Well, we made it! Myself and Sally T successfully completed our trek!! After 23 hours of walking over 5 days, and a distance of rougly 38km, we are back in sunny Pokhara, with satisfyingly achey and weathered bodies! And what a 5 days it was. I will, in true Anna fashion, be a little more descriptive but just to set the scene with one simple word......WOW!! Well and truly WOW! It was so worth the sweat, aching, burn and 2,130 upward climb (!!!). I am and will forever more recommend trekking in Nepal to anyone and everyone!
So, Day 1: we left Pokhara on another very bumpy bus to a little place called Nyapul where we start our trip. To the suprise of pretty much everyone we talked to before we left and during the trip, we didn't have a guide or porter to help us find our way or carry our bags. Hence we were carrying 5 days worth of stuff on our backs and attempting to navigate our way round questionable and poorly signposted routes. But, with my trusty Sal-Nav on board we had nothing to worry about at all. The in-built compass of that girl never lets us down (well, apart from when we walked the wrong way as soon as we started, but enough of that! Nothing to do with me at all *cough cough*!!!). The first day was a hot one and the sweat beads were flowing after mere minutes of walking. We trundled up steps and slopes with very little shade to assist us. Dotted all along the route on these treks are small stopping points, where you can buy water and general snacky bits at severely inflated prices, or you can sit down and eat, or even stay at the guest houses. These places are quite odd as they are literally there because the trekking route is there - completely tourist-driven and all looking pretty identical to one another. As one guy we met said, it's like being on a film set, everything seems a little fake. There are extended families living at each place, with their own shop, guest house, or restaurant, but their lives simply consist of watching people come and go...come and go... it must be quite an odd way to live. After a gruelling 4 hours of upward climbing, my face was distinctly rouge and probably quite frightening (anyone who has seem me after exercise can vouch for this!), and we had arrived at our first detination, Tikedhunnga (try pronouncing that after a few drinks!). We ate some over-priced noodles and cooled down sufficiently, before deciding that we hadn't been punished enough and should walk a further 3 hours up the 280 stone steps (more like 1,280) to another small stop-off point, Ulleri. This way, our walk the next day would be much easier and more enjoyable as the elevation we would have walked was 940m on the first day. So on we went. Strangely enough, I enjoyed the afternoon upward walking alot more than the morning walk - despite the constant steps it was cooler, shadier and my noodles and Sprite had boosted my energy. Sal and I were even singing Eternal, "The Power of a Woman" as we struggled higher and higher!! We must have sounded GREAT! The view that rewarded us at the top was....mediocre! The clouds had come in, hence the nice cool walk, and so the mountains were hidden from us for the night. It even started raining a little. I was in bed by 7pm that night...an all-time record! It was unashamadely amazing to get snuggled up so early when it was so cold outside! A sign of things to come...
Day 2: Our 6am rise was greatly assisted by my 11 hour sleep! I practically bounded out of bed to catch a glimpse of the sunrise over the valley and the morning view of Annapurna South. Breakfast was eaten looking out over the view and enjoying the best milk tea I've tasted so far! Lush! Our second day was really enjoyable to walk - still lots of inclines but alot shadier and cooler the higher we were. The Annapurna South mountain was a constant companion for the day, and would continue to be for the entirety of our trek....like a friendly presence encouraging and nudging us on. Everytime I looked at it, it was as spectacular as ever. The view never got boring! We wandered alongside delightful rivers, waterfalls and wooded areas, stopping for shots (not the alcoholic kind, unfortunately) and snacks every so often. We arrived at our next destination, Ghorepani, roughly 5 hours after leaving Ulleri. We were now at an elevation of 2750m so had climbed 750m that day. My legs were feeling ever so slightly wobbly! We spent the afternoon relaxing, reading, playing cards and trying to keep warm - the temperature was freezing at that height. Early to bed again as the pinnacle of the trek was the next morning - a 4.30 rise awaited us and what promised to be the most spectacular mountain views we could imagine.
