Tea House Trekking to Poon Hill & Annapurna Sanctuary

We are proud and happy we did this trek. Proud because before we went on this 14-day trek we had never been hiking in the mountains for so long. In fact the 4-day trek to Ala-Kol in Kyrgyzstan was our most demanding hike thus far. Happy because it was one of the most beautiful things we ever did. Amazing viewpoints, ridge-top trails, fairy-tale forests, cozy villages, deep narrow gorges and of course the natural amphitheatre of 11 Himalayan peaks that’s called the Annapurna Sanctuary. Next to that, simply walking in nature, away from the motorized world, was a very relaxing experience. In this post I’ll give you a day-to-day description as well as some useful information for when you want to do the trek yourself.

Day-to-Day

Day 1: Pokhara – Birethanti (1025m)

Birithanti, the start of our trek.

Birithanti, the start of our trek.

Not an actual trekking day because today’s purpose is to get to the start of the trekking so we can start walking right after breakfast tomorrow. In the morning we buy the last supplies for the trekking (muesli & snicker bars!) and after lunch we meet Dev, our porter/guide. He is a 25 years old friendly guy and speaks some English too. We take a taxi to Nayapul which is the starting point of our trek. From there it’s a half hour walk to Birethanti where we register at the ACAP office and spend the first night.

Today we drove 1.5 hours and walked 30 minutes.

Day 2: Birethanti – Ulleri (1960m)

The first suspension bridge at Tikhedthunga, just before the 3000 stone steps to Ulleri.

The first suspension bridge at Tikhedthungga, just before the 3000 stone steps to Ulleri.

The day starts with a gently walk up the valley. The first hour we walk on a dirt road along some rice paddies and we pass a couple of villages and tea houses on the way. Just before Sudame the road changes into stone steps. We cross the bridge and have lunch in a nicely situated teahouse in Tikhedhungga. From here it’s only 3000 (!) steps up to our destination Ulleri, where our tea house in has an interesting shower system: it has two shower heads; one for boiling hot and another for cold water. But as you open the cold tap, obviously the water pressure drops so the boiler switches off, leaving only the ice-cold water. After closing the cold water tap the boiler switches on again but now there’s only boiling hot water. In the end I manage to take an alternating hot and cold shower in the 20 seconds in between the ice-cold and boiling hot situations. I guess it’s one of the discomforts that go with a teahouse trekking.

Today we walked 5 hours.

Day 3: Ulleri – Ghorepani (2750m)

Having a snickers bar in the fairytale forest.

Having a snickers bar in the fairytale forest.

Some excitement when we wake up: there’s a clear view of Annapurna South, the first Himalaya peak we see since we arrived in Nepal almost two weeks ago. Finally! There’s almost a traffic jam when we start our walk today. Most people start their trek in Nayapul after leaving early from Pokhara. Since we started from Birethanti we obviously were ahead of the crowds yesterday. It’s a beautiful walk today, after climbing some more stone steps we enter an oak and rhododendron forest. Small waterfalls come down and we cross a couple of small with moss overgrown bridges. Picturesque all over. More excitement when we arrive in Ghorepani: we can still see the top of Dhaulagiri, with 8167m the 7th highest mountain in the world. It has been a good day. We spend the afternoon playing pool with Dev. He now persistently calls me “Mango”, apparently Nepalese for “Domingo”. And Carina is “Mango Wife”. Makes sense.

Today we walked 5 hours.

Day 4: Ghorepani – Tadapani (2590m)

A view from Poon Hill.

Sunrise at Poon Hill.

The alarm clock goes off at 4:30. We have to get up early for the sunrise at Poon Hill (3193m), an hour walk up from Ghorepani. It’s freezing cold so we put on all the layers we have. Poon Hill is a popular destination for the views on the Himalaya peaks and it has somethings of a holy procession when hundreds of people walk up the steps with their headlights on. Until now we had only seen Annapurna South and a glimpse of Dhaulagiri. The cyclone that snow trapped us on Everest Base Camp had brought some cloudy weeks in Nepal too. But we are lucky today and can finally see all the peaks in the Annapurna region. After breakfast we continue our trek together with the German Steffi and her guide Dawa who we met in our guesthouse. It’s another beautiful walk through the rhododendron forest. First on a ridge with even better views on the peaks, later on it goes up and down through a narrow canyon until we reach a cold and cloudy Tadapani.

