The Extended Ghorepani Trek (II), Annapurna Conservation Area – Nepal

11 Apr

Ghorepani Trek – Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

This is the continuation of my first diary about trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area. My first post can be found at the following link The Extended Ghorepani Trek, Annapurna Conservation Area (part I).

Ghorepani Trek, the third trekking day

Short description: We climbed from Upper Ghorepani to Deurali Pass, and then we descended to Ban Thanti. We abruptly continued the downhill to a tributary stream of the Bhurunngdi Khola Valley, from where we constantly hiked up to Tadapani. Further on, we walked along a contour line to Ghandruk, where we stayed overnight.

Long description

During the night, it was less than 10C degrees in my room, but I slept like a princess in my dawn sleeping bag. I watched the sunrise over Annapurna South from my room. Then, I went downstairs for a light breakfast, just porridge with honey. At 8 o’clock in the morning, we were ready to go and planned to reach Ghandruk the same day (a plan that I agreed to).

Ghorepani Trek: going up from Ghorepani to Deurali Pass (the Dhaulagiri Himalayan Range in the background)

Ghorepani Trek: going up from Ghorepani to Deurali Pass (the Dhaulagiri Himalayan Range in the background)

From Upper Ghorepani we climbed endless stone steps until we reached an intermediary peak, full of colorful prayer flags. We took a break on top of the peak, situated just across Poon Hill, where we had been the previous evening. From the peak, we descended through a forest with crooked trees and headed toward the Deurali Pass (3180m altitude). When we got there, we took a snack break while other trekkers were already sitting at the terraces arranged in front of the lodges. At any given moment, a caravan of loaded down donkeys slowly passed by and headed toward Ghorepani.

Ghorepani Trek: Deurali Pass - loaded mules go up to Ghorepani

Ghorepani Trek: Deurali Pass – loaded mules go up to Ghorepani

From the Deurali Pass we went down along a valley with waterfalls, rainbows, small chortens, and buffaloes. We continued along other stone or wooden steps until we reached Ban Thanti hamlet (3090m altitude). I would have liked to sit and have lunch there, at one of the terraces by the river. However, Salia convinced me to go further through the woods for another half an hour.

Ghorepani Trek: Ban Thanti is awaiting new trekkers for a rest

Ghorepani Trek: Ban Thanti is awaiting new trekkers for a rest

We stopped at the Trekkers Sanctuary Lodge (2660m altitude), from where we had a new, breathtaking view of Annapurna South. I ordered a chicken spaghetti portion, although it wasn’t lunch time yet. I was very hungry after the long hike, though and we still had more to go by the end of that day.

Ghorepani Trek: going down from Ban Thanti to Bhurungdi Khola (valley) - lunch break at the Trekker's Sanctuary Lodge (2660 m alt.)

Ghorepani Trek: going down from Ban Thanti to Bhurungdi Khola (valley) – lunch break at the Trekker’s Sanctuary Lodge (2660 m alt.)

We went down to the Bhurungdi Khola Valley along a steep footpath. When we reached the bottom of the valley, we passed a stone bridge and a Chinese person who was cooking a soup by the river. After we crossed the river, we started a steep uphill hike toward Tadapani. I climbed unceasingly, avoided the stone steps as much as I could, and always chose a narrow footpath parallel with the steps.

Ghorepani Trek: going up from Bhurungdi Khola (valley) to Tadapani

Ghorepani Trek: going up from Bhurungdi Khola (valley) to Tadapani

I waited for Salia at a chaitya (pyramidal construction) made of stones in a small pass. From there, we reached Tadapani (2630m altitude) along a contour line in less than ten minutes. Tadapani was a small colorful village that had a tiny central square. Most of the lodges faced the square but had also back terraces overlooking the Himalayan peaks – Annapurna, Hunchuli, and Machhapuchhre.

Ghorepani Trek: short break in Tadapani

Ghorepani Trek: short break in Tadapani

By noon, we left from Tadapani toward Ghandruk. We walked through a forest with rhododendron trees, unfortunately not in bloom at that time of the year (November). Alternatively, the trees were full of big fat monkeys (lurung) that hardly swung from one tree to another.

