Dhal Bhat Power 24/7! Annapurna Base Camp /ABC Trekking

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Dhal Bhat Power 24/7! Annapurna Base Camp /ABC Trekking

Postby Nachikethas » Thu Feb 16, 2017 4:25 pm

The risen sun is still behind the mountains. The swollen knee is giving me a hard time in every step that I take. It's been 7 days since we started the tiring trekking and now is the decisive time; we are finally reaching our destination. Just an hour more. Turned one more ravine and there it is, Annapurna I (8091 M), the 10th highest mountain in the world, standing like a giant white wall in front, guarded by Annapurna South (7219 M) on the left and Gangapurna (7455 M) on the right. I see Ali coming back from the Base Camp with his lock of hair, wearing shorts even in this -1 degree climate. It is obvious from his smile that he had a great time up there watching the first rays of the day kissing these majestic mountains. This Dutch guy himself has no idea how many times he has been up here!

I look back; Aditya my cousin is not so behind walking up with his sprained ankle, cursing the mountain in every step that he takes. The unclimbed Machhapuchhre is standing tall behind him. For a mountain whose top looks like the fishtail from a distance, there is no other apt name than that. It feels like being inside a giant stadium, where the tall snow capped mountains take the place of the gallery as I walk further. The sound of a landslide happening somewhere nearby is echoing across the mountains. "Die you mountain, die" curses Adi!

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The Big Wall - Annapurna I (8003 M) the 10th highest mountain in the world

It seems climbing down is far more difficult for me than climbing up with this swollen knee. How I will walk back all this distance in this condition with this heavy backpack was my morning thought. It wasn’t an easy journey for me to reach here; I managed to survive the economic emergency back in India and the HR manager’s last minute intervention to cancel the leave. But there is no time for all those thoughts now. Today we are going to sleep here in the valley under the starry sky guarded by the mighty mountains in the frozen climate. Did that thought rush my speed a bit? There it is, the base camp not far away. Finally...

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The horrible news about 40 trekkers killed in the Annapurna range of Nepal due to the heavy snowfall of October 14th 2014 which swept across the Himalayas reached me and my friend Sudhin only by the time we came back to Delhi the following day after surviving through 22 kms trekking in the same deadly snowfall in Gangotri Gaumukh ( http://devilonwheels.com/india/uttarakhand-gharwal-kumaon-travel-tales/topic3259.html ). Annapurna - that was the first time I ever heard of that name. The trekking up to its Base Camp (ABC) is regarded as one of the most beautiful and famous trekking route around the world. The decision was made by then but it took exactly 2 years for me to do it.

I am listing down the itinerary which we followed. A big thanks to all the authors of the blogs which helped me to get this done. Also thanks to @getpackingvinod for giving me the idea to travel to Nepal through Sonauli which reduced the budget drastically. :D

Day Place
of
trekking
NA Bangalore (by train) - Gorakhpur 2 days
NA Gorakhpur- Sonauli 3 hrs drive
NA Sonauli - Pokhara 10 hrs drive
1 Pokhara - Nayapul(1070 m) – 2hrs drive - Hille/Tikhedhunga (1570 m) 5 hrs
2 Hille /Tikhedhunga - Ghorepani (2750 m) 7 hrs
3 Ghorepani  - Poon Hill (3210 m) - Tadapani (2650 m)7-8 hrs
4 Tadapani  - Chomrong (2170 m) 5 hrs
5 Chomrong  - Himalayas (2920 m)/Dovan 7-8 hrs
6 Himalayas/Dovan - Machapuchare Base Camp (3700 m) 4-5 hrs
7 MBC - Annapurna Base Camp  (4130 m)  3 hrs (1/2 day hike to glacier at  higher elevation optional)
8 Annapurna Base Camp - Sinuwa (2340 m) 7-8 hrs
9 Sinuwa - Jhinu Danda (1780 m) via Chomrong visit hotsprings 7 hrs
10 Jhinu Danda (1780 m) - Shiwai 6 hrs Pokhara 3 hr drive
NA Pokhara - Gorakhpur 14 hrs drive
NA Gorakhpur (by train) -Bangalore 2 days

After escaping the dramatic scenes back in the office caused by the HR manager to cancel the trip at the very last moment, I reached Yeshwantpur railway station in Bangalore to catch the New Delhi bound Samparkkranti express. Aditya who came all the way from Mumbai was already waiting for me there. There was one more guy in the picture, Seby, my college mate and best friend. His plan was to fly from Kanyakumari to Gorakhpur (our current destination) by the time we reached there, though Fate had different plans for him. Indian government’s strategic strike on black money known as the currency demonitisation (withdrawal of 500 & 1000 Rs notes) which has been nothing short of a disaster so far has left us only about Rs 7000 in hand. But we were rich compared to Seby who had zero penny in hand though he had a fortune in his bank account. He had no other option but to cancel the trip. The dark powers had struck again. It was not the first time that I lose a partner at the very moment when the trip started!! To add more misery to that, my cell phone shattered into pieces just as I climbed the upper berth in the train as it moved away from the Garden City of India. Not a very good start..

The 34 hrs journey took us to Jhansi where we changed the train to catch the Raptisagar express to reach Gorakhpur. We somehow managed to survive the 12 hrs of journey sitting beside the filthy toilet, thanks to the non availability of seats. Gorakhpur - without the super moon it would have been completely dark even at 5 in the evening. For once I empathised with Adi who got sick of the London weather with its lack of sunlight especially in the winter season, while he was studying there a year ago.

