Setting off from Pokhara on our Nepal trek to Annapurna Base Camp (also called the ABC or Annapurna Sanctuary Trek) we walked through sunlit valleys and villages perched on hillsides, surrounded by terraced fields of wheat and vegetables.
The tea house lodges are whitewashed brick trimmed with blue paint and with red roses and lilies at the door. In the villages laden donkey trains pass through the stone streets, bells sounding gently. Men passed us on the trail disguised as bundles of green leaves.
As we approached Ghorepani we entered the forest, with leaping languars in the trees. The trees were also full of bloomin’ flowers because it was Springtime in Annapurna. There were huge rhododendrons – you couldn’t see the trees for the flowers – pale pink through to deep crimson. Vermillion rhododendrons glow like jewels in the sun. Hillsides of fragrant daphne; the last few creamy magnolia blooms; and delicate orchids.
From Ghorepani onwards you see a panorama of mountains on the Annapurna Base Camp trek, distant and mysterious. The huge bulk of Dhaulagiri rises out of blue misty hills despite the distance. Nilighiri caught the last of the sunlight as we warmed ourselves by the tea house fire.
We engaged a guide for the first few days of our Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, not so much to show us the way but in order to get closer to the culture of the country. He turned out to be a man of many talents, with a fledgling legal career as well as the guiding work (which I presume pays more than law), not to being mention Nepali dance teacher and card sharp! He was full of personality, a warm genuine person.
On day four it rained, on and off, but mostly on. We walked down, down the steep valleys and up, up, up the other side, the clouds boiling up from the valley floor. The mist was very atmospheric – villages appear and disappear. The vegetation continued to provide variety and delight with fresh birch and walnut leaves.
Rain at 2,000 metres means snow at 3,000 metres and when we reached our stop for the night the word was that there would be too much snow to get through to the Annapurna base camp (ABC). The next morning it was still raining and a “hut day” was declared – which means endless card games with the tea house manager and “guess who’s that famous person”. The rain finally rolled back to reveal fresh snow on the hills – down to 100 metres above the lodge. Mt Macchupucchre (the fishtail) was peaking over the hill – certainly the prettiest mountain on this Nepal trek.
The next day our patience was rewarded with a perfect blue sky day, a clear view down the valley, and then a wonderful walk up through a forest of alpine bamboo and trees providing just the right amount of sunlight and shade. Luscious ground ferns. Rhododendrons in the snow. Ahead, through the green valley, we approached the gorgeous mountains, gleaming white with their fresh coating of snow.
It was not long before the vestiges of yesterday’s snowfall up the valley appear beside the path. From morning tea onwards there were increasing amounts of the glorious white stuff until it covered the path on our way to the night stop. A number of trekkers passed us descending, no one had made it to base camp that day due to deep snow.
Next day we made it to Macchupucchre base camp (MBC), the penultimate guesthouse, through a winter wonderland of a valley, the trees all decorated and the boulders in the milky acqua river covered with snow. It looked like this is far as it would be possible to go so we settled down to a night of celebrating our achievements with a Yank, an Irishman and a bevy of Norwegian ladies.
In the morning, we prepared to head down the hill but a group of porters carrying supplies passed the hut breaking a trail uphill! Fortunately we had no planes to catch or schedules to meet so off we went towards Annapurna Base Camp.
Although the Nepali trek porters had made a good trail, it was very hard work walking up to above 4,000m through at times waist deep snow. Not to mention the altitude.
But it was all worth it. From ABC the scene is awesome, right behind you is Annapurna South, with the other Annapurnas circling around to Hiunchuli and Macchupucchre. We were truly surrounded by mountains in the sun!
By the time we got back to MBC the clouds were starting to roll in again and the first few flakes of snow falling. No one will make it to ABC tomorrow and we felt incredibly lucky to have caught that small window of opportunity.
Annapurna Base Camp is a fantastic Nepal trek with an amazing variety of landscape and weather – we walked in hot sunshine, mist, rain and snow. This Nepal trek ended up being far more of an alpine experience than expected. And did I mention the rhododendrons?
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you trekked in the Annapurna region of Nepal?
Read more about my Nepal trekking experience in the Everest region here.
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