beauty of Savica waterfall has inspired numerous writers, royal and governmental officials, and historical figures from Slovenian history, but none more so than Slovenian Romantic poet France Prešeren. Upon witnessing Savica falls, Preseren used it as the setting in  his epic, Baptism on the Savica, describing it as:

The falls next morning thunder in his ears.

Our hero ponders as the lazy waters

Below him roar and shake the river banks.

Above him towering cliffs and mountain heights,

These with their trees the river undermines,

As in its wrath its foam flies to the skies!

So hastens youth and then it spends itself,

Thus Črtomir reflects upon this scene.

Likewise, Slovenian priest and national poet Valentin Vodnik described Savica Waterfall in several of his writings, the most popular being:

I march to drink the Savica

The cold source of enchanting songs;

To toast the master of songsters

May I enjoy in this drink!

 

During the low season the Savica waterfall is fairly tame, but come spring and visitors will be soaked by the spray from the sheer amount of water thundering from its mouth.

At the end of the long hike back to Lake Bohinj, relax and dip your hot feet into the lake’s cool waters. Be warned though, the water is really cold come low season!

kiki-bohinj

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area: from Chomorong to Syaulibazaar to Nayapul and Pokhara

Wearily I rose, with my joints offering stiff resistance to my concerted efforts. With last night being the penultimate day of trekking, Narendra, the porters and our group all celebrated late into the night with dancing, drinks and cake. What had seemed like a good idea at the time I was severely paying for that morning.

Settling bleary-eyed at the long dining table, our breakfasts arrived just on time. Another thing most people forget to tell you about in Nepal, is that the higher up into the mountains you go, the more adventurous the breakfast choices become. Today’s menu consisted of boiled potatoes in a BBQ sauce, toast that tasted more like sweet pastry, eggs and porridge.

We all began the slow trek back towards Nayapul,  looking wistfully at the scenery that we would soon be leaving that day. The rainfall that had fallen for the past several nights caused an abundance of small waterfalls to drip onto our walkway, and on the heaps of silvery sheen rocks that littered the path and created a natural sort of sparkling fountain. The mountains were as green as we’d seen them, only now a rainbow arched across a smaller hill below.

Annapurna Nepal Rainbow

Suddenly, a large shape up ahead brought us to a standstill. Sprawled on the middle of our narrow path sat a cow, sunning herself on a bare patch of earth. One of our group attempted to shoo her away, but all he received in return was a flick of her ears and the back of her head.

Annapurna Nepal cow

“ She looks pretty comfortable there, “ I said, “it doesn’t look like she’s planning on leaving anytime soon.”

The cow continued to gaze off into the distance, unperturbed by the clicks of our cameras or the pleas and entreats to move aside. Accepting defeat, we tiptoed around her, careful not to give reason to provoke her. She remained impassive, and it wasn’t until we all had bypassed her and continued on the trail that we heard a loud “mooooo!” behind us in farewell.

The path narrowed along the ledge, until everyone was required to walk in single file. Up ahead we could hear a jumble of bleating sounds, and soon a herd of goats confronted us on the path, eager to cross without waiting. Well, all but one.

As we clutched at the rock face and trees to steady ourselves as the goats moved past, one small brown goat in the middle of the queue abruptly stopped, and turned towards us. With bleats of excitement he plunged his head into one of our member’s trouser pockets, eagerly anticipating whatever food he believed lay hidden. Laughter mixed with the angry sounds of the goats still in front of us, and our group member fumbled with his handkerchief as the goat tried to make a meal out of it. Victorious, he waved it  in front of the goat’s face, and, seeing an opportunity in their momentary delay, we all  quickly crossed it before the goat decided to investigate everyone’s pockets. Heads down, with a dejected look, the goats continued their walk across.

“Seriously, what is with these Nepalese animals?!” one from our group cried out between fits of laughter, “you’d think they’d have known how to share these paths by now!”

Nearing the stopping point of our trek, we came across a small, makeshift barn, and there stood quite possibly the most adorable animal we had seen on the trek. A baby kid, barely a few weeks old it seemed, stood feebly on its slim limbs, bleating pitifully at us. With caramel and white fur with a soft, downy texture, the kid nuzzled its head into each of our hands or chests each time someone went to pet it. Every time we made a move to depart, it would look up with large, tear-filled brown eyes, and let out such a small, pathetic cry that it melted even the sternest of hearts.

Nepal Goat trekking

“I think I know why the Nepalese animals are so accustomed to getting their own way now, “ I thought to myself, stroking the kid’s head lightly.

After a long interval we were finally forced to leave, and the kid’s morose bleats were mixed with the outraged chirps of chicks that had received no attention from us. Finally making our way to the Jeeps that would take us back to Pokhara, we threw our bags on the roof, and after everything was strapped down, began making our way along the bumpy road.

