06.11.2016 - 06.11.2016
I have originally shoot it in Russian, here is a subtitled version with some of the most beautiful views and my modest commentary
by backpackers for backpackers
06.11.2016 - 06.11.2016
I have originally shoot it in Russian, here is a subtitled version with some of the most beautiful views and my modest commentary
06.11.2016 - 06.11.2016
We were meaning to do this trip for quite a while, but something would usually pop up and we would go someplace different. First time I went to Bulgaria was back in 2011 for a skiing trip. Sadly I've broken my arm a week before that, hence couldn't ski and spend quite a lot of time hiking around the snowy hills. My first impression was that Bulgaria has a very good trekking infrastructure with marked trails and mountain huts. This made it possible to go on Nepal - style tea house trekking, or at least we thought so.
To hike from Ski resort of Borovets to the smallest town in Bulgaria - Melnik, just by Greek border. This trail follows European Long Distance Route -E4, that streaches from Pyrenees to Greek coast line.
Carry as little as possible, sleeping in Huts and getting all our meals there.
Sofia-Borovets (1200m) -Musala hut (2400m) - 9.1km
We arrived at our destination. About 2 hours on a bus from Sofia to Borovets with a change in Samokov. Bus leaves Autogara Yug - Southern Bus Terminal in Sofia.
Borovets is a ski resort, hence a bit of a ghost town in Summer with only a handful of places open.
During the weekends you can slice the trip down to 1,5h by taking a gondola lift to Yastrebets station.
Quite an easy hike, mostly on a jeep or a bike track. In just over 3,5 hours we got to our first destination - Musala hut.
We had Lecha for dinner - Lentil or Buckwheat soup, Bulgarian ultimate mountain food.
We were the only people staying in the Musala hut that day. A few words about the hut. It's a very small wooden two store structure. Generator powered and you have access to sockets so you can recharge your stuff. They build a new one just next to which looks like a 4* hotel. Toilet is outside and is quite toxic.
Costs: Bed - 15 Lev per person, 3 Lev - Soup, 1 Lev - Tea
Musala Hut (2400m)- Everest Hut (Ice Lake) (2800m)- Musala Peak (2925m)- Grynchar Hut (2400m) - 11km
It was supposed to be a quick and leisure-like day. Only 11km hike, picking up some 400m to the highest peak in Balkans - Musala. Well a lot can go wrong in the highlands, and it did...
To start with, as we were the only people staying in the hut, the keeper didn't bother preparing any food for breakfast. I guess they pre-cook a large pot and then keep it worm through the day.
Well not a problem, we had 10 snickers bars each, which is one a day to keep our sugar levels up. We had a snickers each for breakfast, washed down with a cup of tea, and off we went.
One thing that we realized very soon, is that mid June was still pretty much winter up there. We have reached Everest hut in 1,5h but it was closed and snowed in. Soon after hit a point where snow has blocked the trail to Musala peak turning it into some 500m -long steep slide. Without ice axes (and skills to use them) there was no way that you could arrest a fall. We had to get up on the ridge where there was steel cable installed. I guess it's used by weather-station staff to get up and down in winter.
As if it wasn't hard enough it started to snow and hail big time. This was the point that we realized that we left our gloves at home. Holding on to a freezing metal wire and being pounded by ice it took us about an hour to cover 400m and reach Musala peak.
What a view!
Well, luckily the weather station was open. The keeper let us in, put the heater on and gave us some tea. The guy spoke surprisingly good English too.
When we got out of the station we were welcomed to what is called white-out, this is when fog and snow blend into one and you loose seance of direction.
From there it was another 4 hours to cover 8 km. There are some ups and downs, but you still walk much slower than expected covering 2km/h.
We could see Grynchar hut from miles away, it's a massive complex with a bunch of structures and a website. We were getting hungry and couldn't wait to finally get there!
Here it is looks more like a village by the lake.
We met another Czech couple by the hut who were camping and looked really heavy. The bad news again, the keeper wasn't there. Luckily they leave the hut and one of the dorms open so people like us could use it for shelter. But there is no food. I had to take stock of our Snickers's and start to ration them. This is the point where you start to get worried, are we gonna get food in the next hut, is it gonna be even open... bummer!
Costs: Bed - 0 Lev, Food- 0 Lev!
