Annapurna Base Camp Trek during the monsoon season
Day 1: I had returned home the previous night after finishing the Helambu trek with a family. I got up after a restful sleep. My new trekkers consisting of a father and son from Singapore were arriving this afternoon landing at 12.30 pm. I was to meet them, walk to the domestic airport and we were to catch a 2.50pm flight to Pokhara on the same day. I was getting ready packing up while checking my Flightstats app on their flight’s status. It showed that their flight was to land 25 minutes before the estimated time of arrival (ETA). We had agreed earlier to meet outside the arrival terminal, and they were given my description although I was already connected to Kevin – the dad on Facebook and WhatsApp. The father and son trekkers – Kevin and David Kho.
When they came out of the arrival terminal, I waved at them, and they walked towards me. We had a quick handshake, they were welcomed to Nepal, and we walked over to the domestic terminal, which is less than 10 minutes walk from the International Terminal. We went to the restaurant after going through the security check for a light meal. We boarded the flight, which was on time for a short 25-minute flight to Pokhara. We saw some Himalayan Summits peeking out of the monsoon clouds on the flight. Upon landing in Pokhara, we boarded our pre-booked van to our hotel, agreed to meet up to go for a walk along the Lakeside shops to purchase what they needed for the trek. We were lucky to see Mount Machapuchare (Fishtail) 6993 m with fresh monsoon snow on it. It had more snow now than the rest of the year. We had an early dinner of tandoori chicken, fish, and naan before retiring for the night.
Day 2: We woke up early for our 6.30 am breakfast. We had a 2 and half hour drive to our starting point to be followed by a 3-4 hour uphill trek to our next destination of Chomrong. We stopped and picked our support crew after an hour of driving and continued. Fifteen minutes before we reached our stop we had to change into another jeep on the other side of a small landslide, which had taken place the previous night. We were informed that falling rocks had injured a local trekker on the regular trail on the Westside of the Modi River. The rockfall was caused by an excavator constructing a new road. We had to walk on the newly made path on the East side of the Modi River. The Singaporean trekkers were briefed on how to be careful on the wet stone, slippery roots, and trail and to avoid moist areas to avoid leeches. We stopped at New Bridge for lunch that had been ordered by Ram, our porter in advance. We had another 2 and half hours of the uphill trek until we reached Chomrong village our destination for the day. We were making good time on the hike when it started to rain rather heavily 35 minutes before Jhinu Danda. We decided to stop here – an hour before our target destination to avoid walking in the rain, and we didn’t want to exert the trekkers on the very first day as they had a very early start to the day. We had time to enjoy some hot beverages, hang our wet clothes to dry at the lodge. The trekkers Kevin and David were giving a talk on Nepal; it’s topography and ethnology before dinner. They retired early to get ready for a long trek the following day.
Day 3: We got up early with our Ayurvedic energy boosting drink as usual and started the day early at 7.30am with the hope to get into camp before 3.30pm to beat the rain. We had a steep 300 meters of climbing to Chomrong village. They made good time getting to Chomrong, and we discussed pushing on to Bamboo which was a further 4 hours away for lunch, so we had only an hour to our final stop at Doban. This is a physically tough day as, after the 300-meter climb, we had to descend on steps down to Chomrong river, and a 75-minute ascend to Sinuwa at 2340 m. I asked the trekkers if they were hungry or needed to get some snacks, as there was nothing once we left this place until we reached Bamboo for lunch.
The area from now on until Annapurna Base camp and back is called the special management area. No bottled water is allowed for environmental reasons along with fresh or dried meat for religious beliefs. During the "off-season," the lodge owners take annual turns to man each stop: One lodge will serve food, however, if there is a need for more rooms, the other lodge owners leave the room keys to the operating lodge owner so trekkers can sleep in their lodges.
We trekked through a lush area of Oak, Rhododendrons, and Bamboo forest with numerous waterfalls. The last time I had hiked in this area was in the Christmas period of 2014. I noticed that the lodge owners had widened the trails, laid slates and made steps to conserve the trail and difficult rocky trail had been flattened.
We reached Bamboo at 1 pm and were served our order of mixed fried noodles within a few minutes as Ram; our porter had gone ahead of us to order our lunch. It takes between 60-90 minutes for meals to get ready, as it is freshly prepared. Kevin loved the fried noodles and said that this particular noodles would do very well in Singapore (he was in the food business for six years, so I guess he knows what he is talking about). The cook of the lodge was delighted when I told him this. Feeling energetic after a sumptuous meal we continued to Doban 2600 m our stop for the day. We were glad to have covered an extra hour of walking with no problems for anyone. Upon getting there, we learned that two other trekkers were going towards Basecamp and a big group of 19 trekkers from a London school along with their support crew were coming down from Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). This was encouraging to see these many trekkers on the supposed to be the offseason. When the students arrived, we learned that they were booked with a UK company called World Challenge.
