The Extended Ghorepani Trek, Annapurna Conservation Area (part I)

15 Mar

Ghorepani Trek – Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Ghorepani Trek is a popular trek in Nepal and includes the ascent on the renowned Poon Hill. As famous as the Annapurna Circuit and the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Ghorepani Trek is, in fact, a loop that stretches between the last two treks, but it’s much shorter. The trek lasts three to five days if an optional visit to the Hot Springs of Chinu is included. The trail passes through Gurung villages where Tibetan refugees live, too. Along the trek, the villages are still very alive due to the flow of tourists, especially in the peak season. However, the local people continue their traditional lifestyle, despite the limited accessibility of the places they live.

Ghorepani Trek, the first trekking day

Short description: We took a taxi from Pokhara to Nayapul, from where we walked along the Modi Khola Valley to Birethanti. There we turned left along the Bhurungdi Khola Valley and had lunch when we reached Hille. In Tikhedhungga we crossed a suspension bridge and hiked to Ulleri, where we stayed overnight.

Long Description

In the morning, I had a rich and filling breakfast (eggs, porridge, banana, milk coffee) at my favorite Tibetan restaurant from Pokhara. Then, I went to the Twin Peaks Travel Company, located at the corner of the street, and met my guide-cum-porter, Salia.

Salia was fifty-three. He wore blue jeans, a pair of sport shoes, and a big dawn jacket. He also had a small backpack, almost empty. Salia came three hours from Gorkha to Pokhara every time the agency called him for new tourists. I gave my backpack to him to carry and I remained only with a small backpack for the duration of the trek. We took a taxi for thirty kilometers, from Pokhara to Nayapul (1070m altitude). There, we started our trek from the Kerosene Depot Bus-Taxi Stand, the farthest place where cars could go.

Ghorepani Trek: Nayapul - the parking where taxis bring trekkers from Pokhara

Ghorepani Trek: Nayapul – the parking where taxis bring trekkers from Pokhara

From the taxi stand, we went down a bit, crossed a bridge over the Modi Khola Valley and walked along a dirt road, flanked by banana trees with big purple flowers. When we reached Birethanti, we had to go and stamp my permits at two checkpoints (one for the TIMS permit and one for the Annapurna Conservation Area permit). Salia signed that he would be responsible for me, and we officially started the Ghorepani Trek.

Ghorepani Trek: Birethanti - my guide-porter Salia stamps my permits (tims and national park entrance ticket) at the checkpoint

Ghorepani Trek: Birethanti – my guide-porter Salia stamps my permits (tims and national park entrance ticket) at the checkpoint

Birethanti (1025m altitude) is a Gurung village, situated at the crossroads of two valleys – the Modi Khola Valley and the Bhurungdi Khola Valley. The village is a departure and arrival point for the Ghorepani Trek, and for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, too. It’s also a final point for one of the alternative trails of the Annapurna Circuit. Due to the large flow of tourists during the high season, Birethanti was impeccably restored and preserved during the years. Along the narrow streets, it had whitewashed stone houses with blue timber windows and doors, and colorful flowers.

Ghorepani Trek: traditional Gurung houses in Birethanti

Ghorepani Trek: traditional Gurung houses in Birethanti

At the main crossroads from Birethanti, we turned left along the Bhurungdi Khola Valley and gently walked uphill on a dirt road. The jeeps left us in a cloud of dust each time they passed up or down the valley. However, the Nepalis still sold bananas, refreshing drinks, and sweets on the side of the road. We gradually passed through the Matathanti, Lamdawali, Banjhgara and Sudame villages, which were extremely picturesque. The villages had cultivated agricultural terraces, varied lodges, and tourist restaurants – modest ones, but with a properly highlighted traditional atmosphere.

Ghorepani Trek: Lamdawali - almost all the houses along the trek have been transformed into lodges or/and restaurants

Ghorepani Trek: Lamdawali – almost all the houses along the trek have been transformed into lodges or/and restaurants

The dirt road along the valley ended in several curves that climbed constantly along the last part before reaching Hile. There, we stopped to have egg and veggie fried rice for lunch. Hile (1460m altitude) was a small village, but very alive. It had a small square, formed actually as an extension of the trail, and a few lodges gathered around it.

