Looking across the valley at the terraced hillsides surrounding Tikhedhunga.
Stairway to Ulleri
The next morning, we joined a small procession of trekkers streaming out of Tikhedhunga, towards the stone staircase that would take us to the village of Ulleri. We took our time advancing up the steep hillside. Every so often, we’d come across a rest station that offered stunning views of the valley below us, and we made sure to take advantage of each one. Our guide would urge us to get on our feet again, and we would try to get a serious trekking rhythm going, but as soon as the next rest station appeared, we’d fall to pieces again and pretend we were merely stopping to take in the sights around us.
A two hour stair climb first thing in the morning.
One of our porters carrying our packs to the next guesthouse.
Porches and terraces were strewn along the climb as rest stops for trekkers.
Vikki taking in the view on one of our many breaks that morning.
Our guide gave us some grief for taking so many breaks, but the views were fantastic.
First Glimpse of the Himalayas
The top of the hill came soon enough, though, and with it a sight that took my breath away. From our vantage point, we could see clear through to the end of the valley, or, at least, we could see where it ended in cloud and sky. As we continued along the crest of the hill, however, the clouds began to drift apart, and then it became clear that what I was looking at was not just empty space. A massive snow-covered mountain range was unveiled – the scale of it was mind-boggling, on a different level completely from the Rockies that I saw the year before. I had trouble reconciling the size of the object in front of me, like it was a trick in the perspective, or an optical illusion. The vision soon became shrouded in cloud again, but it was enough. I had gotten my first glimpse of the mighty Himalayas, and that alone made the trek worth it.
Brightly painted fences in a small hamlet near the top of the hill.
Our first encounter with the snow-capped Himalayas.
The Himalayas disappeared behind a wall of cloud, and a rest station appeared.
In the afternoon, we descended into the wet jungle valley.
Derek took a quick dip in the mountain-fed waters.
The Fairytale Forest
After passing through Ulleri, our guide led us into the beautiful oak and rhododendron forests of the Himalayan foothills. The wild rhododendron trees, with their brilliant pinkish-red flowers and gnarled roots and branches, lent the trek a bit of a fairytale feel – looking back at the pictures from the trek years later, it certainly gives off some enchanted forest vibes. After filling up our water bottles and taking a dip in the mountain-fed stream in the forest, we stopped for lunch at Nangethanti, just in time for rush hour. Goats poured into town soon after we arrived, and our post-lunch trek was slow-going for much of the early afternoon. The absolute flood of goats covered the trail in a mass of white, washing up into the surrounding hillsides as the overflow forced the animals to find the path of least resistance. Our guide was not happy about the situation, but there was nothing that could be done.
Lunch was in the well-protected town of Nangethanti.
Halfway through lunch, a sea of sheep and goats swept through the village.
The tide of livestock seemed endless, relegating villagers and trekkers to the sidelines.
We attempted to forge a path through, but the animals cared little for our human schedules.
Our guide reluctantly acknowledging that we can do nothing but wait.
When the traffic finally cleared, the trail gave way to more rhododendron forests, before climbing up to our final destination that day, Ghorepani. That night, we were in a considerably better mood, having hiked through the entire day and getting our first taste of the Himalayas. We idled around the mess hall for a bit, taught some Nepalese guides and porters how to play poker, and then turned in early. The next day would start in only a few hours, as we would be hiking up nearby Poon Hill to watch the sun rise over the edge of the world.
The ghostly rhododendron forests of the mountain valleys.