Annapurna Base Camp Trek Part I

North Nepal

November 2017

One of the primary reason that brought me to Nepal is the Himalayas. I remember the times when the idea of this journey sprouted in my heart some months ago. I remember the scene I saw in a documentary where a giant zebra herd was running through a vast grassland. At that moment I thought how would that be like to be exactly there, to feel the great vibration on the ground, to feel their wind on my face. How would that make me feel when I have to open my eyes as wide as possible to capture this gigantic view? I thought I need this, this would entirely shake me then put my spirit at a perfect place to be.
Have I told you before that whatever I ask for, dream of or intend is coming into being? Here you are! I have experienced that impact as the way I dreamt of, here in the embrace of the mountains. At the end of 13 days in Himalayas my spirit is so light, in peace and at the same time deeply grounded.
I am going to tell about my whole trekking experience day by day. Each day brought me many gifts from the mountains and nourished me physically and spiritually.

I want to start with some practical information that would help the ones who intend to do trekking in Himalayas. First you need to decide which trek would be the best for you as there are many options. Some of the major trekking regions are Annapurna, Everest, Langtang, Manaslu, Rara/Jumla and Kanchanjunga/ Makalu. As you see in the map above, the most popular treks Annapurna and Everest are in different regions. For Annapurna you start from Pokhara, for Everest you start from Kathmandu. First check what is appealing to you.
I chose Annapurna Base Camp trek as it was passing through a diversed region regarding fauna, flora and many little villages on the way where I could observe the culture of Nepalese people living up in the mountains. This trek would be gifting me many clear views of great peaks of Himalayas as well. During the trek, at one point I decided and unite some parts of Mardi Himal trek into my route.

I had some concerns at the beginning as I was planning to walk alone. I had questions like; what if I lose my way and get lost, what if I fall down from a cliff and no one would see me, what if I come across with some wild animals and so on. But I put all these aside and decided to face my fears and venture forth. From my experiences there is no need to abstain from being alone. There is no way that you get lost if you use a proper offline map (example: application) and many parts are well marked. Before starting it is mandatory to take a trekking permit. You show these cards at some check points during the trek. So the officers take these information to control if anyone is missing.
You can also do like I did; with my friend Antonin with whom I met in Pokhara we decided to be our invisible partners. We were informing eachother through messages at the end of each day about our condition. So by this way we had someone who was knowing where and how we are. Being alone was not an issue, besides it gave me immense strength.

It is an option to hire a local porter to carry your stuff. But it was quite sad to see the porters carrying huge bags up and down the hills. You can put most of your stuff at your guesthouse in Pokhara or Kathmandu and have a small backpack. Mine was around 8kg and containing everything I need. Be as light as possible. What primarily upset me the most was that the porters were carrying many packaged junk food like, coke, beer, chips all the way to the upper points. Do we really need to consume this much? The amount of waste is unbeliveable at the end!

Water consumption is also so important. You don’t need to buy water in plastic bottles. Below 2500m you can fill up your bottles from the taps in the little villages and you can use iodine tablets to purify your water. Above 2500m, after you pass all the settlements you can trust every spring you come across in your way. People can make you worry about it but don’t listen and trust all the clean clear water at this piece of heaven. It looks like humans tend to forget to trust mother nature.

It is the best to start your day early. By this way after trekking around 5-7 hours you arrive at your destination when the sun is still high up. You can take a shower and dry yourself and your sweaty clothes (above 2500m forget about having a shower). By this way you store the sun in your body as you will need it during the cold nights. Choose proper clothes for the cold. As you ascend the conditions will change. Above some altitudes there will be no stove because there is no tree at all to burn. You will need to wear whatever you have and cover yourself with any blanket that you can find.
In most of the treks in Himalayas you will find little local guesthouses to stay in every 5-10 km. If you are on budget like me, you can make a deal with some guesthouses and offer to pay just for the food but not the accommodation. They accept. But above upper altitudes the guesthouses and the food starts to become more expensive. They even start to ask money for charging your phone or using wifi. That is understandable. You can access internet at some points but it will be way to weak.

