I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something different.
When a good friend of mine suggested a new hiking trip to Mardi Himal, Nepal, I was skeptical. My body is not fit enough for long days of mountain trekking. My excuse is consistently the same, it’s not my kinda game. He shared with me a few beautiful photos of the Mardi Himal landscape, I googled more information about the place and later said yes to the trip.
- Location: Mardi Himal, Nepal base camp (4500m)
- How to go: Our entry point is at Kade, a small village 45 min drive from Pokhara, Nepal and our exit point is at Kalimati
- Attraction: A closer view of 4 peaks: Mt. Annapurna (8091m), Machhapuchre (6997m), Hiuchuli (6441m), Mardi Himal(5587m)
- Difficulty: Hard for beginners.
- Distance go and back: Kande- Forest Camp- High Camp-Mardi Himal Base Camp- Low Camp- Kalimati = 45 km
- Time spent: 4 days, 3 Nights
- Concerns: AMS, Cold icy/ snow weather in winter
- Entrance Fee: A hiking permit required
- Information link:
This is gonna be a long ranting post.
Health is wealth.
I fixed my mind, I’ll finish whatever I started. First, I need to be fit for the trek so I won’t burden my hiking buddies.
Azli assured me that this trip is a relaxing trip, like a walk in the park … just a “jalan-jalan sepak daun je sepanjang trail”. A month before the trip I managed to push myself out of my comfy couch and started a few exercise regimes to strengthen my muscles. I walked around the park for at least 5km every alternate day. To be realistic, how fit could I be in one month?
I don’t like it too but I have no other option.
A week before the trip I developed terrible flu and fever, and my body was exhausted from the grueling exercise. The fever stopped after 5 days but the cough stuck with me like glue throughout my hiking trip. It got worsened as I hike higher due to the escalation in altitudes.
A day before the hiking day I did my covid test, my lung test and my confidence level test. Yep … “I am good to go,” I assured myself.
The journey started in Pokhara, we have to travel from Kathmandu via a local tourist bus that took us almost 9 hours on the dusty road to Pokhara. We spent one night in Pokhara and the next morning we drove for 45 minutes to Kade, the entry point to the Mardi Himal trek.
February 13, 2023. Kade (1750m) to Forest Camp (2550m). The total distance is 17.6km
I was just curious.
Mountain trekking is totally new to me. As I observed my season hiker friends preparing themselves for the trek, I got worried and nervous too. Curiosity might kill the cat, right?
“I survived so many daredevil moments before and I’ll get through this with flying colors,” my final ‘me’ chat to myself before we started our trek. Our guide estimated the distance from Kade to Forest camp should be around 12km (he wasn’t sure either). We had a quick stop at Australia Camp and lunch at Pittam Deurali before we headed to Forest Camp.
It was a climbing hike all the way from Kade- Australian Camp – Deurali- Forest Camp with the majestic view of Himalayan mountains as the background. The climbing was not too bad but the trek felt super long (for a 12km walk) and winding like a never-ending horror story. As we ascend further up from Pittam Deuralli, I noticed that the forest landscape started to change. The air felt colder. I saw beautiful odd sizes of big bulk trees in a mossy highland forest, this place reminded me of Cameroon Highland’s mossy forest (but colder compared to Cameron Highland)
I was the newbie and the last on the trek, Azli then acted as the sweep hiker guiding my pace to match up with the team. Areza was the lead hiker, and the pacer leader to Kila, Mar, Afif, Sap and Azlan. The long hours walking in the forest felt monotonous when you were struggling hard to keep up and having at least one good friend right beside you did help a lot. Azli being Azli … I have nothing to complain about, he did a good job as my cheerleader and my pacer leader.
We underestimate our time (actually I was super slow lol) and both of us ended up reaching Forest Camp late at 7pm, in total darkness. My brain and my feet failed me during the last 2 hours of our hike. I can’t feel my feet at all, they went totally numb. But, despite all the pains and aches surprisingly I didn’t turn into an agitated lioness or a sick hyena … I was like a lost puppy stuck on a busy highway looking at the speeding cars, puzzled about what is going on here?