Ghorepani Trek: going down from Tadapani to Ghandruk - lurung monkeys in the trees

Ghorepani Trek: going down from Tadapani to Ghandruk – lurung monkeys in the trees

We descended countless stone steps until we reached Baihisi Kharka hamlet, with few houses disposed along the trail. There, I filtered water for drinking from a local well, and then we continued to trek through the rhododendron jungle. We constantly went down and passed waterfalls, steep steps and over-loaded porters who hardly walked up or downhill carrying their cargo.

Ghorepani Trek: going down from Tadapani to Ghandruk - Baikisi Kharka

Ghorepani Trek: going down from Tadapani to Ghandruk – Baikisi Kharka

By dusk, we finally arrived at the first whitewashed houses of Ghandruk (1940m altitude), the largest village of the Modi Khola Valley. We went downhill through the village until we reached the Meshbrom Guesthouse, where I occupied the last empty room – with three beds and a private bathroom, with cold shower, though.

In the evening, I had my favorite garlic soup, fried chicken with French potatoes, rice pudding and a hot mint tea. While eating my dinner, I was admiring the Himalayan view through the smoky colored window of the dining room. Outside, blinking colorful lights hung from the eaves of the house, creating a Christmas atmosphere.

Ghorepani Trek: we arrived in Ghandruk just before the sunset

Ghorepani Trek: we arrived in Ghandruk just before the sunset

After dinner, a group of twelve trekkers from the Netherlands celebrated the birthday of one of the women from the group. There were several power cuts, the landlord brought candles, but the trekkers from the Netherlands continued to celebrate drinking beer no matter what happened. Suddenly, the group’s guide brought a big pink cake with small candles for the woman’s birthday. The porters filmed the scene excitedly when everybody sang ‘Happy Birthday.’ They were charmed by the party that ended with a series of dances between the Nepalis and the Dutch.

Ghorepani Trek, the fourth trekking day

Short description: I walked through Ghandruk, and then we went down toward Kimrong Khola Valley, where we crossed a suspension bridge and abruptly climbed to Chinu. In the afternoon, I enjoyed a royal bath at the local hot springs (the only hot shower in one week).

Long Description

In the morning, I enjoyed a generous breakfast, which consisted of eggs, gurung bread with honey, masala tea, and the customary milk coffee. While I was having breakfast, a Tibetan artisan displayed his handicrafts in the courtyard of the lodge.

Ghorepani Trek: stroller shop with Tibetan jewels

Ghorepani Trek: stroller shop with Tibetan jewels

He attracted me with beads made of Tibetan turquoise, bracelets made of coconut and his family’s ancient bracelet with precious stones – all of them very beautiful but too expensive and heavy. He told me the story of Tibetans who live in exile in Nepal since the sixties and how the Nepali kings had accepted and integrated them into their kingdom. Even if I didn’t buy anything, the Tibetan man thanked me for listening to his story with patience.

Ghorepani Trek: Ghandruk streets with stone steps

Ghorepani Trek: Ghandruk streets with stone steps

I had a short walk through Ghandruk, the oldest and most developed Gurung village of the Modi Khola Valley. Ghandruk lay among various terraces, had two small museums and a so-called German bakery. The whitewashed houses of the village were made of stone and had blue frames at the windows (rather wooden shutters with decorative carvings instead of a normal glass window). Many households were often garnished with corncobs hung from the eaves of the houses to dry for the winter season. The woman from the Gurung Museum impressed me with her tourism and museology diplomas.

Ghorepani Trek: Ghandruk - the Old Gurung Museum

Ghorepani Trek: Ghandruk – the Old Gurung Museum

When I turned back to the lodge, we left downhill toward Chinu. We descended among traditional households, agricultural plots on terraces, and women winnowing the millet. When we saw a collapsed house, Salia told me that his house from Gorkha had collapsed during the earthquake the previous year, too.

Ghorepani Trek: Ghandruk - traditional Gurung house with views to Annapurna South Peak and Modi Khola (valley)

Ghorepani Trek: Ghandruk – traditional Gurung house with views to Annapurna South Peak and Modi Khola (valley)

On our way to Chinu, we met with Thomas, the Lithuanian I had known at the Evergreen Ecolodge in Sauraha, Chitwan. He came from the opposite direction and told me he had trekked the Annapurna Base Camp in seven days instead of ten (the average duration of this trek). As usual, he was trekking by himself and listening to music on his headphones.

