Sunday October 6th
Someone was banging on our door. That was a good sign. It meant there was finally a view of one of the famed Nepali mountains, Dhaulagiri. We scramble out of bed and get some warm clothes on. Karen heads out but as I’ve left the camera battery charging last night I track down Krishh to get it. Then comes the ‘wow’ moment as I head out the end door of the lodge. Right in front of us is Dhaulagiri and the rest of the range. The clouds are constantly moving so we both snap away. Unfortunately I’m not feeling too well so a toilet break interrupts the moment but Karen keeps taking photos with the iPad. Our group heads up the hill above the lodge past the yaks and naks to a better viewpoint. Now we can start taking photos of each other with arguably the best backdrop of the trek. After a while we head in for breakfast. I take a few medications to try to get my digestive system under control. Karen has porridge and I have an apple pancake. We pack and get ready for our walk. Today we are heading downhill, mostly, 1200 metres. As is becoming routine Carol and Hira set off first to get a head start. Then about 8:15 we set off. At first we retrace our steps towards Chistibung (Dhankhacka is the local name we have discovered) arriving after an hour and a half. Along the way we run into two engaging Tibetan mastiff dogs who follow us a bit. We take morning tea and have a toilet stop. On leaving we start to descend sharply. It’s certainly a test for the knees and other joints.
The trail is narrow with many steps and a dirt path. We arrive at our lunch stop, Evergreen Rest Cottage after about an hour and a half. The crew are already here and today they are cooking lunch for us using veggies from the owner’s magnificent veggie patch. At first we watch them prepare in the kitchen. Then our drinks arrive so we sit outside admiring the view in all directions. Lunch is yummy veggie noodle soup and Tibetan fried bread.
By 1:00 we are back on the path. It rises and falls as we make our way through the beautiful rainforest. It is a long but most enjoyable walk. We cross a stream at one point then continue. We are walking across the valley from where we were earlier. Waterfalls and small hillside villages on the terraces join the rainforest in vying for the attention of our cameras. About 3:00 we come to the first of a number of intersections in the trail. As we are hoping to visit the local school Krishh guides us directly there. Sadly the school is closed as this is the start of a fifteen day religious festival. It is a primary school and classes one to five are clearly painted on the doors. Upstairs is a computer roo, library and office. We like the red and blue colour scheme which we discover is the hard work of another trekking group who stayed an extra day to help paint. There is a basketball/ volleyball court and some other sealed space for the kids to play on. We continue an extra couple of minutes and we are quickly at our lodge here in Swanta for the night. Our rooms are upstairs. Karen and I have a corner room with windows all around providing excellent views of the village and surrounding hills. I decide to tackle the downstairs shower first but all I manage is cold water so I quickly do a spruce up. Karen has no more luck either. In the end Judy and Rod organise for a bucket of hot water. Karen uses their surplus to give me a hair wash. We download and look at our photos for a while. Once all of us are ready we order hot drinks for afternoon tea on the upstairs balcony with it’s lovely view to the north. Then Krishh suggests we out in our dinner orders so all of us, trekkers and crew can go for a walk around the village. Susil and Suman lead us around giving us an insight into village life. Many of the locals greet us with a ‘namaste’ as as we pass their houses and animal shelters and fields. It is a lovely rural scene. On our return we organise to charge our devices and I type. Dinner is 7:15 roughly. Many of us have ordered the fried veggie potatoes which are great. I have also decided to try the chocolate pudding here. It’s quite runny compared to the last one at Gandruk but delicious all the same and Karen and I eat it together. Krishh briefs us on tomorrow’s walk. It looks like being a big day with quite a lot of variety in the trail as well as the chance to look around at what Ghorepani has to offer.
Effort of the day: goes to my knees for surviving going down 1200m overall in a day.
Monday October 7th
We’re in luck again today. On awaking we look out our bedroom windows to see that more mountains are able to be seen and we are just in time to see the sun starting to shine on Dhaulagiri, not quite as closely as yesterday but still great viewing! After lots of photos we head to breakfast at 7:30, porridge and fruit for Karen and fruit pancake for me. Just as we are finishing Krishh tells us he has someone for us to meet. It is the manager from the school. When we hand him the parcel of books and other school supplies the smile on his face priceless. Krishh translates messages back and forwards then everyone in our group heads outside the lodge for photos. Of course Dhaulagiri is the background. The lodge manager and school manager join in while many photos are taken on our cameras. Just after 8:00 we start our trek for the day. At first we go down from Swanta. Unfortunately on the way down Karen slips on a wet stone step and lands right on her bum bone! She manages her way to get up but is clearly sore. At the bottom of the valley we cross a swinging bridge and then start the upward climb. It seems to be upwards and ever upwards! Finally we reach the town of Chitre and take a drink and rest break. We pass a local carrying a huge bag of potatoes. After a while he overtakes us and then we pass him again. So at the next rest point we share some almonds with him and Krishh chats to him. By now we are pretty tired but still we haven’t reached Ghorepani, which will be our lunch stop. We meet an American couple who are staying in Ghorepani and out for a short walk. They walk back with us, taking photos at the gateway to Poon Hill for us. Our 4 hour walk has become nearly five hours but finally we reach Gorepani, a pretty sizeable town. Of course the restaurant is upstairs! We order a drink which arrives quickly whilst our lunch is being cooked. Karen has spring roll and I eat veggie momos. About 1:45 we set off again. This time it is mostly downhill. The track is quite a highway here and most are going up – little do they know! After a long and careful downhill walk the group is spread out a bit but we all end up meeting at the Green View cafe for yet another ‘small pot’ with me drinking more water from my bottle. We set off again. Along the way we occasionally meet trekkers going up who are ready to rest a bit and chat. The forest is beautiful but the steps continue relentlessly! Time marches on and no sight of the others in front of us or Carol and Hira behind. We can see the light slipping away. Perhaps we will be the ones walking in the dark this time! However below us we see a building with able roof. Could this be it? We haven’t seen a sign for Ulleri yet. Just as we are walking past we see Judy waving. We have made it! Once inside Krishh shows us to our room, number 102. We go to check out the facilities – a hot shower but a footpad toilet. You can’t win them all! As Rod and Judy have showered we take it in turns to shower. Hot water is a winner, even if it is a bit basic otherwise. Carol arrives soon after. Krishh takes our drink and dinner orders. Tonight Rod and I are going to try some of the local beers, to celebrate my birthday belatedly and also the last night of the trek with the crew, who we also shout. The girls drink tea and help us eat the chips we have ordered with the beer. The first one is beautiful, Nepal Ice, a lovely cold beer with a kick. It is 7%. By the time we start a bottle Everest beer dinner arrives. Karen has momos and I have chicken fried rice. Our third beer is a Ghurka. There are many toasts and photos. We are ready for bed soon after Krishh gives us a briefing for the last day of the trek. We have walked for about seven hours. That’s a long walk and Krishh confirms it is the longest day at 13 km’s.
