Annapurna Trek Ghandrunk
we truly could not get excited about walking to Annapurna Base Camp."
We are not sure what compelled us to submit ourselves to the insanity of trekking for
the second time in one month, but there we were again. Possibly it was the Thamel touts
who were responsible for driving us away from the Hotel Swoniga (the swankest joint in
Thamel), maybe it was our friend Amit's rave reviews of the beautiful Annapurna Mountain
Range, or perhaps we are just gluttons for punishment. Whatever the case may have been, we
found ourselves sitting in another lodge, wearing dirty underwear, with our shoulders
aching, as we contemplated the next day's walk.
We (Jeff, Mike, Josh and Aaron) left Katmandu at 7 am on November 21. We rode in a
fairly plush tour bus which, from what Josh has told us, was ten times better then
anything to come (india or Nepal public transit). During the first leg of the trip,
however, the seat in front of Mike was broken and tilted back bruising his knees. After
the first squatter break, we moved seats and avoided any further bruising by lounging in
the back row and sleeping almost the whole 7 hours on the ride to Pokahara.
Pokahara is the second largest city in Nepal but it is not very large at all. it is a
small resort like community located on Lake Fewa. The surrounding rolling green hills and
mountain peaks combined with the lake, and a considerably smaller population, make it a
very peaceful and relaxing town. The hotel we stayed in was owned by some of Neela's (the
computer girl) relatives. it was PHAT, big rooms, hot showers, super thick mattresses,
great views, good service, and cheap drinks. We spent the night on the veranda eating,
drinking, enjoying the pleasantries, playing cards, and being merry.
On the morning of November 22 we woke up at 6:30 am (ouch!). We ate a small breakfast
and piled with all of our bags into an even smaller taxi for the 1.5-hour drive to the
town of Naya Pul. We were dropped off at a path on the side of the road that led us down a
steep hill, across a river, and into the small town of Birethanti (1065m). We checked in
with the Annapurna Park Police and began a three hour walk along the flatlands next to the
river. (Foreshadow - Josh stopped after 5 minutes into the walk to visit the squatter).
The terrain of the Annapurna region is drastically different then the Khumbu region. We
walked through rolling valleys with almost tropical weather filled with flowing rivers,
hillsides covered with terraced farmland, and banana trees. instead of large piles of Yak
dung to avoid, there were large piles of donkey dung to avoid. We walked for four hours up
what seemed like, and very well may have been, a million inlaid stone stairs (900
meters!). This is comparable to walking up the stairs of a building that is 216 stories
tall, with a 30 pound bag weighing heavily on your back and shoulders!!!!
The Annapurna region is filled with friendly Nepali people working and living as they
have for hundreds of years, seemingly unaffected by the sometimes thousands of tourists
that trek through their backyards. However, to account for all of these trekkers, in
contrast to the Khumbu region, certain villages have developed a rather sophisticated
co-operative style system for touring, lodging, and eating. No matter where you stay it's
always the same price for a dorm room, the same price for a private room, and the same
price for Ra-Ra lunch. Some of these tourist villages have even developed their own
hydropower electricity. All of this adds up to some pretty stylin' lodgin'. To our
amazement, later that night as we sat and enjoyed our dinner, a fellow lodger turned to us
and said, "this place is a dump!" This guy had obviously not been to the Khumbu.
After convincing him that this was nicer then any trekking lodge we had seen, we think he
may have headed back to Pokahara.
When we reached the town of Ghandrunk (1900m) after 7 hours of walking, Jeff, Josh, and
Mike decided we truly could not get excited about walking to Annapurna Base Camp. (Or even
walking to the bathroom downstairs!) The motivation was just not there. Aaron was dead set
on making it to base camp. The rest of us wanted to reroute our trek to a much easier
pace. After dinner and hours of discussion, Aaron was still determined to go to Annapurna
Base Camp, so he was going to leave us in the morning and continue on the 5 day trek to
base camp alone. We decided to head for the hot springs in Gorapani (which we later found
out had been washed away 5 months earlier in a landslide).
That evening, while comforted by the hope that tomorrow would not be so gruesome, we
sat on the roof at the Himalayan Guest House, drank tea, played guitar, and watched the
sunset over the stunning Annapurna mountain range.