Nepal - Around the Dhaulagiri - HT Wandelreizen - April/May 2014

Below you will find a list of pictures, taken on our trip around the Dhaulagiri in Nepal from April 19 2014 to May 11 2014.
The most interesting images will have a red bullet in front of them. In a hurry? Just want to see the pictures? Check out the slide show.
The days we were walking we kept track of how much time we spent walking. This is excluding the time for breaks.

April 19 & 20: Home - New Delhi - Kathmandu

We went to the airport where we met part of the group. The flight to Delhi was a very calm one. We had no trouble at the transfer desk and went through quicker than ever before. We then had to wait in the lounge until our flight to Kathmandu. That was calm as well and we had great views of the mountains. We waited at the airport for the others that arrived an hour after us and then went to the hotel (Thamel Eco Resort) in Kathmandu. Strange to be part of an HT group and not stay at Amar's Hotel. The advantage now was that we would not have to walk half an hour through the traffic to get to Thamel as this hotel was right in Thamel - but because of the location of the rooms, still quiet; very nice! We had lunch at the Pumpernickel, bought a map of the trek and some water and went back to the room. Around 5p.m. we joined Frans, our Dutch guide, in the lobby. He explained a bit about the trek and things to do in Kathmandu. We had dinner with the group at the New Orleans restaurant.

April 21: Kathmandu

After breakfast we first went to see the Indrani Temple. From there we walked to the Swayambhu area. We entered the temple area through the entrance in the back of the area. Here we saw some recent statues we hadn't seen before. We climbed up to Swayambunath - although we had been there a couple of times before, always nice to see. We took the stairs down and then went by taxi to Bodnath. On the way over there we encoutered some trucks that carried the bodies of some of the sherpa's that had died in the avalanche at Mount Everest a few days earlier. They were in open caskets with their families next to them and following in cars. As these Sherpa's usually support up to 50 people from their salary, the impact on the small villages they come from is enourmous.
At Bodnath, we had lunch at Stupa View. After walking a round around the Stupa, we continued to Pashupathinath. Visiting that place is getting quite expensive at 1,000NPR (about 7.7 EUR / 10 USD). We went back to the hotel by taxi and bought some prayer flags to leave at the passes we would pass on our trip. At the hotel we took a shower, sent some mails and waited until dinner time. We went to Kathmandu Guest House. Around 8.30p.m. we were back in our room. We had to go to bed early as the next day would have an early start as we would go to Pokhara.

April 22: Kathmandu - Pokhara - Beni

After an early breakfast we took taxis to our bus. The met the crew of about 30 (they were already there). Our Luggage was loaded onto the bus and shortly after 7 we headed for Pokhara. Around 11 we stopped for lunch (the first Dal Bhat of this trip, of course it would not be the last). Around 2.15p.m. we picked up one more person - a lady that avoided Kathmandu and went straight to Pokhara. Around 5.20p.m. we arrived in Beni. We had a drink in the garden of our lodge (Hotel Yeti). Around 7 we went to our room to charge our GPS and other gadgets for the last time. Around 7 we had dinner (Chowmein). Across the street there was a wedding with quite loud music, so we didn't get much sleep unfortunately.

April 23: Beni - Darbang (1.090m / 3,633ft.) - Dharapani (1.556m / 5,187ft.)

We drove to Darbang in 2 mini-vans where we arrived around 10.30a.m. where we we would lunch before we started walking. When we started our trek at 1.30p.m. it had just started to drizzle and we could here the first thunders. Before long it was raining harder, so we had to put on our raincoats (Arjen put on his rain trousers shortly after that too - but with the relatively high temperatures, that wasn't very useful). The rain didn't last long and as the sky cleared we could see the first snow covered mountains. We arrived at the camp site earlier than anticipated (we thought it would be a 4 hour hike, turned out it was only 2). As we were putting up our tents, the children of Dharepani came to see what was going on. They were curious to see what we were doing and what was inside our tents. But most interesting was Patricia writing in her diary. At 6.30 dinner (Dal Bhat) was ready and by 9 we were already in bed.
This day we walked approximately 1h46m.

April 24: Dharapani (1.556m / 5,187ft.) - Muri (1.915m / 6,383ft.)

