Day 1 - Phedi to Tolka
Up early, sun shining and sky blue - here comes the mountain views !! Power breakfast ready for big day, Bhek and Prakash (guide & porter) arrive saying how fantastic it is that the weather has changed and the monsoon is finally over. Bhek confirms that we won't need to take waterproof trousers (ha ha !!). Take a taxi to Phedi to start the ascent up to Poon Hill and on the way we have fantastic views of the Annapurne Range (come on !!!).
So we start out from Phedi (altitude 900m) and it's a steep, steep climb up an endless stone staircase and the sun is belting down and it's boiling !! I ask Bhek how long the stairs will go on for, and despite telling us earlier it is an easy trek, he replies 'hours'. We stop after an hour or so for a drink at a chai shop and Nik purchases bamboo staff, to become her best friend over the next few days. We continue, it's uphill, uphill and more uphill (and still hot and sunny), and stop for lunch in Pothana (1900m). We have been told that it's best for everyone to order the same food at these small teahouses so we follow Bhek and Prakash's lead and have Dhal Bhat Takari (veg curry, rice, dhal and poppadom). As we're waiting for lunch to arrive we notice the sky isn't so blue in one direction, it's looking a bit grey. We ask Bhek if he thinks it might rain this afternoon, 'Possibly', he answers. Soon after we set off again the rain has started, gentle at first but soon it's raining very hard and the snow-capped mountains have long since vanished. We continue upward to Deurali (2100m), but after a while, mid afternoon, we start a steep descent, this wasn't what we imagined !! We thought it would be slowly upwards each day to our destiny at 3210m, but it seems we are very wrong and all the hard work of this morning will be lost. The steps are very slippery and we both take a fall, we are also getting reacquainted with our old friends the leeches, they seem very hungry ! And to top things off Nik has developed a migraine ! We arrive in Tolka (1707m) at around 5pm, but it seems our hotel is at the far end of 'town', and we finally make it there, knackered and very wet (it's still raining) another half an hour later. Bhek has chosen the Hira Guesthouse ('more comfy than the others')....
Classy hotel on the first night
...Nik isn't feeling very good at all by now and has a lie down in our 'comfy' room (it was only 100 Nepalese Rupees - about 80pence). We order more Dhal Bhat Takari and are in bed, fast asleep, by about 9pm. Let's just hope the rain stops by tomorrow...
Day 2 - Tolka to Chhomrong
Up early, power breakfast, Nik feeling better, still raining hard. We set off downhill again, and continue the descent for 2 hours down to Landruk (1550m) where we stop for chai and to remove our boots and socks and de-leech our aching feet. They have these bowls of ash on the table at the teahouse that people put the leeches into (we don't) so that they end up a writhing mass of ash covered leech, lovely ! The descent is more gentle after (but we're still heading down and it should be up !!) as we follow the river to New Bridge (1380m), but soon we are climbing steeply again all the way up to Jhinu (1760m) where we stop for lunch. Luckily the food takes a while to arrive giving us chance to rest (Nik sleeps) as we shelter from the torrential rain. After lunch it's another steep climb to Chhomrong (2150m), but it's not as hard as we'd feared and we seem to arrive before schedule at around 3.30pm. Hot shower and hot tea to warm up, Bhek was going to show us around the village but the rain is persisiting so we have a well earned pre-dinner nap. We meet some girls from San Fran who are heading to Annapurna Base camp (next time...) and then it's another early night. (P.S. It's still raining.....)
Day 3 - Chhomrong to Tadapani
Up early, it's lashing down and has been all night. Bhek quickly shows us round the village and we realise (to Nik's amusement) that he thinks Jon's name is David !! He's been calling it me for 2 days now and it seems too late to correct him, so it continues. We set off in the rain, it's uphill for a bit, and we have a scarey moment crossing a landslide. The new path that has been made in the rubble is barely 6 inches wide and it's a steep and very long drop down to the valley below. We take a tea break in a small village and there are a few other trekkers there, we are all very wet and all pick the leeches out of our boots, socks and everywhere else the buggers have crawled to. Again, the path leads us down, down and down again and we're all cold, wet and getting a bit miserable - we are so close to huge mountains but can't even see a glimpse of them. After descending all morning we stop for lunch at Gurjung. We are soaked and cold but keep our spirits by teaching each other card games - it's very funny as Bhek and Prakash have totally understood our instructions and we seem to play by different rules. We have yet more Dhal Bhat Takari and it is amazing how much these guys can eat !! It's also pretty crazy that they have the same meal twice a day, everyday. We ask them why they never try anything else and they tell us they like Dhal Bhat Takari (fair enough). We set off again in the neverending monsoon heading uphill this time to Tadapani and Nik asks Bhek if Tadapani is the village we can see high up in the clouds, miles away. 'Oh no', he replies, ' you can't see it, it's beyond that village' (oh dear). So up, up, up we climb through the forest and the mud and finally we arrive at Tadapani (2680m) late afternoon. It has rained all day again, we are cold so take a hot shower to warm up then crawl into bed with sleeping bags and blankets to try and get warm. After an hour or so (and still pretty cold) we head into the communal room at the guesthouse and are amazed and delighted to find that it is warm, very warm in fact. The room is dominated by a huge table, big enough to seat about 30 people, and under the table there are numerous terracotta fire pits keeping the place warm. The table has blankets hanging over it's sides and we pull them over our laps and warm up (it's heaven !!). Also under the table is washing lines where everyone can hang their wet clothes to dry. The guesthouse is quite busy and we meet lots of funny people all talking about the rain. We learn that after dinner the local villagers have arranged to come to the common room and put on a performance for us all. They soon arrive with, about 15 initially, and are soon singing and dancing for us. More and more arrive as the evening progresses and before long we are all dragged up to do a little dance of our own !! It's all very funny, very heart warming and just what we needed to lift our spirits after a hard, cold and wet day.
