The Peak Trekking Season is Upon Us!

November 13, 2014

October marks the beginning of the peak trekking season in Nepal and it’s also an important month in the Hindu calendar, as two of the biggest festivals, Dashain and Tihar, give much cause for celebration across the country. The team at The Asia Adventure has also been busy, with many guided treks underway in three of the most popular Himalayan regions - Langtang, Everest and Annapurna – as well as the launch of our new and improved website. We are proud to introduce our blog and taste of things to come with our first post, one trekker’s personal account of a recent trip to the Annapurna range.... Enjoy!

Trekking the Poon Hill Circuit, Annapurna Conservation Area

I’ve been living and working in Kathmandu for a few months now. On a clear day, I can catch a glimpse of the Himalayan Mountains in the far distance, rearing their jagged and imposing peaks into the sky. I’ve been longing to get up close, to breathe the fresh mountain air and feel the thrill of walking in one of the most beautiful and uncontaminated places on Earth. I finally had my chance at in October during Daishan, the national holiday and most celebrated Hindu festival in Nepal. With a week off work, I decided to head to the much loved town of Pokhara, spoken of so fondly by the locals, and from there embark upon a  4 day trek to Poon Hill, part of the popular Annapurna circuit.

This was an ideal trek as it’s relatively short but incorporates all the best bits of trekking in Nepal, taking in diverse scenery and terrain from farmland and rural villages, to waterfalls, raging rivers, thick forest and of course, amazing mind blowing views of crisp, clear snow capped mountains.

Day One

The adventure started  at Asia Adventure HQ (aka Hem’s house) where myself, my partner Joel and Dil (Hem’s brother and experienced mountain guide) set off by bus on our way to Pokhara. The roads were very busy, with crowds of people desperate to get home to their families for the holiday, but the time passed quickly as I occupied myself observing the vibrant street scenes, the children playing on high swings of bamboo (set up especially for the festival) and of course, the breathtaking views which became ever more lovely as we moved towards our destination.

After checking into our hotel in Pokhara we had time for a meal and a stroll around the stunning lakeside, dotted with paddle boats and holiday makers enjoying its shores, before darkness descended and we headed to bed early to get well rested and ready for the big day ahead of us.

The next morning we met with the others who would join our small team for the duration of the trek –  the lovely Odette and Lampel, two sisters from the Philippines, plus their two strapping young porters, Yugen (Hem’s son) and Raju.

In the afternoon big stone steps led us ever higher and I marvelled at the many hands that must have worked at creating a solid pathway through such formidable terrain. The walk was tough, but we were rewarded with breath taking views of the valley below and, finally, just as I was almost ready to collapse we reached the small village of Ulleri and our accommodation for the night.  There were lots of people staying here, which made for good conversation if you were in the mood for swapping travel stories with an international crowd, but Joel and I preferred to ease tired muscles with some gentle yoga on the balcony before turning in for an early night.

Day Two

Day two began with much photo snapping as we caught our first glimpse of Machhapuchhre peak, towering beyond the green covered hilltops at an incredible 6998m. After a hearty breakfast of chapatti with beans and potato, we continued walking slowly and the scenery changed as open hillside gave way to densely covered woodland, moss covered rocks and multiple river crossings. There were many rest stops at the idyllic tea houses for those who needed a pause for toilet and tea breaks and we adopted a relaxed pace, having only a 4 hour walk to complete compared to the previous day’s 6 or 7 hours. We reached Ghorepani , the highest village on our trek at 2750m, in plenty of time to enjoy the afternoon. We enjoyed some amazing homemade apple pie and had a much needed nap before the best views yet, amid the setting sun.

Day Three

We awoke at 4.30am to follow the trail of people steadily making their way to Poon Hill. It took about 45 minutes of steep climbing to reach the summit, a concrete platform surrounded by wild flowers and long grasses. At 3200m, we were in the perfect position to watch the sun creeping up over the horizon. The early start paid off and the scene was worthy of one of those over used and cheesy catchphrases - it truly was a magical moment, where time stands still and you’re reminded of how good it is to be alive. Feeling the cold and with tummies rumbling we headed back down to our lodgings for breakfast before setting out on another full day of hiking. This was to be the longest day, but also the most beautiful (in my opinion).

 For the first few hours we remained at high altitude, following a ridge that offered a clear view of the Himalayan range in the far ground. As we began our descent, we passed age old giants of rhododendron and pine and mighty waterfalls cascading down steep ravines to the swollen river below.

For the first few hours we remained at high altitude, following a ridge that offered a clear view of the Himalayan range in the far ground. As we began our descent, we passed age old giants of rhododendron and pine and mighty waterfalls cascading down steep ravines to the swollen river below.

Around lunchtime the heavens opened and, finding ourselves stranded with no shelter in sight, we hastily made our way up the last remaining hill and took refuge in a delightfully cosy tea house with a warm fire burning and a merry assortment of travellers in various stages of drying off. As we got chatting it wasn’t long before someone pulled out a guitar and we were being serenaded with Russian folk songs and trying to remember the lyrics to the Beatles hits. Just as we thought we would be settling here for the night, glistening sunrays broke through the clouds and Dil had us back on the trail before we could think twice, determined that we keep to our schedule and reach the next village of Ghandruk which was to be our resting place for the night.

Despite our initial hesitations, we were so pleased that we soldiered on. As we approached the village, the path grew wider and our feet were treated to the luxury of level paving slabs. Steep winding staircases leading up to the stone houses and the abundance of colourful flowers and bushes gave it an almost Mediterranean feel. But I needed no reminder of where we actually were, with the stark backdrop of the Himalayas still vivid in our sights.

By this point our muscles were really aching but the hot showers, another delicious dhal bhat (which I never seem to tire of) and a warm, restful sleep gave me exactly what I needed.

Day Four

We awoke to another breathtaking sunrise over the mountains, but this time we didn’t need to trek in the darkness of the small hours to admire it! The final day of walking was a breeze, as it was all downhill or flat and we had a fantastic view  of the rich and fertile valley as we descended to the road. After 4-5 hours we made it back to our starting point at Birethani and we celebrated our success with, yep you guessed it, another dhal baht.

Day Five

After a second night in Pokhara in the same hotel as before, we started the long drive back to Kathmandu but stopped en route for a refreshingly cold, albeit sunny and exhilarating white water rafting trip! Though we were tired from the trek, taking a swim in the river and floating gently (for the most part) downstream was a true delight and a wonderful way to finish our journey together. I think I can safely say that a good time was had by all and the experience will be cherished in our memories.  Barely was I home before I started to plan my next Himalayan adventure.... 

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