It didn’t take long and after successful hike to Mt. Kilimanjaro I and my father decided to change African continent for something different. So after 14 months from our first serious trek outside Slovakia we selected Himalayas in Nepal to be our next big adventure. To be more specific we chose less known trek to Mardi Himal base camp.
In Nepal there are 2 most visited regions when it comes to trekking. First one is Annapurna region and second one is Everest region. Just Annapurna region itself attracts around 160.000 tourists as per 2017. We didn’t have much time so I was looking for a shorter trek with approx. altitude around 5000 AMSL doable in 6 to 7 days with nice views, etc. I knew that basically every other tourist in Annapurna region is doing Annapurna base camp or Annapurna circuit which we couldn’t neither wanted to do. So I chose still pretty unknown Mardi Himal base camp trek which was possible to finish in 6 days. So after 1 day in Kathmandu we took a short 25 minute flight to Pokhara and the next day we were ready to trek on another international mountain and hopefully getting to our final destination Mardi Himal base camp.
Day 1. Pokhara 800 AMSL to Australian base camp 2.100 AMSL
After an hour drive from Pokhara we got to a starting point. It was around 9:30 am and very warm. After a short shopping stop where we had to buy a rope for our bag so porter could hang it over his head we were ready to go. However after a few minutes climbing steep steps our porter looked already tired. Our guide Ganesh was assuring us that everything will be alright. The trail was really beautiful and we were passing by small villages, meeting locals and some monkeys on the way. Since it was the first day of New Year 2075 in Nepal we saw many people celebrating and eating together with families.
In one village we witnessed a traditional killing of buffalo. But this group was different because they were a bit drunk so we were told it was a different Hindu cast since most of Nepalese don’t drink. Our very friendly, talkative and knowledgeable guide Ganesh told us that it is very typical for local people to hike with families on the first day of New Year. It was definitely truth because once we got to Australian camp we saw many locals with kids who came to spent a night and enjoy the nature in the family circle.
After approx. 3 hours of hiking and some time waiting for our porter Saandeep we made it to Australian Camp at 2.100 AMSL. Although fully booked our guide managed to find a great and comfortable room just for me and my dad Pavol. It offered electricity and running hot water with toilet which was kind of a 5 start hotel for us.
Views from around the camp were just stunning. Too bad we were not able to watch sunset because of cloud cover but we couldn’t wait for sunrise. After a couple of Nepal Ice, our favorite Nepalese beer, we took an hour long nap and I slept like a baby. The rest of the evening we spent eating, playing cards and talking to our guys as well as making new friends with other tourists.
Day 2. Australian camp 2100 AMSL to Forrest camp 2.550 AMSL
Since we slept a very deep afternoon nap we were not able to sleep almost for the rest of the first night. But suddenly at 5:30 Ganesh knocks on the door to wake us up to watch the sunrise. Full of energy and expectation I grabbed all cameras and went outside. Again no luck just like last evening. Due to many clouds we were not able to see the real beauty when sun comes out and lights the Annapurna South and Machapuchre mountains. No worries maybe next time on the way up to Mardi Himal base camp.
After light breakfast we headed towards our second stop – Forrest camp. On the way we passed thru permit checkpoint and then a few teahouses. Actually many people call them “teahouses” but those places where they serve food and have accommodation are called hotels. Teahouse is just a small shed where you can get some tea and barely some snacks.
Second day the terrain changed and steep uphills were mixed with some downhills all thru rain forest. After around 4 hours and 30 minutes we got to the Forest camp. We were thinking to push further but heavens made the choice for us once it started to pour rain just few moments after our arrival. Most of the time trekking it was just 4 of us and only very rarely we met another groups of people. So already after second day we knew we chose good and instead of crowded trails we could enjoy trekking mostly by ourselves on the way up to Mardi Himal base camp.
It was another long afternoon ahead of us. Luckily we made friends with a very friendly Australian family that afternoon. Talking eating and playing cards are the top 3 activities in these camps. Unfortunately for us I didn’t bring my favorite game “Bang Duel” because playing all the time those same 2 card games with my dad started to be boring after second day.
The food in these hotels was surprisingly tasty and the variety was great as well. Although when we asked for a chicken for dinner, we were told that there is not enough people and it would not be worth it to kill one. So we ordered vegetarian food again just like on the first day. My favorite “Momo” was not on the menu so we couldn’t go wrong with Nepali traditional and favorite among all the guides and porters – Dal Bhat. It consists of steamed rice and cooked lentil soup with some added season vegetables. It was very tasty and you can eat as much as you want in any hotel or restaurant. This refers only to Dal Bhat so once you are starving you can order it and just keep adding more free of charge.
In the evening just like the day before all four of us had a stretching exercise. After that it was a toilet run, hygiene and sleep. Second night I slept much better and longer than the first one.
Day 3. Forest camp 2.550 AMSL to High camp 3.550 AMSL
We woke up around 6:30 although I wasn’t sleeping since 5:30. First thing in the morning we packed bags then took breakfast, had a stretching exercise and left for High camp. The trail started pretty steep and continued all the way up. The jungle trail was really beautiful and the higher we got the more Rhododendron flowers were still possible to see on the trees. Suddenly the whole forest was pinky red. It was in the 2nd teahouse on the way where I saw Yak for the first time. It was not actually a teahouse but Yak farm so that’s why. However they didn’t seem to be too flattered when taking selfies with them. Obviously for safety reasons not too close because one never knows.
