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Annapurna Foothills Trek Part 2: Walking From Sunrise to Sunset
I spent four days #hiking in #Nepal with a fantastic group of people. We went up into the Annapurna Foothills, and got #active on this challenging trek. Our last two days were spectacular, with snow-capped peaks in view, and a deeply colorful sunrise marking the end of our journey.
Day 3: Arriving at Dhampus in the Darkness – 18 km
It’s 7am by the time I leave the warmth of my sleeping bag and head down to the breakfast table on the open porch of Breeze Teahouse. The view before us comes as quite a shock to my system: three snow-capped peaks – Annapurna South, Himchuli and Macchapuchre – stand before us, so close that they almost feel like they’re within reach. Surrounding us in all directions are looming mountains, lime green rice fields and straw huts — reminding me that I’m in the Himalayas.
The white snow on the mountain peaks sparkles under the bright sunshine.
As we sip chai and finish up our roti, the sun slowly rises above the mountain peaks, casting its rays upon the mountains and blanketing everything in a golden glow. The white snow on the mountain peaks sparkles under the bright sunshine, while a deep sapphire blue clouds the lower half of the mountain where the sun has yet to reach. The setting is ridiculously beautiful and almost unreal – like an image I’d conjured before the trek. This is, without a doubt, my favorite spot on the trek.
After piling up our bags and pulling on our hiking boots, it’s time to start a long day of walking. The hike ahead promises to be brutal as we will hike down all the way to the bottom of the Modi Khola gorge then scale up to over 6,900 feet (2,100m) above sea level to reach Deurali before descending down to our destination of Dhampus at 5,250 feet (1,600m).
The initial part of the trail is easy enough: we putter down the stone paths with much caution but little physical strength, zigzagging through the village of Ghandruk, past dry rice terraces, wheat fields and water buffalos. The descent is easy and comforting, it even gives me time to take in the view around us and stop to chat with ladies who are out drying millet. “Kecha!” I call out to them, only to find them bursting into fits of laughter at my incomprehensible Nepali.
Children baring tanned skin and ragged clothing wave at us as we pass, chanting "namaste! namaste!" in a sing-song manner. We even come across a family who seems to have bought a new water buffalo and are trying to drag it back home. There are at least ten of them, but no one seems to know how to get the big beefy creature moving.
Children baring tanned skin and ragged clothing wave at us as we pass, chanting "namaste! namaste!"
Down and down we go, until we’re almost at the bottom of the Modi Khola gorge where the emerald river rages on. A steel suspension bridge decorated with colorful Tibetan flags leads us over to the other end of the gorge, where an infinite series of stone steps await. Sadly we’ve come to the part I hate most: the ascent.
“The most important thing is to go slow, this is not a race,” BK said at the beginning of our trek.
I keep his words in mind as I put one foot before the other, step by step, one at a time. Locals who walk past us on their way down kindly give us words of encouragement, “Go go go,” one young Nepali girl says to me as she runs downhill. Our porters on the other hand are racing up the steps at a pace far too quick for me to keep up with. I’m embarrassed by my own poor physique but amazed by the strength and tenacity of our porters, who are way faster despite the heavy load on their backs.
Treasure of Nepal
Everest Base Camp Trek
One of the porters, Sudarshan, falls back to make sure I’m fine. Seeing that he’s still got a heavy load on his back, I pick up my pace to make sure he does not get bogged down by me. With the little English he speaks and the little Nepali I’ve learned from them, we chat about life in Nepal. The 49-year-old native has a wife back at home in the Kathmandu Valley and they have three grown-up children together – the oldest working in Dubai and the youngest still studying in university. He supports his entire family with his salary, but sadly, he has to retire in just one year.
G Adventures only allows porters to work until 50 years of age.
As BK shares with me, G Adventures only allows porters to work until 50 years of age. Thereafter, if the porter can work in the office, they will continue to employ him. Many porters inevitably suffer from back and neck problems due to the load they carry on a daily basis — Raju, another one of our porters, suffered from serious altitude sickness one time and had to be airlifted for urgent treatment. Thankfully he recovered and is now back on the trek. Because of such problems, G Adventures makes sure that the porters do not carry more than 20kg of load each and receive enough rest on the trek.
Spectacular Landscapes in Nepal’s Backcountry
After what seemed like an eternity on the steps, we finally reach the end of the steps where a cute charming village, Tolka, stands. From here, the view is dizzying – terraces of multi colors ranging from daisy yellow to lime green fold ever so elegantly along the slopes of the gorge, creating immaculate wave patterns that resemble a dragon’s tail. The landscape reminds me of Sapa in northern Vietnam and Longsheng in China, but the mountains around us affirm we’re in the Himalayas.
The mountains around us affirm we’re in the Himalayas.
A lunch spread of Chinese chow mein, Nepali pizzas and the quintessential dhal bhat almost sends us into a food coma, but there’s no time to rest: we need to keep walking if we wanted to get to our teahouse before dark. Thankfully, there are no more steps to climb; in their place is a wide gravel highway that slopes gently downhill. The descent and smooth gravel surface quickens my step and I can’t help but skip downhill. And as we move as a group, we find ourselves falling more and more into step with life on the trail.
Three hours later we find ourselves heading deep into a misty cloud forest, walking beneath lichen and moss covered trees. It seems like a completely different world here —far from the lush green vegetation that we’d been surrounded by in the past few days. I find out later that the rhododendron forest here is regarded as one of the largest rhododendron forest in the world and it can be a spectacular place when the flowers bloom in spring.
Emerging from the forest, we finally find ourselves in the village of Dhampus, famous among tourists for the breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. But by the time we reach our teahouse, the last ebb of the sunlight has already faded into the distance and there’s no view to behold. It no longer matters to us though — we’re just thankful to have made it to our destination.
the village of Dhampus, famous among tourists for the breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
A cold shower later, all my exhaustion is washed away and I’m ready to celebrate. Our porters pour me a round of raksi (Nepali rice wine) and we huddle over the campfire, in the warmth of the shed. I’m not sure if it’s because of my Asian blood or the camaraderie that comes with trekking together, but I feel an affinity with the porters who seem to share an equal liking for my company. That night, we drink, laugh and dance until it’s time to hit the sack.
Day 4: An Easy Descent to Phedi – 8 km
Our last morning comes and we’re all standing out on the rooftop terrace waiting for the sun to make its appearance. The sky above seemed too cloudy at first, but with a bit of patience, we’re rewarded with an outrageous view. Streaks of electric pink light slowly pierce through the clouds, eventually revealing the ball of fire in its full glory. Within seconds, the sun lights up the entire sky and landscape in vermillion and fires the chilly morning air with warmth.
We’re all so flushed with excitement at the phenomenal sight that we almost forget it’s our last day on the trek. The hike today is a short and easy walk from Dhampus down to the village of Phedi where we’ll be picked by our driver. With a heavy heart, we start our descent down gently sloping steps, through more rice fields and tin-roofed huts. The five miles (8km) to Phedi seem to pass in a blur, and suddenly, we reach the end of our journey.
The range of emotions I’ve experienced on the trek is extraordinary: from the feeling of immense exhaustion on our first long hike to the overwhelming sensation of empowerment at being able to push myself harder than I thought I could go. At the end of it, I can’t help but feel a certain sadness that it’s over.
The range of emotions I’ve experienced on the trek is extraordinary
The trek may have been a short one, but it’s given me a peek into life on the trail in Nepal and I know for sure one day I’ll be back.