Grynchar (2400) - Ribni Ezera (2200) - 16km
After having a delicious Snickers breakfast we were full of energy to climb up the hill again!
It's a quite nice walk to Ribni Ezera, mostly on a plateau with some great views.
Well up until one point where there was a snow blanket blocking our way again. We decided to climb down the rocks and get around the snow. You couldn't see far ahead as the hill was steep, every time when we thought we would get pass the rocks and onto grass we would found more rocks. Until we got to this....
The orange dot on the bottom is me :-)
God our knees were killing us!
From the very top of the ridge we could see that the hut was open and there was a little purple dot moving around - which was a grandma!
She cooked us some Lecha and Shopska salad. We met the Czech guys as well, they were on the way to Rila Monastery the next day.
You don't need much for happiness!
Costs: Bed - 15Lev, Soup- 3Lev, Shopska salad - 4 Lev, Omlet - 4 Lev. Beer - out of stock!
Ribni Ezera hut (2200m) - Makedonia hut (2200) - 11km
It was so good to start your day with a breakfast and not just sugar rush!
And we also picked up a new Friend
Well soon the things gone terribly wrong...
There are two trails to Macedonia hut, one is via a ridge, and a shorter one via descending to a lake and than climbing up. We picked the shorter trail as it would allow us to avoid the risk of being snowed in again.
Do not pick the lower trail, it does not exist!
We descended to the lake off trail thinking that it must have overgrown. than we started to climb over massive rocks and snow-traps trying to find the trail, my GPS was telling me that we must be on, but 2 hours into the climb we had to admit that there must have been some sort of fuck up with the map and the trail is simply not there.
Climbing over the rocks slows you down to about 0.5km/h, takes a lot of energy and kills your knees. Our dog couldn't keep up and left us to our demise.
Here is Dovile fighting her way through the rocks.
We decided to start climbing off trail right to the top of the ridge where we would find the other trail.
On the top we got a first glimpse of the Perin range.
And a Macedonia hut in the vicinity
That was the hardest day on this trek, and also a good reminder that a lot can go wrong in the mountains, and you can't measure distances in kilometers.
Well if it wasn't hard enough... Macedonia hut had no keeper, no food, but thankfully was open to stay.
A really solid new hut, recently renovated, equipped with decent bathroom and a wood-burner in the dorm.
Well Snickers dinner again....
Costs: Food - 0, Bed - 0
Makedonia Hut (2200m) - Bio-Hotel Moravske Selo (1100m) - 25km
Usual Snickers breakfast, we are down to 5 to share. I guess this means 2 each and one we will have to fight for.
I tried to comfort Dovile by saying that one can go for 5 days without food with no damage to health to which her response was and I quote - "I don't wanna survive I want to be on holidays"...
It's an easy well marked trail all the way to Kopathik peak, where you have to start a steep descend.
That's where trouble hits. It looks like there was some sort of a storm which has knocked down a lot of trees and destroyed the trail down. You just have to guess your way down the steep hill until you come to some fields. From there it's 3km on a jeep track through the forest and 5km on an asphalt road. That final descent has killed my knees completely and we have decided to take a day off by taking a bus to Bansko and picking up from Vihren hut the day after.
Moravsko selo is a beautiful place. We had a good dinner, hot shower, few beers and a first night when we didn't have to sleep in our clothes under 4 blankets.
Costs: Room - 50 Lev, Dinner and Breakfast with lots of beers - 60 Lev
God Bulgaria is cheap!!!
Bansko - day off
It's so weird to come to a ski resort in summer. A ghost town, with a massive Carrefour open and abandoned a 4* hotel for £20.
Vihren Hut- Vihren Peak - Vihren Hut
Our original plan would be getting to Vihren hut via Vihren peak, Konchetto and Pirin peak, but we decided that we already got more than we bargained for and took a day off.
We took a taxi from Bansko to Vihren Hut, on a meeter it was 45 Lev, you could take a gondola lift as well.
It's only 3,5km to the top of Vihren, but it takes about 3,5 hours to do that, a really demanding and steep climb.
Well 2 out of the 3 highest peaks in Balkans are under our belt and it took us less than a week.