Next destination - Sonauli the Indian border town. Though there are plenty of buses to go there (you can catch the bus just opposite the railway station) we decide to take the shared taxi (Rs250 per person after bargain) which could save us an hour. Well, we completely deserve it after that exhausting train travel."The border will be closed by 10 PM for the vehicles but it will remain open for the pedestrians all night" says Ranbeer and Saurabh our new friends whom we met in the car. The vehicle rush through the recently renovated wide bypass roads to reach the last town on Indian border, Sonauli. My heart starts beating fast as I read the sign board ‘Indian Border Ends Here’.

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First time out of country. Yayyy..... - Crossing the Indian border at Sonauli

This is the moment that I was waiting for, for a long time, to go out of the country for the first time. But wait! Nobody is asking for my passport. Ok, we Indians don’t need passport or visa to enter our brotherhood country Nepal, but at least take a look at my ID card! It seems the officials of both the countries are not in a mood to stop their friendly talk just to check four guys crossing the international border in the darkness!! What if we are smugglers??... Anyway.. bye bye motherland, see you back in 2 weeks, by the time I hope we have a hell of a story to tell. The last bus to Pokhara and Kathmandu leaves at 8.30pm. This leaves us with no choice but to stay at Bhairawa, the Nepal town beside the border. By the time we and Ranbeer have become so friendly that we decide to share a room for the night. The insufficient funds in our hand changed the original plan of going to Pokhara. We had asked Joe Nathan, my cousin Ammu’s former colleague in Kathmandu, to lend us some amount. For that, we have to go to Kathmandu early morning tomorrow.

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Promising Ranveer to meet again in Pokhara, we got in to the first bus to Kathmandu at 4.45. Everything was going fine until they put on the dubbed South Indian movies in bus in high volume. Our hope to get some sleep simply vanished!! The distant view of the beautiful snow capped Himalayan mountains is the only good part in this long journey. One of them could be Annapurna, who knows? I said to myself, as the 6th movie hit the screen or was it the 7th? I thought we had left all this back in India. Feeling so sick now!

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The first glimpse of the snow capped mountains - On the way to Kathmandu from Sonauli

Kathmandu, the capital town of Nepal - it is not the feel that we were expecting from all the stories that we had heard about this city. The bustling, crowded, dusty Kathmandu is not much different from some North Indian cities, except for the fact that there are no auto rickshaws available here. Joe's driver came and gave us Rs 10000 (Nepali currency). But the real joy came when we realised that I can withdraw money using my State Bank of India debit card from their ATM without the transaction limit the government had introduced a week before. Using the SBI ATM card you can withdraw up to Rs 25000 (NC) in one transaction from any of their ATMs in Nepal. Ola! Suddenly we are rich. Wasting no more time we headed to Pokhara by the last bus at 8.30pm.

The comparatively better road helped both of us to get enough sleep by the time we reached the chilly morning of Pokhara at 5.30. A suggestion here….. if you have a day or two to spend in Pokhara, then head to Lake Side. It is a paradise for the travellers, with plenty of cheap hotels, markets, restaurants and coffee shops near the beautiful lake of Pokhara. But since we had no intention to stay in Pokhara, the decision to hire a room right in the middle of the city was easy to take (Rs 600 for 2 persons). After a short nap we started for the lake side to get trekking permission from the Nepal tourism office. We didn’t have to rush through; it opens only by 10.00 a .m. That provides us ample time to have breakfast from 'Black & White', the German restaurant, and also to have a glimpse of the calm greenish Pokhara Lake just opposite the restaurant.

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The beautiful and calm Pokhara Lake

For SARRC nationalities (which include India) the trekking permits cost just Rs 200 but it also requires Rs 600 worth TIMS card as well. They ask for 3 passport size photos for all of these but don’t bother even if you don't have it, they have a photo booth right inside the office. Afternoon was reserved for shopping for the trekking gear including a good thermal wear, over coat and sleeping bags. This took more time than we expected and forced us to take a taxi rather than the public bus to our base point for trekking – Nayapul.

It is 1 pm already and what we are facing is a 2 hr journey by road to Nayapul followed by 6 hours of long trekking to Tikhedhunga (1577 M) our pit stop for the day. The fact that the chances to achieve all these is getting lower and lower gets me nervous as the cab rushes through the valley where Annapurna massif guards the right side. For a moment all those worries vanished as my sight fell on that big wall over there. Here we are against all the odds... Now it’s all up to our determination to conquer this. In the coming days we are going to spend our day and night somewhere there under the majestic mountains. The tyres laid to rest at last. After 4 days of tiring journey of over 4000 kms, started from a far place in South India, finally we are here, why? so that we can start our real journey!

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Finally the real journey begins - Trekking from Nayapul to Tikkadunga

That's it. Bye bye asphalt road, now we are heading in to the muddy paths of a valley laid like the tentacles of an octopus, for the 10 days long trekking... The half an hour journey will take you to Birethanti where you have to show your permits at both sides of the river Modi Khola . The detour on the other side gives an option to go to Ghorepani to the left and Gandruk on to the right. Taking left we continued our journey. The path through the untarred road is relatively easy though we are certain it wouldn’t last long. The sun was eager to go home after the day and we saw the darkness spread quicker than expected.

