My two weeks in Nepal consisted of Daal Bhat, diarrhoea and squat toilets and fuck it was unpleasant. Have you ever had to hike for 9 hours a day while holding in the rushing urge to shit every 5 minutes while trekking at altitude? I can now say this one is well and truly ticked off the list of life’s achievements.
God damn I love Nepal, a place with immense beauty fused with a buzzing chaos; locals are the most generous people you will ever meet and the hospitality is unlike any other. For the last 2 years I have been fortunate enough to travel to Nepal to photograph and write for Nepal Tourism on 2 separate occasions the first trip I travelled to Ghandruk near the Annapurna’s under the peak of Machapuchare and Annapurna South. This year I wasn’t sure I was going until a few days prior to the event.
So here I am, back in the hustle of Kathmandu and fuck it’s good to be back although the smog blowing over from New Delhi wasn’t a treat. The first thing I do is dump my bags in my room and head straight for a family run momo store and smash down 10 or so delicious momo’s to get my fix.
Food in Nepal is surprisingly good but can be very repetitive once trekking in the mountains. Food is also very cheap if you come from Australia like me where you can live off a few dollars a day and be satisfied but it can also be your downfall as I’d be soon to find out.
A couple of days later, we are enroute to the Langtang Valley which is a region that became heavily affected in the 2015 earthquakes. I had met up with my friend Haley Dasovich to shoot a few films for her YouTube channel and at one point I didn’t think Haley would make it to Nepal as she had a very hectic travel schedule a bit like this; Scotland to California to Tunisia to California to China to Nepal all within the space of a few weeks but yeah she made it and here we are, standing roadside picking fruit which seemed good at the time and I was the only one to buy the tomato which could have been the culprit to my downfall.
For lunch, it was the staple dish of the Nepali diet, Daal bhat which for those of you who don’t know is lentil soup and rice with an assortment of spices and other strange condiments. This place was gnarly or at least the kitchen was with trays upon trays of uncleaned dishes piling up at the door as the cooks dripped sweat from head to toe. One of the Nepali ladies hastily carried a tray of refills around the packed restaurant, slapping 2nds onto our depleted plates. It had looked like she had just ran a marathon and with the owner shouting direction from behind the bar, the lady was off to the next table dishing out scoops of rice and lentils to the demanding customer. i had a great history with Daal Bhat even to the point I had an eating competition with the big Brit, David Briggs one year back. This time Daal and I were not very good friends.
Punching on, our bus navigated the mountainside tracks leading to Shyaphru Besi and hats off to the bus driver who smashed it like a pro. With bouncing energy and the hate of been stuck on a bus for so long, I jumped out to help repair a bit of the road by placing slipped rocks into a corrugated bit of road as the bus grinded over the top. Thank fuck we were off the bus and with half of the roads dust stuck in our hair, things were looking up. On a late afternoon walk I had got my first sight of a Himalayan mountain with snow upon its peak. We were all pretty knackered and the night was capped off quite early but before bed I thought I’d be cool to have another serving of Daal.
The next morning, Haley and I decided 0500am would be prime for a sunrise from a view point we had scouted the day prior. I had a terrible sleep that night and that’s when the diarrhoea started, all bloody night long. Any way I still committed to a sunrise shoot with Haley and we were off walking in the streets of Shyaphru Besi were we came across a field of marijuana growing naturally.
Damn it was a beautiful view as Haley and I gazed across the valley to the peak we had seen the day before and with that the sun had hit the top. We had found ourselves at a shrine, a few hundred steps high into the mountain side. Flying a drone in the Langtang Valley was apparently illegal so we had to head away from the main part of town in the hope we wouldn’t get caught. As the drone flew off into the distance, it was so peaceful staring into the mountains with the Langtang Khola gushing down below as prayer flags swayed in the morning wind that was attached to a small Buddhist shrine.
Honestly I felt terrible, my guts were playing up and I needed to use the bathroom but I couldn’t help but be so stoked to once again be in the Himalaya. Haley and I both walked back down to the guesthouse where I immediately passed out on my bed as I struggled to stomach any food even my favourite chapatti and eggs with a cup of black tea.
With a few minutes before the crew made way out the door of the guesthouse, i was even more stoked to be making way to see nature’s true giants so that was an extra bit of motivation and energy that I need as I was slowly been taken over by a mystery bug.
A few hours into the trek along Langtang Khola, I was hit badly but this shitty bug. My energy levels had dropped, I had gone white to the point of passing out. Every little village we had come across was so peaceful with Nepali ladies smiling while tending crops as waterfalls cascade as a backdrop but there I am, passed out on the ground feeling like I had been smashed with a shovel.
