Off to the Mountains

On Sunday evening I made my way to the public bus, to Naya Pul. From there, at around dusk I walked to Birethanti, the first small village in the huge Annapurna National Park. For the equivalent of € 1.50 I moved into a modest room and fueled myself for the coming, physically demanding days, with one of the best “Egg Fried Rice” of my life.

From a few locals I got the information that I was able to get around the additional 2000 Rupees fee for “hiking teams”, which are added to the park entry of 3000 Rupees, by leaving early in the morning, before dawn. I did feel like paying the extra amount, since I was completely by myself on the road and did exactly as I was recommended. Loaded with only a small backpack of a bottle of water and a pair of sneakers, in addition to the hiking boots on my feet, I trudged in the gloomy morning into the unknown. The little information I gathered in advance made the ambitious first part of my three-day trek seem possible, but I was not completely sure. My early start into the day would end up being quite convenient.

For the first two hours, I met no one on the path paved with stones of all sizes. This calmness carried me, only accompanied by the sound of my own breath, the first hours in loneliness up the little hills.

And then, somewhat unexpectedly, the ascent began.

The 1,800 vertical meters, which were between my starting point and the small village of Ghorepani at 2800 meters, consisted almost entirely of steps. I should have overcome considerably more than 4000 of those steps on that day, when I arrived at my destination in the mountains rather exhausted at 17:30.

The temperature had already dropped to 0 degrees at that altitude. I was fortunate enough to get the room through which the heating pipe left the common room and thus to be able to gather some warmth for the following 2 days.

Armed with my headlamp, I left earlier on my second morning to not miss the chance of a breathtaking sunrise at the top of Poon Hill. At the appointed time, I was at the top but the sun let me and the other hikers down. The temperature felt 10 degrees below the one in Ghorepani, which was not only caused by the 400 meters difference in altitude, but also by the icy wind. It was definitely an experience but I would not jump out of bed and into the cold at 5 o’clock in this weather and limited visibility again.

The rest of the day was so much the better. Neither did I have to gain more altitude, nor did the cold last, which I was not ideally prepared for and even the sun came out. I walked past beautiful waterfalls and looked up at the 7000 meter high mountain peaks in the distance. This stretch of track from Ghorepani via Tadapani to Ghandruk was worth all the trouble I have had the previous day.

My last night in the mountains was accompanied by a sleet of snow, which dragged on during my descent, and left me under a plastic tarp for my last day, carefully putting one foot in front of the other on my way back to Naya Pul. Even in spite of the plastic tarp, I was wet as I got to my bus back to Pokhara.

Completely frozen through but relieved that the bus seemed to be driving, as I had heard the opposite from some locals, I made myself comfortable in one of the last remaining seats in the last row.

It only took half an hour before my relief started to crumble. On the completely soaked roads, nothing was moving. The news spread that the road was closed, but nobody knew anything specific.

After three hours of rest, during which we occasionally slid a few meters forward through the mud, a long night began seemed to be ahead of us. Some of the locals had already left and now most of the people left also set out into the dwindling daylight.

I spent the icy night at 0 degrees cowering in my backseat, in the still-damp clothes, and managed to find no more than two hours of sleep. It was the coldest night of my life!

The next morning there was a mood of departure and people got together. Fifteen men braced themselves against trucks to clear the way, but all in vain. After half an hour, I could not stand it anymore and decided to continue on the road, looking for someone who at the other end of the traffic jam had decided to turn around again.

As soon as I stepped out of the bus with my sparse belongings, a group of Canadians ran past me, who had the same plan. Together with them, I actually found, after a 15 minutes walk, an empty tour coach that drove towards Pokhara.

At the end of the story, I needed 16 hours for the 40 kilometers. Thats how my Nepal experience ended, but next time I would like to renounce the experience, Himalaya!

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