I LOVED my trek. That’s the bottom line – from someone who does NOT like to hike. I am also 68 and have current serious back pain (pinched nerve) and recently had serious (as in not being able to walk) knee problems.
Now, back in Pokhara, the location from which my 5 day/4 night Poon Hill Trek began, I want to share what it was like. It was such a surprise, not at all what I expected (except I did expect the walking). Remember, this is about the Poon Hill Trek, billed as moderate and do-able and good for people who don’t have much time. It started at a town called Nayapu (got there by car), and ended in one called Phedi. (I began on 16th March.)
POINT 1: There are many permutations and combinations of routing. You can trek for just 1 day 0 nights, or as long as you want. The Poon Hill Trek can be done in 2 – 6 days. A good guide can tailor the route to your fitness level and preferences.
My 15 biggest surprises:
Surprise #1: I was not surrounded by snow capped peaks. I did get to see some in the distance, but not all the time. Yes, on some days it was a lot of the time, and they could look close if visibility was excellent.
NOT SNOW CLAD PEAKS
Surprise #2: Visibility matters.
Surprise #3: Saw hardly any rhododendrons. I guess there are good and bad years, or this was early in the season.
ONE OF THE FEW RHODADENDRUM TREES I SAW
Surprise #4: Food was very good, and lots of it. I was especially fond of all the breads on offer – all was freshly made on a stove – probably in a pan. There was puffy corn bread, puffy Nepali bread, chapattis, and even Naan at one place we ate. Nearly everything I ate was extremely tasty – omelets, pizza, a pan grilled tomato & cheese sandwich, even the soup which comes from a package – maybe I was just hungry in the mountain air, but really, bad food is bad no matter where.
Banana Pancake Cooking
Surprise #5: There were restaurants and lodges and tea houses and shops just about everywhere. It was a novelty to go for an hour without any commercial offerings. I found this entertaining, not offensive – all was done Nepali style.
A Lunch Spot
Dining Room in a Lodge
Surprise #6: How gorgeous and different were the way women dressed. This was not like all the villages I’d visited that were set up for tourists, this was the real deal. I saw women, both young and old, who were so beautiful it just about took my breath away.
The kids were awfully cute, too:
Surprise #7: Meeting people. Sometimes there was no one to talk to (except my ever faithful guide). Sometimes there were lots of friendly people. With all the tea house breaks we had, there was ample opportunity to get acquainted and re-acquainted as we passed and re-passed each other on the trail. Or, at my lodging, at breakfast or dinner. I actually met people I may continue to have as friends. (Disclaimer: I am exceptionally gregarious.)
Two lovely, adventurous and well-traveled newly-weds from Ireland – they were the ones who told me it was St. Paddy’s Day
Surprise #8: How well I’d packed.
Backpack (carried by guide), walking stick, day pack with pltypus drinking tube showing, boots, fanny pack, and Steri-Pen barely visible in front
Surprise #9: How toasty warm I was with the provided blanket(s) – I did not bring a sleeping bag, just a sleeping sheet.
Surprise #10: Not nearly as cold as I expected. Coldest it got outside was 39 degrees Fahrenheit (3 Celsius). When it was that temperature outside, it was 50 degrees F. inside my room.
Surprise # 11: How much I enjoyed the walking. Never got bored – which is what usually happens when I hike.
Surprise #12: I’d expected cell service. Sometimes it was there, and sometimes it wasn’t. I was not expecting Wifi, and but it was actually there and working at some lodges.
Surprise # 13: My extreme level of resentment at Wifi’s being available. (I am normally an addict). I was so much enjoying being off the grid. Did not want to think even cell service was available, because then I’d feel compelled to respond to text messages. First time Wifi was available, I was sitting around the stove staying warm with other trekkers I had not yet met. When it was announced that the Wifi was working, instantly everyone’s face was pointed at their phone and they were no longer in the room. Felt like I was in a New Yorker cartoon.
