Tag Archives: Ghorepani

Day 3 of Trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area: Ghorepani, Poon Hill and Macchupuchare and Tadapani

 

Thunder crashed violently outside, causing the window to shake and jolt me out of my sleep. Checking the clock, 4:30am, I peered outside into the grey gloom as raindrops pelted the window like bullets and the trees swayed precariously in the wind. My hopes sank as I stared at the torrential storm outside, silently wishing it would die down soon. Determined not to let it get me down, I struggled in the dark to yank on my hiking clothes and boots and made my way downstairs, where a few others had also congregated.

“Unfortunately the weather is too bad for us to leave on time; we will need to wait awhile and hope it clears up. For now, I don’t know whether we will be able to make it to Poon Hill now, but the best thing to do for now is catch up on some sleep, and as soon as I think it’s safe to go outside I’ll let everyone know,” Narendra said.

My hopes sank a little lower as I resignedly trudged back to bed, praying to myself that the weather would clear up in a couple of hours as I snuggled under the sheets.

 

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Two hours later I stood outside, my prayers and wishes answered as I gazed up at the cloudy skyline of the Himalaya range. Although they were still partially shrouded in cloud, it was possible to discern the outline of the different mountains and their peaks. Although images of the Himalyan range of littered everywhere, from stores to street vendors and tourist agencies in Kathmandu, none of it prepares you for the actual enormity and expanse of the mountains. It wasn’t enough to simply look at them from a particular point; they stretched so far into the distance, that one had to walk  along in order just to catch a glimpse as the range continued to stretch further in the distance. My eyes scanned each and every ridge, in efforts to memorise it in my head, when a yelp on the ground below dragged my attention away.

“Oomphf!” down below, a young man that had spent the night camped in a tent slipped in a puddle, half of his side covered in mud. An entire school group had spent the night camped through the storm; by morning, their neon orange triangular tents had been blown into misshapen, feeble positions that forced the students to drag themselves out by their elbows. Watching as a thin line of them stomped and trudged through the mud to the toilets, it was amusing to watch as them as they stopped suddenly, their angry mutterings over their misfortunes the night before momentarily subsided as they stopped to appreciate the panoramic views laid out before them. Following their gaze upwards, I resumed my long fixation at the mountains until Narendra’s voice called us to begin our trek up the mountains.

 

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Any morose I might have felt at not reaching Poon Hill vanished as we reached the hilltop; with the weather rapidly clearing, every crag and overhang on the mountains were  clearly visible. Earlier Narendra had broken the news to us that our late start due to the weather meant a detour up Poon Hill was impossible; but he promised to take us up another hill just along our path that had equally good views of the Himalaya range. True to his word, we scrambled to the top and exchanged excited words with one another, as well as other groups and out porters. Tangles of prayer flags billowed as the wind blew fiercely, and yellow, white and purple wildflowers dotted the hillside below. Undulating mounds of green were crowded against one another on one side of the hill, whilst on the opposite side snow-capped peaks pierced through the stubborn remains of clouds from last night’s storm.

For what felt like hours we sat and stared at the mountains, appreciating how varied the landscape was in such a small pocket of the world.

 

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Eventually, after much goading and promises of more stunning scenery below, Narendra managed to convince our group to head down the hill and once again through the dense layer of trees. Just before I entered the forest, I turned around quickly for one last glance at the Himalayas before they slipped from view.

Once again, Nerendra’s hype had lived up to his promise. Small waterfalls tumbled off the nearby cliffs, eventually diverting into small droplets that fell off the petals of purple wildflowers that were rooted into the side of the cliff. Rapids and small stacks of stones, offerings to the various spirits that dwelled there, skirted along our neighbouring path, and shafts of sunlight dazzled brilliantly against the fresh, invigorating backdrop of foliage as we climbed down the never-ending stairs. Every few metres we stopped, taking photos or simply admiring and appreciating the sunshine that had been absent from the morning and night before. Soon the path began to rise again as we left the forest and another flight of steep stone staircases led up the mountain.

 

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“Narendra!” someone from our group gasped in between breaths, “I thought you said earlier that the rest of the trail today would be flat!”

 

“But this is flat, it’s Nepali flat! A little bit up, a little bit down!” Narendra exclaimed, while making snaking movements with his hands. With laughter all round, we continued to huff and puff up the mountain, wondering and discussing what other alternative Nepalese definitions existed.

Entering a clearing at the top of the staircase we all shuffled into the centre and suddenly, the Himalayas reappeared into view. Nearby was our accommodation, which although very basic, provided us with the best views of Macchupuchare, or Fishtail Mountain.  It is believed this mountain to be particularly sacred to the god Shiva, and as a result it is forbidden for mountaineers to summit or climb it.

With the sun out full blaze, everyone quickly assembled onto the front yard, the porters playing a Nepalese board game, Narendra flitting about and chatting to everyone and the rest drinking beer, playing cards and taking photos., occasionally stopping to admire the towering backdrop of the Himalayas. As the day drew to a close and we moved inside, Narendra organised a group huddle and explained, “Tomorrow morning, you will get the best sunrise views of the mountains, so make sure you’re up early, say 4:30am, if you want to take photos. I’ll be up to knock on doors if you like!”

Excited at the prospect of sunrise views, we all made note to rise early, and then resumed our babble around the table over steaming portions of dinner as the sun slipped from view.

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I spent 12 days on Earthbound Expeditions’ Nepal Mountain and Tiger Tour, with our guide Narendra Timalsina, whom I would highly recommend. For more information about the tour, please click here.

