I've been trekking and climbing a couple of times before in the Annapurna Himal of Nepal, but I've never done the Ghorepani trekking loop (including Poon Hill) and the Annapurna Sanctuary. So we decided to combine those two spectacular treks in a single 10-12 days trek.
Porter: Lyngve (carrying the majority of our stuff)
Here follows Emily's diary from the trek, partly rewritten by Lyngve, especially where she has copied/pasted too much from our Lonely Planet book :-)
DAY 1: Naya Pul - Tikhedhunga
We took a taxi from Pokhara to Naya Pul which cost 1000Nrs. It took almost 1.5 hour to reach the trailhead by taxi, but a local bus would have taken twice the time. The road was fairly okay by Nepali standards, but unfortunately Emily's sensitive stomach got upset, and she vomited several times when we finally arrived. Around 10am, we started to walk from Naya Pul, shortly after we had to stop and show our ACAP permit at a checkpoint. We continued to Birethanti and yet another checkpoint, where we had to show our TIMS-cards. From Birethanti we continued to walk on a road under construction and after a while we reached a little village with a couple of teahouses. We stopped there for an hour and ate our lunch.
We reached Tikhedhunga after 3 hrs of walking. The trail wasn't steep. We stayed in Sanker Guest House and paid 150 Nrs for a double room. We were surprised to see the expensive food items on the menu, more than double prices. We assume they have some sort of fixed price agreements between the lodges, which would be illegal in the western world and a free market.
DAY 2: Tikhedhunga - Ghorepani
We woke up early in the morning (6:00am) to eat our breakfast and start the trek as soon as possible to Ghorepani. It was a tiring start on the day for Emily because of the endless and steep stairs to Ulleri. It is said that there are more than 3300 steps from Tikhedhunga to Ulleri. For lunch, we stopped in Banthanti for an hour for us to relax after all those stairs. Then we continued trekking from Banthanti to Ghorepani through a nice rhododendron forest. We reached upper Ghorepani at 3:30pm and stayed in Nice View Point Lodge (200Nrs).
The rate of the food is even more expensive in Ghorepani compared to lower down. The further away from road, the more expensive it will be.
DAY 3: Ghorepani - Poon Hill
We woke up early at 5:00am to start a short hike to Poon Hill (3210m). No need to worry about the trail because it's not very steep. Reaching Poon Hill was such a fulfillment because we were able to see a lot of Himalaya such as Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Machhapuchhare, Dhaulagiri, name it! A lot! We think there were at least 100 trekkers on Poon Hill, very crowded indeed. The temperature reached to below 0°C, and Emily was freezing.
Coming down from Poon Hill, we decided to stay another night in Ghorepani because Emily still had sore legs from yesterday.
DAY 4: Ghorepani - Tadapani
Same as usual, we started to walk around 8am. It was a cloudy day. So to those who went on hiking to Poon Hill, we would say it was very bad luck for them. During the day we ascended 700+ meters and descended 500+ meters. Reaching the last lodge in Banthanti (Trekker's Sanctuary Lodge), it took 20 minutes to descend to the river and another 20 minutes to ascend to Tadapani. It was a steep and heartbreaking uphill in the end. We arrived Tadapani at 11:55am, and stayed at Hotel Grand View (230Nrs).
DAY 5: Tadapani - Chhomrong
We started the trek at 7:30am and descended from Hotel Grand View on a narrow trail full of bromeliads to a pasture. Downhill, there was another lodge (Mountain Discovery) with a peaceful location, a fine lawn and good rooms that look out the valley. Twenty minutes later, there was a farm-like Hillside Lodge at Chiule. Then we dropped down on steep steps through millet fields. Another 15 minutes descended us to an old suspension bridge over the Khumnu Khola at 1920m.
We started to climb immediately to the spread-out village of Ghurjung (2010m), passing the school and Namabuddha Guest House. The trail passes through several homes and lodges, crossing another old suspension bridge. A walk in and out of side valleys to Dhiklyo-Danda took us about 45 minutes, where the Ghandruk-Chhomrong trails join the route. We climbed steeply to vest a ridge, gaining views of the fishtail mountain (Machhapuchhare). From here we took the upper trail towards Chhomrong, instead of the lower main trail going via Taglung. We decided to stay at the very nice International Guest House for 200Nrs, which has a splendid view of the valley.