One of the most important thing is to take precaution against high altitude sickness. Especially after the altitude of 3000m, if you don’t act consciously this can make you sick with a very bad headache, dizziness, nauseation and anorexia. An emergency helicopter can come to help you but this will be extremely expensive. So ascend slowly above 3000m. Always walk slowly. Do not cover big altitude differences rapidly. Stay over night and by this way adjust your body. If you feel any sickness descend right away.

DAY 1: NAYAPUL(1070m) – ULLERI (2020m) / 10km
DAY 2: ULLERI (2020m) – GHOREPANI (2860m) / 7.5km
DAY 3: GHOREPANI (2860m) – POONHILL (3190m) – TADAPANI (2630m) / 10.5km
DAY 4: TADAPANI (2630m) – CHHOMRONG (2170m) / 8.5km
DAY 5: CHHOMRONG (2170m) – SINUWA (2360m) – BAMBOO (2310m) – DOBHAN (2520m) / 9.2km
DAY 6: DOBHAN (2520m) – HIMALAYA (2920m) – DEURALI (3200m) / 4.6km
DAY 8: ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP (4130m) – MACHHAPUCHHRE BASE CAMP (3700m) – DEURALI (3200m) – HIMALAYA (2920m) – DOBHAN (2520m) – BAMBOO (2310m) / 14km
DAY 9: BAMBOO (2310m) – SINUWA (2360m) – CHHOMRONG (2170m) – JHINU (1780m) / 9km
DAY 10: JHINU (1780m) / day off
DAY 11: JHINU (1780m) – NEW BRIDGE (1340m) – LANDRUK (1565m) – TOLKA (1800m) / 9km
DAY 12: TOLKA (1800m) – / POTHANA (1950m) – AUSTRALIAN CAMP (2060m) / 7km
DAY 13: AUSTRALIAN CAMP (2060m) – DHAMPUS (1660m) – PHEDI (1430m) / 7km

DAY 1: NAYAPUL (1070m) – ULLERI (2020m)
From Pokhara I took a bus and a shared jeep and arrived at Nayapul in 3 hours. Yes finally my trek was starting from this point (above) by a strong river that would accompany me all along the way till the evening. This very first day is quite a tough day as it proceeds on steep slopes. I had the advantage of the training trek I did the day before at Sarangkot in Pokhara. It awakened my body.

I passed by 5 little villages on the way. I liked the humble way of the simple architecture and clean outlook of these little settlements. There is a large agricultural production in the area. But it is pleasing to see that none of them is industrial but small scale. You see many leveled terraces on the hillsides used as rice fields.

Rivers and creeks are everywhere on the path, flowing parallel to you or crossing your way. There is always the sound of water in the air accompanying you. You use many wooden or metal suspended bridges to cross the strong water flowing below you.

The last ascend of 700m is only stairs. With a basic calculation today I climbed almost 4000 steps up! I climbed slowly but steadily, always being aware of my breaths. At the end just before the sunset I have reached today’s destination Ulleri. Starting from the depths of the valley above, all day long I climbed and climbed and reached at this top point. I have already opened myself fully to whatever the mountains would like to show me.

DAY 2: ULLERI (2020m) – GHOREPANI (2860m)
With excitement I started the day early at dawn and walked to a field that has a magnificent view. I sat for meditation. Soon after that I heard some sweet melodies of a guitar and children vocals coming from the village. Oh my God, where was I? Was this a heaven or not? Then I learned the hymns were coming from a Christian orphanage school.
Today’s trek is a little lighter than yesterday with an ascend of 850m. Of course there is no car road anymore. So you see many mules on the way. People primarily use them for carrying stuff.

Along the way there are many little creeks and cascades as well as little bridges you use to cross the water. Ferns are decorating the landscape.