Soon the mobile flashlight was required to continue the trekking. The 4 hours of journey finally managed to tire us. Tikkadunga seems a far dream, we have to settle somewhere for the day……any place where lights are turned on. Soon we heard a voice from the dark saying we are on the wrong route!! We should have taken the narrow path at the last U turn which was completely unidentifiable in the dark. You are an angel, sir.

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Look whos peeking through the gorges - Somewhere on the way to Tikkaduga

We didn’t have to walk very far to get to the beautiful small village called Hille to make it our first pit stop during the trekking. We took a room in the first lodge that we saw where we were the only guests. The tiny wooden cabin for both of us is neat and cheap. Room rates are fixed across all the villages en route to ABC - Rs 400 for a 2 persons’ room, Rs 180 for dormitory. After a delicious dinner, before going into deep slumber, we promised each other to wake up the next morning as early as possible. Not even a tiny bit of disappointment is left on us for the fact that we couldn't make it to the destination for the day..

Day 2 of trekking

Whatever we promised last night was a complete lie. In the morning chill of this alluring valley, it is ever so difficult to wake up from the bed even at 9 am. The last time we slept like this was in Bangalore 4 days before. Finally at 11 am we are all packed up and ready for the 7-8 hrs of trekking to Ghorepani (2874 M). Remember that timing is applicable from Tikkadunga where we are yet to reach. "It will be very difficult to reach Ghoprepani before dark" laughed the shop lady. “Don't worry about us, we are super strong and super quick, we will make it" (Oh how I regret those words). Thadapani was just 30 minutes walk from Hille. Only if we had started our trekking yesterday a bit earlier we could have made it here pretty easily. There is another big village that we have to cross on the way to the destination – Ulleri (2070 M).

“You will enjoy the journey” There is enough of sarcasm in that European lady's voice who just passed us by. It didn’t take long to realize what she meant, it’s the steps.. The untarred road has now given way to steps; countless, endless number of steps. Porters hired by other tourists are not climbing but running through them or is it just that I’m hallucinating a bit after the tiring climb? Every pound that we carry now comes adds to our luggage making each step harder and harder. Every corner that we take I hope this could be the end. But no, it’s still going on. The path to the heaven is filled with steps – literally! This has to end at some point for sure... All the breaks that we take are eating up the time so much, but we have no choice. At least we could make it useful for acknowledging and drinking in the beauty of this valley, flowered beautifully thanks to the autumn season. The pink flowered unnamed tree on the way has set a different vibrancy to the place altogether.

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A common sight on the valley

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Tikkadunga is now far away down the valley. "It’s a very long distance that we have covered” Adi is right as I see the Ulleri around the corner. Almost as big as Tikkadaunga with rows of lodges and houses, Ulleri definitely can boast of being more beautiful than the former thanks to the snow capped mountains peeping through the narrow ravine. That could be Annapurna or Machhapuchhre. I’m yet to be familiar with these mountains. The dhal bhat’s power (the popular food of this region– grain curry with rice and veg curry) soon dried off after a few steps. “A little more distance and you have done with it” says the villager seeing us suffering. I hope she didn’t say that to comfort us.

But she is right. Soon the steps give way to muddy trails. The proper trekking trail at last. A canned dog from somewhere joins us and leads the way through the greenish forest. The black dog has so much more stamina even with its crooked leg. Every time we take rest he keeps coming back to us as if urging us to move on "Dogs are the most loyal thing in the world" "He is not being loyal, he is just scared to go alone" I argued with Adi. Anyway I am very happy to get a local company through the forest which is now getting darker every minute. It is almost certain that we two are the only two living souls on this route now. Apart from the dog of course. It seems we haven't learned anything from the last night. And it becomes obvious when Adi sprains his ankle. The cell phone flash light isn’t sufficient enough on a path covered with pebbles and rocks. Our companion is now nowhere in sight. It just occurred to us that we haven't seen any civilization after passing Ulleri. It is we who are scared not the dog!

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Thappali leading the line!

Suddenly he emerges from the dark with a westerner. "Thuppali is his name, he stays in our lodge in Ghoprepani." The stranger is patting the dog while he shakes his tail vigorously. "Ghorepani is still 30 minutes of walk from here", the man says. But he immediately rephrases it to 20 minutes seeing Adi’s face. Surely he is saying this to comfort us. You don’t have to do that sir! Soon he disappeared into the cold night wearing nothing but shorts and T-shirt. That is an impressive evening walk. Here we are thinking of getting into the sleeping bag already.

The walk continues with Thuppali in the lead. The Big gate of Ghorepani which the stranger mentioned appeared in the darkness shortly, putting a big smile on our face. Adi goes up to check the room availability in the first lodge that we see. I am not going to move an inch until I get confirmation from Adi. As I hear his voice from the top, I climb up only to find him lying on the floor with everyone standing near him laughing at us. We told them the entire story while having Dhal Bhat.

The fact that we have to wake up at 5 in the morning to see the sunrise from Poon hill is so frightening but with the satisfaction that we reached the destination unlike last time, we can close our eyes for the day.

Day 3

Like the other day we cannot snooze the alarm. If couldn’t reach the top of Poon hill before sunrise there is no point of coming to this place at all. This thought was sufficient enough to wake us up and do the morning choirs lightning fast.The morning chill give me all the reason to wear the heavy jacket which I carried from Pokhara. The steps become villain again on the way which leads to the Poon hill just outside our lodge. Collecting the 50 Rs ticket at entrance gate we continued the climb. Make sure you bring the wallet, otherwise it would be a painful walk back and forth.

