Of Thrills And Chills
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