The first day on the trail would be the hardest and not just for me but for the whole crew with thousands of steps, ups and downs but mostly ups that would be a bitch for anyone’s knees apart from Tom’s who decided to do the trek in thongs. By the time we had got to the small town of Bamboo I was a mess, struggling big time and not knowing what was going on with my body. Bamboo was situated on the edge of the Langtang Khola and the melted glacial water was creating a spray of ice cold air as it lunged over a series of house sized boulders.
After an hour back on the trail, I had hit rock bottom…there I was, behind a rock throwing up yesterday’s Daal Bhat. Despite feeling like I had a massive hangover, we were hiking through a lush Rhododendron forest with Gray Tufted Langurs swinging overhead and mules descending from the Langtang’s high villages. It was so damn peaceful apart from the noise of me throwing up.
I remember my mate Jarryd writing an article on all the times he had shat himself while been overseas or at inappropriate times and I thought this would never happen to me but it certainly did. My guts were churning big time and our squat toilet had the most dreadful of smells, so I decided to make my own toilet in the bush. My first night in Lama Hotel isn’t something I am going to forget anytime soon. Richard had caught a bug as well and was throwing his guts up in the squat toilet so I thought I’d be able to hold out to the next morning to go to the toilet but I was wrong. I woke up in the early hours of the morning and had gone in my bed…completely unaware. Thankfully I was the only one in my room.
After the most terrible nights of my life, I woke up to the sounds of the Langtang Khola and chirping birds as the owners of the guesthouse started cooking breakfast. I still couldn’t stomach anything so I had a few biscuits and Sprite for breakfast; definitely not the breakfast of champions. The crew and I started the day of with a few solid climbs taking us to the first view of a 7,000 metre peak and this was the only energy I need at this point.
As the day flattened out, we trekked in a region that was severely affected but the 2015 earthquake and there I am complaining that I have a sick stomach, wake up dude; these people have been through so much pain and are still dealing with the affects 4 years on.
Despite having an uncontrollable gut, I managed to hold on until the village of Langtang, a place that provided the first real views of the Himalaya and peaks rising from the lands of the Tibetan Plateau. 8 hours on the trail was a mission, so I find myself strewed out on a rock wall soaking in the last of the sun’s rays. Sunsets in the Himalaya are simply majestic with the peaks becoming coated in a layer of gold, something that you really need to see.
Every time I would see a scene like this, it would act as a natural remedy to this sickness I was fighting and to some extent is was working.
Today was thankfully only a 4 hour trek to Kyanjin Gompa, a true mountain village tucked away at the base of Langtang Lirung and Yala Peak. Haley wasn’t fairing too well either and I felt that she had got the bug from me. Richard on the other hand had made a pretty miraculous recovery and was firing on 5 out of the 6 cylinders.
Kyanjin Gompa, a small village near the border of Nepal and Tibet is a place that was gone through some serious hardship over the past 4 years as it was reduced to rubble in the 2015 earthquake. The Tibetan people of this place were some of the hardiest people I had ever met, they had lost homes, crops and loved ones yet they would still give the biggest of smiles and that’s something I would love to know how they do so.
One of the defining factors and reasons for me to quit the whining about my sickness was witnessing a group of Tibetan men camped out in a tent made from tarpaulin and left over materials in a cow paddock. Every morning these men would rise from their tent, eat Daal and have a cup of hot water and would immediately start chipping away at large slabs of rock bought down in the earthquake. These slabs of rock were been shaped into rectangles that would form the outer layers of a guesthouse. From 0700am till 1900pm at night, sometimes even later, these men would sit and chisel away at rocks. At the end of their shift, they’d be coated in a white dust from head to toe. They would then eat Daal for dinner and then go to bed; the next day they would rise and do it all over again.
Being immersed in the Himalaya and having the opportunity to hike in a place of immense beauty is like a medication, a treatment for almost anything. There were so many times where I just wanted to lay on a patch of grass and not move, even wait for the crew to come back from the trek but one thing that always wins over pain and struggle is the natural beauty of places we have on earth.
As I trekked higher and higher towards the summit of Kyanjin Ri, a 4,770 metre peak, my energy levels seemed to be heightened every time I took a look at neighbouring Langtang Lirung. There’s just something about been in the mountains and not just the Himalaya but anywhere in which natural beauty beckons.
I ended up been pretty sick for the next few weeks after the trek with fatigue, diarrhoea and a mountain cough but one thing I didn’t do was lay around and wait for it to go especially when I was in the Himalaya, I would capture every sunrise and sunset, chat with the locals and live every moment to the fullest.
Draw energy from your surrounds and be grateful.
You know how I said how unpleasant the last 2 weeks were? For a few minutes a day I experienced shit moments, a mere slice out of a day that was full of mountains, friends and epic vibes. Things will be shit but that’s something that’s not forever.