Let me take you on a virtual trip to a land where distance is measured in hours…..!!!
And the landscape change at the distance of every few hours…!!!
Rocky hills with dense green moss & water dribbling from it,
To a dry rocky terrain with a stream flowing through it,
To a path laid by the pink petals of the Rhododendron trees,
To the white glaciers with the river rumbling underneath it,
To the snow-capped mountains with the water falls making its way over them,
To lush green bamboo forest,
To a flight of stairs leading to a deep valley,
To a suspension bridge with roaring river under it,
To the beautifully constructed tea tree houses.
This, one trek had it all…!!!
From bright sunny days to dark bone chilling nights,
From torrential rain to the pearl like hailstorm.
We experienced everything in this single trek….!!!
We took the following route:
Kathmandu – Ulleri – Ghorepani – Tadapani – (Chuile) – (Chhomrong) – Sinuwa – (Bamboo) – (Dovan) – Himalaya – (Deurali) – (MBC) – ABC – (MBC) – (Deurali) – (Himalaya) – (Dovan) – Bamboo – (Sinuwa) – (Chhomrong) – Jhinu – Kathmandu
Day 1: (Kathmandu)
We gathered in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal from various parts of India. After a warm welcome in traditional Nepali style, 2 of us decided to utilize rest of the day by taking a short tour of Kathmandu, as we were the first to arrive there apart from the trek leader, Krishnendu & ever jolly local guide, Jas. We visited Darbar square and Boudha stupa. In the evening I took a walk in the zigzag lanes of Thamel market buying souvenirs and trying hands on various types of singing bowls. If one gets to spend a night in Kathmandu, one must experience the night life of Thamel when the pubs & bars get dressed in multicolored lights with music that can be heard in the lanes. As we were to start our road journey the next day, we had mouth-smacking Nepalese thali for our dinner & retired for the day.
Day 2: (Kathmandu to Ulleri)
We started from Kathmandu at 6:40am for Ulleri (the last point of the motorable road) by a SUV. It was a long journey as we left behind the dusty roads of Kathmandu and entered Ulleri to breathe in the fresh mountain air. We covered the distance of 220km in 9hr (including breakfast & lunch breaks in Pokhara).One doesn’t even have to wait for the trek to start to get a glimpse of the Annapurna massif, as a part of the massif can be seen between the mountains in a clear sky day. We stayed in a beautiful tea tree house with a window opening to an awesome view. After our dinner we parted to our rooms to get a good sleep before waking up for the first day of the trek.
Day 3: (Ulleri to Ghorepani)
We woke up early to witness the sunrise from the terrace along with cups of tea. After stretching exercises & breakfast we started for Ghorepani at 8:45am. It was a pleasant day with a trek through the forest and ascend was mainly on the stone steps. We came across the first river with a little waterfall and a scenic bridge (many more followed throughout the trek). We crossed various types of bridges in next eight days, ranging from smaller wooden bridges to long suspension bridges.
The lunch break was in Nangethanti where we all had the delicious Nepalese thali. The post lunch trek was in the rain (early arrival of monsoon). We reached Ghorepani by 2:30pm after the trek of 8.5km. We spent the evening bedazzled with the mighty Himalayan range who stood right outside our window. We retired to our rooms early post dinner, as the next day was supposed to be long one starting at pre-dawn.
Hallmark of Nepal trek- You get variety of food items (Chinese, Tibetan, Italian, Indian) even at the height of the base camp.
Day 4: (Ghorepani to Poon hill to Ghorepani to Tadapani)
“She woke up from the bed early & climbed a kilometer uphill to witness the romance of the mighty Himalaya with the sun.
Gradually the darkness left Poon hill & made a way for the royal entry of the sun.
Dawn was there announcing the arrival of the highness….as she waited eagerly for the rise she had heard so much about.
Pop, the sun came from Machhapuchhre’s arm…. Striking the crowd in awe.”
This was the sunrise for which we started in the dark at 4:20am to climb a kilometer to Poon hill. 1km sounds less but it was a tough steep climb along the beam of light from our headlamps. In an hour time we gained an elevation of approximately 330m and we were on the Poon hill (3210m) with a panoramic view of Dhaulagiri range on our left, Annapurna massif in front and Machhapuchhare on our right. After a little wait, the sun popped from behind Mount Machhapuchhare spreading its rays over rest of the Himalayan range.
We started back from Poon hill for Ghorepani where we had our breakfast and started at 9:30am for Chuile. This was a trek through mesmerizing Rhododendron forest.
“Carefree, she walked through the forest of Rhododendron who was already in love with her.
The wait was over for both of them as he spread the carpet of pink petals for her & she admired him with awe.
Fragrance of love was not only in the air but even on the earth.
This time the love changed it’s colour to pink….as her blushing cheeks took the colour of the rhododendron around her.”
