How Sunny kid became a Mountain lioness
Kathmandu to Pokhara
Nepal is an adventure. An adventure of living the life that we adore. Traveling, meeting new people, immersing in different cultures, challenging ourselves, going through difficulties with strength, to rise up and breathe fully. All in the amazing, beautiful, sacred land of the Himalayas. In 2020 our goal was Annapurna circuit.
We spent the first few days in the chaotic Kathmandu, finding peace at Boudhanath stupa and falling into the rhythms of Nepali capital in the busy streets of the Thamel. In 2016 I landed in Kathmandu with my 4 year old daughter. She hasn’t yet had any idea of what to expect out of our travel destination. Kathmandu definitely wasn’t love at first sight for her, but she took it in wide eyed and full of excitement. We stayed above a very busy Thamel street at that time, with cars beeping nonstop, music blasting, and the air was thick with pollution. Poor choice of accommodation from my side. The chaotic capital of Nepal got the first heartwarming smiles from Sunny kid when we visited Swayambunath – the monkey temple. After a month of traveling around and falling in love with all bits and pieces of Nepal, we returned to Kathmandu. This time by the advice of a friend we stayed in the Secret Garden backpackers hostel. Oh, how we loved it. And it was at this time when Sunny kid took the streets of Thamel in her heart. Roaming around, visiting bookshops and bakeries, smelling the incense, and maneuvering fantastically among the crazy traffic, stray dogs, and people. She cried waterfalls when we had to leave. Coming back now with now 7 year old explorer was something else. It was amazing to watch her falling smoothly back into the rhythms of Thamel, chatting away with street vendors and finding everything in the chaotic maze of Thamel streets. “ Mum, Thamel is like a music festival see? It smells of incense, there is lots of different people from everywhere, the stalls sell all things I like and everyone is really happy and friendly. “
From Kathmandu we journeyed to Pokhara. The starting point for many treks and day trips and a splendid tourist hub for enjoying the lazy days by the shores of Phewa Lake. We stayed in our already three times Nepali home, with the Lemon tree family. If you ever visit Pokhara I absolutely recommend their guesthouse, up above the lake, surrounded with greenery, away from the main streets of Lakeside but still close enough to reach the center in a few minute’s walk.
There are lots of things to see and do while staying in Pokhara. Our top recommendations would be visiting the International mountaineering museum, Peace stupa, and renting a boat and row across Phewa lake.
Trekking Annapurna circuit
The main reason for our long awaited return to Nepal lay higher though. The Annapurna circuit. 220 km long trek with the highest altitude 5416m – Thorung la pass. I did this trek almost 20 years ago and still remember how amazing it was. After completing the base camp trek with Sunny kid in 2016, the circuit became a promise to her and was on the top of our trekking list. So here we were, three and a half years later, at the end of February 2020, on a small bus to Besisahar. The starting point of the Annapurna circuit trek.
Stepping out of the bus in Besisahar and convincing jeep drivers that we really want to walk, not take a ride, was a hard job. Not as hard though, as leaving the ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) entry point without succumbing to hiring a porter and a guide. The ACAP personel was relentless in trying to convince me, that I won’t be able to carry my enormous backpack and that I can not possibly cross Thorung-la with a kid, in the winter conditions. Especially not without a guide. Oh, I was happy to show them the photos of our mountaineering adventures in Europe, I can be relentless too. So after an hour of hassles in Besisahar, after lots of negotiating, we made good friends in the ACAP office and were free to go, walking the road out of the village and into the Himalayas. Annapurna circuit here we come!
Besisahar (820m) to Chyamche (1385m)
The first few days were mostly falling into the rhythms of walking. I have been a bit nervous, knowing that there is now a jeep road all the way up to Manang. I have read in lots of places that Annapurna circuit trek is ruined, because of it and I was quite anxious to see how it is in person. The first day, walking a few hours to was quite a shocker. Buses, jeeps, horns, clouds of dust. I must admit I was starting to think I made a wrong decision. But then we arrived at our first lodge and the owner was so genuinely happy. She told us all about how trekkers don’t stop anymore, how they all rush up, up, fast with jeeps. Her family used to live off trekking, now there is no way anymore. Her husband and brothers all try getting porter or jeep driving jobs, but it is difficult. Not many people walk the full circuit anymore she said, no one has time, so agencies are selling what people look for. Short, fast, instant,….But where is the experience??? Where is the time to sit, observe, feel, talk to people, and just be? I was happy, to be one of the few that will still walk the full trek. And we had time. We had a month to spend in the Annapurnas and I wouldn’t have it any different.
