Trekker's Journal

Trekker’s Journal: A 3-day round trip to Poon Hill

By: Catherine Zingale April 26, 2016

American trekking enthusiast Catherine lives in Boston but spends much of her time exploring the trails of New England and writing about it on her blog “Peaches’ Wanderlist“. In February however, she made the bold decision to swap the New England ranges for the mighty Himalayas. What she discovered? Adventure. And quadriceps she never knew she had. Read about her 3-day trek to Poon Hill in the beautiful Annapurna mountain range of Nepal. 

One of the beautiful things about hiking is that it can be done all around the world in the most exotic and remote places. It’s a relatively inexpensive vacation. The biggest cost is the travel to get there, but upon arrival, the everyday and lodging costs are inexpensive especially if the exchange rate is in your favor.

At the end of February I laced up my hiking boots for a 3-day hike to Poon Hill with my siblings and cousins, one of who lives in Nepal and was our appointed guide for the trip. It was extremely helpful having a ‘native’ guide us to the best places to eat, great places to stay, and spearhead the planning of our 3-day hike.

We arrived in Kathmandu on a Sunday and checked into a lovely traditional inn called Swotha Traditional Homes . It has an amazing location right in the middle of the historical Patan Durbar Square with temples and a history museum. The building itself is built with dark, thick wood with beams throughout as its structure and low ceilings. There were quite a few well-placed ‘watch your head’ signs on the tiny stairwells and entrances. The rooms had many windows, a small balcony, a modern bathroom always with hot water. Hot water was key because the weather is still quite chilly at night in late February. One special perk happened when someone knocked on our door at 10 pm offering hot water bottles covered in canvas to put at the foot of our beds – they stayed warm all night! As did we. The staff was incredibly accommodating and friendly, even helping us master a Nepali game of tigers and goats called Bagh-Chal. The food at hotel restaurant was delicious and they had a great craft beer called Sherpa Brewery. We came back to stay once we returned to Kathmandu after our hike.

DAY 1: Kathmandu – Pokhara – Tadapani

We pushed off early the next morning to catch a flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The airline, befittingly called Yeti Airlines, operates small double-engine commuter planes with 3 people across and 1 flight attendant. Flying in this mountainous terrain is no easy task, in fact pilots operating the flights that head up into the remote mountain regions fly by sight so the weather has to be relatively fair for them to be able to fly and be on time. A little nerve-wracking for first-timers but we learned that the Kathmandu to Pokhara flights operate in the lowlands and are a bit less precarious to navigate. Luckily we made it safe and sound! You get the sense that this flight path is like a commuter flight, similar to Boston to New York or D.C.

Our ride to Pokhara

Transportation to Pokhara and the trailhead. Photo by Catherine Zingale

It’s possible to drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara but the drive is 8 hours because of the mountainous terrain and windy roads. Once in Pokhara we grabbed a taxi from the airport and drove to Kimche, our starting point for the trek. You can also take a vehicle to Nayapul and walk from there which will add a few hours to your trek. We opted to carry on driving from Nayapul so we switched here from a small sedan type cab to a Range Roger type Jeep in order to handle the steep roads riddled with potholes between Nayapul and Kimche. The drive was slow, long, windy, and with steep drop offs at all times.

