Within the program I am doing with GVI, there was a mountain trek paid for as an incentive. The trek I did here is called, "The Royal Trek," which gets its name because the English Prince Charles was one of the first to explore this route. I was expecting to be trekking through one of the Himayla's but didn't realize how long these treks lasted(at least 10 days) so I only had time for a 4 day trek. It was the perfect beginner's trek, it wasn't too difficult, yet it wasn't easy by any means, and while I wasn't walking through Everest or Annapurna or some incredible mountain like that, I still had one of the greatest experiences of my life. The Royal Trek is a 4 day 3 night trek through the hills and mountains that wrap around two beautiful local lakes, Rupa lake, and Bagnas Lake. Our guide's name was Homme a local Nepali guide that works for "Himalayan Encounters" who books all of the trips and extracirriculars for us. Homme was an amazing guide, Sarah (a girl from Minnesota who Trekked with me) and I really lucked out. He was super outgoing and friendly, always made sure we were fed and had plenty of water, all in all he was everything you could ask of a guide.
On the first day we started out at Bagnas lake, working our way up from the foothills of a mountain to an area called "Lipani" after about 4 or so hours of hiking, we finally reached the top of a beautiful hill in Lipani over looking the Bagnas lake, where there was a field about 100 square yards, and a small little guest house. On the field were about 7 local kids playing soccer along with an adorable baby girl maybe a year and a half old. We arrived at the guesthouse at about 2 pm, and while my guide and Sarah took a nap during the afternoon, I was filled with energy and adrenaline from the trek, so I stayed and played with all the kids all afternoon. They absolutely wore me out, especially when I picked a kid up into the air, naturally all of them wanted to be thrown into the air over and over. I had an absolute blast with these kids, and their crappy little soccer ball which had a whole in it and had to be blown up every ten minutes. I plan to hike back to this guest house again and bring these kids a new ball and some treats. That night we had the typical traditional Nepali meal "Dal Baat" which is rice, lental, and pickle. We sat around with the family, eating and drinking local homemade wine. At first I was a bit reluctant to drink homemade wine from a little village in the middle of no where, but while it wasn't very tasty, it was fun having a drink with the family up there and didn't give you a headache or full stomach at all.
The second day wasn't quite as eventful as the first, we only did about 3 hours of hiking until we came upon a village, the name of which I don't remember. We stayed in a little lodge/tea shop with a really nice balcony with an amazing few. We got in around 1 pm, had lunch of Dal Baat of course. It rained most of the afternoon so we just relaxed on the balcony teaching each other card games, reading, and drinking milk tea. Our guide really enjoyed the card game Gin Rummy so we played for hours on end. Several other hikers from Australia joined us at the lodge, and we all had a dinner of Dal Baat once again, we ordered the only 3 beers the lodge had, and had a glass of the classic Nepali homemade wine with our new Aussie friends, before going to bed around 8 pm.
The third day was a really special day. It was one I'm not likely ever to forget and was probably the most special day and night of my entire experience here in Nepal or India. In the morning we got up at about 5 am to hike for about an hour to make it to a viewpoint for sunrise. The sunrise was spectacular, even being half awake. After that we had breakfast, and set off hiking for about 3 hours until we stopped in a village to have a lunch of basically Ramen noodles cooked up with some vegetables and spices. (I wish I would have experimented with Ramen like this in the college dorms.)After lunch we set off for about another 3 hours trekking, making the day in total about 6 hours hiking. The hiking was not what I found so awesome about the day. After lunch our guide offered us to come stay with his wife's parents, his wife's sister and her children. It would not be near as nice of an accomadation as a long would be and it would be about an extra 2 hours hike. Both Sarah and I did not want to offend, and were both fairly excited about the offer. So we finally arrived at a rickety mud house and the top of a hill with an incredible vie of both lakes we had been traveling around (Rupa and Bagnas) with two cows on the side, a couple chickens running around, and two or three goats in a very small field next to the house. Before we could even make introductions with the entire family, the dark clouds that had been following us the previous hour or two turned into a enormous flash thunderstorm. Me sarah and Homme our guide kept to a room on one side of the house looking out onto the porch during the storm. It was some of the strongest wind I've ever encountered, and the rain was falling hard. While we sat safe and dry watching the storm, Homme's in-laws, a man and woman both 60+ years of age were out in the storm securing the house, and wrestling up the animals into their shelters. All the while Homme's sister-in-law was making us tea. We had a perfect view of one of the lakes, and I noticed that there were two boats still on the lake during the storm. I watched them closely, as one boat made it safely to shore, but quit watching the other boat once we got our tea. It wasn't until the next morning that we found out that the boat had sunk, and multiple people had died. A couple days later the official report revealed that 2 children and 3 adults had died on that boat, while 3 others were able to swim and survived. It still really weirds me out that I was watching that boat before it sank, and might of even seen it sink if I it wasn't for the tea. But on a happier note, the storm eventually let off, and we spent all afternoon and night sitting around with our guides family, and I couldn't really explain it but somehow we communicated without even understanding each other's languages. The Mother-in-law made us Dal Baat and wouldn't leave my plate empty until I had eaten at least a couple pounds of rice and had to beg to stopped being served. Homme's sister in Law had two babies who we played with for hours, and also a 14 year old daughter who Homme was trying to "hook me up" with to my polite decline. After dinner we spent hours listening to Nepali music, singing, clapping, and after a full stomach of dal baat, prawn crackers???, and enough home made Nepali wine they had me up with the grand-pa dancing, clapping, and singing along to Nepali songs of which I had no clue what they were saying. The chance to get that deep into their culture, and to connect with a Nepali family the way I did, in such a short amount of time, with such a language barrier was really amazing to me. I spent the next thanking our guide over and over again for such a great opportunity.
Day 4 doesn't really have much to tell, we got up, had breakfast, and said our farewells to Homme's family, and made our way down the mountain on a 2 hour hike to the bottom to the lake where a taxi picked us up and took us back to Pokhara.
The Royal Trek was amazing, while it may not have been the most challenging, or the best scenery you could choose from the different treks in this area, the chance to experience so much of real Nepali culture, the culture outside of the big cities and the tourists, was really an awesome opportunity. As as you can tell from the photos, the scenery was pretty awesome.
Thanks to everyone who is supporting me and keeping up with this blog, as always I'm sorry I don't post on here as much as I should! Tomorrow is the Nepali New Year, and I have about 4 days holiday, so in my down time in the next few days I will make another post with the loads and loads of pictures of the kids and places of Pokhara on my camera that I haven't had a chance to upload.