NATT – Trails : Mardi Himal Trek


NATT – Trails : Mardi Himal Trek ,  Chapter ,May 2012

On 24th of May, 2012, three of us, Guide Mahesh Kulung Himalaya Lodge & Restaurant owner of Landruk, Shyam Rai, and I left for Mardi Himal Trek to mark the trail with blue/white colors. We did everything as volunteers. Although the ACAP officers, Mr. Lal Prasad Gurung and Mr. Narendra Lama had promised to pay something for the paint, brushes and our food and accommodation, it seemed to be taking too long to process. As my friend's time was limited, we decided to leave as early as possible and finally decided on the right time for it. We were happy and very dedicated doing it, and I was greatly inspired to do so by Mr. Andrees de Ruiter.

About Mardi Himal Trek.

This is a beautiful and rich nature trail, best thought of as a “Ridge-trail”! because most of  the time you hike along the ridge beginning from Kande, one of the best starting points for this trek, situated  36 kms. north of Pokhara. You have to follow this ridge west, until MHBC (Mardi Himal Base Camp) .The altitude starts from 1770m at Kande and reaches 4500m. at the end point ,MHBC.

You hike through just a few villages in the beginning, and at the end of the trek some particularly beautiful villages. On this trek you will have to spend 80% of the whole trip in dense pristine forest! This is a very quiet and peaceful trek – we met only an Italian tourist with a guide during our whole trip. I would like to recommend doing this trek with a minimum of 2 people or taking a Nepali guide, because it’s very peaceful and quiet and far away from access to any village.

This fascinating trip is a mixture, being both adventurous and peaceful and joyful.
Above all, when you reach  high camp , at 3900m,  or  the upper view point at 4450m, the views are breathtaking: the snow- capped peaks include Annapurna I ,8091m, Annapurna South ,7219m, Himchuli ,6441m, Annpurna Fang (Baraha Shikher) ,7647m, Khangshar Kang (rock noir) ,7485m, Gangapurna ,7454m, Mardi Himal 5553m, Machhapuchhre’s (fish tail), both peaks (6997m – 6993m) and the  beautiful sloping landscape to the south.

For those who don’t like to walk where many other tourists are hiking, then Mardi Himal Trail is perfect to do, and if you have more than 16 – 18 days for a trekking trip in Nepal, you may also combine it with the Khopra trek, including the hot spring in Jhinu Danda (1750m) at the shore, Modi khola, coming from Annapurnas . It would also be possible to go to other Tatopani (hot springs) in the Kaligandaki valley.

There are many confusing trails into the dense forest:  everywhere you can see the small trails walked by yaks and sheep, which look similar to the main trail. An officially some years ago, The Mardi Himal Route was open for the trekkers, but you don’t feel it so when you are in the dense forest of it and some narrower paths above high camp! In my experienced there are many places along the trail need to fix and put more signposts, poles and metal bar etc. Originally it was made for yak and their herders, sheep and their shepherds. Seasonally, lower villagers go up to the forest and up to the sloping grassy lands to take things like bamboo and  dhakai, a kind of wild vegetable, wild mushroom and some Himalayan herbs and Yarsa Gumba (cordyceps sinensis) .
I hope our blue/white signs will help you to find the right trails although I’m not sure how long they will last; hopefully the monsoon rain won’t wash them away. In the forest we tried to mark 10 or 20 meters between each, in both directions. I believe marking on the tree will last longer, because there are fewer chances of   the signs being washed away by the rain. Below and above High Camp, we marked on the rocks only, some of which were difficult to see, and there are long distances between the signs so you need to look for them carefully.

Summary; The Mardi Himal Trek is a beautiful, wild trek, into pure nature- a true gem of the Himalaya, a quiet and peaceful environment. It may be a bit adventurous but it is a more joyful destination for those who like to be away from the hectic rush of civilization. 