When we woke up, the sky was clear - but a bit hazy as seems to be common in spring - and we had good views of a range of white mountain tops. We went through the village of Talum where we bought some cookies and cola. After that we walked up and down the neighbouring terraces where crops like corn, potatoe and rice are grown. Around 11.30 we arrived at our lunch spot in Solabang. Here we also did the formal introduction of our crew. A total of 29 would help us (24 porters, a cooking staff of 3 and 2 guides). After lunch we did the stretch to Muri. We had to wait a bit for our tent to arrive (we were walking too fast for the crew). Just when we finished putting up the tent (again with a large audience of local kids) it began to rain at first, followed by thunder and hail. The rest of the afternoon was spent reading and drinking tea in the dinner tent. While we were having dinner, the rain stopped.
This day we walked approximately 3h55m.

April 25: Muri (1.915m / 6,383ft.) - Jugapani - Boghara (1.880m / 6,267ft.)

Our tent hadn't dried completely yet as we had to pack it. We passed through Muri (lots of kids there) on our way down to the river crossing of the Dhola Khola. The the path led up again to a ridge and then down to the next river, the Myagi Khola. Before 10.30 we arrived at Jugapani where we would have lunch. As it was humid and they had running water coming out of a hose, so we decided to wash our hair while waiting for the lunch to be prepared. Inside the house they made room for us to sit. We were not the only ones: a giant spider was crawling around, quickly finding a quiet spot when he was discovered. Just after noon we started walking again: up, up, up. And you could almost tell the time by the change in the weather: around 1p.m. the clouds come in and by 2.30 the first drops of rain start falling. We arrived at the camp sie by 3.30. Shortly after that the rain stopped. We spent the rest of the aftoornoon reading. Around dinner timne it started raining again, but later that evening it was dry.
This day we walked approximately 4h34m.

April 26: Boghara (1.880m / 6,267ft.) - Doban Kharka (2.490m / 8,300ft.)

When we left Boghara we dropped a donation at the local school. The kids normally would have done a performance the evening before, but there was a school holiday, so most of them were in their smaller villages away from Boghara. After a lot of "Nepali flat" through terraces and the forest we arrived at our lunch spot shortly before 10.30. The clouds had come early and the first drops of rain were already falling when we were eating. Shortly after noon we started walking again. It started to rain harder so we put on our raincoats. We crossed a landslide and saw the meadow ("kharka" means meadow) where we would put up our tents. The moment we arrived (around 2.10) the rain really started pooring down. Fortunately there was a small house next to the meadow where we could shelter. By 3.30 it was dry again so we could finally put up the tents. After some reading we had dinner and the first Diamox pill. During the evening we had some more rain, but later on that stopped again.
This day we walked approximately 3h30m.

April 27: Doban Kharka (2.490m / 8,300ft.) - Campsite (3.608m / 12,027ft.)

Early in the morning we had a clear sky again, but the clouds came in even earlier than the day before. At breakfast we also took some Chiapattis for lunch as there would be no hot lunch this day. We continued walking through the forest. Lots of fern and moss and finally some Rhododendron flowers. We had lunch early and shortly as there were some raindrops already. A it further uphill we saw a monkey high up in the trees. The trees turned into bamboo as it started to rain harder. Time to put on the raincoats (and for Arjen trousers too) again. Around 1 we arrived at a tea shop where we could shelter. Because of the smoke, Arjen sheltered outside. The rain poored down for a while, occasionally while the sun came through the clouds. The rain nearly stopped, so we decided to start walking again. Eventually it was dry. The last couple of miles (!) we were walking on an enourmous landslide. It had happened 18 months before and killed nearly 30 people... Shortly after 4 we arrived at the campsite. We could dry our tent in the sun. We had tea and read for a while. After dinner we had a "kings cake" to celebrate the Kings' birthday.
This day we walked approximately 5h06m.

April 28: Around the Campsite (3.608m / 12,027ft.)

Part of the group went for a walk on this resting day. Patricia decided to join in and Arjen stayed behind in the Camp. The group saw part of the trail of the next day, passing rememberance stones of people that had been killed climbing the Dhaulagiri. They then continued to the hillside on the eastern side of the camp before heading back again. After lunch we spent some time reading in the sun. We could already hear thunder in the distance. Probably in the valley we had been walking in the days before and left yesterday. Eventually we had a bit of rain too, but nothing too bad.
This day Patricia walked approximately 1h45m.