Later I learned that our total walking distance from Kade to Forest Camp was 17.6km and not 12km. That explained why I felt like a walking zombie in the last hours of our hike on that day. My untrained human body has its limitations too.
February 14, 2023. Forest Camp (2550m) to High Camp(3600m). The total distance is 11.2km
“Never underestimate your ability to underestimate yourself.”
I woke up the following day and the numbness in my feet from the 17.6km walk recovered well. But the next 11.2km walk from Forest Camp to High Camp was way more brutal than yesterday’s trek. I was glad that Azli didn’t give up on me while on this trek as I was almost … 1mm closer to giving up.
I have to climb hundreds or maybe thousand (feels like) of steep and high stone-made stairs. The weather doesn’t help at all, it was cold with freezing wind. Thick fog covered our trek and curtained off the view around us. I saw the glimpse of Azlan’s orange backpack at the end of the trek high above me and I felt at my lowest. “This is not a stairway to heaven, but to hell,” the devil in me started talking.
“Don’t compete with others, Sally. One step at a time. Perlahan tapi pasti (slowly but surely). I win this,” I talked to myself and guess what … strangely a few minutes later, I was at the top of the stairs too. But as I turned forward again, I faced another high and winding stairs to heaven, just like before then I talked to myself again … and another and another and more another until we reached High Camp.
There was a lot of self-talking during this trip. The curious cat was exhausted from being curious.
February 15, 2023. High Camp (3600m) to Viewpoint to Base Camp (4500m) to Low Camp. The total distance is 20.4km
People with hyper minds get bored easily.
I have been doing this my whole life. When I am bored I’ll be sleepy, less motivated and cruel to myself. I need simulation to stay hyped and I would look around me for simulation. Small things will attract my attention. The rocks, the sand, the trees, the people, the sound of the wind, the birds and so many others would suddenly become noticeable to me and my imagination would start running wild too.
I am not weird but I am unique in my own way.
I often asked why do I risk my life flying with the paramotor group? Despite the struggles that I have to face along the way, I stick with them for years. I hang on for the brain simulation aka the view, the 360-degree view of the landscape while on air is worth all the effort.
We started hiking very early in the morning to catch the morning light over the Mardi Himal viewpoint. We have to cross over some small mountains (reality check, no mountains are small) to reach the viewpoint and the base camp. While walking along the trek, the first light rose over the horizon and a gorgeous morning light slowly followed revealing a beautiful 360-degree mountainous landscape view.
A grand AAA-landscape view.
Being a photographer, I felt a sudden dismay as I could have spent more time pampering this view with my camera but instead I have to let it go and aim for the trek. I blamed it on my incompetency. I was physically unfit, unable to juggle my time between the hike and handling my camera.
The morning sun finally rises above the horizon and shines across the mountains, a stunning landscape in GOLDEN LIGHT right before my very eyes. Every view around me glitters under the warm morning light, a stunning 360-degree view. How I wish I have my super wide lens to seize the golden moment permanently in my camera. I wish I have more time to play with my lenses. I wish I have my fish eye lens with me now. I wish … and wish. I always love the golden hour moment, I imagine a vampire ‘me’ sucking in the golden energy released by the sun.
But again, sadly I must continue my walk and aim for my final destination.
As I hike further up, I saw the view of 3 prominent peaks (the Annapurna, the Him Chuli peak and the Machapuchare or Fishtail mountain) looking huge and majestic. Due to my physical unfitness, I walked annoyingly super slow (snail-like slow, I hate it so much) and surprisingly I realized that I have more time talking aka entertaining aka daydreaming with my ‘beloved’ self, lol. My me time … only me and my landscape. Blessing in disguise right?
I indulged further into the landscape, it crossed my mind how lonely these great mountains must have been. Remotely located up above the cloud, far away from the forest, the animals, the people and other lifely nature. Aha! the great mountains need the clouds, the stars and some great mountain trekkers to admire their grand presence. Cantik giler weh… the view worth the struggle.
