Over 7 days I have trekked 150km in the remote Far West region of Nepal.
I’ve encountered majestic forests, grand mountains, beautiful cascading waterfalls, and hills full of small villages and terraced crops. Overall its some of the most fantastic terrain I’ve ever had the pleasure of setting my eyes on. The hiking has been challenging – sometimes literally climbing up through falls, or down a mud slope. I’ve suffered through 35-degree temperatures, and wild rain storms. I’ve crawled up steep hills for hours and hours to crest a pass of immeasurable beauty.
The most shocking discovery has been the sheer number of people living along the trails. It was a blessing to have people available at every corner to point me in the correct direction. Often its hard to find a place to camp because every flat piece of ground has a house on it, so I just stay in people’s houses instead! Overwhelmingly, the local people have been beyond kind to me. It’s not possible to pass by someone without receiving a friendly “namaste!” along with an invite to have tea or food. The biggest struggle with the extreme friendliness is that everyone wants to stop and chat – but I can’t stop to chat with everyone or else I’ll never get where I need to go! Also, I don’t speak enough Nepali to sustain a very good conversation, much to their dismay.
Now for the bad news about the people. While 99% of my encounters have been positive, there are bad apples in every society, and I seem to be meeting all of them on this trail. In a 7-day period I have been robbed twice, and two separate men have tried to force themselves on me. Truthfully, on an emotional level I’m having a really tough time coping with the harassment and I honestly don’t think I can deal with having extremely negative experiences on 4 of every 7 days in the trail. From my experiences solo hiking in western countries I’ve never had a negative people-related incident, so I assumed Nepal would be no different. I think that was very naive of me. Perhaps being a solo female trekker in a country where women are marginalised was a bad idea. I knew I would have a couple of negative experiences during the trek, like maybe 4 total, not 4 in 7 days.
On day 7 of the trek I tried to navigate my way through the jungle to get over a pass. Every trail option I took seemed to come to a dead end. I endeavoured to go back to the last village to hire a local who knew the area to get me through. On my way back I slipped on a wet rock and sprained my ankle. I had to bandage it and take painkillers but I needed to get myself out. I ended up hiking not back to the last village, but all the way back to Chainpur, feeling emotionally and physically broken.
In Chainpur I started to weigh my options. I could take a few days rest in Chainpur and hire someone locally to get me over the pass. Or I could heal up and try it again solo. Or, I could go back to Kathmandu to re-assess the whole trip. Given the harassment situation and the general mental state I was in, I decided on the final option: go back to Kathmandu and re-assess.
I took a 32-hour bus ride from Chainpur to Kathmandu. On this bus ride I got sick, and based on internet self-diagnosis I think I might have giardia – a stomach parasite causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and bloating.
Now I’m in Kathmandu again to heal my foot, my stomach infection, and my sunburn. I will meet with my trekking company to discuss options. One thing seems to be very clear – I need other people. Its become apparent that Nepal is not a place where a woman can trek unaccompanied – I’m just to easy of a target. I will need to hire guides or do sections of the GHT with other groups, or come up with another plan entirely.
It’s a huge letdown that only one week into my trek I’ve met with so many obstacles. I knew it would be hard, but this is really, really, REALLY hard. I’m feeling a little bent, a little broken. I’m still determined to trek this beautiful country, but it may no longer be under the terms I’d initially dictated.
More photos later….
Wow, I am unbelievably happy I made the decision to go back to Kathmandu. The first day or two I was doing OK and thought I was healing fine on my own, feeling a little silly about wimping out and running back to the city. Suddenly my abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea took a turn for the worse and I ended up being hospitalized and put on IV with acute bacterial dysentry. Turns out I didn’t have giardia, but I did have a bacterial infection, and clearly I was not prepared to handle it myself on the trail. Had I not been in the city, I would not have received the medical care I did, and I could have ended up in a substantially worse situation. Thanks to the team at the CIWEC clinic for fixing me up.