April 29: Campsite (3.608m / 12,027ft.) - Japanese Camp (4.106m / 13,687ft.)

When we woke up, there was ice on the inside of the outer tent for the first time this trek. During breakfast we also prepared luncha gain as there would be no hot lunch. Chiapattis with chees and saucage. Our Dutch guide asked Patricia to help with a brief check up of Sanu. He wasn't feeling well, hadn't been drinking enough the day before. Shortly after we had started walking, it was decided Sanu had to go back before his condition became worse. Bill became our new head guide. We had a steep climb down the side of the glacier, crossed it and had an even steeper climb up the other side; zigzagging al the way up to Swiss base camp (no longer in use). We had lunch around 11.15 in a lovely spot where we could look back and ahead. It was a very beatiful day. Around 1.10 we arrived at the campsite (glacier camp, which according to Sanu was the same as Japanese camp, but I'm not sure). This campsite had tiny horizontal spots to put your tent on. We ended up a bit away from our group as there wasn't enough even space to allow for all the tents there. Occasionally you could hear ice breaking of the ridges on the side of the valley. After dinner we had good news: because of the bad weather of the days before we weren't sure that we would be able to cross the passes, but three groups had passed them this day so if conditions would not deteriorate, we should be able to cross the passes too.
This day we walked approximately 4h03m.

April 30: Japanese Camp (4.106m / 13,687ft.) - Dhaulagiri Base Camp (4.630m / 15,433ft.)

We again had ice on the inside of the outer tent after another cold night. We had breakfast and prepared our lunch. We would be walking on the glacier the entire time. It was very sunny so we could walk in our t-shirts. On the left we could see the flanks of the Dhaulagiri II and III, ahead we could see Tukuche and to our right the Dhaulagiri I (although not yet the summit). We reached Dhaulagiri Base Camp which was quite busy: a couple of groups like ours doing the circuit and some groups preparing for the summit. We found a decent spot at the very end of the camp site and put up our tents. From the tents we could see part of the north eatsern col icefall. During the afternoon the clouds had come in, but later the sky cleared again. By the time we went to sleep, there was already ice on the inside of the outer tent.
This day we walked approximately 2h21m.

May 1: Around Dhaulagiri Base Camp (4.630m / 15,433ft.)

During the night a small layer of snow had fallen, but by morning the sky was clear again. We had expected that the su would burn us out of our tents, but the mountains blocked it untill 7.45. We could stay in our tents a bit longer as this would be our second resting day. After breakfast we went for a short walk along the trail we would also follow the next day (there wasn't much choice with mountains on 3 sides of the valley). We didn't go too far and could not yet see the pass when we turned back. We had lunch and then the clouds came in again. We went to our tent for some reading and sleeping. At five we went to the dinner tent for tea. Turned out that a small layer of snow had fallen again. After an early dinner we quickly went to bed - to be able to have an early start the next day to enjoy as much of the good weather and views as possible.
This day we walked approximately 59m.

May 2: Dhaulagiri Base Camp (4.630m / 15,433ft.) - French Pass (5.368m / 17,893ft.) - Hidden Valley (5.082m / 16,940ft.)

Bed tea was at 4.30. We packed our stuff and when we came out of the tent, there was a lot of fog... We started walking around 6.10 (having waited 10 minutes in the freezing cold for a group of Germans that would travel together with us this day, but didn't show up). By then the sky had cleared and we had good views of the Dhaulagiri while heading up towards the pass. Unfortunately the clouds came in before we reached the pass. The last steep climb towards it we had a bit of snow and hail. At the pass (5.368m / 17,893ft.) where we arrived around 10.35, we had limited visibility. We tied 2 sets of prayer flags to eachother and existing sets. Around 11 we started walking into Hidden Valley. The snow made progress slow: occasionally you would sink into it up to your hips. After a last, steep descent, we arrived aorund 1p.m. at the campsite; a cold and windy spot. We spent the afternoon in our tent, reading and listening to the wind, rain, hail and thunder. During Dinner, Bill explained what the next day would be like. Contrary to our desciption, it would be another long day, so we went to bed early again.
This day we walked approximately 4h29m.

May 3: Hidden Valley (5.082m / 16,940ft.) - Dampus Pass (5.292m / 17,640ft.) - Alu Bari (3.840m / 12,800ft.)

