Week one: 17th September – 23rd September 2014.
These are going to be crazy long posts, even after I split it into three weekly segments. Everything is written up from my handwritten journal notes that I made as we were going. When I was planning the trek, other blogs were invaluable for getting an idea of times and costs so I’ve included these details for anyone who is considering doing the AC trek in the near future (once all routes are once again clear). Rob and I spent under our budget of R3000 a day, which included all meals and rooms for the two of us. As we were in a small group, most places offered us rooms at free-R150 per room, but advertised costs of between R100-R500 for a double room. Our jeep was booked through our hotel and cost R14000 between Kathmandu and Bhulbhule, although there were plenty of cheaper options to get to Besi Sahar.
Day 1: Kathmandu (jeep) – Bhulbhule (840m) – Ngadi (860m)
Walked = 2.5 miles, 1 hour
Stayed = Ngadi, Hotel Superview
At 6.30 we had eaten breakfast already and were off through the sleepy Thamel streets, up over the valley walls and away towards the mountains. Of course, before we could even see the mountains we had to pull the jeep over, rearrange seats (Sarah and I were feeling ill) and all take super-strength travel sickness tablets from Katie. Most of us managed to sleep (not me), and no one vomited – I’d call that a success.
We arrived in time for lunch, which we had after crossing our first bridge into Bhulbhule.
Another one hours walking took us past construction work and massive sand/mud piles to Ngadi, a small cluster of buildings on the side of a dirt road. By this stage I was finally feeling sleepy and struggling with the heat and weight of my bag (already! not a good sign, although it is 14kg which is about 13kg more than I am used to carrying!), and Matt was throwing up his lunch in the bushes, having accidentally eaten nuts (allergic, but thankfully not severely).
We decided to stay put and rest ready for our first proper day of walking in the morning. The view from our first tea house is indeed super, we can see the teeny tiny mountains that we will be in the middle of in a week or so.
Day 2: Ngadi (860m) – Bahundanda (1310m) – Ghermu/Syange (1130m)
Walked = 9.3 miles, 6 1/2 hours
Stayed = Ghermu, Rainbow Hotel
Today was a lot harder than I was expecting. The weight of my bag is causing me a lot of pain and slowing me down, especially on the hills. This is causing me all kinds of anxiety about the next few weeks; I didn’t expect it to be so hard early on. What will it be like when we’re climbing more than 450m and at a decent altitude? At least it will be cooler higher up; we are all struggling to drink enough to compensate for the heat.
The path is beautiful – that helps. We have walked through bright green rice fields, up and down stone stone staircases, through more waterfalls and streams than I can remember.
We are happy, full of Dal Bhat and falling asleep to the sound of a 150m waterfall right outside our bedroom windows.
Day 3: Ghermu (1130m) – Jagat (1300m) – Chamje (1430m)
Walked = 6.8 miles, 4 1/2 hours
Stayed = Chamje, Tibet Lhasa Guest House
Each day is tougher than the last, but I’m getting used to the hardness of it. My legs ache and I have been hot and slow all day but I got here and I feel good for it now.
Last night our tea house was shaken by the loudest, craziest thunder storm I have ever experienced, and we all woke this morning a little bleary eyed. After sharing a pot of Masala Tea, we set off towards our first stop, Jagat.
The heat was relentless in the morning, and there was virtually no shade on our side of the valley. Rob and I took lots of breaks when we could find shelter on the steep zig-zag up. Eventually, we met the others in Jagat for an early lunch. The rest of the walk to Chamje was hot but beautiful which helps to distract us.
Our teahouse in Chamje is great, and we have taken over the upper floor for drying washing and reading and writing up our days.
Day 4: Chamje (1430m) – Tal (1700m) – Dharapani (1860m)
Walked = 10.3 miles, 7 hours
Stayed = Dharapani, brand new guesthouse, no name yet!
This morning was amazing. It was chucking it down with rain when we woke, and we walked together through streams, fields of weed, up waterfalls. We saw clouds forming in the mists of the violent river below us, before being dragged up by the mountains. I finally felt like I was able to keep up, even on the up stretches and we reached Tal on a high. We had a great lunch and counted leeches (Matt probably won even though he couldn’t find any, but his boots were full of blood).
