Silk Road Adentures travel blog

Nerves at the start of the trek

Machapuchare at dusk

Poon Hill at sunrise

Poon Hill

Giles being overtaken by the porters

Annapurna South

Giles finding some ''Himalayan tobacco''

Playing footy with the locals

Nice 'nettle' leys at the dance evening

Dancing Nepalese style

We made it - at the top of Annapurna Sanctuary

Taking a rest at a teahouse

Walking up Poon Hill for sunrise

Nice setting for breaky - Chommrong

Coming through...

Relaxing in the hot springs

Festival bamboo swing

The 'altitude king' preparing for the clouds

Walking through the clouds to ABC


With a few nerves we set off for our 10-day trek in the Himalayas wondering whether our 2 days in the gym in Bangkok would really be enough in the way of training!

We chose to do the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, a 10 day trek which goes in to the centre of the Annapurna range (rather than the 3 week Annapurna Circuit trek which goes around the mountains). After getting dropped off at the small village of Bhirithanti we said goodbye to the traffic (and the associated blaring of horns) and followed a trail along a ridge ranging from 1580m to 1750m. We passed some interesting things including a dead person being transported out of the valley slung to a piece of bamboo, as well as hundreds of goats and sheep making their way to Pokhara for slaughter for the upcoming festivals! The villagers in these valleys grow mainly rice or millet so there was a lot of terracing over the hills. As well as this they make cornflour, so most houses had drying cobs of corn strung to the rafters.

At lunchtime we had our first experience of a teahouse which litter the trails. We were expecting to be eating dal bhat (the local nepalese dish of lentil soup, curried vegies and rice) but were surprised to find a full European, Indian and Nepalese menu - during the trek I think between us we managed to sample most things on it!

The second day involved over 3000 steps as we made our way slowly to Ghorapani. The trail took us through and over valleys and through dense forest until we reached the small town, but we were rewarded with an amazing view of the snow capped mountains of the Annapurna range. We had to get up early the next day but the porters and guide persuaded the tea house owners to put on some local music and so after a few Raksi (the local rice wine), rums (which Giles and Shaun smuggled into their packs) and beers, we found ourselves dancing away Nepalise style. The porters and Jamka (our guide) loved this and I think would have danced away the hours of the night - so luckily there was a power cut and we had to go to bed!

The reason for the early start the next day was to get to the top of Poon Hill for sunrise. So off we set in the dark and traipsed upwards to the top of Poon Hill (3210m) by torchlight. However as soon as the sun rose and the adjacent mountain tops were illuminated all the effort of the walk and the early start was immediately forgotten. The only down point was the hundreds of other trekkers there with us and the fact the the Japanese amongst them seemed to stand in front of you whenever you wanted to take a photo! In fact the Japanese really didn't endear themselves to us on the trip - when they weren't getting in the way of your photo they were either being carried up a hill by their guide (we saw this more than once!) or a donkey, and smoking and talking loudly outside your room - onto our clean washing I might add!

The next couple of days involved walking up and over valleys through dense forests including huge rhododendron trees staying at a height of about 2200m. The walking wasn't proving to be as strenuous as we first feared so we started to enjoy the large breakfasts, two-course lunches and massive dinners (sometimes with big puddings as well) - all being washed down with cheap rum and beers. In fact whilst we weren't expecting the teahouses to be so well catered, we certainly made the most of the fact that they were (and I am sure some weight was put on as a result). The time in the teahouses also gave us a chance to get to know our guide (Jamka) and porters (Sebass, Aluk, Caseb, Zhondra 1 and Zhondhra 2), which really added to the trip. Many a night was spent playing cards and having a couple of drinks with them - we also found time to teach them a new card game which we found them playing all the time afterwards!

One night we were even treated to some traditional songs and dance by the local villagers of Chommrong. We were a bit nervous that this would be another tourist trap - but it really wasn't as it was aimed just as much to our guide and porters as it was to us and some more Nepalese dancing was attempted (badly!)

From Chommrong the trail started to climb a bit more sharply through leech infested forests (which Heidi found to her cost when she went for a pee off-track and came back with 5 on her boots - luckily none took hold of her!) up a steep sided valley. The fifth night was spent literally in the clouds at a teahouse in Deaurali (3170m). At this point we were alerted to the fact that the next stretch was prone to avalanche attacks and of course we had also to be alert to signs of altitude sickness. At this point I should point out that on this advice, Giles made the comment that he had walked at high altitudes before and that we should just call him the 'altitude King'.

The next day was the final push to the Annapurna base camp itself (4200m), pausing briefly on the way at Machhapuchhare base camp to acclimatise to the altitude. On reaching our final destination the 'altitude king' complained of severe headaches and spent the next few hours drinking lots of water and looking very pale!! The final leg of the walk was made even more special by the fact that the clouds came over and we spent most of the walk in the mist and rain, but on arrival they cleared for 1-2 hours giving us great views of the annapurna range amphitheatre, the scale of which was quite staggering. Then the clouds came back bringing with it a huge lightening and thunder storm and fresh snow. So it was time for another large meal and game of cards with the porters whilst watching the thunder and lightning at close quarters. The following morning when we got up for sunrise, clear views awaited us again. Our guide literally had to drag us away from the place in the end - we really could have stayed a lot longer.

On the return trip we retraced our steps back to Chommrong where we decided to have an inpromptu night on the rums and I think between us we managed to insult most nationalities staying at the teahouse (especially the Japanese).

From Chommrong we took another route back passing some natural hotsprings where we spent a pleasant couple of hours soaking whilst the porters took their first wash of the trip! From here it was an easy 1.5 days walk back to our starting point and then back to the hustle and bustle of Pokhara.

Overall we loved the trek, which being only at the very start of the trekking season, was not too infested by other tourists. It was not as hard as we were expecting it to be (the porters of course probably disagree with us there!), and the locals were really friendly. We had thought we would be walking through alpine meadows most of the way, when we were in fact walking mostly through forests. The views of the surrounding Annapurna range was amazing - some of these peaks are over 8000m in height! The teahouses were a lot more upmarket than we originally thought (double rooms), although showering with a bucket of warm water over the squat toilets was interesting! and food......not only dal bhat (which the porters ate everyday!), but pizzas, noodles, rosti and even Shaun and Giles's favourite, apple roll with custard! We only wish we now had the time to do the Everest Base Camp trek........



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