Trekking with a Child in the Nepali Himalayas
After having lived in Nepal for more than four years, last November we finally found the time to do our first “real” trek: The Poon Hill trek. Now that my daughter was six years old, I could not find any more excuses not to go, and so we set off on our great five-day adventure.
Even though I was very confident in our skills and strength, this confidence got rattled a bit when the manager of our hotel in Pokhara would not take a reservation from us for after the trek. “With a child you will never make it in five days, I am sure you will come back later,” is what he said to us before heading out… Well, we were set to prove him wrong!
After a taxi dropped us off in Nayapul, we started our walk. After a mere half hour, Miriam decided that we needed our first break at the river, as the huge rocks looked just too great to pass by. I realized that the walking times suggested by our guidebooks would not be ours – I would have to add at least three hours every day for playtimes.
After around four hours, we reached Tikhe Dhunga, our first stop for the night. In a very pretty guesthouse with a patio surrounded by flowers we settled in, and Miriam was very excited to use her new sleeping bag for the first time. We went to bed very early to be up at dawn for the challenges of the next day. We would have to climb all the way up to Ghorepani (2850 m) and needed all the rest we could get.
The next morning we were one of the first groups to head out. After crossing two long suspension bridges that gave me the chills and Miriam a lot of fun, we started climbing stairs that would not end until the evening. Passing through various villages, getting overtaken by almost everybody on the trail and meeting numerous horses and donkeys that Miriam wanted to adopt, the stairs were the only constant of the day. We were lucky that the weather was cloudy so the temperatures did not rise that high. Until we finally reached Ghorepani in the early evening, the clouds were hanging so deep over us that we could barely see a thing.
After a warm meal at the fireplace we went to bed early again, prepared to get up at 5am to make it to the highlight of the trek: sunrise at Poon Hill. In the freezing cold we started early with our headlamps to make it up to the viewpoint – and again had to tackle stairs. Even though it was hard for Miriam, she was so brave and made it up to the top (3200 m) just in time. We bought a cup of hot tea from the young ladies at the shop and sat down to take in the spectacle of the sunrise. When we arrived we had just seen a little bit of orange light on the horizon, but while the sun was rising, the majestic giants of the Himalayas showed their faces one by one. Fishtail, Annapurna II, Dhalaugiri – even my little girl was too stunned to talk by the beauty unraveling before our eyes. We were just sitting there, hugging each other and enjoying this magical moment together.
After one hour at the top we turned around to make our way back towards Ghorepani and our breakfast. With new strength we headed out to reach or next destination: Tarapani. Once on the trail we realized though that we both were exhausted and needed some rest, so once we got to the Deurali Pass we stayed there for two hours. Miriam played with her toys, I took a nap and all that happened with the beautiful Annapurna Mountains in the background. Once we assembled the strength to continue, it was too late to make it to Tarapani, so we stayed in a guesthouse on the way, where we were the only guests so were invited to the family table for dinner. Miriam got some well deserved off time, playing with the daughter of our host family, and I got to go to bed early again.
On the next day we had to make it to Ghandruk, the last stop on our trek. Through a magical fairytale forest covered in moss and lichens we started early again, only to run into a huge troop of monkeys behind the first corner. Miriam was fascinated with them, as it was the first time we had seen a species other than macaques in Nepal. After a last small climb to Tarapani we descended towards , arriving early afternoon. Our guesthouse also had a small museum, and Miriam happily took the opportunity to dress up in a Gurung dress. With all that gold in her hair she really looked (and felt) like a princess. In the evening we had delicious dhal bhat with the family, and my daughter impressed everybody with the amount of rice she was able to eat. It was well deserved I would say, after this amount of walking.
The next morning we were surprised by one last unobstructed view of the beautiful Himalayan Mountains, which the afternoon before had been hiding under cloud. With a heavy heart we said goodbye to the quiet of nature and headed towards Lower Ghandruk, to catch a bus back to Nayapul. We were back in civilization quite quickly, as the bus had a huge sound system that the driver used to the fullest. The bus filled up to the last standing spot until we reached the highway. At one point Miriam turned to me and said: “This is crazy, let’s just go back to the mountains.”
When we made it to the hotel in Pokhara, we found a very surprised manager. “What, you are already back? So you turned around? What, you actually did the entire trek? I never expected you back so early!” Luckily, he had a room for us. After a long, hot shower, Miriam and I set out to eat our long craved pizza and ice cream.
The five days on the Poon Hill Trek will stay forever in our memory, in which we saw beautiful mountains, nature, plants and wildlife, and gave us a very special gift: precious time together, in a wonderful setting.