The light has broken somewhere out there in the east. All the ghost alike looking mountains are now slowly finding their characters. As we go up the real picture of Annapurna massif is coming up nice and clearly. The 55 kilometers long giant massif is stretched up so wide with Nilgiri (7061 M) guarding the left and Machhapuchchhre on right. The first rays of the day started to kiss the ice coned mountains. In the golden light of dawn they look more beautiful. We are the last people to reach the crowded Poon hill. People from all over the world have gathered here in a tiny bit space on top of the hill, like one big family to see one of the nature's greatest gift to the humankind called the Himalayas.

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Me.Among some good company!

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Dhaulagiri Massif

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Adi

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Annapurna's side kick Dhaulagiri massif is out there far away with her 120 kms long stretched arms. There Dhaulagiri I is standing tall among its siblings with the height of ‎8,167 meters making its 7th height mountain in the world. My first memory of Dhaulagiri is from the well known book 'The Snow Leopard' by the renowned writer Peter Matthiessen. In late 70s he trekked all the way up to Inner Dolpo from Pokhara through these region along with the biologist George Schaller. The diaries which he wrote during his 3 month long journey to the Tibetan plateau hidden behind Dhaulagiri is a cult among the travel readers. The river Kali Gandaki which got countless mention in the book is flowing somewhere in between these tall massifs making her ravine the deepest in the world. I cannot see but I can sense her by observing the crevice she created out there. This time I have to settle with that but I will meet you one day Kali Gandaki, I promise.

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River Kali Gandaki is flowing somewhere there between these two massifs. After this giant wall it is the great Tibetan Plateau - Dhaulagiri Massif

Adi is having black tea to survive from the morning chills and I couldn’t resist. Soon we took the 45 minutes climb down to the hotel. During breakfast we met Jan Lan. The Dutch fellow is on his 37th visit to the Annapurna region!! Many of the building here has marked his name in front of it with the donations that he and his family provided over the time. “Not all the times donations are required, sometimes just talking will do.” Jan is having porridge before his meeting with the locals for building a community center for women. He is the Greg Mortenson of Nepal. Well, minus the cheating part of course!

It is Jan who suggests to take the less used forest trail to Thadapani (2630 M) which starts from near the Gate. I hope at least today we will reach the destination on time. Soon we had to climb up the same height of Poon hill again. The view from the top is astonishing as we climb higher and personally I find it more alluring than the crowded Poon hill. On one side you have the towering massifs and on the other hand its tropical forest and lovely meadows.

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Dhaulagiri I, the 7th highest mountain in the world is standing tall among her sisters

The journey continues after the lunch from Deurali (there are 3 Deurali en route to ABC, so don’t get confuse). . It is a climb down all the way up to Thadapani now. Soon we entered to the world of lush greenish forest with countless small waterfalls and streams. Together they make the air colder.The forest is getting thicker and thicker as we climb down. The monsoon clouds coming all the way from Indian Ocean sweep across Indian subcontinent only to get beaten by the giant wall of Himalayas here, creating heavy rainfall across sanctuary during the monsoon times. But the other part of the mountains becomes rain shadowed area making the land dry. Rest of the world knows it as Tibetan plateau.

Finally we reached Thadapani around evening 5. No more night trekking then, yay! Keeping a promise has its own joy. Small village of Thadapani is having only 4 lodges which all seems full. After a brief search we managed to get a tiny room around the corner. Giving few clothes for washing we went outside. Machhapuchchhre and Annapurna South are barricading the opposite side. From the valley of Machhapuchchhre something is illuminating like the fireflies. "The shepherds set it the old grass on fire purposefully to grow the new one for the sheep to eat" says the caretaker boy. The small dining room is filled already but still we manage to find a little space to have the veg noodles and pasta for dinner.
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Re: Dhal Bhat Power 24/7! Annapurna Base Camp /ABC Trekking

Postby dheerajsharma14 » Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:49 am

Those are some amazing peak-ful pictures and so far as if I am still trekking with you... Just hooked on to it now.
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Re: Dhal Bhat Power 24/7! Annapurna Base Camp /ABC Trekking

Postby yadavpreetrai » Mon Feb 20, 2017 9:59 am

Amazing pic and amazing trekking. Hooked to it.

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Re: Dhal Bhat Power 24/7! Annapurna Base Camp /ABC Trekking

Postby Nachikethas » Mon Feb 20, 2017 5:56 pm

Day 4

It is no more a problem for us to wake up early in the morning. Slowly we have started to understand the mountains. You start early, finish early. It is 7 hours of trekking waiting for us, to Chomrong (2050 M). My left knee is getting swollen a little bit, maybe because I am putting the whole pressure on it instead of the right leg which is having a hamstring. The climb down is relatively easy for me. "Everything is difficult for me" "But you look ok Adi, stop being a drama queen". "Damn you!”

Passing the millet fields in the villages of Chuile and Siprong, the journey continues. Even after tourism boom the villages here rely heavily on agriculture. The fertile land of Annapurna, a Sanskrit name translated as Goddess of the Harvests, is truly keeping up with its name. The sun is on our side now making us sweat like mad. The worst part is that when you stop even for a minute to take some rest, the cold breeze coming through the valley makes you dance.

