An interview to Jenni, a traveler who just got back from a hiking trip in Nepal
While I was making arrangements for my trip to Argentina Jenni was leaving to Nepal, a journey that I dreamt of for years and that I will probably organize shortly. Meanwhile, however, I couldn’t help but interview her, because her post-earthquake experience intrigued me a lot and I think it might interest those who are still hesitating.
Enjoy the reading.
Where does your love for traveling come from?
I guess my love for traveling was handed down to me a little like an old family tradition.
I always traveled with my parents in a motorhome, on the road, a bit like gypsies and this was a perfect way to immerse ourselves in local cultures: Italy, Eastern Europe, Morocco, Turkey, Russia. Each year a different destination. Then, once “grown up” it was natural to develop the family tradition in my own way: becoming a backpacker.
If I think of something great to do I definitely think on a trip and as soon as I can I get organized and go.
Why did you pick Nepal?
In 2012 I visited India and my tour did not include the mountains, but upon the arrival in Delhi they were recommended to me and I decided to make a quick stop at Manali in Himachal Pradesh.
I liked that area a lot and it aroused my interest in the mountains or perhaps Delhi’s smog and chaos make me fall in love with the so clean Manali’s air!
The fact is that this year I had the opportunity to visit Nepal and when I tried to imagine it I recalled those Indian landscapes and I decided in a second!
Didn’t you hesitate cause of the previous spring earthquake?
I reached an old friend used to spend his winters in Nepal. I left in early December and the earthquake hit the country in April and yes I of course had some doubts, mostly related to domestic travels: I knew that many roads in the Kathmandu Valley were rough or closed but he calmed me telling me that our itinerary would develop in the opposite direction, towards Pokhara, the starting point of a beautiful hiking area along the Annapurna ring, one of the Himalaya giants.
What was your route in details?
Once in Kathmandu I spent the first two days exploring the town, less chaotic than usual due to the total lack of gas. I was impressed to see the gas cylinders (!) and scooters never-ending queues everywhere, attached on the road waiting to be recharged. However it wasn’t the earthquake causing these endless columns, but politics: India usually supplies Nepal but due to some politic diatribe reduced gas export … we quickly started to rejoice together with the others when supplies arrived! (I know that the situation is now normalized).
The day of the flight to Pokhara I quickly visited the Temple of Pashupatinath, famous for cremation ceremonies, with my friend Lillo. A mystical moment I would say. In Pashupatinath there are several arcades and this is where babas, the gurus, live. They all have their little living space under the colonnade. A very impressive place, which has swallowed me enough to make us almost miss the flight.
Lillo has “his baba” and we spent hours sitting cross-legged, strictly barefoot, in his residence composed of three rows of columns and a fireplace always lit and with a boiling pot on it. For those who had never witnessed the ritual preparation of a baba tea, it is important to know that it is very long and ceremonious, and above all it must never be interrupted! In short, our flight took off at 15:00 and ten minutes before we were still sitting in the temple, trying to gobble a burning cup of tea as quickly as possible!
When we arrived at the airport our plane was an hour late and I do not deny thinking that the blessing of the baba was helpful!
Gorepani, via Pokhara
Once in town and above all once obtained the trekking passes, we walked to our destination.
Let’s start by saying that I am not an experienced hiker and so we opted for a simple climb: the 3220 m Gorepani Poon Hill covered in a week, nothing compared to the peaks around me, but seeing that step by step you approach them even slightly is a wonderful feeling.
It was hot during the day, the t-shirt kind of heat, but in the evening I had to add all the layers of clothes I had in my backpack. We would warm up around the fire and then ran into the sleeping bag. Room temperature was almost the same as the outside one and sometimes we laughed hysterically due to the cold, just before falling asleep thinking back to the daily admired wonderful landscapes.
We hiked thousands of steps and when we finally got to the peak, after the first moments of happiness and satisfaction we realized one thing: we still needed to hike back! An infinite descent, composed by stone steps obviously uneven and really very steep. The famous “break-knees”!
Returning to Ghorepani though I reached my personal goal: I woke up at about 5 am to hike another never ending staircase, with a borrowed flashlight in my hand, to reach a famous view point and watch the awakening of the gods, the immense mountain range that stands before a very few people’s eyes at sunrise. I felt as supported by the clouds and everything around me seemed to sprout these white and windy peaks deserving so much respect.
Our trek ended in Tatopani, a small village in the valley, from where we took the bus back home, to Pokhara.
Tatopani in Nepali means “hot water” and to my great joy hosts thermal waters! I almost cried to the idea of a hot bath after all the cold showers I had to take!
P.S. in Pokhara we stayed at the Holy Lodge, a guest house Lillo considers his home there.
What impressed you the most?
A very obvious answer: the mountains.
While hiking up, day after day, you feel they are defying you, inviting you, encouraging you and when you arrive to the goal you’ve fixed to yourself you understand why they insisted so much and you can not help but thank them.
What did you like the least?
I’d say nothing.
Some tourists may not like having to pay admission fees in some of the cities open spaces such as Durban Square in Kathmandu – as if in Italy you’d need to pay to enter Piazza del Popolo in Rome or Piazza del Campo in Siena – although I must admit that once you understand that the reason is the reconstruction of pagodas, ancient buildings, squares and monuments you contribute to it more than willingly.
How did you find the country after the earthquake?
Back in Kathmandu my “guides” Lillo and Barbara took me in Bhaktapur, one of the oldest cities of Nepal. I had noticed Lillo was hesitating, but then I realized: for a person who saw Baktapur before the earthquake is heartbreaking to see it now. It is a pile of rubble, wooden poles propping up what they can and several posters showing the building in their original state. Many of these don’t even exist anymore. Baktapur was one of the most affected places and you can see it.
Any travel tips for people planning a trip to Nepal?
Nepal is a famous country among nature and extreme sports lovers, and so I recommend a nice trekking, even of only five days (there are trails for all tastes and strengths) and a rafting excursion or a paragliding flight over Lake Pokhara. There are several possibilities for a cool dose of adrenaline!
Would you go back?
Yes, maybe in a few years.
Lillo told me about his trekking in the highlands on the border with Tibet and I would love to go there. The only problem is a flight in the mountains that does not always take off due to strong winds and then a walk of thirty days … maybe next time with more time, training and courage!
This year, before deciding to go to Nepal, I was oriented towards Myanmar. Everybody tells me it’s a beautiful country and my parents have already been there and I can’t stay behind!