Dec 09 18
It was with great excitement that I booked my Annapurna Sanctuary trip earlier this year. Nepal is a country I had been to in my gap year and I had fallen in love with the stunning scenery and wonderful friendly people. There are rarely places I visit more than once; our world is full and varied and there is so much to see, but Nepal holidays are an exception.
I choose this particular trip because it combined some fabulous sightseeing along with the trekking; 9 days are spent on the actual trek itself. I had been searching for something of a challenge and wanted to get some experience of high altitude trekking, so this seemed the perfect itinerary.
Kathmandu was our first stop and had not changed in the last ten years since my last visit; at 4400 ft above sea level I felt that I was perched on the edge of the world. The snow capped mountains surrounding the city were exceptionally beautiful as were the views from the temples; those I visited were the spectacular Pashupati and Swayambhu, both World Heritage sites. I wandered through the Gurkha barracks and learnt about their fascinating history. I am also single and travelling alone so I find that these types of Solo holidays are the best to meet up with other like minded people. It was not long before I had developed firm friendships with the other guys on the trip and we set off in a group to take in the sights and also enjoy some delicious Nepalese and Tibetan meals in many of the ancient teahouses. I believe that this had to be the best place in the world to chill out and get some rest before the trek starts.
Our Guide, Kim was very impressive; his general knowledge of Nepal was brilliant and he proved to be extremely supportive on the trip. I was aware that acclimatisation was very important and parts of this trek may be fairly challenging but Kim was very experienced and knew the signs. Throughout the trek he made sure that we had adequate rest and were coping well with the altitude changes.
On the fourth day we arrived on foot at Bandipur, a small isolated Nepalese hill village which looked as though it had not changed in hundreds of years. This traditional village has wonderfully crooked four storey buildings with intricately carved windows; we spent time here chatting to the locals and playing with the brightly dressed children. In the morning we woke up and ventured out to some amazing first glimpses of the Himalayas and of the mountains surrounding the village. We quickly got to know the team of fantastic Sherpas who carried all the heavy baggage and thankfully we only needed to carry day packs with the essentials; water, cameras and sunscreen. There was a relaxed atmosphere in the evening and we sat around camp fires eating then slept very well.
So we set off for our first day trekking at 6am which was not too difficult as we had gone to bed the night before at 9.30 pm! We managed a quick climb to the top of Poon Hill (3193m) for some fabulous panoramic views of the Himalayas at dawn, which included Annapurna South and Machhapuchare. From there we left the valley behind and we saw some Langur monkeys as we descended to a traditional suspension bridge and climbed over to Tadapani. The first few days were spent in the foothills (Ulleri and Ghorepani ) before joining the main Annapurna circuit at Chomrong, and then on the fourth day we entered the Sanctuary itself: we now felt far away from civilisation, it was a total mountain wilderness. We stayed in some fairly basic but charming tea houses, all with spectacular views; one in particular is etched onto my memory as it was aptly named the “Excellent View Lodge”!
The trek took us through different systems and we went from sub tropical forests to rice paddies and onto stark boulder strewn mountain paths; the nights got much colder as we gained height, and at Machhapuchare base camp I was very glad that I had packed layers of clothing and a decent sleeping bag; those who had not prepared struggled with the freezing temperatures. We reached the Annapurna base camp (4150m) on our tenth day and what an exhilarating experience it was; we were surrounded by 8000 m snow capped peaks and these were breath taking.. Although the last climb was harder work as the air now was much thinner, we all made it and without any altitude sickness. The sky was clear and blue and the snow sparkled around us, it felt magical. We stayed at the same Lodge visited by Sir Chris Bonnington’s expedition almost 40 years before; this was fantastic as made us realise how much we had achieved.
The following day we started our descent to Ghandruk and trekked at quite a pace back down the valley to Bamboo settlement (2350m); we actually covered over 2 days uphill trekking in a day. When we reached our destination we were all shattered and had a lovely warm shower which was very welcome after days without hot water!
Towards the end of the trek we reached the village of Ghandruk (1950m), where we really chilled out and enjoyed the many tea houses. The following day as we descended further we noticed that the scenery was changing again and we were back amongst the rolling foothills on our last leg of the journey. It was only a short bus ride to Pokara, where I had a seriously good night’s sleep and a lie in! It was great to end the trip in such a lovely lake side town. We ate in great restaurants and walked down on the shore of the beautiful Lake Phewa. It was with a great sense of sadness that we all parted when we returned to Kathmandu but we exchanged numbers and some of us are now going trekking again next year. It was by far the most amazing holiday I have had and I can’t wait to get going again.