Today we walked 6.5 hours (including up and down to Poon Hill)

Day 5: Tadapani – Chhomrong (2340)

Coffee at dawn - Tadapani

Coffee at dawn – Tadapani

Clear skies again and nice views of Annapurna South and Machhapuchhre. We start walking together with Steffi and Dawa again. We now leave the popular Poon Hill trekking route which goes to Ghandruk and continue our way north to Chhomrong. From Tadapani it’s first a steep 600m down through the forest until we reach the suspension bridge near Ghurung. We then continue the path that traverses the hillside high above the valley. It’s only 11 o’clock when we reach the last teahouse before Chhomrong. We decide to move on and have lunch in Chhomrong which should be only one hour from here. Of course this proved to be a bit too optimistic. The path goes up and down more than we expect and it takes us almost 2 hours. We are happy to reach Chhomrong so we can finally have lunch. The rest of the day we play cards, sort out the pictures we took and drink some rum (just to keep warm ;-))

Today we walked 5 hours.

Day 6: Chhomrong – Dobhan (2505m)

The steps of Chomrong

The steps of Chhomrong

Chhomrong is build against a hillside and our teahouse is in the upper part. And there’s a river to cross which means we have to go down a lot of stone steps until we reach the suspension bridge. From here we will walk up the valley that leads to the base camp. Right after the bridge it goes up again. More stone steps. Many more. I’m glad to reach our resting point in Sinuwa and have a ginger tea. From Sinuwa it’s 200m up to Khuldigar and then 200m down to Bamboo. Mostly stone steps of course. Then from Bamboo one more hour up until Dobhan, our overnight stay. In Dobhan we meet Steffi again, who was a bit ahead of us, and also Melina and Yiannis from Greece. Yiannis is wearing a green legging with some sort of jungle-print and a strange white hairy hat. It doesn’t take long until Dev calls him “Yeti Man”.

Today we walked 6 hours.

Day 7: Dobhan – Deurali (3100m)

Having a good time with Yiannis and Melina

Having a good time with Yiannis and Melina

We decide to take it easy today. Originally we thought we would take a day of rest in Chhomrong but we move on instead. But yesterday was a bit of a tough walk (did I mention the stone steps?) so the legs started to feel heavy. Also, going up from 2600 to 3200 would be a good idea for the acclimatization. Our new Greek friends had the same idea so we walk up together. Shortly before Deurali we cross the tree line and enter an open, rocky landscape. We have to cross some waterfalls that come down over the black rocks . The scenery has definitely changed. It’s rough and mountainous now. We get in Deurali early. Enough for today. Time to chill, enjoy the sunshine, chat with our new Greek friends and have (a little) rum.

Today we walked 4 hours.

Day 8: Deurali – Annapurna Base Camp (4130m)

Facing the elements on the way to ABC

Facing the elements on the way to ABC

Ok, it wasn’t planned. We had the plan to walk to Machhapuchhre Base Camp (MBC) at 3700m and spend the night there. But as we get there we’re so excited to be close to the ultimate destination of the trekking that we decide to walk on until Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). As soon as we leave MBC it starts to snow and I promptly have to think of our adventure at Everest Base Camp. Could it be that there’s a spell on us and base camps? It keeps snowing lightly all the way up to ABC. Nothing to worry about, except that it might be cloudy the next morning. Like this morning. That would be a pity; 7 mornings of clear skies and then when you reach the top… nothing. We reach ABC in an icy snow shower. In our tea house we meet Chris from Chile. We share our room with him and our Greek friends. It’s incredibly cold in our room. There are cracks and gaps all around the door and window frames. It’s gonna be a tough night. Together with Chris we pray for clear views… 😉

Today we walked 4 hours.

Day 9: Annapurna Base Camp – Bamboo (2335)

The reward

The ultimate reward

And it helped. Chris wakes us up early in the morning to announce that the sky is clear and we have good views on all the peaks. We hurry to get up and gather on the ridge above the glacier. It’s amazing to stand here in the middle of these Himalaya giants. We wait for the sunrise although I think sunrises are a bit overrated. Or maybe that’s just because my camera makes lousy pictures when it’s too dark. Anyway, it’s beautiful. And cold. So after the sunrise ceremony we hastily go inside to warm our feet at the gas stove under the table. There’s an exuberant mood inside. Everybody is enthusiast about the reward for the days of walking up. It’s slippery on the snowy path from ABC to MBC but the euphoria and the beautiful views make walking down easy in the first few hours. But just before  Himalaya we start to feel the legs and knees. Maybe stay here? Not possible. Everything’s full. Dev calls ahead and we can only stay in Bamboo, two hours further down. A bit of a letdown but we pull ourselves together and move on. On the way down it starts to rain but we don’t really care anymore. Soaking wet and with sour knees we reach Bamboo. We descended 1900 meters today. Time for a beer.

Today we walked 7 hours.

Day 10: Bamboo – Jhinu (1610m)

On the way back you have to climb up the steps to Chomrong once more...

