Day 15: Kobang to Rukse Chharhara (4921 feet) 12.5 miles
As usual, we were up super early and had breakfast by 7am. We began hiking around 8am, and our goal was to get to Ghasa just after lunch, see how we feel and maybe press on. According to the book, it should have taken about 6 hours to do 10 miles. I think the person who wrote the guide book was on a bicycle because not once have we been able to reach our destination within the given time. The scenery was much better now with pine trees and greenery. To our surprise, we actually made it there in about 5 ½ hours. After lunch we decided to press on to Kopchepani which should have taken another hour and a half. Unfortunately for us, and unknown to us at the time, Kopchepani is on the other side of the valley (river) from the road. Because the trail was prettier, we decided to get off the road and walk on the trail. Perhaps this little village was beautiful at one time, but here you see the effects on people’s livelihood from the new road. It was almost abandoned with very few people around and no shops. There was one little guest house, but it was so dark and dirty I swore we would leave there with fleas. Unfortunately the fact that we had to keep walking caused a little bit of a problem. For one, we were tired and two, it had started to thunder and rain, and the next village on the map was about 45 minutes away. We pressed on and came across a large suspension bridge that was all metal. Nice. Thunder means lightning, and we had no choice but to cross. I believe this was the fastest I had walked on the whole trail. We had been told there was a little guest house a few kilometers outside of Tatopani by a waterfall in the village of Rukse Chharhara. Say that three times quickly. Once across the bridge, we spotted the waterfall and headed towards our guesthouse for the night. Our total for the day was 12 ½ miles in 8 ½ hours.
Day 16: Rukse Chharhara to Sikha (6348 feet) 11.1 miles
I think day after day of hiking with a 30lb pack on is taking a toll because it seems like the days are getting harder, and we knew that today was going to be a tough one. The plan was to make it up to Ghara which was just a few hour hike away from Ghorepani. Then just two more nights, and we would be finished. The scenery was becoming beautiful again with amazingly terraced hillsides and beautiful trees. We headed down to Tatopani where I would highly recommend staying. It is a large village with hot springs, a quaint street and lots of guesthouses. We stopped for a snack and caught up with a couple that we met before coming over the pass. After that, we were heading straight up to Sikha which was going to be a 2500ft elevation gain in about 7 miles. We could have taken a road with switchbacks, but then we would have trucks passing us throwing up dirt. We took the other option of basically staying on the trail and climbing stairs all the way up the hill. We made it to Ghara which is about half way up the hill a bit ahead of schedule, or so we thought, so we stopped at a very scary place for lunch. We had vegetable fried rice and the proprietor came out with a big bowl full of laundry, dumped the laundry, filled it up with water and put the veggies in it for our dish. Yummy. After lunch, we were a little bit cocky thinking that the hike wasn’t that bad. So we climbed and climbed and climbed.
Little did we know that Ghara is a village that stretches out forever. We would come across a sign, hoping it said Sikha, only to be disappointed when it continuously read Ghara. Eventually my husband came across a local and asked how long to Sikha. He initially answered 45 minutes, but then peeked behind my husband and saw me bringing up the rear, and quickly changed his answer, “Oh for you, maybe and hour and a half.” Not too happy about that, but I will say that day was a beautiful hike. Eventually we found the “Mona Lisa” hotel which had been recommended by a few people. We were not disappointed. It was a nice little hotel. Although, I cannot believe I am using the word “hotel” for a two story building with rooms with basically 2 or 3 cots and some very thin walls with a bathroom down the hall. Then again for $2.00 a night, what was I complaining about.
Day 17: Sikha to Ghorepani (7710 feet) 1.86 miles
It thundered and rained all night, but we awoke to beautiful skies and loud noises from the kitchen. As it turned out, the Mona Lisa is right at the beginning of Sikha so we had about a half hour walk through the village before we were out the other side. Sikha is a very cool village and it is a good stopping point half way between Tatopani and Ghorepani. Yesterday we climbed 2400 feet and today we had to climb 3100 feet, straight up hill. Basically it was 4 hours of climbing stairs straight up.
