THE JOURNEY TO SHIVALAYA
The morning of October 18th we took the bus from Kathmandu to Shivalaya. Worst. Bus ride. Ever. It took about 8 hours and was unbelievably bumpy. Words cannot describe accurately enough how bumpy it was.
And, per usual, all driving was done on the side of a cliff with no guard rails and hairpin turns and more speed than should be used for driving up and down mountains.
The bus was packed and we were stashed in the far back right corner. I got real cozy with Josefine and the Nepali guy on my other side.
We stopped for lunch on the side of the road about 10 am and both Josefine and I had our first dal bhat (a very common Nepalese dish composed of rice, lentils, vegetables, and sometimes potatoes). Not bad! We’d both been holding out because we knew we’d be having it a lot on our trek (or so we thought).
The normal stopping point for most trekkers is a town called Jiri but in recent years they also created a road from Jiri to the next town of Shivalaya so we decided to cut out a half day’s hiking and continue on via bus.
The bus ride to Jiri in retrospect really wasn’t that bad – especially when you compare it to the journey from Jiri to Shivalaya. I’m surprised they even allow buses on this “road” – more like a dangerous, rocky trail for cars. The bus was bouncing back and forth so much you would get thrown out of your seat. Poor Josefine hit her head on the ceiling a few times. I wanted to kiss the ground when we finally made it to Shivalaya and off that cursed bus.
We got off the bus all battered and bruised, dusty and exhausted and made our way into town. Shivalaya is a very small town that seems to be mostly comprised of tea houses – there was certainly no shortage of lodges to choose from. We ended up at the Shivalaya Hilton for 100 NPR (about $1 USD). Accommodation was extremely simple but really all you need is a bed. We put our stuff in the 2 bed room and then walked around town a bit.
We found a 3 day volleyball tournament that was going on and the prizes were huge! It was $500 USD for 1st place! Damn, can I play?
DAY 1 – SHIVALAYA TO BHANDAR
After a lovely breakfast of milk tea with Tibetan bread and peanut butter and some ‘hooray we’re finally starting our trek’ pictures we made our way to the first check point where a policeman checked our TIMS cards and registered us in a big book full of all the trekkers that had passed through Shivalaya.
It was here that we met a nice Belgian couple who showed us how to properly use our trekking poles. We would cross paths with them multiple times throughout that first day as we were taking our breaks at different times. Josefine and I were walking fairly slowly so it was nice to know we weren’t the only people taking our time.
The first half of the walk to Bhandar (our final destination for the day) involved lots of walking uphill. Fairly similar to Tiger Leaping Gorge but at least now we were taking our time so while it was tough going and I was sweating a lot it was doable.
We took a fair amount of picture and water breaks and stopped on the stone wall of someone’s home for a quick snack of Coconut Crunchies (best trekking cookie ever) and a MARS bar after we reached the end of our steep upwards climb.
From the top of the hill it was all down hill to Bhandar. Tough on the knees but the trekking poles helped. I slipped and fell only once (the packed mud can be very slippery even with good boots and trekking poles) but it was somewhat graceful and I only subjected my leg to one large rock and subsequent matching large bruise.
It felt so good when we finally made it to Bhandar about 5.5 hours later. Unfortunately we didn’t realize the lodging wasn’t in the main village. You have to keep going down the trail a bit to make it to the tea houses.
Luckily a tea house owner found us and walked us to his place – Buddha Lodge and Restaurant. It too was basic but the room was free as long as we ate all our meals there (a fairly common theme along the entire trail).
We were hungry of course so we shared a small pot of milk tea (we love our milk tea) and both of us had garlic and onion cheese soup – scrumptious.
While I was having my tea the woman who worked at the guest house started touching my ponytail (which was in a braid) and telling me how beautiful it was and asking if it was colored or natural. It was funny to be sipping my tea staring at the beautiful scenery around me while someone fondled my ponytail.
So far one difference I’ve noticed between here and China is that everyone in Nepal is very nice. We did get lost once at the beginning of the trek (we still don’t know how we lost the trail) but a sweet Nepalese boy pointed out our mistake and walked us down to the right path. Everyone we passed along the trail had greetings of “Namaste!” and a smile. People were quick to ask us where we were from, where we were going (to make sure we were still on the correct path) and to wish us a safe journey. I’m not sure what it will be like as we go on and get to the more crowded and popular part of the trek but so far I’m glad we decided to hike from Shivalaya.
During dinner we met and chatted with a nice Australian bloke named Ben about life, travel, and SCUBA diving (note: we would end up hiking with Ben the entire trail up to Namche Bazaar). Though one thing we’ve noticed about food service on the trail so far is that it comes in its own time – usually a long time. Almost everything is made from scratch (no real prep work done here) so even the simplest of meals can take 45 min to arrive after it’s been ordered. Therefore we ordered our breakfast the night before (something we would do the remainder of our trek). Tomorrow we’ve been told it going to be a bit rough going so I’m splurging on banana porridge for breakfast.
Spoiler for next time: don’t splurge on banana porridge for breakfast (click here)
View all my posts about the Everest Base Camp trek here!