After a very cold night we had to pack our tent before breakfast in the dark. The poles were still frozen, which makes it always an unpleasant task. After breakfast and preparing our lunch we started walking around 6.15. The Germans whose camp was next to ours had already left. We put on our Gamaches as there would be a lot of snow to walk through this day. The advantage of starting early though was that the snow would still be frozen early on, making it easier to walk on. Which was still quite tough. On the way to the pass, we had some nice views, but the Dhaulagiri was already in the clouds. We reached the pass from which we could see the Annapurna range and Tilichio Peak ahead and Dampus Peak to our left. Beautiful! It was sunny and hot, so we eventually were walking in our t-shirts again (at 5.000m / 16,667 ft. !), a long way around the Dampus Peak. Occasionally the clouds would come in, reducing visibility to almost zero. At some point everything around you would have the same white-yellowish colour - quite dangerous as the path itself was at most one footstep wide and the slope on your right side steeply going down to the Kali Gandaki Valley over 2.500 meter / 8,300 feet below... At some point the clouds became too thick so we had to put on our warmer coats again. Just in time, because as we turned a corner and traded snow for rocky grounds, the wind came in at gale force. Temperatures rapidly dropped below zero again and visibility was less than a few meters / yards. The steep descend quickly led us below the clouds for imroved visibilty, but that resulted in a bit of hail too. Even lower the wind was less strong and we even had some sunshine before we arrived at Alu Bari. Some of the crew had already put up our tent as a thank you because Patricia had lent a spare set of sunglasses to a porter that had lost his pair. This was definately a day he couldn't have done without a pair. We prepared the tips for the crew as most of them would say goodbye at the lunch spot of the next day (in Marpha). The Annapurna range was clearly visible at night, but below us in the Kali Gandaki Valley, there were clouds.
This day we walked approximately 5h00m.

May 4: Alu Bari (3.840m / 12,800ft.) - Marpha - Tukuche (2.603m / 8,677ft.)

We had breakfast first, hoping the sun would dry our tents before we would leave. The sun had to come from behind the mountains so that didn't really work. In the distance we could see a glimpse of Thorung La that we passed in 1998 on our first trip to Nepal. While walking down, down, down, we saw many small planes (from above!) heading from Jomsom to Pokhara. Shortly after 10a.m. we arrived in Marpha. We had some juice and tea in a hotel where we had lunch around noon. After lunch we said goodbye to most of our crew; the cooking staff and most of the porters would head back by bus the next day. Only 4 porters and Bill, our guide, would be necessary to transport our stuff to the end of the trek - we would spend the remaining nights in lodges. The afternoon we walked from Marpha to Tukuche. We did that on the bank on the left of the Kali Gandaki river. A new trail is forming there as nobody wants to walk on the old trail anymore as the trail on the right side has now become a road where large trucks and busses produce a lot of dust. We arrived in Tukuche at the High Plains Inn, a lodge run by a Dutch guy (Patrick), married to a Nepalese (Purna). It's a very clean lodge with en suite bathrooms so finally we could wash our hair again. We had dinner around 6.30 - Patrick prepared chicken sateh with peanut sauce for Arjen (it's his favourite dish). After dinner we went to the town hall with Purna. She is setting up an organisation for the women of the town. To promote that and to get them to know eachother, she was organising a dance for which the women were practising. We were allowed to watch them practice. When we arrived we all received a Khata (Tibettan scarf).
This day we walked approximately 3h42m.

May 5: Tukuche (2.603m / 8,677ft.) - Ghasa (1.988m / 6,627ft.)

Unfortunately it was a very cloudy day, so no decent "last looks" at the mountains. We walked on the river bed for a while before crossing to the left river bank again. We had tea in a lodge in Kokhethanti. Here we ran into another "HT Wandelreizen" group who were doing the Annapurna Circuit. At Kalopani we crossed the river again and continued on the right side - through the forest to avoid the road as much as possible. Eventually we arrived in Ghasa around lunch time.
This day we walked approximately 4h58m.

May 6: Ghasa (1.988m / 6,627ft.) - Tatopani (1.258m / 4,193ft.)