On the second and third day, we followed the trekkers’ footpath and left the dirt road behind. I started to breathe fully again. We were following the valley of Marsyangdi river leading us into the heart of the Himalayas. It has changed yes. But still, the mountains, the scenery, the stone-paved streets, the hanging bridges, the mani walls, the chortens and little stupas, and the crazy, crazy amount of stairs… It is all still here. The people are still as friendly and smiling. And the kids are still adorably cute and snotty. It is all here. If you want to see it!!! We even met Langur monkeys and had a cloudy morning view of Manaslu. Yes, there is also a jeep road leading high up…but…if you are not one of the hurried tourists who sit crammed in jeeps wanting to experience all the beauty and adrenaline in 8 or 10 or 12 days of instant Annapurna circuit, you almost never have to use it. The trekking footpath still goes through villages where everyone shouts NAMASTE!!!
We had a first break from walking in the little village of Chamche. We met two Indian artists/graphic designers who were at the time volunteering in the small village school. They were changing otherwise dark and dull classrooms into the colorful and bright world of interest. They invited us to stay for a few days and help out… It was exactly what I wished for. We spent great few days there, hanging out with P. , Vatsal and the kids and especially Sunny kid had a blast painting, playing and learning alongside this Nepali bunch of adorable natural kiddos. I am so thankful that we have gotten this opportunity. The beauty of going with the flow.
CHYAMCHE (1385m) TO PISANG (3310m)
Leaving Chyamche was difficult. The family we stayed with and our new friends were absolutely lovely and great company. We could easily just stay there. But we needed to move ahead, the weather reports were not good. Instead of going into spring temperatures, it felt like the weather is turning much wintery again. There was also some heavy snowfall reported in higher regions. When planning the trek, I chose March, cause it is pre-main season, so not crowded, but usually, the winter is over by then and around 15. of March, Thorung la, the highest point of the Annapurna circuit, should be passable without much snow on the way. Well, it looked like the winter of 2020 got a different game planned for us.
On we went from Chyamche, up along the Marsyangdi river, through villages, where people still live mostly off their crops and animals. The main diet consists of rice, dal (lentil sauce) and seasonal vegetable curry. The plus side of the jeep road is, that local people can now buy things coming up from the valley much cheaper than before when everything was traveling up on the backs of porters. I was also surprised at the low prices of cookies and chocolates, soft drinks. When trekking Annapurna base camp in 2016, the prices of those were climbing with the height astronomically. It was either carried up or flown with a helicopter. Both much more expensive, than bringing it with a jeep. This year the crazy prices started after Manang, where the road ends. But even so, the most expensive, frozen Snickers bar, was also the best one I ever ate. I bought in the last tea shop at 5000 altitude meters :).
Continuing on the right side of the river we were watching the jeeps on the other side. Sunny kid said she would rather drop dead than go with a jeep on this road. I had to agree. It looked crazy from our viewpoint. We stayed one night in Dharapani, then climbed up, up, up to Timang village, from where there was supposed to be a great view of mt. Manaslu. But then the clouds started rolling in and the skies opened up heavy showers! The temperatures dropped. So far we have met just a few trekkers on the way. The groups were still jeeped up here and there were not a lot of solo trekkers. It was the early season and also the Covid-19 epidemic started. In Timang village we were the only tourists that day. We could warm up in the kitchen by the open fire, where the young woman who owned the place was cooking. Otherwise, the cold days started. We spent the afternoon in our sleeping bags playing chess on my phone. The next morning the sky was clear, but the mountains around were white. My heart sank a little. Will we even be able to cross the pass? Am I crazy for going further into the winter???
