Tuesday saw the start of our Nepali trekking experience. We took a pair of jeeps up past Nayapol and stopped about an hour and a half walk from Ghandruk. As the mountains drew nearer there was some apprehension but at the same time, we couldn't wait to be out of the cars. After a drop of tea, the six of us, our two porters and our guide set off.
The first day walking was meant to be a bit of a warm-up for the following days. The steps up to Ghandruk seemed never ending though and I think we were all glad when we arrived. The mountains looked majestic from so close and we were reliably informed by our guide that our guesthouse looked out over the peaks of Annapurna South and fishtail (Machapuchare). We went to bed early and got up to see the sunrise over the mountains.
We had intended to start off early but a tour of the village and a (completely necessary) stop at the German bakery, for cinnamon rolls and apple strudel, set us back a little. It was nearing nine before we started walking from Ghandruk to Newbridge, descending the many steps on the path and marvelling at the immaculately dressed school children we passed, climbing up on their way to school. Our walking poles were a good help but by the bottom, our legs were getting tired. Coffee and the German goodies revived us a little and we set off up the hill to Landruk.
We always knew this was going to be a challenge and it didn't disappoint. The climb was steep and the steps seemed never-ending. We also had the midday sun to contend with and shady patches seemed to grow few and far between. Somehow we eventually all made it to our lunch stop where we had a long rest and some (sadly disappointing) food. The final walk up to Landruk actually was much shorter than anticipated, which was a relief, and as we looked across the valley to Ghandruk we felt a sense of achievement as well as gratitude to God for his sustaining power in getting everyone up safely.
At this point, I should note food starts to get a little muddled in my memory, probably because every guesthouse had a nearly identical menu, even if their cooking techniques and standards varied a little. We had another early night on Wednesday, waking early and grabbing breakfast before heading on our way to Pothana. It took us around 6-7 hours but this included long tea and lunch breaks. The steep hills of the previous day melted away we were glad to be essentially following the contours of the hills, though the general trend was still upwards.
Pothana, our stop for the night was a busy little village with lots of tourists and an excellent little restaurant. Several members of the team 'enjoyed' extremely refreshing showers due to a gas heater malfunction, but apart from that we all had a comfortable night and made the most of our last mountain views.
On Friday we only had an hour and a half of a walk down to Dhampus to meet the land rovers. It would have been an easy walk but for the sore muscles of the previous days, although these too eased after walking for a while. The steps were slippery and we had a few slips along the way, we thank God for his protection as there was nothing too major. It was a tired but content group that rejoined the Land Rovers at Dhampus and we headed back to the relative comfort of sacred valley guesthouse, hindered only a little by a flat tyre.