Tbh, the view here from the very top of the mountain looks more peaceful than the look from my paramotor seat as I can peacefully enjoy the view without the annoying engine sound when I am up on air, lol. Yeah, the paramotor engine sound is a true turn-off.
As I hike further up slowly in my “snail aka grandmama” walk, my mind further traveled to dreamland, lol. I have more time to think about the mountain, living in the moment. The mountains look so grand against the sky and the clouds and I couldn’t help but wonder, what would this place looks like at 3 o’clock in the morning, under the thousands of glittering stars in pure darkness with zero light pollution.
Yes, I’d be lying if the only self-talked that I had was about the mountains. I thought about the new Toyota Corona Cross hybrid, I better get one. I thought about my recent move in my life early this year to eliminate toxic people in my life, well done Sally … so far so good. I thought about wanting to do more of this so I need to be healthy and sane. I thought about a new plan for my camera gear. I thought about slowing down and not rushing through my life anymore … what should I do while slowing down, more sleep?
The distance from High Camp to MH viewpoint is 4.38km and from the viewpoint to MH Base Camp is 2.4km. Once we reached High Camp, we had our lunch, pack our bags, rushed down to Low Camp (6.4km from High Camp) and spent overnight there.
February 16, 2023. Low Camp to Kalamati: 9.4km
We spent 4 days and 3 nights on the Mardi Himal trek. I hope to stumble upon Nepali villages along the trail but I saw none, only some resthouses built for hikers to stop for food or a night stay. Walking down was a drag and painful. Unbelievable truth, going down is harder than climbing up. My knees and my last surviving leg muscles … sore big time.
I have this lingering sad feeling of leaving the big mountains behind when I left that day. And, the feeling still lingers. No wonder mountain hikers always go back to the mountain because they miss the mountains. The lonely mountains really know how to capture our hearts.
We slid down the trail from Low Camp to Kalamati Village as fast as we could and later took a 45 minutes jeep ride to Pokhara. Hanging out with these 7 pro-hikers while descending was super cool as I could act as if I am a pro too, lol. None of us experienced the AMS effect and everyone was in a jovial mood as we marched to Lazeez Restaurant in Pokhara for our dinner celebration.
A tired and satisfactory journey, a rich life experience.
At my maturing age, I tried to manage my life as simple as possible. I do whatever I like.
It is not the sense of achievement that I crave but the opportunity to witness something or anything grand in front of my eyes. I don’t crave human approval anymore, it’s tiring to always seek others’ approval especially when you are a woman. I try my best not to care about pujian manusia (human praise) too. I am more curious about the outcome of each decision that I made, will I be able to witness something grand if I choose to do what I choose to do? I let my curiosity leads the way.
What did I gain from this experience?
A stronger body, a strong mental strength, a boast in my confidence and a new circle of friends. Tbh, anybody could do this, if they put their mind to it. But action without proper planning is a waste of time. “We only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”.
Physical and mental fitness is important for extreme activities. Being fit allows you the freedom and the luxury of time to explore more. When you are fit enough for an adventure you would enjoy the trails more than when you are struggling against them. Anybody can hike to the highest mountain but what is your reason for that? Find your own reason and go for it.
Ask yourself, will you enjoy the journey? If it’s too burdensome for you then this might not be for you … there are 1001 options out there that you could choose from, be open and select the right team, it’s joyful to do this in one team. A team could either pull you up or pull you down, be selective.
Would I do this again? In Sha Allah.
I need to work on my physical fitness. If I decide to do more of this, I am bringing my camera (bff) along and having a camera means I have to put extra effort to produce good images for my collection. Camera gears are expensive, and adding up the cost for another extra hobby is expensive too. Darn it … I have to put the thought of getting the new Toyota Corona Cross on hold and spend the money on experiencing life instead.
Thank you for reading my thought. I’ll see you on my next adventure.
Be your own best friend, talk kindly to yourself
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