Annapurna – The Journey Begins

In Anticipation of the Mother Divine…

The Magic of Annapurna

The grandeur of Annapurna Massif makes Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek one of the most sought after Himalayan treks. This moderate level trek entails a stunning journey bringing you face to face with the majestic Annapurna Massif in a very short span of time. The Annapurna massif includes the world’s 10th highest peak, Annapurna-I or Annapurna main. At 8091 m., the unforgiving Annapurna-I has the highest fatality ratio among the 8000 m. peaks across the world. It also holds the distinction of the first eight-thousander to have been scaled. The other peaks are in the range of 6000-7000 m. and consist of Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Annapurna South, Hiunchuli, Machhapuchchhre, Gangapurna, and a few others.

Among these, Machapuchare or the ‘Fish-tailed Mountain’ holds a special place because of its unique shape and exquisite beauty. It is believed to be one of the homes of Lord Shiva and is revered by the Nepali people. Also known as Matterhorn of Nepal, the sacred Machapuchare has not been officially summited as it is not permitted by the Nepal Government.

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Pic 1: The golden peaks of Annapurna-I at sunrise

My interest of trekking ABC finally culminated this October. I have already written a post on my soul-touching experience of the magnificent peaks at ABC. Click here to read.

Here’s a detailed account of my journey.

The Bumpy Jeep Ride to Nayapul

Tossed and turned and churned I tried my best to focus on the greenery all around me. Travelling on a bumpy off-road in the back seat of a Tata Sumo is not the most comfortable experience, if you know what I mean.

The bumpy muddy road did everything to make sure that a part of my attention remained on it even as my mind and heart was captivated by the surroundings. Winding roads snaking through tall green hills and deep valleys, clusters of tiny colourful houses nestled erratically on the green slopes, quaint tea houses intermittently scattered alongside the dusty road, sporadic areas of lush green pastures separating the road from the hills, terraced cultivation here and there up in the hill slopes, the meandering Modi Khola (Khola means river in Nepali) playfully appearing and disappearing, sudden gushing waterfalls cascading from nowhere making a noisy pool of water on the road before flowing off on the other side.

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Pic 2: Tall green hills, terraced fields, and clusters of village homes nestled here and there.

We were on our way from Pokhara to Nayapul, about 43 Km. away, to start our trek to ABC. The road from Pokhara is paved until Ulleri after which it’s just a dusty track that seems unfit for any vehicle. From Ulleri, one can take various routes to arrive at the village of Chomrong, beyond which the route is common upto ABC. The route is decided mostly based on the number of days one has at their disposal. The trek can take between 6-10 days on an average. After Ulleri, it is a common sight to find trekkers walking through the muddy stretch, lugging their small and big backpacks.

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Pic 3: A quaint village home, notice the beehive made from a tree trunk just below the roof.
Climb to Chomrong via Jhinu

It was a little past noon when we arrived at Nayapul. A quick lunch and we were set to hit the trail. Our destination for the day was the village of Chomrong, via Jhinudanda.

Initially we walked through a near level ground with only negligible ascent and descent. The trail passed through dense vegetation on either side with views of green mountains interspersed with terraced fields and village homes. Soon we reached New Bridge, beyond which is Jhinudanda – commonly called Jhinu. New Bridge is a metallic suspension bridge that runs for nearly a kilometer. I normally don’t suffer from vertigo but on this bridge I found myself feeling a little unsteady each time I looked down. The fact that it vibrated with the number of people walking on it didn’t make things any easier and I tried my best to cross over as fast as I could. On the other side of the bridge, a flight of stairs greeted us that took us to Jhinu.

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Pic 4: The metallic suspension bridge that was a little unnerving.
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Pic 5: A closer view of the same bridge, clicked from the other side.

We didn’t take a break at Jhinu and continued towards Chomrong, little knowing that the entire trail constituted of rustic stone steps. Soon after, my sister started complaining of indigestion and feeling unwell. We rested for a while, she took some medicines and we continued. My sister was very slow and I was finding it difficult to keep going at her pace.

Day-1 in any trek is usually tougher as the body is still getting used to the new situation, so this wasn’t totally unexpected. Our guide, Amar, was with her and hence I continued walking ahead. Very soon I was way ahead and couldn’t see them.