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Day 2 of Trekking in Annapurna: Tikhedunga to Ghorepani

Overnight, the clouds rolled in and by morning the surrounding mountains were enveloped in a dense white mist. Despite staring pointedly at the trail we would be trekking up that day it was impossible to gain a clear view of its path as it zigzagged up the sheer side of the cliff.

Still, the cool weather was a joyous welcome for some of our group, who were nursing hangovers after last night’s celebrations. Tenderly strapping on their boots, we all sat down together for a carb-loading breakfast session, before heading up into the misty clouds.

One of the scariest things when trekking in Nepal was crossing the bridges. Usually my fear of heights is reserved for airplanes, but crossing a wire bridge that wobbled beneath your feet with the sound of rapids crashing below is enough to put some sense into your head. On the bright side though we crossed so many of these bridges, including rickety, dilapidated wooden bridges, that within the first day I managed to quash my fear.

 

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Over the next several hours, we climbed up flights of stairs, each more steep than the other. Constructed from great slabs of rock hewn into the mountainside, their uneven size and slipperiness from the mist meant every lunge up the next step required concentration to stop ourselves slipping and falling down the mountainside. Which was difficult, given the beauty scenery that was unfolding beneath us.

Pausing for a breath, we all turned and looked down; the myriad of waterfalls and rapids twisted and turned below, creating an elegance normally found in cursive writing. The villages we passed through earlier could still be seen, the bright blues and whites of the buildings’ tin roofs clashing with the dark green mountains and rice paddy fields surrounding them, in a way that was pleasing to the eye. And the air; each breath was brisk and clean, like a deep intake on a cold winter’s day, the kind that chills your lungs and spreads to your toes but makes you feel purified and restored on the inside.

 

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Our efforts climbing up the hill all morning was rewarded with a lunch of soup and Dal Bhat at a hilltop restaurant. We were now firmly up in the clouds; any views were enjoyed earlier that morning were clouded over, bringing a chill on everyone as we ate. Presently a pack of three dogs and a cat trotted over to investigate, and hopefully glean a few morsels from us.

Open hilltops soon transformed into dense, dark green jungle, with foliage so thick only slivers of light managed to penetrate the blanket of leaves that had descended above us. The misty clouds continued to creep in however, giving the surroundings an eerie atmosphere. Tree roots and long beige vines twisted and contorted with one another into monstrous shapes, and the chirps of birds, which had been a constant background noise all morning, fell silent. Only the draping of ragged prayer flags, aged through the years by the adverse weather of the mountains, discerned to us that we were on the trail.

 

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After trudging along for several hours in hushed, whispered conversation, our group stopped as the trail came to a halt in front of a stone platform. A slab of rock bearing rings of various brown hues, along with designs in pink and yellow paint, was placed in the middle, while small stacks of stones were haphazardly placed around the platform. Falling silent, we stopped and looked at the scene in mild curiosity, as if waiting for its meaning to suddenly appear. Peering left and right, it seemed no one was around to ask, and with the light fading we continued our march on to Ghorepani.

 

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The next monument we came across featured a large grey tablet propped up on a stone platform. Runes were scribbled across the entire face of the stone in a language indiscernible to everyone, and this time we asked Narendra as to their meaning without hesitation.

“It’s hard to translate into English, but for some people you see, the people that live in these mountains they believe the gods, and urm, I guess you could call them spirits, live here,” Narendra explained.

“They believe they live in these mountains, and if you are crossing through and want a blessing or to give thanks, that you should bring prayer flags, or stack rocks around what you would call a shrine, for a blessing. Just to let them know you’re here.”

Looking around, with clouds of mist lazily circling around the twisted branches, and the shadows and greenery mixing together in the surroundings to create a murky backdrop, it was easy to see how people could believe gods and spirits inhabited these forests. A few of us scrambled around, looking for rocks to stack, and after some hasty building we moved on, eager to reach Ghorepani.

 

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A blue and white arch announced our arrival to the small village of Ghorepani, but our rest stop was still a distance away.

“Our teahouse has the best views of the mountains, the extra distance is worth it, “ Narendra promised.

Climbing up the last steep stairs of the day with the rest of Ghorepani below us, we turned and wandered around the large viewing platform and entrance to the teahouse. Gazing uneasily at the surrounding landscape encased in clouds, it seemed my dream of looking at the Himalayas would be dashed. Keeping my fingers crossed for better weather tomorrow, we brushed the dirt off of our boots and entered the teahouse.

While Narendra might have been wrong about the views, he was definitely correct about the teahouse. In the centre sat a wood burning oven, puffing out heat and emitting the pleasant scent of burning wood. Clothes were draped on hangers along the roof of the stove, and the brightly lit communal area, complete with a myriad of benches and chairs, gave the place a cheery, homely atmosphere.

A short while later and everyone was lounged around the stove or dining table, playing card games and chatting animately while cupping steaming mugs of coffee and tea. Narendra came and sat with us all, and after a short interval announced a group meeting.

“Right everyone, we need to be up and ready at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Yes yes, I know, it’s early, but we will get the best sunrise views of the Himalayan range, and enough time at Poon Hill.”

On that note everyone turned to one another, with grins from ear to ear, and eyes bright with excitement. A rumble of clouds alerted us to the gathering storm outside, and we watched as dark grey clouds loomed over the horizon, and turned around with uneasy looks tempering our excitement for tomorrow.

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I spent 12 days on Earthbound Expeditions’ Nepal Mountain and Tiger Tour, with our guide Narendra Timalsina, whom I would highly recommend. For more information about the tour, please click here.

I spent one night at the Nice View Point Lodge in Ghorepani, altitude 2850M, which I would also highly recommend. 

 

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