About a mile down the road, we approached a rocky bump in the road at a moderate speed, and amid the tired sighs and calls of “bye Annapurna” a sickening crunch could be heard. The car slowed to a stop, but not before another clunking and rattling sound was heard. Getting out and ducking our heads under the car, a part was dragging on the floor. Gazing uneasily at each other, we asked the driver what options there were to remedy the situation.

“Wait for my friend to arrive, he’ll drop you off at the bus site. Meanwhile, let’s move this car off the road so others can get by,” our driver replied.

A feat that was easier said than done, considering the road was in an inclined position, with a sheer drop on one side. Time flew by as we struggled to push the jeep up the hill towards a small space in the

Looking nervously behind us at the distance below, we continued to strain against the Jeep as it crawled up the dirt path. Our trepidation grew as a queue of cars and a bus began to line up on both sides of the Jeep. “This couldn’t get any worse,” I thought to myself. Just then, a small boy jumped from the steps of the bus and designated himself as traffic warden. Shouting words of encouragement while telling the bus driver where to turn as well as sternly telling the cars opposite us to wait, our fears of the small boy being crushed by the Jeep gave us all renewed strength. We hurriedly pushed the dilapidated car into the small space while the boy zigzagged between us, and heaved big sighs of relief that he had narrowly avoided being crushed by the car.

Looking around and satisfied that his job was done, the little boy clambered back up the side of the bus and began ordering the driver to continue. We all stood and watched the boy in astonishment waving his arms and hollering orders as the bus peeled down the road and to the rest of the villages. Shaking our heads and giggling in disbelief at the boy’s audacity, we were rescued from our stranded state by the arrival of our driver’s friend.

Dragging our bags onto the new vehicle and realising that it was much smaller than the previous one, we all squeezed in together and anxiously hoped this car would prove more resilient than the last. Looking around us, I thought to myself that there were possibly worse places to be stranded, and as a the vehicle grumbled to life we all wished, that despite the afternoon’s troubles, we had a little more time to spend in Annapurna.

Annapurna Nepal River

 

 

IMG_2737 (2)

 

 

Nepal trekking donkey

 

Nepal bridge

 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Discover and Explore Outdoor Activities In Crete

If you are into outdoor adventure and want to discover the true colors of Greece, the island of Crete is the ideal destination for you. If you are interested in getting close to real nature and heart of Greece, there are multiple activities on offer. Crete hides many secrets like vast canyons and crystal clear waters, rocky mountains and undiscovered coves. Follow these guidelines and you will not be disappointed. Are you already excited?

If you come to the island during the summer, it’s also the chance to completely relax and calm your spirit. A good choice is to stay at the Minos Palace, home to absolute rejuvenation in its spa. The Ananea Wellness guarantees a real renewal and revival of body, mind and soul.

Hiking & Trekking

Hiking in Crete is hugely popular thanks to an immense network of paths and trails. It’s a breathtaking chance to get to know this beautiful island on foot. There are many paths on the island – some are well-known and quite easy while some require detailed maps making your trekking experience a bit more adventurous. Just be warned, if you want to go trekking during summer, it can get really hot. You will certainly need a hat, sunscreen and lots of water. In winter conditions are quite different and in some areas mountaineering experience might be necessary.

Walking Zakros Gorge

One of Crete’s most famous walking trails is Zakros Gorge. Start your walk from Zakros village, from there the trail will lead you through a narrow canyon of rich vegetation and wild herbs. After about two hours, the path emerges close to Zakros Palace, just 200m from the beach.

Rock climbing

Offering unrivalled views of the jewel coloured waters of the Aegean, rock climbing on Crete’s beach cliffs is an experience second to none. The island has naturally protected routes suitable for all abilities.

Water Sports

What is the most popular activity on an island but water sports? Parasailing, parachuting, windsurfing, Jet skiing… the list goes on. Whatever your heart desires in terms of high seas activities, you will most likely find it in Crete. Head for the coast, dive in and discover a talent you might never even have known you had! Kitesurfing is a growing sport and is one of the most popular for newcomers to the island, while fishing or pedalos are a more sedate option.

Snorkelling

Last but certainly not least, this fabulous island is made for snorkelling through crystalline waters. The excellent visibility, comfortable temperatures and abundant wildlife mean you could stay in the water all day.

All in all, Crete Island has so many possibilities. All you have to do is take advantage of them. Summer is waiting just around the corner!

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Day 4: Trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area from Tadapani to Chomorong and Jhihu Springs

Darkness enclosed the surrounding landscape, with only the muted outline of shapes discernible to the eye. A hazy orange glow, the size of a  appeared to the side of the teahouse, casting a pale light on the craggy outcrops on the side of Macchupuchare. The clouds transformed into a ghostly mist, hovering just below the mountain peaks. The light edged forwards, casting a dazzling shine on the snow capped peaks and rivers of sliver from the waterfalls that crashed down its side. The gloomy pall of night began to retreat, until the entire village of Tadapani was cast with the warming light of dawn. Sitting down  on the edge of the hill, I stopped taking photos momentarily and studied how different the mountains and village looked in the sunshine, when a small guffaw behind me distracted my attention.

