Nepal - Annapurna trekking

2014 – We visited the legendary Himalaya for a trekking in the Annapurna region. We doubted long between the Mount Everest and the Annapurna trekking but took the Annapurna one because it is less touristic. With a small group of 12 people, 10 porters and 2 guides we did a 10 day trekking; The tracks are on Strava and you can access them by clicking on the day overview below. it was an incredible experience and the group feeling even got stronger by surviving some heavy weather.

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur – Kathmandu

Day 2: Kathmandu

Day 3: Kathmandu – Pokhara

Day 4: Pokhara – Nayapul – Tirkhedunga

Day 5: Tirkhedunga – Ulleri – Ghorepani

Day 6: Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Tadapani

Day 7: Tadapani – Chhomrong

Day 8: Chhomrong – Himalaya

Day 9: Himalaya – Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

Day 10: Annapurna Base Camp – Bamboo

Day 11: Bamboo – Jhinu dada

Day 12: Jihnu Danda – Pothana

Day 13: Pothana – Phedi – Pokhara

Day 14: Pokhara

Day 15: Pokhara – Kathmandu

Day 16: Kathmandu – Bhaktapur – Kuala Lumpur

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur – Kathmandu

After a couple of days in Malaysia we arrived today in Kathmandu. We joined the group for a joint transportation from the airport to the hotel in Kathmandu. The afternoon we spend shopping in Thamel as we still needed quite some hiking gear. I learned from a colleague that you can buy everything you need for cheap prices. It is indeed cheaper, but the quality is less as well. When you think to only use the gear for 1 or 2 trekkings it will survive, but don’t expect to keep the material for many many years. It helped us to get started with limited budget and in the years that followed we replaced each year something. However, if you don’t have to think about your budget I advise to buy decent material at once.

Day 2: Kathmandu / Bodhnath / Patan

The Pashupatinath Temple, located in Bodhnath, is a strange place. It’s Nepal’s most important Hindu temple which can only be visited by Hindus. When you pass it and continue to the river, you come the the place where you can follow openly some Hindu funeral rites. The families cremate their passed away team members which is very strange to witness. You have to experience it yourself and decide then what it means for you. For me it was surreal to follow that from a couple of meters away. We were sitting on the stair on the other side of the river.

When you crossed the river there are more buildings to explore and even a deer park. Just be careful to not accept flowers, do not take pictures of the painted men or do anything else, as people will ask for money. When you continue to the end of the environment you reach the VishwarupTemple, which is not visited by a lot of people. Most people focus on the main temple. After visiting the place we walked to the side of the Guhyeshwari Temple where you also have a bridge to cross the Bagmati river. We continued to walk for about 2 km, passing a few schools and finally reached the famous Boudhanath big stupa.

The stupa is one of the largest unique structure’s stupas in the world. Daily thousands of pilgrims gather to make a ritual circumnavigation of the dome, beneath the watchful eyes of the Buddha, which gaze out from the gilded central tower. You see lots of Tibetan monks in maroon robes and shaved heads wander the prayer flag-decked streets. This is one of the few places in the world where Tibetan Buddhist culture is accessible and unfettered. When we were done walking around the stupa we decided to have some food on a roof terrace. e selected Café du Temple. The service was good and the spaghetti was tasteful. After some time we decided to move on and took a taxi outside the square and wanted to visit the old center and the famous Durbar Square. We entered the city via the Arched city gate (Patan Dhoka). From there we followed the 3 km route described in the Lonely Planet which brought us via several smaller squares and historical places. These were significant less crowded compared to Durbar Square. According to the LP it takes about 3 hours, but I think we did it in about 2 hours.

We visited Durbar square back in 2014, which was just before the big earthquakes. The place is impressive and very big. There are lots of temples. You can enter quite a few of them. We visited the Vishwanath Temple. In the afternoon we also visited a temple to see the Kumari, Kumari Devi or Little Goddess. You can enter a temple with a limited set of people and then they show the girl somewhere. You are not allowed to take any pictures. We called it a day on the Café du Temple its roof top terrace overlooking the square while having a fresh beer.

Day 3: Kathmandu – Pokhara

Before we left towards Pokhare we decided to go for breakfast at Helena’s, a restaurant where you have the best roof top terrace of Thamel. The terrace is located on the 6th or 7th floor. You have a nice view on the area and the breakfast tasted very well.

