With the following few days forecasted to be classic monsoon rainfall we realised that it was unrealistic to wait for a dry day. If we were certain that a trek is what we wanted to do then it the rain was unavoidable. So we (my father and I) booked ourselves in for a two day trek in the mountains. I was already prepared with a small torch, a mini backpack, some toilet paper and of course my trusty iPod which is always by my side. With such downpour it was advised that we invested in something rainproof. Ponchos were the easiest, cheapest and most realistic of possible solutions (although getting a bin bag and cutting a hole at the top did cross my mind). As we walked into the trekking shop to acquire such items, I demanded to purchase the brightest and most ridiculous coloured poncho possible. The gentleman behind the counter passed me one in orange and I knew that it was a perfect love match. My father picked a more subtle maroon colour. With our shoes on, bags packed and ponchos at the ready, we were fully prepared to start our adventure. Or at least so we thought. Just as we were about to leave, the manager of our hotel mentioned in a passing comment ‘Oh be careful with the leeches. Try and get some salt on your way.’ I instant reaction to this was ‘Yeah, okay. Whatever. Leeches, eh? Paah.’ It’s not as if I was planning on walking knee deep into damp grass or swamps, so there was no way in hell that a leech was even going to have the opportunity to get close to me. Still, my father and I borrowed a salt container from the breakfast table and went on our way. We had our own trekking guide and so fiddling with maps and analysing potential routes wasn’t necessary. A short jeep trip, followed by a 45 minute bus journey later and we had officially started our trek.
Instantly it wasn’t quite as I had expected. I had imagined a simple route with a gradual slope as we slowly made our way closer to the top of that very mountain. Instead there were steep, muddy and slippery hills followed by huge amounts of stepping stones. Just looking up at what was still to come was tiring let alone actually having to do it! Each step you took was placed onto ground which was either wet, slippery, minimal or even all at times. Initially, you feel completely exhausted but that soon changes as your body adapts and accepts the strenuous excursion which is only to continue.
I spent the majority of the journey staring directly at the ground in front of me to ensure minimal trips and slips. It was about 30 minutes into our climb when I noticed a strangely cute worm like creature. I was baffled by the way it was able to stand completely upright and wriggle itself around. I considered the idea of minimal hallucinations but then once having noticed it climb up our guides hiking boots I suddenly had flashbacks of our hotel manager casually discussing the topic of leeches. I panicked, pointed and warned him before looking down at my own shoes. To my complete horror, there was an army of leeches covering not only my once white trainers but also on my socks and legs. Having never been in a situation like this before, I was flustered and wasn’t sure of what action to take from here. I wasn’t sure whether pulling the disgusting creatures off with my own bare hands was sensible and so I impatiently awaited my rescue. He got out a tube from his side pocket and squeezed small amounts towards each organism. Immediately you could see them squirm as they release a white substance before becoming so thin that they almost vanish completely. It was at this point that we realised not only did we have to be weary of the ground we walk on, but also our new found bloodsucking enemies. They were ruthless. You had to be constantly on the lookout for them as they hung off from branches, stood up on the corners of rocks and even jumped at you from a distance. They physically JUMPED in order to get to you. It was horrendous. Throughout my journey I gave myself 10 second intervals every 10-15 minutes to check my feet. I would then either flick them with the very tips of my finger nails or aggressively kick my feet at rocks (I know… Not the cleverest or painless of ways to remove them). It was infuriating. I had no idea that leeches would even be issue when it came to trekking and it turned out to be a massive nuisance. Your foot didn’t even need to be on the ground for more than a second and they would be capable of latching on. And so any toilet break was terrifyingly fast.
Our path wasn’t as simple as I expected either. It wasn’t a casual trail which you could bring a pram or your elderly relative along with you. Don’t even get me started on the amount of times which you would be stood on dodgy uneven ground which would be just inches away from the edge to a massive drop.
At one point there was a large amount of water in which we had to cross in order to continue our journey. Looking at it from a distance it was ludicrous. It was physically impossible for me to be able to get onto the other side. I analysed the most logical path which included a one footed start on soggy ground, followed by a tip toe on a rock surrounded by vicious waters and a massive leap back onto safe terrain (well as safe as it was going to get anyway). After a good while of procrastinating I finally went for it. Although I was determined to win, what seemed to be a fight against the world, I also was very aware how likely it was for me to fail and take a horrendous fall into the rocky waters. But sure enough I made it….Just! Upon realisation of what I just did, my eyes beamed open with relief. I was ecstatic! I felt such great achievement. I did a victorious cackle and raised my clenched fists into the air with pride. I got so side-tracked in this moment that I almost lost my footing, which would have caused me to fall backwards into the situation which I was avoiding in the first place. Luckily my guide, who was watching carefully, caught my arm and saved me from any further embarrassment.
