At 7:30am we exited our rooms, paid the guesthouse and left our big bags with them. Since we would be staying in guesthouses and lodges along the way we did not need to carry much with us, so we had each packed a single small rucksack for the three days. Well, three of us had anyway. Philipp decided that it would be best if he brought his rucksack and a green “head bag” which gave us great amusement each time we looked at him all day. Perhaps this was to make room for the room padlock he inadvertently took with him too.
After breakfasting across the road we met Binod and a driver who took us up into the Anpurna conservation area, stopping to allow us some photos of the magnificent peak of Fishtail (a sacred mountain). Getting out of the car we sorted our bags and set off into the hills. We encountered a few other trekkers on our path, of different ages and nationalities, although seemingly dominated by French and German hikers.
The morning was an easy walk, mostly on flat on well paved paths, and at the lunch stop we tucked into the classic Nepalese dish of Dal Bhat. As soon as we set off for the afternoon we turned off the path, and for the rest of the day we slogged on uphill, passing the highest reachable point by vehicle; from there Mules are the only source of transport for goods. A light rain gave quite a contrast in weather to the hot sun of the morning, and it was with some relief that we reached the village of Ghandruk at nearly 2000m.
After the hike we had a pleasant evening at a guesthouse. We played cards: Big Nose, a UK game introduced by Dave, Heart Attack a Honkkie game introduced by Alicia and finally Thief a Nepali game explained to us by a very jolly man working at the guesthouse. We sampled ‘local wine’ Raksi, a clear alcohol distilled from millet and Gurkha and Everest beers and we also took photos from the guesthouse’s roof as the sun was setting and illuminating the mountains with hues of pink and orange.
We set off just before 8am, after a yummy breakfast of eggs and local bread. We firstly explored the village in which we spent the night. We visited a tiny museum in a local lady’s house, where we learnt a little bit about the everyday life of the Gurung community. We then proceeded to an elaborately decorated Buddhist Monastery, before heading to the conservation centre where we had fun taking photos on a helipad and also found out about the different, enriching projects taking place in the area.
We then headed down, and down, and down. All of us with the exception of Philipp found going down the mountain significantly easier than going up the previous day. On our way down we met some adorable children, who refused to stop hugging Philipp’s leg until he bribed them with a pomelo (they initially wanted chocolates, but settled on the fruit) and some equally cute kids (goats). We eventually hit a beautiful, turquoise, fast-flowing mountain river at the bottom of the valley. Just before crossing the bridge we stopped for a tea break to rest before the lengthy ascent awaiting us on the other side of the valley.
We took it easy climbing up the stony steps, taking frequent stops to take pictures, drink water and at times to catch our breaths. We laughed with Binod that we’re the faffiest hikers he ever guided, but it’s easy to get distracted from the laborious ascent when the views are incredible and beautiful mountains stretch as far as the eye would see. We broke up the ascent with a lunch break at Landruk before continuing to our final destination, a guesthouse at Tolka. The guesthouse offers 360 views of the mountains, great masala chai, comfy beds and hot showers.
The final day took us to our highest point at Deurali, 2100 metres above sea level. Not a bad height by normal standards, but still a couple of thousand metres below Anupurna base camp, and some 6000 metres below the highest peaks we could see towering over us in the distance. From here we were able to see views stretching out both in the valley we had just spent the last two days hiking in, and over the next valley across. After a quick cup of tea here the route began to wind downhill, at first gradually, then after lunch steeply dropping down until we met the road and our car back to Pokhara.
After a freshen up in our guesthouse and a quick cup of coffee by the lake Binod met us again and took us to a local restaurant. Perhaps the only complaint we could have made of the charming guesthouses we stayed in and ate at on our hike is that the food options were a bit basic. The menus are more or less standardised and since everything must be carried up by porters or mules use rather simple ingredients. So after three days of fried noodles and rather plain Dal Bhat we were blown away by the delicious flavours of the Nepalese Curries we feasted on. We were also treated to a display of local dances, although sadly our tiredness and the fact that Philipp was feeling rather ill led us to leave before the communal dancing got going. It had been a tiring three days in the mountains, but a great experience filled with good company and beautiful panoramas; a great introduction to trekking in Nepal.