After our breakfast we left for a long, very long drive with a van towards Pokhara. The road is probably one of the worst ever where you pass small abyss, hairpins, … The cars are driving quite fast and overpass while honking all the time. A few time I thought we would crash, but after all it seems the drivers know what they do. 

After an incredible ride we arrived in Pokhara where we stayed one night in a hotel where we could go to the terrace on the roof. From there we had sights on the Himalaya, which was a special feeling. We were ready to go for it!

Day 4: Pokhara – Nayapul – Tirkhedunga

In the morning we finally could start our trekking. We got in the mini van and were dropped in Nayapul. From there it was a few minutes walk towards the entry of the Annapurna Conservation Area.

We had a gentle start day with only 8.91 km and around 450 altitude meters. At noon we had an outside lunch in a nice garden. From there we had a gentle walk left toward the first lodge of the trekking. We were a bit afraid of the food we would get in the Himalaya, but it started off very well. There was a selection of rosti potatoes, noodles, and many more. As dessert we could get some custard pudding. In the morning we got pancakes with bananas and yogurt, muesli and eggs were available as well. It continued like this, and you should not worry too much about the food. 

Start of trekking
Entrance of Annapurna trekking area
Lodge for first night

The second day was described as a very heavy one where we had to conquer around 4000 stairs. As we were in very good shape after a big biking year, it was not a problem and there are several rest moments, but still it should not be underestimated and some level of fitness would help you. We were heading towards Ghorepani where would spend the night. We covered around 9 km, but as you know the distance doesn’t say anything in the mountains.

In the lodge there were hot showers and a central dinner room where we could hang out together and warm up with the stove We played some local games with the porters. Back in 2014 there was even a WiFi hot spot with limited availability, and as soon as you connected with more than 3 phones the system hung, but still, we were surprised to see WiFi in the Himalaya.

Today we started before dawn the climb towards Poon Hill (05:00). The first 30 minutes it was even still dark. We wanted to climb towards Poon Hill so early in order to be in time when the sun raised around 06:00. The weather was magnificent and we could really see the sun rise behind the mountains. A nice view and more over, finally we got a little warmer due to the sun. Clearly we were not the only tourists with this idea, but it was far from crowded, so we could really enjoy the moment. We really recommend this climb and for sure early morning, you will not regret it!

Ghorepani
Ghorepani
Some of the +4000 stairs
Some of the +4000 stairs
Sunrise @ Poon Hill
Sunrise @ Poon Hill

We left Chorepani Poon Hill behind us and today we had to walk towards Tadapani. The climb to Poon Hill and back was around 2.5 to 3 km so today we had another 8 km to walk. From Ghorepani we had to climb from 2800 meters for a second time that day back up to 3200 meters and then back down to 2700 meters. This day we went back in the woods and could spot several monkey around us. During the walk we saw sometimes a summit with snow and that makes it special, certainly as we were for the moment still more in the woods and not yet that high. In Tadapini we had again a lodge with a decent shower with hot water thanks to some solar panels. We really did not expect this luxury. It was not fancy but the fact that after a trekking day you could refresh yourself and put on some fresh clothes gives an awesome feeling 🙂

We arrived quite early at our destination so after the shower there was time for a beer on the terrace in the sun. There was even time for a couple of beers. In the evening we played some card games with our porters. After some days you start to build up some relation and we all really appreciated they were with us to carry or gear so we were privileged to only carry our backpack for day usage. Meaning water, different layers of clothes, camera, …  

View from Poon Hill
View from Poon Hill
Monkey
Monkey
Outside breakfast at lodge
Outside breakfast at lodge

Day 7: Tadapani – Chhomrong

After a breakfast on the terrace we were ready for approximately 9 km journey decending from 2800 meter to 2000 meter and then go up back to 2200 meter. We had to cross again several ravines with suspension bridges. I like these kind of things. As we were again lower today there were no snow summits but we enjoyed the nature which was again different than previous days. We saw terrace agriculture and we stopped for lunch where we had an awesome roasti lunch. 

When we arrived at Chhomrong we went to a local basketball field where one of the group members joined them to play a match. Funny to see a 2 meter tall guy playing against the small Nepali locals. They didn’t stand a chance but it was a fun time. The game was stopped earlier than planned as the weather was changing. We headed back to the Chhomrong lodge as it started to rain. People told it would last for at least 36 hours! We didn’t want to believe them but more to the evening we started to change our mind. It was already raining for 5 hours when we headed to bed.

