south dakota flat
i’m used to south dakota ‘mountains.’ we have newton hills, the black hills and the badlands. south dakota is so flat, that the hills look like mountains because there is no other point of reference. one of my favorite books is ‘walk two moons’ by sharon creech. in the book, the main character describes south dakota like this:
sharon creech, walk two moons
after driving for so long through the flat south dakota prairie, it was a shock to come upon the badlands. it was as if someone had ironed out all the rest of south dakota and smooshed all the hills and valleys and rocks into this spot.
there is no better description of south dakota’s flatness.
nepal has hills and mountains. but for me, the hills seem like mountains. i was enjoying the massive and expansive peaks. i kept calling them mountains and jen kept correcting me, they are hills.
then the mountains appeared…
for a large amount of my time in nepal, it was unseasonably cloudy and rainy. it’s summer in this part of the world and it isn’t usually rainy. an occasional summer storm, but not days of clouds and rain. which is what we had in nepal.
one morning, the clouds drifted away, the sun came out and we saw MOUNTAINS.
mountains so high that the snow never melts. mountains so high that some have never been summited. mountains so high that you can’t help but stop and awe at the amazing strength and power of our mother earth. mountains so high that even thinking about hiking anywhere near them fills me with a bit of fear and anxiety.
and we were going hiking. not in the mountains or even to the mountains. just in the hills. but remember, coming from south dakota, even the hills look like mountains to me. but the lodge said that the hike was easy. so i wasn’t too worried about my lack of physical preparation. plus jen said you only need tennis shoes, not actual hiking boots. so again, not too worried that i wouldn’t be able to physically do it.
but still a bit scary when you see these beautiful mountains towering over you when you are on an impressively high hill.
we started the hike in the pouring rain. and i didn’t have a rain coat. luckily, i was able to borrow one from one of the local staff at the lodge. without that, it would have been miserable 2 minutes in and i would have turned back to stay in the nice, warm and comfortable lodge. it was quickly apparent that the nepal description of ‘easy’ was drastically different than my own. but since i’m not an avid hiker, i wasn’t going to say anything because i have no benchmarks for these things.
while we started in the rain, it let up about an hour in. then we were just hiking in mist. but it didn’t feel cold, so that was a positive. and it was slightly uphill, some steps and a bit of flat-ish path. when we arrived at the hostel, it was foggy and misty. perfect napping weather! after a big lunch of rice and dhal, i took a lovely afternoon nap.
a short first day of 3.5 hours of hiking. my phone tells me that i walked 14,143 steps or 6.5 miles or 10.46 kilometers.
the second day was a BIG one.
it was mostly up, which was manageable. but because of the unseasonal rain, thousands and thousands of leeches were everywhere! and these were not manageable. leeches were EVERYWHERE!!!!! you were forced to stop every 10 feet or so and check your shoes to flick the leeches off before they got into your socks. it was leecheville!! even though it was a bit intense, we kept our spirits up and continued pushing through!
in the last few hours of our day (and about 4 protein bars in) it started to lightning, thunder and pour with rain. thank goodness we had made our way out of the forest and onto the jeep track to walk. then it got cold. and i mean COLD! my pace slowed down tremendously, but so did everyone else’s. while i was slowing down, i was still moving forward. one step in front of the other.
finally we came upon the village that our hostel was in and had 1 final staircase of stone steps to descend. i don’t think i’ve ever been so excited to see stairs in my whole life! we made it down, went to the room, took off all the wet clothes, put on my last dry outfit and crawled into the giant and warm comforter!!
this day was mentally challenging for me. it was tough having leeches everywhere. walking in the forest. flicking off leeches. walking on the jeep track. flicking off leeches. walking down stairs. flicking off leeches. walking up stairs. flicking off leeches. walking next to cliff faces that drop so far down you can’t see the bottom. walking in the rain. flicking off leeches. walking in the lightning and thunder. and still flicking off leeches. instead of complaining, i decided that i was just going to be in the moment and feel it all. good and bad. positive and negative. i was just going to experience it all. and while it was tough, and definitely not an ‘easy’ hike, i was there and i was going to finish it.
after an hour under the comforter, i was finally warm again. we ate dinner in our beds (thank goodness for our hiking guides who took such great care of us!!) and talked about our day. we played headspace on jen’s phone, drank strong and burn-y nepali rum and had french fries and popcorn for dinner. i slept very well!
my phone tells me i walked 20,958 steps or 9.5 miles or 15.28 kilometers. it was a LONG 7.5 hour walk indeed, but i finished it!
on the final day of our hike, we had 5 hours of walking. most of it downhill, which i usually prefer! but after a long 7.5 hours of hiking the day before? it was ROUGH. the stairs were steep but luckily not slippery since the sun decided to peak out for a brief moment.
a lot of physical feelings were arising in my body. i had jen’s yin yoga voice in my head, ‘it isn’t pain, it’s a sensation. listen to what your body is telling you.’ well, my knees are telling me that they hate doing thousands of stairs when I don’t do thousands of stairs EVER. so for my knees’ sake, i should probably keep exercising and keep them in better shape.
we reached a village across the lake from pokhara. it was impressive to look back up to the top of the hill and realize that i hiked all the way down. and i felt proud of myself! i made it all those miles. i didn’t collapse. i didn’t get bitten by leeches. i didn’t get blisters! and i hate to admit it, but i actually had fun doing physical activity!
we took a public bus back into town. it was a typical developing country bus ride. a ton of people crammed in, people and luggage on the top, a kid throwing up and jenny (one of the ladies on the trip) ended up with someone’s kid in her lap!! we made it into town, had an amazing lunch of rice and dhal and came back to the lodge. in true hiking trip fashion, we arrived back in the rain.
my phone says that i walked 25,755 steps or 11.8 miles or 18.99 kilometers on day 3. that makes a total of 60,856 steps or 27.8 miles or 44.73 kilometers. much farther than that time me, lwendo and kim went off to some distant village and thought we were going to die because it was so far away!
in the dictionary description sense of the word, south dakota is flat. nepal is not. somewhere along the way, our guide introduced us to the concept of ‘nepal flat.’ because of all the hills and mountains, a dictionary description of flat is in short supply in nepal.
‘nepal flat’ is a wonderful section of road or path that allows you to relax a bit and just walk. it might be slightly up, it might be slightly down, it might be slightly curvy. but it’s mostly flat. it’s flat-ish. it’s nepal flat.
in our group, we had a few people who have been on a few hikes in different parts of the world. they were discussing how the hike would not be labeled as ‘easy.’ this made me feel so much better about thinking it was a bit harder than ‘easy!’ an ‘easy’ hike is mostly flat. our hike was nowhere near flat!
but no matter how you describe the hike, we all finished and survived to tell the tale! and despite the leeches, rain, thunder, cold, sweat, clouds and cliffs, i had a wonderful time. and i would go hiking in nepal again!*
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*if the hike contained a considerable section of nepal flat.