Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek in Himalayas

It’s been so long since I came back from Nepal that the whole journey now almost feels surreal, but a little scar on my wrist will always remind me that the trip really happened.

Trekking was not on my to do list before I left for Nepal. I didn’t have too much time and the monsoon season helped me to make up my mind. However, I was sitting in a cafe, listening to one of the volunteers talking about their trekking experience and I realised I can’t miss it while I’m in Nepal.

My boyfriend at a time, had a professor who was always going to Nepal for trekking holidays so he was able to recommend a guide. I wouldn’t worry about arranging the guide before coming to Nepal – there are always plenty who are eager to get out to the mountains and it’s cheaper to arrange something from Pokhara (if you’re doing a trek in Annapurna Himalaya range). The trek I did was called Ghorepani Poon Hill trek and it normally takes 5 days to complete. You can easily do it without a guide and it will save you a bit of money, but being alone and not having a chance to do a proper research,  I decided to go with a guide.

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I met my guide Palu in Pokhara a day before the hike for some tea. Palu was over 40 and didn’t look like a super fit guy from the first sight, but he seemed like a nice person so I thought let’s do this. It did later turn out that I was much fitter than him (something to consider if you’re impatient like me), but he had a big heart and kept repeating that he was the luckiest man in the world to be able to do the job he loves.

We started from the village called Nayapul early next day. The path was passing through beautiful forests and some tiny colourful villages. There were plenty of tea houses to stop at, rest and have some food. The whole trek that day lasted about 5 hours after which we stopped in one of the villages along the road.

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The second day was pretty much the same, but the path got steeper. It was a beautiful day and I didn’t find it too challenging. We settled in Ghorephani for the night, hoping to get to the Poon Hill in the morning. Unfortunately, the clouds were rolling low and when I woke up the next morning it was raining. There was no point in going to the Poon hill viewpoint. We continued towards Gandruk, even though the weather wasn’t great. Oh well, it was a gamble to go trekking in a rainy season.

We didn’t reach Gandruk that day (just weren’t rushing anywhere and the weather wasn’t great) and decided to stay in a place with the total of three houses. There were only two people in the village, a couple who got married when the guy was 13 and a lady who was then 20. We were chatting about life in the mountains and emigration, since the man spent a few years working abroad (very common story for loads of Nepalese families). The also showed and explained to me how they make their local alcohol Raksi, which I even got to try.

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When trekking you get used to getting up early and sometimes it really pays off. Happened to me on the 4th day of the trek when I got to see bits of the snowy peaks hanging between the clouds. I could only see small patches but got really excited since it was the first day I could actually see something. Other days were just all about walking through the beautiful forests and villages. That’s when I slipped, fell and got injured my wrist badly enough for it to scar. No regrets, life felt pretty amazing that morning.

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We got to Gandruk and spent a bit of time exploring this beautiful village. There were some really steep sections down and up that day and got caught in a strong rain, but I was quite happy to be out in the mountains and got to eat probably the nicest dhal bhat in Nepal, so the challenges didn’t matter too much. We stopped in a random village along the way for the night. There were loads of tiny clouds hanging around the mountains and I was excited to be going to bed after seeing that view.

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I woke up early again (4.30am or so) the next morning and realised that the clouds lifted! They were moving away and finally the first time in five days I could see one of the peaks! It was magical. I was extremely happy and struggled to walk away from that view. Later in the morning the clouds took away the beauty again.

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So five days later, the trek was over and I said bye to Palu. I think I got lucky, because during the rainy season it’s really hard to see anything, so I expected nothing at all, but got rewarded with some stunning views. It was amazing to be out walking for five days, walk past these beautiful villages, eat really tasty dhal bhat and try out my poor Nepalese with the locals. It was good to go with a guide, because he arranged all the accommodation and permits etc. and I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. It wasn’t a popular time of the year to go trekking so the mountains were quiet and I absolutely loved the time I could spend with my thoughts or listening to Palu’s stories. The only major downside were the leeches – they were bad, hanging on the grass, jumping on you as soon as you stopped and sucking the blood like there was no tomorrow. Not going into details on that, but having a guide who is slower than you plus the leeches who can’t wait to get on you, is a bad combo.

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I just want to finish with something positive – if you get a chance to go trekking in Himalayas, then go! No matter what time of the year it is, you will find beauty, freedom and loads of smiles along the way and it will be an experience of a lifetime 🙂

West Highland Way

In summer 2014 I promised myself to walk West Highland Way. It is a 154km (96 mile) walk in Scotland starting just outside of Glasgow in Milngavie and finishing at Fort William.

I have no clue where I got this idea from, but I thought it would be a nice thing to do after my last ever exam at the University of Edinburgh. I spent 5 years there studying engineering and I really felt like I could do with some fresh air afterwards. I did not really tell anyone what I was planning to do, as after some of my friends reactions (“omg just watch some TV and relax”, “you can’t go on your own!”, “why on Earth would you do this???”) I thought it would be better to keep it to myself. So in May 2015, I packed my backpack and left.

Day 1

I woke up in the morning, asked myself what was wrong with me a dozen times and left. Goodbye cosy bed, see you next week.

It was my first ever long distance walk, so I was not sure what to expect. I started walking from Milngavie and I was really excited about what was waiting for me. I was enjoying every moment, even though the scenery was not extremely exciting. It was nice to be out of the city and listen to the birds singing.