Surprise #14: How much my body hurts right now, when it’s all over.
Surprise #15: How much I wish my body did not hurt, so I could take another trek.
Here’s a summary, day by day:
– 8:30 a.m. met my guide Chettraat the shop (Chain ‘n’ Gear Mountain Bikes, in Pokhara)from where I’d booked the trek.
– Car ride (about an hour) to Nayapu (elevation 1080 m)
– Short day of easy hiking.
– Overnight at Tikhedhungga (elevation 1480 m)
Weather was warm. Got to know Chettra, whose English was good and demeanor mellow. He has over 20 years’ experience as a guide in these parts, so I felt to be in good hands. He carried my bag (pre-arranged because I cannot carry any weight on my back). I did carry my day pack with at most 1 liter of water and just a few items. I used my Steri-Pen for water – which I got from the local water source – usually a 1000 liter container of un-purified water. There were few people on the trail. It was warm – at 7:30 p.m. it was 66 F. in my room. And that’s when I went to bed. I did need my torch and my book – electricity is a sometime thing in all of Nepal, and in the mountains, generators do not run 24/7.
Oh – and it was Holi Day, the holiday, 1 day /year, wherein people throw colored water at each other via balloons, and also colored powder.
Additional Day 1 photos:
You have to show your TIMS card (travel pass – cost $40) at several places along the route.
Just because there were no snow capped peaks, doesn’t mean there wasn’t scenery:
– It’s St. Patrick’s Day, which is not why I wore my green shirt.
– Headed out at 8 a.m. straight onto endless, very steep stone steps:
– Steps were so steep and relentless, thought I couldn’t go on – thought I’d be on them for 6 hours straight. I wasn’t, it was maybe a very slow 1 ½ hours before they became easier.
I can’t believe I was smiling
– I began to meet some of the very interesting people you meet on these treks. At lunch met a family of 4, Americans living in New Delhi, who filled me in on the realities of living in India (which they like). Completely fascinating.
– My boots continue to be perfect.
– My back hurts, had to take pain pills.
– Arrived in Ghorepani at 3 p.m.
– At 7:20 p.m. it was 52 F. in my room-
At the lodge in Ghorepani is were I started to meet other trekkers in earnest. Other travelers are always interesting, but the folks I met here were exceptional.
The most exceptional of all: The Porters
There were some pretty exceptional representatives of other species, too:
Here’s some of the non-snow-capped-peaks scenery from Day 2:
This is the big one, the morning you head off at 5 a.m. for the 45 minute trek up to the famous Poon Hill to gaze upon the sun rising and revealing the majestic Annapurna range. NOT – it was socked in with clouds. My guide had warned me of the possibility the night before (a little possibility no one had ever bothered to mention before), saying he wouldn’t wake me if we weren’t going. I asked him to let me know either way, because I’d be up. After he told me it was no-go, the shock was: I fell back to sleep!
I was ever grateful to him, for some others had actually made the 45 minute climb, only to be disappointed.
About an hour into our trekking, as promised, we got to see that same view, all cleared up. It was spectacular, but looked so far away. Somehow I was expecting to be right in it.
Here It is, what I finally saw, snow capped peaks revealed:
Most of trekking today was downhill on stone steps, but still no knee or boot problems:
– Hazy and overcast most of the day, so glorious mountain views were rare:
– Toward the end of our trekking day, downpour began that turned into hail then rain again.
– My raingear worked, but I foolishly did not put on my rain pants so ended up with lots of wet clothes, which did dry by the wood burning stove.
Shelter at last, at the Lonely Planet Lodge in the village of Sitkue near the larger village of Ghandruk. We stopped around 3:30.
Here we are, me and Chettra – note how his gear was set up to protect my pack. It was still raining hard!
I took a wonderful hot shower (which I did every day, but not every day was the shower this hot).
