Nepal - Annapurna Himalaya
THIS (the above image) THIS is why you want to go to the Himalayas... View from Poonhill at sunset.
>>> Have an up to date map
>>> Pack light - you really don't need a lot.
>>> Be wise, pick a good trekking buddy
>>> Water purification tablets
>>> 2 x litre bottles for water
>>> Wet wipes
>>> Toilet tissue - vital!
>>> Snacks to keep your energy up throughout the day
>>> Hand sanitizer
>>> Solar Charger is real handy (can pick them up on amazon for about £15)
>>> Cash for tea houses and food
I literally don't quite know where to begin on this...
I only did a short 7 day trek, but it blew me away and left me wanting to see more and more. The Himalayas are mind blowing. Its the most beautiful place I have ever been to and I have not stopped thinking about it since the day I left, trying to work out when and how I will return. The vastness of the place is incredible and you just feel completely dwarfed by the size of it. Everest isn't the only 8000 mtr+ mountain out there, there are several, all making you feel like this teeny tiny being wandering around a magnificent landscape.
As we were short on time, we decided to spend a bit extra and get a small 16 seater plane to fly us from Pokhara to Jomsom ( 25 minute flight ) which is north - west of the Annapurna circuit and we planned to trek the 136kms back. The flight was an experience in itself, I sat directly behind the pilot, clicked my seat belt in on the gaffa - taped up chair, mildly nervous wondering if this plane would get us through the mountains - so I quietly said a prayer. The views from that flight were spectacular and just excited me more about embarking on this real life adventure in the wilderness. The decision to do this particular section of the Annapurna circuit was made after talking with some french guys who had done the entire circuit. They recommended this particular stretch as "it was the most beautiful and diverse part of it" and you got to see it all - from the low banana and apple tree regions right up to the views of the snow capped mountains. They certainly were right, and it did not disappoint in any way.
We got a 6.15am flight and on landing, found a cafe in Jomsom for some brekkie and coffee, looked at our map and decided to trek to Marpha that day which was around 19kms away. Me and my travel buddy were very keen to keep things 'as raw as possible' so had decided to do the trek using only a map and a compass - no google maps/smart phones and sat navs! We wanted real life adventure. We were hungry for it. We didn't hire a guide as wanted a personal experience and after studying the map a lot before hand, felt confident enough to guide our own way through the himalaya.
A raw experience is what we got. At points I felt like I was on the moon - no civilisation in sight, wind blowing through the valleys plodding through the dusty grey earth, continually stopping in awe of what I was seeing around us.
We learned quickly not to try and do short cuts off the trodden routes...as we ended up both times having to go back on ourselves! I was very excited about seeing my first Yak on the first day and went over to try make friends with him and stroke him...the Yak did not want to be stroked and quickly swayed his horns around at me so I backed off...
Marpha is one of my most favourite ever places to of seen in the world.
It has a very old Buddist - Tibetan feel to it and its beautiful seeing how these mountain people have created a little settlement from the rock and earth that is naturally around them. It truly is stunning to wind through the narrow uneven streets, seeing children play in the water with slate and rocks and you can walk up to a beautiful monastery at the top of the hill above the settlement. I really recommend doing this if you reach Marpha as it is a fantastic birds eye view of the structures of the settlement. We stayed at a place called 'Hotel Paradise' here, which had big rooms for £2 a night with private bathrooms, and good hearty local food.
We had a late start this morning and didn't get trekking until 9.15am as I was desperately trying to send a video to my nephew for his birthday - not the easiest thing to do when you're out in the middle of the himalayas! We had originally planned to trek to Kokthanti, but due to a highly eventful day and Kokthanti being closed up and derelict, ended up trekking 25.6kms to a settlement called Kalopani. It all began when we went slightly off track and were following a trail on the map which was incorrect as we quickly discovered our map was 'out of date' and rivers were there which weren't marked out on the map! After various attempts up and down the valley we realised the only way of getting back on the right trail was to get to the other side of the flowing glacial rivers. My travel buddy was a great deal more 'hardy' than me, and instructed me 'to take my boots and socks off, roll up my leggings as we are going to wade through the river'.
Being a classic girl, I began to cry because the water was so painfully cold and the current of the river unnerved me some what. My teammate had no sympathy for this, but did hold my hand across the crossing to ease my nerves and help me balance with my pack on. As soon as we reached the other side the tears dried up and we ended up laughing, I was so pleased I was pushed out my comfort zone and faced the challenge and got on with it - because after all, we didn't have much of a choice! We were so shattered by the time we reached Kalopani and it was beginning to get dark, so we stopped at the first lodge we saw - with our first question being "do you have hot showers?"
We rose when the sun rose this morning and got on the trail early. The views were beautiful from Kalopani, and we learned that the word 'pani' means water in Nepali (hence all the settlement names) and our route predominantly followed a river which made us chuckle some what after yesterdays antics. The views on todays stretch were ridiculous! I have never seen beauty like it. We stopped for a snickers at one point purely because we knew we had to take this moment in of what we were seeing before our eyes. There were several creaky long suspension bridges to go over on this route, and I would just look straight ahead and trot across them as fast as possible! We stopped in a tiny settlement called 'Pairchapla' for some lunch as I was flagging slightly and there were two cute kids playing around us. I ordered a vegetable curry and the lady went off and started picking vegetables and herbs out the ground before going to prepare the meal. It was awesome to see how they live so easily off the land and only eat what they grow. There were a lot of ups and downs on this days stretch as we went from an altitude of 2530mtrs to 1620mtrs. We walked down to the next settlement called Kopchepani where we realised we were so shattered after 21kms we had to stop. There was only one guest house at the bottom - which was in fact a shed on a goat farmers land. The doors didn't shut properly, there were no showers or sinks, but the goat farmer let us stay for free as long as we bought some food from him. We needed shelter and sleep so went for it. Little did we know there would be four huntsman spiders in this little tin shed sleeping in there with us. This was hands down the most rough and ready place my travel partner and I had ever stayed in, in all our travels across the world. I did not sleep at all and lay on the wooden board wrapped up with my head torch on all night incase any spiders got too close.
