The International Writers Magazine - Western Nepal (long
read) 1.12.2006 update
had been a year since I was working on a plan for a trek around
the Annapurna Region in Western Nepal. It was the month of October
and our biggest festival "Dusain" was near approaching.
And, I had not yet made up my mind about when and what to do next.
It had been 3 years I was away from home then. And the thoughts
of being home with my families and friends were incessant in my
mind. I decided I would give up my job and book the next flight
to Katmandu because there was no chance Id get a month long
vacation from my job.
after i quit my job, I was on Royal Nepal airlines flight 405,
having a can of Carlsberg. I was without a job but a whole month of
freedom ahead of me. I knew that my lifelong yearning to elude myself
in that natures most beautiful retreat was coming true. And, the
joy of being back home again is always there. I had no qualms about
my decision, but what worried me was the mass of flab I was gaining
at my buttocks because my job entailed neither such intelligence nor
any diligence. It was a sinecure.
It took our national carrier RA405, four hours to a safe landing on
Tribhuwan International airport. The weather outside was cool to the
perspiring humidity of Hong Kong. And, the infrastructure between the
two international airports was incomparable. Chep La Kok airport has
all the state-of-the-art infrastructure and technology whereas our international
airport was an embarrassing sight. Our airport had nothing but a few
kilometers long runway and a small passengers hall to boast its
I spent the first week just eating and enjoying the festive mood. It
was only after the end of a week long festival I worked on my itinerary.
My cousin and I hit the road on 19th October 2002. The first day was
an 8-hour drive on a coach from Kathmandu to Pokhara. When we reached
Pokhara; it was already 4 pm in the afternoon. We decided that wed
spend the night there in a Guest House and start our trek the next morning.
We booked a room in a hotel, showered, and went out for a stroll. The
ambience around lakeside in Pokhara was getting livelier with the mellowness
of the starry night. An alfresco type sitting area of a restaurant provided
us a superb view of Fewa Lake glistening with the vibrant lightning
of numerous bars and clubs in the area. We had dumplings with beer.
Since we had to hike a long day uphill to Ghandruk from Nayapul the
day after tomorrow, we went to bed early.
We left the guest house at 6 am the next morning and hired a cab. The
cab drive led us to a winding road north up to the valley of Pokhara
and up a steep hill that followed a twisting descent. We got our first
view of Mt. Fishtail when the sun hit its rays straight at its tip.
It revealed the gleaming front wall of the imposing peak in her purest
form. It was an unforgettable sight way beyond the charisma of digital
image. The view obstructed in the lush alpine forest, our drive led.
We reached Nayapul at 9 am - the starting point.
We started our trip after we drank a cup of tea by the roadside kiosk
at Nayapul. It followed a dirty trail by the banks of Modi River. We
challenged our way forward on human excreta, animal dung and through
peasants heading out to fields. We met a number of trekkers returning
from a trek on the way. They looked exhausted but in high spirits, in
their arduous endeavours. We walked steadily for an hour until we reached
a suspension bridge over the Modi River. The other side of the bridge
was an Annapurna conservation area project (ACAP) office, from where
our trail followed an ascent. We took a rest overlooking the river for
a while and started our climb uphill. After few steps up the trail,
I felt a terrible rage. I realized that trekking is not as easy as it
seemed in travelogues and websites. My heartbeat grew faster and breathing
louder as we climbed up. I was breathing the shush-shush of an asthma
patient. However, I moved on with my cousins you-can-do-it kind
of back up from time to time.
As we climbed up, the gushing sound of the river grew fainter and the
river was nowhere to be seen below the chasm. At 2 pm, we stopped for
lunch at a small village. By then, we had already covered half of our
trip for the day. The other half of our ascent followed rice terraces
fields, thatched cottages, rocky trails, and closer view of Mount Annapurna
and Machapuchre. We gained an excellent momentum of speed and determination
as we neared closer to our destination. The chirping of the birds and
insects grew clearer and louder after the sun set down in the horizon
and the dusk crept in. A distant plip plop of dim lightning from the
village lured us on and on and we dragged and crawled ourselves over
a paved pathway before the gateway into the village, that was stone
carved with "Welcome to Ghandruk". We had finally arrived
at our destination after an eight hour-long ascent and we were as solid
as stone with exhaustion.
We sneaked into a lodge of whose name we did not bother to read. We
got ourselves a double bed room for the night at Rs250. During dinnertime,
we met a German group who were just back from their successful trek
up to the Annapurna base camp. We had a brief chitchat but it seemed
too out of track due to the differing state of mind we were in. After
dinner, we bade everyone in the hall goodnight and went to bed.
A soft knock on the door woke us up the next morning. We shuffled upstairs
at the topmost floor of the Guesthouse with our sleeping rags wrapped.
Ghandruk looked much more populated and clustered with stone-slab houses
than what I had expected. At an altitude of 1,950 metres above sea level,
Ghandruk boasted the finest of lodges and hotels in the region. It perched
right at the flank of the hill with a towering Himalayan mountain range
on the other side. A little while later the sun rose up slowly casting
its prismatic rays on the gigantic Mount Annapurna and Fishtail. The
view looked celestial and hypnotic. The massive barren rock veiled in
glittered flakes of snow silhouetted, thatd leave any onlooker
mystified. And, the serenity of the instant with the freezing breeze
added much tension to its mystic view. It was a moment later when the
crimson red sun changed its colour into a yellowish yolk of an egg that
sparked daylight and brought me back to consciousness. I was completely
lost and mesmerized by the spectacle.