Costs: Bed-12 lev, Lecha-2 Lev, Salad/Omlet - 4 Lev, Beer - 2 Lev
Vihren Hut (1800) - Tevno Ezero (2400) - Pirin Hut (1600) - 20km
The plan was to stop over nigh at Tevno Ezero hut, but we decided to try and win a day that we could spend in Melnik lazing by the pool.
Quite an easy walk, mostly staying on the ridge with some stunning views around.
Than we reach Tevno Ezero hut for some soup and tea - about 6 hours.
And from there it's all the way down!
We arrived at the Pirin hut to find the keeper sleeping in the dining room, and it took a lot of coughing to wake him up.
Than a bunch of local guys, fisherman and border guards turned up and they all had a party :-). we just wanted some sleep and food of course! It's nice to get fed every day!
Costs: Bed=10 Lev, Food dinner/breakfast 12 Lev- got to love Bulgaria 2 people can eat and sleep for less than £15
Pirin hut (1600m) = Melnik town (600 m) - 20km.
We got lower -we got warmer. But things can go wrong can't they? Well they can, we have lost our way even with the help of GPS (god bless Maps.Me app), and found ourselves on the top of some sandy cliff.
And this was the first time it felt hot!
Melnik is a really nice little charming place, officially the smallest town in Bulgaria.
We deserved that extra day staying in by the pool, drinking beer and Melnik Wine. A bit of trivia, apparently Melnik 20 was favourite wine of Whinston Churchill!
There is a 9:00 bus which will take you to Sandalski where you can get an easy connection to Sofia.
Budgets: you don't need more than 60Lev-€30 per day (€15 each) while in the mountains. You may want double that for when you come down to civilization.
Ukraine. A day trip to Chernobyl
I come from one of those countries where you don't have much to brag about. What the hell, most people don't even know where Ukraine is. But we there is one thing in Ukraine which was named The most exotic destination in the world - Chernobyl NPP Exclusion zone!
We used Chernobyl tour, it was about £100 for the trip. You need to book at least 10 days in advance as they need to get a pass for you. It's a good company, the guys speak English and handle all queries quickly.
After meeting in central Kiev (Maidan) we got on a 2 hours journey to the exclusion zone, watched a documentary in English, a good idea to get some background on the disaster.
Once you get into the exclusion zone you realize it's anything but a dead zone. In fact it's really alive, Chernobyl zone is the most successful nature reserve in Europe with a population of bears, wild horses and what not.
You skip by the actual city of Chernobyl where funnily enough radiation readings slightly lower than in Kiev. The city was spared by the radioactive cloud, than it was well-cleaned including slicing away a meter of soil, and is now home a few hundred Power plant workers.
We visited a couple of villages first:
And than over to the CNPP
They were planning to have 12 of the blocks running, you see them being built all over.
And there it is- infamous block 4. You can get really close as you see. The counter was showing only 5 rad, which is somewhat similar to radiation you get while taking a flight.
The initial sarcophagus was only built to last 30 years and is now well overdue for replacement. Hence they are building this baby:
Then you come to one of the highlights of the trip... Cat fish feeding! Yes there is shed load of fish in the cooling canal and you can feed it right of the bridge:
Than we made a mandatory stop by Pripyat pillar
Pripyat got the worst of it. It is only a couple of km from CNPP, the city was home to about 50,000 workers and their families. This was a city from the future by Soviet standards complete with western-style supermarkets, sports grounds and amusement park.
It's probably best visited not in the summer, reason being it's overgrown. Grass, bushes and trees break through asphalt, you can stay right in the middle of the town and not realizing it.
The infamous ferris wheel is actually brand new, it was supposed to be open on the 1st of May holiday, the CNPP blew up on April the 26th.
You finish the day with a dinner in Chernobyl cafeteria, where we got served cat fish...
There is a stop at the security check point where you go through some sort of radiation screening and you are free to go back into the world.
17 days independent trekking in Himalayas
05.11.2016 - 05.11.2016
After spending a night in a freezing-AC Shardjah airport we finally made it to Kathmandu.
First surprise was that Air Asia have lost Dovile's luggage with most of her trekking gear. We have made a report and were told to wait for the call, luggage should come on the next flight that evening, well that didn't happen. We called airport several times trying to find out what was happening and if we should wait for it at all or just get on with our trek. Finally we went back to the airport and spoke to the Air Asia rep who told us "why didn't you come to me right away?" well next time we will.
