Day #4: Tadapani-Gurjung-Chhomrong
The golden sunrise is showering the snow-covered peaks of Himalayas masif, most of the lodge’s occupants including me wake up early and walk around the village to capture sunrise in the best possible angle we can.
I order chocolate pancake for breakfast after finishing my sunrise shots, then at 9:00 AM seven of us leave the lovely Tadapani, walking down the valley through dusty trail on a hot sunny day. 55 minutes later, we do a photo stop at Mountain Discovery Lodge in Chuile, although it’s located below Tadapani, the view from the lodge’s yard is exceptional nonetheless.
There’s always a painful ascend after the long descend. Passing through Chuile, while on a suspension bridge over the river, I can feel the stairs at the end of the bridge teasing me: “Ready or not here we are, suckers!”. Ten minutes before midday, I arrive at Green Hill lodge & Restaurant in Gurjung (2041 m) for lunch, it has the best view in the village, no wonder a few trekker groups also take a lunch break here.
From Gurjung, it’s a 1.5-hour ascend to Chhomrong Pass, a high and dry place where small cloud of dust from our steps fill the air, I feel like inside the scene of a wild west movie but without cowboys and guns. There’s a junction where the dirt trail meets the stone steps leading me to the lodge below.
Chhomrong (2170 m) is the last permanent settlement in the valley, there are some changes here: No free charging and no heater because at this point until the ABC, firewood is forbidden. I book the rooms at International Guest House then taking my first hot shower immediately, …oh boy it feels like heaven, a showergasm!
Day #5: Chhomrong-Sinuwa-Dobhan
It’s a cloudy morning when I eat my banana pancake while examining the trail map. The initial plan to leave at 7:30 AM delayed until 8:10 AM because the persistence of several individuals to shoot unique group photos. On our way down the valley, we stop at ACAP office to stamp our permits.
While the descend from Chhomrong is quite intense with approximately 300 m elevation loss, the ascend to Sinuwa is the most grueling hike so far with 500 m elevation gain. This is first time I feel really exhausted and light-headed, the early sign of dehydration. So I stop for awhile and drink plenty of water.
11 AM I arrive at Sinuwa (2360 m) for a lunch break. Almost everyone orders the famous Dhal Bat — a power meal consists of steamed rice and lentil soup– a logical choice considering we burn tons of calories on our way to this village, and Dhal Bat is the only menu where we can order more rice and vegetables without additional cost. Indonesians eat a lot of rice, if many of us come and trek the Himalayas, soon the restaurant owner probably would charge for extra or they’d run out of rice.
The hike to Dobhan seems like forever. After Sinuwa, I pass through an uninhabited forest, walking completely in the shade then hike down to Bamboo (2310 m). I rest for awhile, eating some snacks and energy bar then slowly ascend through bamboo and rhododendron forest to Dobhan (2600 m). I arrive with 3 other friends at 4:30 PM, choose the vacant lodge and book the rooms. We wait for the rest while ordering hot beverages and meals, enjoying the afternoon and calmly listening to the sound of flowing water from Modi Khola river.
Day #6: Dobhan-Deurali-Machhapuchhre Base Camp (MBC)
According to the trail map, we’d cover roughly the same distance like yesterday, so my prediction is that we’d arrive at MBC (3700 m) in the late afternoon. At 8:50 AM I start walking into the forest, the stone steps are still there, greeting me with 300 m elevation gain until I arrive at Himalaya Hotel (2920 m) two hours later. I stop to hydrate, refilling my bottle then proceed to Deurali. Hinku cave, a place between Himalaya and Deurali, is a good photo spot if there’s no haze covering the valley, then it’s a short descend towards the river then an easy hike to Deurali for a lunch break.
For me, the best part of Annapurna Sanctuary trek is the long flat trail along Modi Khola river from Deurali to MBC. When the mist is covering the valley, the view resembles the scene from D&D fantasy movies. After that it’s a long hike up through some ice-covered path, the time is 4:54 PM when I arrive at MBC’s first lodge: Ganga Purna View.
We take the left path around Ganga Purna and walk for 10 minutes to the north, where the rest of the lodges are located. I decide to book rooms at Machhapuchhre Guest House and wait for the others while warming myself in the dining room. The temperature inside is 50-80C and it’s getting colder as the sun goes behind the mountains, hiding its light in a cold winter night.
