Rachel and Matt’s World Tour
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Nepal


Namaste from Kathmandu, Nepal.

We arrived from Bangkok nearly a month ago and have had a very adventurous few weeks. Kathmandu has got to be the most crazy, hectic place we have visited on our whole trip. The streets are full of bustling people and motorbikes and little 1000cc cars that are ruthless and don’t seem to have a specific side of the road! The locals are hard bargainers but the prices are mostly very cheap so that’s not so bad. Rach has found it hard to cope with the local habit of hocking and spitting though! It’s really gross.

After a couple of days in Kathmandu shopping for all our trekking gear, we took a 6hr bus journey to Besisahar from where we started our trek: the Annapurna Circuit.

A 16 day, 200km trek around the very beautiful Annapurna Sanctuary, home to 3 of the worlds 14 8000m mountains, Annapurna, Manaslu and Dhauligiri and what many people think is the world most beautiful mountain, Machhupuchhare. Many people complete the trek each year, which reaches a height of 5460m on the Thorung La pass, so there are lots of small tea houses along the way at which to stop for lunch or stay the night. As you can see by the photo’s we weren’t let down by the scenery.

The first day was very difficult. An 18km walk with a 400m climb at the end. Within 10 minutes we had our first glimpse of snow capped mountains. Everything was going great until we came across a landslide blocking the path. The resulting 1.5hr detour in blazing heat really took it out of me in particular and made the final climb to Bahundanda very hard indeed.

Over the next few days landslides were very common, but luckily the locals are very adept at creating new paths. Unfortunately though, they sometimes forget we don’t all live in the mountains, so some of the detours are very steep and tough.

On around day 4 the scenery started to change dramatically. Trees started to change to pine and the rice fields disappeared. The views from Chame to Manang were absolutely stunning. The Oble Dome in particular made us pause in awe.

Manang was the biggest village so far and we stayed in a nice guesthouse called the Yeti Hotel, which had a great view of Annapurna III and Gangapurna. Due to the ever increasing altitude (Manang is 3600m above sea level) it is recommended to stay an extra day to acclimatise. We spent our spare day walking up to a viewpoint above Manang where we had great views of a glacier and glacier lake.

After a day of relative rest we had two days of short walks to Thorung Phedi. Our jinx with the weather returned as both days were cloudy and blocked the reportedly amazing views of the mountains. Thorung Phedi is at the beginning of the path to the Thorung La, the highest point of our trek. The altitude and resulting thinness of the air makes things very slow going, so a very early start was required. We were very surprised to wake to snow and were apprehensive about attempting the 750m climb but we went for it anyway. After short break halfway for tea we bumped into Luke and Karen, a Dutch couple who we keep meeting on the trail, so we walked the rest of the way with them. Rachel was secretly pleased when Karen had a mini tantrum near the top and she didn’t! After around 5 hours of seemingly endless zigzags we reached the top and celebrated with another cup of tea and a Mars Bar.

After taking pictures and attaching our prayer flags we started the descent down to Muktinath. The 1500m descent took 3 hours and as the snow turned to rain the path got very slippery. I fell over not once, but 3 times resulting in a very muddy rucksack. Eventually though, we made it to Muktinath and a very welcome hot shower (the first in 4 days!). We were both very pleased at completing the climb and the massive descent which was a big strain on the knees.

The next 2 days were spent heading towards Jomsom, the biggest town on the trek. Thankfully the clouds cleared on the second day and we were treated to great views of the arid landscape. We stayed in Kagbeni and Marpha, which is a very pretty village with traditional houses who’s roofs are covered in firewood. Rach picked up some brandy for her grandad at the local distillery.

The last section of the trek took a southern direction towards the final village of Birethani. Days 14 and 15 were in my opinion the hardest of the trek. A 24km leg followed by a 1.6km ascent the next day. We were both feeling very tired at this point, so the going was pretty slow and involved lots of water stops. We spent the night of day 15 in Ghorepani. A further 300m higher up is Poon Hill, which has great views of the entire Annapurna Sanctuary. I was up at 4.30am to watch the sunrise over the mountains, along with around 150 other people.

It was amazing to see the sun gradually lighting up the mountains. Rach stayed in bed and is still adamant that she made the right decision! Later that morning we started our final day trekking and were sorry to see that it wasn’t going to be an easy end. The path descended 1.8km and over a very short distance so was incredibly steep in parts. My knees were aching badly by the bottom and the very humid weather made things even tougher. But at last we made it to the end of the trek and caught a bus to Pokhara, Nepals second city. We thought we would try the locals approach and sit on the roof but what seemed like a good idea at the time got pretty uncomfortable after an hour!

Pokhara probably has the best scenery of any city in the world. Think huge mountains, a mirror-like lake and green valleys. Another thing that was good was the food (the best on our entire trip). After 16 days of very healthy eating we pigged out on pizza, steak, curry and lots of beer and wine. During our time in Pokhara the locals were celebrating Diwali, so the main street was filled with people dancing and performing. One of the highlights of Pokhara was the walk up to the World Peace Pagoda. We thought we had done enough climbing on our trek but managed to get to the top of the ridge. The view from the pagoda is breathtaking as you can see from the photo, and more than worth the effort. Thankfully we got up early and beat the clouds that form mid-morning.

We got a bus back to Kathmandu after a week in Pokhara and visited Durbar square, from where kings once ruled the city. After the relative peace of Pokhara the “in your face” atmosphere of Kathmandu takes some getting used to.

So that ends our Nepal adventure. The scenery more than lived up to expectations and the people were very welcoming. We head to India tomorrow to start our tour of the North. It is hard to believe it will be our final country of the trip. Coming home is finally starting to feel real!

Until the next update….

October 21, 2009   9 Comments