Trek Day 1 Nayapul to Ulleri

by Annalise on March 7, 2010

Two guide books will tell you there are either 3210 or 3480 stone steps leading up to Ulleri. One book recommends taking it 500 steps at a time so that one can rest before proceeding once again. I have no idea how many we did at a time. I certainly didn’t count but know we did stop to rest several times! But we made it to Ulleri up those steep stone steps on day one of our trek. Robin said he now understood what runners describe as “hitting the wall” as he climbed.
Trek Day 1 Nayapul to Ulleri

We had decided upon setting out that we wanted to get the biggest, toughest days out of the way first and I would rather do the 3000+ steps going up than down (no hiking poles means down is really tough on the knees) so up we went. This was the clockwise route we’d chosen. Just as we stepped out of the taxi we’d hired to get to Nayapul, we found ourselves visiting with Keith the Irishman. He had been advised to do the counter-clockwise route but was completely open to either direction. When he recognized us from the permit office he said he’d rather walk with us than head off solo in the opposite direction. He was carrying a supply of fresh food in a grocery bag as well as his small pack as he’d been told there was a limited supply of fresh food in the guest houses. We’d not heard this so we didn’t have any food supplies beyond emergency chocolate but off we went all the same.

The first stages of the day were a quick gradual incline and absolutely lovely walking along the terraced farm areas, the homes and villages perched along these hills beside the deep river valleys. We passed and were passed by several porters, carrying their loads in the traditional fashion of the weight resting on their back and hung from a sling that was worn across the forehead. One porter looked to be over 70 years old and carried a huge load all the same. These are tough lives here; the loads routinely exceed 50 kgs and the walking is not light even without a pack. Speak of fit!!

We also saw some wealthier folk who had donkey and pony porter services. Even then, you’re left pausing in awe of the sight and the loads carried and the footing managed on the endless steps.

Along the stone steps approaching Ulleri I had to wonder how long these had been here. These pathways are the singular route connecting some of these hilltop villages to the rest of the world. Once you see these and walk there yourself, you come to appreciate in a new way the social and political challenges of reaching the population in a consistent and effective manner; each village is so isolated from its neighbor.

The steps themselves were tough but we did fall into a routine and really you just focus a few steps up, deciding step by step where to land your next foot. And in the end, it was done. We had reached it and were rewarded in finding a very simple but friendly guest house with fantastic food. Anything would have tasted good that day but the dal bhaat (spiced lentil soup served over rice and with some vegetables) really hit the spot.

We had walked most the day with Keith although he decided to take the first guest house we came by. Once settled he spent most evenings in the kitchens of the guest house hosts, enjoying their company, jokingly proposing to any available young women by telling their parents he’s soon be their son-in-law. It was a riot to watch his antics and his warm joking manner was very well received.

At the guest house we chose we happily found that Aaron and Ellen, other acquaintances from the permit office, had already arrived there and were enjoying their meal. We then learned of their adventure since we saw them last at the permit office. (please see post “Good People Everywhere”)

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

LeeAnne March 8, 2010 at 12:42 am

What a great adventure!

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