On the way back you have to climb up the steps to Chomrong once more…

I had the worst night of the trekking. The teahouse owner only gave us a thin blanket. In an optimistic mood we guessed that would be sufficient since we are much lower now. How wrong was that. Not only was it still very cold at night but the blanket was not only too thin but too short as well. And since it was sort of a square I had either my legs or my upper body uncovered. To keep it short: it was a battle between me and the blanket and I lost. As we start walking we’re not sure yet about the destination. The hot springs are appealing but it’s a 6 hours walk from Bamboo. We’ll see. When we have lunch in Chhomrong the legs still feel ok and we decide to walk down the steep steps to Jhinu. Not a bad decision. The teahouse Dev reserved for us is a gem, a beautiful colorful terrace and garden, hot shower, nice rooms, a soft mattress, cosy dinner room, wi-fi, friendly owners, good food and above all it was nicely situated with a great view over the valley. What a nice surprise! Our ABC-roomies Chris, Melina and Yiannis are staying here as well and we also meet an Israeli couple we saw earlier at ABC. Just before sunset we all go down to the river for a hot spring session. The hot water is just what our legs needed. The Israelis make coffee, Yiannis and I develop some great business plans for the hot springs while bats fly around our heads. Remarkable night. Being in the hot springs with a nice group of people under a starry sky is the just the perfect end of our ABC adventure.

Today we walked 6 hours.

Day 11 & 12: Jhinu

The Evergreen Guesthouse in Jhinu. Paradise.

The Evergreen Guesthouse in Jhinu. Paradise.

Unfortunately all our friends from the last few days are on a tight schedule and have to leave today. We are in no hurry. And our teahouse in Jhinu is such a nice place that we decide to spend another two nights. Just lazing around, read, blog, upload some pictures, eat, drink, sleep, gaze at the mountains. Do nothing. Just perfect.

We only walked around the guesthouse…

Day 13: Jhinu – Landruk (1565m)

Landruk, seems like a perfect place to do some Woofing

Landruk, seems like a perfect place to do some Woofing

After two days of relaxing we all feel like walking again. We decide to skip the extra climb to Ghandruk and head directly for Landruk. Saves us 3 hours walking so around lunchtime we’re already on our destination for the day. Lunch in the first guesthouse was terrible so we moved to the next one. Much better. Great views on Annapurna South. And the marijuana field just below. When we sit down with a beer I meet the owner of the field. He shows me around a bit (“it’s all grown organic!”) and of course we have to smoke one. I think this would be a perfect place to do some Woofing. The rest of the afternoon I spent gazing at the mountains… 🙂

Today we walked 3 hours.

Day 14: Landruk – Pokhara

Pitam Deurali

Pitam Deurali

It’s the last day of the trekking. We start the day walking on an ugly dirt road that has destroyed to original path for the most part. I can understand a road will make life in the villages a lot easier but at the same time it’s walking on the century old footpaths the draws the tourist here. Without these footpaths the tourists will skip the section (like the Jomsom – Tatopani stretch on the Annapurna Circuit). And without tourists the tea houses are out of business too. Well, let’s hope the Nepalis will see this too. Fortunately, from Tolka we get back on the original path. It goes up one more time until we reach the viewpoint Pitam Deurali at 2100m. Nice views towards the valleys at both sides from here. We walk on to cosy Pothana and have lunch in the first guesthouse which has a beautiful garden and nice mountain views. We both agree that this too would have been a nice place to stay for the night. After lunch it’s on to Dhampus, another beautiful village with perfect views on the Annapurna range. Now get ready for the last steps: a steep 500 meters down to Phedi. When we arrive in Phedi I’ve lost all the use in my legs and knees. Luckily our car is awaiting us to take us back to Pokhara.

Today we walked 6 hours.

More pictures in the photo album.

 

Useful Stuff

Permits

For this trek you will need 2 permits:

  • ACAP, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (2000 rupees per person)
  • TIMS, the Trekking Information Management System (1200 rupees per person if you hired a porter/guide through an agency, 2000 rupees for independent trekkers).

You will need 2 passport photos per permit so 4 in total. If you are caught on the trek without a permit you pay double the price. There are ACAP checkpoints on the route but actually nobody actively checked us. We registered ourselves at the beginning in Birethanti and on exit in Dhampus.

Both permits can be obtained from the Tourist Office in Pokhara Damside or through your agency (who will charge a small fee).

Life on the Trail

It’s unlikely that you will have to walk more than an hour or two before you come across some sort of tea house that offers food and lodging. The most important source of income for the tea houses is the food and drink. The very basic rooms are sort of an add-on. It’s an unwritten rule that you have your meals in the same guesthouse that you sleep in. Expect to spend on average 500 rupees on a meal. Rooms are always without heating and cost about 300 rupees per night (for a double).