We started walking down the road, but crossed the river as soon as we could. We saw lots of terraces where corn was grown. And a lot of Marijuana growing in the wild. We stopped for tea in Kopchepani. Many children were playing there before they would have to go to school. At Dana we crossed the river again. We had lunch there. And went back to the left river bank again to continue our way to Tatopani. A little before Tatopani we again crossed the river (for the last time now) to walk the last part on the road. When we arrived at our lodge, we immediately noticed it was the same lodge as we stayed in in 1998: The Dhaulagiri Lodge. No more walking... so we allowed ourselves a beer to celebrate the end of the trek.
This day we walked approximately 4h23m.
This makes for a total of approximately 48h46m for this holiday for Arjen and approximately 50h31m for Patricia!

May 7: Tatopani (1.258m / 4,193ft.) - Beni - Pokhara

We were supposed to leave Tatopani by bus around 7. Turned out there was a strike and we would not be able to leave before 8. Frans (our Dutch tourguide) got on the phone with the manager of the bus driver to explain we had a plane to catch. Eventually we left. The road was very bad. Lots of potholes. Before we arrived in Beni, where we would switch to minivans again, the driver mentioned that he would not be able to drive all the way to Beni as that would not be appreciated by other bus drivers still on strike in Beni. So after some phone calls, the minivans drove our way so people in Beni would not see our driver working during the strike. We had lunch in Beni (a bit early, it was only 10a.m.). After Beni the road was much better. Around 1.15 we arrived in Pokhara at our hotel (The Mountain House - nextdoor to the North Face Inn where we stayed in 2012). We freshed up - clean pants for the first time in 2 weeks! - and went into town. Nice warm weather in Pokhara. We had pastries at the German Bakery. We then walked to Lake Phewa and a bit alongside its shore. We walked back to the hotel via the shopping street. We felt some raindrops, but were back right in time before the rain and thunder started. When it was dry again later in the afternoon we walked to Boomerang for milkshakes and after that we had dinner at Moondance (very good!).

May 8: Pokhara

We woke up early (still used to the rythm of the trek) but dozed a bit before we got up. We had breakfast at the hotel, paid our plane tickets (the whole group had decided to not take the bus back to Kathmandu, but fly back instead. Around 11.30 we headed into town. First stop: German Bakery to buy some pastries. Next stop: Boomerang for some more and milkshakes. The afternoon we used to repack our bags. Before dinner we went for cocktails at Madushala. Around 7 we met the rest of the group at Boomerang. While waiting there we could see the rain coming from the other side of the lake. Fortunately it didn't last for long so we could walk to the restaurant (One upon a time) mostly dry.

May 9: Pokhara - Kathmandu

A mosquito caused us to wake up around 4... The next time we woke up it was 6. After breakfast we packed the last things. Around 10 we were picked up by minivans that drove us to the airport. The plane arrived late so we didn't arrive in Kathmandu before 12.45 - by bus it takes 8 hours, by plane only 25 minutes... We drove to the Manaslu Hotel just north of Thamel. Sanu stopped by; fortunately he was doing a bit better. After having unpacked, we walked to Thamel. Not the most pleasant road to walk along. At Weizen we had some nice pastries and mint tea. After that we walked back to the hotel. We showered and waited untill it was time to head out for dinner again with the whole group. We had dinner at The Third Eye (very nice!). We took our time so it was 10.30 before we arrived back at the hotel.

May 10 & 11: Kathmandu - New Delhi - Amsterdam

After Breakfast we said goodbye to two of our group who would stay a bit longer in Nepal. We exchanged our last roupees back to euros and checked out. We joined some of our group with Frans who is in the board of a Nepalese-Dutch foundation for education of children of porters, guides and cooking staff working for HT called "Sathiko Sath". We learned about the programme these kids follow, what they learn, where they live, eat sleep and play. After that we went to the airport. The plane left Kathmandu around 4.35. We had exit row seats so lots of room for our tired legs. We landed at Delhi at 6.10. As our flight to Amsterdam would only leave around 3a.m. we decided to rent a sleeping pod. Nice beds, much nicer than the airport chairs near the gates. We had at least 6 hours sleep before we headed to the gate. The plane arrived late so we could only start boarding at 3. When we were ready to depart, there was a minor issue with the AC which caused a further delay of an hour, so it was eventually 4.45 before the plane took off. We had a quiet flight and arrived in Amsterdam just before 9a.m..