Pokhara 820m – Kande 1770m (1 hr)
There are two transport options : if you want a cheap drive then you would go to Baglung bus station ( the new bus park) and catch a bus to Kande, which costs around 2 Euro, but it would take more than two hrs, because the bus  stops at many places to collect  passengers.
 The other option is to hire a taxi or car; it would bring you to Kande in 1 hr maximum. Recently it cost around 15 Euro for a single drive.

Kande – Australian Camp 2060m (1.45 – 2 hrs)
Kande is a small town with little tea shops, restaurants and cold stores. In the middle of the town, there are some NATT signs painted with red/white on the stone wall and a wooden electricity pole, which you can easily recognize. When you go by a cab or car, you may ask the driver to drop you right at the starting point for Mardi Himal Trek. It’s easy to find.
You turn to the right hand side and slowly continue further, through small villages and houses; soon you will start ascending and enter the bushes and forests of rhododendron and red sandalwood with beautiful southern views. You will reach Australian Camp, a very beautiful little village. From there you can see the Annapurna mountain range, and a little of Manaslu   and the Dhaulagiri range including Fishtail Mount and Pokhara valley in the south.
There are good campsites and four nice lodges. I would prefer to sleep here, but for a first day the trek to Pathana is also nice. Australian Camp is famous around Pokhara for a picnic spot with easy access and a beautiful mountain scene. This place is surrounded by red sandalwood and rhododendron forest.

Australian Camp – Pathana 1950m (20 – 25 min)
 The trail begins through a beautiful and pleasant short descent in the red sandalwood forest, and then let’s says, “Nepali flat “to Pathana. Sometimes you will get to see few red/white NATT-signs.
At Pathana, there are 6 nice basic lodges, 2 little bhatties and a big new lodge about to be built. There is an ACAP permit check point + tourist information centre as well. Please make sure that all your necessary permits are arranged in Pokhara beforehand.

Pathana – Pitam Deurali 2100m (45 min).
Pathana to Pitam Deurali is a wonderful hike in the red sandalwood and rhododendron forest and with some little open land between, known as buffalo pasture. After some minutes on the flat there is a slow, gentle climb up and then a bit more uphill until the flat resting place at Pitam Deurali. In between you can see some ACAP signposts and our NATT- logo in red/white. If those signs are taken away, you have to follow the straight direction; do not turn either left or right.
At Pitam Deurali, there are two basic lodges and one bhatti.

Pitam Deurali – Forest Camp (Kokar) 2550m (5 – 6 hrs approx)
Now is the official start of the Mardi Himal Trek. Leaving behind the Trekkers Inn Lodge, there is an ACAP signpost saying Mardi Route (Forest Camp). We did paint on the pole of ACAP signpost and at the corner wall of this lodge; you also clearly see the steps on the wall between the signpost and the lodge’s, behind the side wall. When you go up the steps, you immediately turn to the right and go straight, entering the scrubby forest. Then you can follow the blue/white sign. Most of the time we painted on the tree barks as there were only a few opportunities to mark on rocks.  You climb gently and in 15 – 20 minutes, you reach a little area of open land, which is buffalo pasture (you might not recognize it as a pasture for animals) where we made a larger mark on the rock in blue/white color. Coming to this pasture you might get a little confused but if you look carefully, there should be no problem finding it.
 After the pasture you enter a dense forest and you will gradually climb up (for 2 to 3 hrs). Then most of the time you hike on Nepali forest” flat “(a little up and down). Finally, after a short, gentle descent you reach the flat at Forest Camp.  From some places between Pitam Deurali and Forest Camp, you will have the chance to see vistas of Dhaulagiri and the Manaslu range. If  the weather is good ,  I suggest you  to take a packed  lunch or something to eat and  plenty to drink  as there are no  lodges, restaurants, villages or water- only dense and very quiet forest.
Between Pitam Deurali and Forest Camp there are more than two signposts showing directions to Lwang village on the other side. Do not turn left or right, just go straight, following the directions of the blue/white colored signs.
At Forest Camp (Kokar), there are three nice basic lodges. The menus (daal bhat, noodles, soup, potatoes, chapatti –tarkari, beer, coke, canned juices, teas and coffee) are good, and the food clean and fresh. Rooms and toilets are neat. This little village is surrounded by beautiful green forest. They have nice campsites as well. From here there is also a trail going down via Sidding, Lwang and Pokhara. On the western side you can see Ghandruk and surrounding villages and Modi valley.
The lodges of Forest Camp are open the whole year round; you may give them a call before you go there.
a)      Hotel Forest Camp & Restaurant at Forest Camp (Kokar)
Mobile No: 9804141348 or 9846169320
b)      Hotel Mardi and Restaurant Forest Camp (Kokar)
Mobile No: 9806635881
c)      Hotel Green View & Restaurant Forest Camp (Kokar)
Mobile No: 9806536904


