14 days of pleasure, challenge, fun, magnificent scenery, and life time memories.
A bus trip in hectic traffic from Kathmandu to Pohkra, through villages, past verdant rice paddies, seeing women carrying large loads in baskets on their backs, children swimming in rivers, sacred cows sitting nonchantly in the middle of the traffic, buffaloes with shining wet hides from working in the water, house roofs sometimes thatched - often of shingles - and sometimes with tin roofs weighed down with rocks when nails weren't available, women in bright red saris, a never-ending changing scene. Explored Pohkra, an expanding village on the shore of attractive Lake Phewa Tal. A pleasant evening meal in camp, and the chance to become acquainted with some of the support crew, before retiring for the night in the tents.
Clear skies provided magnificent views of Annapurna and Machapuchare mountains from the camp, which improved as we commenced the trek up hills, through villages on paths sometimes paved with huge blocks of rock, other times rough dirt tracks, often on the edge of sheer drops. Views across terraced valleys to surrounding mountains with snow covered peaks were spectacular. The hot breakfast, lunch and dinner were a pleasant surprise. How did the crew produce them with such limited means. And interaction with the crew and village children was always cheerful and amusing. The greeting "Namaste" never failed to produce a wide smile.
Tea served in the tent at 6am, followed by a dish of hot water for a morning wash. Then out of the tent for an overwhelming view of sacred Machapuchare (Fishtail) Mountain, so high above surrounding cloud covered hills it was like an island in the sky. After a hot breakfast, we trekked up and down hills through forests for about three hours. Along the way we met an interesting young Tibetan refugee selling various craft items, and five young village boys singing and dancing enthusiastically. Saw baby goats, chickens, lambs, calves, and assorted livestock in the villages. Small Nepali porters were incredibly strong, carrying big loads along the same tracks we covered. In camp, we had great fun playing volley ball against the crew before an excellent dinner.
After crawling out of the tent very early, I was peering at the sky trying to determine whether it was dull grey or blue, when a porter pointed upwards behind me and said "Look". And there looming high above was South Annapurna. As the sun rose the snow on the mountain glistened a brilliant white, and as the clouds cleared, "Fish Tail" to the right, and "Fang" over the right shoulder came into view. For the next two hours we kept turning around to take in this fantastic sight. The hike down the magnificent valley from Landrung was hard on the knees, but not that tiring. The walk up to Gandrung was hard going, but with several rest stops, we made good time. That night we taught half a dozen of the Nepali crew a card game which created lots of fun and laughter.
A cold night was followed by a clear morning which gave us a view of the sun rising to shine brightly on the snow covered peak of Annapurna South. Later, several mountains were in clear view against a cloudless sky. The days trek took us up beside a waterfall, as well as climbing higher through a forest of tall rhododendron and magnolia trees (unfortunately not in flower) past ferns, moss and lichen covered rocks, and streamers of moss hanging from the trees, reminiscent of Milford Sound in New Zealand. We also saw a long tailed bird, which we believe was a Himalayan Tree Pie, and several rhesus monkeys. On arrival in camp, some of the crew who had finished their work were sitting at a table waiting to recommence playing cards.
With a long day ahead, the crew were anxious to get going, and I thought I was going to be wrapped up in my tent. Another walk through forest reminiscent of NZ's Milford track. By lunch time I was feeling weary, not only from the walking, but from the effects of the altitude. We were now above 3000 metres where the effects of "altitude sickness" may be felt. But after a hot lunch, several drinks and a rest, I was OK again. The track became narrow as it followed the ridge of a hill, with steep drops on either side. At one point, a couple of us stopped to take photos of the magnificent views, and stepping backwards, I disappeared headfirst, backwards down a hole. Two of the girls and our leader jumped after me, clutching my legs, and we all lay there laughing. As we continued, the track became narrower and steeper, and eventually we were walking on a level with the clouds. When we arrived near camp, it began to hail, so we all retreated into our tents, as the hail came down heavier. But after a hot meal and drinks, followed by our regular hilarious card games, all was well.
