Over the Himalayan hills and valleys, rice plantations, simple settlements with the most incredible views of snowy giant peaks on an adventure to the foot of Annapurna.
That’s how I could shortly describe our week of wandering to the Annapurna Base Camp. It was hard work, it was feeling powerless against blood sucking leeches, it was fear in a nearby presence of a tiger taking cold showers or none at all. But at the same time, we lived an amazing adventure, met the always smiling locals and saw one of the most beautiful part of the world that hides like a jewel in the heard of the Himalayas.
Me and my friend Eva took a bus from Pokhara to a village called Naya Pul. The locals, together with the driver told us exactly where to get off for a hike to Annapurna. From the bridge, it is a short walk to a bridge over Kali Gandaki river and then every step we took led us further away from the civilization, deeper and deeper into the Himalayas. The trail started with an easy climb which we appreciated as we still had to get used to carrying heavy backpacks with all our equipment to survive in the mountains for a week. Although, there are plenty of villages on the way that offer a place to sleep and eat delicious dishes from ingredients that grow in their gardens. We walked for most of the day, when the storm came. It was beginning of August and monsoon season was on its peak. We found shelter in a village called Ghorepani in 2,860 meters above sea level.
The clouds have blown away and uncovered a view of stunning Machhapuchchhre mountain(3,700 m). Its two peaks look like fish tail and that is also the meaning of its name in Nepalese language. We met an old lady living alone in a simple shelter, together with her cat. She was all lit up and smiling all the time, she even invited us to share a tea and some cookies. As we continued further, the trail led us downhill and we felt sorry for loosing the altitude we gained hard with our sweat. But wait, we were not alone!
The ground, still wet from last night’s rain was alive with tiny, super fast monsters called leeches. They crawl into your boots through the tiniest holes, looking for your blood. After they bite, it itches and you bleed a lot. Soon, Eva’s white sneakers got pink color from her own blood, despite our everlasting fight with those beasts! We learned from the locals that it is wise to carry salt or tobacco to make them go away. We used our knives but at times they left their teeth inside and the skin got infected so I don’t really recommend fighting them with knives. In the end, we carried some scars form here. 🙂
In the end we made it to a village called Bamboo in 2,310 meters, pretty much the same elevation we started from that morning. It was raining again and I found two more leeches while lying in my bed. They were everywhere!
It is not a long hike from Bamboo to Annapurna Base Camp but it is wise to split it into two days if you are not acclimatized too these altitudes. Therefore we only hiked for 4 or 5 hours, along the Modi Khola river and when the rain started, at least we could enjoy watching waterfalls dropping from rock cliffs high above, deep into the valley we were walking in.
We we happy to join a company of two guys from Holland and their Nepali guide. Especially because he told us about tigers living in this area. On the way he even showed us tiger’s footprints and explained its characteristic smell that we could recognize and that raised our fear of being tiger’s lunch even more. That night we slept in a village called Deurali in 3,230 meters. Good news, this high we finally got rid off the annoying leeches!
… continue reading the story and find the trail map on Monsoon, leeches, tigers and Annapurna – Part 2.