Ghorepani Trek: Hile - lunch break in one of the lodges

Ghorepani Trek: Hile – lunch break in one of the lodges

From Hile, we continued the trek and even descended a bit. Then, we started to go up the stone steps that climbed endlessly on and on, even through Tikhedhungga (1540m altitude). Tikhedhungga was another picturesque village, situated at the end of the valley. At the exit from the village, we crossed the Bhurungdi Khola Valley on a suspension bridge and descended abruptly into the valley. After that, we started the hardest ascent of the day – the stone steps toward Ulleri.

Ghorepani Trek: stone steps going up to Tikhedhungga

Ghorepani Trek: stone steps going up to Tikhedhungga

We climbed uneven and very tall stone steps toward Ulleri (2020m altitude) for almost two hours. There, we stayed overnight at Kamala Guesthouse, where I could see Annapurna South right from my bed.

Ghorepani Trek: steep, constant, and big stone steps pave all the walkway up to Ulleri

Ghorepani Trek: steep, constant, and big stone steps pave all the walkway up to Ulleri

In the evening, trekkers, porters, and guides gathered in the dining room, the only heated room of the house. I ate a flavored garlic soup, roasted egg cheese, mint tea and a crispy apple pie. The order for the breakfast should have been made in the evening and the hour for serving it had to be specified, too. I socialized with two girls, one from the Netherlands and one from Spain, until I was too tired and went to my room.

Ghorepani Trek, the second trekking day

Short description: In the morning I walked a bit through Ulleri. Then, we left the lodge and gradually hiked up toward Banthanti. From there, we continued the trail until we reached a tributary stream of the Bhurungdi Khola Valley. After that, we walked along the valley through Nangge Thanti and Lower Ghorepani and stayed overnight in Upper Ghorepani. In the afternoon, we went to the top of the famous Poon Hill.

Long description

In the morning, I woke up having the feeling that I hadn’t slept at all, but surprisingly I was rested. I had breakfast (eggs, corn bread with honey, masala tea, and milk coffee) with Noelia, the Spanish girl from Madrid. She lived in Dublin where she worked in finances. She told me about the women with long necks from Myanmar. Noelia had a Nepalese woman as a guide, whom she had found through the Inside Nepal NGO. She was doing a six-day trek, but she didn’t know many details about the route.

Ghorepani Trek: Ulleri - small Buddhist temple on the main 'street'

Ghorepani Trek: Ulleri – small Buddhist temple on the main ‘street’

After breakfast, I walked a bit through Ulleri, which had the houses lined up along the trail. Most of them were tourist lodges and had roofs, doors, and windows, as well as chairs and tables painted in blue. The tourist lodges faced the terraced valley, dominated by Annapurna South. While I was turning back to the guesthouse, a line of unloaded mules passed through the village. Before we left Ulleri toward Banthanti, Salia called in Ghorepani to book a single room for me. On the way to Banthanti, we had to climb endless stone steps again. This time blooming cherry trees flanked the footpath and made it seem less exhausting.

Ghorepani Trek: blooming trees and schoolgirl dressed in a local uniform

Ghorepani Trek: blooming trees and schoolgirl dressed in a local uniform

We reached Banthanti (2210m altitude) quite quickly. There, children dressed in uniforms were going to school down in the valley. Some of the houses had dried corncobs or bee hives hollowed in trunks that hung under roofs. A house that had ‘church’ written on it seemed something strange in a country where Buddhism and Hinduism are the main religions. As we walked on, a woman was washing the dishes at a tap with running water located outside the house. Peddlers started to display their varied items for tourists along the road.

Ghorepani Trek: Banthanti - children going to school in the morning (in the background is Annapurna South Peak)

Ghorepani Trek: Banthanti – children going to school in the morning (in the background is Annapurna South Peak)

The footpath went up and down until it reached a tributary stream of the Bhurungdi Khola Valley. After we crossed a small bridge made of stone, we stopped for a short break, and I filtered water from a local well. Then, we continued our hike along a footpath that meandered through the jungle.