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Jungle, streams and bridges - On the way to Siprong

River Kimrong Khola lies between Siprong and Chomrong. We have to cross that to get to the other side of the mountain. The river crossing is the hardest and most frustrating part of the trekking. You have to climb all the way down to cross some small bridge across the stream to get to the other side, for what? To climb up all the way back again.

Many porters and tourists overtake us frequently due to our snail pace. The heavy weight they carry on their head is not an issue for them on their way across the mountains, even with the slippers that they wear on this terrain. Ok now I'm not deluding they are definitely running through these slopes! We are almost there at Chomrong, but still we have got 2 hours of daylight with us. Why don’t we push some extra miles so that we can reach Sinuwa, the next village? That will be a little less distance for us in tomorrow’s journey to Machhapuchhre Base Camp (MBC). The last part which included a number of steps almost broke by the time we reached the top of Chomrong. Here the traditional ABC route (from Landruk or Ghandruk side) and Poon hill route join together, making it the largest village in the mountains.

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The river crossing is definitely the frustrating part of the trekking - On the way to Chomrong

The writing on a shop reads 'CPN Maoist controlled area'. Nepal was under the King’s rule till 2006 when the Maoist rebellions finally won a decade long civil war to form a constitution and a stable government. I have heard a lot of stories about the wars these people have fought over the years, from my parents during my childhood.

“Shall we stay here?” suggests Adi. “No we still have got some time left, why waste it? Let’s target Sinuwa”. The small village of Sinuwa is visible from here on the other side of the ravine with river Chomrong Khola flowing in between. You know what that means, right? The river crossing….. Unlike at Siprong, here it is the countless number of steps that is waiting for you on the Chomrong side to climb down to get near the bridge.

The check post midway down is where you have to show the permit for the 3rd time. We got some intelligence report already that the availability of room in Sinuwa could be a problem. The woman at the check post must have some good idea about that.

“Do you know about the room availability at Sinuwa?” “I don’t know.”

“What if we don’t get the rooms there?” “Ha ha I don't know.”


Is there anything that you know?! They have written the number of lodges each village has got including Sinuwa on a board, but without contact numbers. Seriously how is that going to help Madam? “Let's take the risk Adi, there must some rooms left I'm sure”. Thus we start the long climb down. Definitely it is the hardest part for me now. Each step is killing me. The physical pain is bearable I thought, when I heard a lady who Adi asked for help said “I am coming all the way from ABC, there are no rooms available anywhere!”

My head started spinning. Behind the draconian steps of Chomrong are laughing at us. What option do we have apart from climbing all the way back through them to get a room! Adi started to climb up promising to set the check post on fire while she is in there. A good for nothing check post. The pain on the legs is getting unbearable for both of us. Cursing the lack of information she provided us we both got in to the very first hotel that we saw.

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Path to the heaven is filled with steps! - The famous steps of Chomrong

The caretaker of the inn had his jaw opened wide as he heard we are planning to go to Machhapuchhre Base Camp the next day. “That is not possible. The maximum you can go is up to Deurali or Himalaya, that itself is a long walk." Really? Then how could I have set the itinerary like that? Let me take a look again. Oh my gosh, he is right! As per my plan we should go and stay at Dovan tomorrow not at MBC. We have got enough days to cover all these. That inadvertent mistake nearly broke our legs. Adi is getting furious at me. "I'm never going to forgive you for this" “You should have also checked the itinerary, you lazy." I tried to cover up my mistake.

The rift is not going to help us revert back whatever happened, so let's take some well deserved rest now. The last rays of the day are hitting the Annapurna south. Soon the sky gets filled with countless stars as the night also gets colder . The ice cone spear of Machhapuchhre is glistening as the moon joins the party later.

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When it is dark enough you can see the stars - Persian proverb | The starry sky with Annapurna South in the background. A view from Chomrong valley

Day 5

This is the 3rd time we are walking through these steps. The swollen leg is killing me and Adi also has his own problems with his sprained leg. The 45 minutes horrible climb down brought us near the bridge to cross to the other side. The steep path to the lower Sinuwa (2340 M) is a piece of cake compared to the former. We cannot make mistakes like the last time for the rooms as the availability is getting lower and lower as we go up till MBC. The caretaker of a lodge in Sinuwa helped us to book 2 beds in a dormitory in Himalayas, which comes after Dovan, for a bribe of Rs 500. Oh! anything for a room! Talking about cash I don’t think we have enough of it in our pockets to survive till the last day if we are going to eat and drink like this. So I cut down Adi’s milk tea to black tea.

Sinuwa seems never ending as we realized the next 45 minutes of the climb took us to the upper Sinuwa only. The sun which made us sweat throughout the morning is now slowly hiding behind the thick branches of the tropical forest on the way to the next village – Bamboo (2190 M). The trail through very deep and narrow gorges will be like this till MBC, I can see it from here whenever the forest opens up a bit to allow us to peep. Through the gaps of branches one small village is appearing far far away. Hope it is not Himalayas because that is an awfully long distance to cover.

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In to the wild - On the way to Bamboo

The famous 750 steps of Bamboo is a climb down and is easy according to one lady traveller. But she has no idea about our condition. My partner is in tremendous pain and is limping most of the time. “Maybe I won't be able to make it to MBC, you go and comeback. I will wait for you at Himalayas”. I seriously hope he doesn't mean that!