Yuck. The owner of Mona Lisa had recommended a guesthouse in Ghorepani called Hungry Eye so we headed straight there. It is at the top of the village with nice clean rooms and a great little restaurant. The scenery was the best that we had seen on this side of the pass. The villagers maximize productivity with terracing and the hillsides are covered in rhododendrons. We arrived in Ghorepani around noon so were able to idly pass the day resting in the sun.
Day 18: Ghorepani to Ghandruk (6600 feet)
The next morning we awoke with the masses well before sunrise for the trek up to Poon Hill. It isn’t a bad hike as it is only 1500 feet straight up stairs, but it is quite the attraction because if you get to the top for sunrise you can see 14 peaks with a 360 degree view. If it isn’t clear, you have just wasted 45 minutes of your time. The trek up wasn’t too bad, but there were probably about 150 or so trekkers going up the stairs which are so narrow that you cannot pass. Basically you wait for those that are gasping for air to move aside to pass. We were lucky as the day was clear, and yes, the views are breathtaking. I really need to come up with more adjectives.
The sun broke the horizon at about 6:20 and soon after we headed back to Hungry Eye to pack up for our 2nd to last day. A lot of people go straight down from Ghorepani to Nayapul, but we were taking an extra two nights to take a side trek to Ghandruk. We had heard that this was probably the prettiest part on this side of the pass. Uphill, again, but the views were phenomenal, the sky clear, and the rhododendrons were in full bloom.
I will tell you a little secret. Poon Hill has nothing compared to the view that we had coming up out of Ghorepani. You won’t read this in the guide books either, but if you are travelling east out of Ghorepani towards Ghandruk, skip the masses at Poon Hill. You will need to leave Ghorepani about an hour and a half before sunrise because there is quite a steep uphill, but after an hour and a quarter or so you reach a peak that gives you 360 degree views of all of the same peaks, plus a view down the valley on the other side and the added bonus that you have the view completely to yourself.
The hike to Ghandruk is fairly exhausting with a lot of steep uphills followed by long down hills almost all of them is stair form. We stopped for lunch in Tadapani (not to be confused with Tatopani) around 1:30pm, and then had a long jaunt through a forest down to Ghandruk. The trail from Tadapani to Ghandruk was supposed to take 2 ½ to 3 hours, so we figured on 4. As we entered the forest there is actually a warning sign to watch out for robbers. Great. Not somewhere we wanted to be in the dark. We reached the outskirts of Ghandruk in 2 hours and made it to the guest house in 2 ½ hours. We stayed at Hotel Milan which is at way bottom of town, then turn right and head up some stairs. This guest house had spectacular views of Annapurna.
Day 19: Ghandruk to Nayapul (3500 feet)
Finally, our last day of hiking which was approximately 2800 feet of descent in about 4 hours. Stairs, Stairs, and stairs. Again the views were spectacular, but about this time, put a fork in us, we were done. We made it to Birethani and stopped at the checkpoint then crossed the river to the road. Naya Pul, which is technically the end of the hike, was about another ½ hour walk down a dust road lined with shops so we decided to call it a day and picked up a taxi to Pokhara.
Back to civilization. Not necessarily a good thing. Immediately we were hounded by the cab driver for more money even though we had agreed on a price, the roads were congested, and the crisp clean air gone. Talk about coming back to reality quickly.
Pokhara is a nice little lakeside village, but to us, it was like a small Kathmandu with the same shops everywhere. I was shattered after 19 days of hiking, but if I were to do it again, instead of coming down to Naya Pul, I would have continued back into the mountains from Ghandruk for another week or so with the aim of reaching Annapurna Base Camp.
Oh well, I guess that is for another trip! Hope you enjoyed reading this.