One of the main things we wanted to do when visiting to Nepal was trekking. What we didn’t know was what trek, what the weather would be like, how the infrastructure would be after the earthquake, and how much it would all cost. After talking with other travelers and our friends in Kathmandu, we decided to target the Annapurna Base Camp (aka Annapurna Sanctuary) 8 day trek. This post shares some of the pictures and some of the stories from our 8 days in the Himalayas. I’m writing a related post on the more practical aspects of our trek (like what to bring, how much it was, guides and porters, etc) so stay tuned for that if you’re interested.
Will & Jenny
Day 1 – Naya Pol to Ghandruk
Overview: Today we took a private car to the trail head, it was arranged for us to share with a group of three women from Amsterdam to save on costs. The ride was about 90 minutes and we were itching to go once we arrived in Naya Pol. It was sunny and spirits were high as the three of us (Jenny, myself and our Porter-Guide (PG), Hem) headed through the small town and on to the trail up the valley.
This day we had many stream crossings; and lots (and lots) of steps! Lots of trails that go from village to village is via rock steps.
Made it to Ghandruk village today. Our PG arranged us a room with a shared bath for 250 rupees in a local guest house. This was our first intro to the prices for the rest of the trek. We ate dinners and breakfasts at the guesthouses we slept at (which is required or the room costs more) that were inexpensive and contained a variety of food options.
It was so quiet there the shared bath was really not an issue. Hem said last year there were groups that had to go back and forth since they did not arrange they’re lodging ahead of time, sometimes 60 people in the dining hall… but this year with the earth quake and the recent fuel shortage issue, it was all of 3 people in the whole guest house.
Hiking times: 5hr 10min (9:50-12:10 & 12:50- 3:40)
- the clean air
- the realization (as we’re doing it) that we can totally do this for 8 days
- It just feels so good to be on the trail and not in a dirty, crowded city.
Day 2 – Ghandruk to Chomrong
Overview: Today we started off by going up, over and down to a river bed. We saw quite a few donkeys as well as porters carrying incredible loads (some wearing just sandals) along the trail. We ate lunch at a small village near the rivers edge. We knew the second half of the day would be hot because we could see the trail from our earlier vantage point. The sun and incline we destined to be hot.
The afternoon climb was indeed hot. We climbed up about 400m in about 1000m horizontal– steep! Once up on the ridge, we had a leisurely 30-40 minute traverse to Chomrong where we spent the night. We did not have to pay for electricity last night or today, had it in our room this time, and there was even wifi available (but we didn’t use it). The electricity was more and more scarce the further up we went.
Hiking times: 5hr 5min (8:10-11:15 & 12:20-2:20)
- donkeys- they were healthy and not overloaded
- seeing the local villages just situated in the hillsides.
- sunrise from inside the Himalayas
- learning a new word (Jam) which means “Let’s go!”
Day 3 – Chomrong to Himalaya
Overview: Today we started out not knowing where we’d end up for the night. This was because we didn’t know how far we’d make it – would we have the energy to go further? Would the weather hold out? Additionally, the small cottage groupings after Sinuwa are not bustling villages, so there are only a few guest houses there to serve trekkers. Hem (our Porter Guide) called ahead and said we could stay at Himalaya if we wanted, but it might be a shared room. Since we knew some weather was coming in over the next couple of days, going further today sounded like a good plan if the weather held out. The hiking consisted of a down, then back up, and then a steady climb through the Modi Khola valley, which at this time of year is a nice, green forrest. We stopped for lunch in Bambu.
We made it all the way to Himalaya! The rain started just about 30 minutes after we’d arrived, phew! This was our longest day yet, but we’re glad we did it all today. This set us up for reaching the top (ABC) in four days, rather than the originally planned five, which gave us some good options for our return journey. Now we just had to hope the rain moved on by the morning.
Hiking times: 6hr 15min (7:55- 11:30 & 12:25-3:05)
- seeing the sun break through the clouds in streaks (while on a skinny bridge over a river)
- how most everyone you pass on the trail is in such a good mood and trading smiles and greetings
- going so far (6-ish hours) and being fit enough to do it, feeling good
Day 4 – Himalaya to ABC
Overview: This morning we were thankful for clear skies! While I did get up at the time of the sunrise, our location did not have any real views of the sunset so I crawled back into my cocoon and listened to the funny Malaysian trekkers next door fumble about until it was time for breakfast. We both didn’t sleep too well this night (first time at real altitude), not sure if it was the altitude, cold air, heavy blankets, or the snoring Malaysian next door. Probably a combination.
Today’s morning session was mostly a climb upward, the lunch spot was at 3700m. We got to walk along the valley and the sun was out most of the morning, though clouds were threatening. We noticed that with the altitude being higher, so are the food prices. Everything up there needs to be carried by man or donkey.
After lunch we made our way up to ABC. The weather had rolled in on us and most of the walk was done in a cloud. We were, however, thankful that it didn’t ran on us. Once we arrived at the top we shared a pot of our new favorite drink, masala tea. While we only got a small glimpse of the surrounding mountains just after sunset (the clouds cleared slightly) we were hopeful that the morning would bring clear skies and a great sunrise.
There are only 4 guest houses up there, and this night we slept in our first truly shared room, but only with one other couple from Switzerland. It was a room with 6 beds, but again since there was a lack of tourists, we only shared with two others. The price price for the room was the usual but the food was a lot more expensive.
