When I was 17, one of my best friends and I sat down and created a “things to do before I’m 30” bucket list. Consisting of life pressing issues such as kissing the boys we fancied, flying the parental nest and learning to drive, the list also featured life affirming tasks and beautiful places to visit around the world. Trekking in Nepal was one of the first things to do on my list.
As it happened, it took until I was exactly 30 years old to finally tick off a trek in Nepal from my list, but boy was it worth the wait! Just 7 months after the disastrous 2015 Earthquake which killed almost 9, 000 people and devastated huge areas of the Kathmandu Valley and beyond, me and two of my closest friends embarked on a journey of a lifetime.
I had been practising Vinyasa Yoga for a couple of years once or twice a week and had fallen in love over time with the way it made my body feel and how it had tamed my busy, over active mind. So when I heard about a company called Purna Yoga – a yoga retreat in Pokhara which offers meditation and yoga retreats, as well as dedicated yoga treks into the surrounding mountains – I knew it was finally time to revisit my bucket list.
After almost two months of travelling across India and Sri Lanka I thought I was adequately prepared for the hustle of Bustle of Kathmandu. I mean, how could anything compare to the craziness of Delhi? About 5 minutes into my arrival I realised I was wrong! Aside from the chaos following the aftermath of earthquake, Kathmandu was like a bubbling pot of fragrant curry: diverse, enriching, frantic and an assault on the senses.
The history, culture and vibrancy of the city was electric, but the soot and noise made it almost unbearable at times. For a couple of days we ventured from Buddhist temple to delicious street food stall, ducking into incense shops and tea cafes whenever possible. Everyone should visit the city once in their lives; but don’t forget to build in time to get out and enjoy the mountain air.
When it was time to take our air conditioned bus toward Pokhara for our Yoga Trek (which was part of our trek package so was organised for us in advance) we couldn’t wait to escape the city smog for some fresh Nepalese air.
Arriving at the Purna retreat a day before our trek was like arriving at a favourite aunts house who welcomes you with love, warm tea and your favourite crochet blanket: it was like coming home. Despite the devastation the earthquake had caused to the business and the homes of the Purna team, we were incredibly touched by the generosity, warmth and serenity we felt on arrival.
High up in the hills, overlooking the stunning glassy Pokhara lake, the retreat was not simply a relief from the busy cities and the Western life we had all hoped to escape from, it was also a reminder that a humble and optimistic life existed in which peace can prevail over natures greatest struggles.
This feeling of humble gratitude continued throughout our 8 day trek as we were joined by two porters and our yoga instructor/trek guide for a gentle trek 3210m up to Poon Hill. We rose early each morning for gentle stretches and guided meditation, followed by a gentle day of trekking through varied terrains and enjoying regular breaks for snacks and refreshments. We ended each day with vinyasa yoga and meditation, and a hearty meal before laying our sleepy heads down in one of the traditional Nepalese Tea Houses we found ourselves at as we ascended the mountains overlooking the spectacular Annapurna Circuit.
My friends and I were lucky enough to be the only ones booked on a trek that week so the week felt like a private tour in which we could really get to know our guides and porters, and in fact just connect and relax together as an intimate circle of friends. The fresh mountain air, the breathtaking views, the meditation, the yoga, the giggles, the moans…so many emotions passed through us on this short but life changing journey! I couldn’t recommend it enough for a group of friends to experience to create lasting memories and connections.
The nights were cold, the “gentle” treks felt like our calf muscles were calling us mean names, and – as someone who curses any hour before 8am – the early morning were starting to take their toil on my patience. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the leeches! But when we reached the peak of Poon Hill, where a serene temple sat quietly waiting for us to sit tea and enjoy the 360 degree views, all was forgiven.
On the last day of our trek, tired and hungry, we finished off a long decent through slippery rocks and tricky woodland, we ended our day on a glorious boat ride across the Pokhara river. Soaking up the sun as we made our way back to the retreat for a hot meal, one final yoga and meditation session, before the longest sleep we had enjoyed in days!
Book your Nepalese Yoga Trek
I can not recommend Purna Yoga enough if you are looking to do a yoga trek in Nepal. For approximately £550 we enjoyed an 8 day yoga trek, including transport from Kathmandu, all food and water, accommodation in Tea Houses during trek, and 2 nights at the retreat, trekking permits, cost of the guide and porters and all yoga activities.
They also offer longer and shorter treks, retreat only activities and healing holidays including nourishing food, massage and yoga activities. Such fantastic value for money for the once in a lifetime experience!