Trekking- what an adventure. We hiked for 8 days between Mardi Himal and Annapurna Base camp (ABC). We could have just done Mardi Himal alone in 4 days, but we wanted to extend our stay in the mountains a little longer so we cut into the ABC trek when we could.
From Pokhara we started by getting a local shuttle bus to the Baglung bus terminal, grabbed a bus to Kande from there, and from Kande we started our adventure. We hiked the first day for about three hours after a late start to the trek (early start to the day, but waiting for buses takes a long time). We arrived to our first teahouse (like a guest house) in Deurali (2100m) thankfully just before the rain started, around 3pm, and then it poured for a couple hours solid. We met lots of other trekkers at the teahouse we stayed in; we were a group of about 20 who were all heading up the next day. There was a cozy wood stove that made the dining hall really warm and enjoyable to be in. I had hand washed our socks and underwear so the stove also helped dry everything by morning. After meeting some new people and playing a few card games, we went to bed early and prepared our bags for the next morning.
We woke up at 5:45 and had ordered our breakfast for 6:15 knowing the bigger groups were getting theirs at 6:30. We wanted to be ahead of them to ensure we had a room everywhere we went (we always did) because those trekking with guides would have booked the rooms in advance and we didn’t want to end up sleeping in the dining halls. Also the rain always starts around 2-4pm so we wanted to be done hiking by then everyday to avoid being soaked.
We made a stop in Forest camp (2600m) for some food (slightly cheaper food prices here than anywhere else) and kept on our journey to the top. We reached Low Camp (2990m) around 2pm (about 7 hours of hiking/rest stops), had some hot showers, I washed a few crucial clothing items, and there were more games of cards in the warm dining hall. The food here and service wasn’t so great, it took forever for us and this Dutch/French couple we met to get anything we ordered, but at least we had good company.
The next morning we were up again at 5:45 and ready to go by 7. Our washing had dried perfectly by the fire and we had high spirits of making it to High camp today (3580m). There is no actual lodge at Base camp (4500m), so High camp is as close as you can get to staying there. It was a short hiking day, only 2.5-3 hours, so we tried to figure out what to do with the rest of our day. I didn’t want to do any washing up there because it was just too damn cold, so instead we, along with the Dutch/French couple, decided to check out a part of the hike to base camp before calling it quits. It was really nice not having a bag to carry, but with the thinner air it still wasn’t easy to hike. As the clouds rolled in, we turned around and near the end of our hike the hail started. We made it back to the teahouse safely and cozied up to the wood stove with some tea. I stretched out my muscles a bit and thanked the heavens for the luxury of not having to camp outside, like some groups had paid for.
We were up extra early the next morning, at 4AM. I hadn’t slept well that night because I was so cold, so needless to say I was tired. I briefly debated not going for sunrise, but Harry bugged me until I got up and I finally crawled out from the blankets. Some people got breakfast, we opted for granola bars and that was enough for us at that early hour.
Equipped with headlamps, we headed out with the Dutch/French couple and began our ascent. The terrain was snowy, rocky, and slippery. When the sun eventually started to peak from behind the mountains, it became very muddy as well. Regardless, we all made it to the first, second, and final viewpoints of the trek. We were surrounded by giant mountains that felt so close we could touch them. It was an incredible feeling, one that keeps me coming back to these mountainous regions and forces me to keep trekking even though it’s very physically demanding. It was worth all of the effort and I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had another chance.
Harry and Steve (a British guy) continued on to base camp. The map said it was another 3.2km with 500m elevation gain, so everyone else wasn’t so ecstatic about it. The views from base camp aren’t any better than the ones from the third viewpoint, so going there just ensures certain bragging rights and an ego boost. At the time I was with a Danish girl, so she and I headed back while the boys went to base camp. We still have our own bragging rights because between the four of us, the Dutch/French couple, and a Spanish guy, no one else even made it to the final viewpoint, they all stopped at the second point, which still had a nice view but not quite the same.
I turned around because knowing how quickly the rain/snow comes mixed with how much longer it would take me to get there than the boys, it just didn’t make sense for me to go. We still had to descend down to Forest camp that same day so I didn’t want to waste my energy. Enough excuses though. We all made it down quick enough, the boys only arriving back to High camp 45 minutes after we did (it apparently wasn’t so hard after all), and Harry and I had a quick meal before going down as quickly as we could to Forest camp. Down is, of course, much faster than up, so we didn’t have too many problems. My muscles and knees were pretty done by that point though; I was ready to be finished for the day. We all had hot showers and I did some laundry. It dried nicely by the wood stove, where we played our last game of cards with the French/Dutch couple.
