We traipsed up stone steps and trundled through goat filled paths; We traversed the trail and travelled alongside the Himalayas. We triumphantly trotted our way through the Dhampus trek in Nepal! Okay, so it was more of a mild 2-day hike and not exactly Everest-esque, but it was still great.
First things first: Getting to the trailhead. We found an ambitious taxi driver that felt the need to show us the map to get to Phedi, the starting point for the Dhampus trek. He eagerly utilized visual aids to insist we were going a very, very long ways away and that such a journey required very, very much money. For the curious, “a very, very long ways“ equates to roughly 10 miles. A little map pointing here and a bit of haggling there, and we were on our way! (At a reasonable-ish price, I might add.)
TO DHAMPUS VILLAGE
Disclaimer: According to the wisdom of the internet, this trek is suitable for the elderly and young children, though I think the baseline for hiking in Nepal is relatively skewed with Everest being here and all. I personally found “easy” to still have it’s fair share of thigh-burning moments. The hike was around two hours, 1500 meters up and, to my dismay, completely on stone stairs. It was like jumping on a free stair climber where we got 4 leg days in within 2 hours.
There were hardly any other hikers which was nice, though what the trail lacked in human life it easily made up for in goats. So. Many. Goats. There were also little red and white markings along the way to keep us in the right direction, although I think it would take an extreme amount of talent to get lost on this trail.
Consistent with most places in Nepal, Dhampus doesn’t have a whole lot going on. There is, however, a little restaurant that is cashing in on the prime real estate of their backyard and for a small fee (as in 50 NPR, or $0.46 cents) you can go and see some incredible views of the Himalayas. Bonus if it’s a clear day, as it was for us. Double bonus if you have matching “yak yak yak” shirts to have a photoshoot in. If there’s also a cute dog there then you’ve basically hit the trifecta.
NEXT STOP: AUSTRALIAN CAMP
It’s another couple hours to Australian Camp, a fun and peaceful little place to stay the night. En route we walked through a few small villages and spied a great many water buffalo living their quaint little water buffalo lives. And goats. Always goats. It was also amazing to walk alongside the Himalayas, which were completely showing off their impressiveness as we waltzed on by.
Eventually, a sign popped up and we had to make a decision: go straight to Australian Camp or take a right to Pothana. I imagine they’re about the same, though some people confirmed after we arrived that Australian Camp was the way to go. Phew! Oh, and I don’t know who wrote that little sign in the picture down there because “15 minutes” to Dhampus is a dirty lie and had to have been written by a superhuman Nepali porter capable of walking across mountains with 120 pounds on his back. It was more like an hour. And the “20 minutes” to Australian Camp was also off. Okay, so it was only like 30 minutes… but it was an uphill battle and our wee little bodies were tired.
What a gem of a place Australian Camp is! Before arriving I had expected remote huts or shabby tents, not a comfy bed, luke warm shower and stunning views of the mountians. There was even WiFi, though we opted not to use it. It actually felt like we were entering the Shire as we approached it, and let me tell you, nothing gets me so giddy as feeling like I’m living in a real-life version of the Lord of the Rings. This place is charming and the “camp” part of the name is very appropriate since it felt like a flashback to a miniature version of childhood summers past.
Dishes were washed by hand, guys were playing soccer, small yoga sessions were going on, people could be found reading or eating under little huts, and there was a big swing to enjoy. My main form of entertainment was in watching random animals come and go, namely Duffy, the floof of a dog I fell in love with. I even had hot chocolate when it got chilly at night and what’s more camp-like than that?
OFF TO KANDE
Alas, night turned into day and it was time to leave the lovely little camp and make our way back. After a breakfast of bad coffee and delicious apple and banana pancakes we set off into the great unknown! By “unknown” I mean we were going on a well-groomed trail straight to Kande, a village like an hour’s walk away…
From there we took a bus to some city that started with an “N” that I couldn’t pronounce then and definitely can’t recall now. It was a bumpy ride and also a ride bumpin’ Snoop Dogg, which made for a solid 30 minutes of entertainment. There’s nothing quite like sitting alongside only non-English speaking Nepalese people in a bus that feels like it will fall off the mountain at any given moment with Wiz Khalifia and Snoop Dogg belting “Young, Wild and Free” on full blast.
FROM MYSTERY “N” CITY TO SARANGKOT
Before leaving Australian Camp, we’d asked a guide what the walk to Sarangkot was like. Using hand motions he said, “A little up, a little down, mostly flat, a little more up, a little down.” It was remarkably accurate. The up’s and down’s were in fact very little and it was mostly flat. It wasn’t exactly peaceful though with the construction going on, but we talked to some of the locals on the way and even donated a few rupees to some boys who had written a letter in English stating that they wanted to start a football club but desperately needed our help, aka money. We acquiesced and even signed their little letter; I wrote my name right under some Santiago from Spain, who donated more than us and made the boys want more money. Curse you, Santiago, for setting the bar so high.
We walked on. No more donations or letters came our way but we did have to be careful of the mini-bandits on the loose in the form of vicious tiny children who could need to add a little finesse to their sales pitch. At first they look so innocent saying, “chocolates?” and then they up their demands, completely straight-faced, to the more aggressive “give me money!” When they receive neither they take to following very closely behind you visually searching your bag for candy and money. One child was very adamant that we were withholding precious chocolates and kept pointing at the semi-visible item in our bag. No little one, what you are pointing is not chocolate, it is a spoon. He thought we were pulling a fast one on him, so I pulled it out to show him and he put his hand out and said, “mine” to which I said, “no, my spoon” and he said, “no, mine, give.” This went on until I realized how absurd it was that I was arguing with a 6 year old in the middle of the Nepalese mountains over spoons and a lack of chocolate. Needless to say, we held on to our phones and cameras. And spoons.
SARANGKOT: THE LAND OF NOTHINGNESS
We had planned to stay the night here and see sunrise in the morning, but after arriving at 2pm and seeing all of Sarangkot within a minute and a half, we opted against it. Instead of staying in the super compelling city (with “city” being a generous title), we made our way back to Lakeside, Pokhara.
TO POKHARA, VIA 200 MILLION STEPS
It wouldn’t have been so bad if we had spread out the walking over 2 days, which we had planned, but since we went straight from Australian Camp to Lakeside we ended up walking 13 miles downhill, on stone steps, in one go. Our calves yelled at us for a solid 4 days afterwards.
POKHARA AT LAST
What a sight this place was after so many stairs, what a lovely, lovely sight! We returned to our hostel and they looked at our wary and exhausted faces as we stumbled into the lobby saying, “You’re back early.” We explained that there was nothing in Sarangkot, to which he concisely said, “No, not really.” Luckily there was a room available that night and it was marvelous stay indeed.
We ended the day with a gorgeous sunset over Phewa Lake with coffee shakes at our go-to Nepal restaurant, OR2K, where a live band played “Summer of ’69” and Maroon 5 songs that did the actual band a favor. Ah, bliss.
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