“When there’s no way ahead, make one!”
“Let’s do the Mardi trek again” said Ishwor dai, who had just been there two weeks ago. After looking at his photos of the trails to Mardi, I was hoping to plan a trek soon. I was looking for a retreat as well, had enough to think about and needed a quick refreshment as well. So it was all decided, we were about to head to Mardi Base Camp, but as it happens with all the quickly planned trips, little did we know that there’s was more to the trek than we had anticipated.
The duo at the top!
We decided to leave on Friday, the plan was to take the evening bus to Kaadey and then stay where ever possible till the morning light and then start the trek. To our dismay the bus dropped us off at Kadey at 3 am in the morning. The bus ride from Kathmandu was fun to some extent as well, we ended up getting the last seats, that too completely empty. So it was kind of comfortable to sleep through the way with your legs stretched. A certain confusion regarding the missing passenger who was apparently left out led to about 45 minutes delay at the Nagdhunga check post. From there it was a non stop bus ride, except for the lunch (which we didn’t because well Highway ko Khana).
At what time will we reach Kaadey? I asked the bus staff
“Around 5 o’ clock, I think”
Good, I thought to myself, that way we’d have something to eat and then we would start the trek right at the break of the dawn, but then the bus dropped us off at Kaadey at 3 am in the morning! There’s wasn’t a single shop open, forget about the shops we could barely see a single light coming from any of the houses around. So we decided to start walking rather than staying there in the cold for few hours. Though, Ishwor dai had previously done the trek, since it was dark he had no idea where the trail started, it took us around 30 minutes to figure out the trail, finally at the end of a tiresome lookout in the dark we found the Sign that said “Australian Camp —>” finally hope had rekindled. We started the trek in pitch dark with a small headlamp that could barely light up 10 feet ahead of us. The trail was dark, the stoney stairs were slippery, the sky looked amazing though, billions of stars lighting up the night sky. The photo-pollution from Pokhara valley was visible as a thin layer of could at distance towards the South East. We continued the trek without a drop of water, until we finally reached a small tap on the trail, filled the water bottle (Yes bottle, because I forgot my water bottle). The continuation along the trail finally took us to Australian camp after about 1 hour, we had planned to have something, at least a cup of tea or biscuits at Australian camp but again nothing was open, people were still in deep sleep while two crazy trekkers were walking along the silent trails outside. Though we decided to stay there for a short time, we came up with a conclusion that it would be wiser to head to the next stop rather than stay there so we decided to start the trek again.
We continued towards Deurali in pitch dark, we were walking along the trail with the faint headlamp and taking to each other, concentrated on the talk, right at the moment something walked passed me and brushed up its body against my legs. My heart froze for a second right there, I don’t believe in ghosts and I knew it wasn’t something like that, my mind had something that’s even more dangerous than the fictional ghosts! I thought it was a leopard or a bear, but sadly or gladly it was just a dog, but still it managed to scare the crap out of us. I didn’t even speak as it moved passed me because I was shocked, I just froze, Ishwor dai screamed when he saw the dog walk past us. That was one scary moment. The dog kept walking in front of us and looking all around the bush as if there was something lurking in the dark, which to us was another scary thing because it definitely seemed like the dog was watching out for something. We decided to stall for a while and let the dog to go ahead of us but as soon as we stopped the dog stopped as well, it was security that he was looking into us for. Within the fear and darkness, we somehow ended up in a large flat area in the middle of the jungle with no stairs at all. There was just some skid-mark most probably from a a jeep tires. We followed that mark but ended up at a dead end! We were completely lost for about 4-5 minutes. We then decided to return back and look for the stairs and we did find one, but then we had no recollection of ever being in that place so we got even more confused. Right when were walking in the dark in search of the stairs, in the deep silence of the jungle and pitch dark, Ishowr dai’s Alarm sprang into harmony “Wake up Wake up Wake Up” both of our hearts skipped a beat as we froze in the middle of the jungle, that scared the crap out of both of us. Imagine walking in a jungle where you can’t see 10 feet ahead of you and then in the silence of the jungle you hear a sound that too a loud one that goes “Wake up Wake up Wake Up”. We both froze for a moment and then again started looking for the trail, and we did find it after about 10 minutes, we were hoping so bad for the sun to rise but it seemed as if it was never going to rise that day. We found the stairs and followed the stairs and yet again we go lost, but managed to find the way again, this time we found the right one. After rhythmic patterns of getting lost and finding the way we finally saw the snow clad Mt Machachhapuchhre towards the right side, the snowy peak glistened in the dark of the night. After walking for few more minutes we saw the massive South Annapurna ahead of us, then came the semi shinny steel roof top of the houses in Deurali. Right at the break of dawn we reached Deurali, it was still dark but the ink of gold was spreading through the clouds of canvas at the horizon.