Ghorepani Trek: other stone steps from Nangge Thanti to Ghorepani

Ghorepani Trek: other stone steps from Nangge Thanti to Ghorepani

We reached Nangge Tahnti (2430m altitude), a hamlet full of tourist lodges, where a local woman hugged me and wanted to have a photo with me. From there, the footpath went further through the jungle. By midday we were already at the checkpoint from Lower Ghorepani.

Ghorepani Trek: the entrance gate to Ghorepani Poon Hill

Ghorepani Trek: the entrance gate to Ghorepani Poon Hill

We hiked for another ten minutes and arrived in Upper Ghorepani (2860m altitude), where we looked for the Nice View Lodge. From the terrace of the lodge, I saw the famed Dhaulagiri and Annapurna, both over 8000 meters high. I ate my portion of spaghetti with yak cheese and tomato sauce sitting outside on the terrace and looking at the Himalayas.

Ghorepani Trek: Upper Ghorepani (Annapurna South Peak in the background)

Ghorepani Trek: Upper Ghorepani (Annapurna South Peak in the background)

Usually, trekkers climb the renowned Poon Hill (3200m altitude) to see the sunrise in the morning. Nevertheless, I preferred to climb it in the afternoon and see the sunset from there. As a rule, you have to pay an ‘entrance’ fee when you hike Poon Hill in the morning, but nobody’s there in the afternoon. The whole footpath up to Poon Hill is a succession of stone steps that climb the mountain through a shadowed tree-corridor.

Ghorepani Trek: going up to Poon Hill for the sunset (of course, we have stone steps, but not so steep anymore)

Ghorepani Trek: going up to Poon Hill for the sunset (of course, we have stone steps, but not so steep anymore)

The famous lookout from the top of Poon Hill had a metallic observatory through which the wind was screaming and blowing powerfully. At sunset, there was a maximum of one hundred trekkers on top of it. At sunrise, there are between six hundred and one thousand trekkers every day, though. Prayer flags hung and fluttered in the wind everywhere on Poon Hill. Dhaulagiri peak seemed so close that I could have touched it with my hands. The same feeling I had while looking toward Annapurna peak. I spent a couple of hours on top of Poon Hill, and the time flew right away.

Ghorepani Trek: Poon Hill - views with the Annapurna Himalayan Range (the background peak on the left is Annapurna I - over 8000 m alt.)

Ghorepani Trek: Poon Hill – views with the Annapurna Himalayan Range (the background peak on the left is Annapurna I – over 8000 m alt.)

When we turned back to the guesthouse, I just ate another garlic soup, tuna salad with potatoes, apple pie, and mint tea. Satisfied and tired, I went to rest for the following trekking day.

The extended Ghorepani Trek (part I) is the first part of my trekking diary in the Annapurna Conservation Area (find the version in Romanian at Ghorepani Trek, Aria de Conservare Annapurna, Nepal). Its continuation, my second post can be found at the following link The extended Ghorepani Trek (part II). And here are all my Travel Diaries from Nepal (x12).

Have you done a trek or you’re planning to do one in the Himalayas? Leave a comment below this post and tell me what you like about trekking or what you expect to find in the Himalayas.

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4 Responses to “The Extended Ghorepani Trek, Annapurna Conservation Area (part I)”

  1. Svetoslav Dimitrov April 13, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

    I love that you started with a hearty breakfast – you need one in order to trek, that’s indubitable!

    I also love how you provide short and long descriptions – that’s very smart, I must say!

    The country of Nepal looks so appealing to me and it’s so sad that there’s a raging corruption and there are people that still live in tents since the earthquake because the government has not allotted the finances to accommodate everybody but, rather, to stuff its closest people.

    Thanks for providing us with these awesome photos – they truly speak louder than words 🙂

    • Iuliana April 13, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

      Thank you very much Dimitrov. My English is not the best as I am not native, so I have to blend images with words.

  2. Vibeke Johannessen April 13, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

    This sounds amazing and interesting. I love that you describe it in details 😀 It is so important with a big breakfast as well it really makes a difference on your energy. I love the photos and that you captured their life there, it must be such a unique experience. I should trek there right now as I live in Quito, Ecuador and are used to that kind of altitudes ;D
    Thank you for this. I gonna pin this for later so I can go back and read this when I visit Nepal 😀

    • Iuliana April 13, 2017 at 7:31 pm #

      Great. Share with us when you post future treks.

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