We descended to Chame in nice weather that day, meeting a French couple on the way. In the village, there was also an ACAP checkpoint, where you need to show the trekking permit. I straight up lied and told them we are only going up to Manang and back. They would probably keep me there if I told them that I plan to pass Thorung – la with a seven year old. But the truth is, that this seven year old, has done more mountaineering, hiking, and climbing in the mountains, then probably 80% of the people who do this trek. Seriously.
We spent the evening by the fireplace again, this time in the company of Alex and Marie and the owners kids. There was also wi-fi after a few days without. Weather reports expected another day of rain or snow and then clear for about five days. We decided that we push to Upper Pisang the next day. As we went to bed, the rain started.
I woke up at six o clock when the French couple next door had their alarm set. I heard Marie’s first word that day was “Merde”. I didn’t understand the rest, but drawing the curtains all I could say was also “Shit!!!!”. It was snowing. In heaps. The snow cover must have been at least 40 cm thick already. While I was anxiously considering what to do, Sunny kid woke up, looked out, and started jumping on the bed!!!! “Yesssss, snooooow, we can make a snowman on the way!!!!” That’s what is so cool when traveling with kids. They don’t usually see this type of difficulties as obstacles but rather as opportunities.
And so we walked. It was a difficult day. We started among the first from the village, just Alex and Marie broke the trail in front of us.
After what seemed hours of walking immersed in white, the snowing gradually subsided and the clouds started to break. I was tired, my back was killing me for days now, I was carrying about 25kg. Kiddos shoes were soaked, she was exhausted. But there was no village between Chame and Pisang where we could stay. So we kept going. And then the sun came out!!! What a difference. Pisang peak was showing off right in front of us and slowly, slowly, the first white heads of Annapurnas emerged. Himalayan heaven. Bad moods lifted. Sunny kid finally got her opportunity to make a snowman. She made two. And as we were told later, they cheered up lots of trekkers walking the same difficult path behind us that day.
Alex and Marie were already waiting for us and the fire in the dining room was already burning! The views were superb. Beautiful Pisang.
PISANG (3310m) TO MANANG (3540m)
We decided to stay in the village for a day. My back was in a bad condition, Sunny kid needed rest and both our hiking shoes were still wet. Later that day kiddo started coughing and by the evening it got much worse. So we prolonged our stay in Pisang, she drank lots of ginger lemon tea and ate garlic soup. I didn’t want to continue till she got better, since we were heading to colder and higher altitudes.
The weather was good, the snow slowly dissipated from the paths. We walked around the village and to Green lake, adjusting our bodies to the altitude. During the day, outside it was around 10 – 15 degrees, night time in the room around 5 – 10. Every afternoon the cozy dining room of Mandala guesthouse was warmed by the fire. Sunny kid was playing cards with porters and taught herself to write cursive. We have met quite a lot of trekkers here. After a few days, kiddo was much better and we decided to move on.
We were now in the high Buddhist lands. From Pisang on, the villages were mostly dressed in colorful Tibetan prayer flags. The morning smell of burning the incense felt like home. We turned all the prayer wheels on the way, walking towards Humde and the next day on to Braga and Manang. This is by far the most beautiful part of the trek. Walking under the great massive of Annapurna range, always staying on the bank of the Marsyangdy river, through the valley of otherworldly rock formations, stupas, and yaks. Life is difficult up here, but people are genuinely happy. It is impossible to not get caught in their positivity.
Life was perfect, I was almost flying. Sunny kid was ok and healthy, getting back in her form quickly, my back finally accepted the weight of the backpack and the path was once again dry. The snow seemed to start at somewhere around 4000m. We arrived in Manang full of energy and high hopes.
“We are now 3500m high and totally in love and in awe of all the Buddhist villages we walked through. We had a day of heavy snowing but after that the sky got clear, and the scenery magnificent. We met so many nice people on the way and loved sharing part of our journey with them. Himalaya is amazing…and the simplicity of life here makes you see the world differently. We have walked under Annapurnas 2,4 and 3 and admired Manaslu and Pisang peak. We have seen the mountain peaks bathe in green lakes. Kiddo is in good form and healthy, I am great too, feeling even better up high and thankful to be here. We will now stay in Manang for a while, to acclimatize and explore the surrounding trails. Then we push on, to the highest point of the trek – Thorung la pass.” This was my fb post. The wifi worked on the first day of arriving in Manang and I was quite shocked, getting the news of the corona pandemic spreading. Some of the trekkers were actually turning around, going back to Kathmandu asap in fears that they couldn’t get out of Nepal later on. Most of us stayed though and the next day the wifi was off anyway so it was easy to forget the tiny virus while trekking the mighty Himalaya.
