In the 80s only a handful of trekking companies organized camping trek to this region on expedition style camping treks. It is just as recently as 2011 that some lodges have opened up at strategic points for trekkers to be able to do lodge/teahouse trekking to Mardi Himal. The area lies east of the Annapurna base camp trekking trail. It is a right combination of walking through some villages on the famous Annapurna trail, secluded forest, open ridges and rugged mountain terrain with Mount Machapuchhare’s (Fishtail) shadow. This trek is fast gaining popularity with trekkers both from overseas and locals.
Mardi Himal Trek is an excellent alternative to the ultra-popular Poon Hill trek with lot fewer trekkers, but it is fast gaining popularity. However, the lodges are very basic with a similar choice of food on the menu like on the main Annapurna trail. The trails can be quite secluded with some signboards with arrows pointing to the next destination.
Here is a sample itinerary for this trek.
Day 1: Pokhara to Kaande, Pothana 1900 meters or Pitam Deurali 2300 meters.
You can either get into a local vehicle or rent a private transport to drop you off at Kaande – an hour drive from Pokhara. From Kaande it is a pretty steep 2 hour ascend to Australian camp passing through small villages at the beginning. On clear days terrific panoramic views can be expected at Australian camp at 2100 meters. Depending on the time you arrive here, you can either stop for some drinks or have lunch here. If you come here early, you can hike down towards Pothana village as another option for lunch. The hike is through a forest until you reach Pothana 1900 meters. You can either stop here for the night or climb a little under an hour to reach Pitam Deurali 2300 meters. The lodges here are very basic except for one new one that was ready in spring 2016. It makes the next day’s trek to Forest camp a shorter hike. It can take as long as 7 hours from Pothana.
Day 2 Pothana / Pitam Deurali to Forest Camp (Kokar) 2600 meters.
You need to take a packed lunch and enough water to last you the whole day as there is no lodges or tea house to stop for refreshments in the forest trail. It takes around 6-7 hours from Pothana and 5-6 hours from Pitam Deurali. From Pitam Deurali you leave the main Annapurna trail and start climbing in the Rhododendron forest. This path used to be the shepherds’ trail bringing their animal to higher pastures during the summer monsoon. Several trails lead to some neighboring villages.
You need to try and stick to the widest and what appears to be the most trodden trail (this can be tricky if you are there early post-monsoon); which is again a good idea to trek with other trekkers or book your trip with a trekking company for safety. You will be walking on the ridge of the forest with some ascends mostly with occasional descends. You can stop at one of the several openings to have your packed lunch. There are only three lodges at the Forest camp. It is in a beautiful setting as the name implies in the middle of a forest.
Day 3 Forest Camp / Kokar to Low Camp 2950 meters or further on to Badal Danda 3250 meters.
The trail continues to climb gradually in the Rhododendron forest. You will reach Low camp in about 3 hours. It is an opening in the woods with three lodges. Some trekkers stay here for the night or continue to Badal Danda or all the way to high camp. You can have lunch here and go on for another hour of an uphill climb to Badal Danda, be informed that there is only a single lodge with six rooms there. If you manage to get a room, Badal danda is above the tree line, and on clear days, spectacular views of Machapuchare, Mardi Himal, and Annapurna South can be seen.
There is a point above the lodge on the left for spectacular views in the morning for sunset or sunrise the next morning. Badal Danda to High Camp 3550 meters. The trail is n a ridge of the hill with small shrubs above the tree line with Annapurna South, Machapuchare and Mardi Himal dominating the skyline to the North, a broad valley to the east and one can see the trekking trail to Annapurna base camp about a thousand meters below to the West. High camp is a small open pasture with three lodges.
Mardi Base Camp 4500 meters.
The trail is narrow and exposed at some parts with sheer drops. You need to be very careful at those points, forget about going higher if you are there in winter and if there is snow. You will reach an area with a sign that says MBC in two hours, it should be good enough to arrive here, but the “proper “ Basecamp is a further 2 hours away from here. Remember you have to walk back the same way back to High camp. The views are fantastic even at just an hour’s walk from high camp.
Forest Camp 2600m
Retrace your steps all the way back to Forest Camp. You will find it a fascinating hike on the downhill with more oxygen to appreciate the scenery better. Total walk about 5-6 hours.
Forest Camp to Lwang Ghalel 1500 meters.
The trail descends steeply through rhododendron and Oak forest to the permanent settlements closer to valley basin. From this point the trail contours and is undulating. Lwang is a Gurung village with rich culture and traditions. There are homestays in this village provides you with an excellent opportunity to experience a village lifestyle of the Gurung Clan. The Mother’s group will make you a traditional Nepali staple of Dal Bhat (rice, lentils, vegetable curry, some spicy sauce and maybe even chicken curry) with fresh organic ingredients. If you are in a small group, you can also ask for a cultural evening for a small donation.
The next morning you can take a shared jeep back to Pokhara. The first hour on the vehicle is on dirt road followed by a further 30 minutes on a black-topped road to Pokhara.
There you go. You have an itinerary for less walked trekking trail in the Popular Annapurna region. Recently, An all women Singaporean trekkers completed this trek with us.
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