Of Thrills And Chills

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - TRAVEL - Text and pho­tos by Ram Yeg­gina

The An­na­purna Base Camp trek may be daunt­ing, but the re­wards are im­mense, in­clud­ing a sump­tu­ous choco­late cake

DO YOU want to do the Manaslu cir­cuit in Nepal?” asks Satya over the phone. Cu­rios­ity aroused, I ask, “When?” “In a cou­ple of days,” he says. I am flat­tered and be­mused. Satya is a soli­tary trekker, the kind who car­ries his own sup­plies. Hik­ing with him would mean car­ry­ing a back­pack of well over 20 ki­los for around 20 days. I de­cline. But I won­der. Why can’t I do some­thing soli­tary? Within a week, I am on a flight to Kathmandu.

The An­na­purna Base Camp (ABC) trek is very pop­u­lar. Done in­de­pen­dently or as the pièce de ré­sis­tance leg of the An­na­purna Cir­cuit trek, it is the ar­che­typal made-for-the-westerner tea­house trek, noth­ing like which ex­ists in In­dia. It be­gins in western Nepal and moves up­stream along a val­ley through charming Gu­rung vil­lages, and ends at the most ac­ces­si­ble lo­ca­tion to sum­mit Mt An­na­purna. It is a rel­a­tively safe trail for the solo trekker, with the right bal­ance of ad­ven­ture and soli­tude.

The jour­ney can be ini­ti­ated from Naya­pul, a short dis­tance from Pokhara. The pas­toral land­scape be­comes vis­i­ble after you cross the bridge across the Modi Khola, a rag­ing river that orig­i­nates in the east An­na­purna glacier and serves as a nav­i­ga­tional bea­con till the end of the jour­ney. It’s a dusty path but quickly be­comes a de­light­ful as­cent on the roughly hewn stone stair­case to Ghan­druk, a clus­ter of slate-roofed homes in­hab­ited by Gurkhas.

The next morn­ing, I find the vil­lage to be a rev­e­la­tion. A pre­vi­ously dull paint­ing on the guest­house wall ac­quires char­ac­ter with the Mach­ha­puchhre peak and An­na­purna South mas­sif vis­i­ble from the win­dow by its side.

OF IN­DUL­GENT VIL­LAGES

The switch­back trail from Ghan­druk to Chom­rong, the next vil­lage, is a long walk along the moun­tain and a true cul­tural melt­ing pot. There are Ital­ians, Chi­nese, Malaysian, French and Ger­man trekkers along with their

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