Magical Mists and Mythical Mountains (Pt 1) : Ghorepani to Deurali, 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!
“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 and Spent Rhododenrons
We are teased by glimpses of Annapurna South as we climb through the tall forests of rhododendrons with their fading flowers.
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!
I am constantly in awe of the porters who carry 2-4 times what we do, and make it look effortless.
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.
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.
Seventh highest mountain in the world (8167 m – 26,795 ft), Mt Dhaulagiri shows itself through the trees and clouds.
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
When we reach a clearing, ponies, porters, and trekkers alike are ready for a rest.
Pony and Driver
The viewing tower at Poon Hill is just visible on the highest hill (3210m – 10,531 ft) behind us.
At Home in the Mountains
Everywhere we go, the people are friendly and welcoming.
As the sun rises in the morning sky, we continue to climb.
Dhaulagiri through a Break in the Forest
Yak on the Hill
Herds of domestic female yaks – more properly called naks, as yaks are male – graze on the high hillside.
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.
Prayers and Mountains
Buddhist prayer flags send wishes out on the winds as we admire the mountain views.
Thankfully, the rest of our day is (mostly) downhill.
The sacred Fishtail Mountain peaks out through the forest canopy.
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
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 …
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 –