Crossing ravine
Crossing ravine
terrace agriculture
terrace agriculture
Resting
Resting
Signpost

it started raining the evening before and it would not stop till the end of this day. In the morning we started walking and tried to avoid the puddles of water, but things got worse and worse, so after a couple of hours, when everything was wet  As we continued it became more and more dangerous and as we were walking on narrow pathways, we had to pay attention. We saw some fresh landslides but were luckily not affected by them. The rain was so heavy that small streams of water became swirling dangerous rivers which we had to cross, and there were plenty of them. You cross them by some self made small bridges which is just fine when it’s above a gentle flow of water, but crossing a wild river brings quite some stress… On other places we had to form human chains to pass the rivers. It was difficult to capture that on picture and if the few pictures I was able to take do not reflect reality. We are quite adventurous people and not afraid that quickly, but still, these moments I will not quickly forget. The only positive about this experience was that the group feeling got very strong and up till today some of us see each other regularly.

At the end we were lucky as not far from us other people, which were already a bit higher, lost their lives. The reception of cell phones was gone and we were 2 to 3  days disconnected. As this news reached international press, our relatives and friends in Belgium were worried very much. We were even shortly listed on the missing people list of the Belgian embassy. During this weather, the people in the base camp were stuck for 2 days. As we were a bit lower, for us impact lower;

In the heavy weather we covered in total 12.5 km, climbing back up starting from 2200 meter towards 2800 meter. The feeling was incredible when we reached our final destination of the day. When we could take off our wet clothes, even take a quick shower, put on dry warm clothes and warm up in the dinner room. As we new that next day we would climb towards the base camp we were all worried about the weather and how to get there. The owner of the lodge was self confident that the weather would be great the next day. We were hopeful but were not really convinced. Anyway, after such an intensive experience we called it a day quite early.

Crossing wild rivers
Crossing wild rivers
Help each other cross
Help each other cross

Today is D-Day, we are going to the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) which is roughly 12 km and about 3 to 4 hours moving time. We went up from 2800 meter to above 4100 meter. Luckily the owner of the lodge was right and the weather cleared out and we had sun today! We got warmer and our shoes could dry a bit as well. This was very welcome. As we got higher, we reached the snow, which is normally not the case in this period. However it made the environment even more beautiful. On the other hand, we also had to be more careful to walk on the slippery stairs and paths. While we were heading up there were some groups coming down, so the snow was gently becoming to ice in some places. The base camp is located on an altitude of 4130 meter. Just before we reached it, a person was evacuated by a helicopter due to altitude sickness. As those people were stuck for 2 days due to the bad weather conditions, they could not go down earlier so the person his situation became critical.

Glasses reflection
The base camp was not that crowded. There was another group, but that was it. This night we could not have a private room for two. There were only 2 rooms available, so we split up by gender ending up in a woman and men room. There were also no shower possibilities like in the other lodges. But hey, what do you expect. You are in a base camp and power was limited to solar power. This was even already luxury compared to earlier years and I can imagine that it will only change over time when more and more tourists are coming. Here a powerbank can come in very handy to charge your electrical material. Back in 2014 we didn’t had our own powerbank but a group member allowed me to charge my phone so I could track our next day hike on Strava. (Thank you Mark).

The weather was still magnificient and we could really enjoy some nice views of Annapurna and some other high mountains. It felt special to see a mountain which is in the top 10 of the highest mountains of the world and which is above 8000 meters.. However, as you are standing yourself on an altitude of 4000 meters, it is somewhat comparable to other mountain ranges. But the emotional feeling makes the experience stronger. Certainly as we were trekking several days to reach this point. 

I decided not to shave during the entire trekking so I could visit a barber upon our return with at least some beard and check my Bucket List item 10. More about this later. I really like the picture with Annapurna reflecting in my sunglasses. Wow, I still cherish the moment while writing this 5 years after date.

Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) - We made it!
Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) - We made it!
Underway to ABC

We arrived with sun and it was still warm, but as soon as the sun started to go down, the temperature went rapidly down as well. With few people we decide to visit the glacier before it became dark. We could go close to it, but not too close as it was quite dangerous. We don’t have ambition to really climb such a mountain, but standing here overlooking a + 8000 meter mountain makes you realize how crazy such expedition must be.