Day 3: Our 4.30am alarm was, to our extreme bleary-eyed annoyance, preceded by our exceptionally noisy Korean neighbours who woke up and started shouting outside our door at 4 in the morning. Hmmmm. The night had been so cold, I was basically wearing all the clothes I had to my name...so it was a quick readying session for me! And so we emerged, still bleary-eyed from our hotel to meet with the most amazing blanket of stars in the frosty night sky, and a perfect crescent moon. It was spectacular.... but nothing compared to what was in store! It was a surreal experience indeed joining the long line of wrapped-up trekkers and guides, trundling slowly slowly up the steep stone staircases and muddy grounds, dozily following the jittering light of a head torch atop the person infront, or behind. Like lemmings we marched up and up, the sweat beads expanding, the cold air becoming thinner, the heart beating faster and faster, the layers peeling gradually away....until, 45 minutes and a climb of 450m later, before the sun had even risen, we finally reached Poon Hill, our viewing spot for the next few hours. We were there with 200 plus other trekkers so the magic and solitude you imagine is slightly altered...it was more like squeeze for the photography spot you desire, wait for the person to move out of your shot, try to be oblivious to the hububb of people excitedly chatting and laughing. It was still totally magical though...regardless of all the other people.
As we had been walking up to Poon Hill, the faint outline of the enormous mountains had been looming ominously, like a fearsome but respected teacher standing behind you in class- you can feel their powerful presence behind you, but know at the same time they were undoubtedly keep you safe. The shadowy outlines soon became animated with the rays of the rising sun and wow, what animations they were! With every passing second the landscape evolved into a more and more jaw-dropping spectacle. The sunshine crept gingerley over the silvery white peaks and curves, warming and caressing their cold exteriors like an old friend. The lemmings atop the hill all stood on the periphery, extending their massive, telescopic lenses towards the impressive range, snap-snapping away and absorbing the sight with every available pore. To give you an idea of the range of the view - the mountains we could see were Dhaulagiri, Tukche, Nilgiri Himal, Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Machhapuchhra and Himal. They were literally surrounding us! "Put the money in the bag and no one gets hurt!!!" It was epically beautiful and a morning I will remember and treasure forever.
We literally bounded back down Poon Hill to Ghorepani, high from the incredible sights we'd taken in. But, no rest for the wicked...onwards and upwards we went from Ghorepani to our next stop, 5 and a hlaf hours away in Tada Pani. Today was most definitely the hardest day of walking in terms of terrain and upward-downward trekking. Our legs really took a battering going up to Poon Hill, coming back down and then ascending up to another hill at the same height, and back down again! Ow! Due to the height we were walking at, the sights continued to make us giddy all day (probably something to do with the high altitude too!). It was so satisfying to get to Tada Pani, as we knew that from there it was all downhill!
Day 4: Met with a sunrise that equalled the Poon Hill sunrise, we soaked up the first chilly moments of Thursday morning with sleepy smiles. My eyes have been treated so much these last few days!! My legs on the other hand, had not been treated so well and were starting to complain in a serious way! My calf muscles had completely seized up from the inclines and declines from the day before so the downhill trek we had ahead of us that day was not as enjoyable as I'd anticipated! We started our journey to Ghandruk, our next stop, by trekking through a jungle, with huge monkeys swinging and playing about in the trees above us! Amazing! The path was full of trekkers heading up to Poon Hill or down to Ghandruk with us...the traffic was worse than rush hour in Bristol (but slightly more scenic)!! Thankfully for my weakening pins, we arrived in Ghandruk at lunch time after only 3 hours of walking, so we had the afternoon to chill, soak up the sunshine and wander around the little village of Ghandruk - a refreshing change to the "staged" stopping points we were accustomed to. The evening was spent gazing up at the Machhapuchhre "Fishtail" mountain peaking through the clouds.
Day 5: Last day and more stunning mountain views over breakfast and more downhill, achey trekking for my legs to bear. Ouch! The scenery was beautiful walking back down from Ghandruk to Nyapul...rolling valleys with tiered padi fields creating glorious patterns all around. The contrasting colours from the bright green fields, to the vibrant purple and fushcia flowers, to the crystal blue sky, to the sparkling white Machhapuchhre mountain peak certainly eased our jolting walk down the steep stone steps. And so, we arrived in Nyapul and clambered onto our bus - hot, sweaty, knackered but most importantly.....SATISFIED!!!
Now we are back in Pokhara, fully enjoying our chilled weekend and the energetic Diwali Festival, or The Festival of Lights, that is happening in town and indeed all over the continent. Tomorrow we leave for Sunauli and then over the border we go to India, for the next episode of our travelling extravaganza!! Exciting times...
For now though, love and missings to you all xxx
Highlights since the last blog:
- Completing our 5 day trek! Yeeeeah!!
- Getting up to 3,200 feet at 5 in the morning and then being greeted by the Poon Hill View!
- Sunrise in the Nepali mountains - epic and awe-inspiring natural beauty that makes you truly appreciate how amazing our planet is. Lush!