Tuesday October 8th
We awoke early, as usual for the trek, about 6:00. We had a great view down the valley from our bedroom but saw no snow capped mountains. So we decided to dress quickly and check things out. Sure enough, back up along the path we had come on yesterday we had a pretty good view of Annapurna South through the middle of two valleys. After taking the obligatory morning photos we went back and packed ready for our last half day of trekking. Not long after our breakfast was ready about 7:30. Karen ate muesli with fruit and I had an omelette with cheese. We gave our tipping money to Krishh. He split it into four equal piles and then we had a short ceremony where we took it in turns to give out the tips and personally thank each of the porters, Sesil, Suman and Kamal and of course our Sherpa, Hira. They set off in front of us. Hira started out with Carol and then by 8:15 the rest of set off with Krishh. Again it was mostly downhill. We went carefully on the wet pavers to avoid any more slips. After a while we came to a suspension bridge and a bamboo bridge which crossed the valley before heading uphill. The group was spread again but we all met for morning tea at Mamata’s in Tikhedunga. Karen, Judy and Rod even got to visit the kitchen and see masala tea being made by the obliging owner. We moved on and the track became a road again, something we hadn’t seen since the first day of the trek. The scenery was now rice terraces again and we could hear the sound of the river. After a while we could see it. The temperature was certainly hotter and even though we were mostly going downhill it was quite hot out of the shade. Not far from the end we came upon a most unusual scene for this part of Nepal, roadworks. There had been a small landslide and a digger was moving gravel and dirt around in a bid to repair it. The man in charge made us wait for awhile as trekkers coming up went through then it was our turn to clamber down and past before the digger swung in again. I wasn’t quite quick enough and Krishh gave me a tug to get me out of harm’s way. We continued on, the track edging closer to the river as we walked. Finally we came to Birethanti. Obviously when we had started out we had come in from the side of the town. Now we walked all the way through it. Birethanti was quite a thriving town. We reached our lunch destination and ordered drinks and food. Karen and I both had their large spring rolls. Delicious. Carol came in just as we were finishing. To make sure we weren’t too late meeting our driver up at Nayapul she decided to just have a few snacks. Then we were off up the track. After about half an hour we came to Nayapul and trudged through the main road which was a lot drier than the first day but there were still a few mud patches and lots of donkey poo. When we reached the cafe where we were to meet the driver we sat for a while until Carol and Hira arrived but still no sign of the driver. Apparently he was eating his lunch still! When he was ready we loaded on our bags and set off for Pokhara. We wound our way down the mountain road through little towns and past farms. Heavy traffic due to the festival made the journey quite slow. From time to time we came upon goat herders herding their goats along the road, similar to sheep driving at home. This took time for us to pass them too. Finally we made it to Pokhara. On our arrival at the Hotel Barahi we were welcomed with a small flower garland and a drink. We were shown to our rooms. Ours was on the second floor, room 216, and we had a view of the gardens and pool. Krishh soon had us heading off with him along the streets of Pokhara to the laundry shop and then Tranquility spa where we welcomed and shown a massage menu. For better or worse most of us chose the Trekkers Massage, a ninety minute session comprising both Thai and Ayervedic Massage. Karen and I shared a two person room. First we were asked to strip off and put on paper undies and a gown and then sit down with our feet in a nice tub of warm water. Two girls entered the room and gently massaged our feet and dried them. Next we lay on the tables face down. Then the torture began! Lots of pulling and vigorous Thai massage followed for what seemed an eternity but which was only about thirty minutes. Then they swapped to the other style which involved oil and smoother massage strokes. By the end of ninety minutes we were well rid of any aches and pains. From there Krishh took us to his favourite restaurant in Pokhara, a place called Moondance run by a Nepali/Canadian couple who source all their food from either their property or other local farmers. This was our dinner to celebrate the achievement of finishing our trek successfully. Karen ate vegetarian and I had a mixed grill. For dessert I ordered chocolate banana crepe. After chatting for a while we returned to our hotel room for a shower and then tried to sleep. But boy was the mattress hard!