I´ve always been interested providing myself challenges. I don´t know if it´s that secure life we are living in western countries that make me miss the element of adventure and even a risk. That´s when I can feel the most ‘free’. When we decided to go to Nepal it was obvious that we would do trekking there. We both are interested in nature and sleeping in not-so-comfy-conditions isn´t any problem for us.
We wanted our trek to be organized by a local agency, so I googled Nepalese trekking agencies and found many recommendations of a Pokhara-based-company named Beauty Nepal Adventure. I contacted them many months before our trek. It wasn´t obvious straight away that we would go to the Annapurna Base Camp. Even we both wanted to go to just that trek, we were thinking many times if it would be too much challenge for us. I sent many emails with Beauty Nepal Adv. concerning the A.B.C. trek. They always answered quickly and kindly and many questions were answered a long time before we finally came to Pokhara. Company leader Bijay and our guide, Kajiman Rai, came to meet us straight away when we arrived in Pokhara and we went through all our gear with them. Some stuff like down jacket and hiking poles we rent in Pokhara with Kaji. I´m lucky that we had the courage to choose the A.B.C.! That´s how it went.
Day 1 – Pokhara – Birethanti – Hille (3,5h trek – altitude 1460m)
We met our team in our guest house in Pokhara 8.30 in the morning. Our guide, Kaji, we had met a couple of times earlier and today we met also our porter, a 21-year-old Mani. First we drove to Birethanti to start our trek. Beauty Nepal Adventure had arranged our permits for the trek. You need to pay for entry permit to Annapurna Conservation Area and also TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System). In Birethanti we got our permits stamped and got ‘logged in’ to the Annapurna area. Our first day trail was pretty easy; we walked a couple of hours along the river Modi Khola through rice fields to our first lodge in peaceful country village, Hille. Accommodation and three meals per day, were included to the trek price. First evening Kaji taught us to eat Nepal national dish, Dhal Bhat, like Nepalese…using only your hands. We were pretty excited of our trek and didn´t sleep much during the first night.
Day 2 – Hille – Ulleri – Ghorepani (7h trek – altitude 2860m)
Second morning started early. As we got to notice, rest of the mornings started also much earlier than we had used to. Breakfast was at 6.30 so that our trek would start at 7.00. With not so much sleep during first night, this day was pretty tough. From Hille the trail started to be steeper. To reach the next village, Ulleri, we had to climb 3333 stone steps going only up, up, up! There was a line of trekkers climbing up to Ulleri. October-November is the best time to trek in Nepal, so the route was sometimes crowdy. Anyway, the trail wasn´t crowdy only because of trekkers – in these heights where ‘road’ means steep stone paths, people uses mules and ponys as well as porters to transport goods from village to village. What we learned – a porter can carry loads of over 30 kilos! There is nothing to be complained for a trekker carrying only 3kg daypack! There was also independent trekkers with no guide or porter – their faces didn´t look so happy in Ulleri stairs. It started to look like Nepalese used the word ‘flat’ if it was ‘only’ 10 minutes of going up or down…no matter how steep the trail was.
We reached our next village, Ghorepani in the afternoon. It started to be chillier: Ghorepani was over 1000 meters higher than Hille. View from our lodges´ window was amazing – Annapurna South and Macchapucchre or ‘Fishtail’ Mountain was looking straight at us in the horizon! Shower in Ghorepani was so cold that I could hear a chinese lady from the room next door clanking her teeth like 10 minutes after coming out there. Darkness comes to Nepal around 18 so we used to go to bed at 20.00. There was power cuts in the lodge so after 18.00 we had to use headlights inside to see anything. Anyway, starting from this night I slept like a baby.
Day 3 – Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Ghorepani – Tadapani (7-8h trek – altitude 2700m)
Third morning started before the sun got up. With our headlamps on, we climbed for an hour to Poon Hill to see the sunrise. Even the last day had been tough and starting your morning at 4.00 by climbing a nearby hill isn´t the first option that comes to your mind when your muscles are still sore from the previous day, view from Poon Hill was really worth all the efforts! Annapurna Mountain range could be seen clearly when weather is always the clearest early in the morning. Seeing the first sun rays above Himalayas was truly amazing. The experience would have been even better without the masses of other trekkers but no can do if you choose the most popular trekking route in the world during the high-season
We hit back to Ghorepani for breakfast and after we continued our trek. Just a bit after Ghorepani we saw an ambulance helicopter coming from Ghorepani – there was a lady in another guesthouse who had had some kind of a stroke during the night. Helicopters can’t fly in mountains during the nighttime so they had to wait for help many hours. I hope she´s okay now! We also heard that some people had had altitude sickness symptoms already in these heights. We were lucky not having one and kept going.
