Just got back from Nepal and thought it might be useful to give a short trip report on the ABC trek that we did.
Before leaving for Nepal, we wrote to most of the licensed trekking agencies in Pokhara asking about hiring a porter-come-guide. Many emails bounced back and those that didn't quoted prices from $12 to $18 per day (this covered his food and lodging). One company came up trumps by offering to match the best quotes that we found, so we quickly made arrangements and were delighted that he showed the initiative to get our TIMS & ACAP cards sorted from scanned copies of our passports, so that when our bus from KTM rolled up at 15.30 hrs (the TIMS & ACAP office closes at 16.00 hrs!) they were ready and waiting for us. This guaranteed that we could start the trek the next day.
The p/g's English was limited, which wasn't surprising considering that we paid a rock bottom price, but he was pleasant and amenable so we were happy to go ahead.
The agent arranged a taxi from Pokhara to Nayapol for $18 and we set off at 07.20hrs. Once there we quickly found a jeep that took us to Siwi for $15 (private hire). If you want to wait for the jeep to fill up with others, they charge you $3 each but you might have a long wait! We started trekking at 10am and were a little anxious that we would suffer under the midday sun. It was terrifically hot and the lowland walk by the river was like walking on a very hot summer's day back home so we were very grateful for what breeze there was. We're both keen fell walkers and made swift progress, making Jhinu in about 3 hrs. We then took a diversion down to the hot springs for about an hour, to give the p/g time to catch up as he was slower than us both and unlike us, had stopped for lunch. After returning to Jhinu, we began the relentless slog up to Chomrong and were delighted that it only took an hour, rather than the two advertised. At Chomrong we found a tea house for the usual $3 per night (they make their money on the food & drink!) and enjoyed a pleasant evening chatting to other trekkers.
The plan was to get to Dovan, but word on the grapevine was that the lodges there were all full, so we had to be prepared to head on to Himalaya. We set off later than we wanted at about 07.45. The trail drops sharply from Chomrong down to the river and then climbs steeply up the other side to Sinuwa where I phoned ahead and received confirmation that Dovan was indeed booked up. Luckily, I managed to book a shared room in Himalaya, so we set off along the trail leading sharply down to Bamboo. Once again, we found that the estimated times between lodges were very generous. It took just over an hour to get to Bamboo from Sinuwa and then about just over another hour to get to Dovan. Chomrong to Dovan took about 4.5 hours, this included a stop at the German bakery in Chomrong for wonderfully tasty cinnamon buns and numerous photo stops en route. Another hour and a half saw us at Himalaya after a punishing tough uphill with hundreds of steps alleviated only by a beautiful waterfall cascading down the mountain on the other side of the ravine. Himalaya is a tiny place with only 2 lodges and we were startled to find that the manager told us that he had no mobile reception and that our 'booking' was taken by his wife who had no way of getting in touch with him. At first he said he was full and then he relented and gave us a shared room. It was a relief, as to go even higher might have been risky at this stage. NB. No battery charging facilities exist at this lodge so we planned to trek on in the morning and take breakfast at Deurali and recharge the camera batteries there whilst eating.
The plan was to stay overnight at Deurali (1 hour away) but it suddenly dawned on us that MBC was only the same height as Lhasa in Tibet, which has its own airport flying in people from the coastal cities. We figured that If the risk of AMS was that dangerous then they wouldn't have an airport up there. Feeling emboldened we trekked up to MBC once the batteries had recharged and then spent the day acclimatising and enjoying the spectacular view. A couple of paracetamol sorted out a lingering headache and we steeled ourselves for a 3.45am rise in order to see the dawn break over ABC.
The thoughtless people next door got up at 3.15 am laughing and singing. The paper-thin metal sheeting used to separate the rooms almost caved in as we were forced to bang for silence. Once up we set off at 4.20am and made steady, if slow progress up the track by moonlight. The sky was full of stars. It was truly divine and as we got deeper and deeper into the sanctuary, the snow covered mountains positively glowed in the moonlight. We arrived at ABC at 5.45. Dawn had broken and at 06.10 the sun finally broke over the ridge bathing the mountain tops in a stunning golden light. Truly awesome and even the fact that the only free bed for the night was in the kitchen, we didn't care; determined to spend a day in the sanctuary as we were. Fortunately there was a cancellation, and we escaped the kitchen for a shared room: the Ritz couldn't have wooed us away! The skies remained clear until about 11am when swirling mists started to settle. At this point I scrambled up the ridge of Hiunchuli behind the Sanctuary lodge and took photos looking down at ABC. As the mist thickened I came back down and we nestled into the lodge for the afternoon. No battery charging facilities exist here so I was grateful for the spare camera battery I carried. Also there are no shower facilities here. The only source for washing is a ice cold hose pipe in the yard. Bracing stuff!
We woke at 5am to enjoy the star studded skies again and soak in the eerie glow of the snowy mountains in the moonlight. Sunlight when it hit the ridge again was as awe inspiring as before and after breakfast we headed down. It took roughly an hour to get to each hut so in 6 hours we were back at Sinuwa.
The final push to Siwi to get the jeep to Nayapol and from there to Pokhara. We set off leisurely, taking time over the enormous pull up to Chomrong from the river below Sinuwa and taking many photo stops. We stopped again at the German Bakery before descending once more to Jhinu. From here it was a relatively easy downhill to New Bridge and thereupon to Siwi. Total time to Siwi from Sinuwa including stops for breakfast, lunch and tons of last day photos was 7 hours. Once there we encountered a shock as the jeeps operate a sort of cartel and wanted $30 to take us back to Nayapol. As there was a strict rota as to which jeep was the first to leave, we couldn't shop around to find a cheaper alternative either. We tried explaining that we'd only paid $15 for a privately chartered jeep out to Siwi a few days earlier but it was to no avail. Then as luck would have it a bus rolled up. We couldn't believe it! We hopped aboard and it took us back to Pokhara itself for only $3 each. We could only grin with delight as the greedy fat jeep owner was left rueing the fact that he'd just turned down our offer of $25. I've no idea what timetable this bus operates to except that it left Siwi for Pokhara (via Nayapol) at 3pm on a Monday, so I presume that other weekdays will be the same. If you arrive here at the weekend it could well be different. The bus took nearly 3 hrs to get back to Pokhara so not much longer than the taxi and jeep had taken to get to Siwi on the first day. Once at the bus station in Pokhara, a taxi to Lakeside Baidam cost us $3. The trek was over but the memories remain.
~ Don't get to the end and find you've lived someone else's life! ~