Dashain was approaching. My mind was wondering what I should do during the vacation. A mobile buzzed on my office desk. I picked it up and wished the caller good day. The caller on the other side was Fr. Jiju. He inquired if I had any plan for the Dashain holidays and whether I was interested in taking a trek to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). I answered I was in for the trek. Some Jesuits from Campion House and teachers from the College enlisted their names for this adventure.
The adventurers: Frs. Jiju, Robert, Juel, Sch. Deepak, Mr. Maha P. Shreshta, and Mr. Prakash Sapkota headed to Ulleri, a two and half-hour jeep ride from Pokhara through a treacherous and winding road. With lunch at Ulleri, we began a long walk that would take us to ABC. With our sticks and backpacks on us, trailing through the greenwood, we reached Ghorepani (2,750 m) on the first evening. Having settled in a lodge, we warmed ourselves around a hot stove with hot tea. One or two novels found their places in the hands of trekkers. The rest enjoyed a good conversation. No sooner did we finish our supper than we surrendered to cozy quilts.
At dawn, we hiked up to Pun-Hill (3,210 m). It is a viewpoint from where one can see the whole range of mountains at a 180-degree angle, from Dhaulagiri to Manchapuchere. What a beauty! It is ecstatic to see Sun rays falling slowly on several peaks turning them into golden mountains. Even without the Sun rays, snowy mountains looked majestic. On our return to the lodge, Tibetan bread and coffee were served for the breakfast. That was to keep our legs steady and moving till the evening.
Another day of a long walk through the wood, at times steps leading up high, next directing our feet downward. But our eyes feasted at shiny mountains as luscious greenwood made for its foreground. Tired and soaked with sweat, we reached Tadapani (2,500) in the evening. We stayed in Himalayan Tourist Guest House at a fair price. We spent the evening and the morning ogling at the alluring peaks of Mts. Annapurna South and Manchapuchere.
Having enjoyed the blissful sight and a simple breakfast of toasts and butter on the third day, we headed to Chomrong (2,170 m). On the way, a young girl provided us with a huge cucumber pro bono. That was our lunch. Though she gave it freely, we insisted she took a monetary reward for her generosity. Since we reached Chomrong much ahead of the scheduled time, we proceeded to Sinwa (2360 m). With hot baths and decent meals to satisfy our palate in Himal Guest House, we rolled into quilts early. After a good night’s sleep, the next morning we sprang up on our feet to trek up to Deurali.
Stopping at every resting place at Bamboo, Dovan, and Himalaya, we terminated our hike for the fourth day and lodged in Shangri-La Guest House at Deurali (3,210 m). We fumbled with our jackets while sipping hot water to retain our body temperature. Chill wind bothered us a bit on the fifth morning as we hiked along the cliff and Modi river. We halted at Manchapuchere Base Camp (3,750 m) for a break. Enjoying a hot garlic soup while gazing at imposing Mt. Manchapuchere at close range was something exquisite. My soul was exhilarating at the sight; nostrils drawing fresh and clean air.
We arrived at ABC (4,130 m) by early afternoon. The trekkers occupied a single room. After putting on the warmest clothes, each of us went exploring the area. I went to the upper side towards the glacier. The sights of Mt. Annapurna South were incredible. My SLR found itself repeatedly capturing the mountain and cascading waterfall that disappeared beneath naturally assembled piles of pebbles. The sunset reflection on Manchapuchere and the moon in the background was quite an eye-catching shot. The beauty gazers gathered outside at a helipad and allowed themselves to be lost in nature’s splendor. Time just froze, I could not fathom when darkness stole away this beauty. As morning light appeared next morning, Annapurna South shone forth its grandeur. It was an intoxicating experience.
I found lodges along the trekking routes very comfortable to stay in and cuisine very gratifying. The services given by the people in these hotels are commendable. I loved the way they interact with their clients and make them feel at home. They try their best to make you feel safe, welcomed, and encouraged to take up your new day.
I also came across trekkers with their toddlers. An American family had a kid who was only five and had completed his trek to ABC and was returning. Then there was a Nepali kid who was only four on his way to ABC. It was amazing to see their enthusiasm.