We reached Banthanti at 2pm and as we were having our lunch a torrential rain started, leaving us stranded until 4pm when we decided to slowly trek ahead considering the decreasing intensity of the rain. But we weren’t able to reach our next halt Chuile and had to put up in a tea tree house in Tadapani as it was already 5:45pm. We trekked total 11km this day and spent the evening drying our clothes and having fun time over the dinner.
Day 5: (Tadapani to Sinuwa)
Today we started off early analyzing the rain pattern in the afternoons. We had to reach Sinuwa for our next halt. Throughout the trek I was told the estimated distance to be covered in ‘Hours’. It was only after a day’s trek that I was able to know the actual distance in kilometer after mapping with an app called ‘map my hike’ which uses GPS for tracking the distance.
Today we crossed suspension bridges, various small villages with beautifully decorated houses with colourful flowers, flock of sheeps and more of open spaces as compared to the previous days. After having lunch in Chhomrong we trekked towards Sinuwa, again caught in post lunch shower. We trekked for 12.5km that day and reached Sinuwa by 6:30pm. This was the place where we were receiving even 4G signal on our Ncell network and we utilized it by sending messages to our loved ones back in plain, of our wellbeing.
Every tea tree houses in this route has the facility of hot water from geyser with a payment of nominal fees varying from 100-200 npr per person. Almost every tea tree house has the provision of utilizing the plug points for charging phones or batteries (some were free and at a few places it was charged around 100 npr per device). I carried my power bank but hardly got the chance to use it. Thanks to the electricity in this route. Most tea tree houses on this route has wifi whose password can be accessed by paying around 100 npr per device.
Day 6: (Sinuwa to Himalaya)
This was day when we trekked the longest uphill. We started at 9am trekking from Lower Sinuwa through Upper Sinuwa, Bamboo, Dovan. This time it started drizzling even before the noon, unlike the previous days. We trekked through the dense forests which turned lush green after the monsoon showers. The streams with tiny waterfalls turned more magnificent after receiving the rain water. The dense forest turned into bamboo forest as we reached Bamboo (name of the place). We had lunch in Dovan and continued for Himalaya (again a name of a place). A kilometer before Himalaya, I noticed white pearls dropping on the ground…yes, it was hail. The hailstorm turned the breeze chillier. I faced the most dreadful condition for myself- ‘Hypothermia’. Knowing my shortcoming, I was loaded with layers of clothes but the chilly hailstorm wasn’t in my list for that day. Well, I survived this too. It was a trek of 13km in total.
There had been fire-places in all the tea tree houses till Sinuwa. Unfortunately there is no provision of fire-place beyond Dovan. I had to use bottle filled with hot water as the external source of heat during the episodes of hypothermia (once in Himalaya and another one in ABC). So, the people prone to hypothermia should consider carrying battery operated portable heater for themselves.
We were amazed to find pizza in the menu provided and thought of trying it out. Pizza at the altitude of 2920m was one of the best pizza I ever had in the plains. One will find this luxury of having Italian cuisine at such an altitude only in Nepal (that too in reasonable price of 600 NC for 8 pieced chicken cheese pizza….!!!!).
Day 7: (Himalaya to ABC)
Indigestion started setting in my body (surprisingly I had it at quite a higher altitude as compared to my previous trek experiences) and this was the day when I trekked from Himalaya till Annapurna base camp (ABC) on the bars of Perks. We started at 9am and crossed Lower Deurali, Upper Deurali, Machhapuchhare base camp (MBC) to reach ABC at 6:15pm. We gained the altitude of 1285m covering the distance of 9.5km. Glaciers started beyond Deurali which slowed down our pace.
The gradual shift from the lush green forest to dry rocky landscape then to the snow-capped mountains surrounded by glaciers was an experience to remember. It was a treat to breathe in fresh air as you hear the rumbling of the river appearing from underneath the glaciers, while you witness multiple waterfalls making its way down the mighty mountains. I learnt the technique of walking on the glacier without a crampon (my first glacier trek).
We reached MBC at 2:15pm and started for ABC at 3:15pm. The trek of 3km from MBC to ABC was the toughest as we had to gain an elevation of approximately 420m over the glacier, which took us 3hr. Exhaustion and hailstorm added on the difficulty level. Due to heavy snowfall, most of the tea tree houses on ABC collapsed just before our trek, leaving only 6-bedded lodge functional. So, the most trekkers halted in MBC, to trek up early in the morning for sunrise on ABC. We had our tents with us as we had planned to camp on ABC. Though challenging (especially for me, as I turn hypothermic very rapidly), we were equally excited to experience camping on ABC. Not to mention, this made other trekkers jealous.
It was full moon night and the Himalayan range at 360° around our camp was glowing like LED bulbs. The surreal view of the full moon above mount Machhapuchhare amazed us all. Sub-zero temperature and rumbling of the river from the glaciers around me was enough to bring chills down my spine. There I was brought to a reality check when the only thought in my mind was to survive the bone chilling condition as my palms and soles turned cold, despite all the layers and the sleeping bag. However, I survived this too (I owe this to my trek leader). All were paid off by the unforgettable sunrise we witnessed the next day.
