Years before I discovered the spirituality and transcendence of trekking, I stumbled into Nepal, and experienced my first multi-day hiking experience in the heart of mountain country.
Twelve years later, I found myself back in the region that so captivated me.
Since my first visit, Kathmandu had suffered a devastating earthquake. Seeing the aftermath was a sobering experience. Infrastructure was being rebuilt, but the devastation was clear; buildings and parts of roads lay in shambles. Thamel was quiet, and the absence of honking and blaring music made for a peaceful drive to the airport.
On our flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, our guide Raj made sure we had a clear view of the beautiful snowcapped peaks below. Himalayan giants towered majestically above the clouds. A sense of homecoming and exhilaration filled my soul. We were excited to begin our adventure.
Our trek began at Kande, with a gentle hike to Pothana for acclimatization to altitude. Into the forest the path weaved, strewn with beautiful rhododendrons, Nepal’s national flower.
At camp, after a hearty dinner, much to our bemusement, the dining room was transformed into a dance floor! Nepali and Raksi music flowed and we were invited to dance with the locals.
Awakening the next morning to clear views of Annapurna and Himchuli glistening on the horizon was a feast for hungry eyes.
The day began bright and sunny morphing into light hail. As we gained altitude, the temperature dropped and the hail gradually turned into snow. In the space of minutes, the landscape transformed in front of us, from greens and browns, to greys and whites.
Seven hours after leaving Pothana, we arrived at Forest Camp to the welcoming sight of a stove heating up the dining area.
Rising with the sun, surrounded with mountains and forest views, the perfectly still morning just above 5 degrees lent itself wonderfully for some outdoor yoga.
After breakfast, we continued upwards. The closer we got to Mardi Himal base camp, the more snow and ice covered the trail and the colder it got. But none of that mattered when we were surrounded by such awe-inspiring views. Annapurna, Himchuli, Macchaphucre Our distant giants peaking out at times to spur us on.
Hiking in snow was different here to other places I’ve been trekking; Taiwan (hard snow, more ice), Mongola (glacier, roped up), even the bitterly cold slopes of Bolivia and New Zealand where we needed crampons. I was surprised by the soft texture of the snow here. Beautifully pristine.
An early rise today in anticipation of the day trip to Mardi Himal base camp. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favour that morning. We made it to High Camp and holed up for 2 hours, warming up with delicious noodle soup and omelette to wait for a break in the weather. Instead powdery snow kept falling. The decision was soon made to descend the next day.
After a final mountain sunrise, we began the 1,400m descent to Sidling village through alpine snow, forest and terraces. Emerging from the white of the snowlands to the forest literally bursting with rhododendrons was incredible. Such life, such vitality!
The Himalayan gods were on our side that day with stunning views of Annapurna South, Himchuli, Annapurna III, Gangapurna, Macchapucchre, Annapurna IV and Annapurna II. Even Mardi Himal itself was in view! The full range lay out before us, bowing us out in style.
I will never tire of these mountains. Not a day went by that I wasn’t amazed and gratified by the beauty that surrounded us. Not a day went by that I wasn’t awe-struck by being in a land that witnessed the pinnacle of human endeavor. From bright red blooming forest, to a blanket of velvety white 700m above, two (or even more) different worlds ever changing, the only constant being its majestic beauty.
A region with storied peaks and glorious landscapes. How could you resist?
Experience the majesty of Nepal for yourself on our next trek to Mardi Himal. Join us here!