HIMALAYAN TALES #4: ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP PART TWO
001. Hello and thanks for following along on this Himalayan adventure! I'm going to jump right into a day-by-day rundown so make sure you catch up on PART ONE here.
Tadapani to Chomrong. We had an early start and left before most of the other trekkers and were rewarded with an early morning sighting of MONKEYS as we walked through dense jungle surroundings. The went on, continuing to get a little hotter and steeper. Our destination was Chomrong and is actually one of the biggest town/villages you pass through on the trek with lots of guesthouses to choose from. We stayed in upper Chromrong, which left us with plenty of stairs to walk down in the morning, but was a little quieter than staying in the centre. This was a pretty early day, but we took advantage of it by having a shower and washing our well-worn clothes.
Chomrong to Himalaya. This was our BIGGEST day of trekking, which didn't exactly go to plan. We set off from Chomrong, then hit the village of Sinuwai after another gruelling encounter with a large amount of stairs. From that point onwards though, the track became a lot more enjoyable, in terms of intense inclines. Our original plan was to stop at Bamboo for the night, but we arrived fairly early and still felt full of energy so continued on to Dovan. The walk there doesn't take too long and is lush bamboo forest. We arrived in Dovan only to find out that they were no rooms available at all (a risk you have to take when trekking alone wihout a porter or guide), so we just trekked onwards to Himalaya. If you can't tell by the less-than-creative-names, the stop off points turned into just clusters of teahouses for trekkers, more so than an actual villages bubbling with life. Overall, this day was pretty damn lovely. Once you pass the afore mentioned stairs, the whole way from Bamboo all the way to Himalaya is really beautiful trekking. We even saw some more monkeys! By the time we arrived at the Himalaya camp we were exhausted but rewarded with a room (hooray). It was at this point that the weather REALLY started to drop noticeably and the landscape started to change. We were getting SO excited to see the Himalayan region in all its alpine glory, as making it to base camp began to feel so close!
Himalaya to Machapuchare Base Camp (MBC). We started off in the cold early morning, and reached the camp of Deurali before too long. We stopped for tea to warm our insides and take in the view. The alpine region had officially started and it was BLOWING MY MIND! Huge raw red cliffs, towering over a flowing river in the valley and surrounded by snowy peaks. The walk from Deurali to MBC is breathtakingly beautiful. Pure magic! Along the way we even had to do some slippery, icy river crossings- just an indication at how cold it was beginning to get. We arrived at MBC just after lunch and did some exploring. The three little teahouses were surrounded by golden grass and dwarfed by red mountains capped with white snow, all glowing in the sunshine in a crazy contrast of colour. Writing this now I still cannot believe that I was lucky enough to experience nature like this AND while seeing snow for the first time! Mind FREAKING blown. By 3pm that afternoon it was absolutely freezing, but luckily we asked for extra blankets (on top of our sleeping bags!) and managed to survive the icy night.
Machapuchare Base Camp (MBC) to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) to Bamboo. After some discussion with one of our trekking friends and his friendly guide the night before, we decided to get up to ABC at sunrise. This was a 5am wakeup call and I can safely say was the coldest I have ever been in my life! We took flashlights and hiked most of the way completely in the dark. The stars shone brightly and looked magical. Despite being FREEZING, sunrise at ABC was really something special. As the sun finally decided to poke into the valley, the white peaked giants began to literally glow pink and orange! I felt a strong sense of accomplishment and wonder (cheesy but true!). How lucky am I to have experienced such magical things in such an enchanting country like Nepal?! The walk to MBC with the sun finally high up in the sky was equally as epic. Crazy how just an hour earlier we had crept past these sleeping giants in the dark, to only later see them in full clear vision. We arrived back at MBC and packed our things to head back down the mountain. Earlier we had planned to stay two nights at MBC then ABC, but we were NOT prepared for the cold and felt satisfied by our incredible experience as it was. I really recommend staying at MBC over ABC if you only have one night because you can trek to ABC for sunrise or sunset (which isn't far) without having to carry your backpack and it could possibly be a couple of degrees warmer. After leaving MBC we walked downhill all day, taking our time and enjoying the epic views. We arrived with VERY sore legs and knees in Bamboo, but felt so damn content after the days adventures.
Bamboo to Jhinu. This day was a hell of a lot of downhill but a hell of a lot of uphill too. Luckily we were a day ahead of schedule so just enjoyed our final days of trekking and took our time. By the time we arrived in Jhinu we felt so mellow and really just wanted to relax and chill out as the trek was beginning to unwind. We had planned to go to the hot springs, but just didn't get there in the end- which didn't really bother us too much. We had just trekked up saw the FREAKING HUGE HIMALAYAS, the hot springs didn't spark as much passion (but I'm sure they are lovely). For dinner we had dhal bhat (as always) and I distinctively remember it being amazing because of the fresh veggies from the garden- the little things you take for granted before trekking up at high altitude!
Jhinu to Ghandruk. We started the day off with a slight wrong turn, but managed to get back on track quickly enough. Our route went from Jhinu, through New Bridge to Ghandruk. The weather was getting warmer again on the lowlands as we trekked through beautiful rainforest and saw an incredible waterfall! We were lucky enough to see a diverse landscape over the 10 days and felt very happy about the general route overall we chose to walk. At some point during this day I think we maybe chose a bad route and didn't look at the incline on the map, because we had to climb a hill from hell up to Ghandruk. We were relieved to make it to the top, rest our sore legs and snack on tea and biscuits. We ended our final night of the trek sitting on the balcony of our guesthouse watching monkeys playing in the trees. A little exhausted but oh-so-content.
Ghandruk to Kimche. The final morning we woke up, packed our bags and ate our final breakfast of tea and toast. Ghandruk to Kimche isn't very far at all and is maybe 40 minutes of gentle down hill walking. Kimche is the stop where you can grab a bus to take you back down to Pokhara for about $4. It was probably the most precarious bus ride I've ever been on- teetering along cliffs, doing the school drop offs and driving along roads that definitely weren't designed to fit one bus in a lane, let alone two. BUT I LOVED IT! I have fond memories of loud Nepali music blasting the whole way, with a larrikin driver/conductor duo. Not to mention the bus itself- heavily decorated with rainbow tassels, fake flowers, prayer beads, peacock feathers and a statue of Ganesh. We couldn't have a more Nepali experience if we tried to end an epic adventure in the mountains!
002. Nepal is a country of PURE MAGIC! I feel so thankful and grateful and lucky to have experienced natural beauty that COMPLETELY BLOWS MY MIND. I don't even have words for it. If you are considering trekking this area in Nepal or have any questions (as I'm sure I definitely didn't address everything) please feel free to ask. The little Himalayan wonderland is simply the best and I just want to give the whole of Nepal a big giant hug. Love love love!