As I climbed up, I saw the agricultural fields started to give their place to the forest. At the end I reached Gorapani which is a Gurung village. Gurung is the ethnic group that compose 2.0% of the population of Nepal. It is known that shamanistic elements among the Gurungs remain strong and most Gurungs often embrace Buddhist rituals. I had long and friendly conversations with the owner of the guesthouse I chose to stay. He is also from this ethnicity. He told me many things about their traditions, about their life up on the mountains. This little cute baby above is his daughter. He was happy to have a daughter as he believed that sons don’t work but daughters help the family in anything.

DAY 3: GHOREPANI (2860m) – POONHILL (3190m) – TADAPANI (2630m)
I woke up at 4.30 to start the first climb in order to catch the sunrise at Poonhill. Poonhill is a hill station to see the massive Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges. It is essential to start your day early to see the big peaks clearly because in the day time they are mostly blocked by clouds somehow. Many trekkers were here for this ritual to greet the day.

As the sun started to light the earth, the whole view in front of me was breathtaking. On the picture above on top we see the peaks of Annapurna range between 7500-8100m. And on the bottom we see Dhaulagiri mountain (8167m). I was getting more and more excited as I knew I was approaching Annapurna range more and more everyday.

I wouldn’t imagine at the beginning that today’s walk would be really magical. I first climbed up to 3200m again and reached a pass. From the same point, on one side I was seeing the mountains I left behind and on the other side I was seeing the new forestlands I was about to enter. I was more and more coming closer to the sharp edged peak of Machhapuchhre (6993m) (above, left) It already started to greet me from here.

After the pass I entered into a magnificent dense forest. I passed valleys and walked on meandering paths at the edge of the slopes. I got so mesmerized to be surrounded by this colourful beauty.
This is the forest of rhododendrons that are the national trees of Nepal. When they blossom all the hills become garnished in red, pink and white colours. We see autumn colours now. Although it is the dominant species, still the forest has a rich biodiversity. There is a healthy succession between lichens, ferns, ivys, bushes and trees. It is forbidden to cut rhododendrons or even to collect the dried ones. That’s why the villagers have to bring other wood to burn which is quite difficult. So they use so little amount of wood. For cooking they use bottled gas that has to be always carried by the poor mules.

Walking through this forest I passed a little village on the way that was located by a beautiful river. (above, left) After a tough climb I arrived at Tadapani. (above, right) It was such a cute little village with humble guesthouses and a market. Besides it had a spectacular view of Machhapuchhre and Annapurna South peaks. I decided to stay here for the night. Feeling the vitality the forest gifted me today, I fell asleep.

DAY 4: TADAPANI (2630m) – CHHOMRONG (2170m)
After I woke up to the new day and went out from my room, this was the first view I came across. It was amazing to see the mountains one after another. I greeted the day with a peaceful meditation.

This day’s walk passes through some villages, many abundant vegetable gardens and terraced fields. Millets were harvested and already dried. This father with his children above, was seperating the seeds of millet in front of their house. Nepalese people use millet as their stable food like rice. With millet they make a kind of a porridge and also the famous traditional alcoholic beverage called Rakshi.

Then I arrived at Chhomrong. I could walk more but somehow decided to stay here for the night maybe because of the warm talk of this Gurung uncle who welcomed me with a kind open heart. We had fun together and laughed a lot despite that we didn’t know more than ten words in common. He makes his living by selling his handicrafts at the stall in the entrance of the village.
Tomorrow I was going to enter into the valley above and approach a little bit more to the base camp where I would meet with the great peaks.

DAY 5: CHHOMRONG (2170m) – SINUWA (2360m) – BAMBOO (2310m) – DOBHAN (2520m)
The day started with a 300m descend. Then I crossed the suspended metal bridge (above) to Sinuwa. After this bridge crossing, all the rest will be just climbing up until the final destination, base camp. (from 2000m to 4130m) Yes sometimes my legs did hurt, my muscles burned but I understood; the more I walk the more I got charged interestingly. I started to feel much much stronger.
The special area that begins from the point above, right and ends at the base camp is sacred to Buddhists. It is the home of sacred temples and mysterious mountains. Therefore no one consumes meat here and everyone pay attention to take good care of the mother earth.