Sunrise from Pitam Deurali
The view of South Annapurna from Deurali has to be one of the best view of mountain on the backdrop of houses and landscapes that I have ever seen. The composition of the landscape and topography is unbeatable. We ordered the breakfast and stayed there to watch the sunrise, I’m not a fan of the “Sunrise” but I am a fan of the sight where the first light of Sun hits the mountains, as the gold in the mountain peak shines against the white in the mountain, the view was absolutely captivating, it always is. After spending considerable amount of time at Deurali we hit the road, walking up the trails to forest camp. The trail had opened up with the morning light, slowly we left the mountain view to the left as we entered the dense forest with thick canopy coverage. The trail is kind of quite and nice yet could be boring for those who enjoy the sights while trekking, but for those who love to be in the heart of the Nature, the place is absolutely amazing.
I had called the Hotel owner before leaving Kathmandu and he had told me that “It had just snowed yesterday so there is plenty of snow right now“, what we didn’t know and didn’t think of was that “There could be so much snow and that too from as low as 2300 meters”. Right after we left Deurali and headed to forest camp, we could see sprinkles of snow just as if it was morning dew on the grass but it got thicker and thicker as we went up. Few hours from Deurali, the snow just got more and more. But the main problem wasn’t the snow on the trails, the funny yet a big problem was the snow melting in form of small ice from the tree tops, some as big as stones which could hurt you. We had to wear the hat to prevent getting hit by the ice, it was almost as if it was raining hailstones.
The trail in between i.e. from Deurali to Forest camp is pretty boring, you just walk right through the forest and there’s nothing much to see, unless you love the silence and the greenery of the jungle. Just few minutes into the jungle we saw two beautiful Pheasants, there were plenty of birds in the area. And about half an hour into the dense jungle we saw a barking deer jumping right in front of us, it was too fast for us to get a shot. Before long we had reached Forest camp, a place right in the middle of the Jungle with minimal view of the outside, yet a beautiful place with a certain solace, specially for bored trekkers who just walked few hours through the jungle. We had our lunch at Forest camp with one of the best “Nepali Hog Plum” pickle with dry coconut in it. After the lunch we continued through the trail towards the Low Camp, through the jungle- through the snow! The trail right after Forest camp goes steeply up, and within minutes we could see the houses of forest camp fading below us into the thin clouds hovering below us. It was time to go high, higher than the clods, the more we walked higher the thicker the snow was.
Ishwor dai on the trails! (Walks like horse)
There’s nothing much to describe about the places in between, there’s nothing much to see just a walk through the jungle, but right when you’re about to reach Low Camp you see an amazing view of the Mt Machhapuchhre, and right when you reach low camp, you see this small Tea-house with a perfect backdrop of Machhapuchhre. We only stopped to fill our water bottles, slipped in once or twice before starting our hike up to the high camp.The snowy trails got even worse after that, the dense Rhododendron forest with thick canopy coverage harbored even more snow. I’ve been on lots of trekking and never had I required a walking stick but this time around it was either carry a walking stick or fall down to the ground! Right at the end of the hills, as you climb up the low camp you reach a beautiful semi-view point with an amazing view of Badal dada right in front of you, few houses sitting atop a hill with a perfect backdrop of South Annapurna. Snowy hills all around you, Mt Machhapuchhre looming over the landscapes around you in an intimidating way. To the South West you could see the dense traditional houses of Ghandruk below you. “Few years ago, I was at one of those hotels over looking these mountains, and now I’m here overlooking that place” I thought to myself. The view from there was absolutely stunning, the white in the hills shining against the clear sky blue in the background. It was almost as if you could see the whole world from there, except the High camp which was hiding behind few hills to the North of it. We had to keep going and so we did. After going down from that particular point, there was a climb up to the Badal dada and from there onward it was only a climb, gentle but uphill till high camp. The trails were narrow and slippery with the snow that had melted over the heat of the day. One slip meant a drop down to the floor of the hill that wasn’t even in plain sight. Before too long, while enjoying the amazing view of the trail we reached High Camp.