After lunch the sun came out and we were back on the road, and it was harder than ever before. Rob and I lost sight of the others and we struggled after getting soaked crossing waterfalls, wading up to my waist in my case. Feeling wet and cold and sick, we actually managed to arrive in Dharapani under our target time. What we didn’t realise was that there were three parts to the town, and the others had gone on to find a room in the furthest part of the town. By the time we got there I was hurting and shivering and feeling ill, and went to straight to bed until the morning (making a brief but unsuccessful appearance at dinner). Rob and the others decided that our next day should be split into two, giving me a chance to recover before we got to the impressive altitudes.
Day 5: Dharapani (1860m) – Danakyu (2190) – Timang (2750m)
Walked = 6.7 miles, 5 hours
Stayed = Temang, Oasis Guest House
Today was so much better, and hopefully not just because of the Indian Cold and Flu medicine I am now taking! We took the NATT route across a rope bridge to Thoche, through overgrown fields, carving out the outline of a trail with our boots and walking poles. We had a great brunch stop in Danakyu, after which I spied a giant prayer wheel, which I gave a turn to give us all the luck we could get for the crazy-steep ascent to Timang.
Rob, Katie and I walked together for this fun bit of up, and made a game out of walking to the next rock, cow, corner, stump. It was simple but made the climb much more manageable. We found another companion for the walk, an Indian teacher who (I only found out afterwards) Rob thought wanted to kidnap me. He rather mysteriously disappeared around a corner, into what Sarah and I thought looked like a magical fairy-tale forest.
We walked up into, and then finally through the clouds. Matt and Sarah (being crazy speed demons at every up stretch) had already found our hotel for the night, chosen for its pinkness, and walked back to the start of the town to meet us.
As we came over the final hill, the clouds parted for a moment and we saw our first in-your-face mountain. Or, as Sarah has now decided, wowntain.
Day 6: Timang (2750m) – Chame (2670m)
Walked = 6.7 miles, 3.5 hrs
Stayed = Chame, New Tibet Hotel
Not long after we woke up, the clouds started to part and revealed the actual (not the teeny one we had seen yesterday) white capped giant wowntain, Manaslu.
Sarah and I ordered tea, which we drank on the terrace and watched the sunrise over the Himalayas. A yoga-trek group had arrived after us and were providing further entertainment with their nose-rubbing morning routine. I have nothing against yoga, or trekking with a full cohort of porters, (porters who carry every toiletry item you are unlikely to need in the mountains), but the whole situation was just hilarious in its surreality.
We set off once the sun was up for Chame. It was another mini-day and we were there by lunchtime. On our way, we had amazing views over the pine forests and across the valley to the absolutely huge white-peaked mountains.
After lunch and washing lots of pants, we enjoyed a restful afternoon, which will hopefully help with tomorrow’s long day to Pisang. Sarah and I wandered into the village and met a Portuguese trekker, who (small world moment) now lives in my home town.
We ended our peaceful day in the the usual way now; some reading, lots of tea, Dal Bhat and cards before early bedtimes. Everything aches but I am finally getting into the swing of things.
Day 7: Chame (2670m) – Bhratang (2850m) – Upper Pisang (3300m)
Walked = 9.8 miles, 5.5 hrs
Stayed = Upper Pisang, can’t remember name – it was pink!
We set off early, walking through the forest as the locals raced horses up and down the road. In Bhratang a new(old) settlement was being built, machines were levelling the earth to make way for more orchards. We had our best meal so far, noodles and apple pie, whilst chatting to a proper British Adventurer and his Nepali friend about their trip over Tilicho.
Walking on to Dhukur Pokhari was tough; the road carved straight out of the cliff-face. At Swarga Dwari (Gateway to Heaven), a massive sweeping rock face curves around towards Pisang.
We walked through another magical ‘fairy’ forest, complete with a hidden shrine.
The final stretch dropped us down into a wide valley of fields, before steadily climbing up to the pinkest hotel we have stayed at so far. There are amazing views of Annapurna II, the biggest, scariest wowntain we have seen so far.
Sarah and I enjoyed eating ‘kwality ‘ biscuits with our tea and resting achy legs, while the boys explored the monastery that overlooked the valley. We are now above 3000m and the ‘real’ mountain trek can begin.