Magical Mists and Mythical Mountains (Pt 1) : Ghorepani to Deurali, Nepal

Trekker at the top of stone stars in slanting sunlight, Ghorepani Trek, Nepal

Upward into the Sunlight
The early morning light is surreal in the Nepali rhododendron forest as we climb out of Ghorepani towards the Deurali Pass.

There is a mystical magic in the rhododendron forests of Western Nepal

It was day four of a short trek under the patient and watchful eye of our guide Angfula Sherpa, and I was finally hitting my stride. My husband and I were part of a small group walking the Ghorepani/Poon Hill circuit in the Annapurna Conservation Area of the Himalaya. The walking we had done the three days prior (more abut that anon) had been tough: the constant rocky uphill climbs had taken their toll on my aging knees and hips and my gasping lungs, and had left me wishing sincerely that I had trained better in preparation for what was feeling more like an ordeal than a holiday. I was so much older and less fit than the last time I walked these trails (Heaven and Hard Work). 

But, then it all changed:

The walk into the forests on morning of day four was just magic. The stone steps led ever-upward, but not as steeply as they had done the days prior. The world felt hushed – in spite of the constant blanket of birdsong high in the trees overhead. Snow lay in patches on the ground, and mists rose all around us. Morning light angled through the forest of tall rhododendrons, maples, and oaks. And I was smiling.

This is why I love to walk!

Ponies in a train, Ghorapani Nepal

“Follow the Ponies to Tadapani”
We tumble out of our lodgings early in the morning, but the pony trains are on the paths well before us!

Fresh snow on Annapurna South through the fading rhododenron flowers on the track out of Ghorapani, Nepal

Fresh Snow and Spent Rhododenrons
We are teased by glimpses of Annapurna South as we climb through the tall forests of rhododendrons with their fading flowers.

Trekker at the top of stone stars in slanting sunlight, Ghorepani Trek, Nepal

Up, Up, Towards the Sun …
The early morning light on the pink trunks of the textured and twisting rhododendron trees as we left Ghorepani told me immediately that this morning was going to be different!

A Nepali porter under the "Leaving Ghorepani

“Leaving Ghorepani”
I am constantly in awe of the porters who carry 2-4 times what we do, and make it look effortless.

Sunlight on new growth at the base of rhododendron trunk, Ghorepani Nepal

Light on the New Growth
March is spring in the Himalaya. Left-over snow from a fall two weeks prior hides in the shadows while new growth finds the sun.

Trekkers in shafts of light in a rhododendron forest, Ghorepani Nepal.

Up through the Sunbeams
Spring is also higher-risk season for avalanches further into the Annapurna: less than two weeks before our trek, an avalanche buried a hotel at Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) and killed three tourists. The area was still closed off when we reached Gorepani, making our trails and teahouses much busier as trekkers had to re-route their journeys. Although we shared the way with many other groups, this morning still felt hushed and quiet. I think everyone was captured by the light.

Mt Dhaulagiri from Deurali Pass Track, Nepal

Mt Dhaulagiri
Seventh highest mountain in the world (8167 m – 26,795 ft), Mt Dhaulagiri shows itself through the trees and clouds.

Fresh snow on Annapurna South through the fading rhododenron flowers on the track out of Ghorapani, Nepal

Annapurna South
Although it appears more dramatic than Dhaulagiri, Annapurna South (7219 m – 23,684 ft) is actually much less high.

Pony and Trekkers at Lower Deurali Pass, Nepal

Pony and Trekkers at Lower Deurali Pass
When we reach a clearing, ponies, porters, and trekkers alike are ready for a rest.

Pony and Driver at Lower Deurali Pass, Nepal

Pony and Driver
The viewing tower at Poon Hill is just visible on the highest hill (3210m – 10,531 ft) behind us.

Portrait of a Nepali man in a wool hat, Lower Deurali Pass, Nepal

At Home in the Mountains
Everywhere we go, the people are friendly and welcoming.

Trekkers in shafts of light in a rhododendron forest, Deurali Pass Nepal.

More Up!
As the sun rises in the morning sky, we continue to climb.

Dhaulagiri and a Break in the Forest, Deurali Pass Nepal

Dhaulagiri through a Break in the Forest

Black and white yak on the hill, Deurali Pass Nepal

Yak on the Hill
Herds of domestic female yaks – more properly called naks, as yaks are male – graze on the high hillside.

Cairn at the top of Deurali Pass Annapurna South and Hiunchuli in the background, Nepal

Cairn at Deurali Pass
Finally! We reach our highest point for the day (3090 m – 10,138 ft); Annapurna South and Hiunchuli sit majestically in the background.

Buddhist prayer flags and Annapurna Mountains, Deurali Pass Nepal

Prayers and Mountains
Buddhist prayer flags send wishes out on the winds as we admire the mountain views.

Trekkers on Snowy Trails, Deurali Nepal

Snowy Trails
Thankfully, the rest of our day is (mostly) downhill.

Machhapuchhare - Fishtail Mountain through the trees, Deurali Nepal

Machhapuchhare
The sacred Fishtail Mountain peaks out through the forest canopy.

Deurali from the trail, Nepal

Deurali
Dressed in a colour I think of as Himalayan Blue because it is so prevalent in this region, the little town of Deurali comes into sight.

Tibetan Market Goods, Deurali Nepal

Tibetan Market Goods
The tables in Deurali are loaded with prayer flags, hats and mittens knitted from yak wool, pashmina/cashmere woven scarves, and Tibetan Buddhist trinkets in bronze and bone.

The markets would have to wait …

Text: Happy Walking!I was more than ready for my spicy masala tea! 

That – and the wonderful mountain air – would keep me going for the rest of the day’s trek.

Until then –

Happy Walking!

Photos: 22March2017

  • Guava - March 30, 2017 - 11:21 pm

    Hi Ursula!

    I really enjoyed the photos and story. I am afraid that I wouldn’t be able to go on a trek like this anymore. I developed serious nerve damage in my lower spine after a bout of sciatica a couple of years ago.

    I found carrying all my Nikon gear and Think Tank belt system around Thailand a real ordeal so bought my first micro four thirds camera 18 months ago. What a revelation! I sold off all my Nikon gear and reinvested the money into my new system, adding a second body and full compliment of lenses. I love the small rangefinder style bodies and combined with prime lenses am having a ball!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - March 31, 2017 - 1:23 am

      Hi Guava,
      Lovely to ‘see’ you! Sorry to hear about your sciatica. I was very worried that my knees and hip might give out during our trek, but was very lucky. I did take my anti-inflammatories every day… the joys of aging!
      A lot of my pro friends are on the new mirrorless systems, and I watch them with envy. I can’t afford the swap, but at least my Spiderbelt keeps them off my neck.
      Cheers,
      UrsulaReplyCancel

  • […] trek under the guidance of Angfula Sherpa. We had set out early from Ghorepani (see: Magical Mists and Mythical Mountains) and had worked our way up through the misty morning sunlight, our steps rising incessantly until […]ReplyCancel

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