This is the second part of the Ghorepani-Poonhill-Ghandruk trek. If you have missed the first part you can read it here.
Day 3: Ghorepani (2775m) to Poonhill (3210m), Ghorepani to Ghandruk (1950m)
A loud banging on the door woke us up at 5am. Although we didn’t ask for a wake-up call, it seemed like the guest house owner was so used to this routine they have made the wake-up call a part of their job. We quickly put on some warm clothes, freshened up and packed necessities in a small bag for the sunrise trek to Poonhill.
The cool breeze surely woke us up when we got out of the guest house. Like stars, torch lights were scattered across the road on the way to the entrance of Poonhill. It was 5:30am when we started, the place was partly lit by the full moon, but I kept hold of my Iphone as a torch light in order to see the steps and keep Jon in sight. It was easy to get parted from each other because of the crowd! After a few minutes of walking up the stone steps, we reached the entrance to Poonhill, where we had to pay NPR 50/person. More stone steps faced us when we continued our trek. After a while, it seemed as if a queue had built up as more trekkers struggled to climb up. It was almost hard to breathe – from the altitude, the crowd, the dark and the down jacket. I seriously considered if I was claustrophobic then. I took off my jacket and felt a bit better- it was quite thick! Jon took the lead and we continued to move further up. I gasped for breath and took a few breaks every now and then but it was tolerable.
As we climbed the last few steps, I recalled the time when I did a similar trek to Mount Kinabalu Low’s Peak a year ago. That was the first time I ever feared for my life – I got separated from my best friend just after the check point, and was quite unprepared for the cold weather up the mountain. I thought I wouldn’t be going near another mountain any time soon yet there I was, close enough to the most beautiful mountain range in the world, the Himalayas; and Jon was there with me. I couldn’t be any happier.
A 180-degree view of the some of the tallest mountains in the Himalayas welcomed us when we reached Poonhill. The thick fog which covered the mountains just before sunrise did not tamper any of its beauty but simply added some mystery to this captivating sight.
Words cannot explain the magnificence of the place at sunrise. The clouds cleared up and the mountains were in full view. I truly believe they undersell the Poonhill trek, as the sight of the mountains was mesmerizing. It was worth every gruelling step uphill!
Half an hour later, we decided to start our trek down since we had a long day ahead of us. The steep stone steps were easier to tread downhill, so we reached Hotel Hill Top in a short time. We had breakfast, packed all of our stuff and finally said goodbye to the impressive sight of the mountains from our room. We walked pass the familiar stone houses in Ghorepani then made a different turn from where we came from the other day, past a sign that said “Ghandruk”.
According to our guide, it is possible to do the Ghorepani-Poonhill trek in 3 days but the same way down must be taken (Ghorepani-Poonhill-Ghorepani). There was a misunderstanding with the route of our trek initially, our guide said the guest house owner in Pokhara had arranged for that type of route – which was not what we had in mind. The guide sorted out the changes for the trek route, and so we were on our way to down via Ghandruk .
On our way down..? Not really. The first leg of the path was pure uphill. “Why are we still going up?” was a question I asked several times. I thought this part of the trek would be pretty easy with mostly downhill steps as I recalled the continuous uphill we had done a few days before. We had no choice but to keep moving and honestly, each step I took was a struggle. Keep moving, it will be over soon. As with most mountain hikes, hardly anyone cares about the descent. Not much of a story to tell, right? It shouldn’t be any more interesting than the way up or the peak right? The way back to Nayapul via Ghandruk proved these all wrong. Although I had questioned why we were still going uphill, I was glad that we reached the peak of another viewpoint and we saw a different set of mountains which was not visible from Poonhill. One of the popular ones was called Fishtail. There was also a small café there and it seemed like a good alternative view point to see the sunrise.
Relieved that the extra uphill trek was worth the effort, we continued hoping the steps downhill would soon come into view. We seemed to go around the hill for the first hour or so and the view of the mountains was slowly replaced with rice fields along the slopes of the other hills. After a few more hours of walking, we reached a new town, where there were fewer restaurants and some guesthouses. The guide did say that the guesthouses this side were further away from each other in comparison to Ghorepani. Other trekkers opted to take a break in this part, even our guide took the liberty and had his lunch at one of the restaurants there. It was still quite early for lunch, and we felt it would be a waste of time to sit back and wait for our guide to finish his lunch so we informed him that we’d get a move on and wait for him somewhere. We kept moving forward and soon enough, the path lead towards the forest area. We took a short break and waited for our guide before there was too big of a gap between us (something is really wrong with this situation). When he got back, we continued under the shade of the lush green forest trees. The scenery was very different compared to the past two days, thus we were truly happy to have decided to go this way back.
We reached another small village after an hour. I forgot the name of the town, but some trekkers take the descent slower and stay at that village. After our late lunch and more than 4 hours of walking, we headed down. Yes, downhill steps one after the other were in sight. Finally! I would have been grateful for a walking stick then but it wasn’t all that bad. It took us another 2 more hours or so of walking downhill before we reached the rustic village of Ghandruk. It was bigger than the other villages we passed by throughout the trek and it felt less touristy than the others. We were really glad we got to see that village. We stayed at a room with private bathroom (yes, hot shower!) at Meshroom Guest House for 700 NPR/night. Since it was late afternoon when we arrived, I hardly noticed the mountains were within sight from Ghandruk, as if the mountains followed us on our descent. It was a great feeling to finally get to relax after almost 8 hours of walking. I was not sure if my legs would be ready the next day but I just took that time to rest and looked forward to completing the trek the next day.
Day 4: Ghandruk (1950m) to Nayapul
Our guide did the wake-up call at around 7:30am, he had recommended for us to get a look at the clear mountain view in the early morning. We went for a quick tour around the village before breakfast and had a good look at the mountains from Ghandruk. That was the last time we saw this part of the Himalayas. Moving on, we got a better look at the countryside – more rice fields and hills.
The next hours of walking was along a road. There were restaurants at some random areas but hardly any trekkers walking were in sight. We came across some 4WD vehicles though and some trekkers who had just started their trek. We knew we were close to the end. This part of the route was the least attractive in terms of scenery, but still a relief for the sore legs as the slopes were gentle. Soon enough, we reached the steel bridge in Birethanti. We made it back where we started! It took another half an hour to get back to Nayapul from Birethanti. We were so relieved to see a familiar sight from when we started that we forgot how much further we still had to go. No complaints here. It didn’t matter anymore. We did it! We completed the Ghorepani-Poonhill-Ghandruk trek!
The Ghorepani-Poonhill-Ghandruk trek is one of the toughest experiences I had to go through. Nonetheless, it is one I highly recommend if you get the chance to go to Nepal and have limited time for trekking. Will we go back to do another trek? Maybe! The Annapurna Base Camp trek was originally what we had in mind but we didn’t have enough time to do it and we hardly prepared for that kind of trek. We’ll see how it goes in the future!
“Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed along the way from each new vantage point. Climb slowly, steadily, enjoying each passing moment, and the view from the summit will prove to be astonishing.” – Anonymous
Have you done this trek before of any other trek in Nepal? How did it go? Let us know!