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Pic 6: The climb just starts with the steps from Jhinu to Chomrong.

After a while, dark clouds came in and it started drizzling. I had forgotten to keep my raincoat in my day-pack. It remained in my main bag, which was with Amar. The rains intensified. I tried to take shelter underneath a huge rock but the rains splashed me anyway. This rock was on a turning and I couldn’t see beyond. Realizing it was no point waiting, I decided to keep walking ahead. Just a few steps ahead, I could see a small restaurant. And, luckily enough that turned out to be the starting point of Chomrong village – our destination for the day at 2700 m. I waited here for Amar and my sister. By the time they arrived, the rains had stopped. We climbed a few more stairs and soon landed at the tea house that was booked for us.

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Pic 7: Annapurna Range as visible from the tea house at Chomrong.

The rains resumed in the evening and it continued pouring off and on. The snow peaked Annapurna Range remained shrouded by fleeting white clouds. As I went to bed that night, I thought to myself it would be a good idea to be up around midnight when the clouds would most likely clear up and the mountains would be visible. However, I slept through and when I woke up it was well past midnight. The first thing I did was to lift the window curtains and peek outside. And Ah! There it was – the glamorous snow laden peaks as though eagerly waiting to greet the dawn. I looked at my watch. It was 4.00 AM. I could easily distinguish the triangular Macharepuchare but wasn’t sure of the other peaks. It was not until breakfast that Amar helped identify the other peaks as Annapurna South, Hiunchuli, and Gangapurna.

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Pic 8: This is what we wake up to, from the window of our room. R-L: Macharepuchare, Gangapurna, Annapurna South
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Pic 9: Annapurna South from the terrace of the tea house. 
Into the Forest towards Bamboo

Our trek for the day started by climbing down a series of steps that seemed to continue forever. We learned it was a series of 2500 steps and along with that knowledge came the not-so-comforting thought that we would have to climb up the same on our way back. The entire ABC trail is like a roller coaster ride, all you do it go up and go down with only very few level walks. Somewhere we crossed the office of Annapurna Conservation Area Project where our permits were checked. Thereafter, we passed through trails overlooking terraced fields, crossed over another hanging suspension bridge over a deep valley, and climbed through some uneven rustic stone steps as we headed towards Tilche and then Sinuwa – Lower Sinuwa and Upper Sinuwa, the last village enroute ABC. Annapurna-III was visible from some places while Machapuchare kept us company all through.

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Pic 10: The smaller metallic suspension bridge beyond Chomrong towards Sinuwa.
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Pic 11: A closer view of the same bridge.
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Pic 12: Macharepuchare gives us company all along, providing the much needed motivation for the steep climbs.
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Pic 13: Finally Sinuwa is here.

After taking a break at Upper Sinuwa, we moved towards our last stop for the day, Bamboo. The trail started with a thick forest dominated by tall Oaks. There were Rhododendron, Bamboo, and few other trees as well.

Forest trails are my eternal favourites, where I always find my imagination running wild. The trees and the bushes seem invitingly mysterious as though dozens of invisible eyes are scrutinizing my every move. And, I walk along building my own fantasy world of fairies and witches. Sometimes I blend in and feel one with them, at other times I feel I am encroaching upon their secret and sacred territory. Complementing the overall forest charm was the gurgling sound of Modi Khola flowing alongside that could only be heard but not seen and the twittering birds, calling out occasionally in a variety of melodious tunes. All of these were interrupted by one large and several small waterfall.

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Pic 14: The amazing forest trail begins.
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Pic 15: A waterfall in the forest.
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Pic 16: The steep flight of stairs descending to Bamboo.

A steep descent for about 30 minutes, somewhere in the forest and we reached Bamboo at 2,145 m., after covering a distance of about 8 Km. from Chomrong. Almost immediately the rains started and we were thankful for arriving just in time.

Bamboo was bustling with trekkers it being peak season for ABC trek. We got to know there was no space for us, even the benches in the dining room were taken. Amar made a quick call to Dovan, the next tea house about an hour and a half away. That was fully occupied too. Amar recommended we have our lunch while he figures a way out. After waiting for close to 2 hours, Amar informed that he had finally managed a room, much to our relief. He had struck a deal with one of the tea house owners who agreed to give us his personal room. I have no idea where Amar or the tea house owner slept for the night. My repeated probing with Amar yielded no results.

