Annapurna base camp trek part 1

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November 17th 2019
Published: November 17th 2019
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November 1. From Nepal Hiking Team itinerary : Kathmandu to Pokhara (910m/2985ft) Duration: 6-7 Hours by private vehicle. After breakfast, you shall be driven to Pokhara, the second largest city of Nepal. The drive will present you with the opportunity to see the wonderful landscape of terraced farmlands- green and wet with the sowing of rice and barley by the farmers, the frisky rush of the meandering rivers by the highway and the isolated valleys low-lying among the gargantuan hills and rocky gorges. The journey from Kathmandu to Pokhara takes about 6 hours, and upon arrival at Pokhara, we shall check into a hotel, which the city has an abundance of. In the evening, you shall be able to enjoy the respite of a beautiful boat-ride at Fewa Lake and on a clear day, you can see the lucid reflection of Mount Machhapuchhre and the Annapurna Range on the crystalline surface of the water.

Our private vehicle became a 14 passenger van but as we insisted that we get on first (to get the front seats), that was OK. It was only 201 km to Pokhara along the Prithvi Highway with a “theoretical” time of 5.5 hours - 7.5 long
hours later, we finally arrived after averaging about 30 km/hr.

We had thought the air quality in Thamel was bad but as we made our tortuous way up and out of the Kathmandu Valley, we realized we had been fortunate as the air got a lot worse. It was a long switchback descent to the Trisuli River which was wide, clean and glacier fed. And yes, there were beautiful terraced fields of rice and barley but much of the focus was on the crazy (to western eyes) driving. As chaotic and scary as it seemed, no one got impatient, the drivers seemed to be courteous - but it does get a bit intimidating when your van is passing a truck as a bus is rapidly approaching from the opposite direction.

However we arrived safely in Pokhara and then had a full day to enjoy this pretty town. Situated on the banks of the Fewa Lake, it is Nepal’s second largest city and gateway to the Annapurna region. The central or tourist section was fairly compact with brightly lit, clean stores which sold a wide range of handicrafts as well as the requisite hiking clothing and gear. The lake
shore was lined with casual bars and restaurants where it was fun to relax with a cold drink and watch people promenading by. More upscale dining was found along the towns main streets.

Day 1 of the trek November 3: From Nepal Hiking Team itinerary: Pokhara to Tikhe Dhunga (1495m/4905ft) Distance: 9 km, Walking Duration: 4 Hours. After breakfast, we will drive for about an hour to Nayapul (42 km from Pokhara) via the village of Lumle. From here, we will take a short walk to Birethanti, a beautiful prosperous town. The trail follows the main street of Birethanti through absolutely gorgeous bamboo forests and past large waterfalls glimmering with the ethereal light of the sun. Beyond this is the lush pasture bespeckled with foals and stallions mostly used for pulling wooden caravans and carts by people. The trail continues to Ranghai, from where we will gradually up the side of the valley, all the way to Tikhedhunga.

We had each been provided with a large waterproof duffel bag which we packed with our trekking gear along with a sleeping bag and down jacket provided to us. we had one porter between 2 of us and
they carried a max of 25kg. My bag was fairly light thanks to the 7kg carry on limit imposed by Cathay Pacific and I did not have a lot of wardrobe options (1 pair long pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 3 light weight t shirts, 2 merino under layers, 2 varying weight fleeces and of course socks and boots as well as sandals to wear in the tea houses.) All non essentials were left at the Mount View Hotel for our return in 10 days.

At 8:30am, our guide Ram met us at the hotel and we started the drive to Nayapul. A long windy narrow road led steeply up hill from the city and for an hour and a half we were subjected to broken pavement, no pavement, road construction and the occasional decent stretch. Once we reached Nayapul, we met our porters Bim and Sheba who loaded up our duffel bags on their backs and the adventure really is happening. Over the next ten days we realized we were very fortunate to have Ram, Bim and Sheba as our friendly, helpful team. They were always ready with a smile no matter what we needed. A short distance after Nayapul, there was a stop to register us at the Trekkers Information Management Systems (TIMS) in Birethanti and then followed a long walk along a dusty road - however the scenery more than made up for the drudgery - rice fields in various stages of growth, water buffalo tilling fields, marigolds growing everywhere, noisy cicadas and a beautiful river. Our stop at Greenland Restaurant for lunch brought a very pleasant surprise - we had been led to believe (internet reading) that we would be eating Dal Bhat (a watery lentil soup served with rice) most of the time - but the menu was a ride range of soups, noodle and rice dishes - and this was a fairly typical, menu for the days to come. At every meal we could choose one main item off the menu and a tea/coffee. Anything else was extra cost. My standard lunch quickly became veg noodle soup (with chilli added) and a hot lemon drink (all added liquid intake).