Joining in with local entermainment
We head to bed after receiving our flower garlands with smiles on our faces, despite the rain which is still falling heavily.
Day 4 - Tadapani to Ghorepani
It's another early start, amazingly it's not raining and we catch a glimpse (allbeit a fleeting one) of the mountains through the mist. Life goes on around us in the village, the women washing dishes and cooking and the children playing.
Faces of Nepal
We set off towards Ghorepani, downhill at first and along a ranging river, stopping at Banthanti for chai mid-morning. Checking our feet for leeches (amazingly there are non today) Nik notices the first signs of a blister developing (let's hope it doesn't grow). We then set off and are soon climbing again up through amazing scenery in the worlds largest rhododendron forest.
Kenty enjoying the trek
It's pretty steep all the way up until we stop for lunch in Upper Deurali at 3190m. By now the rain has started again and, given the altitude, it's cold outside. We huddle round a wood burner in the teahouse and swap stories with a cool Dutch couple from Amsterdam. After a fairly long lunch we are reluntanct to leave the warmth but eventually set off, in the rain, for an easy afternoon stroll, up slightly and then down, down, down to Ghorepani (2870m). At the guesthouse we huddle round another wood burner, play more confusing cards and (like everybody else staying there) talk about how we hope and pray it will be dry and clear the following morning for the 4.45 a.m. hike up to PoonHill for the dramatic Himalayan sunrise. We order (yet) more Dhal Bhat Takari and are so tired (almost too tired to eat, but not quite) and are in bed not long after 8 (party animals !!). It's cold in the room and we pile on the blankets, Nik has a makeshift hot water bottle (hot water in her drinking bottle) to keep her warm. We set the alarm for a frightening 4a.m. and say our prays that tomorrow (like no day yet) will start clear and without rain. There's not much hope as we can hear the rain lashing down as we drift off to sleep.
Day 5 - Poon Hill/ Ghorepani to Tatopani
The alarm goes off and it's still hammering down, it has been all night. We know there's no point bothering with the hour's hike up to Poon Hill this morning, there will be no sunrise views. We go back to sleep and wake again at 5.45a.m., just as it's getting light and get another glimpse of the Annapurna range. It's not quite what we hoped for but still very impressive. We go back to sleep again and when we wake up we decide to stay here for the day, have a chiller, and hope that tomorrow will be brighter and give us the views we have trekked up here for. We spend the morning and afternoon huddling around the wood burner, playing cards and reading and the sun actaully appears, giving us hope for tomorow. In the afternoon Jon makes the hour long trek up to Poon Hill with Bhek to see if there are any views form there, there aren't !
Another cracking view from Poon Hill
Many other trekkers have also decided to stay here another night in the hope that it will be clear tomorrow morning, but as the afternoon turns into evening it goes very grey and soon is lashing down again. We ask Bhek what he thinks the chances are that it will be clear tomorrow, he tells us that he doesn't think it will be and it's very unlikely we'll see the sunrise in the morning. As we're due to get up at 4ish tomorrow morning it's another early night (about 8.30pm) and before going to sleep we discuss whether or not we will go up to Poon Hill tomorrow just in case it clears when we are there. Jon decides he will probably go for it, Nik is not so sure. We are asleep before 9, and the rain is coming down by the bucket outside.
Day 6 - (Still in) Ghorepani to
We wake up at 3.30a.m. and can hear the rain lashing down outside. Jon stays awake listening to the rain until 4.30 and (being insane) decides that he will make the hour long trek to Poon Hill just in case it stops raining and is clear for the sunrise. Nik patches up her blisters and reluctantly decides to come too. We set off in the darkness, howling wind and pouring rain and after 10 minutes or so our torch batteries decide to give up on us !! So we trudge on up the hill, getting soaked, it's a kind of Sam and Mr Frodo experience. There is no sign of the rain ending and when we get to the top there are no views at all.