From Kimche we hiked for about 5 hours reaching our first teahouse in Tadapani around 6 PM.  One hour into the trek we took a short stop in Ghandruk to fueled up on noodle soup. The first part of the hike was very steep and jungle-like with lush, green vegetation and tall trees.  It felt like we were on a stair master for 5 hours, which was 100% an accurate depiction of what the terrain would be for the rest of the days.  Keep in mind, we did not train for this hike because it was the dead of a New England winter and we figured it would be like walking just for several (around 9…) hours at a time. I would recommend bringing some protein bars in your pack as a little hunger emergency kit – I brought 6 CLIF bars with me which were great. Nevertheless, the sign for Tadapani was a very welcome sight. The teahouse we stayed in had individual rooms, 2 twin beds each, all in a row with doors and windows to the outside.  Hot showers, incredible views from our bedroom door, no heat in the rooms with 30 degree nights…you win some, you lose some.  There was one room for all guests where we could warm up by the fireplace, eat our meals at picnic tables, and plan for the following day. The staple food in Nepal, and the quintessential meal on the trail, is Dal Bhat which is white rice with curried potatoes & cauliflower, a lentil soup, and vegetable tarkari. It’s very tasty and proved to be great fuel for powering up the trails, lending credence to the famous Nepali saying: Dal Bhat power, 24-hour”.

Poon Hill trek

Views of the Annapurna mountain range from Tadapani. Photo by Catherine Zingale.

Day 2: Tadapani – Ghorapani

The second day was an all day-er. At this point we were gaining elevation and the views got much better. We trekked from Tadapani to Ghorepani which was at an elevation of 2,885 meters. We weaved through the mountain side on a well made stone step path passing tiered rice and wheat fields, small villages, and thick forest. The path was very well built and so expansive, it made me wonder who made it and how long it took. It is such a saving grace for the various mountain villages to have an efficient way to interconnect. We passed many donkeys and their owners transporting wood, gas, or water. It was incredible to me how anything could have been built in such an unforgiving and difficult landscape. The realization that made the most permanent impression on me was how different people around the world can live. I had never experienced a lifestyle that differed so much from my own. The things that are important to me were not nearly as important to them, and vice versa. It’s these types of experiences that help us stay open minded and accepting.

We arrived at the 2nd teahouse very close to the foot of Poon Hill in Ghorepani which gave us easy access for the 5 AM hike the next morning. This teahouse was popular among the trekkers for its location.

Day 3 – Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Pokhara

Our party of 6 was joined by approximately 100 other trekkers in the morning to make the ascent to Poon Hill at 3,193 meters. It was still pitch dark so you were left to follow the light of your head lamp and the ambient light of others’. At 5 AM it is quite cold out so we bundled up, but don’t fret, you’ll start sweating in no time. There’s a hut at the top that serves up hot tea (lemon or black) to enjoy with the view. We had a relatively clear sunrise that displayed a few of the great peaks including Annapurna South, Annapurna I, Machhapuchhare (“Fish Tail”), and Dhaulagiri. It was hard to leave the views from the top but we were delighted with spectacular views on the way down! Hiking up to the summit of Poon Hill was our prize. And when you work that hard for a prize, it feels like the prize of all prizes.

Poon Hill

A cup of tea to go with the Himalayan views. Photo by Catherine Zingale.

After a hearty breakfast of masala omelet and Tibetan bread we steered our feet back to Pokhara which meant a day of steep steps and ascents. We stumbled in to Temple Tree Resort in Pokhara dusty, sweaty and keen to sign up for the trekking massage on offer which is 1hr30mins for around $50 of painful bliss.  100% worth it.  Unless you physically prepare for a 3-day stair master-like hike, you will be incredibly sore and tight when you stop moving.

Another matter to attend to when back in civilization is clothing. We returned to Pokhara with absolutely zero clean clothing except for our bathing suits, but we were in good hands with all the vendors in town.  Did we look like we had bought our entire outfits at the tourist trap gift shops? Yep, but at least we were clean and comfortable!

There’s so much more to tell but you’ll just have to go ahead and tell your own story! There are lots of helpful trekking itineraries on the Great Himalaya Trails website to choose from or a good place to get information and inspiration when planning a trek to Nepal. (Thanks for the shout-out Catherine!)

What an incredible trip with the most amazing family. Trekking on the Great Himalaya Trails in Nepal are what adventure means to me. What does adventure mean to you?

 

Have you been on a trek in Nepal and want to share your experience? Become a GHT contributing blogger and share your story on Trekker’s Journal

 

 

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