Not hoping to get Dovile's gear back we have decided to withdraw some money and buy some knock-off North Fake. In Nepal you are charged for using a foreign card in an ATM, the trick is to find out which bank rips you off less. Namib bank charges 400npr and allows to draw 35000. So we went to an ATM in Thamil and as I have keyed my PIN and pressed Withdraw, I could hear the cash being counted, and than – a power cut! ATM went dead than sometime later came back to live but no cash. I have called my bank and they said that yes transaction has been processed and I need to start a dispute. Just what we needed a day before setting off.
On a positive note, the Air Asia guy called and told us they found the luggage and Dovile won't have trek in flip flops! First thing in the morning we went to the airport, than poped into the bank to file a dispute with them (the guy was very casual about it, apparently happens all the time). And we were off to Pokhara – 8 hours on a local bus listening to the best Bollywood music.
Pokhara-Bessisahar-Bahundanda – 15 km
after 4 excruciating hours on a back seat of a bus we have arrived at the starting point of the Annapurna Circuit – Bessihsahar. Here you need to stamp your permit and TIMS card. I believe you can take a bus further to Bahundanda, but we decided to walk to Nadi Bazar. You do walk a lot along the jeep track, having to stop a few times to let the jeeps pass. There is a massive building side where Chinese build a new damp. Not the best day all in all, Nadi Bazar however has some pretty views. Here we had our first Dal Bhat!
Not the worst view out of our window
Bahundanda-Khorte - 23 km
Ok, this is a big one. On the second day we decided to push! The idea was that while we were at the lower altitude (under 3000 m) we should be covering maximum distance so we could go slower once we reach Manang. Important point - we were trekking in mid-September, which is monsoon shoulder. This means less people on the trail, more beautiful views to ourselves, but it rains... it rains to the point when trails turn into rivers... and almost forgot - leeches, leeches are everywhere, a lot of leeches!
Here Dovile is doing mandatory leech-control session.
They do piss you off and I'm not kidding. They get on your shoes and under the trousers, get on hiking poles and climb up right to your hands and higher. Basically you have to stop every hour and do a leech-control session.
It's a long but not a terribly hard day, a few hills to climb, but mostly you walk along a gorge with some beautiful waterfalls along the way. Like this one
And you cross a lot of suspension bridges
We left at about 8 am and arrived at Khorte by 6 pm. You should really plan to arrive by 5 pm, as it gets darker and way colder.
You pass a village which is guaranteed to have at least one lodge every 1,5-2 hours, so it's easy to pace yourself. Most villages are not more than a few huts and fields along the road, but there are a couple quite substantial-like Tal on this picture. Based in a very beautiful valley.
We stayed at Khorte which is not more than 2-3 houses by the gorge. The lodger made an unwise mistake by leaving a honey jar on a table when we asked for honey pancake. We put a spoon-full in our tea and than swallowed a few tea spoons. You do need your calories!
Khorte-Dhikur Pokhari - 28 km
Ok, now this was a big one. The plan was to get to Chame and have an easy day. The day was really shitty (hence no pictures), it was pissing with rain, the trails turned into streams, on a few occasions I thought I'd get a trench foot (don't trek in trainers, seriously a bad idea!). Hence we decided to keep our head down and just keep moving. We got to Chame by about 2pm. Chame is a proper village with shops, pharmacy and a hot spring. We decided why not to hike to Bratang, it was only another 1,5-2 hours and 150m altitude gain, no bigy.
On a way to Bratang we saw a massive red writing on a rock - YAKATTAK. Well sounded like a village name or a guesthouse or something, than we saw it again and again. Than a few local guys turned up and they were shouting - yak attack, yak attack. Turns out it's a stretch of a road where they run yaks, and those are not your friendly caravan yaks. You have to climb up the hill or they throw you right of the cliff.
We were walking for quite a while and uphill, I kept saying bloody 150m I know what 150m altitude feels like... Well we missed Bratang and got all the way to Dhikur at 3100m. You could feel it was over 3000, as this is where first signs of altitude kicks in, steps become harder to take, have to take rest every 10 minutes etc.