Then, the rain stopped. It was still daylight, and: the heavens were revealed:
The Annapurna range clear as could be:
– Annapurna South
– Annaprna II
Got up at 3:30 a.m. to answer nature’s call and was greeted by 2 surprises:
– sky was perfectly clear and the Annapurna range was dramatically silhouetted by the nearly full moon.
– I HURT – a lot. My quads were tight as steel drums – scarily tight.
At normal rising time, the views of the Annapurna range continued to be what posters are made of.
Morning views: The V of the saddle is the pass you cross to get to Annapurna Base Camp (referred to as ABC):
The trekking today was along a ridgeline. In one direction: snow capped mountains. In the other: picturesque villages and terraced fields leading down to a river valley:
There was one particular event I want to share: We passed a steep hillside populated by crouching Western young people: they were volunteers cleaning up the trash. The irony: there were 2 elderly women planted on the trail, watching the youngsters working away. They seemed totally entertained – joyous might be more accurate.
The working Western youngsters:
The delighted Nepalese oldsters:
Another piece of big news, besides the views: I HURT – quads, back, blistered toes. I took a lot of pain pills (BTW – all were prescription).
This being our last overnight stay, my guide had arranged a special treat for me: we stayed at a lovely lodge with more sweeping views of mountains and valley:
But the best treat by far: an ensuite bathroom!
– Spent this night in the village of Tolka
– Met many more interesting trekkers, including a very rare bird: another female permanent traveler! She was even American and in my age demographic (almost).
Day 5: final day
Scenery continued. The snow capped peaks were gone, replaced by villages, glimpses of other ways of life, and tiered landscapes:
The final walk down was on steps, hundreds and hundreds of steps, which did a lot to minimize toe pressure.
This is a photo of where we were headed – down to the bottom of this valley – hence all the steps
– Pain not so bad thanks to pills.
– The shocker: I did NOT want my trek to end. I wanted to keep walking and walking, immersed in this country of Nepal, a country with over 100 different tribes and languages. A country that has seen much tourism, but to my untrained eye, seems to not be abandoning cultural roots.
WE MADE IT!
We were picked up by car and driver, at the bottom of the stairs, in the town of Phedi. It was culture shock, the noise of civilization.
If only my body could handle it, I would be planning another, longer trek – maybe to Annapurna Base Camp, where I hear you are surrounded by the peaks. But my boots let me down (blisters were their own little snow capped peaks) and my back felt wrecked. The steel drum quads were quickly ameliorated, though, by a good “trekker massage” that night.
I will not gross you out with photos of my blisters. Instead, I will share with you my favorite photo. This was taken on Day 4 as we walked through a tiny village. My guide explained that nose rings are common for older women here:
That was my trek. Thank you for joining me. May have taken you as long to read this as it took me to do it.
I am including some extra information about very helpful folks I’ve met along the way, utilized, and for whom I can give a personal recommendation – just-in-case you decide to go, or know someone who’s thinking of it.
Extra Information (please imagine that there’s a nice little box to the side):
Contact information for my steadfast, experienced, pleasant guide who speaks good English:
Mobile phone: 977(that’s the country code) 98041-52995
He doesn’t check e-mails regularly, but if you text him (that’s cheap from the States) and simply say he should check his E-Mail, he will.
Contact information for a man who arranged many of my tours – to Chittwan National Park, and Pokhara, and a day tour around Kathmandu and environs, and then a final 4-day stay in the Kathmandu Valley. He has come through 100%, and his prices are good:
Based at Kathmandu Madhuban Guest House
mobile phone: 977 (country code) 98510-46019
For bicycle touring, this is the man. He’s based in Pokhara and rents good quality mountain bikes by the hour or day. He can arrange mountain bike tours anywhere in Nepal, and tailor it to your level of fitness, experience, and preference:
Kaji Rana, Managing Director
Chain ‘N’ Gear Mountain Bikes
Gaurighat-Marg, Lakeside Pokhara
mobile phone: +977 9804122599
Thanks so much for joining me.