Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Day 18 (Ghorepani to Ghandruk)
I woke up at 04:00 toady, got dressed, drank some water, grabbed my camera and headlamp, and walked out in to the night. I walked up the trail to Poon Hill, paid the entrance fee at the gate, and walked up to the top of the hill; I got there after climbing the stone steps for a half hour, at 04:50. I then admired the starscape in the cold night, watched the moon set, and then the sun rise. It was a relatively clear morning (there were some clouds under Dhaulagiri, but they did not obscure the fantastic view) and the mountains looked spectacular in the sun’s early glow; there were also many prayer flags strung up in the bushes and trees; I even watched one man string up his own prayer flags. After spending over two hours on top of the hill trying to take as many photos as my camera’s memory card could hold, I walked back down the hill and back to my hotel. I had a healthy breakfast of Sprite and a Snickers bar; then I packed my bag and set out for the day shortly after 08:00.
At the beginning of today’s hike, I walked up more stone steps (ugh, I wouldn’t be surprised if the muscles in my leg just broke away from the bones from all this exercise; on the plus side, I should have a well-toned haunch at the end of this hike), heading up to Deurali Pass; there were a couple quiet spots on the way up where I had just as good a view of the mountains as at Poon Hill, the only difference being that Poon Hill had the photogenic prayer flags and the large crowd of eager people who don’t mind getting in the way of your camera. After Deurali, the trail ascended to the small town of Ban Thanti, passing through some lovely woods marred by an electric line and large sewage pipe that followed the trail (most people would have these utilities going straight up and down the ridge side; it really says something about the locals’ laziness to just follow a trekking trail). After Ban Thanti, the trail steeply descended, following a stream, through some very picturesque woods with sheer cliff faces and moss dangling from the trees – it looked like a painting created during the Romantic era, a fairy tale setting. The trail then reached another stream and climbed back up on some more steep stone steps (ugh!); it finally reached another high point at the town of Tadapani (the break away point for many doing the Annapurna Base Camp Trek); I continued on, descending through the woods rather steeply again. The trail then began to even out more as it passed through moss covered forests, looking like a rain forest (it sort of reminded me of the Milford Trek in New Zealand); finally, shortly after 14:00, I was in the town of Ghandruk; I had missed the turn off in to the old part of town (due to certain markings no longer being present), so I walked through the new part of Ghandruk until I found a trail descending to the one of the village centers of Old Ghandruk; I was then dismayed to see so much construction occurring in this part of Old Ghandruk and none of the didis at any of the lodges seemed all that welcoming; so I walked further westward (the direction I had come) to the other village center of Old Ghandruk; this appeared to be the better part, with some minor construction going on and an overall more peaceful atmosphere; I checked in to the Shangri-La Guesthouse where both the husband and wife had great and welcoming smiles, dropped my bags in my room, and then had my afternoon meal – Gurung bread (basically the same as Tibetan bread), vegetable momos, and a Sprite. After lunch, I walked around Old Ghandruk to see the lovely historic homes and farmland. I then returned to my hotel and had dinner (an interesting dal bhat, fried potatoes, and a Sprite – since beer is too expensive here, I find myself drinking more soda). After dinner, I prepared my camel-back and backpack for tomorrow’s hike; I then went to sleep.