As the altitude was changing so did the land. Once we got over 3.000 meters there were no trees just some small bushes. At this point we were supposed to see the majestic views of Annapurna South and Machapuchre but it was all foggy. No wonder the locals call that part of trail “cloudy mountain”. After 4 hours we reached High camp at 3.550 AMSL. Our accommodation was even better than last night at Forest camp because we had a solid wall between the rooms not like the wooden one from night before. But I am not complaining at all because we still had a proper bed and room just for 2 even in Forest camp. This is a luxury compared to Mt. Kilimanjaro trekking we did last year.
I was really surprised how many people there were at High camp. Again we met with our friends from Australia and we spent the rest of the afternoon playing cards. Such an amazing atmosphere over there at 3.550 AMSL. At one point during a conversation about our next plans we didn’t seem to find out which day it was. One girl had to reach out for a phone and check that it was Monday. What a great time when u don’t have to worry about time not even the day of the week. We had decided that next day we try to get to Mardi Himal base camp at 4.500 although we got info that it is very icy and all the tourists just go to View point early morning to check out the stunning views of the whole mountain range. We will see where we end up but for now our alarm is set for 3:30 am.
Day 4. High camp 3.550 AMSL to Mardi Himal base camp 4.500 AMSL and back to Low camp 2.950 AMSL
Last night at High camp was crazy. More than 2 hours of thunderstorms with hail did not let us fall asleep easily. Finally around 11 pm I miraculously managed to fall asleep and woke up around 3 am. We left the camp with packed breakfast around 4:30 with other groups. There was snow everywhere from last night. After a few minutes we got stuck on the trail and we were not sure where to go. Finally our guide went further and we had to turn back to eventually find the right way. We caught up with another group but they were slowing us down so we passed them and finally could speed up.
We wanted to catch the sunrise on the lower view point. Weather was looking pretty good and we knew we are going to see a beautiful sunrise. After less than 2 hours of hiking we got to the lower view point to see the show. After 20 minutes the rest of the group arrived.
Since my father’s and my goal was to reach Mardi Himal base camp we headed up. The way was all covered by snow but thanks to that it was possible to hike there. If it hadn’t snowed night before we would have not been able to pass due to icy conditions. This part of the trail was the most spectacular. It was definitely the most breathtaking hike I have ever done due to the fact that there was a fresh snow with no treks in it and just stunning views of mountains surrounding us. The main ones were Annapurna South and Machapuchre. There was no wind and the conditions were like from a fairy tale. Climber cannot ask for more ideal day. After another hour and 45 minutes we reached Mardi Himal base camp with my dad, our guide Ganesh and porter Saandeep.
Later we were joined by an American lady who managed to get there alone. The 360 degree view around for the whole hour was just breathtaking and no matter how many times I looked around it was incredible feeling and experience. After we ate our hard boiled eggs and traditional Nepalese bread Chapati we headed back to High camp. The whole decent took only 1 hour and 50 minutes and we were still able to pass those who reached only lower view point. At High camp we decided to continue lower to Low camp in order to save time for decent for the next day. Luckily on the way down we stopped at Yak farm because our guide wanted to buy Yak´s butter and exactly at that time it started to rain hail so we had just a few moments to get to shelter inside.
After 45 minutes, short nap and a small beer we were ready to continue to Low camp which was just 25 minutes away. Once we reached Low camp it started to pour rain and hail again. Thankfully as just half an hour before the storm we managed to take shelter in our accommodation for our last day. As we were playing cards and talking to random guests the same situation with storm and hail happened another 3 times. We finished our last night with a small celebration, some beers and with locals teaching us some cool card games.
Day 5. Low camp 2.950 AMSL to Siding village 1.850 AMSL
Our last day was quite a relief and since we were already set up for decent we couldn’t imagine to hike more uphill. It is all about your mind set. Satisfied with our reached goal and mind-blowing views from Mardi Himal base camp we could head down with peace in mind. The way to Siding village was pretty steep and very slippery due to heavy rains the night before. Despite the unfavorable weather our guide Ganesh decided to walk down in flip flops. I was used to this kind of trekking within locals because it was the same thing in Mt. Kilimanjaro. However we had some difficulties with slippery mud on the way down ourselves. In approx. 3 hours we reached small village of Siding where prearranged jeep was waiting for us. The ride to Pokhara costs around 50 USD but we wanted to be there earlier to have time to rest and finally take shower. The ride from Siding to Pokhara was great adventure and something you don´t get to experience every day.
Steep hills on the right side and steep slope on my left side was pretty terrifying. For approx. 2 hours it was like riding the bull. We were holding all the handles in the car just not to hit our heads. I was really surprised how agile that old Land Rover was. Any modern SUV would be broken down after just a few meters on such road.
On the way down we were blessed with amazing views of stunning waterfalls, local villages, suspended bridges, wild rivers as well as road construction. This was pretty funny because we had to stop for a while because an excavator was working on wider road. We got lucky and just after 15 minutes we were ready to pass thru. It was seriously one of the most beautiful drives I have ever experienced and neither the never ending bumping did bother me. Both I and my dad were just enjoying the pure beauty of that amazing country and its people.