Heather Hawkins: Why Nepal Captured My Heart and Soul

Heather Hawkins GHT | Heather Hawkins
Heather Hawkins GHT | Heather Hawkins

It’s easy to fall in love with Nepal. A country that’s rich in so many things including the world’s highest mountains, fertile valleys, peaceful villages and a gentle culture. It's a place that will capture your heart, leaving you with fond memories to last a lifetime.

Since the catastrophic earthquakes in April 2015, Nepal needs tourism more than ever. Tourism is the country’s single largest industry. Nepal is heavily relying on tourism to rebuild its crumbled homes, schools and landmarks.

Heather Hawkins, adventurer and mother of two from Sydney, Australia, trekked for 152 days with her son and daughter on the Great Himalaya Trail with World Expeditions in 2016. During this time she developed a deep love for Nepal. Her beautifully written account of her experience reflects her passion for the country and will move you to experience the beauty of Nepal for yourself, if you haven't already.

Nepal is a country that needs you, yet still has so much to give.

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Trekking in Nepal is truly a life-changing experience.

Very soon, beneath our wings, all the racing rivers, the switchback trails and those towering mountains, all those things that have become so familiar to us, slip quietly away. It’s difficult to believe that after 1,700km of trekking, our GHT journey has finally come to an end. It’s Day 152 of the Great Himalaya Trail. 152 days since we started in Taplejung in the east, and our last day of our incredible trek across Nepal.

We’re in Simikot, which is in the far flung western corner of Nepal. Our red World Expeditions bags are being loaded into the cargo hold as we board our plane and find our seats. Time is of the essence. A fleeting gap has appeared in the swirling morning mist, big enough to squeeze through and start our journey back home. Our plane taxies quickly and races into the sky to beat the incoming mist. Right now our heads and hearts are brimming with emotion and we fill the cabin with laughter and tears.

This trek has been so much more than a scheduled, methodical journey across the countryside. It’s been a life changing experience. As we set our course for home, I begin to reflect on where our wandering steps have taken us...

Nepal is such an incredible country. Diverse, rugged and breathtaking - instantly capturing my heart and soul. I have so many favourite places.

The east, where all the jagged, snow capped peaks of the Kanchenjunga region jut skyward between rocky passes and boulder strewn glaciers. In the west, where the thick, green juniper forests grow bravely in steep ravines that gradually give way to high, shale windswept plateaus. In the Everest region, where the magnificent mountain itself stands shoulder to shoulder with its fellow 8,000 metre peaks, and in the Makalu region, where the stars are so bright that the Milky Way paints a vibrant white stripe across the inky sky.

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A culture so rich and welcoming.

Dotted throughout this amazing country are tiny little villages. These are the pockets of life found on mountainsides and in valleys, filled with stone houses, terraced crops of maize, and colourful, welcoming teahouses. The children come running when they see us arrive. They’re curious and chatty. We catch glimpses of daily life as people wash clothes and gather water at the local communal water tap. Goats and yaks wander with us, along the narrow, dusty streets.

The culture and religion here is so incredibly rich. I’m swept up in its beauty and reverence. There are stupas, monasteries, and flapping lines of prayer flags. I take so many photos. It’s truly wonderful to think that life and faith has remained unchanged here for so many centuries.

Out along the trail the people are welcoming, warm-hearted and kind. I love their expressive faces and colourful clothes. They greet us with ‘Namaste’ and ask where we’re going. They are truly surprised when we tell them we’re walking the length of Nepal. 'That’s a long way from home' they exclaim!

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The Nepalese have an amazing resilience and are wise beyond words.

They’ve been through a lot - particularly those in the Langtang region, who are piecing their lives back together after last year’s devastating earthquake and landslide. It was with heavy hearts that we walked across the vast area of mud and rock -  the place where their village had once stood. Yet there are encouraging signs and hope as rebuilding takes place across the region. The Nepalese people are grateful that trekkers are returning to their trails. Relieved that we’re coming back to buy their produce, to stay in their campsites and teahouses, and employ them as sherpas, porters and guides. This is life-giving income for them, enabling them to rebuild their homes and lives.

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I will hold onto these memories for the rest of my life.

With its changing seasons, challenging altitudes, snow, heat and monsoonal rains, the Great Himalaya Trail has truly been an incredible life altering experience. It’s challenged me to the point of absolute fatigue, given me the most incredible moments of joy when I’ve climbed the high passes, and then finally made it to Hilsa, our finishing line on the border of Tibet.

This journey has given me the chance to reflect on life, to think about my goals and dreams, and brought me even closer to my amazing children who were trekking alongside me…

So finally, after another connecting flight, our plane touches down in Kathmandu. We’re back among the buildings, the motorbikes and the late afternoon rush. Horns sound and engines rev and our bus is swept along with the bustling tide. Out west, beyond the foothills, the sun is sinking; it’s an orange dusty ball. It reminds me of where we’ve come from today, from the trail, from the remote and misty plateaus.

Now we are far away from our little yellow tents that we knew so well, from the crunch of the snow, and the tall green forests and the majestic mountain peaks… but in my head and heart, I’ll hold onto these memories for the rest of my life, and just close my eyes… and take myself back to the Great Himalaya Trail…

 

 

 

Want more? Plan your own trek in Nepal.

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About Heather: Heather Hawkins is a mother of two from Coogee, Australia. After surviving ovarian cancer in 2007, Heather was inspired to be stronger, fitter and to reconnect with her sense of adventure. Over the past four years Heather has embarked on an extraordinary running journey that had her winning the women’s division of the North Pole Marathon in April 2015, and completing the extreme challenge of seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in January 2016. In 2016 she trekked the full Great Himalaya Trail with World Expeditions.

Adventurers, GHT, Heather Hawkins

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