At around 5pm we arrived at our destination in which we were to have dinner and spend the night. It was a cute little place in the middle of the mountains. Nothing other than ox, buffalo and leeches surrounded the area. A young Nepalese boy noticed our arrival and started preparing dinner for us completely from scratch. He was helping out his aunt and grandmothers business for summer whilst he was on holiday from his studies. As he started boiling water in a pot with a manmade fire for a stove, his aunt and grandmother went for a walk around the nearby grounds to collect vegetables, herbs and spices. It was a neat and efficient little team. I was initially worried about the time in which he started cooking as I know how insulting to the family it would be to not finish the meal but at that very moment I wasn’t in the slightest bit hungry. Fortunately it took him over two hours to complete the delicious meal which was known as a Dal Bhat which is the Nepalese equivalent to an Indian Thali. After all that preparation and hard work which was put into creating such a meal, it seemed to taste so much better than if it were to have been cooked from frozen in an oven. To be able to watch him spend the time cooking a meal was absolutely fascinating. Especially when the fire would go down, he would grab another piece of wood from his collection and place it on top of the previous ones. He would then reach for his ‘cooking pole’ which was just a metal pole which he would use to blow through at the dying flames to reignite them.
Though it was lovely to be able to sit and relax with a cup of tea and a bite to eat, nothing felt nicer than being able to take of my shoes and socks. It was when I did this that I realised one of the leeching bastards managed to get through my shoes and socks to the top of my right foot. The blood stained my previously white sock along with the dirt and grime from the walk. My father had it worse, collecting multiple bites on his right foot. We were only thankful that the attack itself or the aftermath wasn’t painful at all.
With all the adventures of the day having worn us out, we ended up flumping onto our single beds by 9:30pm. I chose the bed with the thinner mattress as a way of being nice, though since travelling India I have actually grown a preferred liking to the tougher beds. I was always the girl to lie on one side and then fidget to turn to the other within minutes. The whole night would be like this, which was always unfortunate for those who had to share a bed with me. Now I seem to enjoy lying on my back onto a tougher surface. It just seems to be nicer for me to be able to feel the wood beneath. Though I’m sure that on arrival back to Europe, this will quickly change as I try and hunt down an extra-large foam mattress for my new bed.
Going to bed with the sounds of rain hitting the mud hut roof was indescribable. I couldn’t think of a better sound to go to sleep with. Morning time came and we were awoken by the knocking of our sweet Nepalese guide. As we were getting ready the chief was working in the kitchen to have our pancakes and tea all freshly made. This was a perfect way to start the morning, especially given that this tea was made with all the things which he had previously collected from the fields outside this home. It was beautifully made and left your mouth constantly wanting more. I was surprised that it triumphed above my opinion of the Indian tea. I didn’t foresee myself taking preference of it at all. It’s when we saw the rain falling onto the flooded ground that we realised the rain had continued throughout the night and was still going. After the breakfast the rainfall only got heavier. I was delighted at first as this meant I was able to get out my bright orange poncho to wear, though after having actually started walking I recognised the further difficulty I was going to have going downhill.
To start with I was slipping and tripping persistently. But then after a while of adapting my walking technique from ‘normal’ to ‘constipated penguin’ I managed to cope quite well. Foot slides were to a minimum as I was powering through. Beforehand I fully sprayed my feet, socks, shoes and legs with repellent and so even though my feet were being thoroughly washed away with rivers, mud puddles and rain water I only got the odd leech attempt to violate me. Even this time my father wasn’t so lucky obtaining a leech attack on his arm and neck which resulted in a dramatic bleeding mess. The guide had also had a few bites on his legs which made me very grateful that I didn’t have any myself.
With full monsoon rain, rather than just casual trickles of rain, made this day a lot more difficult than the previous. The views were therefore less extraordinary than they would have been in a more appropriate season. The mist and clouds filled the sky making it difficult to see much further than the 30m surrounding you. But instead making it possible to literally have your head in the clouds. This was most obvious when you were sat down having a cup of tea and you could actually see bits of cloud float in and out of the room. It was mind-blowing. At first I had to question myself and my eyes. And then I had to repeat the question to my father to make sure I wasn’t going completely mental. But sure enough, our head were actually in the clouds.
Hours later and we had reached the bottom and truly safe ground just in time for a blissful shower and dinner, which happened to be one of the best meals of my life. It was a meal which consisted of fish, chips, vegetables and garlic sauce. When I saw the chips on my plate I must admit that I was disappointed. I felt it would ruin the deliciousness of the meal. But it surprisingly went well with the other components. The portions complemented each other perfectly and didn’t leave a chance of you leaving on a remotely empty stomach.
We finished the night by slowly crawling to our hotel and pulling our pathetic bodies up the stairs to only plummet to a long night’s sleep.