Badal dada ahead of us
Every inch of melted snow and water on the trail had now moved into our shoes and the feet were as cold as the snow itself. As soon as we entered the hotel, our plan was to jump in front of the heater and warm our shoes and socks. Right when we opened the door to the hotel we saw a crowd of people not only around the heater but the whole dinning room. I had figured out that the hotel was completely occupied, it didn’t take us that long to find that out either, there wasn’t a single room left in the hotel. But things like this aren’t new to me and I don’t find it to be problematic as well. We were more than happy to sleep in the dining room.
There were different groups of people there, 4 or 5 I think. They were discussing how their trek to high camp was, all the snow and all the torturous climb, how the food was: The usual stuff of trekking! Happens every where! Unlike majority of the groups one of those group of guys had just returned from their hike up to the Base Camp, and it was then that we found out that the hiking up to the base camp from high camp was impossible.
“There’s more than a feet of snow there, we could barely make it to upper view point” one of them said, sitting at one corner of the dinning room, tucked inside the thick blanket, with a monkey hat on. I could barely figure out his face but his but even with the noises inside the room I did hear him describing the trails to one the other groups in the room. We were saddened to hear that and looked at each others face in dismay, but both of us knew that we would do it anyways and in no time we decided to give it a shot.
It was a long days walk and it felt good to finally put your legs to rest, a cup of tea was enough to warm your heart and a heater in front of you did all the work with warming the feet, shoes and the socks. Indulged in a long conversation with other groups time flew by soon enough. The conversation was interrupted as the dinner was ready. It was end of the day!
Right before sleeping we ordered some eggs and tea for the morning, we decided to leave the high camp at 5:30.
The next morning, that “Wake up Wake up Wake up” alarm woke me up again, unlike last morning where it almost gave me heart attack, this one was a gentle one, I looked at his phone it said 5:20. I looked outside and it was still dark so I just snoozed off the alarm and went back inside the blanket. 15 minutes later ‘Wake up’ hit me again and this time it was time to hit the road. It was still dark outside but we had to reach the view point before the sunrise. So we packed our eggs and tea and then wrapped a plastic around our feet up to the knee which turned out to be very useful later during the day. The trail goes higher gently but there was tons of snow that day and it wasn’t that easy to just walk through it. But as we had planned we reached the lower view point just in time for the sunrise. To the west the the gold of sun’s light was spreading through the clouds over the horizon and the peaks of the mountains were light with gold slowly covering the whole peak. The gold of the sun and the white of the snow joined force for few minutes before the morning light hit us. The mountains were still shinning but this time with the white of the snow and white of the morning light. We continued towards the Base Camp, slowly we could feel the thickness of snow increasing with every next step. As we crossed the view point, a hill stood in front of us, completed laden with snow. From there onward, there was too much of snow to walk properly and the steepness was not gradual anymore, it was just a steep rocky face which would be tricky to climb even without snow. Through the thick snow we made our way to the top of the hill. We had some eggs and thermos of tea, and we decided to have the breakfast right there on the top of the hill. The first few sips of tea was hot enough but after that it was just a cold tea. The egg and the tea refueled us. It was time to continue going up but there was just too much of snow to take a risk. Still we tired to tackle through it but I just drove right into the snow at one point, almost two feet down. I had plastic wrapped around till my knees and the snow managed to get in through the plastic, it was that deep! It’s then that we decided to stop and move back down. We were so looking forward to going to the Base Camp, very much excited about that part but then we couldn’t do it, even though we knew it was a difficult task to do at that time we did give it a shot, but the locals and the trekkers from the hotel were right about it! There was just too much of snow there!
Ishwor dai walks on the trail of snow!
The morning sun shines upon the South Annapurna and Hiunchuli
The snowy trails to Base Camp
Drinking the cold tea! (South Annapurna at the back)
We had to return back!