Slept well in woolly track suit, woolly inner sheet, a good sleeping bag, on a thermo rest and two foam mattresses. The trek commenced with a long knee jarring down hill climb, before the grind up the opposite side of the valley, through rhododendron, oak, cypress and blue spruce forest, until we reached camp. We managed to relax in the sun, and dry our clothes we had washed three days earlier, when it started to cloud over and hail again. We rested in our tents for about an hour, and when we came out found the hill above camp covered in snow.
Slept well again, with the addition of thermal clothing to the previous nights apparel. As soon as we left camp we started climbing the 730 metre increase in altitude to our camp on Kopra Ridge at 3880 metres, above the tree line. It was an arduous climb, but by walking slowly we all made it OK. The magnificent views from camp covered Dhaulagiri to Annapurna South with various mountains in between, all covered in pristine white snow, reflecting sunshine. From camp we ventured along a ridge to the edge of a gorge reputed to be the deepest in the world at 7000 metres, from the top of Dhaulagiri to the village of Dama on the side of the Kali Kanduki River far below.
The trek to High Camp at 4100 metres was slow and arduous. We're feeling the effects of the altitude. At one stage we had to walk across the side of a hill along a narrow track covered in ice with a long sloping drop on one side. The camp is in a valley surrounded by protecting hills and mountains. One moment it is in sunshine, then clouds drift in and obscure the view. To bed early that night.
We trekked for nearly two hours, ascending another 500 metres to Kaire Sacred Lake. This is the highest point of our trek. The lake shore was covered by offerings of coins, small copper dishes, statues of animals, and bells. Nearby shrines were also surrounded by the offerings as well as incense sticks. Our trek leader and one of the guides took a quick fully immersed dip in the lake for religious cleansing. From the lake we retraced our steps to High Camp and continued on to Kapra Ridge for another nights camp.
Up at 6am to find tents surrounded by snow and outer canvas frozen solid. The crew had to beat the canvas to soften them so they could be folded and packed. Bad weather only appears to last for an hour, so now we had clear superb views of the whole Dhaulgiri - Annapurna Range. We agreed that we had been lucky to trek from Lake Kaire to Kopra Ridge before the snow fell, as the route would have been difficult if not dangerous. A 1700 metre descent to the creek at the bottom of the valley was tough on the knees, but how can one complain when you know that the porters up ahead are walking with 30 - 40 kg packs on their backs. These small but incredibly strong fellows (and three women) have my heartfelt respect and admiration. An hours slog up hill after lunch brought us to the village of Chitre, where we enjoyed a warm shower and a chance to wash clothes in warm weather. At 2400 metres, breathing is easier.
From camp we started a long up hill walk to the village of Ghorapani, and without a stop continued on up Poon Hill. All the participants were tired, but for the guides it appeared to be a pleasant stroll. From the summit of Poon Hill, you have incredible views of the surrounding countryside as well as Dhaulagiri to Annapurna again, plus "Fang" and other mountains. From the summit we descended by a rough trail on the back of the hill, through farm country and forests to the village of Ramche, then down and up two more big hills, including a stop by on a small bridge over a beautiful cascading creek. After the days walk, a hot wash, dinner and our regular game of cards I was ready for bed.
Another long up hill slog to what we were told was a flat to undulating track. The trouble was that the narrow track often had sheer drops on one side, and was usually rough, consisting of dirt, mud and rocks. But when you stopped long enough to look around, the views were once again spectacular. And the track often passed waterfalls (one waterfall cascaded down for approx. 50 metres) or cascading creeks, each a work of Art.
A long slow relaxed descent, again providing spectacular views, down rough paved paths and staircases, through villages, past waterfalls and over shallow creeks, brought us to the end of the trek. That night in camp in Pohkra, the crew entertained us with a series of "farewell songs".
My sincere thanks to the five other participants on the trek, and to the crew who fed us and looked after us so well, all of whom helped make it so much fun as well as an adventure. Also to World Expeditions who organised the trek - it was faultless !
For more pictures of Nepal, go here.
Go here for web site index, including pictures and comments about other destinations, scuba diving, and other activities.