Annapurna on the background
Annapurna on the background
Annapurna - 8091 m
Annapurna - 8091 m

I remember that when we arrived in the base camp the feeling was all good. But overnight Tom started to get some headache. It felt like a hang over without drinking. The next morning we moved back down and as we lowered, the headache was going away quickly. I read that it’s not guaranteed you have each time altitude sickness, and you can get a bit used to it as well, but still, it brings some doubts for future trips where we might go to high places. But that are problems to be solved later on 🙂

Day 10: Annapurna Base Camp – Bamboo

With a good 15 km we leave the Annapurna basecamp behind us. A straight decent going from + 4000 meters bac to 2500 meters. I still remember reaching the lodge in Bamboo. Suddenly my cell phone got back connected to the network and I started to receive a flood of message. As we were disconnected from the world, and already 2 days back in good weather after our incredible day, we did not realise that people in Belgium were worried. We did not expect this impact. We started to read some online newspapers and started to realize how serious the situation has been. At least 43 people died of various nationalities, including 21 trekkers. We were not in the direct neighbourhood were the people died, but I remember we only told our friends and family we would visit Annapurna, so they were unaware. I realised as well that my last text message to our relatives was not the best one. I send that we expected some bad weather but that weeds don’t die. Who could have expected it would be so serious. I’ll think twice next time. They were very much relieved finally hearing back from us. 

During this trip we also passed parts in the opposite direction from during the heavy weather day. The wild swirling rivers were now back to normal and it was hard to believe we were terrified when passing them a couple of days ago.

We also had to cross an older suspension bridge over a wild river. Some people were not completely at ease. I did not see too much trouble and passed it as first. Like this i could take pictures of the others while crossing the bridge. And then when Marie-Claire was just started crossing the bridge a guy came from behind my back. I had to watch twice to make sure I was not sleeping or dreaming. He was carrying a big fridge on his back and while he saw that Marie-Claire was on the bridge he just start to cross the bridge in the opposite direction. Probably the locals are used to this, but in Europe we probably would expect that people wait till the other was off the bridge. So like this Marie-Claire had to cross the guy in the middle of the bridge, knowing she is not found of heights it was an incredible experience for her. The picture does not reflect reality, but from where I was sitting, it was really insane to do that 🙂

Easy rivers
Easy rivers
Nature view
Nature view
Are you kidding me?
Are you kidding me?
 

Day 11: Bamboo- Jhinu dada

Today we do about 10 km and have a moving time of close to 3 hours. The first days we were motivated to reach the base camp, but once reached, and you need a couple of days to walk back, the motivation might lower. Luckily we had another goal, the Jhinu dada natural hot springs. A place just next to a river where hot water comes out of the earth. We really love natural hot springs 🙂

The place has been setup so you can enjoy the warm water is a more comfortable way. There are a kind of pools which are filled with the warm water coming out of the earth. From our lodge it was a 20-25 minute walk and we bring a few fresh drinks along, as you don’t have anything over there. There are 2 different pools. We went for the last one. Our guide has been there with plenty of groups, but never before he had a group that stayed 3 hours in the water, till the end of the day and they close the area. We were the last ones to leave and enjoyed this place big time. We were talking about our past days, the storm we survived, the strong group feeling, the happiness of reaching ABC, the privileged feeling of being surrounded with friendly people in a gorgeous nature. I still cherish this moment.

Hot springs!
Group picture in hot springs
Next to crazy river

Day 12: Jihnu Danda – Pothana

Today we have one of the longest walk to survive, around 20,5 km in order to leave the Annapurna area. Walking time will be around 4 and a half hours. When we reached the lodge few people were very happy and after a great shower we were ready for a party. This was to become our last night of the trekking and next day we would also say goodbye to our porters. We could share a couple of beers and had a singing contest. As they are used to it, they performed way better than us. They also played some instruments while singing some local songs. Anyway, it was an unanimous decision that the Nepali Folk song Resham Firiri was the song of the evening and the trekking 🙂

Last selfie with Himalaya on the background
Last selfie with Himalaya on the background
Party for last trekking evening
Party for last trekking evening
Final Himalaya breakfast
Final Himalaya breakfast
Last amazing view on the Himalaya
Last amazing view on the Himalaya

Day 13: Pothana – Phedi – Pokhara

After the heavy party of the night before some people had very small eyes at breakfast. The weather was awesome and we could have breakfast in the garden of the lodge enjoying the last views on the Himalaya. 

From Pothana it’s a gentle 6 km, straight down from 2000 meter to 1200 meter, to the main road where a mini van picked us up driving us back to Pokhara. 