Day 8: (ABC to Bamboo)
We got up from our tents at 5am to a breath-taking (literally) view when we found the honey-hunter, who appeared from nowhere, just at the dawn to sprinkle those snow cladded Himalayan range with the golden honey. I have never been a morning riser and now I don’t wish to see any more sunrises, unless it looks like this. All my senses were awakened by this stunning sunrise. Each one of us were handed a set of prayer flags (arranged by the team leaders) which were tied together to a small temple after a short prayer. We offered incense during the prayer. It was a dream come true to stand at the foothill of the eight-thousander, Annapurna I along with the other peaks of Annapurna massif.
“I met a Himalayan sage up on the base camp,
I bowed to him and lit a lamp:
He offered to send my prayers straight to the heaven,
And help me get rid of all the demons.
I tied the prayer flags with my folded hands,
Praying for the strength that I wished I had;
A cool breeze came and up went those flags,
And so did my prayers woven to the prayer flags.”
After our breakfast, heavy heartedly we started our trek back from the ABC. This was the longest trek with a distance of 16km from ABC till Bamboo. Although downhill for most of the part, walking downhill on the glacier was tricky. At parts we were left with no option but to slide over the glacier…what looked scary that moment was equally fun moment which left memories for us to cherish. Like all the other days, we met with the rain in the afternoon.
We took our lunch in Dovan where sir gave us a warm welcome and continued back with us. Sir stayed back in Dovan as the pony he was riding wouldn’t have been allowed in the Annapurna sanctuary that is beyond Dovan. We reached Bamboo by 6:45pm. All of us turned into story-teller over the dinner as we shared our experiences with sir.
Day 9: (Bamboo to Jhinu)
This day was technically the last day of the trek as the next day was a trek of only 3km to the jeep stand. We started post breakfast at 8am and reached Jhinu at 4:30pm after trekking a distance of 9.5km. We took our lunch in Chhomrong. The small village Jhinu can actually be seen from Chhomrong when looked downhill. It’s a steep descend which made me dizzy at places, as I looked down at the valley vertically below me.
Jhinu was there in this valley, popular for it’s hot spring. Though we were late (last one to be allowed for the entry to the hot spring) we made it for the hot spring to relieve our sore muscles. The hot spring is located at a distance of 2 kilometer from the main village. It was relaxing taking a dip in the water of the hot spring which was made to collect in a man-made pool. There was a constant turnover of the hot water as the fresh hot water filled the pool from one end and a drain on the other side made way for the cooler water. The rapid river just beside the pool of the hot spring made it spooky as the darkness set in. We walked back to the tea tree house, under the torch light sharing the spooky stories. We called off for the day after a sumptuous dinner.
Day 10: (Jhinu to Kathmandu)
After our breakfast, we started at 7:30am, trekking 3km of distance to reach Modque in an hour, where there is a jeep/bus stand. With this, the beautiful trek came to the end leaving lots of sweet memories for us to cherish. We started at 9:30am in a SUV for Kathmandu where we reached at 8:30pm (thanks to the heavy traffic at the entrance of Kathmandu where all vehicles moved like snails). We had our last meal together after refreshing bath. The next day we all had return flights to various destinations at various timings (mine being the first one).
Day 11: (departure from Kathmandu)
With a heavy heart, I said goodbye to everyone wishing to get together soon in another trek. This trek gave us not only friends but a family who made this trek successful and memorable with each other’s support. The most difficult time during whole of this trek was that time when I had to part from my new family. Miss you all.
Summerizing the trek:
“As the trek progressed, we learnt to let free the child within us….
Giggling on the silly things.
Dancing to the rain.
Sledding off the glaciers slopes.
Pulling each other’s legs.
Laughing our hearts out as if no one was watching us.
Not fearing of getting judged.
Not caring of the damn consequence.
In short we lived the present….
The beautiful present to make sweet memories.”
It would be incomplete if I leave without a word of appreciation for our very efficient trek leader, Krishnendu who kept motivating us with his lively approach to the life. He kept cool even in the most stressful situation, constantly changing the strategy as and when required. All of us gave up to the emotional burst at some point or other but his reaction always remained calm and soothing. He possessed a unique way of leading- that is by befriending us. He is a mountaineer who believes in regularly upgrading the skills which keeps inspiring others. Thanks and lots of love to the awesome person.
Token of thanks to our local guide, Jas who made sure that all of us had proper meals on time, adequate rest at night and a safe trek. His lively laughter made us laugh out our hearts no matter how tired we were. It’s difficult to find such person who believed in making relationship unlike others who focus on making business out of trekking.
Cheers to our four porters without whom this trek wouldn’t have been this joyful. All the four (Arjun, Madan, Suman, Suman) mingled with us and were part of the family. It was a pleasant experience sharing those 9 days with them. Love you boys.
The trek to Annapurna base camp has etched on all our minds….inspiring us in various ways….!!!!
Photographs contribution apart from me:
- Anasua & Dwaipayan
- Krishnendu, our trek leader
- Jas, the guide