This article was originally posted in Travel Community on the 2nd of July 2017.
Pokhara to Australia Camp, November 2016
The temperature wasn’t too high but the trek up the steep rocky path did its job in making my forehead drip in sweat. The green bush on the sides of the path sounded like a bunch of birds, cicadas and other unknown creatures joining forces to sing at the top of their little lungs. When I finally stopped and turned around I could see the whole valley bathed in yellow light. We had just passed a local man walking in his flip-flops with a basket full of wood strapped to his forehead. He wasn’t anywhere near as sweaty as we were and he even found some energy to smile and wave to us. All the locals said this trek was the easiest one. We’d been walking for half an hour now and our muscles were getting weak. It was obvious that we totally sucked at the whole trekking thing.
So why did we decide to go on a trek? Was it because we found the general opinion to be ‘how can you go to Nepal and not trek?’ No. After a week in Kathmandu valley, surrounded by the awe inspiring Himalayas, we understood why.
This put us in a tough position. We were both feeling a bit anxious about the idea of heading off into the wild yonder and trying to complete even the simplest trek. We hadn’t researched anything, and really had no idea how we could even go about it.
Our preparation begun in the gorgeous lakeside town of Pokhara. We ventured up and down the main street looking at the different tour agencies that offer treks (literally every single one) trying to find something that would suit us. We quickly realised that you need guides and permits to enter the trekking areas, and a pretty
After deciding that it was just too expensive for a guided trek, we felt quite disappointed that trekking was out of our reach purely based on finances! Two weeks earlier we would’ve embraced this excuse not to go, but the idea of a trek was becoming a reality the second we arrived in Nepal.
A WORN OUT MAP
Feeling dejected, we headed back to our modest hotel, and got talking with our host Durbar. We talked about wanting to do a ‘non-trekker’s’ trek, but without all the guides and permits, and that it was way out of our budget. Not a moment later, Durbar went to his front desk and pulled out his map of the mountains around Pokhara.
The true friendliness of the Nepalese was on show for the next hour. Durbar sat with us and showed us all the routes we could take that didn’t require any permits, and were considered easy. Optimism returned! He spoke with such enthusiasm that we actually became excited.
Relying exclusively on our host’s guidance and the worn out map he handed us, the following day we packed our bags. We were ready to leave for Australia Camp. This journey would involve a quick taxi ride from our hotel in Pokhara to the Baglung Bus Terminal about 20 mins away, a bus ride from there to the quaint village Kande, and then a 2 hour trek up to the camp.
Sat on the bus, we caught a young man taking ‘selfies’, but really just trying to photograph us. We made eye contact with him. He got a little bit embarrassed but really wasn’t that phased that we had busted him. I asked him if he would like a photo and he suddenly beamed to life! This would be our first experience of the ‘Selfie with a Westerner’ craze that exists in Nepal (and exhaustingly in India).
The second our bus pulled up to the final stop, the ladies from the little shops came bounding across the road with all the possible things that you don’t need for a trek. Beads, marbles, pottery, necklaces. You name it, they’ve got it all. After politely refusing to purchase anything from them we set out on our first ever mountainous hike.
The initial walk through the little village was so peaceful. Many brick houses lined the narrow stone path that we had to weave through in order to get to the trek path. Open windows let us peek inside the daily life of the locals and stray chickens walked around freely pecking at the ground. The occasional dog was lounging in the shade and the locals sat rather stoic looking at what it was exactly that we were doing. I always feel like they are looking at us and thinking, ‘look at these weirdos trying to climb a hill with all that useless stuff on their backs.’ Regardless, this wasn’t going to deter us.
‘The End Point’
On the side of some the buildings, very faint red and white markers, with the letters ‘ABC’ underneath them, guided us towards the trek up the hill. The paths were in good repair and we actually walked along quite a well kempt dirt road for a few minutes.
But this quickly changed when the red and white markers took us off the beaten track. This is when the real trekking begun. The path became rocky, uneven and somewhat slippery underfoot if you weren’t careful. Loose stones made us wary to watch every step.
On some sections of the path, water had eroded away the centre, the side, or even the whole thing to make it just that little bit more challenging. Certain sections of the walk actually required us to use both hands and feet to get up.
