I am back from backpacking in the Himalayas for a month! I was in Uttarakhand which is a state in northern India. The backpacking itself was great, a 5-6 hour day with a 50 lbs pack was so daunting and hard in the beginning of the trip but it certainly got easier; I could feel myself get stronger and more comfortable as each day passed and by the middle of the trip, a day like that became normal.
On the second day, we went from about 8,000 ft to 11,000 ft in elevation. I got altitude sickness along with another student in my hiking group, so our group of four students and two instructors didn't make it to the planned campsite. Early on we learned to deal with unplanned situations: we couldn't find water near the only flat ground to camp at, so we had to work with 2 liters of water for the 6 of us for dinner, breakfast and the remainder of the hike to the campsite the next day. We had popcorn and ramen soup for dinner, then all six of us crammed into the four-person tent and ate trail mix for breakfast. That day and night was so much fun even though I was sick because it was a spontaneous situation we had to deal with and it was a fun group of people. That morning, we woke up above the clouds with our first view of the snow-covered himalaya peaks.
I learned how to read a topo map, I saw lizards, lagoon monkeys, vultures, cows, water buffalo, sheep and dogs everywhere. I also learned a bit more about cooking. Rhododendrons and ferns were all over and the rhododendrons often had bright red bark. I hiked in forests, villages, along cliffs, above the tree line and in snow. The villages were all over so I learned some hindi and got the opportunity to interact with villagers which definitely made my experience so much richer. We stayed by temples and schools a lot because both always had a flat ground that was good to camp on. All the villages farmed so their land was built into tiers of flat ground cut into the side of a mountain. From a distance the tiers looked like lines of green, brown and pink against a deeper colored green mountain side. The houses all had small stone patios that were used as the place to shell kidney beans or tie up the cattle. Often the cows and water buffalo roamed on the trail, but otherwise they were tied to the house by a short line and ate hay from the lower level of the homes. When we stayed in villages, we always had a crowd of people standing and watching everything we did. It was definitely so shocking for them to see white people that they watched us like we were a movie.
Shepherds and people who worked delivering things everywhere with mules needed trails so we usually had a trail. They were often stone paths, although they could be in any kind of shape. If there wasn't a clear trail it probably met back up in a few hundred meters or there were usually game trails that contoured around mountains.
We hiked between 3k and 10k everyday. 5-6 hours was an average day but we had days as long as 11 hours and as short as 3 hours. Our highest elevation was 13,000 ft which we hiked to towards the end of the trip. While we were hiking to 13,000 water became scarce and for about 4 days. We would have to go on really long, arduous water runs where we might have to hike down as much as 1,000 ft to find a trickle of water. When this happened, four people at a time would go with empty packs and everyones water bottles as well at the 10 liter dromedaries we used at camp. It was a cool experience to have to really work hard to have some water; we had a water run at one of our campsites that took two hours.
The first ration period of the trip was really hard (the first eight days). I kept feeling a little sick at the end of a day and I felt mentally weak. At our reration spot, which luckily was a villager's house, I got really sick and had a 102 temperature. However, once I got better from that, the trip got so much better; I felt mentally stronger, I was feeling good on all the hikes and everything just started to be more comfortable. Finishing a month of backpacking - having no access to modern things, no car in sight and no internet for 28 days, while feeling stronger as each day passed - was really rewarding. I am so glad I did the trip, and a month was a perfect amount of time.
Some of the campsites we went to (in order but I don't remember every place): Kouling, Didina, Ali Cal, Garkuti, Sorag, Khati, Khati Cal, Baicham, Mobir, Kimu, Namik, Thalo Gwar, Berthi.
I just arrived in Kathmandu this morning and met up with Macy, a friend from Maine!