“If we do the Mardi Himal trek, you’ll be up so high and so close to the mountains that they will reach out and HUG you!”
With those words from our guide, Sujan Pandey, we made our decision to tackle the Mardi Himal Trek!
We arrived in Kathmandu on April 6, 2019 for Mardi Himal Trek. After meeting Sujan for the first time, we had a delicious dinner of Chicken Biryani and then headed to our hotel in the Thamel Kathmandu.
The day of our unforgettable bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara! With an early 6:30 a.m. start, we followed Sujan through the twists and turns of the old streets of the Thamel tourist district to meet our bus. What a ride!…the steepest of mountains and the deepest of valleys, plus beautiful rivers and bridges. We had two stops for a stretch and for food. My bowl of “chana” (seasoned chickpeas) was fantastic!
By 3:00 pm we arrived in Pokhara and got settled in the “Splendid View Hotel”.
The time had come to make a final decision on the itinerary for our trek. Because of recent heavy snowfall and landslides in the area of our original plan, Sujan suggested the Mardi Himal Trek and he got out his maps.
With his encyclopedic knowledge of peaks and elevations, Sujan introduced us to the route of the Mardi Himal Trek. He explained that as we went from Phedi up to Forest Camp, to Badal Danda, and finally to “View Point”, we would be right in the cradle of Mardi Himal, Hiunchuli, Annapurna South, Machhapuchhre and other peaks (at about 12,000 feet elevation) ….close enough to feel the HUG of those beautiful mountains.
Day #3: Mardi Himal Trek
Let’s start! Mardi Himal Trek! – From our hotel balcony, our day began with a fantastic view of the Annapurnas and Machhapuchhre (“Fish Tail”), with snowfields glistening in the sun. We headed to Phedi (pronounced “Fed-dee”) by taxi and began the ascent to Choutaari. At the Annapurna Sanctuary Permit Station, Sujan handled all the details of payment and paperwork. We enjoyed seeing goats, water buffalo, beautiful stone-walled villages, and many beautiful flowers along the way. Our guesthouse accommodation at Pothana was clean and comfortable, and the potato curry dinner was delicious.
Day #4: Mardi Himal Trek
What a beautiful day hiking to “Forest Home” and the Deurali village of Mardi Himal Trek ! We passed through miles of lush forest with tall moss-covered trees, rhododendrons, white magnolias and lovely orchids. Sightings of two deer, two grouse, a gorgeous woodpecker (with red breast and white spots on black wing and head) and a fleeting, but exciting glimpse of a yellow-throated marten kept us scanning the woods.
We arrived at our guesthouse, and after a warm, satisfying dinner of vegetable soup and “potato roasty” (tasty hash-browns with garlic and cheese), we played a fun game of cards with Sujan. Then…early to bed!
Day #5: Mardi Himal Trek
Up, up, into and above the clouds. Our hike continued through forest and then opened up to sweeping vistas of the peaks. We saw a magnificent pheasant and were amazed at the strength of Nepali porters carrying loads to the camps and villages.
Upon our arrival at the guesthouse at Badal Danda (meaning “hill above clouds”), we had a straight-on view of the split peak of Machhapuchhre (“Fish Tail”). A warm cup of milk tea warmed us and, once again, Sujan won a game of “Chinese Bridge”!
For dinner I had to order the “Nepali Thali Set” – the combination plate of rice, daal, saag (a delicious curried spinach), achar (spicy pickle), fried potato, and chicken. It is so delicious! And, amazingly, the kitchen initially sends out a plate loaded with delicious food, and then a server comes around offering more rice, more daal, more meat, more vegetables….amazing!
Day #6: Mardi Himal Trek
Today was the day we received our HUG from the Annapurnas, Machhapuchhre and the peaks surrounding Mardi Himal Trek !
Walking on packed snow and dry grass slopes, we hiked for 1½ hours to “High Camp”. On the way we passed yaks grazing. A final push up steep paths and around many rocks, and another 2½ hours of hiking, brought us to our goal: “View Point”.
Ahhhh! The clouds cleared and we had a full hour of the most magnificent 180 degree view. From Mardi Himal (to our right) around to Annapurna South and Himalchuli (to our left), we basked in the beauty of the peaks.
After about 30 minutes, Sujan yelled, “Look!” We actually HEARD it before we saw it….an avalanche! It was spectacular to see the snow streaming down the steep, almost vertical slope to the north.
Our friend, Katrina, and Sujan decided to hike onward for about 45 more minutes (towards Mardi Himal Base Camp), while Brad and I found comfortable seats in the rocks and enjoyed the view.
Day #7: Mardi Himal Trek
Today we left the heights and headed back down, down, down to the beautiful lowlands. The trail through mossy forests took us back through Rest Camp and Forest Camp. Then we came to an abrupt right-hand turn which led to a challenging downhill trek to the village of Landruk.
