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Published: July 16th 2013
Today was a very long of hiking. We woke up at 4am in Ghorepani and we were supposed to hike up to Poon Hill to see the sunrise. Rather, that is more the itinerary for trips not in June, July or August. During these monsoon months, it's fairly unlikely that you will get a view from the top, so sunrise is not so much the priority as waiting for the rain to cease and the clouds to go away are. So at 4am there was a torrential downpour of a kind I've never seen or heard before, so we delayed our start a bit later. In fact this heavy rain had been going on since 4pm yesterday. I always figured it just couldn't rain this hard forever, and there can't possibly be that much rain in the sky. But apparently it can, and there is. Although the rain sucks, the problem is more the clouds that brought the rain which were blocking any view you could possibly see.
Anyways we waited in until 6am, and just listened to the hard pouring rain hitting the tin rooftops. At 6am it was still raining and we weren't sure what to do. We
knew that we had an 8 hour trekking day ahead of us, but the possibility of going on the Poon Hill Teahouse Trek and not hiking up Poon Hill was just not us. Besides, at least I was hoping we'd get above the clouds and there would be peaks popping up above them. By the time we got ready to go, probably closer to 7:00am, the rain had temporarily stopped, but it was still very cloudy around the mountains. We decided to venture up to Poon Hill and try to see whatever we could.
We left our bags at the hotel because we had to come back that way anyways, and hiked up to the top of Poon Hill. It took us about an hour to hike up the 1.5km up hill to the top (elevation 3,210m). If you count total fog as a view, then we had a view from the top. If not, there was absolutely no view and nothing to see except greyness. From the top one should be able to see a panoramic view of the Annapurna Himalayan mountain range with 6 major mountain peaks (and many other smaller or related peaks) in sight. We
saw none. Oh well, weather can't always be perfect and we are hiking during monsoon. It just hurts to be so close to an amazing view yet so far. But at least for these 2 hours we didn't get rained on at all.
So we hiked down after that and it was much quicker. We had a big breakfast at the hotel and got ready to go. Then the rain came back in full force as we were heading out the door for the rest of the days trek. The rain continued for hours and it didn't take very long for us to get soaked right through. The rain itself is not so bad (although we were so high up that it was a bit cold), but the rain brings those pesky leeches that we've been pretty fortunate not to experience really until now.
The first part of the trek took us uphill through the woods. This took even longer because we stopped probably every few steps to check for leeches. Some of them were pretty big but the majority of them were quite small. Inevitably each time we stopped, we'd have at least 1 or 2 leeches
Approaching the Top
But, we can tell the view is not going to be spectacular.
crawling up our shoes. They rarely ever reached our legs though, probably because of our compulsive checking. The guide had a home made stick with a sack of salt on it, which helped in the quick removal of the tricky leeches, but generally we tried to just flick them off. Occasionally they'd be trying to burrow in our shoelace holes and that's when we'd panic more and the guide would come running. Elysia was glad to see that she wasn't the only one worried about the leeches now — so were Mike and Katie (and I don't think I've ever seen Mike so worried about bugs before!) But with all the rain and all the leeches you surprisingly become used to them and stop caring as much about them. I feel like we can compare the leeches here to diarrhea in Egypt (sorry for the gross analogy but if you read our blog for Egypt you'd know what I'm talking about). At first it's a big deal and you try everything to avoid it, but after awhile it just keeps coming back and there's nothing to do so you just deal with it, it doesn't bother you as much (well
We Made It!
Us at the Poon Hill Summit. 3,210 metres (10,531 feet) high, and we earned every step!
up to a point — see later) and you can laugh about it with your friends. Ultimately with so many leeches around, you just can't care as much anymore and it doesn't frighten you. I (Elysia) told the leeches to come on and suck my blood!!! This actually came back to bite me in the ass later...
After awhile down the path, they became fewer and smaller because there wasn't any cow or buffalo traffic at this part, and they like to feed on those animals. This became a huge relief to us. But it was still pouring rain and we were completely soaked from head until toe. The rain let up probably about 3 hours into the hike.
Having survived this ferocious bought of leeches, we are happy to report that the committee has met and decided to award each of us the very elusive "Golden Checkmark (First Class)".
At one point we started a downhill descent between two mountain faces, like in a gully. It was really neat because we got to see the very interesting flora and fauna of the Himalayas. I for one was blown away about how tropical these mountains of the
The View from Poon Hill
That is, the view on a clear day.
Himalayas are. I guess I always figured that the mountains were much like ours back home, but that's not at all true. You almost get the feeling of walking through a tropical rainforest. In fact, there are even tigers and monkeys in these mountains. Tigers are a rare find but we were keeping an eye out for the monkeys. The cool thing about the gully is that because it had been raining so hard, the small mountain streams were overflowing with water. The water was just rushing down the mountain forming huge, beautiful waterfalls. Even the path that we were climbing down on turned into a rushing river with water flowing around our feet as we walked.
When we reached the bottom of that mountain (or at least out into a clearing from the jungle) we came to a little town (made up of 2 guesthouses of course) called Banthati and we had lunch in a little rustic cabin there. We were soaked and it was a bit cold but we had some hot chocolate and warm food.