Since everything has to be carried up by porters, the higher you get the more expensive the food and drinks (up to 700 rupees for a pizza or a beer in ABC). In the higher areas you also will have to pay a fee (about 150 per head) for the heater in the dining hall (they put a big gas stove under the table). Forget about taking a shower in ABC. For the rest there is often a hot shower (at approx. 150 rupees) but make sure they have gas heating instead of solar power or else you could be in for a cold surprise. In high season you have to call ahead to make a reservation or else you end up sleeping in the dining hall with the Nepali porters and guides (which is actually not so much worse than a room).

Do I need a porter and/or a guide?

Strictly speaking you don’t need a porter nor a guide one on this trek. But it makes life a lot easier if you do have one. Besides that, hiring a porter or a guide is not that expensive. We hired Dev for 1200 rupees per day which is a reasonable price. I still carried most of my stuff which was about 10kg. Carina had only a small daypack and we gave Dev about 12kg to carry. Next to being a porter Dev also acted as a guide, called ahead to reserve the next guesthouse, took care of ordering and serving the meals, told us about Nepal, etc. Most people we met had at least a porter and in my opinion hiring one is certainly good value for money. And, more important, you will give someone a job.

We hired our porter/guide Dev through the agency in our hotel, the Silver Oaks Inn in Pokhara.

Difficulty

I think the trail wasn’t difficult at all. I found the trekking we did in Kyrgyzstan much more demanding because of the terrain (boulders, steep slopes) than the stone staircases and (more or less) paved footpaths on this trek. Still, the many stone steps will put your knees to a test. So, if you have any kind of serious problems with your knees, you should maybe consider another trekking.

Trekking profile Poon Hill & Annapurna Sanctuary

Trekking profile Poon Hill & Annapurna Sanctuary (Source: Imagine Treks)

Here’s a profile of the trekking we did. I got it from another site so the measurements are in miles and feet instead but I guess you will figure that out. Also the walking times and places we stayed for the night differ a bit from ours.

Gear

Needless to say you will need a good pair of walking boots. Preferably with a Vibram sole. Also it’s going to be cold in many of the places you visit so bring enough warm clothing. Here’s a list of essentials we brought on our trekking:

  • Walking boots
  • Flip-flops
  • Thermal underwear (long)
  • Warm socks (at least 3 pairs)
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Silk bag liner (or a sleeping bag)
  • Pillow case
  • Air mattress (we have a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir and that saved our butts more than once)
  • Fleece blanket
  • Towel
  • Swimming suit (for the hot springs)
  • Ear plugs (tea houses are very noisy)
  • Shawl
  • Buff (I used it to put in on my head and absorb the sweat)
  • A couple of shirts (at least one long sleeves)
  • Pants (zip off might be handy)
  • Raincoat (and one for your backpack too)
  • Fleece jacket
  • Down jacket
  • Trekking pole(s)
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Photo camera (don’t forget the loader)
  • Diamox (medicine to prevent/treat AMS)
  • Snickers
  • Muesli bars
  • Tea bags
  • A 1 liter “Nalgene-like” water bottle (to fill it with boiled water)
  • A bottle of rum/whisky maybe? (remember it’s expensive AND cold up there)

And finally:

  • MONEY!!! There are no ATM’s! Nowhere! Budget at least 2500 rupees per person per day.

You can get all the gear (ok, perhaps not the NeoAir :-)) for little money in Pokhara or Kathmandu, in case you forgot something.

So how much did we spend?

On average we spend 57 euro a day (for 2 persons). That includes the permits, hiring a porter, taxis to/from Nayapul/Phedi and some gear we bought (trekking poles, socks). But since I have a very advanced spreadsheet to keep track of our expenses I can give you the exact figures and details as well:

Our trekking costs per day

Our trekking costs per day: € 57,11 (for 2 persons)

 

Happy trails!

 

This entry was posted in Nepal, Trail Reports.

5 Comments

  1. Barna November 28, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Prachtige foto’s en mooi geschreven weer lieverds, dikke kus van ons♥

    • Domingo November 28, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

      Dank je wel Barn! Je staat trouwens met stip bovenaan in de Trouwe Lezers Top 10 😉

  2. Francis Cassidy November 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Nice account, thanks a lot for sharing this. It seems thatyou had a great time. I just got back myself from Annapurna base Camp and had a great time, it really is a wonderful place to spend some time. I really like the photo you got of the sunrise at ABC! It certainly made it worthwhile for me when I got a similar view.

    • Domingo November 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

      Hi Francis,

      Thanks! ABC certainly was a great experience, I think it was the highlight of our journey so far.

  3. Bashu Thapaliya September 23, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    Thank you so much for clear information about Annapurna Base Camp Trek. Nice Picture and Great report about Trail, Equipments and almost all.
    Bashu Thapaliya

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