It is advisable to stay in Manang a few days and do acclimatization tours, before heading further. So, on the first day, we hit the trail for the Ice lake. The day was some kind of perfection. Kicho Tal or Ice lake is a few hours hike from Manang. With its height of 4600 alt m, it is also a perfect try out point, to see how your body reacts to the altitude. The steep climb makes you feel like you are flying in an airplane above Marsyangdy valley and the greatness of the Annapurna 3 and Gangapurna mountains makes you feel humble. Since it was our 5th day above 3300m we didn’t have any altitude related problems. I asked Sunny kid on the top how her lungs are coping… she said: I feel the same as if I was eating pizza in Pokhara.
Mentioning pizza, Manang is the first (and the last) place on this side of Thorung-La, with bakeries and little shops to stock up on anything you might need for the crossing of the pass. The prices for the food were still quite low, compared to the prices on the Annapurna base camp trek. Sunny kid stuck to eating porridge and dhalbhat mostly, I went for veg fried rice and Tibetan bread.
It snowed on and off for two days. It was cold and humid. The little fireplace in the dining room was lit from 5pm on but our shoes were never completely dry again. We used our water bottle as a heater for the kiddos’ sleeping bag. We asked for hot water just before we went to bed and it was a perfect solution for those cold nights above 3500m. We ate a lot and walked around the village visiting Gangapurna ice lake, a viewpoint above Manag, and a few Buddhist stupas.
MANANG (3540m) TO THORUNG-LA (5416m) TO MUKTINATH (3800m)
The snowing stopped and the locals said the next few days will be dry. It was our window of opportunity to cross the pass, to the other, warmer side of the mountain range, to the valley of Kali Gandaki. We needed three days. Three difficult days. It was winter up here. I didn’t plan to cross Thorung-la in winter conditions when leaving home. I expected the cold, but not the snow. Not so much snow. And our shoes, our shoes were just absolutely wet all the time. So, after a few days in Manang we headed up, towards Yak Kharka.
While the world stopped due to a virus, we were in no wifi, no electricity zone up above 3500m. The hardest but also the most beautiful part of Annapurna circuit. Nearing Thorung la pass – 5416m high trekking point linking Marsyangdi valley with Kali Gandaki valley. It was not easy… we needed to pass it in serious winter conditions, not expected in the second half of March. Already coming to Yak Kharka (4050m) meant a day in knee-deep snow. We had a great trekking company though and drying shoes and socks by the small fireplace, the only source of heat, became a highlight of the evening.
After a cold, cold night with yaks sleeping just outside the windows, we had a Monday morning Nutella pancake party. I needed to get rid of the additional weight. And then the news hit (rumors actually) – there were avalanches between high camp and Thorung Phedi, the trail is under the snow and the pass will be closed for at least three days….. The 4 French friends decided to descend back to Manang and return through the same valley. Alec from Portugal, a Korean couple, and me, were a bit sceptical of the news. There were also two big organised trekking groups who were ascending in front of us… We didn’t see them turn back. We decided to continue to Thorung Pedi and see the situation by ourselves. If all were true we could still turn around the next day.
We had an amazing day ascending to 4525m. The weather was perfect, the snow was settling and the group who started earlier than us made us a great path in the snow. On the way, we met some people and a guide who turned around because of the cold and too much snow. But the truth was, there was one very small avalanche not affecting the trail. The first day after the heavy snow there were problems breaking the trail due to the amount and the bad weather. The guide also told us that more than 40 people managed to move ahead this morning and that the trail across the pass is made. But it was less than 20 below zero in the morning and with the strong wind, his clients decided to turn around. We were without the internet, but the last report in Manang showed that Tuesday will be sunny and windless. We had good chances. We reached Thorung Pedi early afternoon and did acclimatization ascend towards the High camp.