Even though I was walking on my own I never felt alone. There were always people around and I was never that far from civilization anyway.

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At around noon some cows blocked my way and while waiting for them to move, I got to annoy them with my camera.

It was 3pm when I was already building my tent in the Drymen campsite. I covered 19km that day as planned and I was ready to relax. At that point I was in a deep regret of starting the walk with almost new shoes. There were already 3 blisters on my feet. I covered the blisters with the fancy plasters I had and I was hoping it wouldn’t get worse.

Day 2

I woke up to a million voices of birds. The Conic Hill was waiting for me today and I was slightly worried about facing it.

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Typical Scottish Scenery

It turned out that there was nothing to worry about the hill and it wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be. Even with the 20+kg backpack I was doing as well as other walkers carrying only small backpacks. The views of Loch Lomond from the top of the hill were worth every effort.

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The views from the Conic Hill

I completed 20km that day and stayed in the Sallochy campsite. It was an absolutely amazing place to camp, as it was completely natural. However, my blisters got much worse, so all I wanted to do that night was to stay in my warm sleeping bag.

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The view while eating my dinner

Day 3

Day three already! I left Sallochy campsite and continued walking along the beautiful Loch Lomond.

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Lunch time

I had 27km to cover that day and it was unexpectedly challenging. Half of the route was pretty straightforward, however the blisters on my feet were absolutely killing me. Once I started the second half, the paths became narrow and rocky and every meter required a lot of effort. A few swear words escaped my mouth that day. The weather was bad and it was raining most of the day, but my enthusiasm wasn’t washed away.

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Narrow paths
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Loch Lomond

I built my tent in the puddle in the Beinglas Farm Campsite and had a massive piece of chocolate cake at the pub. My feet were really sore and as I was completely out of plasters. I could not explain the happiness I felt when I found some of those in the campsite shop. I was feeling a bit down and because of my feet I was not sure if I could continue the walk. I was thinking that it was nice to be on my own, as I had nobody to complain to, but I really felt like hugging someone that day… I fell asleep listening to the sound of waterfalls.

Day 4

Packed my smelly tent and left Inverarnan (Beinglas Farm). I was going to Tyndrum and had only 19km to walk. I said bye to Loch Lomond and I was excited about the mountain views that were waiting for me.

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Beautiful mix of clouds and mountains

The walk that day was challenging mostly because of the blisters. I was also a bit dehydrated and probably did not do enough stretching so my leg muscles were sore. But I was slowly moving forward and I arrived to Tyndrum really early. I camped in the Pine Trees Leisure Park, where I even had a wifi in my tent! I spent the rest of my day stretching and drinking loads and treated myself to a nice fish and chips supper.

Day 5

I was absolutely freezing all night and put all the clothes I had on me. The temperature dropped below zero and I found some frost on my tent (Yes, it’s almost summer!). I woke up early and it seemed that the entire campsite was feeling the same, as at 6am everyone was already packing their tents. The long way to Glencoe was waiting for me and my blisters were not helping thus, I thought, getting up early was a good idea anyway.

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All day I was walking through this amazing landscape and I coudn’t stop smiling. I think at some point I was so excited that I forgot my pain and I was almost running. There were only a few hikers around and I could enjoy an absolute freedom.

On the second half of the day I met a German girl and we walked together for the rest of the day. Conversations helped to get distracted from the pain and the day went really quick. However, after 10 hours walking and I was really happy to reach the campsite, which turned out to be…full. I couldn’t believe it and I did not want to do any more walking, so I built my tent just outside the campsite. Nobody cared about that and I saved a few pounds as well.

Day 6

Today was the day when I had to face the highest point of the walk – the Devil’s staircase. My legs were feeling so much better and I knew that I would be able to finish this walk for sure.

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View from the Devil’s staircase

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The day was full of beautiful mountain views and the Devil’s staircase wasn’t that challenging either. I reached Kinlochleven and ran to get some nice food from the shop. I spent past few days eating mostly porridge and noodles and I was dreaming about some veggies.

Only 23km to go!

Day 7

I’m not gonna lie, I was waiting for the walk to end. Not because I was fed up with walking, but mostly because all my clothes were extremely smelly and I had enough of porridge (I really don’t like it in the first place…).

The way was going through the places where seemed that nobody was around and it was so nice and peaceful. I stopped for lunch and then soon after that I could see For William. I was so happy!

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Fort William – finally!

The last couple of miles I walked with Ian and Judy. I met them every day during my walk, they would always overtake me at some point during the day, as I was quite slow with my big backpack. We had a pint in Fort William while smiling like somebody who traveled to the moon and it was weird to think that it was all over. I spent another couple of days in Fort William, mostly resting. I was planning to try to reach the summit of Ben Nevis, but as I had done that before, I was not too bothered this time, so I just stayed in the hostel.

I am really proud of myself, that despite all the painful blisters I managed to keep going and finished the walk. I learned a lot of things on the way and the most important one – do not go on a long walk with an almost new shoes. Would I do this again? Of course, it is a great way to challenge yourself,  to get some fresh air and to enjoy falling asleep to the natural sounds in the most beautiful places. And also, you get a chance to miss things that you normally take for granted like food, bed or toilet. What was the hardest thing? Getting out of bed that Tuesday morning, knowing that I would have to sleep on the tough ground for another 7 days…

Go out, enjoy!

P.S. The blisters healed and I ran a half marathon five days after finishing the walk 🙂