In Landruk we wound our way on ancient stone paths, passing private homes, gardens, and guesthouses. It was so pleasant to arrive at “The Tea House”, our guesthouse for the night, and have our first hot showers. Ah! The view from Tea House was wonderful – we were looking north up the valley towards the Annapurna Base Camp.
For the bargain price of $1 (US dollar), we got WiFi and were able to call our parents (what a treat to get to talk to them from Landruk, Nepal)! After a game of “Spot It!” and “Hearts” we discussed our itinerary possibilities….on to Gandruk and then over to the Poon Hill area?….or on to Gandruk and spend two days?
Day #8: Mardi Himal Trek
Oat porridge for breakfast….filling and delicious.
Our descent out of Landruk was lovely – green ferns growing abundantly beside the trail and a stunning view of Annapurna South. When we got to the river at the bottom of the valley, we had to yield to a determined group of cows….they were “on a mission” and expected right-of-way!
Winding stone stairs took us through agricultural terraces on our ascent to the large village of Gandruk. One of my favorite memories along the way is of the industrious young Nepali lad who was selling drinks and toilet paper to the passing trekkers!
After checking-in at the inviting “Simon Guest House”House”, we had time to wander and discover Gandruk. And what a memorable time we had! There was a celebration going on at a local temple and we were invited to watch the dancing….and to join in! The ladies dressed in red and blue velvet, and the little girls who danced, with hands spiraling and feet tapping, were beautiful.
Day #9: Mardi Himal Trek
Our itinerary decision – to spend an extra day around Gandruk! We decided to take day-packs and hike to the village of Komrong (which is on the route to Annapurna Base Camp). Three mule-trains with bells tinkling and decorative tassels tossing passed us along the way. Upon arriving in Komrong, we enjoyed a cold lemon drink and the spectacular view.
Heading back to Gandruk we met the sweetest little dog. He had the color and the enthusiasm of a golden retriever. He loved to be petted and scratched….and I wish that he could have been my “souvenir” from Nepal!
It started to rain as we entered Gandruk, so we enjoyed a nap, a trip to the German Bakery (deep-dish apple pie and a cinnamon roll), and milk tea. Mmmmm! We had delicious daal for dinner and, afterwards, Sujan introduced us to IPL (India Premier League) cricket which was showing on the dining room television. He’s a good teacher and I think I’m starting to understand cricket!
Day #10: Mardi Himal Trek
As we prepared to leave the Simon Guest House, I had to head to the kitchen to thank the jolly chef who wore a jaunty chef’s hat. What delicious meals he cooked.
While descending through the winding stone paths of Gandruk we stopped at the Gurung Museum and saw such interesting artifacts of everyday life in older-times, such as baskets, looms, tools, and clothing. We trekked down, down, down to Sayuli Bazaar (and saw monkeys and a Himalayan Griffin enroute). The weather felt noticeably hotter as we entered the lower elevations, and we stopped off at a refreshing waterfall for a rest and a snack.
We decided to skip spending one more night on the trail, but rather to trek on to Birethanti and head back to Pokhara. While walking the deserted dirt road leading to Birethanti, it started to rain. We stopped to cover our backpacks with rain-covers and, just then, a JEEP pulled alongside of us. “Pokhara?”, the driver asked. Wow! We thought that it might be too expensive (since we weren’t all that close to Birethanti or Nayapul), but Sujan said that it was do-able and he bargained a price. We hopped in and we were off to Pokhara!
Day #11: Mardi Himal Trek
I’m glad that we were able to have a full, free day in Pokhara. There is much to see and do! One highlight was renting a small boat and paddling out on Fewa Lake. We also enjoyed walking the main street that borders the lake, tried “yak cheese”, strolled through the bookstores, ate at delicious restaurants, and watched a huge thunderstorm over the Himalayas from our hotel rooftop.
Our travel day back to Kathmandu. What a scenic and exciting bus ride! Katrina and I enjoyed the 7-dish assortment of Nepali food at our lunch-time rest-stop.
Our 12 days ( Mardi Himal Trek ) in Nepal flew by…and we can’t wait to return!
Where should we trek next?…….Kophra Ridge? Annapurna Circuit? Manaslu? Annapurna Base Camp? Langtang Valley? Everest Base Camp? Or should we head to the infrequently visited Far West Region? No matter which route we choose, we will contact Sujan Pandey, Founder and Team Leader of “Himalayan Connection”.
We had such a marvelous time on our Mardi Himal Trek!
Sujan Pandey is an extraordinary guide…and I heartily recommend that you contact him at Himalayan Connections to plan your next trip to Nepal.
~Becky Johnson (Chiang Mai, Thailand & Golden, Colorado, USA)
Mardi Himal Trek / April 2019