Five day, Annapurna Trek
The best part of this post, in my opinion, is at the end, in the Poon Hill section...so if you can't read it all, consider skipping down to the end for the wrap...
Being in Nepal, in the shadow of the incredible Annapurna Mountain Range, part of the Himalayan Range, I wanted to experience a bit of this majesty more intimately. I talked to the folks at my guesthouse, The 3 Sisters Lodge and Trekking Adventure, about possibilities. We decided on a five day trek, up to an elevation called Poon Hill, and part of a loop that would give me great hiking, an aerobic workout to beat the band, and magnificent views of the Annapurna range from many perspectives. They arranged a guide for me, Bishnu Subedi (Bishnu is Nepalese for Vishnu, the Hindu god) who spoke English well and really knew the native ways. Bishnu is a born and raised native, was the perfect guide for me, having been through specific training and certification for guiding in in the Annapurna Conservation Area. Hi is a wonderful soul and we rapidly became friends. My Departure date would be 19 December through the 23rd. The cost for the guide with all necessary permits came out to $ 25 US per day. They said that I would need $ 10-15 US per day in the back country for food and lodging, which turned out to be quite accurate. The guest rooms along the route were anywhere from $ 2.50- 3.00 (150-200 Nepal Rupees) per night. It was easy to spend 1000 ( $ 12 US) rupees per day on food.
On the morning of the 19th, as arranged, Bishnu came to 3 Sisters to help me choose what to bring and pack for the trek. I laid out what I was thinking of taking. Bishnu approved of all of it and said I should bring a couple of other items, such as my warm winter jacket and extra pairs of socks. It turned out that I got great use of the winter jacket as it was below freezing a few times on the trek. My medium size backpack was full with 2 water bottles (one liter each), my portable water purification filtration system, extra clothing; long underwear, extra socks and undies, extra t shirts, long and short, one extra pair of quick dry pants, camera, notepad, first aid supplies, toiletries, and miscellaneous sundry items. Bishnu grabbed my good down sleeping bag and put it in his pack. I asked if there would be and extra charge for that; he grinned and said no. Fully packed, my backpack weighed in at around 15 Kg, or about 33 US pounds. I would have liked to be lighter, but alas…
We departed at 9:30 AM, from the Lakeside district of Pokhara, and had a one hour ride in the 3 Sisters jeep up to Nayapoll, elevation 1030 meters (3379.26 feet) where we would start hiking.
Bishnu knew that I wanted to go at a leisurely pace, planning on continually adjusting to new elevation, though I didn’t see that as a problem, as I had already done some very aerobic hiking climbing on the ridges around Pokhara. Our first day was leisurely, hiking for about three hours. Halfway through our route for the day, we stopped at one of the numerous tea houses for a snack and a break. I had a black tea with powdered milk for a bit of a boost. I also bought 5 oranges for 50 rupees (around $ .62). We did a lot of climbing throughout the day so I early on started peeling off layers and still was sweating profusely with just a t shirt on top. The trail followed a valley with river running through it, ever climbing, frequently quite steeply. The trail is well maintained and often has rock steps for the steep portions.
We reached our guest house in the minute village of Hille around 3 pm. The elevation here is 1430 meters or around 4691 feet. I got settled in my room, relaxed for a few minutes, did a 40 minute meditation, then went down to the kitchen to socialize. This time of year, the winter, is a slower season, so there were not many guests there. The owner, Dipak, was an extremely flamboyant man, with his two daughters, Riya and Durga, helping to run the guest house; his wife and younger son living in Pokhara for the education of the son. They offered me many types of beverages and I settled, as would be my habit in the afternoon and evening of a simple lemon, honey and ginger hot drink. Any caffeine in the afternoon of evening tends to keep me wide awake at night…
They were greatly gracious to me and the daughters went to calling me Nibaje, meaning “sweet brother”. I had a fine, traditional Nepaly dinner of Dahl Bhatt, which includes rice, curried lentils (slightly spicy), curried vegetables (spicy), and spicy curried pickles. They refer to the curry here as Masala, which just indicates a varied mix of herbs, spices and vegetables. Dinner the first night cost 350 rupees, or around $ 4.10 US. It was plentiful!