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Pic 17: And we finally arrive at Bamboo.
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Pic 18: Ponchos and raincoats drying in the tea house add a dash of colour to the rainsoaked evening.

By dinner the rains had stopped and the skies were clear. As expected, we woke up to a bright and sunny day.

Continued here

Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

30 thoughts on “Annapurna – The Journey Begins”

    1. It was amazing indeed. You and Alie can plan this, reason being it has a well marked trail interspersed by tea houses, hence eliminating the need for tents. Guides and porters are easily available. Trekking in Nepal is very well organized making it easily doable.
      Thank you so much for visiting 🙂

      Like

  1. Amazing journey Neel, very well written too. The photographs show the mystic lands you are able to conquer. The first image of the sunrise is indeed breathtaking! That bridge walk must have been an adventure. I don’t know how it will be with the wind and the rain in the middle of those swingers!
    Have a safe trip(if you are still on the go), waiting for the next episode!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am back, Raj. Long back. In fact, was there in the first two weeks of October 🙂
      The bridge being made of steel was strong and didn’t swing massively as I have experienced in certain other bridges (like the ones in Meghalaya). More than the swinging, the scary part was the deep valley down below. I looked down only once and felt so dizzy that the rest of the time I made sure to just fix my glance straight ahead to the end of the bridge. That was me but there were people stopping in the middle of the bridge taking photographs and looking down below. I was also scared of slipping on Mule dung that was lavishly splashed across the bridge. Also, I made sure to put my phone in my bag, lest it slipped and fell into the valley through the gaps in the metallic plates.

      While on the second bridge (which was less scary) a funny thing happened. We were in the middle of the bridge when a buffalo decided to charge across from the other side. Everyone of us had to turn back and run for our dear lives to let the buffalo cross over first 😀

      Thanks for visiting, Raj 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. omg… that is not funny at all… 😀 Anything can happen in a blink of an eye… I know that is the only way for buffalos but I really feel that could cause a dangerous scenario there Neel! Many people get paranoid with animals rushing at them! (for ex my wife!) 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh wow, simply wow – the bridge, stairs, forest trail, waterfall – it’s as if a dream be playing out! Your attention to details ups the charm and makes the narrative so lively. Thanks for starting this ABC journey. Can’t wait for the next installment! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Narendra :). Your appreciation means a lot.
      Even with all the detail I put in, there are still so many instances that get left out or cannot be written about. I am sure you understand what I mean. Like, the instance I mentioned replying to the previous comment from Raj.
      And, thank you once again for joining me as I relive my ABC Trek!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, of course! The little gems strewn across the paths of our memories are often the ones that shine the brightest and their sparkle often puts a twinkle in our eyes when such reminiscence pops up during extempore chats. And I agree that some of these nuggets can’t be fully expressed in any number of words – they are our gift from mother nature for us to relish! But, thanks to you, I could definitely picture at least one such gem – the charging buffalo! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not sure if I will make to Nepal for a trek (it was on my list for a long time) but going by my past trekking experiences and the revelations, I will stay off the popular trails and treks. Nature has bestowed so much beauty that there are enough trail options for all of us. I’m sure I’ll find many great viewpoints and picture-perfect landscapes to enjoy along with tea.
    Till that happens, I’m happy to enjoy the virtual trips here on your blog. EBC/ABC continues to inspire so many trekkers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally understand what you mean by popular trails. ABC did have more people than I had expected when we went as it was festival time in Nepal. Also there was a long holiday in China, so many people from China were there. However, this being a not-so-easy trail most people were genuine trekkers and that was a great relief. And, with the trek stories you bring to us from the unlikeliest places, there definitely are trail options and great viewpoints that not many people would visit. Those are breathers for nature-lovers like us 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My favourite part of the blog is “Forest trails are my eternal favourites, where I always find my imagination running wild.” I am so enticed to run those trails and explore the beauty of ABC through my eyes. Looking forward for next episode…..

    Liked by 2 people

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