HIMALAYAN TALES #3: ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP PART ONE (POON HILL)
001. Welcome to this EPIC instalment of my travel journal, where I attempt to cohesively and eloquently summarise almost two weeks of trekking, in one of the most mind-blowing parts of the world, into two hopefully-short(ish)-and-sweet blog posts. Wish me luck!
002. I may as well begin stating the straight up facts and giving you a brief summary of what we embarked on... Ben and myself have NEVER done any trekking (other than day hikes) before in our life, so naturally when in the mountainous Himalayan region of Nepal we decided to undertake a 10 day trek without a guide or without a porter. We chose to do the Annapurna Base Camp Trek combined with the Poon Hill trek, which forms a nice little loop in the Annapurna region without having to backtrack too much. To keep things easy I'm going to be using the names of the places we passed throughout the trek, so HERE is a simple map for those of you playing at home to follow along!
003. I know it sounds crazy to do a trek without a guide or porter, but honestly it wasn't as insane as it sounds. The trek itself was EASY to navigate and if you were ever at a fork in the road a porter or friendly local passing with his donkeys were always more than happy to steer you in the right direction. Carrying your own gear also was fairly simple- don't overpack and you will be sweet (it's not really rocket science). This is a teahouse trek, meaning you stay at little guesthouses along the way and eat meals there too, so really you don't have a reason to be carrying hefty gear (unless you chose camp solo instead). I want to address that we were on a tight budget and felt completely confident in our fitness and self-determination needed to complete the trek. If you are however travelling with maybe a bigger group or budget I would totally recommend hiring the local people of Nepal and to treat them with kindness and respect. From my (very rough) calculations, on the trek we spent about $20-25 a day each, which included lodgings, three meals and snacks along the way. For me, I found this trek challenging but one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things I have ever done. I'm hooked on those mountain endorphins and really would love to return to Nepal to trek another region, or even attempt more multi-day hikes in my own backyard of Australia. For first timers into the trekking world, I really would recommend Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) as a really great starting point! The photos above are in chronological order, so read along and enjoy the imagery too.
Nayapul to Uleri. The first day of our trek began with walking along a dusty road that ran beside a clear blue flowing river and sweating a LOT- something we weren't really expecting. We stopped off for lunch in a village called Hille, nestled among lush green rice fields. Then we began to ascend a part of the trek best referred to as the stairs from hell, that almost seemed never ending. When we arrived at the top to the quaint village of Uleri, our legs were like jelly and we promptly checked into a cosy guesthouse. We filled our bellies with dhal bhat, chatted with other trekkers we met along the way, then dozed off to sleep feeling exhausted and content.
Uleri to Ghorepani. We woke for an early start and were rewarded with a beautiful pink sunrise, peeping over the mountains and showering sunlight into the cobbled village. The trek started with more stairs, then moved into a more dense jungle/forest area. Each day we walked for about 4 or 5 hours (relatively steady paced) but we surprised ourselves on day two with how early we managed to arrive at Ghorepani- our goal for the day. It was probably only lunchtime, but we were pretty exhausted still adjusting to the the trekking life and in no hurry, so we found a room with a perfect view for the night and just chilled out, looking out the window at the snowy peaks in awe! We had our traditional dinner of dhal bhat and went to bed, ready for a super early wakeup call to walk up to Poon Hill for sunrise.
Ghorepani to Tadapani. Ready to rise and shine at 4.30am, with torches and almost every single layer we could squeeze on! Poon Hill is a popular sunrise viewpoint, a short walk up hill from Ghorepani. The view of the mountains and the sunrise itself is quite beautiful, but we both agreed it was a bit overrated. There was maybe 200-500 people up there on that one single morning. We sipped on $2 teas, which were available at the top, and tried to soak up the sun on our numb bodies as it began to poke through. After we headed back down for breakfast and checked out of our room, we hit the trail again heading towards Tadapani. This part of the trek begins with a short but slightly gruelling ascent through a magical forest, feeling like you are in a scene of Lord of the Rings. When you emerge at the top you have reached Deurali Pass, which without a doubt was more breathtaking and beautiful than the viewpoint we were treated to at the crowded Poon Hill earlier. There are lush rolling mountain hills as far as the eye can see on one side, and snow capped peaks on the other. My recommendation is to skip Poon Hill for sunrise and just set off on your trek towards Tadapani a bit earlier, where I am sure you would be rewarded with killer views and far less people. After Deurali Pass, you continue on through a magical forest/valley area. This was one of my favourite days of the whole trek as the surroundings just continued to become more enchanting! Tadapani itself is a little village which also had insane snowcapped sunset views- each day was just getting better and better and the natural beauty of the Himalayas was blowing our minds!