The Travelling Trooper Hikes Poon Hill (Day 3)

Today we’d get the money shot.

We woke at 5:15 am and were out the door at 5:30. We walked up stairs pretty much non-stop for close to an hour in darkness. The climb to the observation tower took us from 2700 metres up to 3200 in just under an hour. It was a breeze, though, since we’d left our bags back at the hotel. I was practically sprinting up the steps!

As we approached the lookout point, light began to poke its head over the horizon, painting the sky in a crimson orange.

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When the observation tower came into view, we began to hear chatter. I was shocked to see the number of people up there. This was what low season looked like?!

We hung around waiting for the sun to ring in the start of the new day. It was amazing to see the day come to life like that, like the curtain rising on the world’s largest stage.

We stayed up there for around for an hour or so taking pictures. For the first time, I was actually cold. I wore my jacket, gloves, and toque. (That’s a Winter hat, for my non-Canadian friends.)

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The climb back down to the hotel obviously asn’t nearly as fun, since my knees and I always hate the descents, but it was bearable because I knew I had two pancakes waiting for me back at the hotel.

After breakfast, Prakash led us out at 8:30. We had officially climbed to the highest point of the trek at the viewpoint, so that meant it was going to be mostly downhill from here on out. Or at least I thought it would be. This day proved to be the most difficult day of the hike because of the amount of stairs we had to descend, but amazingly enough, we didn’t lose or gain any altitude. We were still hovering at around 2700 when we reached Tadapani.

Nonetheless, this was actually my favourite day of the hike. Just look at those pictures! Hills painted brown and green in the foreground, with snow-capped mountains towering above them, reaching up to touch the gorgeous clear blue skies; forests filled with the sounds of flowing streams and calling birds; the sunlight coming in through the trees to gently touch kiss your face. It was a perfect day

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It was just crazy how much more difficult the hike was with my backpack once again weighing me down though. And man, some of those steep steps were murder on the way down! It had honestly never occurred to me until this particular day, after I had a chance to walk without my backpack, that the reason I was struggling so much with this hike was the added weight on my shoulders, which of course, put extra pressure on my knees with every single steps.

That, combined with the lack of hiking poles, and it was no wonder the hike was proving to be so difficult. And here I was thinking I was just getting out of shape or something. Phew! Guess I won’t be needing a gym membership when I get back to Toronto after all! (Truth be told, it’s probably a little bit of column A, and a little bit of column B.)

We only hiked four hours, but it was easily the most difficult day. By the time we reached the hotel my calves were on fire. I tried to bend over to touch my toes, and I was shocked to see how littled I could bend without my calves feeling like they were going to burst. It ddn’t help that the 5:15 wakeup didn’t give me time to stretch.

We arrived at our hotel, I had lunch with my Spaniard friend, who was unfortunately only there for a brief pit-stop before continuing his hike, showered, read, napped, and woke to some raucous action coming from downstairs. I went down to check it out and was pleased to see a lively room. We had spent the previous night in a brutally quiet hotel. There had been only three other guests aside from us, and none of them seemed keen to mingle.

We spent the rest of the evening among an international group of Dutch, American, Hungarian and Indonesian. Before we knew it, it was well past everybody’s bedtime. We enjoyed some laughs, shared stories, consumed local “wine,” and even learned a new magic trick. (I put quotes around wine because what the locals in the mountains call wine, you and I would call moonshine. Prakash explained that the strong stuff has an alcohol content of 80%. The stuff he gave me was ONLY 50.)

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