Ghorepani Trek: from Ghandruk to Chinu - a traditional household

Ghorepani Trek: from Ghandruk to Chinu – a traditional household

We continued our downhill climb among authentic hamlets until we reached the Kimrong Khola Valley. In the valley, we crossed a suspension bridge over a canyon with enormous waterfalls. Next, we abruptly climbed the last pack of stone steps to Chinu (1780m altitude).

Ghorepani Trek: the last, very steep, stone steps up to Jhinudanda

Ghorepani Trek: the last, very steep, stone steps up to Jhinudanda

Chinu was a small village that sat a few hundred meters above the Modi Khola Valley. Since we reached Chinu, we were already on the Annapurna Base Camp Trek. The small central square of Chinu was, in fact, the garden full of flowers of the Namaste touristic complex. Everything and anything happened there. One could find from Tibetan jewels, T-shirts and cloth caps with Himalayan landscapes stamped on them to biscuits, energy drinks, and maps with trekking routes.

Ghorepani Trek: Jhinudanda - the main central 'square'

Ghorepani Trek: Jhinudanda – the main central ‘square’

For lunch, I quickly had tomatoes macaroni with a bit of yak cheese. Next, I insisted to Salia on leaving for the hot springs, situated at the bottom of the valley. There was a ticket counter at the departure point toward the hot springs. I paid a small fee to go down in the Modi Khola Valley and hurried up toward the hot springs.

When we reached the valley, three pools with warm water lined up next to the cold river. The three pools had warm water, respectively hot and very hot water. I didn’t have a swimming suit, but I entered the pools dressed only in my underwear. The local guard asked me to have a shower first (with hot water, finally!), and only afterward was I allowed to enter the pools.

Ghorepani Trek: Jhinudanda Hot Springs - absolutely magical

Ghorepani Trek: Jhinudanda Hot Springs – absolutely magical

I immersed myself into the warm water from the first pool for two hours, while Salia was happily chatting with the local guard. Meanwhile, the pools filled with both Nepalis and trekkers. I moved into another pool when Noelia – the Spanish girl I had met in Ulleri, showed up. She entered the pools completely dressed because she didn’t have anything else to wear. She told me that she was planning to trek the extended trail passing through Landruk for the next two days. Afterward, she was going to volunteer at a Montessori School in Pokhara. Next, she was going to Kathmandu, and I found out that we were both flying back to our countries the same day.

Ghorepani Trek: from Jhinudanda back to Nayapul - that's how a real porter looks like during his work. The load is bigger than him.

Ghorepani Trek: from Jhinudanda back to Nayapul – that’s how a real porter looks like during his work. The load is bigger than him.

At dusk, we came back to Chinu and for dinner I sat with two cyclists on the terrace of the lodge. They had left their bikes in Pokhara and were trekking the Annapurna Base Camp. Thomas was from Slovenia and he had been cycling the Silk Road for five months. In New Delhi, in India, he had joined forces with Ben Antony from Luxembourg. From there, they had pedaled together to Pokhara, in Nepal. Thomas had been to Nepal two years before and the country had seemed dirty to him then. Nevertheless, after crossing India, Nepal seemed very clean. Ben had just completed his university studies and he was exploring Southeast Asia for two months. Both of them were confirmed travel bloggers and wrote a diary on their blogs every day.

Ghorepani Trek, the fifth trekking day (and the last one)

Short Description: We left from Chinu along the Modi Khola Valley. We gently hiked up toward Siwai, from where we descended along the bus route and passed through Syauli Bajar and Chimrong until we reached Birethanti. We completed the Ghorepani Trek back in Nayapul, at the taxi stand.

Long Description:

I woke up early in the morning and when I looked out of the window, I saw Annapurna South still surrounded by stars. For breakfast, I had eggs and Gurung bread with honey, the customary masala tea and milk coffee. I said goodbye to the cyclists, Thomas and Antony, and we agreed to keep in touch in the near future.