There was quite a lot of trekkers around, everyone positive to cross the next day. The path was clear and walked out. We found out that the big group is leaving 4 o clock in the morning, our little team of seven decided to start at 5. To avoid the freezing cold and walking in the line.
D – day
It was a short, cold, cold night. I was keeping our hiking boots in the sleeping bag, so they wouldn’t freeze cause it was impossible to dry them for the last few days. I was also waking up every half an hour or so, checking Sunnykids breathing and being simultaneously worried and excited for the next day. D day! Thorung-la day. Half-past four we were packed, dressed in multi-layers, and ready to go, we found the lodge kitchen locked. We needed food and more importantly hot water. Me and Alec exchanged in knocking on the door a billion times. The cook boy of the lodge appeared at 5.20 apologising that his alarm didn’t go off… “I make fire quick!!!” he promised. We started f….. late.
At about 6.15 Sunny kid marched us uphill. Everyone happily let her take the lead. She has earned a new nickname amongst the trekkers in the days before the pass: Mountain Lioness. It suits her well. Her little body adjusted amazingly to the lack of oxygen this far. The path was great, the sun came out and the sky was dark blue. We were amongst the highest peaks of the world, with Gangapurna guiding the horizon like a snow queen. Me and Sunny kid reached the High camp in an hour. Alec was soon behind us and two Indian boys followed. Koreans Pumi and Chong Jong fell behind…they either returned or decided to spend the day in high camp. Despite the sun, it was a really cold morning, but we were lucky, there was no wind. We also had lots of hand warmers… Sunnykid had them in her shoes, in the trousers pockets, and in the gloves. She saved Alec and the Indian boys with them, cause their toes were freezing.
On we went from the High camp, slowly but smoothly. Breathtaking views in this low oxygen environment. Sun was burning. Everyone was quiet. Step after step. We reached the stone made teahouse at 5000 altitude meters. I had no idea what time it is, but the sun was high. Another 416 altitude meters was waiting and I knew from the last time that the way is long. At least three times up and down, when you think you reached the pass but it is still not in sight.
We left the boys at the teahouse and pushed on. Sunny kids steady stride started to slow. She dropped in the snow and breathed. Lack of oxygen has caught up with her too. “I feel so tired after just 10 steps mum. This is hard.” Her eyes welled up. I knew how she felt. We have talked about this, she saw others struggle with altitude, but this was the first time she felt it herself. I have always told her, that we can turn back down if it gets too difficult. We can just walk back the same valley. This was the moment to ask her if she would rather return. It was a firm: “No, I can do this.” I sat there in deep snow with my seven years old little – but so great – mountaineer in my lap. We talked about all her favorite mountaineers, Tomaž, Nejc, Nirmal,… For a long time, her favorite people and absolute role models were Tomaž Humar and Bob Marley. They both came out to help on that day, toughing out the last 400 altitude meters to cross the highest point of the Annapurna circuit. We made a plan to set marks to which we walk and then rest. I took Sunny kids backpack. She didn’t complain this time. The boys have just started from the teahouse. I was happy to have someone behind us. Off we went, to the first pole with flags. 50 meters. Then breathing. Next pole. Breathing. Sunny kid fell into the rhythm. Her face lit up again. “Every little thing s gonna be all right,… ” She took her doll Indy out of the backpack and walked with her. Pole with flags. Breathing. Big rock, breathing….. Kiddo was in her world. Enjoying the new strategy. Boys were about 100 alt m below us. I struggled from mark to mark with my enormous backpack and the soft snow was taking the little energy I had.
My mountain lioness was good though… she conquered her fears and pushed through the difficulties. She made me a show with Indy each time I reached the mark. She is a rock star, my girl. We continued this way for god knows how long, but it felt forever. Just blue and white, blue and white. Ringing in the ears. Breathing. I felt like I am climbing Hillarys step at least… And then we saw the flags. The flags of the pass. Just once more up…and we are there. Sunny kid took her backpack back and hurried on. I swear I could almost cry at the moment. Out of sheer relief that we made it. Just watching my daughter stride proudly the last meters to the pass.