Day #7: MBC-ABC
It’s lazy day at MBC, we had a decision stay overnight at ABC today. It’s an alteration of the initial plan: heading to ABC then walk down to Bamboo. The decision is based on the consideration that first: we still have one extra day, might as well use it, second: we’d have the best sunrise if staying overnight at ABC, third: one of my trekking buddies, Osa, got a knee problem, he suffers an ITBS (illotibial band syndrome) the same I got months ago. So it’s best for him not to cover too much miles in a day.
We take our time, enjoying the view around then heading toward the ABC (4130 m) at 9:42 AM. It’s an easy hike but most of the trail is still covered in ice and it’s decelerating my steps. As I approach the famous ABC sign, there are snowboarders riding on the ice of Annapurna Glacier, helicopter is transporting them back and forth the base camp. Well next time I’d probably bring my own board and slide down the glacier like a pro.
In the afternoon I wander around the backyard, shooting timelapses of Annapurna south until the fog covers the whole mountain. It’s suddenly freezing outside so I walk back to the lodge, spend the rest of the day exchanging stories and laughs in the dining room.
Day #8: ABC-Deurali-Bamboo
If the previous 7 days were foreplay, then today is the climax, it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for: sunrise at Annapurna Basecamp. The temperature at our room is 1-30C while outside it’s definitely below zero, making the water in the restroom partially frozen.
I wake up late at 6 AM, lazily crawling out of the sleeping bag. People are already gathering outside at the backyard, watching sunrise. I find a good spot to establish my Gorillapod, adjust the iPhone for timelapse shot, press the shutter then waiting patiently.
Two hours seems inadequate at this place, nevertheless we must go down back to civilization, many miles to cover today. So after making it back to the dining room, I order a big portion of fried rice. Ideally the team must reach Dobhan for lunch break and stay overnight at Sinuwa, but I predict that we could only make it to Bamboo, considering Osa has difficulty walking down the stairs.
At 9:00 AM we begin to descend. I walk so fast that I arrive at Deurali in two hours, waiting for others patiently. The last person arrives at 1 PM, it’s too late for lunch if we continue to Dobhan. I make a decision that we have lunch here and no matter what, everyone must reach Bamboo at the end of the day, otherwise we wouldn’t make it back to Pokhara on time and since there’s no extra day left, if we miss the time window, then 2 people could lose the flight back home.
3:25 PM I arrive at Dobhan, catching my breath and hydrate. The sun is almost gone and the temperature is dropping, so half an hour later I quickly make it back to the trail, head to Bamboo in full speed and arrive at 5 PM. The others arrive three hours later after walking in the dark passing through the forest with great struggle.
Day #9: Bamboo-Chhomrong-New Bridge
For breakfast, I order rosti, a delicious potato-egg pancake, a perfect fuel for long distance trekker. We leave Bamboo at 9 AM, walking on long steep trail then arrive at Sinuwa 1.5 hours later. I stop for awhile to refill my Nalgene, then proceed to the edge of the village, hike down slowly to the valley of Chhomrong, passing the bridge and stop at a wholesale store a few hundred meters away. It has the cheapest retail price among other shops so I use this chance to drink two bottles of Coke and buy lots of peanut cookies.
Fueled by Coke, I hike the endless stairs of Chhomrong without breaking a sweat until the ACAP office, reporting to the guy in charge and stamp the permits. We’re all make it to International Guest House for lunch at 1:41 PM.
Chhomrong (2170 m) is on top of the hill and New Bridge (1340 m) is located at the bottom of the valley, although the distance between two villages is only 4.5 km, it doesn’t take a genius to read the trail map and realize that I have to tackle some serious descend. Start at 3 PM from Chhomrong, thousands of stone steps and two wooden bridges later, it’s 5:50 PM when I arrive at New Bridge.
Day #10: New Bridge-Siwai-Pokhara
It’s a short trek to Siwai, Ang Chirri shows us the shortcut through forest and plantation, avoiding the main trail so we arrive at Siwai bus and jeep station in 2.5 hours. The driver puts our beaten backpacks on the roof then we head back to Pokhara. The driver stops at Birethanti for TIMS checkpoint then continue the ride to Pokhara. Our ABC trekking journey is officially done.
Because of my affinity for mountain hiking and backpacking, trekking on the Himalayas has been on my bucket list for a long time and when I actually do it, it’s one hell of a lifetime experience and I can confidently saying like a-new age-vegan-detox-hipster that the walk is a pilgrimage. In other words: It’s fucking awesome!