The daal bhat (now costs Rs 500) from Bamboo is making both our stomachs upset. Here in the mountain area as you go up the price of food and its taste are inversely proportional. The costlier it becomes, the tasteless it gets! “Just 3 more hours to Himalayas” encourages a guide. The 1 hour trekking from Bamboo to Dovan (2505 M) is the easiest way I have travelled so far. Maybe the beautiful trail through the woods distracted me from the pain. It is lush greenery everywhere and absolute silence. The sun is totally behind the mountains and the light is fading fast. It's been a while since we saw a human soul. Memories from the way to Ghorepani. Oh no... We know where this is going. Not good.

Suddenly from the woods appears a guy running with his track suit on (I swear he was running through that trail!). “45 minutes more to Himalayas if you are walking”. Yah, as if we are going to run like you with this luggage!!! Anyway thank you so much for the encouraging words, fellow traveler, and please carry on with your evening jog. It is just like a deja vu of the 2nd day evening, isn't it? Trekking through the dark trail with tiring legs, a stranger appears like an angel to encourage us and disappears into the wilderness for jogging!! The only missing part is of Thuppali. I miss him so badly.

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The white cloak of mist practically hides everything- On the way to Himalayas

The nature is in no mood for party as it unleashes layers upon layers of mists to fill the ravine. The other side of the mountain is totally invisible now. Soon our trail as well. One wrong step and it will be a deadly fall to the deep cliff. And finally there it is…… the lights illuminating from the inns of Himalayas. With the troubling legs we entered the dormitory which they had offered earlier. The reception has the info with mobile numbers of all the lodges from Chomrong till ABC. Perhaps this should be made into a check post. Mark, the Irish follow. gave us pleasant company in the crowded group.

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A finale to the never ending day. Now show me the room please.. At Himalayas

Day 6

We are heading to the base camp today. Not the Annapurna's but to the Machhapuchchhre’s. That unclimbed mountain plays a huge part in the Hindu people's beliefs over here. For them it is sacred to the Hindu god Shiva, for the geographers it is the eastern boundary of the Annapurna Sanctuary. The 2 hour trek to Deurali (3230 M) seems not very tough. The distant view of Deurali from the last curve we took before the village made me realize that in fact it was this village that I saw from Sinuwa. People coming back from ABC are constantly passing us by. All of them have only one thing to say - the surreal beauty of the Annapurna. Can’t wait any longer...

The woods which followed us throughout the day end here. Now it’s the mountain world, the real mountain world. The ravine has got nothing but grass from here on wards. The steep and dangerous path to the MBC is getting tougher and also making us sweat thanks to the sun. But no more steps now, that is all I care. Hiunchuli (6441 M) and Machhapuchhre are standing like guardians to this sacred land on each side of the narrow gorge reminding me of the twin towers from the movie The Lord of the Rings!

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Now its the mountain world, the real mountain world -Deurali to MBC

The river Modi Khola which has been flowing through the bottom of the ravine all these days is now at a touching distance. Man and the river are on the same height. Originating from the glaciers up near the Machhapuchhre, Modi Khola is in fierce mode as she runs madly to join with river Ganga/Ganges in India on its journey to the Bay of Bengal. With all the energy left in us we climbed the last push to the MBC (3700 M) with great satisfaction. Have to get a room fast before the Spanish team which has been following on our tail all day, invades the lodges.

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Man vs Wild - On the way to MBC with Modi Khola's company

Machhapuchhre may have got more fame than any other mountains in this sanctuary apart from Annapurna I itself but it certainly lacks in terms of height. With an elevation of 6997 mts, it is one of the shortest among her sisters. Direct sunlight is really a luxury here as it lasts just around 6 hours a day due to the tall mountains surrounding the valley. But it seems nature doesn’t like us enjoying even that as it fills the entire place with thick mist, which comes all the way up from the gorges. To the left of the base camp is the way to the ABC. Annapurna South is visible from here but no sign of Annapurna I. Soon even that sight vanished in the mist. Adi suggests to push for ABC now itself. But we decide to stay at MBC to acclimatize ourselves properly before the 4100 meters climb of ABC. After all we have to respect these mountains…..

Mark who reached late came and joined us for a cup of tea (without milk of course). “People come to ABC after a mentally and physically torturing trekking just to take selfies with the mountain and head back fast. It is not that you come here every year. You have to make the most of it.” Couldn't agree more. Thanks to our stay at Himalayas instead of Dovan, we have enough time to chill at MBC. The sky gets clear once in a while when the mist vanishes into thin air only to be followed by more of it from down the valley. Our conversation moved to Brexit and to the freedom of Northern Ireland, under the supervision of Machhapuchhre who peeks occasionally.

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The unclimbed mountain! - Machhapuchchhre

Svetlana, the Russian woman in our dormitory is really a photography enthusiast; I can sense it by looking at her setting up her camera to get the time interval of the mists which keep coming up. Maybe she can help me with the settings to get a decent picture of the Milky Way with the mountain in the background. My guess wasn’t wrong; she has some printed instructions of the settings for different modes. The cold grips the MBC very slowly. Even with the occasional black tea it is very difficult to stay outside. With our limited budget this is the only thing that we can afford now.

