Tag Archives: Tadapani

Day 4: Trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area from Tadapani to Chomorong and Jhihu Springs

Darkness enclosed the surrounding landscape, with only the muted outline of shapes discernible to the eye. A hazy orange glow, the size of a  appeared to the side of the teahouse, casting a pale light on the craggy outcrops on the side of Macchupuchare. The clouds transformed into a ghostly mist, hovering just below the mountain peaks. The light edged forwards, casting a dazzling shine on the snow capped peaks and rivers of sliver from the waterfalls that crashed down its side. The gloomy pall of night began to retreat, until the entire village of Tadapani was cast with the warming light of dawn. Sitting down  on the edge of the hill, I stopped taking photos momentarily and studied how different the mountains and village looked in the sunshine, when a small guffaw behind me distracted my attention.

 

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“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“Just got a great photo of the sunrise behind a marijuana-looking plant out back,” said one from my group, with a bemused expression on his face. We all had a little laugh, and as the sun began to cast its full rays on the mountains, we swiftly returned indoors to grab our gear and begin that day’s trek.

A few hours later, half of our group stood waiting ahead on a rocky platform in the middle of a muddy patch of ground. Narendra walked a little further ahead of us, approaching the group in long strides and calling out, “Don’t stand in one spot for too long, you’ve gotta keep moving!”

“But why? We’re on schedule to make it to the next place!” someone from the group called.

“No, not that, the leeches!” Narendra answered. At that point one of the ladies standing on the platform let out a shriek and began an erratic jig on the spot.

Leeches. The one thing many people seem to forget to tell you about when trekking in Nepal. When the mountains experience heavy rain showers, the leeches come to the surface and wait near waterways, muddy patches, or even on the edge of leaves, wait to tumble into a hiker’s shoe and feast. Unlike the leeches seen in films, Nepal’s leeches are small, thin and black, and possess the ability to stretch themselves needle thin to penetrate the seam of hiking boots, fabric and even rucksacks. Although they’re not dangerous, simply seeing one squiggling its way into the seam of your leather boot is enough to jerk anyone’s reflexes, which is exactly what was happening to our group now.

After calmly helping everyone inspect their boots for any sign of the leeches, Nerandra picked one of them up by his fingertips, as if to prove its harmlessness. With surprising agility and speed, the leech latched onto his finger and with a yelp Narendra furiously tugged him off his index finger. The porters and everyone suppressing a giggle, Narendra composed himself and turn back towards us all.

“They won’t hurt you,” he explained, “but they can be annoying, and can cause some unsightly blood stains after they’ve had their fill and drop off. They release a chemical that prevents your blood from clotting as readily as usual around the bite area, so just be prepared that the bite might look worse than it really is!

“Try to keep on stoned areas; they can’t camouflage themselves as well on that, and don’t stand in one place for too long! They can be fast and even leap small distances to enter your shoes. The best thing to do is forget about them and just enjoy your trek, you don’t want them to ruin it!”

With wary eyes keeping a watchful surveillance on the ground, we continued along the route in single file, this time careful to keep on the stone path.

 

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The trail eventually led to an open grassy field on the top of a large hill, where a large wooden teahouse sat perched atop. The rain from earlier that morning had been burned away by the sun’s rays, leaving the surrounding landscape in a harsh, clear haze of light. The hilltop afforded the best vantage point to view the surrounding hills, rivers and waterfalls. The hills were thickly covered in green forest, and the river running between two hills brightly reflected the sun. Pausing to enjoy the view, I laid my bag down and noticed another, more rudimentary bag next to mine. The main body constructed of wicker, with braided straps of twine forming two big loops, the basket was filled to the brim with plants and herbs. A small, stooped Nepalese woman came trudging over, and slipped one strap around her forehead, another her stomach, and began her precarious tottering down the side of the hill. Fearing she might fall at any minute, I kept a watchful eye until she disappeared under the cover of the trees.

“Well, I’m not gonna complain about my rucksack straps anymore,” I said aloud, “that lady can show me up any day, and that’s only using her head!”

Our group headed down the hill, with all the previous thoughts of leeches gone and instead replaced with discussions about the estimations of the extreme weights the sherpas and Nepalese people carry up the mountains.

 

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Arriving early at the teahouse where we were supposed to spend the night, we quickly found our rooms and dumped our luggage. Earlier Narendra had told everyone about visiting Jhihu Springs, a natural thermal hot springs next to the rapids where apparently monkeys also joined for a warm soak as well as humans. Following the slippery stone path downhill, narrowly dodging branches and tree roots, we eventually made it to the entrance. While we were sad to see the monkeys were not in their makeshift hot tub, on the bright side our group had a corner of the springs to ourselves. On the bad side, the leeches had made a return.

While they were repelled by the hot waters, the muddy warm areas by the entrance to the springs was perfect conditions for them. We watched as people hopped rapidly to the entrance of the springs, as if they were walking on hot coals, to avoid the jumping leeches, then took our turns rushing through the entrance. After four days of trekking, we all eased our tired legs and shoulders into the waters and immediately ‘ahhhh’ sounds were heard all round. A good hour was spent splashing water at one another, chatting and looking around at the surrounding trees and rapids, hoping that the odd monkey would make an appearance. As the day drew to a close and darkness began to dim the sky, we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of the hot springs and made the quick jig over the entrance and back along the path.

 

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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 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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