A Travellerspoint blog

There’s a mouse in my shoe and other tales

Our Himalayan trekking tales

sunny -15 °C

Having two weeks to kill before our volunteering stint, we decided to embark on a 12 day Himalayan Trek to Annapurna Base Camp, which really is the thing to do when in Pokhara. We hired a guide from a female-run company, providing training and employment opportunities to Nepali women that would not otherwise be available (always for social inclusion as we are!). Bhagwhati was our guide and companion for the journey and the three of us set off to start the trek from Nayapul – a village some 20km outside Pokhara.

The first day was a gentle introduction to the trek, with a gradual incline to our bed for the night in Hille. On the way we could see the peak of the Machhapuchhre mountain, not one of the tallest mountains in the range but certainly the most distinctive, the name means Fishtail in Nepali due to its unique shape, we knew this was most definitely going to be a visually stunning journey. We crossed chalky blue rivers (a kayakers dream) via rickety bridges, passed pretty traditional mountain villages and after just 4 hours (including a lunch stop) reached Hille which had lovely valley views. Since we had finished early we explored the area a little and found a lovely waterfall where we spent half an hour resting our already weary legs. Dinner (veg fried rice and the Himalayan staple of Dal Bhat – rice with lentil ‘soup’, veg curry, papad and pickle) was spent with a lovely Dutch family and a rather odd young German lady who had decided that the walk was too difficult and had started suffering symptoms of AMS (acute mountain sickness) at only 3000 metres and had to turn back. This didn’t fill us with confidence for the rest of our trek, but since most people don’t suffer from AMS until over 3500m and we were only reaching that height for one day of the trek, plus we had the lovely Bhagwhati to look after us, we did not fret too much.

Day two brought our first steep ascent, we scaled 3000-odd steep and uneven steps climbing around 1km in height to reach Gorepani, our stop for night 2; it’s a good job the views provide a distraction from the climb! Another dhal bhat for dinner and an early night set us up for a 4:45am get-up to mount Poon Hill for its panoramic mountain views at sunrise. Having reached 3000m we really noticed the difference in temperature by this point! We retraced our steps from Poon Hill to Gorepani, had our porridge brekkie then set off towards Tadapani, it was on this journey that we realised how much up and down this trek would entail, of course that’s what you get with Himalayan trekking but it is a little disheartening having climbed 1000s of metres to then go down again, knowing you had to go up again…!

Bhagwhati had suggested we stop at a small place before the more popular village of Tadapani as it can be difficult to find a room there, however being only 12.30pm we felt it was too early to stop for the day and insisted we press on. As predicted Tadapani was full already and we were offered a tent to sleep in, Bhagwhati suggested we go further to the next place, assuming we wouldn’t fancy a night in a tent at around 3000m, but, being us, we were thrilled with the idea of camping in the mountains. So tent it was (with lots of blankets).

By this point we had started recognising other trekkers as we passed them and they passed us throughout the days. We made a few chums; it was nice to see familiar faces sometimes and the chatting helped distract from the tough terrain. There were lots of folks from Europe, mostly France and Germany but also Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Polska and Romania(!), plus a good few Canadians and Australians, as always, outdoors-y as they are. Our fourth day of trekking was a bit of a break, just 3 hours downhill to the Gurung settlement of Ghandruk. Here we enjoyed a hot shower as there was solar heating (it was baby-wipe bathing for the majority of the trek), had delicious fresh food from the well-kept vegetable garden of our guest house and visited a small museum on traditional Gurung life.

It transpired that a rest day such as this was much needed, day 5 looked easy on paper, taking us from 1940 metres to 2330 metres, but little did we know that this involved descending to what felt like sea-level and back via the steepest, dustiest, sweatiest valley imaginable. We finally climbed into Chommrong, the last permanent settlement before the real mountain wilderness trail began; we were a sweaty-mess and looking forward to a well-earned sit-down and lunch break. Then to our horror, we discovered there was yet another valley to descend and then climb before reaching our bed for the night in Sinuwa. There we munched yet-another dhal bhat and played the classic card-game “Shithead” with a pleasant pair of Belgian girls before all sloping off to bed at 8.40pm – our latest night so far!!

From here we were truly on the mountain trail, the Annapurna Sanctuary, where lodges are limited in size and as basic as can be, and food supplies also limited with everything being carried on the backs of porters, until Chommrong donkeys, ponies and yaks take the loads... If you want a Coca Cola, beer or Snickers up in the Sanctuary, you can have it, but the price reflects that someone has carried those things up there and will have to carry the waste materials back down again.

What is most amazing about the Annapurna trek is the different scenery you encounter on each day…From quaint mountain villages watching traditional rural activities, to moss-covered forests that seem like fairies must live there, to dramatic rocky peaks and awesome rivers… The animals also changed as we went higher – from snakes lower down (Baghwathi saved Rach from a potential nasty incident at one point by pulling her back from what was apparently a poisonous snake in the path!), to Langur monkeys in Tadapani, to moths with wings the size of our hands, to common minor birds and mountain vultures at the very top (plus the elusive snow-leopard, which no-one but a handful of locals ever sees, but we think we may have seen some footprints...)

We got ourselves to our next destination of Deurali and the temperature was now significantly chillier. The evening was spent in the dining room of the tea house, hats and gloves on, cradling our masala/lemon tea. Here we met some very interesting folk, including a young Dutch guy who kept us amused with his swearing, beer drinking and general comedy view on life (us being very sensible types (?) had declared that no beers were going to be had until we were on our way down, especially since we were not sure how high altitude would affect us). We also met a couple of Argentinian guys and a very friendly Belgian couple who were lovely to spend the cold evening with. Dinner, reading and a few card games later and it was time for bed to rest up for the last hike to our destination of Annapurna Base Camp – known as ABC – or as the the Dutch guy named it ‘A Beer Chica’.