We set out for our second days trip after tea. I didnt feel
any pain nor was I having any difficulty breathing. The air was fresh
and the walk pleasant. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the hilltop.
Mt Annapurna and Machapuchre loomed over on the other side of the gorge.
We ate our staple diet. Rice and curry. The owner of the restaurant,
a healthily built lady, cheered us both when she told us that we were
only an hour away from our destination. For a change, we chatted away
an hour with a Belgian girl who was doing the same trip the other way
around. We asked her few questions about the places wed be at
and answered hers where shed be at on her way down.
We continued our ascent at snails pace and even managed to spare
ourselves the whole evening at Tadapani. It was 2,500 metres above sea
level. The place was a cluster of thatched and stone-slab houses that
encircled a big patio-like courtyard in the middle. There were Tibetans
selling Tibetan antiques, turquoises, and handloom shawls. A group of
young girls greeted us cheerfully and we waved them back with equal
delight. Since we had a whole evening, we took time to bargain a double
bedroom in a guesthouse at a good price and a hot shower for Rs100 each.
We went out for a stroll after the shower. A sharp giggle caught our
attention from an inside of the inn. We went inside it to find ourselves
in the middle of drunken men and cheerful looking girls, busy serving
them. We shared a table with a Chinese guy and his guide, and ordered
a bottle of locally brewed wine. When I finished my third glass of wine,
all I saw was haze. I saw people shaking up and down and sideways with
convulsions of unstoppable laughter and joy. I laughed my heart out
too. The last words I could make out were a stammer from my cousin.
I woke up late the next morning with a woozy hangover. But it felt better
after a hot lemon tea we drank by the veranda with the view of Mount
Annapurna soaring right above us. After tea, we continued our journey
with a steep descent into the alpine woods. Our next destination, Deurali,
comprised of only three guesthouses nestled in the woods. Given that
we were only few hours away from our next destination, we decided to
continue moving ahead after lunch. But as I ate my first spoonful of
rice and curry, I felt my stomach roar. I realized I had diarrhoea.
I had a bar of snicker instead. Our walk then followed a trail above
the hill with coniferous trees. Between the trees emerged a stretch
of Himalayan range that seemed infinite. Had it not been for the diarrhoea
I was suffering from and my frequent stopover into the bushes, itd
have been the most pleasant walk of my life. However, I would still
recommend this trail to be one of the best in the region, to anyone.
It was simply breathtaking.
A two hour-long walk led us at the edge of the hill from where a cluster
of blue coloured rooftops was visible in the twilight. The other edge
at the hill offered a view of chain of hills on the horizon. After a
few minutes rest on the top of hill, we started downhill. We reached
Ghorepani in an hour that lay at the foot of Poon hill. We wasted no
time to find a guesthouse at a reasonable price. A guesthouse owner
got his son to fetch me a diarrhoea pill from the only pharmacy just
nearby. Thanks a bundle to that snotty little young boy, I was back
to normal in an hour before dinnertime. A fireplace blazed in the middle
of the dining hall and all the guests were busy eating and chatting
about their trips. We sat next to a Japanese trio of two old men and
a young girl. We exchanged our formal Namaste and Hi hello, and in no
time found out that, the young girl was a student majoring in Nepali
at Tribhuwan University, Kathmandu. She was accompanying the two old
men as an interpreter who knew no single Nepalese words or English,
with a guide and a porter on their trek to Ghandruk. After dinner, we
left the hall.
We woke up very late the next morning, for we were too tired. We took
a stroll around the village that had a number of antique shops, cafes,
restaurants, and bookstores. Some young men said us that theres
a pool hall and a discotheque as well in the vicinity. That didnt
appeal me a bit; instead I bought a second hand copy of Heinrich Harrers
"Seven years in Tibet" for Rs300 which occupied me in the
most of my day, while my cousin spent his entire afternoon playing pools.
In the evening, we sat by the fireplace and drank locally brewed wine.
A moment later, a Japanese trio we met last night joined us. The young
Japanese girl said that theyd continue their journey the next
day to Deurali. We asked them about geisha and samurai and explained
them about khukuri and dhaka-topi in return. The Japanese girl was so
fluent and immaculate in her Nepali; we had the advantage of wooing
her with lewd Nepalese dialect from time to time during the conversation.
She replied us back with equal glee that added much excitement in the
pursuit of courtship. The two old men would just sit and smile in wry
It was still dark outside when we woke up the next dawn.We shivered
our way up to Poon hill with a group. An hour later; we reached the
top of the hill. Breathing seemed suffocated and the freezing breeze
was piercingly harsh into the ears in that altitude. I felt nauseous
with every breath. I hold on and stood trembling. A little while later,
the sun rose up in its full reddish-glow. Its rays struck on the vast
range of mountains that gave us a magnificent view. The view stretched
so long that itd take one to turn around to see its both
Half an hour later, we were back in the guesthouse. We paid our bills,
thanked the owner for his hospitality and bade him goodbye. We continued
our downhill slowly. Our descent followed one of the most tedious trails
in the whole region from Ulleri. It was 3,000 flights of steps. By 5
pm, we were in Nayapul haggling with a cab driver for a ride back to
Pokhara. The last night, we had a blast in a lakeside bar at Pokhara.
We toasted to the memories we had had on the trip and drank till we
puked. The next day, I was back home with sciatica, a bacterial infection
at my nasal orifice and a withered skin that changed my look so horrible
that people mistook my face for an orangutans, for few days.
© Bimal Gurung. Dec 2006 updated
Journeys in Hacktreks
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