That time I went trekking…and what I ate on the way

Trekking….you might be thinking what relation does it have to baking. Well let me make it clear right now, it does not. And that is what I was about to find out when I ventured on a 12day trekking trip in Nepal without any prior experience- The Manaslu Circuit Trek. The idea was obviously quite foolish but it had been a while since I had done something new, something totally out of my comfort zone and I really wanted to re-discover myself in a different setting. So off I went, throwing caution to the wind and this is the story of how it went and what I ate on the way.

We left the comforts of city life with quite a generous breakfast served by Hotel Lemon Tree- the place we stayed at in Thamel.

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After an 8 hour bus ride to Arughat where we had some komola and about ek bosta dhula (thanks to the road) and then an additional 2 hour bus ride through pretty much all kinds of terrain we were finally at the village of Sotikhola- the starting point of the trek.

Even after several attempts I could not manage to take a non-blurry photo. That's how bumpy the roads were.

Even after several attempts I could not manage to take a non-blurry photo. That’s how bumpy the roads were.

It’s a small settlement beside a raging stream. The hotel we stayed at was right beside the stream and the deafening sound of the stream was quite similar to what a non-stop kaalboishakhi jhor would sound like.

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The view from our room!

Sotikhola was where I had my first taste of Nepali Daal-Bhaat.

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It was quite interesting to see that they serve Papod with daal-bhaat and call what we know as niramish, “torkari.” Taste wise…I loved it! The daal they cook is different ( the grain i.e) from what we have here in Bangladesh but it tastes just as good. The torkari- well let’s just say, the Nepali people know how to make a good niramish.I’d finish a whole meal with daal-bhaat and torkari without feeling the need of having any meat- I guess this is why they call this “torkari.” Even though the shaak looks a lot like our palong shaak I found it to be a bit bitter in taste in most of the places I had it so I’d avoid that most times. Papod was always a welcome addition to the plate and so was the achaar (more like a bhorta).  In most villages a plate of daal-bhaat consisted of the same items and the achaar was the only place where the cook could make their own addition so we’d always be eager to the see what kind of achaar is served each time and how it tastes.

Sotikhola was also the place where I had my first and only taste of Tibetan bread. To be honest I had expected it to be a variation of a bun but to my surprise it was like a big luchi or porota…minus the softness.

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The bread I had was nearly impossible to cut so I only managed a few bites of it with generous smearings of mixed fruit jam- mixed fruit jam has become my new jam man. However, I’m not writing off Tibetan bread as of yet, maybe the one I had was not impressive. So with that and a hurriedly consumed cup of ginger tea I started for Machhakhola- the destination of the first day of the trek. The trek, the trek, the trek! Let me just say that the first day seemed never ending at one point.

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Mules (খচ্চর)…I’ve never seen so many in my entire life. Stepped on their shit and even got slapped by their tails.

We reached Machhakhola after about 10 hours of walking and when your feet hurt, your hands are swollen, your socks are wet and the temperatures are dropping as it gets dark, like a true Bangali you don’t really crave anything other than a hot plate of daal-bhaat.  But this is the plate we had for lunch at Lapubesi that day because I was too hungry to stop and take a photo of the plate at Machhakhola (sorrynotsorry).

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After the first day,things got a bit easier mentally albeit not physically as I had given myself a good pep talk. The days consisted of long hours of walking with a stop for daal bhaat at lunch and then again at dinner, except in Jagat, where I had this noodles with fried egg. However, more than the taste of that I remember the taste of coke I had with it as I was not feeling too well…and I rarely drink coke back home.

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Lunch at Yaruphat

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Lunch at Dovan

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Dinner at Jagat

For the rest of the day we would enjoy these snacks when we took a break. And by enjoy I really mean enjoy! Because at that time anything to take my mind off the exhaustion would seem like a treat:

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Snickers: it’s an amazing pick me up when you need some sugar in your system and you realize that it actually does have the perfect balance of peanut, caramel and chocolate. I have a new found respect for Snickers bar after this trip. I’ll never look at them as just another chocolate bar the next time a relative from bidesh hands me a ziplock bag of assorted chocolates.

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Coconut Cookies: An ordinary biscuit that used to bring extraordinary joy during the 5/10mins breaks.

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Lemon Juice: It’s actually just lemon flavoured Foster Clark’s that you probably have once a year during Iftar but while trekking every glass of that drink seems like a godsend.

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Mango Juice: Mango juice or any packed/canned juice is quite expensive up there!

Noodle Soup: A classic comfort food. Loved it up there as much as I love it down here ^_^

Noodle Soup: A classic comfort food. Loved it up there as much as I love it down here ^_^

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Momo: Fried Potato and Egg Momo. That’s the one. That’s the tastiest momo I’ve had in the whole trip. It was also accompanied by one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in the trip. We met a Canadian Trekker who is an anesthetist by profession, a certified sky diver and even a pilot 😐

Khichuri: One of the days we decided to cook our own food. Here I was surprised to find that Nepali people do not have khichuri and they are totally alien to the concept of “bhorta” :O I wish they knew what they were missing out on.  But yeah, Khichuri, Dim bhaji and Alu bhorta tastes divine anywhere in the world!

Khichuri: One of the days we decided to cook our own food. Here I was surprised to find that Nepali people do not have khichuri and they are totally alien to the concept of “bhorta” :O I wish they knew what they were missing out on.  But yeah, Khichuri, Dim bhaji and Alu bhorta tastes divine anywhere in the world!

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Pancake: Chocolate pancake at Machhakhola…unfortunately they were quite disappointing where ever I tried them, the texture was never right but in the process I’ve fallen in love with mixed fruit jam all over again, especially Druk Mixed fruit jam.

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Dry noodles: Move over Mama, Maggi and whatever brand of instant noodles I’ve tried in my life so far. Wei Wei instant noodles is the winner, the champion, the tastiest instant noodles I’ve had. It tastes great uncooked as well as when cooked. No wonder Nepali people have it like Jhal-muri.

So this noodles is what I snacked on on our way back from the trek and this is what I brought home with me from Nepal- 5 packets of Wei Wei instant noodles….and an Urban Yeti t-shirt.

In a materialistic sense I didn’t bring back much and the 5 packets of noodles didn’t even last a month but the experiences I’ve had are enough to last a lifetime. Being surrounded by intimidating yet quiet mountains on all sides while the only sound you hear is the raging stream from a good few metres below. Seeing the rays of sun fade away from the place you are at, leaving it dark and cold while it is still shining bright on the snow capped mountains above you; seeing the sky and the stars closer to you than you’ve ever seen it before and then realizing that the experiences that are a novelty to me is someone’s regular life. This is the trail Kumari uses to go to her father’s house from Philim, this is the night sky she has seen all her life, this is the daal bhaat torkari she cooks on the regular; and she doesn’t need a bar of snickers or a glass of lemon juice or a pep talk to power her through her walks. All these experiences are really humbling. I’ve learned how privileged I am to have roads and cars and so many luxuries of life but I’ve also learned how unnecessary those luxuries are.

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The trek was tough for me. It tested my mental and physical capacity more than anything else ever has and ultimately I could not complete it but I’m glad I went for it. I’m glad I got out of my comfortable hobby of baking and tried to find peace and serenity somewhere else. I might not have found it but I’m glad I gave it a try while I still can because I really believe in the saying “you aren’t getting any younger and [a healthy] old age is promised to no one.” Now, will I go for it again? Let me think about it over the next batch of cookies I bake.

Never stop trying new things.
-Z

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