From the Sikles Trail: I realize that no matter what anyone says, the adventurer in me is never going to die! I recently watched YouTube videos on packing my rucksack. I want to learn how to best pack my gear so that I am always ready to go and have the equipment for the expedition. To test this I decided to go on one of the treks in Nepal’s Annapurna region. I called a friend and luckily he was ready and available to go with me.
We had plans of doing the Royal Trek but instead we wound up doing the Sikles Trail. Sikles is longer, and less used than the Royal Trek which can be hectic with visitors. Sikles Trail is also off the beaten path, and only popular among explorers trying to escape the more frequented trails. We spent our first days hiking through the greenest rice-paddy fields I have ever seen in my life. And, beautiful villages with the warmest Nepali people. The first day as usual was backbreaking; we decided only to walk a short, easy distance, and enjoy the incredible views. But, it rained cats and dogs almost the entire day, and leeches enjoyed our fresh blood! Anyway calling a short day is always nice, especially at the beginning of a trek when your body needs to get warmed up!
In the days to follow we waded across beautiful streams with our boots on, and exchanged words with local farmers working in their fields. Lush green forests merging with these small villages was such a captivating sight that every inch forward took our breath away. The freshly fried fish from the river and a warm bowl of local grown lentils offered us a wonderful mountain meal. Something I always miss when back in the city.
The Sikles Trail has its own charm, but we found navigating its path and direction very difficult. Firstly, this trail was clearly not used since the trekking season ended six months ago. Second, the abundance of rain fostered wild plant overgrowth, and disguised the trail’s path. For these reasons we periodically deviated from the main trail, and ended up on temporary side trails that we made with our footsteps. But thanks to random children, men and women we met in the fields, and a drunken villager, we were shown the right way to continue on the Sikles Trail, and luckily found our proposed stopover for the night.
Over the course of this trek, we stayed in traditional Nepali tea houses. We walked about 10 hours each day, from one tea house to another. I have always liked lodging in tea houses as they not only serve excellent food and slumber, but wonderful chances to exchange stories and information with the locals.
The days along this trek were all good, except for a few tedious moments where I was drenched by down-pouring rain, and didn’t have any “juice” to continue the ascent. On one of those days I counted the man-made steps from the foot to the summit of a hill. I broke a twig for every 100 steps and figured out there were 7,527 steps to reach the Sikles Village. Sikles is about 850 houses cascading down a mountain side. It is a small village of Gurung people, these are practitioners of Buddhism and have an ancient culture. Everything was fine except the view. We trekked for the view. The view known from this point makes the tedious trek rewarding. But, the mountains were playing hide and seek, in and out of the clouds, and I was feeling disappointed. After waiting for a couple of hours with my camera on my tripod, I had it and asked my friend Govinda if he would go with me to travel further to other possible viewpoints. The chance of denial from my friend who had agreed to join the trip for this reason was very unlikely to say “no”. So, together we made some brilliant pictures of the Annapurna region including its lower mountains and villagers and their wonderful handicrafts.
The views cleared in the days to follow, but we had already been in the mountains for over 15 days, and could not afford to stay longer. The mountains were so tempting though that I could not resist myself from taking more pictures. We left the village and its beautiful people behind, but we carried them in our memories. The experience was so rooted in us that the drenching rain on our way back home did not change our feelings about this incredible time at Sikles Village. The amazing homemade liquor Rakshi which kept us warm on a cold starry night, the jolly and caring mountain people who served us warm meals, and the beautiful mountain scenery that pushed us a step further on our journey, re all things that I will always think back to when back at my home in Kathmandu.