Kathmandu to Pokhara
I caught the merry-go-round bus with Kumar (my guide for the next 5 days) to Pokhara, leaving behind the urban sprawl of Kathmandu. It was an enjoyable journey winding down the mountain with its death defying bends; passing traditional villages and oxen ploughing paddy fields; with Bollywood music blasting. The bus was a constant circus of people hopping aboard to sell their wares. We stopped for the obligatory “all the men on the bus have a pee on the side of the road” stop; lunch of dhal bhat; an emergency stop with a flat tyre (I was very nervous of the guys foot hanging out from under the bus as the traffic passed us – gulp!!!) and finally the broken horn stop. 7 hours later we arrived in Pokhara, I felt slightly green after going round and round the mountains.
I got off the bus to complete mayhem, with everyone and his dog offering me a hotel room. One cunning man said “Do you just want a taxi?”, which I jumped at – only to discover in the car we were heading towards his hotel. On arrival in the tourist area, I dragged poor Kumar around a few holes. After making him climb up 5 flights of stairs to discover another grotty room – I just said yes out of guilt since Kumar was carrying my rucksack. I was not being a lazy moo honestly; he wouldn’t let me carry my bags. After he left I carried on my search alone and found a lovely, clean room elsewhere.
Later that afternoon I was feeling fluorescent green and spent the rest of the day sat on the loo with a bucket in front of me. I couldn’t believe it, less than 48 hours and I was sick again in Nepal!!! I thought I had been so careful. Last time I was violently sick for 5 days and I had to go to the doctors, so I prayed I wasn’t going to repeat that experience. I downed water with dehydration tablets only to throw it back up. I used Reiki on my cramping belly and by some miracle by midnight I had abandoned my position on the throne.
Day 1: Naya Pul (1070m) – Ghandruk (1940m)
I awoke the next morning feeling slightly nauseous. I ate a banana, which I managed to hold down. I was having doubts about going on a 5 day trek, but I thought I was over the worse so after checking with Kumar how long we were trekking today (he said 3 hours in broken English), I decided to continue.
We had a 2 hour bus journey, winding higher into the Himalayas to Naya Pul where the trek starts. I found the first hour of the trek very tough going. I was still feeling pretty nauseous. Every step was pure endurance. Around me was stunning landscape and lovely villages, but I was not appreciating any of it. I needed energy, so in broken Nepali (since English didn’t work very well) I said “Ma lai bhok lahgy-ho” – “I’m hungry!!” We finally stopped at a tea house where I managed to eat 4 boiled potatoes and then we hit the road again.
It was about midday, the sun was beating down and I was feeling an absolute shocker. I asked Kumar “how much further”, to which he replied “at least 3 hours”. I could have cried. I had to take a rest and get out of the midday heat. I collapsed to the floor (with a herd of goats) and slept for ½ an hour. I awoke feeling refreshed and almost human again.
TIP: It is not recommended to walk if you are seriously ill, especially if you are trekking in remote areas or at high altitude. If you do get caught out like me ensure you sip plenty of water regularly, keep eating however small to keep up your energy levels, take plenty of rests and stay out of the midday sun!!!
Even though this was suppose to be a “Japanese Walk” (that’s what my friend who organised it calls an easy walk), it was quite tough going. We kept climbing up and up, around every corner were a hundred more steps. However, I started enjoying it – moving out of the way of donkeys, shouting Namaste to everyone you walk pass and taking in the stunning Himalayas.
I was relieved to reach my tea house for the evening. I felt completely drained, so I had a few hours nap before dinner. I opted for the veggie soup, but every mouthful was a struggle to eat especially with all the garlic. This is ridiculous being nauseous and not even being at a high altitude. I think I was asleep by 6, utterly exhausted after a long day.
Day 2: Ghandruk (1940m) – Tadapani (2680m)
I awoke to the stunning view of Annapurna as the sun was rising. The struggle of the previous day was worth it. I was still not feeling a 100%, but felt more normal. I only managed half of a bowl of porridge for breakfast – I hate losing my appetite. On the bright side, I will be a few pounds lighter after this.