28km-not exactly an easy day. But on a plus side we got to have a hot shower free of charge! And a free room, all on condition that we would eat in place we stayed in.
Dhikur Pokhari - Manang via Upper Pisang - 22km
Quite a challenging firs half of the day, you have to climb a lot of stares all the way to Ghyaru, but the view is worth it.
This also supposed to be thre best view of the Annapurna massif, however, over the last 3 days we had low clouds covering everything above 4000m.
On the left hand side you can see Humble airport, I believe there are a couple of flights a week from Pokhara.
Manang is a local capital complete with lodges, bakeries, video bar, shop, and a map of day trips which you can do during your mandatory acclimatization day. As it gets colder the lodges get more solid, almost all of the buildings are stone made and well insulated. We quickly picked a lodge with a double room and an en-suit for $1.
Mandatory rest day in Manang. There was a plan to go for a day trip to a frozen lake (4200m), following the map in the village center. But it's been 4 days without anything going wrong, so something had to. I got knocked down with the weirdest ever stomach bug. I would feel nothing until a couple of hours after eating and than it would start hurting like hell. An easy way of avoiding this is not to eat. Easily said than done, at an altitude your body burns twice as many calories, you want to eat and lots. Well, garlic soup is good for me, and wide range antibiotics (picked up in KTM) in case it's bacterial.
A short hike to the top of the hill across Manang and the first glimpse of glacier.
Manang - Yak Kharka - 9,5 km
We paid our bill which over 2 days for two people food and room came to some 2500 npr. The best thing in this world that they are either free or really cheap.
A quick day only 3,5 hours walk, accending 500m to 4000m at Yak Kharka. The general idea is that you shouldn't pick up more than 500m a day after passing 3500m mark.
Yak Kharka - Thorung Phedi (base camp) - 7 km
Another short day, only 2,5 hours and 400m accent.
Thorung Phedi is the only place, but it's very large and fully supplied.
This is the first clear day with real views of Annapurna snow peaks!
A lot of people start the big hike to Thorung La from here, but it does make it for a very long day. We have won a lot of time by going fast at the lower stages, so we could afford to take it slow now. And this is my 3rd day on barely any food.
Thorung Phedi - High Camp (4850m)- 1km only!
Yes, but it takes one hour! It's almost vertical, 450m accent. Well judge for yourself
This is the view of Base camp from High Camp, I told you- vertical!
And this is a view of High Camp from the nearby hill.
This was the first day when we really felt the altitude. A good way to acclimatize too.
High Camp-Thorung La-Muktinath-Jhong- 17km-aka the big push.
We started really early in a morning at about 6am, put literally everything we owned and joined a line of mostly Israeli trekkers. It's only 3,8 km to Thorung La but it took us almost 3,5 hours to cover that distance.
Altitude sickness feels like nothing else. You don't feel tired, your muscles don't ache, but you simply can't go. It's like a muscle car filled up with piss-diluted petrol, have all that horsepower but still can't go uphill. Now and again you forget about it and make a couple of rapid high jumps over a rock or something, it knocks you right down with a massive headache, spin and heart pounding.
My technique was to count 100 steps, stop and count till 20, repeat. Eventually it goes to 50 steps 20 sec rest, 20 steps 20 sec rest. You walk at a very slow and steady pace, and there is absolutely 0 reserve of stamina.
And here we are, the highest we ever been!
There is a little tea shop on the pass, it's a good idea to warm yourself up and enjoy your accomplishment.
From there it's a long but easy walk down to Muktinath. You can feel getting stronger with every meter of descent. Muktinath is a city by Nepali standard, it's connected by road to Jomsom, has a bunch of 3-store buildings and a medical center where I got some more antibiotics and stomach pills. We had an apple pie in Bob Marley cafe, and used free wifi! By the way, remember the ATM that went dead on me and kept my money? I got a refund, twice! This was a welcome break of luck!
We decided to get a taste of what Upper Mustang valley is like and decided to go further to Jhong. Jhong is the furtherst place you can go without entering restricted zone, where you have to pay $50 a day for a trekking permit. Only an hour from Muktinath but it does look very different, and feels being right of the beaten track. Only one lodge in Jhong, and we had go and look for the owner around the village.
Jhong - Jhomsom (via Kagbeni) 17,5km-Tatopani (by Jeep).
