I arrived in Pohkara, found a place to stay for the night, and set about learning what I could about the hike I wanted to do- “The Sanctuary”- otherwise known as Annapurna Base Camp. I stopped into a guiding service to ask some questions about the route and conditions and found there was already someone there doing the same thing. Within minutes, the other woman (Sacha) and I had agreed we liked each other, we would hike together so long as we were free to take space when we felt like it, we would leave our schedule flexible (I’d had enough rigidity on my EBC hike to last a lifetime), and… we had to leave tomorrow. The last one was Sacha’s requirement as she was meeting her sister in ten days time and it was a ten day hike. She also suggested we start from the Gorepani side and see Poon Hill before heading up into the sanctuary.
Abandoning my dreams of lazing at the lake side for a few days I packed my bag and met her on the road in the morning. From the very beginning we got on splendidly. Within 3 days we were referring to each other as “sisters”. And we didn’t ever seem to need to take space from one another. It was amazing. It felt like a dream trip. Conversation flowed, sunsets and sunrises were amazing, and I fell in love with Dal Baht after Sacha’s enthusiasm for it was enough to convince me to try again. It felt like almost every meal one or the other of us uttered the words “this is the best dal baht we’ve had yet…” We played on the side of the trail, took photos of each other doing silly things, day dreamed about the next time we’d splurge and order custard for desert, and hiked a lot. I’d had a nasty respiratory thing going on from my last trip to Kathmandu, and a few days in, Sacha got a bad cold. We got to Jhinu, soaked in the hot pools there, and declared ourselves too sick to carry on until we’d had a rest day. haha. We also decided to do some thinking about our route. From Jhinu we were meant to head up into the higher elevations to Annpurna Base Camp. But the hikers we’d been meeting were reporting snow (over a foot!) on the trail from a storm the day before we left for the hike. Add in that we were both very sick and neither of us really liked the idea of hiking up above 4,000 meters in a foot of snow in winter temps (it was mid December after all). So we bagged it and headed down. Crossed the highway, and hiked up to a place called Panchase. It was enough off the beat track that locals and even guides we talked to were amazed. The reply “You’re going to Panchase??? WOW.” was said by everyone. Panchase lived up to it’s reputation. It was awesome!!! 360 degree views, the whole Annapurna massif in view, a blanket of clouds on the valley floor, the very best dal baht yet, and some very interesting and gorgeous hiking. Fantastic. Headed back to Kathmandu after another few days of exploring the desserts of Pokhara, where I hopped on a plane and headed to Thailand to meet Leigh.