Annapurna base camp trek part 3

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November 23rd 2019
Published: November 23rd 2019
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Day 9 of the trek - November 11 - from Nepal Hiking Team itinerary. Bamboo to Jhinu Danda (1780m/5840ft. duration 6 hours. We shall hike the trail to Chhomrong, passing through Khuldighar where the people have established an experimental sheep farm, the journey paved with the abundance of our national flower, Rhododendrons, blooming in colors of red, white and pink, contrasting to the primary of glaucous green of the bamboo forests. From Chhomrong, the trail descends steeply to Jhinu Hot spring where you can respite in the naturally salubrious hot spring and have an interlude and rejuvenate yourselves.

The second to last day and although we are still descending, we know there is an uphill slog from the suspension bridge after Sinuwa to Chhomrong (see day 5). 2550 stairs on this section alone! It would be so much easier if the stairs were uniform instead of ranging from shallow to steep and high. By now I am really thanking my Ladysmith hill training (on both the streets and surrounding trails to heart lake, as well as the Chemainus stairs). The only day my legs have been sore was after that second day flight of 3,300 stairs.

After reaching Chhomrong,
we turned left and headed steeply downhill towards Jhinu Danda. There were lots of mule trains sharing the trail now, and it was definitely in the best interest of humans to get off the trail - mules carrying propane tanks take up the whole trail! It was another hot day and I felt for those hikers who were coming up the steep trail.

Jhinu Danda is a very pretty place clinging to the hill side. It’s claim to fame is the hot springs which were a further 20 minutes steep walk downhill to the Modi Khola and a 30 minutes steep up afterwards. But what the heck, what is a few more stairs. Before getting in one of the 2 hot springs, everyone had to shower - which for me meant standing under the warm water shower and getting wet. Not so for the many asian guys - they took showering seriously!!!!! There they were, standing in their undies, turning white from head to toe with the amount of soap they used, washing down the front of their undies, then the back and then their face. Rinse, repeat, rinse repeat!!!! Too funny.

We had our usual debrief after dinner - how was your day, how was the food. And then the plan for the following day - we were given a choice of hiking for an hour or so and then catching a Jeep to Nayapul, or hiking the whole way to Nayapul. We could tell that Ram preferred we do the former, especially as he emphasized that a lot of walking would be on the road with a lot of traffic. But we decided that as we had signed up for a 10 day trek, we would walk out!

Actual walking statistics today - 29,370 steps and 17.58 km

Day 10 - November 12 - from Nepal Hiking Team itinerary - Jhinu Danda to Pokhara (910 m/2985 ft) via Nayapul - duration 5hours. On this day, we shall depart from the Jhinu hot spring and excuse by the right bank of Modi Khola for 5 hours to Birethanti, enjoying the most relaxing and reposing walk of the entire trip, all gilded with the grace of the river birds fishing for prey and the solemn ambiguity of the flowing river under an azure sky. We shall then reach Nayapul, and after an hour’s drive, we will
be back to Pokhara.

I am so glad we hiked out the whole way. It was long and hot, but relatively easy and we passed though the most beautiful farmland - baby goats, fields of rice, barley and millet (we saw ladies picking millet which is used for the local wine rakshi), rice cutting, barley (or maybe rice) sheafs being stacked, heavy loads being carried by women and young men, flowers everywhere - and the beautiful river flowing along side. Even the road wasn’t that bad, although we did have to move well out of the way for the buses. And of course I can’t forget the suspension bridge we had to cross shortly after leaving Jhinu - 300 m long and 350 m above the river. Surprisingly it was a lot more stable than the many shorter ones we can already crossed And finally we are back in Nayapul where we met up with Bim and Sheba and our bags (they had taken the Jeep so looked well rested). Ram stopped by the TIMS to acknowledge our safe return and then it was off to Pokhara by Jeep.

Walking statistics today - 33,115 steps and 22.7km.

