The ABC of Trekking – Annapurna Base Camp
Annapurna Base Camp. The very foothills of the world’s deadliest mountain massif. I always used to get chills by just thinking of this Himalayan eight-thousander and that morning I was standing right before it. The small base camp, comprised of 5-6 lodges and a camping site area is located in the middle of an amphitheater of high peaks. One of the guides that we met in our lodge jokingly described our location: “Right now, we are in the middle of a big donut.” Even though comically worded, it was true.
Sleeping at 4100 meters, especially when you are so euphoric, is not easy, but at least it made waking up before the sunrise a less difficult endeavor. That morning, everything was quiet. Occasionally you could see other early birds like us scattered around the site that woke up to witness the drama. They looked like tiny dots compared to the landscape around us. In the midst of that silence, you could hear loud noises, almost like thunder, which meant that an avalanche is taking place somewhere on the steep slopes. The vertical south face of Annapurna is located in the north of the base camp and Machhapuchhre (Fishtail) to the south. Once the sunlight touches the peak, the magic begins. The sun slowly moves down on the mountain walls, changing the color of the sky from emerald to lighter blue.
In that moment of pure awe, it was easy to forget all the challenges that we went through during our trekking there. However, trekking to Annapurna Base Camp was not easy. Like every good trekking trip, it was full of physical and mental challenges. Trekking is always full of surprises, ranging from moody weather to the people you meet. We started our trek in Syauli Bazaar, where the road ends currently. Even though it was the end of April, the sun was ruthless and it was really taking a toll on us. On our first day, there was not much altitude gain, but the weather made trekking quite difficult. The views were beautiful though. There was still no sign of the Himalayan massif, but the path moving along the river had its own perks. There are only a few things more soothing than walking to the sound of the river filling your ears. That day we stopped at New Bridge – a small village situated above the river with a view of an almost vertical hill. The next day we started walking very early. Our destination for the day was Bamboo. Leaving New Bridge, we entered a dense forest with a very steep trail.
After a few hours of walking we reached Jhinu – a charming village with hot springs. We had a cup of tasty black tea and decided that we will have our next break in Chomrong. The trail to Chomrong involved steps. So many of them, that at one point we thought they will never end. Arriving and lunching in Chomrong was a real treat. Despite having traveled so much, Chomrong remains one of my favorite villages I have visited so far. The view of the charming stone houses dotting the endless paddy fields was truly idyllic. From Chomrong, the trail leads us down to a suspension bridge and then up again to Sinuwa. The weather at that point got really bad and it was about to rain. We were not sure whether we want to continue trekking or call it a day. However, the owner of the lodge where we had tea told us that the steep trail ends in Sinuwa and that the route to Bamboo is almost straight and through a dense forest. Despite the drizzle, we were encouraged by her words and marched on. During our walk to Bamboo we realized why the place got its name. The forest was almost entirely made of bamboo trees and walking through it was truly an enjoyment. That night we hit the bed early. The next day we were headed to Deurali. Passing Dovan and Himalaya on the way, the trail to Deurali was very diverse in terms of landscapes. Annapurna and Machhapuchhre were following us everywhere while walking through another portion of bamboo forest and then a bare, rocky and steep trail on the final approach to Deurali. Our 4th day was reserved for Annapurna Base Camp. We rose up very early and started walking determinately towards our final destination.
The forest was completely gone and we were walking through a breathtaking high altitude river valley with the view to Annapurna right ahead of us. At Machhapuchhre Base Camp (MBC) we stopped for lunch and some rest. The views were getting better and better. From where we were sitting, we could see a big snowy uphill that almost looked like a glacier. Once we would climb that, we would see ABC peeking from the distance. This last portion of the trail was a true delight. Our pace was significantly slower, but not out of exhaustion (which we didn’t feel out of excitement) but because we would stop every other minute to take photos of the magnificent scenery. The clouds had already covered the mighty peaks once we reached our final destination, but we knew that a real show was waiting for us in the morning. And it really happened.
The ABC trekking trail is a really fine example of how trekking in the Nepalese Himalayas look like. Being both a natural and a cultural experience, ABC is a classic trek. It gives you the opportunity to see some of the most breathtaking landscapes in your life, as well as to meet, talk to and observe the life of the local people living in the foothills of this mighty massif. Annapurna Base Camp is the perfect “ABC” – introduction to trekking in this part of the Himalayas.
By: Marija Grujovska