This was a long day.
The first part was relatively easy, we had to walk quite level track to Kagbeni, which is right before a turn north that takes you to Upper Mustang.
Kagbeni is a lively village, full of civilization brought by proximity to a road, and one of the largest monasteries in the area.
Plus some unique fast food joints!
And here is Kagbeni from above
Oh yeh, forgot to say, today is the first day I woke up without a massive stomach ache! I guess I deserve an award for doing Annapurna Circuit while fasting through the most of it!!!
4 hours lates we arrived to Jomsom. A ward of warning - it's a very exposed pass, you walk in the sun occasionally have to cross a road and deal with all dust from jeeps and trucks.
Jomsom is a city. You have 2 bus stations - one for Muktinath and one to take towards Pokhara. There is a shop and a pharmacy, and also you can fill up with purified water for about 50 npr, that is if you are sick of drinking chlorinated water.
We got our tickets at the office (800 npr for foreigners, somewhat less for locals) and where told to wait for the buss to come. The bus leaves when full, hence it worried us that there weren't may people besides us. You have to take a bus to Ghasa where you change for another Jeep/Bus to Tatopani or wherever else they feel like taking you that day.
Eventually it did come, and it was full of people. Apparently, it's a good idea to get on a bus at the bus stand (parking lot) so you are guaranteed a seat. Needless to say we got the very back seats.
I do have to say something about the road... Well, it's not built. It's carved out of the rock, it took us about 3 excruciating hours of breezing dust, swallowing own sick and praying to Buddha not to throw us of the cliff.
The entire ride I was thinking, why didn't we just walked it....?
By the way, we were told that it's not worth it hiking beyond Jomsom, mostly because of the road. Mostly by people who haven't actually done it themselves. This is not entirely true, the trail is on the other side of the gorge, and it hardly ever crosses the road. Besides you'd be very welcomed by locals who now get hardly any trade.
This is the end of chapter 1 - Annapurna Circuit, tomorrow we will commence Chapter 2 - Base Camp or as it's also known Sanctuary!
Do I need a porter/guide?
You definitely don't need a guide unless you are planning to deviate from standard Circuit or Base camp route. The trails a wide and well market, they are used as supply lines by the villages, hence there is a lot of traffic. If you happen to wander off friendly locals will point you in the right direction.
Having a porter could make it far more enjoyable walk. We had a backpack each 5-7KG plus water. Most hotels in Pokhara will store your luggage for you.
Room normally costs from 0-200 npr. The idea is that they normally don't charge you much for the room on the basis that you have at least 2 meals in your guesthouse.
The food prices are fixed by the village and tend to rise the higher you go. In a lower areas dal bhat (ultimate mountain food that comes with a free refill) costs about 300-350, and this goes as high as 550 in the base camp. Most of our bills were 1500-2000. So I guess you can have a trip of your lifetime for $10 a person a day.
You can save a lot by purifying your water. A bottle of water can cost upwards of 100 npr, a small bottle of purifying drops is only 20 npr, and it will last you for months.
Maps – buy a good trekking map for about 300 in any bookshop in Pokhara or KTM. Don't really need it but it helps with planning your next day.
How long does it take.
Well that depends... Most of the guide books say about 14 days Bessihsahar-Jomsom. However this is based on a 5-6 hour day. We have trekked 8-10 hours and got to Jomsom in 9. My advise is to cover more distance in the first days until you reach Manang and than take it easy with a mandatory rest day in Manang.
Less common than in Everest region, mostly because of a very gradual altitude pick up. The big day is when you get over Thorong La at 5450m this will be hard and slow, just pace yourself and move slowly. We took Diamox, it must have helped too.
Available pretty much everywhere until Thorong Phedi, at a cost though. You can get a free connection in Muktinath. In other places will have to pay from 100-500 npr.
Everywhere, most places in the lower part are supplied by local mini hydro power plants, literally small waterfalls captured into a pipe. As you go up places switch to hydro. The going rate is 100 npr per hour. Bare in mind solar doesn't charge as fast as hydro-powered.
Any more questions? Just drop me a message and I will add to the post.