Interestingly enough, most itineraries say that the route to Annapurna Base Camp (including Poon Hill) is 90 to 100km. Yet everyone who tracked the total distance agreed that it about 160km - it sure felt that long, trekking up and down mountainsides.

The trek was over and already I am forgetting how hard some of the uphill was. Would I trek in the Himalaya again? Absolutely! But I would choose a route with less stairs!!! Personally I am very happy with how my body held out - very minimal side effects (fingers and cheeks tingling intermittently) from taking Diamox (altitude medication) and no headaches - I was taking inbruprohen three times a day as directed by the travel medical clinic - maybe it helped, maybe I just got lucky. And no tummy complaints either! Overall, while we complained about some of the accommodation, it beat the heck out of camping and the rooms and beds (foam mattresses) were clean and comfortable. It was certainly easy having everything organised for us - there were lots of people trekking independently - but it was nice, not having to make decisions!!! Everything was already paid for except for water (anything from 100
NRS (roughly USD $1) to 170 NRS for a litre), and any hot drinks during morning and afternoon trekking breaks. Wifi was readily available (for a reasonable cost) and mobile reception seemed to great everywhere as evidenced by the porters and guides chatting on their mobiles while trekking. Hot showers (I had 2) were also fairly available as was charging electronic devices - again, for a reasonable cost. Every lodge had its associated dining room and we noticed signs in rooms that stated that if you stayed there but chose to eat elsewhere, you would be charged a food fee anyway - providing rooms, food and other miscellaneous services is how these folks make a living. With small mountain villages (sometimes seemingly built for the purpose of catering to trekkers) every couple of hours or so at the most, it was also easy to buy the occasional package of cookies. So overall, rather civilised.

I cannot speak highly enough of Nepal Hiking Team - Ram, Bim (who was 61) and Sheba always had a smile on their faces and were so helpful. The company owner Ganga was so prompt in returning emails. He met us again on our arrived
back into Kathmandu (still a couple of days away) as well as on departure day, with Ram escorting us all on our various journeys to the airport.

Back in Pokhara it was simple pleasures like a long hot shower and great coffee. We had an additional day here and it was spent on some last minute shopping - for me, that meant buying one more cheap Tibetan bracelet to round off the two I had already bought while trekking. For lunch we visited the Indian street food stands by the lake side for delicious samosa chaat (samosas, channa masala, gram flour vermicelli, yoghurt, fresh herbs and chillies). A final glass of awesome mint lemonade and next up was the Jeep ride back to Kathmandu - apart from the very slow sections leaving Pokhara and then going back up the switch backs into Pokhara, it was actually a reasonable drive this time.

One more day in Kathmandu and we ventured to Patan (a long hot 6 km walk from Thamel) which was once a city by itself but is now considered a suburb of Kathmandu. The Durbar Square (damaged heavily in the 2015 earthquake) appeared to be mostly restored,
unlike the square in Kathmandu. It was totally worth the 1000 NRS entry fee to view to east facing temples and the west facing palace (home of the Malla dynasty up to 1779. Most of the current architecture was done around 1600. Within the palace itself there were beautiful courtyards, lots of detailed brick and wood work (Newari architecture)as well as the occasional gold gilded imagery.

On the final night I finally broke down and had Dal Bhat - while it was delicious, I was so glad I did not eat it on the trek as it was not really a “tummy satifisfying” meal after a long day. We are all suffering from niggling colds or coughs from the pollution but overall, it is not as dire here as the guidebooks warned, but we were careful with food and water all the time.

November 16 is departure day - my three travel companions are heading back home while I move on to Thailand. I am travelling very light by now as my cold weather clothes are heading back to Vancouver where I will meet them again in a few weeks . During the drive out to the airport,
I asked Ram what was happening in 2020 as there were so many “visit Nepal in 2020” signs everywhere. He said the government was trying to promote tourism but where not putting any money into it. The tourism sector wanted the domestic airport improved - maybe they should think about improving the international terminal and process as well..... but that is another whole story!

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