So up early doors, more porridge to warm us up and fuel the muscles and off we set. From here the route was steady, no massive climbs as we’d had in previous days but the terrain was uneven and icy, air notably colder and landscape now impressive, steep, looming, icy mountains. We could also feel the altitude a little as the gentle slope proved quite tough on the lungs, however the icy-snowy scenery that we had arrived at provided a distraction from that.

We spent the night at ABC, this was enjoyable as it allowed us to witness both sunset and sunrise standing in the middle of snow-capped Himalaya. It was a chilly night though, around -15C we believe so the afternoon and evening were mostly spent huddled around the large heated communal dining table, we were entertained by some impressive card tricks by one of the Nepali trekking guides. This was a night that no-one got much sleep, generally due to the cold, cold air. Our bodies were warm enough with our sleep-sacks, blankets, hats, gloves etc all piled on, but the cold air made it painful to breathe, plus one chap who apparently did get a good night’s sleep kept everyone else awake with his incredibly loud snoring!

From here we had a fairly rapid descent, with just 3 final nights required to get us back down to road level. The first of these was at Bamboo, where we met lots of British people, we hadn’t met many on the trail so far but sharing our lodge that night England, Scotland and Wales were all represented. They were all on their way up towards ABC so we shared stories of what to expect. The Scottish couple were actually en route up there to summit one of the peaks, which makes ABC trekking seem like small fry indeed (they were over 60 too and boasted how they traveled across Scotland to reach Edinburgh airport for their flight out using their bus passes!). At Bamboo we treated ourselves to a celebratory beer now that we were on the descent, and Rach dragged Tess to a nearby glacial stream to dip her swollen achillies in the ice-cold water (which as a physio Tess knows is the best thing for it but is soft when it comes to cold water).

That night, for the second time in recent nights, Rach felt something scurry across her pillow when she was sleeping, Tess both times insisted it would be a moth or similar, Rach was convinced it was bigger than that, having felt it on her head, but we weren’t too concerned in any case and continued sleeping. Later in the night Rach was awoken by Tess muttering something about her boot and thought Tess was sleep-talking or something. As it was, she had heard rustling in her boots, got the torch out and pointed it at said boots to see a little mouse had in fact been munching on them. Tess stared at the mouse and it stared back at her for a minute, then it scarpered. There was a cashew nut in the boot and the mouse had obviously gone in there for warmth and a peaceful place to chomp on the cashew! Tess decided to put her boots up on the bed, and we went back to sleep. We also found an almond in the bed the following morning, confirming that the scurrying creature on Rachel’s head had indeed been a mouse.

The next morning Rachel managed to injure herself here in a silly way given all the days of tough trekking successfully completed without issue. Our towel had blown off the line in the night and fallen onto some rocks a few feet below, so Rach wanders around to get it but still being half asleep, wearing flip-flops and simultaneously cleaning her teeth was not a good combination for completing this relatively simple mission and she fell over on the rocks, grazing her knee and hand and creating a painful bump and bruise on her leg  which would make the rest of the descent a little more painful than it should have been.

Our last-but-one night was at Jihnu which has two hot spring pools to provide well-earned soak for the weary muscles. Here we allowed ourselves to try a bottle of the local brew Raksi, made from fermented rice. It was, interesting. The taste was a bit much by the 2nd cup each so we ordered a hot lemon to mix with it, this created a flavour that can only be described as a lemsip!

The last days walk was very pretty, full of greenery, rivers & waterfalls, Himalayan flowers, lots of singing birds and lovely villages of Landruk and Tolka. We kept passing the Belgian couple who we had first encountered in Deurali and chatted more with them over lunch, discussing European politics and economies... We later spent our last night at Pitam Deurali from where we could see our final destination of Pokhara in the distance. We spent the evening with an older Swiss couple, tried the bizarre local speciality of Mustang Coffee (and oily mixture of fried rice, raksi and coffee, very odd indeed) and had the biggest apple pie with rather strange, luminous ‘custard’ as a reward for almost getting to the end. This trek is known as the Apple Pie trail due to this being a staple on Tea House menus, it’s not apple pie as we know it, more like an apple Cornish pasty, but still that’s impressive considering there are no ovens in the basic kitchens, just wood-fired stoves.

Our last morning was a 3 hour, mostly downhill trek back to 'ground' level – the last section was actually very hard on the legs as it consisted of extremely steep steps so once we got back to the road we felt a bit wobbly! A cold mango juice and 20 minute rest sorted this out and it was off back to the metropolis of Pokhara. There we went out for Saturday night ‘on the town‘, followed by a relaxing Sunday lazing in hammocks in the sun; a mini-holiday ahead of our stint at the orphanage from Monday.

Posted by TessAndRach 21:50 Archived in Nepal Tagged trekking abc 3-sisters

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To us it sounds like congratulations is in order,
I'm glad you made it ,you will look back on it for years.
after that whatever work you do in the orphanage will be a doddle.
Its nice to be in touch again we've missed your blogs.
every thig here is fine will keep in touch.
Love to you both G&G

by Gran & Gramps

Amazing story and well written like reading a novel. Very interesting and your all very brave, takes a lot of guts and stamina to do what your doing can't wait for the next episode . Xxxx

by Eileen Grainger

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