A second leg of a 16 day independent trek - Annapurna Circuit (to Jomsom) & ABC from Tatopani
05.11.2016 - 05.11.2016
==This is a chapter 2== We have just completed Annapurna Circuit in 10 days, and decided not to loose any time and head straight for base camp!
Tatopani - Ghorepani - 15 km
This was the best start of the day on out trip so far. Why? Because Tatopani has hot springs! Broken into a few pools and showers of different temperature. It's a pleasure that can't be explained... to have a hot bath after 10 days on the road and finally feel clean. The pool costs 200 npr for foreigners and they also sell Beer and Pop Corn for 400 npr.
Actually we came across the Beer + Pop Corn package several times, weird combination. I don't know that came about. I guess someone just came up with the idea that western folks like Beer and they also seem to like Pop Corn,and than everyone else just copied it.
It was one of the hardest days on the trail. You have to consistently pick up altitude. Overall 1600m altitude gain. You pass through some really nice villages, great views and a couple of waterfalls. Unfortunately I have lost most of the pictures of this day.
One thing I can say - this day will kill your muscles! It will hurt and you will be glad it's over.
The other thing that was killing me were my hands, thumbs if to be more precise. Two days ago when we were getting over Thorung La at 5400 m, I have taken my gloves off on the way down. Man, you can't underestimate sun intensity at that altitude. I didn't even realize that the top of my fists (as you hold waking poles) got sun-burned as hell. How can your hands burn, this just doesn't happen, well @5400m it does.
If this happens there is nothing you can do but suffer through it. If your burned-hands exposed to even week sun they will hurt as hell. If you put gloves (or socks) on, they will warm up and hurt even worse.
Well that was our day...
Ghorepani - Sinuwa -18 km
We decided to skip Poon Hill as we were quite tired from the day before and had a long way before us.
This day has a lot of ups and downs as you have to get over the hill at Deurali to the valley below and than up to Chomrong and back down and up to Sinuwa.
The first part of the day you pass through some vert humid forest, than you hit a well populated area with endless rice paddies.
Chomrong is a solid town with a proper shop where you can buy biscuits, chocolates and drinks at reasonable prices. Beyond Chomrong is a plastic-free zone, you can only buy boiled water for about 100 npr.
Sinuwa-Machhapuchhare Bace Camp -14 km
This is much longer than it looks. It took us 8 hours to cover just 14 km, mostly because you are moving constantly up picking up 1500 till MBC. You pass a lot of bamboo grows and thick forests. By the time we got to MBC the mountains around us were engulfed in fog, we couldn't see further than few meters ahead. If it wasn't for the fog we could have pushed to ABC. You shouldn't gain that much altitude in a day, but we were well acclimatized from the previous leg and didn't struggle.
Machhapuchhare - this is what we have woken up to!
MBC was the most expensive place so far. We have payed 300 npr for a room and 550 for dal bhat.
MBC-ABC-Sinuwa - 20km.
The thing about ABC trek is that you actually don't see Annapurna until the very last moment. Some 1,5-2 hours and we got to this!
It's so close, so big and so white. ABC is only just over 4000m hence you see 4000m rock towering right over you. This is probably the best view of the trip!
The rest of the day we had to retrace our steps back. It's long day but walking down does help. A good 10 hours later we got back to Sinuwa for Dal Bhat.
I look really washed up in this picture. It also looks like I have lost about 10kg, this is what not eating at the 4000m+ altitude does to you (this is covered in the chapter one).
Sinuwa - Tolka 15 km
This is another day full of up's and downs.
The highlight of the trip is of course Jhinu hot springs (50 npr). We have actually debated if we should do the hot springs as this involved walking down from Jhinu to the hot springs and than obviously back up. Well we have decided that we won't get another chance to lase in hot springs hence...
In few hours we have reached the New Bridge (a very old bridge) and crossed over to Landruk. In Landruk we saw jeeps, hence I guess you could take one down from there. They also were busy building the road and it might be that it will be properly linked to civilization sometime soon.
Tolka - Kande - Pokhara - 9.3km
You can feel civilization creeping in, garbage, shops, jeeps. However, I can't deny I was happy to Jump on that Bus and onto Pokhara!
P.S. the bus drops you on outskirts of the town, taxi drivers will take you lake side for 200 npr - take it! Getting a local bus/walking is not a good idea as we learned :-)