The next morning I was keen to get on the road. I had heard there were hot springs at Tatopani and was day dreaming about them. It was only a short 12.5km hike to Tatopani, so just a short day trekking which was needed after last nights spider malarky. We were held up for some time by some goat herders trying to get 40 goats across a suspension bridge. This was hilarious to watch, and I doubt I will see anything quite like it again. The goats were all terrified of going over the bridge, as were the 3 dogs who were supposed to be heading them. One goat began to give birth just before getting on the bridge, and a herder simply picked up the newborn and put it in a basket with some blankets and hurried the goat long. Tatopani had loads of teahouses and hotels to choose from - we scoped a few out and chose to stay in an indian one which had really friendly staff and great service. We headed straight to the hot springs and sat in them for hours absolutely elated with being in hot water!
The views of Dhaulagiri on the way to Chitre were phenomenal and made the all day of uphill trekking much more bearable. We began trekking from 1190mtrs at 8.15am and reached 2390mtrs in Chitre by 15.45pm. It involved masses of home made stone and rock stairs going up the mountain faces. I felt good and strong after my soak in the hot springs from the previous day, but you could naturally still feel the difference in your breathing with the altitude. The temperature slowly drops the higher you get, and at about 1700mtrs you reach the most prettiest, well kept settlement called Ghara. All the homes were so well kept with bright coloured flowers around their entrances and in their gardens. It was a hot sweaty trek this day and it was the first time we had both worn t-shirts. We stopped in Shikha for lunch at a great spot which had a large viewing deck to see Dhaulagiri - a beautiful 8000 mtr+ peak. Pushing on to Chitre, we stayed at a place called "New Dhaulgiri Lodge"which I would highly recommend, the views were amazing from there, the owner was friendly and they had hot showers from solar panels would you believe!
Today was a short hike up to Ghoropani, so we didn't have to set off too early as we were saving ourselves for a sunset hike up to Poonhill in the evening. We had a leisurely breakfast with the most incredible view and used the last of the stash of honey we had bought from home! 'The Butterfly' and 'Dhaulgiri' look incredible this morning, as the skies were blue and the sun was shining, it was hard to leave as I could have sat and stared at this scene all day. The trek to Ghoropani was 8.7kms going from an altitude of 2390mts to 3103mtrs. We stayed at an epic guesthouse called 'Sunny View Lodge' which again, much to our surprise had hot showers and a view so spectacular I couldn't believe our luck. Again it was only about £2 per night per double room and the balcony overlooking the himalaya was dreamy! After some dinner we hiked up to Poonhill for sunset. I've always preferred sunsets to sunrise, I find them more majestic and spectacular. It was very still this evening, with no wind at all. The orange and pinks in the skies were like constantly changing pieces of artwork just for us to enjoy. As the sun went down behind the mountain scape, it just lit up the peaks of the himalayas and it was breath taking. There weren't many people up here at sunset either which is why I think it may be better, so you can avoid the sunrise tour groups that come up.
Down, down and down was our route today to Birenthanti. It felt like the trek was coming to a close. We trekked down from 3103mtrs to 1025mtrs today, and boy did my thighs know it! There were hours and hours of stone stairs switch backing down the mountains. We stopped in Hille around lunch time due to muscle shake in our legs and there was a nice little lunch spot there that served decent noodles and mo mo's! The lower down we got on this side of the mountains, the more and more trekkers we began to see. We were pleasantly surprised at the time as throughout our whole trek we had seen about 4 - 6 other trekkers, and today we lost count! We managed a total of 23kms down to Birenthanti and found a guest house by the river called "Hotel Everest Lodge" which was run by a sweet couple. The bed was GOOD and you could get a hot shower on request!
Now we just needed to get to Naya - Pul and back to Pokhara. We got up early and trekked the half hour to the main road in Naya - Pul, and randomly (but conveniently) there was a mini bus waiting on the road going to Pokhara! We gave the driver a small amount of rupees to drive us back to civilisation and he dropped us right in the centre of Pokhara city.
You really need to pack light when trekking...Here are some of my recommendations when going on your adventure...
>>> Ear plugs are key if you want a decent nights sleep
>>> It is vital to have comfortable hiking boots!
>>> I carried a approx 11 - 12kgs backpack for the trek we did, and my travel buddy being a stronger guy carried about 15kgs. Cut your weight down in your pack as much as you can, little things like swap shower gel for a bar of soap in a sandwich bag makes all the difference! You can wear socks for 2 or 3 days, you don't need a fresh pair every day.
>>> I wore a buff to keep my hair out my face on windy days which was super helpful.
>>> definitely take a head torch for reading in bed in the evenings!
>>> Choose your trek and route wisely! I can't recommend seeing the Himalaya enough, but one piece of advice I can give is choose your routes wisely. Some routes are highways full of thousands of trekkers, and I think that could ruin your experience of it some what. What makes it so special is you being alone and at one amongst this vast nature and scenery. Having thousands of others there - I think would kinda spoil it!
>>> The fitter you are, the more you will enjoy the whole experience - so I recommend having a good fitness level before you embark to get the most out of your trip.
>>> Toilet tissue is pricey out there so be prepped and back some or strap it to your pack.
>>> A little journal to write all your adventures and explorations in. I honestly had forgot so many things that happened until I looked back at my journal and began writing this up...they are stories and memories I will treasure forever.