Day 4: We got up early after a restful night of sleep. We were greeted by the summit of Mount Machapuchare (Fishtail) at Doban. Kevin had gotten up earlier and saw some wildflowers on his morning walk. We started trekking as usual after a hearty breakfast. Kevin pointed out the flowers that had taken his notice, and soon we were mesmerized by the abundant wildflowers in bloom. We had been enjoying the fresh bamboo shoots that were used on the food we had been eating for lunch the previous day. This was a beautiful day admiring the flowers, waterfalls and raging streams. We had a mixture of undulating to steep uphill walk until we reached Himalaya 2900 m where we stopped for a hot drink. We continued on the uphill to a rock outcrop named Hinku Cave from where we could see Deurali – our lunch stop. We had to go through a small descend, cross two wooden bridges over torrential streams and a short climb to Deurali 3200 m for a very welcome lunch. We had a further 2-hour trek until we got to Machapuchare Base Camp (MBC) at 3700 m. Once again the trail had been widened, and some climbs were made more comfortable by contouring rather than climbing. We saw a much more new type of flowers on our hike to MBC. For the 2nd day of the trek, we didn't get rained upon. There was a Spanish couple at the lodge we staying at MBC. Kevin had a long conversation with their shared interest in mountain biking.
It was good to see Dilip the owner of the lodge after a long time. I requested him to add the wild herbs and edible plants to our dinner.
Day 5: We woke up early as usual with our herbal drink in the morning. I stepped into the front yard of the lodge to be greeted with views of Hiunchuli 6441 m, Annapurna South 7219 m to the West and Machapuchare 6993 m was covered by the cloud to the east. The warmth of the sun soon cleared up the view of Fishtail 6993 m, and I called out to David and Kevin to come out with their cameras; being the monsoon this was a real bonus, and one can't tell how long the clouds would remain down. Today is a short 2-hour hike up to Annapurna Base Camp with a gain of 400 meters. We started hiking after breakfast with plenty of stops to take photographs of the mountains and abundance of flowers on the fields with raging streams on the way to ABC. We were greeted with Panoramic views of Fishtail, Gandahrba 6248 meters, Annapurna III 7555 meters Singuchuli 6501 meters, Annapurna I 8091 meters Barahi Shikhar (Annapurna Fang) 7647 meters, Annapurna South 7219 meters, and Hiunchuli 6441 meters. We arrived at ABC at around 10.15 am, the clouds were slowly beginning to cover the peaks. We were the first ones to get there on this day. Upon asking the lodge staff if they had bookings, they said there was a group of 16 Koreans and 11 Nepali support crew coming later in the afternoon. By 2 pm the peace was gone as were the views of the majestic Himalayan peaks. It had started raining from 11 am on and off for most of the day.
Day 6: We were greeted by the 360 degree views the surrounding mountains, but this morning the cloud cover took place by 7.30 am, so we were fortunate to have gotten the views we did when we did. Today was a long day of about 7-8 hours of retracing our steps back to Bamboo and a whopping 1700 meters of descending mostly. Although we came up the same way, it was so much more comfortable admiring the flowers and views on the way down when breathing is so much easier. We stopped at Himalaya 2900 meters for lunch, which Pemba our trekking chef had prepared – macaroni in “Himalayan” Carbonara sauce sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. All of us suffered from “food coma” after that deliciously creamy pasta meal. We decided on to continue towards Bamboo after a good rest. We passed quite a lot of trekkers heading up towards Basecamp on the whole way down, and this was supposed to be the monsoon off-season. We arrived in Bamboo in a total of 6 hours of trekking – for the first time. We weren’t rushing in particular. David and Kevin were given a talk on Buddha, his life, practices, and philosophy before dinner by yours truly which the father and son enjoyed and hadn't heard this version of the story. David and Kevin opted for the mixed fried noodles they enjoyed on the way up for dinner.
Day 7: Our usual wake up call with the herbal drink, packing up and coming for breakfast was routine by now. We retraced our steps back towards Sinuwa, Chomrong – we stopped for lunch here. We finally go to sink our teeth into some chicken as we came out of the Special management area. It had started drizzling and raining from 9 am onwards with varied intensity. We continued downhill to Jhinu Danda our stop for the night. We were relieved to get out of the rain for the day. David, Kevin, and Ram went down to the hot spring which is 20 minutes downhill next to the Modi River. They decided to go despite being told the pools were under the waters of the Modi river, and they have to be extra careful in case of a flash flood, which was why I sent Ram with them. They returned 2 and a half hours later. They ran all the way up as the trail was leech infested. Ram was bitten in 2 places whereas David and Kevin had leeches on their clothes but hadn’t been bitten yet. They used the “anti-leech pouches” we had given to get rid of the leeches. The Khos were treated to a lovely South East Asian style chicken curry along with stir-fried wild edible plants, herbs and mushrooms in oyster sauce; followed by Apple fritters with maple syrup for dessert.
Day 8: To the pleasant surprise of the Khos, they were treated with waffles for breakfast. We had a 3-hour trek to the road head and a 2 and half hour drive back to Pokhara. We were happily hiking on the trail until we came to the part that was a diversion to avoid the falling rocks from the road construction on the opposite side. This area was infested with lots of leeches of various sizes, and the biggest type had yellow stripes on the sides. Apart from being bloodsuckers, another common thing they had was – SPEED. They were sprinting towards us. Thank god for the “anti-leech” pouches. Most of us were spent asleep on the drive back to Pokhara. We bade farewell to Pemba and Ram in Pokhara. The afternoon was spent in a relaxed mode by the pool, wandering around town shopping for souvenirs. We agreed to meet for breakfast before going to the domestic airport.
Day 9: We met up for breakfast and left for the airport. Our flight was on time with some view of the Himalayan peaks. We collected our baggage after landing at Kathmandu domestic airport, walked over to the international terminal. It was a long farewell; another wonderful trekking vacation had come to an end. We departed by promising to meet up again soon in the near future.
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