The higher we got, the cleaner the air became. About halfway up was when we realised how much we totally sucked at trekking! The only thing that was keeping us going was that we could now actually see the ‘end’ point (well kind of – I think we were just telling ourselves that so we would stay motivated).
By this stage, sweat was dripping from us both. Our backpacks were slowing us down. Luckily, along the sketchy path, locals had set up little shops where we could stop and recover! I’m not sure what we were expecting to find along the way – maybe something like huge vast areas without any human development, or, hours upon hours of just the two us struggling to walk together with nothing but the birds and beating sun keeping us company – but we definitely did not expect to see scattered shops, where you could sit down and order a beer!
An Errant Cow
As we continued to die from the heat, the ever increasingly beautiful view off the valley below compelled us to keep going! It was simply stunning.
About 30 minutes from the top, the path became enclosed by the thick vegetation that lined both sides. We felt like we were close, but weren’t too sure how far to go as we had lost sight of the ‘end’ point we had spotted earlier.
When we thought we had reached the camp, we came across what seemed to be accommodation in construction. The skeleton of a lodge was built but there was no one around. We investigated a bit and quickly discovered that the only occupant was an errant cow that was escaping the heat in one of the unfinished rooms.
We continued on and were surprised to find a collection of brick houses where a couple of families were clearly living. It made us think – we have just absolutely battled to walk the 2 hours to get to this point and people actually live here…and they must complete that walk often to go to school or get supplies…fair play to them!
The Majestic Himalayas
We pushed on and not a moment later we had reached Australia Camp. Strolling around the accommodation options, we quickly realised that every place had the same facilities and more importantly the same relatively cheap price. We decided on Angel’s Guesthouse as we thought it had the best view of the mountains. It was modest, comfortable and private. Our room was simple with two single beds and a less than desirable bathroom – nonetheless it was a place to wash our face, brush teeth and go to the bathroom.
We arrived in the afternoon and not too long after, the sun begun to set. This was when the magic show started. It is actually quite a surreal event seeing the majestic Himalayas turn from their daytime grey, silver and white colours into reddish and orange glowing landscapes, and then into shadows illuminated by the night sky. We embraced every second of it and were truly awe struck.
As the mountains went to sleep for the night, the cold set in! We had gone from dripping in sweat on the walk up to returning to our little cabin to get another layer of clothing every 20 minutes.
High Up In The World
In the open space, looking out over the mountains, our guesthouse had a large fire pit. For a very reasonable 1300rs, split between the guests, the staff lit the fire which burned late into the night. We were joined by locals and travellers, who were spending the night at the same place. We found out that it was quite common for 20 something year old locals to come up to Australia Camp for the night to reconnect with the nature. There is certain spirituality about being so high up in the world.
We enjoyed our first night so much that we decided that we would spend the following day simply hanging around. We were able to catch the sunrise, lay in warm afternoon sun and then watch another tremendous sunset. It was just relaxing! Even though the local staff were a bit bemused we didn’t want to keep trekking, we were more than content with just lounging about for a bit.
When the time came for us to descend back to Pokhara, our muscle decided it was time to play the good old trick ‘you haven’t used me for a while, so now I’m going to ache!’. It was annoying, but bearable. The journey down was somewhat easier. We knew how far it was, we knew there were plenty of places to stop and get a drink and we were feeling rejuvenated from the previous day.
The whole trekking experience was totally worth it. We still suck at trekking and would need some serious incentive to go on one that involved many days of walking, but we’ve done a trek in Nepal, and didn’t break the bank.
In Pokhara we stayed at Hotel 7 Continents, which is a cheap, clean place with yummy breakfast
and lovely hosts, Durba and his wife, who helped us to plan our simple trekking and stored our big bags whilst we went away for two days (thank you!).
In Australia Camp, we stayed in Angels Guesthouse & Restaurant for NRS 400 a night
(all the places there cost the same). It had a beautiful view and modest, clean rooms.
The food there was more expensive in comparison to Pokhara or Kathmandu, but still very affordable.
We didn't need any permit to reach Australia Camp from Kande and on the way up
there were a couple of stops to buy water or other drinks.