After lunch we continued to walk along the gully and then crossed the river and started climbing up the other
side. There still weren't very many leeches here, so we had much less frequent breaks to check for leeches. We made our way up to a town called Tadapani, where we could have stopped for the night, but we wanted to make it to Ghandruk for the night (2.5 hours away), to make tomorrow an easier day. At Tadapani it was actually sunny there, and it hadn't rained for a little while. We stopped to speak to some Dutch Trekkers and fueled up with water and continued on our way through the jungle.
About 20 minutes back in the jungle on the way down the mountain we heard some rustling and saw some black dots up in the canopies of the trees. They were monkeys!! Not just one, but a whole bunch of black langur monkeys that swung from tree to tree and watched our every move. I definitely never expected that not only there are jungles in the Himalayas, but also that there are monkeys in these jungles! And I definitely never expected to see them. We stopped and watched them in awe for quite some time. Some of the monkeys had their little babies attached to them.
They were quite far away in the treetops from us, but they were very easy to see.
Although we could hang out and watch monkeys all day, we were terrified that the rain would start again. Also, we had about 2 hours left in the hike to go and it was 5 pm so we had just over 2 hours until the sun set, so we had to get going and push on harder. By this time we had been walking for about 6 hours and we were getting pretty tired. As it turns out, hiking downhill is more tiring than going up.
Unfortunately, the rain did come back, and with a vengeance. Once again we were completely soaked (we had dried up a bit during the brief period of sun). Of course again we were on patrol for leeches, which Devman told us there would only be the small ones at this part. At one point we had to move toward the side of the trail (mountainside) because a herd of donkeys was passing by us (don't want them to push you over the edge when they pass). This was a very tragic moment for
me, however, because this allowed the perfect opportunity for 3 hungry leeches to jump onto my person. Talk about violation! I didn't notice at the time because you can't feel them at all, but after the donkeys had passed, I took a few steps and started scratching my ear, by total fluke. When I felt behind my ear, it felt like there was a leech there! I called out to anyone to help me, because I couldnt see it at all to get it off. Mike came to my rescue first and found another one on my left cheek!!! So he was trying to get that one off while the other one continued to squirm around my right ear. When the cheek leech was gone, Mike looked for the behind-the-ear leech, but couldn't find it. Devman, the guide, came and looked too. He couldn't see anything either. Then I turned my head and they could see it... it had gone into my ear!! That's why they couldn't see it. Devman came to my rescue and pulled the leech out of my ear (it was in the inside top of my ear where the cartilage is — the pinna not the
On the Trail Again
This time in the rain. We have one or two more major ascents before it is downhill for the rest of the trip. We were about to meet an army of leeches.
So although trekking in the summer months sucks because you don't get the same amazing view that actually does exist behind those clouds, there are some advantages:
1. No people. Apparently these trails get very crowded. We went hours and hours without seeing a soul, so you really feel like you're out exploring nature.
2.The waterfalls. They're crazy!! Outside of monsoon, these rivers turn into streams or just dry up. It was awesome seeing the raging waters, and it was especially fun having to cross them on the path.
3. The leeches. Ok not such a good thing, but they exist. Sometimes as tourists we go to places during the perfect season and don't really experience it the way the locals do. Life isn't always rosy, and experiencing the leeches gives you a perspective on life on the mountain that not a lot of people get. It's a different experience anyhow, and very character testing that's for sure.
All this being said, I am really sad that we didn't get to see the mountains today. We were really lucky with getting some views yesterday (Devman tells us that many people trekking during the summer months don't
The leeches have relented for the moment, but they are soon to come back with a vengeance. The parts of the trail that are frequented by cattle are the worst for leeches.
see anything ever!), so ill take that. I guess I'll just have to come back when I'm not constrained to summers because of school.
Today's Trek by the Numbers
Starting Elevation: 2,852 m (9,357 feet)
Starting Place: Gohrepani, Nepal (28.402517 N, 83.700050 E)
Peak Elevation: 3,216 m (10,551 feet — 2 miles!)
Peak Location: Poon Hill, Nepal (28.400024 N, 83.689552 E)
Ending Elevation: 2,015 m (6,611 feet)
Ending Place: Ghandruk, Nepal (28.375498 N, 83.808052 E)
Total Vertical Climb (included all the ups in the ups and downs): 1,682 m (5,518 feet)
Distance Traveled over Ground: 19.85 km (12.33 miles)
Pace: 28:53 minutes/km (46:29 minutes/mile)
Hiking Time: 9:33:26
Calories Burned: 6,833
(Note: The battery in our iPhone died about one kilometre from Ghandruk, and so the values above assume a straight line path from the point that it died to the point that we stopped.)
You can see a detailed and interactive map of our route, along with a 3D video of our path here: Interactive Map and Video of Route
A Bit About Our Guide
Today was a fantastic day, in no small part to our wonderful guide. We thought we would share his contact information in case any other travellers
are planning a Nepal trek and looking for a guide. If you are, get in touch with Devman Tamang - he will take care of you and knows all there is to know about trekking in Nepal and all of the different routes. We would strongly recommend him, without any hesitation! Here is how you can get in touch with him:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Devman's Tour Company Website: Himalayan Nepal Trek Devman's Facebook Page
Telephone: +977 9849278906
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