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Here we come to spoil the party - Smog coming from down the valley to fill MBC

Twilight is here. One more day falls and it is time for the stars to show up, also the Milky Way. Our home galaxy is peeping slowly as the mountains settle for sleep and darkness spreads. The spirals which I had seen from Gangotri Gaumukh two years ago, are not clear but the towering presence of Annapurna south is giving a different depth altogether to this frame. This mountain's perfect alignment with Milky Way is a dream for any photographer to capture. The absence of the tripod is managed with some pebbles! With the help of Svetlana's instructions I finally managed to pull one off. Ha, only if I was good at photography!

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Finally a decent starry pic! - Milky Way with Annapurna South in the background

Back in the dining room, Svetlana joins us for dinner. Her interest in photography is rightly paid off with the stunning pictures she took especially of the mountain birds, which she got on the way to MBC. Where are all these birds and animals?? I didn't see any of them! Not even a Himalayan Bharal that I usually saw in all my previous Himalayan trips. Perhaps in the agony of climbing up, I was not paying enough attention to the nature. It is all out there…. all you have to do is keep your eyes open.

Marks bids adios for the day, promising to meet up there in ABC tomorrow. It is just one more night. Tomorrow morning we would depart for the destination that we have been dreaming for a very long time.
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Re: Dhal Bhat Power 24/7! Annapurna Base Camp /ABC Trekking

Postby Nachikethas » Wed Feb 22, 2017 10:56 am

Day 7

Finally the day arrived. Funny it is not the destination that excites me more now, it is the fact that we have got only 2-3 hours of trekking left to ABC. There is a sea of people coming back from ABC …among them was Ali whom we met yesterday night in the crowded dining hall of our Inn. He is dancing with joy after yet another successful summit to the base camp trip. “I cannot stand like this if this is February”, says a man who is wearing shorts. Did we hear him right? Crazy guy!! Tomorrow we will be one among them walking back after saying goodbye to the mountains. Sigh…..

For me the trail to ABC from MBC with the gradual ascent is the perfect trekking trail.. The MBC is no longer visible now. It is down somewhere there. Finally Annapurna I, the 10th highest mountain in the world, shows up after hiding behind the gorges all this time. Five days before, we were on the other side of the mountain at the Poon hill dreaming of the day that will take us here. That dream is a reality now. One gets stunned by the sheer scale of her as we move closer and closer. The info map of one inn in Deurali has marked somewhere here as a place where the snow leopard’s presence has been identified. I looked around. No, no danger here!  We haven’t seen the snow leopard but the snow leopard might have seen us (sorry I had to copy these lines from Peter Matthiessen)!! The four lodges of ABC are getting filled fast with today’s arrivals. The thermometer that we picked up from the lodge shows closer to 0 degree.  

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A Himalayan trip never gets complete without a picture of the prayer flags.

The temple behind the lodges most probably built by the trekkers only, is full of prayer flags. It is believed that the writing on these flags will be carried across the land by the wind that blows through here. For mountaineers Annapurna I is the deadliest eight thousand meters to climb, countless infamous accidents having occurred while summiting, especially through its south face. More people have been conquered by the mountain than her being conquered. I set my sight on that breathtaking mountain.  Fumes are coming from its top like an ice cream cone. For a moment I wished I could see a mountaineer conquering her, down from here. But what could be the view that person will be having from the top?... For now that is a complete mystery for me. Expedition is one thing that excites me a lot from the moment that I saw the Himalayas for the first time back in 2013. People coming here try to summit the mountain knowing all the risks that they have to face. Some of them succeed, some of them become the part of the mountain. The pictures of the souls who vanished into thin air around here, are pasted on the stone walls of the temple. Candles are burning around. Somebody has lighted them already.  

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For many back home in India, a trip to the Himalayas is only spiritual. For Hindus this is the most scared of all lands. But then again each god has their own favorite place on earth, haven’t they? Jerusalem, Mecca!  May be when the ancient people got fed up with their daily chores which they went through every day, they came here just to chill out. To cover up that, they must have invented this whole propaganda called the divine land. Yah, that makes perfect sense!

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No idea what is happening in the world back home….. For now I don’t want to know any of it. But then again the Wi-Fi at the lodge will remind you through the mobile updates. The slight nausea which is part of altitude sickness made me take a Diamox. Adi is strolling here and there with Mark who came just after us. Svetlana is on her way to a small trekking camp up near the glaciers to take more photographs. Surely she will get some spectacular snaps today. The aching legs are holding me back from all these temptations.

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Bro,so many times I wanted to stab you with an ice knife!!! But we made it through.... - Adi and me at ABC

For once the Nature shows mercy. Unlike yesterday the alluring valley isn't filled with the smog. The clear view is certainly a feast to the eyes. The sound of avalanches or landslides happening somewhere is echoing across the valley. The ice glaciers at side of the mountains are visible even from here. The small streams fed by them are all frozen for the time being. It is crazy to think that this entire place was once Sea land! How strangely our Nature works.  Spanish couple Marry and Javier joins with Mark for tea outside. They have selected Nepal as the final pit stop for their months’ long trip across the world.

Darkness is approaching fast. For some reason here in Himalayas I always adore the night sky rather than a sunny day but without the cold of course. The countless shooting stars look beautiful with naked eyes but it gets irritating once you realize that they photobombs your starry pics! And then there are the satellites. In the last few years spotting them circling around the earth through the sea of stars, has been my favorite hobby up here in the mountains. Of course showing it to my companion as well. Travelling to these remote places makes you realize the smallness of the place that you live on the earth but seeing a starry sky like this enlightens you as to the tiny bit of place that our mother Earth occupies in this vast universe.

