We left some bags on Day 1 at the reception of our hotel and left after breakfast at mid morning, taking a mini-bus from the main road to a bus stop at an intersection called “0 Kilometer.” We got down and waited for another bus to take us north to Baglung Bus Park. We were about to get down for the next bus as I’ve read online, when the busboy asked us where we were going. We said “Nayapul,” which was the starting point for the trail towards Poon Hill, and he said the bus we were on was passing through there. Perfect.

100 Rupees and 2 hours later we got off at Nayapul and asked for the way to Ghorepani, which was 2 days away and only 1 hour away from Poon Hill — the pinnacle of the short circuit we were to do. There were many villages on the way with guest houses and restaurants, so hikers could choose to retire anywhere along the trail, without needing a tent at all. Some even do it without a sleeping bag.

Every night would be snug atop a mattress under thick blankets, one’s sleeping bag, and however many layers of clothing you might need. What I didn’t know was how far apart the water sources were, hence, the 2.75 liters I carried with me from the start.

While many people brought purifying tablets — which made the water taste like a swimming pool — filter water bottles like the Life Straw brand and the like, I drank the mountain water straight and came out without a single problem. I always asked the locals if they drank it themselves and where it came from, and they always answered: “Yes, it’s ground water, not from the river.”

Every 1 or 2 hours of walking there would always be some house, farm, village or inn. And where there were locals, there was clean water, hot food and a bed. There must have been close to 500 locals along our route, supported primarily by tourism.

To start our trek, we had a Rs25 (USD$0.50) Samosa filled with curried spiced potato and peas in Nayapul as we walked towards Birethanti. Elevation was only 1,070 meters above sea level, hardly noticeable. After getting our TIMS card (required for every hike across Nepal) and Poon Hill trekking permit checked in separate stations about a hundred meters apart, we headed North-East along the river Modi. Both of them costed 2,000 NPR each (about $20 USD a piece).

Depending on the elevation and how hard it was to get supplies up to the villages, by porter mule or truck, the prices of consumables sky-rocketed to reflect the growing demand. A hearty Dal Bhat that could cost as low as Rs150 (Php50) in Kathmandu or anywhere else in Nepal could reach up to Rs700 high up on a mountain trail. The beauty of the Dal Bhat culture in Nepal is you could have as many plates of it as you wished; I, myself, have gotten 2 or 3 plates every time, without fail and without any extra charge.

After 6 hours at a slow pace, passing several villages and many tourists on the same trek (and some going back to where we’ve been), we reached Hille (1,475m) at around 5:00 in the afternoon. The sun was already slipping out of view behind the mountains and the cold was creeping in. We decided to stop here for the night and look for a good deal on room prices.

When checking a few guest houses which offered the same price of 300 NPR (Nepali Rupee) for a room for 2, we compared prices for Dal Bhat and they were the same. The whole menu was identical. We later found out that all the inns, guest houses and restaurants are run by a single association that dictates the pricing. While the food prices were stable, though, the room prices weren’t — despite room prices being listed on the menu as fixed.

I had brought on the trek some dried orange peel from Bishnu’s farm in Chitwan and used some every time I got a cup of black tea, usually 50 Rupees. It was satisfying: every warm sip that seemed to chase away the cold. We had slept for 11 hours that first night.

(Photos to follow)

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