Annapurna Poonhill Trek during the spring season
Annapurna Poonhill Trek during the spring season
Ghorepani Poonhill Trek during the spring season.
Kay and Paul started corresponding with us with their requests for visiting museums and architectural monuments of Kathmandu, which they are very passionate about, before heading out on their tailor-made trek during their nine-day visit to Nepal.
They had a hectic start to their first couple of days of the trip as we had to squeeze in as many World Heritage sites as possible on the afternoon they arrived and the next morning before flying off to Pokhara in west Nepal; then driving to the starting point of the trek and hiking for an hour on day two.
Day One, Kathmandu arrival, and sightseeing.
Their flight landed with a slight delay as it has become a norm at Tribhuvan international airport in Kathmandu due to the weather and air traffic. I met them, brought them over to the hotel to check in, have a quick bite, and go sightseeing during the afternoon after withdrawing money from an ATM.
Day two: Morning tour and onward to Pokhara.
They went on the sightseeing tour the next morning as planned, and they had an early lunch before there were dropped off at the domestic airport, where I met them and checked into the domestic terminal. We found out the flight had been delayed by two hours due to the morning foggy weather and air traffic upon asking the airline’s desk. We went through the usual security procedures, went to the departure lounge, and waited for our flight to be announced.
We went on to the bus, which drove us to the aircraft and waited to take off when the pilots were informed of heavy rain in Pokhara. We were told the flight was cancelled as it was getting late in the afternoon, and the torrential rain did not appear like it was going to subside anytime soon. After a quick discussion, the Thomsons agreed to my suggestion of not wasting time waiting another day to fly; instead, hire a vehicle and start driving as soon as possible.
We started on our overland journey after collecting our luggage at 5 pm. Pokhara is 200km to the west, and it takes 6-7 hours of safe driving on the winding mountain highway. We stopped at a small town called Damauli at 9 pm, checked into a small hotel, had a quick dinner, and retired as we had a 6.30 am start the following day.
Day three: Starting the trek.
We met at the reception, loaded our luggage onto the jeep, and started our road journey with a short stop for breakfast on the highway. We picked up our support team members at Pokhara after 90 minutes and had three more hours of driving before starting our trek. We drove to cover our lost time and to be back on schedule. So it is possible these days with the growing road network in the Annapurna area.
We got dropped off at Tirkhedhunga, walked for about twenty minutes before stopping for our pre-ordered lunch. After that, we had a pretty steep ascend on steps for two hours to Ulleri. Paul found it difficult with the temperatures around the low twenties Celsius, coming from Wyoming, where it was still around zero degrees.
We had been hiking towards Banthanti from Ulleri when we got caught in a hailstorm. We had just managed to find shelter in a tea shop when it started hailing heavily. The golf ball-sized made loud banging noise when it hit the tin roofs. Pretty soon, the path and fields were white with the hailstones. It stopped after 30 minutes of the inundant hail storm. We reached Banthanti in twenty minutes; it was the stop for the night.
Day four: Ghorepani 2850 m.
We started our hike after breakfast amidst the oak and Rhododendron forest with soothing sounds of flowing streams. We stopped for many photos to absorb the surroundings as it was a short 3-4 hours of hiking. We had planned to go up to Poonhill 3210 meters if the weather was good so we could enjoy the sunset. It also meant that we did not have to get up in the dark to go up Poonhill for sunrise and avoid the crowd.
The clouds started building up quite fast this morning, and we hoped to arrive at Ghorepani before it began to rain/hail, which we did. We had a relaxing afternoon as the weather was very cloudy. We had lunch walked around the village. We played a few card games with Ram, our porter, and Chandra, our trekking chef; this also helps bring the team and trekkers closer to each other with a few laughs together. Unfortunately, it started to rain and hail from around 2 pm onwards. We hoped that the downpour would clear the clouds for our sunrise the following morning.
Day five: Poonhill and on to Tadapani.
We woke up and left Poonhill at 4.40 am, as it takes an hour to ascend in time for the sunrise. We got to Poonhill at the right time, and it was crowded as expected with several hundred trekkers. We each had a mug of hot chocolate to celebrate the magnificent Panorama of the Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, and Manaslu ranges. Then, we did the usual photography, admiring the views, and headed back to Ghorepani for our breakfast, as we had five more hours of hiking to do that day.
Our hike to Tadapani, our next stop for the day, began with a climb to Deurali, a similar altitude as Poonhill at 3210 m. There is only a single teashop between Ghorepani and Deurali (Pass in Nepali. Hence, several thousand Deuralis on Nepal maps). We stopped at Deurali for some hot drinks as it had been two hours since leaving Ghorepani. To save time, we gave our lunch order to Chandra and Ram to go ahead of us and order the food to save time. We knew the weather pattern by now and wanted to avoid getting rained/hailed during the afternoon.