Returning back wasn’t that easy!
The returning part was even more tricky than the climbing because you could push your body against the front of the wall and grab onto whatever you find while climbing but while going downhill on so much of snow on such a steep face it was tiring, I slipped in few places but before too long we were almost near the High Camp. Back at the high camp everyone had already gone! We went in packed our bags, we were hoping to leave immediately but there were two foreigners from Australia who were talking about animals, so I joined in and we had a nice conversation for about 15-20 minutes on Wildlife of Nepal. But then we had to leave, so we said our goodbye and left. I looked back at the hill that we had reached and then at the tea-house in High camp and then we were on our way to low camp.
Looking back at the hotel at high camp!
The sun was up by then and everyone had already descended down, that meant only one thing! Slippery melting snow! Sliding down at times, but slowly and gradually we descended down to low camp. From there we were heading to Siddhing from where we hoped to catch a bus to Pokhara. Few minutes after low camp, the trail went down to siddhing and finally there wasn’t much snow so it was easier to walk down! Before too long we were at Siddhing, but then we were too late! The last bus had already left, that meant we had to walk down to Lumre, which was about 1.5 hours from Siddhing. At least it was supposed to.
We asked a local and he said, “Lumre is about 1.5 hours downhill from here, you don’t have to climb it’s just GOING DOWN” – That “Just going down” part turned out to be very crucial information for us in a very different way! After the nice conversation we started our journey down to the village of Lumre. About 5 minutes into the walk, we ran into a turning with two different roads, one that went downhill and another that went up hill. Ishwor dai was insisting on taking the uphill one while I argued that the old man said “Just downhill” so finally we decided to go downhill. Ishwor dai had previously mentioned that we had to reach a certain river, and it looked as if that way did led to the river! And oh! It so did!
Few minutes down the road we met an old and asked him if this was the way to Lumre!
He said “This is the way but it’s longer, should have gone the other way, but there’s a short-cut to the hydropower from right there (pointing towards the way).”
Short-cut! We thought to ourselves. We thanked him and headed off to the way. For the first few minutes there was a trail a good one, specially those used by locals to gather firewood. But after a certain time the trails started to fade slowly and gradually. After some 30 minutes the trails faded just like the light of the sky faded in the thick canopy of the dense forest around us. We had to struggle to find the way, Ishwor dai was ahead of me trying to figure out the trail and he did such a good job with that. But after a certain point, we reached a dead end that too such an extreme dead end that there was a straight vertical drop with loose large boulders, the drop was at least 100 feet.
This is what it looked like from below! We were at the top end of this cliff!
There was no way we could have gone down that way and there was certainly not a chance that we’d have found the way back to the village above because we literally made our way down to that point. But then we had to find the way, I wandered around the place to look for a possible drop point and saw few goat pellets which was assuring because it meant that it wasn’t a place that no one ever visited. There had to be a way somewhere, few meters away there seemed to be a way. We decided to take the chance and there wasn’t a way but we somehow managed to get down from slipping on the mud down to the bottom of the hill.
The river was now just about 10 feet of us and we were left with a huge leap to make, there seemed to be now way of getting around it. But then again we found another way to slide down the mud wall and then slip off a large boulder into the river. Finally, what seemed impossible some 20 minutes ago turned out to be a long fought war with the terrain and the forest, but at last there was the river. Which meant we would find the road anyhow! And so we did! I did fell into the river once! My shoes were extremely slipper and I was walking very cautiously but still I managed to fall down, while Ishwor dai was jumping off from one stone to another like a Antelope being chased by a Cheetah. But finally we found the road, it was a long way to Lumre, we literally ran through the rest of the road yet we failed to reach Lumre in time. We missed the bus that left at 4 pm. But luckily enough, 2 hours later we managed to get on a jeep that was leaving to Pokhara and reached Pokhara.
All in all it was one fun trip, it was more than fun! It had everything, from getting lost in the middle of the jungle, getting almost drowned in the river and strangely enough on the snow as well. But Mardi trek has to be one of the best trek I have ever done! The view is amazing, its quite, it’s short! And the views are amazing!! I highly recommend you all to do the trek as well.