The electric power in the guesthouse is supplied by hydropower from the creek running through the canyon below. It is much more consistent that the city of Pokhara and typically just shuts down on Fridays for a bit of maintenance. We had both candlelight and electric light (compact fluorescent bulbs are used pretty exclusively throughout Nepal). Having a good source of 24 hour power, they also had television and a satellite dish on the corrugated galvanized roof and spent a fair amount of time endlessly switching channels between TV programs and Bollywood movies. It is also interesting that even in these remote areas of the foothills and mountains, there is surprisingly good cellular coverage.
I watched a bit of Bollywood, but disliked the constant channel change; continuing to take pictures, which they welcomed and chatting with Bishnu and my hosts. After awhile, I excused myself and retire to my room, which was simple, with bed and table, and quite comfortable. There is no heat in any of the guesthouses and the temperature frequently gets down near freezing. I enjoyed the cozy warmth of my Marmot down sleeping bag. When I went for a sip of water in the morning, my water was refreshingly chilly!
When I paid my bill in the morning, I spent 1690 rupees (a little over $ 20 US) total for yesterday and this morning’s breakfast. I wanted to watch my spending as that was a bit more than I wished to budget.
We departed at around 9 am after a good sleep. The morning was clear, excellent for our frequent views of the Annapurna range. We would have a longer walk today, hiking for around six hours, again climbing steadily to the highest points in this short trek. My legs were a bit stiff and my thigh muscles registered the climbing we had done the day before. At around 11:15 we stopped at one of the many teahouses along the way for a break and a snack. I ordered black tea and added a bit of sugar, which I usually would never do, but felt the extra energy would serve me for the climb ahead. Sure enough, within 15 minutes, I noticed a good surge that served me well in our continual climb. Bishnu noticed my increased energy and pace and commented on it. Some of the climbs were daunting, but I continued, one step at a time, never getting discouraged but looking forward to reaching our destination.
Right on schedule, we arrived at Ghorepani, elevation 2900 meters ( around 9514.42 feet) at 3:15. We were walking through patches of shallow snow as we approached and there was a little snow on the grounds of our guesthouse. We checked into our guesthouse and took a 30 minute rest. We wanted to continue to climb to Poon Hill to watch the sunset on the magnificent mountains overshadowing us.
At 4 pm, we grabbed a few items, including our warm winter jackets. It was another aerobic climb for 40 minutes up to the top of Poon Hill, elevation at 3200 meters, a must see destination on this trek. From the top of Poon Hill, one had an incredible 360-degree view of the surrounding area. We arrived at the top with 30 minutes to spare before the sun hit the mountains to the west dipping into dusk. Fortunately, the sky was perfect, almost clear with a few cirrus clouds scattered around the Annapurna peaks and the mountains to the west to really light up the sunset with brilliant colors.
The Universe delivered in a spectacular fashion. As the sun sank toward the horizon, the red shift lit the Annapurna’s and few surrounding clouds with warm glowing orange, turning deeper as the sun descended, Alpenglow at its finest! We, along with 20 or so others who had made the climb, watched in wonder as this explosion of color transformed our world. Our gaze wandered back and forth, from the northeastern peaks to the western sky as the color shift continued, then quickly started to fade as Sol slid behind yon western mountains. The air cooled rapidly, and we prepared to descend. Again, I was engulfed with mystic emotion, being thankful for the incredible beauty in which I live, always graced by the souls that surround me. Upon Poon Hill, I met a few of the others who shared (a unique and wonderful bond of souls) and marveled at this incredible phenomenon, repeated endlessly throughout time…
The walk back down was much faster, though we needed light occasionally to navigate the steep descent. The temperature was down to freezing, so I was glad Bishnu had me bring my warm jacket. There was a fire burning in the large woodstove in the dining room (no heat anywhere in the guest rooms so I was glad I had my good Marmot down sleeping bag) and folks were huddled around it basking in this glow. I enjoyed another traditional Nepaly style meal, watched some trekkers from Kathmandu cut it up to raucous native music, then retired to my room for rest.
As is my want, always before sleep, I review my day, giving thanks for my challenging and rewarding day’s venture and to the glory of Being… I am…