Ghorepani Trek: from Jhinudanda back to Nayapul - always with Annapurna South in the background

Ghorepani Trek: from Jhinudanda back to Nayapul – always with Annapurna South in the background

We descended from Chinu to the suspension bridge over the canyon (the one we had crossed the previous day). From there, we climbed abruptly, and in Samrung we chose the route parallel to the Modi Khola Valley. We passed by the new bridge toward Landruk and walked along the eastern side of the valley until we reached Kyume. There, a trail went to Ghandruk (from where we had come the previous day) but we chose to go to Siwai, from where we had a bus to Birethanti.

Ghorepani Trek: from Jhinudanda back to Nayapul

Ghorepani Trek: from Jhinudanda back to Nayapul

We passed a herd of goats, crossed another suspension bridge over a small river and reached Siwai. Unfortunately, a bus already full with people was just leaving. A Russian trekker asked me if we would join his group for a jeep ride directly to Pokhara (8 persons in a jeep). I sat down at a terrace in Siwai and had the last chicken spaghetti of the trek. Finally, I decided to walk for another ten kilometers to Nayapul. Salia was not very happy to hear that because he had to carry my backpack for another three hours. He complied to my decision although he criticized the jeeps that passed and left us in a thick cloud of dust.

Ghorepani Trek: Siwai - the jeep/bus park. Normally, it's the end of the trek, actually we continued to walk down to Nayapul

Ghorepani Trek: Siwai – the jeep/bus park. Normally, it’s the end of the trek, actually we continued to walk down to Nayapul for another 7-8 km

The dirt road to Birethanti was a continuous downhill and passed through the picturesque villages of Syauli Bajat, Chimrong and Lamakhet. All the way to Birethanti we saw Maccapucharee (Fish Tail) behind us. In Birethanti (1025m altitude) we stamped my trekking permits for the last time. Then, in half an hour we were in the parking stand from Nayapul. There, Salia quickly set up a ride with a taxi driver who brought us in front of the travel company in Pokhara.

Ghorepani Trek: trekker crowds in Birethanti along the last kilometers to Nayapul

Ghorepani Trek: trekker crowds in Birethanti along the last kilometers to Nayapul

At the Twin Peaks Travel Company, I paid the rest of the money I had agreed on for the trek. I gave a good tip to Salia who gratefully thanked me by putting his hands together and saying ‘Namaste.’ He accompanied me to the Lotus Inn Hotel (where I had stayed before) and carried my backpack for the last time. Suddenly, after we said goodbye to each other, I started missing him.

Ghorepani Trek: somewhere in Banthanti - with my guide-porter Salia

Ghorepani Trek: somewhere in Banthanti – with my guide-porter Salia

It was not a feeling that hurt, rather the joy and gratitude he had been my guide for five days. Even if we hadn’t talked much, he knew how to understand people without saying too many words. When I was thinking of him, I felt my heart going up into my throat. At the same time I had a sweet sensation in my stomach. The next day I hesitated whether to go or not to the travel company and ask for Salia’s phone number. I was hoping that maybe I would see him again when I was going to Gorkha.

The Extended Ghorepani Trek (II) is the continuation of my first diary about trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area (find the version in Romanian at ‘Ghorepani Trek, Aria de Conservare Annapurna, Nepal II’). My first post can be found at the following link The Extended Ghorepani Trek (part I). 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 (II), Annapurna Conservation Area – Nepal”

  1. Natasha April 25, 2017 at 3:26 am #

    Wow — what a trek!! With all those amazing views, it looks so worth it! I love that you encountered so many adorable animals along the way! 🙂

    • Iuliana April 26, 2017 at 10:06 am #

      Sometimes you act like a child when you see monkeys, donkeys, and the list may go on.

  2. Paige April 26, 2017 at 6:54 am #

    What a stunning adventure! The longest hiking trek I’ve done is four days on the Inca Trail, but next year my husband and I take off for a (hopefully) 12-month trip! We’re hoping to do the APBC Trek and this has been loads of inspiration. Photos of those Tibetan jewels shows me I need to save a little room in my pack for trinkets – I’m a sucker for those things!

    • Iuliana April 26, 2017 at 10:05 am #

      Be prepared for steep and long ups and downs as the Himalayas are the highest mountains in the world for a certain reason: they are very abrupt. I also love Tibetan jewels but they were so heavy and expensive at that altitude, that you’d better negotiate and buy them in Pokhara.

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