It was a lot of ascending after leaving Ghorepani but luckily the trail descented to rhododendron forests and started to go alongside a river again. Tadapani was a beautiful small village with great views to the mountains. Once again we noticed the view only in the next morning when the weather was it´s brightest. In the afternoon it normally started to be cloudy and also rain a bit. Tadapani was cold! We were happy to have our -20 degrees sleeping bags with us.
Day 4 – Tadapani – Chhomrong (5h trek – altitude 2170m)
We had thought earlier that climbing up to Chhomrong would be somewhat strenuous so we were a little bit scared how the day was going to be. Once again, we left Tadapani early in the morning. In fact we had a great performance during the breakfast. Local kids were performing dances due to a hindu-festival and they were performing just in front of our lodge. There was a truly amazing young guy dancing his ass off…and it was 7am! Other kids were clapping their hands in the circle and this boy was dancing in the middle. There I was, having my morning tea in this landscape watching a local kids’ performance. Pretty cool moment…
Way to Chhomrong was amazing. The trail went through the farms and fields of millet and rice. Kaji taught us about local farming and plants. We saw buffalos, cows, mules, one snake an even an eagle on a hunt. On our way we also met group of three guys. They were on their way to A.B.C. as well, with no porter nor guide. One of them had sore knee so another one was carrying their boths’ stuff. Looked pretty much of a survival story already then. Their plan was to rent a porter or a pony from the way.
Our lodge in Chhromrong was a paradise with a white pony running free in the village.
Menus in the lodges are always the same – rice, noodles, eggs, potatoes…in different forms. A lot of vegetable dishes, very few non-veg dishes. Menus are actually accepted by some committee. Maybe the point of having similar menus in each lodge, is to prevent trekkers having diarrhea or porters carrying too many dish variations’ supplies to the villages. Imagine that even the villages farm themselves a lot of grains and veggies and grow poultry, cows and buffalos, everything that they don´t grow themselves has to be carried to the villages by porters or mules. That means every bottle of coke, beer or mineral water, packages of noodles or jam, toilet papers, building materials, gas…that´s totally amazing to see porters’ carriages!
We had always porridge with fruit for breakfast and some mixed fried rice or noodles for lunch or dinner. We always filled our water bottles with boiled tap water and used water purification tablets as a double-check. We tried to keep in mind not to buy food that had to be carried to the villages. So in this evening in Chhomrong our guide Kaji suggested us to have a pizza for dinner. When we offered last pieces to him, he ate them gladly and soon dig a small bottle of local rhum, Khukri, from his jacket. He also asked Mani to join us and there we were, our finnish-nepali-team proposing a toast together. This actually started a tradition; every evening after this we shared a small amount of rhum together as well as stories about our countries’ history, culture etc. Good times!
Chhromrong´s white pony.
Day 5 – Chhomrong – Sinuwa – Bamboo – Dobhan (7h trek – altitude 2580m)
Way to Dobhan followed again Modi Khola river and was full of ascending and descending. After Chhromrong the route up went only to A.B.C. So all the trekkers we saw in the route after Chhomrong were going or coming from the Base Camp. As we noticed, the route was super busy. After the accident a couple of weeks ago some routes in Annapurnas had been closed so people had changed their plan and decided to go to the Base Camp instead. Our guide warned us we might not get our own room from all the guesthouses after Chhromrong because of too many people in A.B.C. route. That wasn´t a problem for us. We were clad that we had had a room. Many people were coming to our guesthouse pretty desperate asking for a room or even a dining room to stay over night. It was almost dark and rainy already then…
We got to sleep in the common dining room in Dobhan. I remember our staying in Dobhan being special also because of we taught some card games to our porter Mani. Before this we hadn´t spent any ‘extra’-time together after arriving to guesthouses but this afternoon and evening we spent many hours together playing cards with Kaji and Mani. I´m pretty sure all of us felt being a great team now!
…to be continued.