The next day, they left for Pokhara. We decided to take another route to the Jinhu hot springs. We trekked down to Landruk, then up to New Bridge and finally Jinhu. About half an hour before making it to Jinhu, we were caught in the pouring rain. We were hot from trekking but the rain and wind were very cold. By the time we arrived to Jinhu, I was shivering and ready for some warmth, but apparently there are no wood stoves along the ABC trail any longer, which was a HUGE disappointment. The coziness in the teahouses was gone. So, we dropped our stuff and hiked down to the hot springs. There we had to take showers in the natural hot water showers (which were really hot) before entering the pool (which was fairly warm-ish). The temperatures of the water didn’t really make sense, and also the water was still quite dirty regardless of people showering, so I can’t say they were my favourite hot springs I’ve been too. Still, they were nice to relax and warm up in for a short while before heading up to avoid more rain.
We were up especially early the next morning because along the ABC trail it’s super busy and you really never know if you’re going to get a room or not without booking in advance. It being the end of high season, there weren’t as many people so it was alright. We hiked for about 5 hours up to Bamboo camp. We debated going further, but I wanted to stop here to do some much needed laundry (I had slipped in the mud the day before in my only warm pants). So we stayed and read the books we brought. We found it a bit harder to make instant friends here because it’s mostly big groups, older folks, and families on this trek, and they often keep to themselves a bit more. We were in a teahouse with a group of 20 Thai people, so we made more conversations with the guides that afternoon and evening.
The next morning, the usual happened as on any trek I go on- I caught a cold. Knives in my throat, runny nose, headache, etc. We had been planning to go up to ABC all the way and were only a night away from it, it was so tempting to continue up. So we decided to still try in a way that made things a lot easier for me. We left my backpack behind and brought only the essentials for one night in Harry’s bag, and he carried everything (Good Guy Harry). We made it maybe half an hour in before I started feeling worse and worse, and eventually I told Harry I couldn’t go on like this. So, because of my stupid cold, we couldn’t make it to ABC. We turned around and headed down- we had still seen some amazing sights. If it had been warmer where we were with wood stoves and if I had some proper medicine, I might have stayed an extra night at Bamboo and let Harry go enjoy the views up top, but we knew I would only continue getting worse if I stayed and we still had to hike it down.
We grabbed our stuff from Bamboo (Harry carried all of my heavier items) and made it down to Jinhu. We considered going further, but the rain started and I wasn’t really feeling up for it anyhow. We were only three hours hiking away from where we would catch the bus, and we definitely wouldn’t make it today anyway, so we were in a pretty good spot.
We met a really cool French couple there who had gotten a very good deal on what must have been the best room in all of Jinhu. Harry and I had been staying for 200 rupees ($2) per night (total, not each) and they were staying for 600 per night in this “fancy” room that had an attached bathroom and two huge windows open only to the mountains and forest. The bed was super comfy and they even had hot water when the sun was shining. Had we known we could get a deal like that, we definitely would have done it (they were staying for two nights so had some bargaining power). But the room was taken now and we had already settled in our cardboard box room, so we stuck with it.
The next morning we slept in a little (6:30-7am) and made our way to the bus stop in Siwai. We got there just in time to catch the bus and were on our way to Pokhara again. After maybe an hour we made it, then hopped on a public bus to get closer to our hotel, then walked another 20-30 minutes to finally reach it. We arrived and had much needed showers, food, and rest. Despite not making it to ABC, we were glad to finally relax our feet and muscles for a while.
Now we are chillaxing in Pokhara and I am slowly getting better. We have moved to a nicer hotel closer to the center for the same price. It has comfier beds, fast wifi, and great showers, so it’s a perfect spot to get healthy again. And now I can get all of those pricy vegan, non-GMO, organic smoothies to help me get better (I’m too cheap so I go for honey, lemon, ginger tea and the odd carrot juice).
We are heading to Kathmandu in about a week, and I probably won’t have any updates until we head to our next country- Myanmar. So until then, folks!