Nepal offers numerous trekking choices, and one great advantage is that there is always a trek to match your desires, physical condition, or timing requirements. During my two-month trip to the country, I opted for a trek close to Pokhara.
Pokhara sits at the foot of the Himalayas, near the Annapurna Conservation Area. This was the kind of environment I was looking for. I wanted to trek among the rocky fortresses of the Himalayas and take a closer look at the snow-capped ridges and summits. The Annapurna Range offered that.
After consulting a map and the weather forecast, and considering how many days I had left on the trip, I chose the Ghorepani Trek – a four-day trek spanning the Annapurna Circuit and the Annapurna Base Camp Trek.
From the first day, I experienced the authentic life of the Gurung villages. Along the Bhurungdi Valley, small hamlets such as Lamdawal (1160m), Hille (1460m), or Tikhedhungga (1540m) featured tiny whitewashed houses (most refurbished as lodges for tourists), neatly organized crop fields, and lush vegetation specific to subtropical forests.
At the end of the first day, we stopped in Ulleri village (2020m), and from my room I could see Annapurna South Peak (over 7000 meters high) through the window. At that moment, I realized that all the effort to climb up there was worth it. Seeing a Himalayan peak out of the window is quite a thing for someone who comes from Europe.
On the second day, a chain of traditional villages dotted the walkway paved with stones going up from Ulleri to Ghorepani Village (2860m) – the largest settlement on the Ghorepani Trek. I enjoyed talking to the smiling kids going to school in Banthanti hamlet (2210m) in the morning. I admired the subtropical forest full of climbing plants I walked through for a while, and then enjoyed tasty dal bhat for lunch in Nangge Thanti (2430m). All my worries that I wouldn’t find enough food along the trek disappeared. Food could be bought in all settlements I passed through, or someone cooked a meal on the spot.
Going up to Poon Hill is usually recommended for watching the sunrise, on the third day of the trek. As I am not a morning person, I was delighted to hear I could change my plans. At the end of the second day, I found myself shooting photos of the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna ranges from the top of Poon Hill, right at sunset. The advantage was that at that hour, Poon Hill was less busy with trekkers, and I enjoyed the mountain views without the crowds. Like on the first day, on the second evening I could admire the mountains from my window, making it very difficult to fall asleep in front of such magnificent beauty.
I reached the Deurali Pass (3090m) and Ban Thanti village (3180m – the highest point on the trek) during the first part of the third day of trekking. I enjoyed resting while hiking as I went down for a couple of hours until reaching the Bhurungdi Valley. A short, steep climb quickly brought me to Tadapani village (2630m), from where I passed through a rhododendron forest, surprisingly full of big lurung monkeys.
Staying in Ghandruk (1940m) overnight was a wise choice as the Gurung Museum is set up in a refurbished old house. The local architecture of the village is also picturesque, with whitewashed houses and traditional households with animals and people winnowing millet.
From Ghandruk, my guide-come-porter suggested we could extend the trek with one more day and go to the hot springs from Chinu as well. Hot springs sounded great while surrounded by all that natural beauty, so this was a worthwhile add-on to the original trek.
The fourth day was maybe the shortest day of the trek, as from Ghandruk to Chinu hot springs (1780m) the route is easy and only descends. On this section, the trail offers a true insight into the local culture as you can see typical Gurung households and plots of agricultural land. In the evening, I discovered that the hot springs were the meeting point for all trekkers passing by – a great way to exchange experiences and get to know new people.
Even though the route on the last day seemed monotonous, I passed intriguing Gurung villages and eye-catching rice paddies as I walked parallel to the Modi Khola Valley. I could have taken a bus from Siwai but the bus had just left when I arrived. I didn’t want to wait for two hours until the next one, so decided to walk an extra ten kilometers to Birethanti village, where I had started the trek on the first day.
Walking ten kilometers on a dirt road at the end of a five-day trek is not easy. I loved the feeling of walking in the Himalayas though, so the last two hours were the perfect time to be grateful for all the beauty I saw along the Ghorepani Trek.