The body cannot take the cold anymore... I must go inside.

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Stop photobombing my pictures you shooting stars!!! A night view of Annapurna I from ABC with few shooting stars and satellites passing by.

Day 8

It is sad that we are leaving this heaven today, it is even sadder that we have to walk an awful lot of distance all up to Chomrong. By the time we reached the Himalayas for lunch, I was out of breath. So was Adi, but without complaining we started walking again. After crossing Dovan it is now the turn of those horrendous 750 steps to test our stamina to get out of Bamboo. I started counting every step in mind to distract my mind from the horrible pain. The smog has started its long journey to MBC already. It is thicker than the previous days, just reminds me how lucky we were at ABC to get a clear warming sky all day.

The forest is dotted with the Langoor monkeys who just keep on jumping from one branch to another. One small slip and they will end up in the abyss. "Bro look at their confidence". From behind the giant root of the tree one small shy deer peeps. After staring at us for some time it goes back to the woods. Chomrong is not possible, let’s settle for upper Sinuwa. For once Adi and I agree on one thing!Our cash shortage story made the lodge owner sympathetic towards us….. she cut down the bill very much. But I would say it is Adi's homeless- guy- look which helped to convince her more than our story. Camila and Amin, the Malaysian doctor couple provided us good company in the cold of Sinuwa.

The lights from the lodges of Deurali are shinning like a group of fireflies. So many people would be staying there dreaming about their final push to ABC tomorrow and here we are reliving those precious moments.

Day 9

I would like to just erase from my life the climb down from Sinuwa till the bridge to cross Chomrong Khola and the subsequent climb up to Chomrong through the horrendous steps! 4th time, isn't it? The good for nothing check post and the lady are still here. Stamping the papers for one last time we say adios to Chomrong. Now it is a new route to the village called Jinu Dada, the small village famous for its hot springs on the shores of Modi Khola.

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With the lovely people we met during our eventful trip. (from left top) Mark the Irish pilot, Jan Lan the Dutch charity worker,a villager who clearly doesn't want to get into our picture (LOL) and Svetlana the Russian photographer.

I said no immediately on hearing that the hot spring is a 20 minutes’ walk from the inn where we took room. Because their 20 minutes is 45 mins for us. "Dip yourself in hot water for some time; it will heal your knees very much" "Really? Then let’s do it" Adi finally succeeded in persuading me. Camelia and Amin are already done with the bath but Marry and Javier are here, small world haaa. Slowly I dipped myself in to the warm water in one of the three pools they had constructed here. After all the self-torture called the ‘trekking’ we deserve this completely. Missing this would have been a crime. The Europeans who followed us all day are jumping in to the cold stream of Modi Khola and jumping back to the pool again and again. Crazy people. Though I know relaxation won’t last longer I completely enjoyed the hot springs while Adi looked quite sulky. After all this was his plan! The money in our pocket is just sufficient to pay the bills at the lodge for the day.

Day 10  

Today we say good bye to the mountain world. Camelia and Amin have gone ahead of us already. Crossing the New Bridge we stopped at Shiwai for lunch. Like a beautiful song of the cuckoo bird the honking from a vehicle is echoing from somewhere near. It’s been ages since I heard it!  Like the deserters seeing the mirage we started running towards the vehicle! I looked behind to see the mountain for one last time before we reach the asphalt roads of Nayapul. Sadly the snowcapped mountains are now completely behind the hills. I couldn’t say a proper good bye, after all the things that we had been through. It is better to end some stories like this.

When the taxi finally came out of the muddy path to enter the tarred road towards Pokhara I could have looked to the left side to see the Annapurna massif. But it wouldn’t be the same feel as from the trekking trail. Over here we are just tourists not the travellers. At night the bustling streets in the Lake side of Pokhara is filled with people from all across the world. With the help of Ranbeer we managed to get a good deal in purchase from almost all the souvenir shops. Adi is flying from Kathmandu day after tomorrow and me going back through the same way we came from.

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                Next day morning I said Adios to Adi and boarded the bus to Sonauli. Like they say….. It’s just my body moving to India, mind is still up there at ABC! It is filled with all the good, bad and the ugly moments from the 10 day long trekking and the lovely smiles of the Nepali people. One thing that I am sure is that this won’t be my last trip to Nepal. This could be just a beginning of my adventures in this magical land. Everest base camp may be for the next time, I thought, as the bus rushed through the road which snaked across the valley towards Sonauli.
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Re: Dhal Bhat Power 24/7! Annapurna Base Camp /ABC Trekking

Postby dheerajsharma14 » Thu Feb 23, 2017 8:54 am

That is one of the most fabulous travel tale we have on trekking in Himalayas and your narration describing the moments of the trip is spell bound bro !!

Machhapuchchhre -- Looks Majestic, no wonder it has not been climbed !!

Thank you so very very much for sharing the journey I could have never done myself, so going through it you made me travel with you :D
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Re: Dhal Bhat Power 24/7! Annapurna Base Camp /ABC Trekking

Postby ariroy77 » Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:30 pm

A wonderful lore on HIMALAYAS! Amazing depiction. Thousands thanks for sharing here.

Sent from my GT-S7562 using Devil On Wheels Travel Community mobile app
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