We learned that you can get good massages in Pokhara so we decided to pamper ourselves and went for a relaxation massage. It was heavenly. Just before Tom also went to a local barber after not shaving for the entire trekking. It was on his Bucket List to experience this abroad. The local guide told me that I paid way too much. But that is all about perception. I paid just below 1 euro and it should have been just below 50 cent. I always feel biased by trying to get the lowest price in such countries as when I compare it with European standards, it felt it was for free.

In the evening we went to a pizzeria to have some celebration dinner and a few drinks with the group. We enjoyed dancing, drinking and talking about our past trekking experience. One that we will remember for a long time.

Day 14: Pokhara

In the morning we started with a breakfast in a local place, but I can’t remember the name. Is was somewhere in the main street. After we took a small boat to cross the Phewa Lake. I remember I was not fully at ease because the boats were very unstable and you had constantly the feeling the boat would turn over, but at the end we managed all fine. From the shore we went to the little island and visited the Tai Barahi Temple. This small island is something for if you pass by to cross the lake to the Shanti Stupa at the other side; Because the island is very small, crowded and it doesn’t smell to good. But the little temple is nice.
 
When we reached the other side we started a walk up to visit the Shanti Stupa or the World Peace Stupa. The area was very nice and you have a nice view on the surroundings and the Annapurna range. When you are in Pokhare make sure you visit this one. It is one of the 2 World Pease Stupa’s in Nepal.
We continued our journey with a walk and had a lunch in a restaurant near by. There a small van was waiting for us.
Barber shop visit
Barber shop visit
Shanti Stupa - World Peace Stupa
Shanti Stupa - World Peace Stupa
Phewa Lake
Phewa Lake

With the van we were taken to more busier parts and we went to Davi’s Falls. It is a busy place with a lot of Nepali people and tourists. When we were there, we saw several school excursions on-going. You can visit the cave and at the end you can see the waterfall from under the ground. On the other side of the street you can see it from above. This is one of the most visited attractions in Nepal. Make sure to tick this box when you are around Pokhara.

At the end of the day we decided to visit the Swayambhunath Temple, also known as the monkey temple. You reach the place via a long and steep stair. The place is safe, but we advise to keep an eye on your belongings, not only for pick pocketing of people, but also of the monkeys. They are with tons of them. The more we started to pay attention to them, the more we started to be gently frightened by them. Not too worry too much, but still, it was a strange feeling, but don’t hesitate to visit the temple when you are around.

Typical truck

Day 15: Pokhara – Kathmandu

After a great trekking and experience we know the reverse incredible ride is waiting for us. There are options to fly, but they are not very cheap and thus we stayed with the van. You have to try to relax and not worry too much about traffic and after a whole day of driving we arrived again in our hotel in Kathmandu to spend the last few days.

Day 16: Kathmandu / Bhaktapur

Today we had another day to explore the Kathmandu region and decided to go to Bhaktapur and spend the day with our guide. After an intense trekking you build a connection after all. But we started the day with a breakfast in Or2k, where we enjoyed some yoghurt, pancakes and other good stuff.
After the breakfast we met with our guide Suman with the rest of the group, at the Pashupatinath Temple. Suman was born in this city, and he would walk us around in the best preserved medieval city-state. Bhaktapur has three major squares full of towering temples that comprise some of the fines religious architecture in the entire country. From a visitor’s perspective, this is a place to wander around aimlessly, soaking up the atmosphere. We visited plenty of nice areas and to list a few: Taleju Temple, Golden Gate, Stone Lions, and many more. During our walk we stopped for a coffee and some cookies at the Himalayan Bakery, which has a nice terrace away from the crowd.
We kept on wandering around and late afternoon we went back to the hotel in Kathmandu.
Breakfast at Or2k
Breakfast at Or2k
Stone Lions
Stone Lions
We went for a final group diner as we would leave already this evening and the group only the next day. After the final group dinner we took a taxi towards Tribhuvan airport from where we had a night flight towards Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL). The continuation of this trip you can find in here when we treated ourselves with a few days of relaxation in Kuala Lumpur.

2 Responses

  1. Paul van Vlaanderen

    Tom, thanks for your detailed review of our unforgettable journey in Nepal! While reading I was able to experience our adventure and positive group feeling once again! Sure we will have that same feeling in our fifth reunion in Belgium next September! I have no doubts;-)! Paul

    • Tom Vergotte

      Thanks Paul. I wrote this review about 5 years after our travel, but everything was still fresh in my mind 🙂

      Best regards,
      Tom

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