Friday 2 November

Tolka to Ghandruk

I have my first full night’s sleep of the holiday and feel refreshed when I wake up. On James’ recommendation, I go for a breakfast of porridge, and have no regrets. It is a fairly short and easy walk to Landruk. Without the breakdown yesterday, this is where we would have stayed the night, but in any case, we must now descend to the valley floor to cross the Modi Khola. We descend for about an hour and a half, passing through terraced fields where millet is being threshed.

Modi Khola Valley

Ascent to Ghandruk

After a brief drinks stop at the bottom and a bit of mental and physical preparation involving Mars bars, we begin the climb to Ghandruk, where we are to spend the night. It is a long, hot and tiring climb, in full sun. We pause after the worst of it, at the point where the Chomrong path heads off for the Annapurna Sanctuary. Looking back, we can clearly see Landruk and Tolka a short distance across the valley. As the crow flies, we have come almost no distance at all.

We make it to Ghandruk in time for a late lunch. We pass by tea houses with names such as ‘Good View Hotel’ and the presumably slightly more upmarket ‘Excellent View Hotel’, before coming to the imaginatively named ‘Milan Hotel’ where we are booked in for the night. It is a wonderfully picturesque place, surrounded by yellow and gold marigolds in full bloom. Lunch will be about an hour and it soon becomes slightly chilly as mist rolls in up the valley and the high peaks are obscured by cloud.

Milan Hotel Terrace

Lunch, when it arrives does, not fully correspond to what was ordered, but is nevertheless tasty, and I am in no mood to argue. The corn bread is slightly sweet, reminding me a little of donuts.

After a hot and wholly uncontrollable shower, I walk with the others into the village. There is a visitors’ centre that champions the work of ACAP, an organisation devoted to managing sustainability in partnership with the local villages. They help to reduce wood burning (and the resultant deforestation) by setting up micro-hydroelectric projects and solar water heaters, and advocating the use of propane cookers. Besides that they work to bring education and construction projects such as repairs to the trails to prevent erosion. Trekking has had a huge impact on the region, and there is an impressive array of projects to help the local people to benefit from technology and tourism without upsetting the delicate ecological balance of the region.

After the hard climb this morning, I am not quite sure how much more climbing I am up to. It seems that every footpath in Ghandruk is either steeply up or steeply down. Most of the residents of Ghandruk live over on the other side of the hill, away from the trekkers’ residential quarter, but we wander over there nevertheless for a quick look before returning via more flights of steep steps up and down and up again to the Milan.