From Pokharra, we decided to do a “little” trek up in the mountains. We hadn’t planned on going to Nepal so we hadn’t brought any gear. Luckily, the main street is lined on both sides with loads of shops selling tea, handmade paper, books, Buddhas, T shirts, snacks, and trekking gear. We loaded up on rain “proof” stuff and snacks. They said it wouldn’t be cold. Dun dun dun. We also got our 2 permits from the permit office near the tourist bus station.
We checked out lots of blogs and websites before going and read that a guide or porter isn’t really necessary. We just hired a taxi and got dropped off way out there in Nayapul. It’s a town at the very start of the trail. The road went up and down mountains just to get to the start.
Day 1, we stopped for breakfast which took nearly 2 hours as we watched the family get the kids ready to walk to school. Then we checked our permits in with the rangers and it started to rain just as we began actually walking on the trail. A little boy followed us and giggled as we over-reacted to him poking our backpacks. After about an hour and a half, we decided to look at a map. We realized we went the wrong way. Already. We had intended to go to Ghorepani and then evaluate whether or not we wanted to go to the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). We had gone right not left from the ranger station. We considered going back but decided instead to continue on. Fine. We’ll go up to ABC straight away instead. Somehow on day 1 we persevered for one of our longest journeys- 7 hours of hiking not including our tea breaks. I felt each step of the last 2 hours but we eventually made it to Ghandruk. There was a beautiful rainbow that formed as rain started to fall just after we dropped our backpacks in the hotel- this is the “tea house trek,” which means there are places to stay and eat along the way. We got tablets so we can convert any water into clean drinking water in half an hour before starting too.
Day 2, We walked through town and saw there were loads more guesthouses and shops, even a bakery! We made our way into the forest and found a stretch FULL of leeches. It was terrifying as they all wiggled their wormy bodies into the air, smelling for a body to grab onto and suck blood out of. We stopped periodically to push them off of our shoes. We coated our shoes with salt to try to prevent more. We passed a herd of cows with massive leaches fat with blood on their faces and bodies. We made it to the crest at Komrong Danda and had lunch. Then we descended 450 meters down the hill to cross a river at the bottom of the valley just to hike straight back up the other side. We made it to Chhomrong a little after the rain started. Just in time to be soaked.
Day 3, I woke up feeling a little sick so we rested before heading out. We again went way down a valley and then up the hill on the other side, even higher. Then back down, down, down into a bamboo forest to a quiet nook of a stop called (logically enough) Bamboo. There our dal baht was accompanied by bamboo shoots and was one of the best versions we had. We combined some of our snacks- honey, peanut butter, raisins, nuts, and oatmeal to make little Temple Balls of protein to keep us nourished as we walked.
Day 4, was a steep step trail. The trail went up and down and up again. That’s always hard, because it seems semi-counterproductive with a main goal of going up. We trekked up a section of trail that the map had labeled, “canyon muddy trail” but in this season, it was essentially walking through an icy cold stream. We could see lots of waterfalls. We made it to Himalaya and settled in for a cozy nap. I started taking medicine for Acute Mountain Sickness. I felt dizzy frequently and it seemed to help.
Day 5 was a day we’d been dreading the whole way. It was forecasted as “heavy rain.” It was true. We decided to trudge out into it anyway. We promised ourselves tea at Deurali. I just told myself to think of the tea and had an internal debate between lemon tea and masala tea as I trudged through rushing waterfalls and pouring rain. We finally saw the town and we were terribly disappointed to find buildings with lights on but no sign of life. Who will sell me my tea? How will I get warm? Is this still fun? I thought to myself as I started to cry. We geared up to move on and found about 10 feet further up the trail there was an open tea house after all (we’d been told there was at least one house open at each village, but had lost hope). We ordered tea and omelets and nearly stopped for the night. After lunch, the rain feigned at stopping and we decided to push on to Machapuchre Base Camp, the last stop before the top: Annapurna Base Camp. We saw some of clearest weather yet, with nice views of waterfalls rushing over the mountains and green valleys and a snow cave. Fog snuck up the valley behind us and we listened to the thaaru (goats) on the hillside. We saw the camp just before the fog covered everything. We cuddled into the bed for most of the afternoon. The man running this
camp was a proud Nepali, full of stories of his father the British Gurkha Army soldier.
Day 6 was the last day of climbing up. It rained all morning. It’s only 2 hours to ABC and we knew we had to just do it. Just after we left, the rain let up a little bit and we got a nice view of Machapuchre mountain. It was also nice to see the valley in the thin fog. A stream ran through the middle and both sides were sprinkled with wildflowers in the field before the tall mountains bordering the scene. We crested a hill and saw the camp- not much higher, just a bit of a distance to go. I nearly cried with the sense of accomplishment. We took several photos with the sign “heartily welcoming” us to ABC, 4130 meters above sea level. We basically stayed in bed all afternoon because it was too cold to leave, even once we acquired 2 blankets each! We had a nap and when we woke up, everyone was clambering over a precious glimpse at the mountains in uncommon clear weather. We got lots of photos before the fog crawled into the valley. It’s amazing to see it move.
Day 7, we woke up to sunshine. It was the warmest sunshine I think I’ve ever felt. We ordered potatoes with cheese and veggies and egg then wallowed in the morning. After a long photo session and smiling session, we made out way down to Dovan. This descent took us 6 hours, a distance we covered in 2.5 days going up! It turned out to be our favorite camp. It was in a sunny clearing and they had nice hot showers and a friendly manager. While we waited for dinner, he asked, “You like tv?” We watched a documentary about elephants.
Day 8, the sun was out again so we hung our clothes to dry a bit. Then when we finally left, we saw a group of monkeys and Noa nearly stepped on a snake!! It was black and maybe 5 feet long! We let it pass before continuing. We went up and down and up again to Chhomrong. It was incredibly steep. I counted each 100 steps then let myself have a short break to breathe. The nice white two-story guesthouse we stayed at on the way up was closed so they sent us down a side path to Ghandruk, with another guesthouse 5 minutes further. At this point, we changed our plan. We will take this path tomorrow instead, leeches or no leeches and finish this thing tomorrow!
Day 9, we woke up early, got a nice glimpse of the mountains and then booked it down hill. I slipped at one point and banged my elbow, but overall we made it pretty unscathed throughout the trip. One leach bite each. This new route seemed much more direct and was an interesting new view of rice paddies in terraces and villages. We finished our trek at Sinai, where a bus was waiting. It tottered down the hill and teetered on the edge of the cliffs. The money collector had to hop out to move a rock from time to time. When we were nearly in town, we traded to a taxi to take us directly to our hotel, warm shower, clean clothes, wifi, and electricity.
Sighhhhh. We made it.