The trek today was much easier. We walked for 2 hours through a gorgeous forest with Rhododendrons and white Magnolias in full bloom above. My tea house for the night overlooked this magnificent canopy, which made up for my tiny room. I was the first to arrive and I wondered if everyone else knew something I didn’t; especially when I flushed the toilet and got wet feet. However, as the afternoon progressed more trekkers arrived. It was a friendly tea house and I chattered to lots of lovely people.
Day 3: Tadapani (2680m) – Ghorepani (2860m)
So over losing my appetite, I managed ½ slice of toast and a bit of jam – whoopee!!! Today was up and up and more up for a change. We ascended a beautiful gorge and trekked across a ridge, passing through another rhododendron forest which smelt incredible.
When we finally reached the top of the ridge, we had a beautiful panorama view of the Annapurna ranges. It was mind blowing, the view just gets better and better every day.
I arrived at the tea house tired, but satisfied. After lunch I found heaven in a hot shower (fuelled by firewood bought on donkey back – how cool!!!), the first once since Pokhara. As advertised on the Herbal Essence bottle, “I entered a world of botanical bliss”.
Day 4: Ghorepani (2860m) – Poon Hill (3210m) – Birethanti (1025m)
What a day!!! I woke at the ungodly hour of 4am to climb Poon Hill to see sun rise. I joined the caravan of torches and dragged myself up the hill. I am not a morning person, so I was pretty grumpy and wondering what on earth was I doing in the dark. However, it was lovely to see the Himalayas awake as the sun rose.
That was only the start of a mammoth day. It was all downhill, first following a river and then a path winding between villages. After lunch, of boiled potatoes, I started feeling very nauseous again and felt faint. Not sure if I was dehydrated, exhausted from the ridiculously early start or my bug still lingering. Around 2 pm I collapsed at a tea house. After some rest I felt able to continue, not sure if it was the half litre of water or the friendly Koreans who thought I was very beautiful and had to have their pictures taken with that perked me up.
Fully revitalised, Kumar and I continued our descent. Sadly, the last 2 hours of the walk today, was along the infamous Annapurna road they are constructing. I am in two minds what I think about it. It is an absolute eyesore after all the beauty I have experienced in the last 4 days. The construction has caused landslides on both sides of the road, so instead of beautiful jungle you now have scree tips. On the other hand I do understand Nepal has to progress. At the end of the road a new school is being built, education in the long run will help Nepal more than tourism. Hopefully the road will blend more into the landscape with time and some villages have already built stone walls, which is more becoming of the Himalayas.
TIP: If you decide to do the 5 day Ghorepani trek I would recommend doing it clockwise (the opposite direction to me). I think seeing the Annapurna road at the beginning may not be such a shock to the system and from there the views will just get better and better.
We finally rolled into Birethanti at around 4pm absolutely exhausted and I crashed at 6pm zzzzzzzzzz.
Day 5 – Birethanti > Kathmandu
The final walk was very short, but I was relieved since my calves were feeling a wee bit sore after the long trek yesterday. Kumar and I managed to catch a local bus to Kathmandu with a minor detour through Pokhara. We were crammed in like sardines; there were 5 of us squashed in a row made for 3. I had the window seat and they kept looking at me as if it to say move over, unfortunately for them my arse isn’t small.
It was good to arrive in Kathmandu. I showered and put on some clean clothes. I have been wearing the same walking trousers for 5 days, yuck!!!! I did have a second pair but they had a mishap in Pokhara which I will spare you the details of… *BLUSH*
Last Thoughts: On route many people commented how brave I was trekking alone with a guide. I felt completely safe and I would highly recommend it. I am a very slow walker and as I was not a 100% it was nice to take breaks as frequent as I wanted without the pressure of a bigger group. It also really helped me learn some Nepali. If you are not comfortable with a male guide, on my last trekking day I did see a female guide, so ask around.