Following our breakfast staples of deep-fried bread and eggs, we set out from Tadapani at a relaxed pace. The initial part took us downhill for a good two to three hours. Barely an hour into our day’s trek, we came upon a tea-house that looked as though it was lifted from an Enid Blyton tale. With red rooves and a white façade, and perched as it was on a ridge, it sure made us all stop and take numerous photos. On a future trip, hopefully, we will certainly plan to stay there.
We continued downhill until we arrived at Chomrong. This was going to be our lunch stop. Now Chomrong is a junction of sorts; various treks in the Annapurna region intersect here. Going by the comparatively ‘upscale’ stores that lined the village walkway, one would reckon that it probably also saw trekkers staying for more than just a day or two. My yardstick for upscale was based on the well-stocked bars and the presence of a Lavazza café. I will also take the liberty here of highlighting that one of our group members was quite enamoured by the lady who looked after the café.
A common business we came upon were German bakeries. There were several along the route.
A heavy lunch and more stairways
The lunch stop at Chomrong was a memorable one. We first had a leisurely cup of tea while we rested on their outdoor sit-out. On the opposite hill, we could make out the distinct outline of a trail. This was the route that we’d have to take. Somewhere on the higher climes of the opposite hill was Sinuwa, where we were going to halt for the night. Following a rather heavy chicken and rice fare, the climb up to Sinuwa was definitely not looking very attractive; well, not to me at least.
But just as Sisyphus would have, I grabbed my trekking pole and began walking. The unwritten rule was that slower walkers should set out earlier than the rest. This way, the slow ones would not be too far outpaced along the way, since the brisk walkers would overtake them in no time.
Although it was mostly stairs going up the hill, I could not help but reflect that this was a blessing really. A year ago, in 2017, when we were making our way towards Goecha La, the trail was mostly rock and gravel. Here in Nepal, the trail was mostly the equivalent of a pedestrian walkway. These were broad stone stairways that were wide enough for two–maybe three–to walk abreast in many places.
The tea-house that we were staying at in Suniwa almost seemed to come upon us abruptly. It was, quite literally, right on the trail with its two parts flanking either side of the walkway. On the left were our rooms, and on the right was the dining area. It also had a quaint hut that was open on the sides. It offered the perfect setting for a leisurely beer with panoramic views.
Sound sleep is a given during treks
What I also realised along the trek was that regardless of the bed offered, it always resulted in sound sleep. Long hours of walking later, the pillow, room size and sheet quality hold little value. Perhaps even an insomniac would be able to sleep like a baby after long walks such as these. The only major need at the time were ample quilts and blankets. And fortunately, all places we stayed at offered adequate bedding.
An added luxury along this trek was the ability to take hot water showers. The tea-houses charged a small extra for water heating. Wi-fi, cell phone charging and water bottle filling were all charged a fair premium. It was fitting that these charges be levied considering how remote these locations were.
Yet another banter filled night later, we were en route Deorali. The scenery was now beginning to change quickly. We were being greeted with more picturesque views – the kinds that will usually adorn desk calendars. The air was crisper, and stunning waterfall upon waterfall came along. Each one warranted a brief stop, because regardless of how many I have seen over my travels, there’s always an inexplicable draw to the sight of water gushing from high above.
Our halt on day six of the trek was at Deorali. The tea-house there boasted a stunning backdrop. There was a high waterfall and the terrain was mostly just shrub grass and rocks. The other highlight at Deorali was the steep increase in food prices. The price for a packet of uncooked instant noodles took us by surprise initially. But only moments later, one does realise the immense ordeal it is to get supplies up to these far-flung outposts.
The next halt would be at Annapurna Base Camp
Deorali was our penultimate halt before we made it to what many trekkers refer to as ‘the summit’. Personally, I think scaling an actual summit is what mountaineers do – one that requires infinitely more grit and mental make-up. It is a tad amusing when trekkers refer to a ‘summit,’ which is often the byword for the highest point along the trek. For a mountaineer, a trekker’s summit is probably no more than just a base camp for them.
And the highest point along our trek was exactly that: Annapurna base camp.