After lunch we walked for about 45 very hot minutes up a dusty, switch back road until we finally were able to get onto real trekking trails for the last 45 minutes of the day and our first introduction to the stone stair cases that would become such a challenge over the ensuing days. The first night was spent in the small town of Tikhe Dungha which was pretty much a few tea houses or lodges on either side of the stone trail. Our home for the night was the Manisha guesthouse - pretty basic with plywood walls, a rather smelly squatter toilet and a better sit down toilet on the second level. It was a bit of a concern as we figured the accommodations would get worse as we got higher!! We were all taking Diamox for altitude and as it is a diuretic it was advised not to take it too late at night. But add in the amount of water we were drinking, it did not seem to make a difference - it is so much fun getting out of a warm bed to brave cold and questionable toilets in the middle of the night - but it was all just part of the routine.

Actual walking statistics today 19467 steps and 14 km

November 4 - from Nepal Hiking Team itinerary - Tikhe Dhunga to Ghorepani (2850M/9348FT) Duration 7 hours. From Tikhe Dhunga, the trail requires us to cross a stream by a suspension bridge near a campsite. We shall then ascend upwards, climbing the steep stone steps (about 3300 of them!) to the large Magar village of Ulleri at 2080 meter. We shall climb the elevation from Ulleri, passing dense pasturelands and continue on for an hour until we reach the campsite where we shall stop and have a breather and water. Continuing on the trail, we shall cross two iridescent streams and have a final climb to Nangethanti where we shall stop for luncheon. “Thanti” in Nepali means “a rest house”, and during winter- the trail can be smothered in snow. From Nangethanti, we shall hike to Ghorepani with an elevation of 2850m, and be graced with a spectacular panoramic view of the exalted Mt. Dhaulagiri with the height of 8167m, the Tukuche Nilgiri with its height of 6940m, The Hiunchuli Himal with the elevation of 6441m and the Tarke Kang.

Our first suspension bridge!!!! Nothing scary but it did move a lot as we walked across. This was advertised stair day - all 3300 of them!!!!! . It was around this time that
Ram informed us that the trek to Annapurna Base Camp is actually a lot more physically demanding (because of the stairs) than the trek to Everest Base Camp, but the latter has more high altitude issues. About an hour before we reached our overnight rest stop, a few sprinkles of rain quickly became a downpour and the track turned into a muddy stream. Add a short period of very heavy hail and it was cold, damp trekkers who finally trudged into Ghorepani. A very pleasant surprise awaited as we had rooms with attached bathrooms and there was a toasty wood stove in the common area that was perfect for drying out damp packs. This was also the first place where plastic water bottles were not used - the water was filtered and our water bladders and containers were filled from large refillable water jugs.

Actual walking statistics for today - 22837 steps and 16 km

Day 3 of the trek - November 5 - from Nepal Hiking Team Itinerary- hike to Poonhill (3180M/10430FT), trek to Tadapani (2500M/8200FT) Duration 6-7hours. We shall get up before dawn and continue on the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek to Poonhill. From Poonhill,
you can glimpse the utterly palatial view of the glorious Sunrise over the panoramic vistas of the Dhaulagiri and the Annapurna Mountains, resplendent and magnolias in splendor. After Poonhill, we shall return to Ghorepani, have a hearty breakfast and continue walking to Tadapani.

We got up at the ungodly hour of 4:30am and trudged up step stairs for an hour so we could watch the sunrise over the Annapurna Massif and Dhaulagiri. It was clear and bitterly cold but the view was quite spectacular - however, on the walk back down to Ghorepani we realized the view was just as good from the halfway point. Oh well. Breakfast was memorable in that it was my introduction to Roasty (or Rosti) - a spicy mix of finely chopped potatoes, topped with cheese and eggs - this quickly became a go to breakfast.

This was a day of up stairs, down stairs, dirt trails and scrambling over roots. Much of the day we followed a beautiful rushing steam, through lush bamboo forests, ferns and huge rhododendron trees. Apparently there are 26 varieties of rhodos - it must be quite the sight in the spring (March/April). We also saw some Languur monkeys. It became a rule to stop before looking around to avoid tripping - much of the time it was eyes on ground.

We had done so well on day 1 that Ram decided that our night stop would be in Chuile which was a bit further along and down than Tadapani. The Mountain Discovery Lodge was another very pleasant lodge, perched on the edge of a hill. Nights were definitely cooling down although it was shorts and t shirts during the day. My night time ritual included putting the next days clothing in my sleeping bag with me so it would be warm to put on in the morning. My spare camera battery and ereader also slept with me as I was not sure how the cold would affect their battery life. Heavy comforters provided each night by the lodges added to the warmth of our sleeping bags.

Actual walking statistics today - 32000 steps and 22 km

to be continued ......

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