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Mike in Nepal – Poon Hill Trek 2/15/2010

By Contributing Author and Photographer: Michael Restivo  – “Mike in Nepal”
On to my adventures. This past week I went on the trek to Poon Hill with 7 other volunteers. Poon hill is a 3000 meter (10,000 foot) mountain overlooking the Annapurna Himalaya range over the town of Gorepani. Before I explain, I have to say, trekking in the mountains is one of the proudest things I’ve done here, but it does push you to your absolute physical and mental limits. Being a novice, I did make some mistakes such as not eating enough to keep my energy up and sometimes not drinking enough water. But it was worth the struggle in the end:
 
Poon Hill Trek
bridge
Day 1: Naya Pul to Tikedungha
We started off from the tiny village of Naya Pul where we entered the Annapurna National Park through a series of rope bridges over a river. The trail was fairly flat all day and pleasant. We were followed by a large wedding party (for the groom) with a band with drums and obnoxious horn section who apparently can only play one chord and one song the whole time they were following us. After a short break by a waterfall we took off again this time with a series of stone steps and always heading uphill.
Path of Stones
We finally finished in the tiny village of Tikedungha where we checked into a small lodge (when i say small, I mean my room was like a prison cell, and the walls between the rooms weren’t fully closed so I could here everything going on 4 rooms down from mine.
Day 2: Tikedungha to Gorepani
This was probably the toughest day and the most I’ve ever pushed myself physically (suck it P90X) after breakfast we set out, and what was first a nice jungle walk turned into a steep climb of 3000 (yes THOUSAND) steps and an elevation lift of about 1100 meters. We decided to take it as easy as possible but the steps were relentless and I could not feel my legs during lunch. After lunch we took another jungle trail which was mostly flat and a nice alternative to the hell that we had taken all morning. But before Gorepani we had to push ourselves one last time. The rest of the group had gone way ahead so I found myself on the trail alone and slightly demoralized. I pushed myself through the last climb and finally made it to Gorepani, the Base Camp for Poon Hill.
Day 3: Gorepani
Our plan was simple. Get up early, make the assault on the hill at dawn, and watch the sunrise over the Annapurnas. Simple enough right? No. We woke up at 5 am, and shockingly enough it was snowing.
Unexpected Snow Storm
The first time Gorepani had seen snow in 3 years, and it was the one day that we were climbing. We decided to wait it out and try again in a couple hours. Nope. It just kept snowing and snowing and snowing. By 9 am, the entire town was covered in powder, and the snow would vary size and intensity. Sometimes the wind would pick it up and sometimes the flakes just got bigger. We decided to wait it out, played cards, sat around the stove and drank hot chocolate. We eventually went outside, threw snowballs and built a snowman. I was psyched!! In the afternoon we decided we were going to move to upper Gorepani, less than a 10 minute walk through uphill snow, so that our morning move on the hill would be easier. We met two other Aussies who had been caught that day and another tour group of Koreans that gave us some company. The next day was our day.
Day 4: Poon Hill and Gorepani to Tatopani
This was it, we decided to hit the hill. Everyone except Mike (Brit Mike) who was sick in the night made our push. We trudged up at around 7:00 through 3 feet of snow just as the sun was coming up over the mountains. The view from 10,000 feet did not disappoint. We were completely surrounded. Our mountain was a mere molehill compared to the 28,000 foot peaks around us, but it was a personal triumph nonetheless. After about only 15 minutes we decided to make our way back down and start the trip home. Our destination was Tatopani (the name literally means “hot water” for the hot springs the town is famous for) It involved a killer 6 hours of walking but most of it was flat or downhill which made it very easy. The walk took us through a spectacular valley with a clear sky and the sun overhead all day which meant we could all hike in t-shirts. It was the longest but the most satisfying day. We got into Tatopani around 6 pm, checked into the most luxurious (note: “luxurious” here means the door properly closes, and your room has 4 functional walls, nothing more) lodge yet.
Day 5: Tatopani to Pokhara
Our day started with a dip in the famous hot springs which was quite pleasant for sore muscles, my calves and knees felt shot, and my shoulders where constantly aching from the backpack. After breakfast we went to barter for a bus ride back. We were being taken for idiots and some drivers were asking for 7000 rupees (about $100) for a trip that should only take about 3000. After some fighting and arguing we hired a jeep to take us to the town of Beni and then on to Pokharain a small smelly minibus. A combined trip of 5 1/2 hours. With the arrival in Pokhara we met up with the people that had come back from a safari in Chitwan and so ended our adventure to Poon Hill.Two days after coming back from our trek, we wanted to take a last real adventure in Pokharaand go whitewater rafting. For about $30 we were given a full trip to and from and about 3 hours of rafting. We were divided into two boats. Most of the group in one boat, and me, Karen, and some other volunteers in another. The rapids got really intense at some points. The other boat got caught on rocks and came to a complete stop in the middle of one set of rapids, and we had one of our volunteers fly out of the boat but close enough we could pull her right back in. It gave us a unique view of the ridges, the rope bridges, and the river towns in this very rural part of the country.Having been here for just over a month, the aspects of life here are becoming clearer, and having said that, I don’t think I could take anything for granted ever again. I rarely get to have a shower, much less a hot one. I believe i’vetaken a total of 4 hot showers over the last month. The fact that we eat little more than rice and lentils has also taken a toll of me, and I’ve found that it doesn’t give me the nutrients I need so I’ve tried taking multivitamins but we make it a point to eat as much “real food” as we can when we get the opportunity.
I’ve learned about the real hardships of life here. The orphanage has to ration water and actually did RUN OUT of water in which the kids had to travel with buckets to the village well and pick up dodgy looking water of which they have no system of purification. Their bodies have just adapted to something that ours haven’t. The pollution here in insane. The streets feel so dusty, dirty, and smoky, and there is no trash system here, so piles of garbage just pile up wherever they can. Getting out into the fresh air of the mountains for 5 days was a great relief. I never feel absolutely healthy or clean here no matter how hard I try. Sanitation and hygiene aren’t a factor in Nepali life. Nonetheless besides my recent health setback, I’ve stopped coughing and I can actually keep food down again, so I’m happier again.So that’s everything that’s been going on these last weeks. My time here in Pokhara is winding down and I’ll be heading back to Kathmandu for Holi, the Indian spring and color festival, and then spending a month or so in the remote jungles of Chitwan National Park at a new placement and orphanage. I’m missing everyone at home, thinking about it all the time, and keep looking forward to coming home. (I leave Nepal June 4th) I like hearing back from everyone, so send me a message through Facebook whenever you get a chance and let me know whats going on. For any future volunteers who are reading this, I’m always open to answering your questions and helping you out.NAMASTE EVERYONE!!!  Additional posts by Michael Restivo can be found under “Nepal” on MiamiRealEstateCafe.com

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