We sat in the moment of glory, surrounded by sun glistering peaks and Buddhist prayer flags. Winter conditions Thorung la is not a piece of cake. It was tough. It was unbelievably beautiful but also unbelievably difficult. We made it up in about 4,5 h. Sunny kid was already unwrapping the flags we brought up and I helped her tie them up to the pile of others. The boys arrived half an hour after us. After the photo session, we two and Alec hurried down. A long descend (1600 alt m) to Muktinath was ahead. It showed immediately that it won’t be easy and that the struggles are far but over. The trail was covered with snow that strong winds carried around. Alec took the lead breaking the path for us. Sunny kid was walking with snow above her knees. The wind was strong… It went on and on.
How this kid is so strong and so focused and so determined I will never understand. I was exhausted. I barely kept up with them. I was so happy we had Alec in front. After about two hours we reached the narrow valley where the wind finally stopped and the trail was good. We stopped on a sunny rocky spot and the kiddo fell asleep for five minutes. Power nap. And then cookies. And another three hours of sliding down very wet snow till we reached Muktinath… We were thoroughly wet. These hiking boots of ours haven’t been successfully dried since Manag. We kept them in sleeping bags overnight so we managed to keep them unfrozen. But at least we were now losing altitude and it kept getting warmer and warmer. I sprained my ankle on the way and I had a splitting headache. But we made it. What a day it was. 11 hours to cross. Unforgettably beautiful and also unforgettably hard. Proud to the moon of my Mountain lioness. She was absolutely amazing!!!! We did it.
MUKTINATH (3800m) TO KAGBENI (2800m) – peak into MUSTANG
We got into a lodge in Muktinath. Got a room. I helped the kiddo undress all the wet stuff and she was fast asleep before I managed to unpack the dry clothes. I got her into her sleeping bag and then took the first hot shower after x days, I stopped counting long ago, but being under hot water felt like heaven. An hour later we were all having a big dhal bhat dinner. The plan was to stay in Muktinath for a day and rest. But we made a decision to continue the next day and escape to Kagbeni. You see, Muktinath was full of “trekkers” that came up here with a bus. There were lots of Indian tourists riding horses. All in all, there was lots of people and we agreed to like tranquility more. Also, there was no electricity, so no wi-fi and also no ordinary phone signal. The last time I managed to let our people at home know we are ok and that we are planning to cross Thorung-la in a few days was in Manang. That was far away. I knew they must be worried by now waiting for news from a crazy me who passed 5416m in winter conditions with a 7 year old mountaineer.
So next morning the wet, wet, wet boots came on again, for me over an ankle brace and we were on the road again.
We were gradually descending down the winding road, covering our faces in karite butter that finally softened again. Our faces were quite burned from the pass. My nose and my lips were in a horrible state. Sunny kids lips too. She said she looks like she just arrived form Everest. We made it to our destination in a few hours, looking back at the snowy mountains and the high pass now behind us.
We arrived to Kagbeni, the gateway to the Mustang kingdom and the northernmost point of the Annapurna circuit. Upper Mustang, formerly known as the Kingdom of Lo, is a remote and isolated region of the Nepalese Himalayas. one of the most preserved regions in the world, with a majority of the population still speaking traditional Tibetic languages. Tibetan culture has been preserved by the relative isolation of the region from the outside world. One of my big wishes was and is a trek into this amazingly beautiful part of Nepal. But as it is a restricted area, the trekking permits are out of my financial reach. But it should stay this way. The restrictions I mean, not my financial status. . There are police checkpoints controlling the entrance to Mustang. Alec used all of his Italian charms and asked if we can trek just to the first village. We were allowed. So we spent the afternoon walking into the forbidden kingdom. Excitedly jumping all through the villages like kids getting a long wanted present. We have seen just enough to know that we want to see more. It was just one afternoon…but still, thankful that we were allowed to peak in.
We have also gotten a phone signal so we were able to send a message home, that a we are safe and sound already in the valley of Kali Gandaki. There was still no wi-fi and we had no clue that Nepal is planning to go into lock-down and that most of the worlds airports were shutting down. We were happy in our blissful – not knowing anything except where we are in the moment – state.
