After our week of ‘training’ with Jude & Simon, Rob & I were keen to do a longer trek. Along with Mum & Harry we took a travel-sick inducing minibus to Pokhara and stayed at The 3 Sisters Guesthouse. It’s owned and run by Lucky, Dicky and Nicky Chhetri, who are also pioneers in providing female trekking guides in the Himalayas. It’s a simple but very homely place and we ended up staying there on and off for about two weeks. Mum & Harry had a couple of days of their trip left so we explored the local highlights; hiking up to see the Peace Pagoda overlooking the lake and heading up to the little village of Sarangkot for sunrise, to see the incredible view of the Annapurna mountains. We waved Mum & Harry goodbye as they drove away to the airport in a typically tiny Nepali taxi. Rob and I were going to have to rely on each other’s company again…..;)
But we didn’t have time to dwell on their departure; the next day, we began our long hike to Annapurna Base Camp….!
Day 1: Phedi to Landruk (6 hours)
– there’s no easy start; the trail climbs steeply from Phedi to Dhampus, then up through forest to Pothana.
– we missed the views promised on the map as we climbed up to Pittam Deurali then down through Bhedi Kharka and Tolka, because the mist came down and it rained!
– stayed in Maya Guesthouse in the Gurung village of Landruk (1565m) where we were the only customers!
– spent the evening being tormented by the owner’s young daughter who kept showing off while we were eating; dancing on tables, etc – not very relaxing!
Day 2: Landruk to Chomrong (4 hours)
– set off before 7am and walked down to the river past grazing cows and jumping goats.
– crossed over the fast-flowing water on a very long, extremely rickety wooden bridge, before going through the hamlet of New Bridge.
– climbed steeply up to Jhinu, then up even higher to Chomrong (2140m) where we got a room at the International Guest House.
– met an Aussie lady called Judy who managed to scare us into thinking we weren’t prepared for the higher altitude!
Day 3: Chomrong to Dovan (5 hours)
– neither of us felt very well so it was a difficult and slow climb down to another river and then back up to Sinuwa.
– walked through a Bamboo forest to get to a village called Bamboo!
– we were made to feel stupid here by several guides who said it was really busy further up the trail (with one group of 44 people) and we should’ve booked a guide (!) to ensure we had a place to stay…!
– despite that we managed to get a room at the Tip Top Guesthouse in Dovan (2505m) which was good because it rained all afternoon.
– the staff insisted on showing WWF Wrestling on an ancient TV all evening!
Day 4: Dovan to Machapuchre Base Camp (5 hours)
– both woke up feeling horrendous but decided to get a bit further up the trail, especially as it was good weather.
– whizzed through the village of Himalaya, spotting monkeys en route and then surprisingly arrived at Deurali about an hour ahead of schedule (it was 10am).
– we bumped into a group of Malaysian doctors who we’d met the day before (Ana, Ana, May, Sheila & Puven) and decided to carry on to Machapuchre Base Camp, or MBC (3700m).
– after navigating some avalanche-prone gullies, we made it to MBC before the afternoon rain set in and stayed in the Ganga Purna Hotel.
– met a lovely Canadian girl called Hye-Yeon (originally from Korea) who gave us some antibiotics for our upset stomachs – the perfect traveller gift!
Day 5: Machapuchre Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp – then back to Dovan! (6.5 hours)
– the big day had arrived; we set the alarm for 4.45am and set off for Annapurna Base Camp, known as ABC (joined by Hye-Yeon and two Swiss girls called Jasmine and Manwella).
– it was dark when we left but you could just see the shadow of the huge mountains surrounding us. The climb wasn’t that steep but difficult under foot; we mostly trekked on snow and ice.
– about halfway up we met a large group of male and female porters coming down – one was wearing flip-flops so we couldn’t really complain!
– reached ABC (4,130m) at 6.45am and just in time to see a stunning view as the sun rose over Machapuchre (also known as the Fish Tail Mountain).
– we were surrounded by these incredible peaks with a natural amphitheatre (carved out of the rock by a glacier) below. Annapurna South and Annapurna 1 made a very brief appearance through the high clouds before the mist crept quickly up the valley. Within five minutes we found ourselves in a whiteout! But we’d seen what we came for, and we slipped and slid our way back down to MBC for a welcome bowl of porridge feeling on top of the world 🙂
– the adrenalin helped us to trek on down the trail and we arrived at Dovan again by early afternoon, not quite escaping the rain…!
Day 6: Dovan to Ghurjung (6 hours)
– around the communal breakfast table, one Nepali guy insisted on telling us about every person who’d died doing the ABC trek. I’m extremely glad we didn’t meet him on the way up!
– unscathed, we set off with Hye-Yeon to Bamboo, then down through Sinuwa, before climbing up the very steep and long flight of stone steps to Chomrong.
– we’d been dreaming about a so called ‘German Bakery’ there which sold real coffee, so that’s what we had as our hill-climb reward (along with a rather stodgy chocolate danish).
– said our goodbyes to our Canadian friend (what is it with us and Canadians?!) and turned right to Ghurjung, getting to the Green View Lodge in time for a late lunch.
Day 7: Ghurjung to Ghorepani (7 hours)
– we thought we’d done the hard bit but this was the most difficult day by far as we climbed up for about 6 hours!
– after about 2.5 hours we reached Tadapani and were rewarded with a breathtaking view of the mountains we’d been so close to a couple of days before.
– I had a bit of a sense of humour failure when the map proved to be inaccurate…!
– after going down and up through yet another valley we reached a seemingly never ending hill; up and up following a river and then along a ridge. Rob threw his poles out of the pram (!) but we eventually made it to the top and spotted Ghorepani ahead.
– collapsed thankfully with a welcome Dhal Bat at the Snowland Lodge.
Day 8: Ghorepani up to Poon Hill then down to Nayapul (6.5 hours)
– our ‘good nights sleep’ didn’t happen – mainly due to paper thin walls and a very noisy family!
– got up at 4am and walked up to Poon Hill (a local lookout point) to see the sunrise over the Annapurna region. Luckily the view was worth it, and we were down again in time for breakfast.
– we’d squeezed what could’ve been about four days into two and by this stage we were running on adrenalin and mars bars.
– it was 95% downhill today, which was a good contrast after the previous day, but our knees were not best pleased! We sped down the mountain trail and by the time we reached Nayapul we were fairly euphoric.
– really fancied a good meal to celebrate but after waiting an hour for food at one place, we gave up and settled for some dusty crisps and a bottle of fanta to share!
– it was heaven to arrive back at The 3 Sisters Guesthouse in Pokhara; have a shower, eat a pizza and drink a beer!
I’m not going to lie – the trek was tougher than we both thought. But the challenge was worth it. There’s something very satisfying about completing an extended hike to the base camp of a proper mountain – following in the footsteps of so many adventurers and pioneers. I think this may be just the start of our ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ phase (to quote the legendary Tina Turner…!) 🙂