We arrived at Tadapani 90 minutes after our lunch spot to a full lodge. The lodge was filled with Chinese, Japanese, Germans, and American groups. Unfortunately, we had to wait for two and a half hours for our turn to take a shower as there were trekkers ahead of us. After that, we had dinner, followed by a few rounds of card games, before retiring for the night.
Day six: Jhinu Dana and hot-springs.
We woke up with the clouds covering most of the snowcapped peaks. We had a steep descent to the Kimron river, which took about two hours, followed by a forty-five-minute trek in undulating terrain and a ninety-minute climb to our lunch stop at Doorpin Danda. The lunch spot was also quite busy with other trekkers who had stopped for lunch.
We had a thirty-minute descend followed by a forty-five-minute ‘flattish’ walk before an hour of steep descend to Jhinu Danda. The Thomsons went to the Hotsprings by the Modi River, and it was one of the experiences they were looking forward to doing. It rained in the afternoon again, as was the pattern. They arrived back in the lodge just in time for their pre-ordered dinner and had an early night as the dip in the hot springs had relaxed them and their tired muscles.
Day seven; Trek to Siwei and drive back to Pokhara.
This was the last day of the trekking part for the Thomsons. They confided that they were sad and wished it was a few days longer. Then, we headed for the ending point of our trek, where our jeep would be waiting to take us back to Pokhara. First, we had to cross a pretty new suspension bridge that is 287 meters long and high above the Kimron river, and we had to wait for a mule caravan to come across from the opposite side; then, we had to walk briskly as there as another mule train behind us. It was another exciting moment for the Thomsons as they are horse lovers.
We reached Siwei, where Chandra had prepared Thai lunch for us, which we ate before proceeding to Pokhara. We dropped Ram off near his home; Chandra negotiated with a Van travelling to Kathmandu for a seat back as he had to rush to Darjeeling, India, the next day for another trek. We checked into the hotel, had nice showers, and went for a walk. I suggest that Kay and Paul have dinner between just the two of them for a couple’s time for that night.
Day eight: Paragliding, massage, and chill out in Pokhara.
We meet for breakfast at eight am as previously planned. We had a relaxing day, but Kay and Paul were going paragliding in the morning, so we did not want them to eat late before the flight. Unfortunately, the morning was gloomy and started to rain while we were having breakfast, and we were informed that the paragliding was cancelled for the day.
The next thing to do was to have a massage appointment set up. We were given the eleven a.m slot at the Tranquility Spa. Paul and I went for the deep tissue while Kay did the ninety-minute trekker’s massage.
The afternoon was spent window shopping, having lunch, and a long walk by the Phewa Lakeside before stopping at the Krazy Gecko restaurant and bar. They have an all-day buy one get one free cocktail happy hour. We had a relaxing time by the waterfront, enjoying our cocktails, and headed back to Khahare to the French Creperie. It was the first time the Thomsons had tried Galette; I have it at least once in Pokhara.
Day Nine: Fly back to Kathmandu and International flight.
We left for the airport, which is a short ten minutes drive from the Lakeside in Pokhara. We had learned that only the first phase of flights from Kathmandu had arrived the previous day and returned while the rest of the 4-6 stages were cancelled due to bad weather.
We would have chosen to drive back, but our airline’s aircraft reached Pokhara, but it was too late to fly back to Kathmandu. It was stuck in Pokhara. By pulling some strings, we were put on that flight back to Kathmandu. The weather was still bad in Pokhara, but we had the best chance of leaving Pokhara by air. We were kindly offered to hitch a ride back to Kathmandu by some trekkers with whom we had become friendly on the trek, other company directors I know, etc. Each time we turned down their kind offers.
Now it was touch and go; if the domestic flight was cancelled and missed their international flight, the Thomsons had to pay more than US$2000 one way to return. The weather in the Pokhara valley was lifting slowly, and Kay had a deadline of 1.15 pm to finalize the alternate booking for their international flight.
Fortunately for us, we were summoned to board the aircraft, we took off for Kathmandu. I was expecting it to be a turbulent flight as it was quite cloudy, but I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the flight was. We were delays by a few more minutes above Kathmandu before landing. We collected our luggage, and we boarded the van waiting for us at the International terminal. We said our goodbyes as we made it in the nick of time for the Thomsons to check-in for their onward flight.
It was a massive relief to all of us that everything went well in the end. But, unfortunately, we also learned that our flight to Pokhara was cancelled the next days after our flight due to bad weather.
We experienced the coldest and wettest winter and spring in 2019 due to Western disturbances and Bengal’s Bay.