Annapurna Base Camp – finally a trek!

Mid-October, the Dashain holiday, time to finally get myself up into the beautiful Himalaya and complete my first true trek. First genius move; left my camera on the bus to Pokhara. So, all photos are limited to only having my ‘extremely reasonably priced’ Chinese mobile phone camera as a back up. Hopefully before too long I’ll be able to add some photos from my trekking partners but for now, here’s the best I have to try and convey to you some of the majesty of my first meeting up close with the Himalaya;

#1 Day one: Naya Pul (1070m) to Ghandruk (1940m); a morning departure from Pokhara to the start of our trekking route at Naya Pul. What I have come to love as the classic Himalayan ‘foot hill’ views covered with villages and paddy fields with our fist tantalising peeks of still distant snowy peaks;

01 dawn day 2

#2 Day 2: Ghandruk to Chhomrong (2340m with a lot of ups and downs in between!?); time to introduce my partners in crime. As plan after plan for trekking partners fell through I eventually swallowed my pride and put out a blatant Facebook plea – and I’m so glad I did. Happily friends of friends were put forward and I couldn’t have asked for a more lively and supportive trekking family. The wonderful Italian (or should I better say Sicilian?) Gaia – currently volunteering for 3 months with Circus Kathmandu (find out more here) and the tenacious Liam – an Australian engineer from London about to release a great looking blog-turned-book about a previous ‘inefficient’ journey across Africa (find out more here);

02 partners in crime

#3 Day 3: Chhomrong to Deurali (3230m); from Chhomrong we started up into the main valley which would take us all the way to base camp. The valley offered two days of walking through immensely varied terrain. A wide sweeping valley;

03 view 1

#4 Walking through dense forest with the joy of observing families of Grey Langur monkeys swinging through the trees;

04 view 2

#5 Higher up the trees thinned out, and a more arid-feeling, alpine landscape opened up;

05 view 3

#6 A totally different type of flora and fauna was all around on our last day. Including immense birds of prey circling overhead, unfortunately no chance to ascertain which they were but I’d wager something eagle-esque with approaching a 2m wingspan (everything is big in Nepal!);

06 flora

#7 Day 4: Deurali to Annapurna Base Camp (4130m – uuff!); After a fourth day of spectacular walking in glorious sunshine, our actual arrival at base camp was shrouded in low, drizzly cloud. For the final stage we were all exhausted. Unable to go fast enough to generate enough body heat I hence arrived wearing almost all of the layers I had brought with me and was very grateful for them. Although still early in the season, so snow still only higher up the peaks, it was cold enough for a substantial frost in the morning. We were very happy to arrive though and it made the view we woke up to all the more spectacular;

07 base camp

#8 We got up at 5am to view the starry sky fade as the sun slowly rose. Here’s a view across the base camp settlement to the distinctive Mount Machhapuchhre (Fish tail in English). Looking almost due east here, so the direction of the rising sun;

08 base camp 2

#9 And looking due west from base camp we had the spectacular, awe-inspiring views of sunrise hitting the peaks of the Annapurna range including Annapurna South (7219m). I feel obliged to just mention at this point that the sensation of being present amongst these majestic natural wonders would be hard to capture in a photo anyway, and working with only my dodgy ‘not-entirely-dim-but-not-necessarily-smart’ phone I feel I am sadly failing. However, I am totally hooked on trekking the Himalaya (as I believe anyone is who steps foot out here), I have a new camera ready for next time and I was trekking with two avid photographers so perhaps I’ll be able to share some more worthy photos soon or latest after my next trek which I hope will be before too long…;

09 sunrise

#10 Day 5: Annapurna Base Camp to Bamboo (2335m); Sadly, after a spending as long as possible soaking in the sunrise and sense of wonder of being surrounded by Himalaya on all sides, it was time to set off back down the trail. The continuation of stunning views made it a little easier to bear however;

10 view 4c

#11 Travelling with a circus performer, it was entirely necessary to make the most of stunning scenery for some slightly unusual photo shoots. Here’s my favourite from the trek; check out more of Gaia’s work here

11 acrobatics

#12 Day 7: Jhinu (1710m) to Australian Camp (2060m); On day 6 we descended down from Bamboo heading as far as we could, on a tight schedule to get Gaia out of the park and back on a bus to Kathmandu and her work in time for Monday morning. However, luckily for us as we passed through Jhinu – of hot springs fame – we were convinced by friends we had met along the way to stay there for the night and make the most of the springs. We succumbed. It was well worth it. Sitting in toasty, soothing water, after a splash in the shockingly cold glacier run off river. As the light fades, hundreds of tiny bats (small enough to be mistaken for moths at first) swoop in all around us in a silent aerial display, grabbing a quick drink before starting their night – magical. On day 7 our little trekking family split ways but as we had made so many friends along the way we split into two even larger groups to carry on our separate journeys. At lodges, in villages and on the trail we made friends every step of the way. Not least the fabulous Loulou, Theo and Amaya (3 years) who we joined up with from Jhinu. Here is a local from Tolka, Laxmi, befriended by Loulou, proudly showing us her sun dried tomatoes in progress. A previously unknown to us type of tomato which effectively grows on a tree, Laxmi harvests, dries & packages them for sale by her brother living in London. If anyone spots them for sale let me know!;

12 Laxmi

#13 Wrapping up the end of a fantastic trek, heading through beautiful villages and enjoying our final morning sunrise over Himalaya panorama;

13 views

#14 Total distance covered was around 80km, total elevation gain & loss 3000m each way which does not take into account the soul destroying additional ups and downs which need to be traversed along the path in between. On our last morning we took it easy. I took a while to read my book, in the sunshine, on a Dashain swing, with a view of the Himalaya as a back drop. I’ve had worse mornings;

14 swing

Right, where to next…?

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5 comments

  1. Emily Collis

    Wow! Looks amazing jess, even through your slightly challenged camera phone!! Em. Xx

  2. Chris

    Great trip down memory lane for us (or should that be up and down memory lane)… and beautifully recorded as always. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. finally you did it wow :). i have traveled to different parts of ABC at different times and though I have not done the whole circle and I miss Jhinu and springs most. Did you pass by Thorong La or used the the other way. “where to next…?” may be next explore to manang and mustang regions they are best in this season if you are afraid of snow in other area

  4. Petra

    Wow. Lady, this looks fantastic. It seems even an ‘extremely reasonably priced’ Chinese mobile camera is able to do great pics. Thank you!

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