We were off on the Annapurna Basecamp trek, with Poon Hill tacked on the front. Combined the trek was supposed to take 12-14 days but we managed to power through in 9. Check out our route here:
After an hour long cab ride in a tiny, rickety car with our bags on the roof we arrived in Nayapul and started our trek. Nayapul was full of trekkers starting, lunching, and finishing their treks, and we were a little apprehensive that the rest of the hike would be this busy. A few hours up the trail the crowds petered out and we were on our own. We trekked up mostly jeep paths for four hours on day one, with the last part up very steep stone steps. When we finally made it to our first guest house, we were treated with the first glimpse of the Himalaya peaks.
Day 2 Ulleri to Gorepani
Early wake ups were the norm to take advantage of the sun, and the morning light on the peaks when we opened our curtains was a beautiful reminder of where we were. Because we went a little farther than most on day one, we had a short three hour trek for day two. Lucky it was short, because it was steep! Upon arriving, we were spoiled with breathtaking views of Annapurna.
We enjoyed lunch overlooking the valley and mountains with our new American named Bob whose fast stride kept our pace up. Gorepani also provide to be a good place to dry out our sweaty socks.
Day 3 Poon Hill for sunrise, Gorepani – Chomping
Good thing day two was shorter because day three was a real test. We woke up for a 5am start up to the peak of Poon Hill in order to see the sunrise. Battling the constant snake of slower trekkers we managed to get a great spot to see the sun come up over the Annapurna and Machupachare peaks. After soaking up the brilliant colours we headed back down for breakfast on our amazing patio before setting off for the day on what we knew was going to be a long day of trekking.
Heading out of Gorepani towards Tadapani (I know the names start to get confusing) was some of the best hiking so far. It was relatively quiet as we were some of the first to leave Gorepani, with beautiful wooded single track trail and great views of the mountains. The forest resembled the arbutus trees we have at home.
After having lunch in Tadapani we decided to head all the way to Chomrong in the afternoon. Most people either over-night in Tadapani or head to the larger town of Gandruk, but we were feeling strong and it was only noon. Somehow we managed to veer from our route onto a locals path which was great because we were the only ones on the trail, but not so great because we had inadvertently added about two hours to our trek! We came across a small town with a school, and clearly two “off course” trekkers are much more interesting than math. We were swarmed by the school kids which who pointed us in the right direction and we were back on course. It was difficult to deny the kids cries for pens and chocolate, but we knew it is not culturally appropriate. They begged us to take this picture.
The route to Chomrong passes over two river valleys. Which means the path descends all the way to the river valley in order to cross, and then ascends right back up the other side. The day was already going to be tough with the multiple river crossings, so we were relieved when we finally made it to Chomrong at almost 5:00, just shy of an hour before dark. The last stretch of path was down some impressively steep stone steps that normally would have been a great relief, if our legs weren’t so beat up from the day.
Day 4 Chomrong to Deurali
Despite the tough day, we were eager to keep going on day four and went four hours up the Annapurna Sanctuary. We had a couple more valleys to cross before the path levelled out on a steady incline. Up here in the mid-Himalayas there are no roads so all equipment, food, and anything else that is needed is brought in by porter or donkey-train. Need a chicken? This guy has you covered:
Once you reach the Annapurna Sanctuary it is banned to eat meat. As you can see from the sign below there can be serious natural calamities or personal accidents if you don’t follow the rules.
Being mostly off the grid we had a lot of time for reading, playing cards, and meeting other trekkers. In Deurali we met a Dutch couple, Fieke and Bart, who we would trek the rest of the way with. They firmly prescribed to the “dhal bat power” mantra, ordering it for almost every meal. It’s the Nepali staple of rice, curried vegetables, a lentil soup and some pickled vegetables that gets replenished on your plate until you are stuffed. Basic, but filling and quite tasty. Bart soon earned the nickname “Bottomless Bart” after his legendary amount of refills.
Day 5 Deurali to MBC
Day 5 took us up to Machupachare (Fish Tail) basecamp, called MBC, and our highest elevation yet at 3,800 meters. The first half of the day was through thick forest which made for quite the contrast when we abruptly got above the tree line right after lunch.
As we continued up, we could start to feel the effects of the elevation; steps became harder, and cold set in viciously once the sun went down. The views were beautiful though and we stayed in a great spot to take advantage of the sunset reflecting off the peaks. In the teahouse, we drank pot of tea after pot of tea in effort to counteract the elevation and stay warm. Even wearing almost all her clothes, a blanket and a sleeping bag Cami was still a bit cold overnight.
Day 6 MBC to Deurali (Via ABC)
We woke up with the sun so that we could set off early to reach Annapurna Basecamp. This was the day the trek was all about.
Along the ascent we came across inukshuks, selfie girl, and photobomb Bart.
It was all worth it as the views from basecamp were absolutely stunning, and a memorable place to enjoy some tea.
The humbling side of the mountain showed itself when we reached Basecamp through the many memorials to mountaineers that had died attempting to climb Annapurna, one of the most dangerous mountains to climb (apparently 1 in 2 people do not return from attempting to climb to the peak).
We cherished our time at Basecamp, but it was time to start descending towards where we would sleep for the night.
Day 7 Dovan to Jinu
Coming out of Dovan, we were once again in the forest, and this time we were treated to a multitude of wildlife; a family of monkeys played in the fog, many donkey trains making their way up the path, and a wild Cami was chewing her cud.
We had a few more rivers to cross, this time the bridges were a little more sketchy than the new metal ones we were used too, and we got to see some really cool waterfalls.
The best part about day seven was the finale. At Jinu we enjoyed hot springs right next to the river. Nothing beats a cold beer and some pringles in a hot spring after seven days of hard trekking!
Day 8 Jinua to Tolka
Our plan was to branch off and do one more trek called Mardi Himal, however the clouds had all the peaks socked in. With a poor weather forecast there was little point in heading up to some viewpoints just to see the clouds close-up. We decided to continue on down and make our way out the next day. Along the path we encountered some guard goats and some amazing terracing.
Our last night on the trail was bittersweet, but presented some amazing last views of Annapurna.
Day 9 Tolka to Pokhara
Our last day we were passing much larger villages more frequently and it felt like we were getting closer to civilization once again, they even had a bamboo swing set!
On our way out we came across a beautiful glen with a couple of cows grazing, so we stopped for a picnic and impromptu game of frisbee.
We thought we were alone, until we noticed this sneaky sentinel checking us out:
To get back to Pokhora, we flagged down a passing van which took us back before dark. After some much needed hot showers, we met up with our hiking friends Fieke and Bart again for some delicious victory steaks and beers. Great way to end an amazing ten days!