For anyone who knows me well it’s common knowledge that I’m not the most outdoorsy type of person, I’d rather be lying on a beach with a cocktail in hand attempting to get a tan than do anything that could cause me to break a sweat, but having visited India for 5 months last year I came across a lot of other backpackers who had just finished their trips to Nepal and hearing their stories of snow-capped mountains and tiny teahouses perched on the edge of said monutains really piqued my interest. So when it came to booking my trip this year there was no question in my mind that I had to see what all the fuss was about.
After a little thinking I decided that my trek would be Poon Hill, I was told it would take between 4 and 6 days to complete. It wasn’t an easy trek but it also wasn’t too difficult for beginners. It is a section of the Annapurna base camp trek with views of the Annapurna range. Perfect for what I was looking for! I was lucky enough that when I was in Kathmandu I made friends with Jack and Connie who also wanted to do the same trek as me, so we decided to do the trek ourselves without a guide.
We got a taxi from our hostel in Pokhara to the starting point of our trek Nayapul, when we arrived there were other trekkers getting ready to set off looking a lot more prepared than us (I thought warm clothes and a pair of hiking boots would be enough, face palm!)
We walked to the check point, registered that we was starting our trek and followed the signs towards Poon Hill. The first part of our trek was pretty flat with a few ups and downs but nothing too strenuous. We couldn’t see much of the mountains though because of the looming dark clouds which could only mean one thing……….
Rain! And a shit load of it too!
If only we had remembered waterproofs! We were soaked through to the bone! We knew that we wasn’t too far from the town that we would be staying in for the night, Ulleri, so we just kept on walking. BUT then we reached the stairs. All 3200 of them. In torrential rain. Face palm again! My legs have never had a workout like it. After what felt like forever we finally reached the top just as it was getting dark. The only thing I could think of was ripping off the cold, wet and extremely sweaty clothes, but how was we going to get them dry for the next day? We literally jumped into the first accommodation we saw and it felt like all my prayers had been answered…….
SOMEWHERE TO DRY OUR CLOTHES!!!!
After eating a bunch of carbs and chocolate washed down with our celebratory beer we crashed out ready for the next day.
All I could think when my alarm went off was ‘please please please, no more rain!’ so when Connie pulled the curtain we got a pleasant surprise, blue skies!!!!!!
AND we could see the mountains!
We decided we wanted to get a wiggle on and start as early as we could today so that if we came across any more weather issues we had time to play with, especially as we was told there was unexpected snow fall further up our route to Gorephani. Something else we hadn’t planned for! We left Ulleri together, but the boys walked faster than me and Connie was a bit behind me, so this day I walked alone. With the skies being clearer and not worrying about the rain I had a real chance to take in the scenery and what was around me. I’ve never seen anywhere so frigging beautiful.
This was by far my favourite day, I had so much time to think whilst just putting one foot in front of the other. I found myself thinking about the book ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed, there is one part in the book where she meets other trekkers but after a day she decided to split and follow the trail alone again. I remember thinking ‘why would she want to walk on her own? Surely she would get bored?’ and I’m sure there were times where she was bored, but I finally understood the peacefulness of being left with your own thoughts and reflecting whilst alone. Every now and then my thoughts would be disturbed by clumps of snow falling from the tree and whacking me on the head! After 5 hours I caught up to the boys and reached the town we would be staying in for the night Gorephani. We decided to rest for the rest of the day so we could be up to Poon Hill for sunrise.
Day 3 Poon Hill
On this morning our alarms went off at 5:45am and it was -10 degrees outside. After putting on 6 layers (literally!) we left the guesthouse and started our walk up to Poon Hill. It was so bloody dark and so snowy and icy I was walking like Bambi on ice. We climbed up the stairs to the ticket desk which took about 30 minutes, once we paid I asked the guy on the counter how much farther we had to walk, he told me about another 40 minutes or so of stairs to the viewpoint. I could have cried. After a lot of slipping and sliding, a lot of 30 second breaks to catch my breath and a lot of swearing I made it to the top just on time for the sunrise over the Annapurna’s….
It was so peaceful and serene I could of sat there for hours, the mountains just looked so powerful, they almost didn’t even look real, like someone has just painted them into the skyline. Now I get what all the fuss is about.
After about an hour our feet started going numb, so now for the hard part, getting back down on all the ice. Going back down easily took me just as long as it did to go up, with a few bum slides thrown in. We went back and had our breakfast and started planning our way back and we decided on the route to Tadaphani, the hotel staff overheard us and asked if we had walking poles which obviously we didn’t when we told them this they insisted that we have sticks due to heavy snowfall on the way down, one of the guys disappeared for about 5 minutes and came back bearing 3 bamboo poles. So these were our walking poles which we still didn’t quite understand the relevance of (for some stupid reason!)
We set off poles in hand and made our way up the path to Tadaphani. There was snow and quite a lot of it but the first hour was uphill so the snow wasn’t much of an issue. We separated again so yet again these views were all mine for the taking along the way.
I noticed about an hour into the walk that I was slowly starting a decline and that it was getting a little slippy so I started using my stick for a little extra support.I met the others at the next town for a tea stop a few hours later. When we started off again the next bit of the trek wasn’t as easy as the last, I realised why the locals insisted on us using sticks. Where the stairs once were there was instead compacted snow that was more like a ice slide, steps no longer to be seen. I don’t think I have ever shit myself so much in my life. Ever. Knowing that you are on the side of a mountain with a high chance of hurting yourself and no way of getting to a hospital quickly is quite a sobering thought.
Luckily I caught up to Jack and we continued down together, but even with the sticks Jack had a tumble and we saw people literally slipping and falling over the edge. Luckily no one got hurt. I didn’t even manage to take any pictures of this area, I was too scared to take my eyes off the ground even for a split second. Moral of the story always hike with the correct gear!!! Reaching Tadaphani was like all my Christmas’s had come at once! The day had tired us out so much that I was asleep by 7.30 this night.
Our last day!! And to make things even better there was no more snow from here down!!! The view from out guesthouse was beautiful so we sat and enjoyed the view over breakfast.
After breakfast we set off on the last leg of our trek. This was such an easy day compared to all the others. Slowly going downhill, walking through mossy woodland that looked like a scene from The Lord of the Rings and every now and then the mountains would peak through openings in the woods. What a beautiful last day!
We reached Ghandruk early so we stopped for a long lunch and had one last look at the mountains before we headed for Kimchi where we would catch our bus back to Pokhara. I thought the worst part about this bus would be how bumpy in was on the way down, but actually it was all the drunk men that decided to pile on the bus and be a pain in the arse!
All in all what an incredible experience, I’m so proud and happy that I have finally done it, I never thought I would be able to say I have trekked part of the Himalaya’s, I never thought I would be able to physically do it. Word of advice to anyone wishing to do the same, DO IT! But get the right equipment first!