Was I ready for another trek? Jon and I had just finished a day of trekking at Sarangkot and my legs had not fully recovered. It was to my relief that we could fit an extra day to relax in Pokhara before the start of our Ghorepani-Poonhill trek in Himalayas, Nepal. It seemed quite ambitious at first, but we had decided to fit the 5 day Poonhill trek into 4 days in order to give us some time to go to Chitwan National Park before we left Nepal.
In preparation for the trek the next day, we hired a porter-guide ($20/day), applied for trekking permits (Annapurna Conservation Area Permit, ACAP – $20/person and Trekker’s Information Management System, TIMS – NPR1,840/person), and booked the taxi to Nayapul (NPR2,200) with the help of the owner of the guesthouse we stayed at in Pokhara. We also rented a down-jacket (NPR100/day) and bought some extra socks and gloves. Knowing that snacks (food in general) would be expensive in the tea houses, we also bought some trail mix (highly recommended to get this in Pokhara, I think the brand is “Mountain Man” – really good!), granola bars, chocolates and muesli.
Although most people start the trek early in the morning around 8am, we had to wait till 10am for our trekking permits to get organized before we left for Nayapul. We brought two small backpacks with all the necessary items we needed for the trek (it wasn’t that heavy considering that we have 15kg allowance with the porter) and left our other stuff at the guesthouse in Pokhara.
Day 1: Nayapul to Ulleri (2070m)
The first day started with an hour’s drive from Pokhara to Nayapul. We started our trek alongside small shops and houses, and occasionally came across 4WD vehicles going along the same route. After about half an hour, we reached the outskirts of Birethanti, where the ACAP check point and TIMS office are located. This is also the village where the two trails towards Ghorepani (left) and Ghandruk (right) divide, after crossing the colourfully decorated steel bridge which seems to welcome all trekkers.
After the trekking permits were checked and stamped, we continued to walk towards the left trail which goes to Ghorepani. We passed by some interesting old houses, and guest houses at Birethanti and as if guided by the river on our left, we walked along unpaved roads used by 4WD vehicles (but I think they don’t go too far in) towards the next village.
Although it was sunny when we started, it had become cloudy and started to drizzle when we reached the village of Tikhedunga (1525m). Some trekkers choose to end the day at the tea houses here but we just took a short break till the rain stopped and continued on our way. After a few more minutes of walking along the river side, the rice terraces on the hills came into view. It was very beautiful! However, in contrast to the beauty of the landscape, the road ahead of us was the “most difficult” part of the trek according to our guide. Now I knew why most people opted to call it a day and rest before doing this part. There were hundreds (at least) of stone steps leading up a really steep hill! I was catching my breath every few minutes or so, and it was like the steps would never come to an end. Jon’s pace was way ahead of mine so he waited a lot and motivated me to keep on going. It was hard! At this point, I was almost glad we did the trek in Sarangkot (which had the similar continuous stone steps uphill) because this time, I could at least be grateful that the weather was cool and there was a bit of shade.
Soon enough, we saw the last of the uneven stone steps and finally caught sight of the guesthouses and shops in Ulleri. Although I thought we were (I was) quite slow, we had caught up with most of the travellers who started their trek earlier than us that morning. We kept moving forward into the village to look for a guesthouse to stay at, and as we kept walking, the view of the Himalayas came into view. It was heart racing. Snow-capped mountains! We booked a room at Meera Guest House for NPR 400/night (a double bed room with shared bathroom). It was high season so most of the rooms with bathrooms were already booked. It was all good anyway, we had a great view of the mountains from our room. It was a happy ending to our first day of trekking.
Day 2: Ulleri (2070m) to Ghorepani (2775m)
The view of the mountains was clearer the next day. The preview of what was waiting at the top of Poonhill, that sight of the Himalayas was enough motivation to keep moving forward. After breakfast, we bid farewell to the village of Ulleri and started our trek towards Ghorepani. The first part of this day was a continuation of the stone steps the day before. We went further uphill and the view of the mountains slowly disappeared from sight as we entered the hillside forest. The conditions for walking were perfect – the weather was cool, there was enough shade from the trees and the slopes uphill were less steep than the days before. This could very well be the easiest part of the whole trek. It is common to be sharing these kind of treks with many other people, especially during peak season, This second day, since most people started about the same time in the morning, everyone had to share the narrow path along the forest. It eventually became a struggle to keep our pace when we got behind someone slower. Eager to see the mountains and get some rest at the next guest house, Jon set the challenge for us to pass as many other trekkers as we could. That meant shorter breaks and moving at a faster pace (for me, anyway). Somehow, that helped to keep our spirits high. Like being in a competition, it felt good every time we passed other travellers along the way – in a way, it also made me feel closer to the goal.
After around 4 hours of trekking, we have reached the entrance to the village of Ghorepani. Just when I thought we could have a good rest, after that strenuous walk, the good part of the village was still a few minutes uphill. Yes, more stone steps! It was interesting how much further we had to walk to get to the hill top, it was almost like the entrance to Ghorepani is a deception to how much further you have to walk to see the mountains! Nevertheless, with my legs about to give up, we reached the guest house at the top of the village with the best view of the mountains, Hotel Hill Top. Since we were among the first ones to arrive, we managed to get a room with a private bathroom for NPR 600/night. We were glad to have paid that price for the gorgeous view of the mountains from our bedroom window!
It should have been a great way to recharge from the past two days of walking and good time to prepare for the early trek the next day, however, that afternoon, I got a bit careless – I slipped on the wet bathroom floor, fell down on my back and hit my head. I was shocked. I got scared. I didn’t tell Jon at first, he just got up from his nap then and I was still trying to gather my thoughts on what had just happened – after the two days of walking the difficult terrain towards Ghorepani, I get into an accident inside a bathroom. What if I had a concussion? I didn’t feel dizzy. I was certain my memory was still fine. I tried my best to keep awake and refused to give in to a nap before dinner. I fell asleep! Apart from the stiff neck and the pain in my lower jaw – which were both manageable, I thought, everything will be fine and I can still continue with the trek. I told Jon about my fall but did not discuss further about how hard I actually hit my head. I guess I should have consulted a doctor if we weren’t in the mountains and yes, be more careful, even indoors.
The weather was definitely much colder in Ghorepani since we were already at 2775m above sea level. I was glad we had rented a down jacket but a bit worried about Jon and whether the layers of light jackets would be enough to keep him warm for the sunrise trek to Poonhill. The guide said the trek the next day would take an hour at most (40minutes at our pace according to Jon), I felt more confident.
Did we make it? Check out what happened next in Part 2 of this Ghorepani-Poonhill-Ghandruk trek in Himalayas, Nepal post!
Have you done this trek before or any other trek in Himalayas, Nepal? How did it go? Let us know!