Entering into the new valley a different type of a forest welcomes us. Rhododendrons start to give their place to bamboos.

Finally I am at that valley that will take me directly to the base camp. I am walking parallel to the river that is flowing at the bottom of the valley. There are many springs and waterfalls popping up on both sides of the river. I am putting my hands into the water to unite with the wisdom of it, to have its healing powers. I am touching the plants, hugging trees to open another gate between us so that they can transfer me the knowledge of the forest. I am breathing in the clear and pure air of Himalayas. I am in deep gratitude for this mutual connection.

DAY 6: DOBHAN (2520m) – HIMALAYA (2920m) – DEURALI (3200m)
Today’s trek has a 700m ascend that starts to take you to a more rocky area. You see some springs surprisingly popping up and falling down from so high points. I am so fascinated to see many water resources here and there and everywhere.
And today for the first time in my life I saw a Nepal Grey langur. Langurs belong to the genus of old world monkeys and they are endemic to Himalayas. We stared at eachother for about 4-5 seconds then he turned his back and walked away.

At one point I am having a rest at Hinku cave. Same thing happens again as it happened many times during the whole trek. A moment comes I burst into tears out of a mixture of great joy, love, respect and gratitude. What mountains gift me is beyond words.
As I proceed, the clouds start to come down the valley. The porters keep on passing by me, carrying many stuff up to the base camp. Despite their heavy loads, I like to see them singing in a joyous way. Every time I see them, I step out of the way and greet them (namaste) with respect. Since this is a sacred area for Buddhists you can see some altars on the way that has been built to approach and pray.

The clouds eventually came all the way down to the bottom of the valley. Mother nature -with all her elements, mountain, forest and the river- was looking so mysterious.

After arriving at Deurali clouds dissolved slowly and opened the view. What I saw was magnificent. So high and huge rocky mountains were standing up right in front of me. I took my time and peacefully enjoyed the view till the sunset. The weather started to get really cold. I am now at 3200m. Tomorrow I have to start walking early to cross the avalanche area as early as possible. By the impact of the rising sun the snow starts to melt and this may form avalanches.

I’m so excited. Today is the big day that I’ve been waiting for. It will take me to the Annapurna base camp.

From now on I see a dramatic change on the landscape and flora. There are no more trees and big rocky surfaces rise up high on both sides of the valley. I am getting closer to the source of Modi river that was accompanying me for days. The mountains that show themselves in the far view keeps me on my path. I am proceeding with excitement but still be aware to be slow. It is so important not to rush at these altitudes.

Then Machhapuchhre Base Camp at 3700m becomes visible. It is the blue coloured little settlement in the center of the picture above. Up until this point I have always proceeded to the north and from there I will turn to west (left) for the last part of the ascend.

After that turn I leave Machhapuchhre Base Camp behind. As I proceed to the west I start to see the majestic Machhapuchhre. (6993m) (above, top) It is a holy mountain. Because of the impossibility it is forbidden to climb to its summit. And when I look at the direction I am heading to I already start to see some peaks of Annapurna. (above, bottom) My heart beats faster with excitement. With each step I feel the pull into the center of a great mystic beauty.

Eventually when I reach at Annapurna Base Camp I feel like drunk with an ecstatic joy. Whoever see this gigantic strength and breathtaking beauty in front of their eyes would feel the same way.
The peak on the left is Annapurna South (7219m). The one next to it is Annapurna I (8091m) which is the 10th highest mountain of the planet. The sharp one on the right is Machhapuchhre (6993m). And below that –again on the right- we see the base camp in blue colour. Generally the clouds cover the view in the afternoons but I was so lucky as the weather was clean clear that day. I enjoyed this supreme view all day long.

This is the end of Part 1. Now I welcome you to Part 2 which tells more about the base camp and all the upcoming days of my trek.

The Author