DAY 6: Chhomrong - Bamboo
We left Chhomrong at 8:30am. We descended on a stone staircase and crossed the Chhomrong Khola on a swaying suspension bridge at 1860m. Then we climbed out of the side valley through the tiny settlement of Tilche, through the forests of bamboo, rhododendron and oak. We climbed further on a rocky trail and reached Bhanuwa. Another further climb of about an hour took us to Sinuwa. We opted to have a break in a little restaurant just before we arrived at Sinuwa Guest House. We had a cup of milk tea (55Nrs) and hot lemonade (50Nrs).
Then we climbed for about an hour in a forest of rhododendrons. In the end we descended a long, steep, slippery stone staircase and arrived Bamboo at 12:15pm. We stayed at Bamboo Lodge paying 200Nrs.
DAY 7: Bamboo - Deurali
We climbed steeply through stands of bamboo, then through rhododendron forest up the side of the canyon. The trail dropped us to cross offshoot on narrow bridges and ascended continuously. After traversing avalanche channels, we reached a small hydro plant and lodges alongside the stone-paved trail of Dovan (2500m), more than one hour from Bamboo.
After Dovan we continued slowly for another 1.5 hour before we reached two lodges with the same name, a village simply known as Himalayan Hotel (2840m).
From Himalayan Hotel, we took about 50 minute walk, first on a rocky trail through forests, then up a steep valley, to Hinku Cave (3100m). High cascades tumble off the high rock walls in all directions. We crossed the remnants of a glacier just beyond Hinku, then we climbed through large rocks to Deurali (3140m) and stayed at Panorama Guest House.
DAY 8: Deurali - Chhomrong
Emily's stomach had been so painful since the day before. Instead of going to Machhapuchhare Base Camp (3,700m) and Annapurna Base Camp (4,130m), we decided to go down to Chhomrong (8 hours) again. It was a tough decision. Both of us wanted to reach ABC for it will be our first time to see the sanctuary. But it would be too irresponsible if we insist to reach ABC. Even if it was less than 4 hours of walking left, it would take another two days (because of acclimatization). Prevention is better than cure. We were simply running out of medicines for Emily, so it was a rather easy choice in the end. We go down!
Heading back down the valley was much easier (7:00am). Some rocks were extremely slippery due to the glaciated layer of ice. The temperature was cold, below 0 degree Celsius.
We retraced our steps to Dovan and continued to Bamboo for 4 hours. We reached Bamboo at lunch and decided to just have some cookies. Emily's stomach was getting better and it made her move faster. We continued walking, making it a very long day back to Chhomrong. We wanted to stay at International Guest House but it was full. So we stayed in nearby Excellent View Top Lodge instead. We were surprised because there were a lot of tourists. Three days before, there were only 4 guests in our lodge and Chhomrong was really peaceful. But now it was noisy like hell.
DAY 9: Chhomrong - Syauli Bazar
We chose the quickest way to Syauli Bazar (7:50am). We descended steeply to Jhinu Danda where you can find the hot spring. Then we continued to Himal Qu. We were walking on the west bank of the river. From here, Landruk was clearly visible on the opposite side of the river. We crossed two new bridges from Kimche (1,640m) and Kliu (1,390m). We reached Syauli Bazar at 4:00pm. The hotels and cafes seemed quite cosmopolitan. We stayed at Riverside Lodge (200Nrs).
DAY 10: Syauli Bazar - Naya Pul
From Syauli Bazar, the walking was flat, which after the last 10 days felt distinctively weird. We walked from the trail that follows the river valley through a forest and rice terraces. We reached Birethanti (1,000m) after 1.5 hour of walking. Here we rushed through the village to avoid that the TAAN office would take our TIMS cards (because we plan to reuse them on our next trek). Shortly before Naya Pul we had to surrender our ACAP permit. From Naya Pul, we took a taxi back to Pokhara (1,200Nrs) where we plan to take some few days off :-)