Also of note, the lack of power the last couple days had rendered our phones out of battery! To pass the time, we played some hangman with the good ol’ pen and paper.
Hiking Times: 5hr 0min (7:50-11:15 & 12:20-1:55)
- Hem’s laugh at the little mountain mouse we saw on the trail
- Jenny’s score of iodine tablets (our borrowed steri-pen ran out of batteries) so she kindly asked a group from Holland
- making it to ABC a day early
- the smell of the high mountain wildflowers
Day 5 – ABC to Bamboo
Overview: Today we saw the sun rise over the 8,000m peak and surrounding 7,000m peaks around Annapurna I… it was incredible! At 4:30am we were a little suspect since it was super foggy when we both went to the bathroom, but an hour later things had totally cleared! It was then time to put on all (almost literally) our clothes and head outside to catch the first rays of sunlight at the tops of the peaks.
We saw a small Avalanche happen, too, and also enjoyed seeing the cute mountain mice. The quietness was so peaceful.
However, the sunny start did not mean the day was sunny. Our trek down to Bamboo camp was mostly foggy and a bit windy. We stayed bundled up for the first half of the trek then the skies cleared. The rest of the walk down, was comfortable and we got to see some really neat monkeys! Bonus!
Once in Bamboo, we paid for and took our first shower in a few days. They have solar powered showers, but the sunshine didn’t cooperate to power them, so we had to use the gas-powered insta-hot shower for a few dollars… well worth it.
In the evening we played a Nepali card game with our hiking friends from the Netherlands (the three that we originally rode with to the first trailhead).
The game: It is a fun game where everyone starts out with 5 cards, then to the left you must discard one single card, a pair, three of a kind, or a run (same suit), prior to picking up a single card, either from the main pile or from one of the cards that was discarded to you from the player on your right.
You “show the game” on your turn, prior to discarding when you have a total count of 5 or less. The rest of the table then has to show their cards if they also have 5 or less, and if they have smaller than you, they win (and when ante-betting, they must pay double).
Max 5 persons.
Hiking times: 7hr 5min (7:45-11:45 & 12:15-1:40 & 1:50-3:30)
- sunrise over all the mountains surrounding the Annapurna Base Camp
- learning a new card game
Day 6 – Bamboo to Jihnu
Overview: Today there was nothing to see at sunrise, though I was up then again hoping. As for the walk, we mainly walked down again today, though we did have the Chomrong steps (the same valley we did on day 3, but the opposite direction)! I bought us a couple of pastries at the German bakery in Chomrong for a well deserved treat. The cinnamon roll was mighty tasty and worth the $1. Nothing too great or sour today, just a good day of trekking. Though, the steep downhill into Jhinu was tough on the legs and Jenny had a bit of troubling knee pain that evening.
After arriving in Jihnu we went to the main attraction of the village: the hot springs! We waited for a break in the rain showers to walk the 20 minutes to the river and the hot springs located there. It was well worth the walk… the hot springs were warm and felt great on our tired muscles.
Note: Cabbage grows really well up here and you see it everywhere (and eat lots)
Hiking times: 5hr 0min (7:45-11:40 & 12:30-1:35)
- hot springs
- Hem playing the leg-guitar at dinner
- puns – more of a highlight for me than for Jenny… as we were exiting Chomrong we took a left to go to Jihnu instead of our original way on day 2:
- Me: We’re taking a Jihnu way!
- Jenny: Wow, please stop
- Me: Why? Is it because I’m being too himalarious?
Day 7 – Jihnu to Pothana
Overview: As I mentioned above, since we reached the summit of the hike in 4 days, not 5, we decided to take a 4 day trek down instead of the quicker 3 days. For that, we headed towards Pothana, on the way to Phedi, our new exit/end point. We crossed a few bridges today, a couple were actually pretty sketchy (aka not mom-approved says Jenny).
Today was our only day of having to hike in the rain, and we’re glad it came on a day at low elevation because it could have been much worse if we were cold and wet. Our trek took a little longer today since we were stopped a couple times to hide from the rain, but we still made it to our destination. We were also introduced to the leaches that we’d heard so much about. I had 6 of the little buggers on me when we stopped for a snack. They’re fairly small and there’s only a small risk of disease or real problems, but we still didn’t like them at all. Luckily, this time around they were on our socks and shoes, not our skin.
Hiking Times: 6hr 30mins (8:00-10:35 & 11:05-12:30(rain stop) & 1:30-4:00)
- Hems “umbrella” – Our PG snagged a small shrub with leaves and used it as a makeshift umbrella when the rain was really coming down, haha. Wish we were able to get a picture of it.
- The fresh mutton dahl baht for dinner
Day 8 – Pothana back to Pokhara
Overview: Today we woke for our final sunrise over the Himalayas on this trek. It was a beautiful view this morning and we could see some additional mountains to the east since we were further out of the valley than previously in the trek.
Just a short couple hours down to the main road today. We trekked mostly downhill or down steps (our knees were about done with us!) and we didn’t have any problems with the weather. Sunny!
Hiking Times: 2hr 20mins (7:40-10:00)
- beautiful sunrise
- rice fields
- completing an epic hike!
- massages once back in town (ahhhhhhh)