 

output_tdDu2m

 

IMG_2633 (2)

 

 

IMG_2669 (2)

 

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“Just got a great photo of the sunrise behind a marijuana-looking plant out back,” said one from my group, with a bemused expression on his face. We all had a little laugh, and as the sun began to cast its full rays on the mountains, we swiftly returned indoors to grab our gear and begin that day’s trek.

A few hours later, half of our group stood waiting ahead on a rocky platform in the middle of a muddy patch of ground. Narendra walked a little further ahead of us, approaching the group in long strides and calling out, “Don’t stand in one spot for too long, you’ve gotta keep moving!”

“But why? We’re on schedule to make it to the next place!” someone from the group called.

“No, not that, the leeches!” Narendra answered. At that point one of the ladies standing on the platform let out a shriek and began an erratic jig on the spot.

Leeches. The one thing many people seem to forget to tell you about when trekking in Nepal. When the mountains experience heavy rain showers, the leeches come to the surface and wait near waterways, muddy patches, or even on the edge of leaves, wait to tumble into a hiker’s shoe and feast. Unlike the leeches seen in films, Nepal’s leeches are small, thin and black, and possess the ability to stretch themselves needle thin to penetrate the seam of hiking boots, fabric and even rucksacks. Although they’re not dangerous, simply seeing one squiggling its way into the seam of your leather boot is enough to jerk anyone’s reflexes, which is exactly what was happening to our group now.

After calmly helping everyone inspect their boots for any sign of the leeches, Nerandra picked one of them up by his fingertips, as if to prove its harmlessness. With surprising agility and speed, the leech latched onto his finger and with a yelp Narendra furiously tugged him off his index finger. The porters and everyone suppressing a giggle, Narendra composed himself and turn back towards us all.

“They won’t hurt you,” he explained, “but they can be annoying, and can cause some unsightly blood stains after they’ve had their fill and drop off. They release a chemical that prevents your blood from clotting as readily as usual around the bite area, so just be prepared that the bite might look worse than it really is!

“Try to keep on stoned areas; they can’t camouflage themselves as well on that, and don’t stand in one place for too long! They can be fast and even leap small distances to enter your shoes. The best thing to do is forget about them and just enjoy your trek, you don’t want them to ruin it!”

With wary eyes keeping a watchful surveillance on the ground, we continued along the route in single file, this time careful to keep on the stone path.

 

annapurnatreesframe

 

The trail eventually led to an open grassy field on the top of a large hill, where a large wooden teahouse sat perched atop. The rain from earlier that morning had been burned away by the sun’s rays, leaving the surrounding landscape in a harsh, clear haze of light. The hilltop afforded the best vantage point to view the surrounding hills, rivers and waterfalls. The hills were thickly covered in green forest, and the river running between two hills brightly reflected the sun. Pausing to enjoy the view, I laid my bag down and noticed another, more rudimentary bag next to mine. The main body constructed of wicker, with braided straps of twine forming two big loops, the basket was filled to the brim with plants and herbs. A small, stooped Nepalese woman came trudging over, and slipped one strap around her forehead, another her stomach, and began her precarious tottering down the side of the hill. Fearing she might fall at any minute, I kept a watchful eye until she disappeared under the cover of the trees.

“Well, I’m not gonna complain about my rucksack straps anymore,” I said aloud, “that lady can show me up any day, and that’s only using her head!”

Our group headed down the hill, with all the previous thoughts of leeches gone and instead replaced with discussions about the estimations of the extreme weights the sherpas and Nepalese people carry up the mountains.

 

nepalibackpack

 

IMG_2716 (2)

Arriving early at the teahouse where we were supposed to spend the night, we quickly found our rooms and dumped our luggage. Earlier Narendra had told everyone about visiting Jhihu Springs, a natural thermal hot springs next to the rapids where apparently monkeys also joined for a warm soak as well as humans. Following the slippery stone path downhill, narrowly dodging branches and tree roots, we eventually made it to the entrance. While we were sad to see the monkeys were not in their makeshift hot tub, on the bright side our group had a corner of the springs to ourselves. On the bad side, the leeches had made a return.

While they were repelled by the hot waters, the muddy warm areas by the entrance to the springs was perfect conditions for them. We watched as people hopped rapidly to the entrance of the springs, as if they were walking on hot coals, to avoid the jumping leeches, then took our turns rushing through the entrance. After four days of trekking, we all eased our tired legs and shoulders into the waters and immediately ‘ahhhh’ sounds were heard all round. A good hour was spent splashing water at one another, chatting and looking around at the surrounding trees and rapids, hoping that the odd monkey would make an appearance. As the day drew to a close and darkness began to dim the sky, we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of the hot springs and made the quick jig over the entrance and back along the path.

 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,