29 Jul, 2018 Great Nepal Treks
Kaji had called it Coca Cola Trekking referring to my trip to Annapurna Base Camp while we were on our way over the Cho La Pass in Everest Region. Obviously some pride there from my mountain guide in what is considered to be the “hardcore” trekking region of Nepal. “It will be easy for you after this one, you can drink beer and Coca Cola the whole way and the maximum altitude is just over 4000m”.
I had this in mind as we headed off from Pokhara two days after I flew back from Lukla. This was my first time on this trek and I had taken the opportunity to join this trip in order to photograph this trek and film some marketing video. And after seeing some photos from Annapurna Base Camp there was no way I would miss this opportunity. The group was 4 Polish from Canada. Culturally similar to me. A little older.
A nice 12 day itinerary. I had decided to carry my own gear “guide style”. I was warned in advance about the stairs on the first day climbing into Ulleri so I was prepared for it. And there were a lot of stairs. I was actually surprised at just how many stairs we would climb and descend over the next 12 days. Fortunately for me the low altitude made it a lot easier. Coca Cola trekking? Maybe not quite dear Kaji as the daily ascents and descents on this trek would easily double those in the Everest Region on an average day, are far steeper and not nearly as gradual.
I was surprised by the number of waterfalls on this trek. Much of it through dense forest. The section between Ghorepani to Tadapani in particular where the track follows a creek through dense forest took me much longer because of the stunning cascades around every corner.
The other aspect is the close proximity of the main peaks which take pride of place in almost every scene along the route. Annapurna South, Himchuli and the Fishtail (Machhapuchre) in particular. Something which in Everest Region requires ascending to over 4000m by comparison. In fact on the 12 days we were greeted by these epic views from our hotel almost every morning.
Our morning walk to Poon Hill on day 3 was stunning. Our 5am start up the stairs in a long line of trekkers was vaguely reminiscent of photos of summit day on Mt Everest but did not disappoint. We were rewarded with a panorama of peaks including the Dhaulagiri Range as well as the Annapurna’s and Machhapuchre. In fact I could see exactly why a 5 day trek around this area is so popular and within the scoop of possibility for most average fitness Trekkers. And looking at the vast forests of Rhododendron through the region left me with a huge desire to revisit the area in April as I could well imagine the profusion of colour that would carpet the hillsides.
The walk from Machhapuchre Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp was stunning. Better on the return leg than the ascent due to the tendency for clear mornings with cloud rolling in some time after noon each day.
Annapurna Base Camp was epic beyond belief. Set at the top of a narrow valley and surrounded completely by a ring of huge peaks featuring Annapurna South, Himchuli, Annapurna I and Machhapuchre as the key players. Even the late afternoon cloud rolling in and out and creating magic was a pure gift from the gods of nature photography. And of course the crystal clear morning while not as exciting for me was pure delight for the other Trekkers.
On the return journey we were treated with a lovely surprise at the Jhinu Hot Springs. Absolutely magic and so nice after over a week of trekking. Particularly for me as I had refrained from cold showers or paying for hot showers for the duration of the trek.
So Coca Cola trekking? Maybe not quite but certainly with a lot less “comfort restrictions” than Everest Trekking. We had lights and power the whole way, hot showers available although the wifi was not working for 2/3 of the way. The altitude was lower and it was not as cold so I would say from that “comfort level” viewpoint it was pretty easy. Physically though still pretty challenging though not nearly as hard as the high altitude routes. And of course PHOTOGRAPHY WAS EPIC.