Poon Hill (3210m) - check that view !!!
It's all pretty funny though and we spend a few minutes up at Poon Hill sheltering in a wooden shack. We then trudge back down the hill in more rain and are greeted by looks of disbelief when we get back to the guesthouse. "Did you really go up there this morning ?!?!", people ask us. We have a huge breakfast, then are on the road about 8.30a.m. for the long descent to Tatopani. As we are leaving the guesthouse Nik picks up her trusty stick only to realise that it isn't her trusty stick at all - someone has made off with her faithful friend leaving a much inferior model, the cheeky @#*@ !! So we set off and it's down, down and more down until we stop for lunch at Sikha. After lunch we carry on down and on a steep descent we pass a porter carrying another man !! This guy must weigh about 75kgs and he's sitting in a little basket being carried by the porter uphill !!! To say the porter is struggling is somewhat of an understatement.
The rain has been coming down steadily all day but before long it's coming down by the bucket. Late afternoon, after heading down hill all day, we finally come to the Kali Ghanaki valley. We cross the river, which after 5 days of torrential rain is raging, on a rickety swing bridge and follow it up stream towards Tatopani. Along the way we have to cross a huge landslide (very scary - the river is raging below) and dodge the mules that carry things up and down the valley. At this point Nik is in severe pain with her blister, it hasn't been examined yet but she is wincing with every step. We eventually arrive in the village and it's quite civilized with bakeries and restaurants. We get a quick shower, Nik checks her feet...
The mother of all blisters !!!
...then it's down to the river for a bath in the hot springs we have heard much about. We didn't really know what to expect but after walking for 6 days it was a slice of heaven. The water was nice and hot and it felt fantastic to soak our aching limbs.
Cooking in the hot springs after a hard day
We stay in the water for about an hour then it's food and another early night. It's been a long day today, we were up early and have descended from 3210m at dawn to about 1200m now. We look forward to a short easy day tomorrow (or so we think !!) - there's no more hills to climb up or down and we should only be walking for about 2 or 3 hours (ha ha !!) - p.s. it's raining heavily outside.
Day 7 - Tatopani to Beni (or so we think)
So, today is gonna be an easy one. It's been raining all night but we head down to the hot springs first thing and get the pool all to ourselves, that is until a party of about 30 pilgrims arrive and decide to join us - all very funny. After a lazy breakfast (there's no rush today) we head off about 8.30 into the pouring rain.
Trekking Posse (all smiles before 'easy' last day)
Nik has done her best to patch up her blister and decides sandals are a better option that boots today, she still looks in pain with every step she takes. The first hazard we reach is the landslide that we crossed last night just south of Tatopani. Due to the rain, that has hammered down all night (and is still heavy), the landslide is still sliding in a places and it's even more scary to cross today, The newly formed path across it is the width of a human foot and it's the raging, angry, swollen Kali Ghandaki below us (don't fancy that much). It's back across the swing bridge, Jon grabs a handful of the local herbs to eat along the road and then we follow the river and the path is well formed and nice and flat if not a bit flooded in places. We carry on for 2 hours, Nik in pain and with very wet feet in her sandals, and arrive at a small village - the end of the trek. It's here that we will take a Jeep to Beni and then take a bus back to Pokhara. However, things don't quite go to plan...we learn that due to many, many landslides along the track the jeep won't be running today (gutted !!). We have some lunch and try and dry off a bit then set off again. Bhek tells us not to worry, there will be transport available soon. We walk for another 2 hours, crossing raging rivers where we all hold hands to help each other across, crossing more scary landslides (one that sees us very nearly hit by a nice big rock that bounces down the mountainside), and eventually stumble upon a jeep that will take us to our destination. We get in (us 4 and 13 others !!) and set off. We don't get far, in fact after about 7 minutes we have to stop as the jeep breaks down !!! So it's back out and walking again. Amazingly, the rain finally starts to stop and the sun comes out. We arrive at another village and negotiate a lift with a guy in his battered Toyota Corolla. This lasts for about 3 minutes before we reached another landslide and have to set off on foot again. Finally we reach Beni, where we should be catching the bus, however there are no buses due to the landslides. We get another Jeep but only for about 20 minutes to the next landslide !!
After that we struggle to find any more transport and it's back on foot along the river. By now it's starting to go dark, but hey, at least it's stopped raining !! We walk until about 6.30pm and get to cross one last scary raging river before we negotiate a taxi (he knows he can charge us loads !!!) to Pokhara. By this time we have walked for 10 hours and are nearly in Baglung.
It's a cold drive back to Pokhara (we've got wet clothes on and the driver insists on the windows open we must smell) which we finally reach at about 8.15pm. We grab a nice hot shower, then go out for a 'quick' bite (it takes hours !!!) and finally crash out about 11pm - what a day !!!
on December 25, 2007
from the travel blog:
Jon & Kenty's Grrrrrand Tour
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