KAGBENI (2800m) TO GHOREPANI (2870m) – POONHILL (3210m)
From Kagbeni we followed the stream of Kali Gandaki river. We practically met no one, there was just a handful of trekkers, most of the lodges were closed. We walked around 20 km a day so we only stayed in the bigger villages, where we could find something open for sure. It was quite weird. We soon found out why.
After two or three days of walking along the river, we made it to Kalopani and were met with wi-fi. I wish we weren’t. As the world situation became clear, plans for the next treks and our month and a half more in Nepal started crumbling. The first reaction of many of us, sitting at the dining table that evening was, to just stay in the Himalayas till this all pandemic thing blows over.
So we kept walking, quite in our wolds and quite oblivious to the world situation. We had a good time. We walked with Alec since Yak Kharka already and have gotten used to being together. I hated him for making me walk 20 km a day, my back was in so much pain again, but we kept going. Yeah, it was good having him as a company and Sunny kid loved him a lot! Also since we were walking together I actually had no more “interrogations” at ACAP check – posts. They didn’t even ask me where we came from or where we are going anymore. They just assumed we were with Alec, it was really funny but also much easier for me.
On 23rd March we made it to Ghorepani. The usually bustling trekkers hub was empty, most of the lodges closed, trekkers shops closed. It was a sad, sad sight. We found an open lodge and made plans to visit Poon hill – the view point above the village next morning for the sunrise. Me and Sunny kid were here in the fall of 2016. The lodges were full at the time, there were trekkers everywhere, the little charming village was alive.
On the morning of 24th March, we got up in the pitch dark and hiked up to 3210m high Poon hill viewpoint. There were just a few people up there altogether. The sunrise was magnificent, painting the mountains bright orange. We could see everything from the mighty Macchapucre, Annapurna range, and Dhaulagiri range.
LOCKDOWN IN GHOREPANI AND BACK TO POKHARA
We came back to the lodge at the right time for a delicious breakfast. Sunny kid was just getting ready for a round of chess with our new friend Phil when the news hit. Nepal is in lockdown. We thought we were covid madness free up in the Himalayas. Well… at that moment it was clear that we weren’t. The following hours we were trying to figure out what to do. The first pieces of information were, that all trekkers areas will be closed in a few days and everyone must get out and to Pokhara or Kathmandu, but on the other hand, the government’s rules were to stay put where you are. So, that’s what we did. It wasn’t that bad being in a lockdown in Ghorepani. We had good company, the owners of the lodge were super nice and the weather was perfect. I was taught how to hand wash our clothes properly.
But after a few days it was clear that we wont be able to stay. We were told by the tourist police we need to leave the trekkers area, cause they will close all the lodges. But the thing was, we couldn’t get to Pokhara on foot because all movement was restricted and we couldn’t get a ride cause there were no buses. So, the police was kind of kicking us out of ACAP but at the same time telling us that we can not walk down cause by government orders we should stay where we are. It got messy, our lodge was the only one still open, we were 5 trekkers there. The owners could get in trouble if we stayed. My great friend Buddhi, trekking guide from Pokhara and a very good man, came to the rescue. After a day of mailing and phone calls, with the help of Slovenian embassy in Delhi, Slovenian consul in Nepal and lots office to office paper running on Buddhis side, we all got permission to walk down and Buddhi was allowed to pick us up in Naya Pul. The final village of the trek.
We walked for about 7 hours that last day. We needed to descend completely down to the road, where we could be picked up. I was happy we managed to finish the circuit but it was a bittersweet goodbye.
We did it! 220 km through all sorts of weather. Annapurna circuit done!
Buddhi arrived with a van, face masks and a big, big smile. We got into Pokhara through sideroads, so we didnt get too many police controls. Buddhi our savior. Next time we trek together!!!
We will be back. Once in the Himalayas, you keep returning forever. Especially if you have a little Mountain lioness as your favourite co-traveler. She was absolutely amazing! She thrives in difficult situations, her body is set on fire when challenges are ahead. Mountain Lioness! It suites her well!
At the moment Slovenia is in the second lockdown and we have live presentations of our Annapurna circuit adventures online. One in Slovene and one in English language. On the first English one (December 2.) we will have some of our trekking friends as guests. Sooooo looking forward to it. 🙂