Nepal, Day 1: Besi Sahar - Ngadi
Somehow I ended up on the local bus at 6:30am this morning, rather than the more common tourist bus. I can sacrifice comfort for a few hours but it was the endless stopping on the side of the road that became exasperating, asking every single person if they wanted to go the same way the bus was heading. Traffic near Kathmandu was also infuriating - after three hours we had only travelled 25km. I could have run there faster.
In Nepal they drive on the left, but we spent just as much time on the right hand side of the road. Oncoming traffic: no problem. Overtaking on blind corners: sure. As long as you use your horn, you have right of way. It was best not to look out the window.
There was only one other tourist on this bus, a lovely German named Vanessa. If she hadn't have been there, I'm fairly certain I would have experienced a mini freak out about why I was the only foreigner on this wild and reckless trip. Very grateful for map apps that confirmed that we were headed in the right direction.
Eight and a half hours after leaving Kathmandu we finally arrived in Besi Sahar, the surprisingly large gateway town to the Annapurna trek. We registered at the checkpoint, walked to a non-descript point at the end of town and headed off into the Himalayas.
It didn't take long before Vanessa and I happily discovered that we walked at a fairly similar pace. I stopped to take photos every five seconds while Vanessa stopped to read the map and made sure we were going in the right direction. I'm fairly certain I would have become lost if it wasn't for Vanessa, somehow ending up on a road back to Kathmandu or something equally as stupid. I'm really glad she was there. We didn't need to use the map much though - the locals were probably the friendliest people I have met. Everyone said hello, including the too-cute-for-words children, and pointed us down the correct path when necessary.
In my mind the Annapurna Circuit was going to be postcard-worthy views from the first step. Not so. The day was overcast and misty (though thankfully not rainy), obscuring many of the taller mountains. A large hydroelectric dam is being installed, along with new roads, so this detracted from the view somewhat. But to see actual mountains, not the lame hills that run throughout Thailand, was incredible. I stumbled a few times as I was gazing upwards, soaking in the beauty of the place.
Just as it became dark, about three hours after we started trekking, we arrived at Ngadi. The hike wasn't strenuous but the weather increased our effort levels. I was prepared for freezing cold temperatures, but it turned out to be hot and humid. I guess all that training in Bangkok was worthwhile after all.
My first tea house was exactly as described: not much more than a wooden shack with outdoor bathrooms, squat toilets and thin bedroom walls (the guy in the room next door is snoring and it sounds like he is right beside me). Dinner at the tea house was a Nepalese specialty, dal bhat (lentil soup and rice, served with vegetables), offered in all restaurants on the route. On the plate was more rice than I have ever eaten in one go. I ate the whole thing, then got a second helping of veg. That's the beauty of dal bhat - free refills. I'm pretty sure I'll be living on this dish for the next three weeks.