Forest Camp (Kokar) – Rest Camp 2700m (45 min – 1 hr).
The trail goes through the courtyard of Hotel Forest Camp and Restaurant. At the corner wall of toilet we painted and put a little arrow.  You follow the blue/white mark on the tree bark. The hike is an easy uphill start from right behind the Hotel Forest Camp. After 7 to 10 minutes, you will turn right and walk straight, going gently up and down. Finally you will climb up and you will reach Rest Camp. There is a basic teahouse there with a few bedrooms to sleep in; they also have the same menu as Forest Camp, although I think they are able to prepare less food. They have beer, coke, teas and coffees as well.

Rest Camp – Low Camp (Humal) 3000m (2 ½  to 3 hrs approx).
The trail starts from the end of the right corner of the teahouse and soon you can see the blue/white marks on the tree bark.  Most of the time it is a gradient ascent, after just a few meters ,  turn  right and continue straight; there is some uphill and “Nepali flat” then later there are mostly gradual trails, ascending into the dense rhododendron forest. Before 15 – 20 minutes; you reach a flat trail; finally you’re at Low Camp. There are two basic teahouses with restaurants with similar menus to Forest Camp. This is a very beautiful place with a beautiful campsite as well. It is surrounded by a beautiful rhododendron forest, a very quiet and peaceful environment, with a view of Machhapuchre and Mardi Himal, when the weather is clear.
The teahouses are closed from mid May – end of July, but if you make a phone call a few days earlier, they will open the restaurant and rooms for you at any time.
From here (Low Camp) a trail goes down to Sidding and further villages as well.
a)      Hotel Laligunras Garden & Restaurant Low Camp (Humal)
Mobile No: 9846183583 or 9846087626

Low Camp (Humal) – High Camp (Kew) 3900m (4 or 5 hrs max)
You still follow the blue/white sign, entering the scrubby rhododendron forest by a gentle ascent of 10 – 20 minutes, and then start going up the trail in the dense forest till reaching the lower viewpoint (3289m). This will take 1 ½ – 2.00 hrs. Now begins a grassy slope. From here you can also see many wonderful mountain views, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Now, you continue further up to High Camp,  hiking  mostly on the grassy slope, up steep and some narrow paths and into some little rhododendron forests. Sometimes you may find difficulty in seeing our signs, because it was very difficult for us to find good rocks at the right distances. Sometimes we also had to use small rocks to paint on so when the grass grows higher those signs may be hidden.
If the weather is good, this hike is also one of the nicest, because you have the chance to walk along the yak beaten trail on an open ridge with great mountain views: the Annapurna range , Machhapuchre,and the southern green landscape;  below,   can be seen the very deep Modi river valley,  including Ghandruk, Chhomrong, Sinuwa and Dovan .
At High Camp, there is only one teahouse at present (though another teahouse is about to be built soon), named Hotel Trekkers Paradise & Restaurant (mobile phone; 9846087624 or 9846087625 or 9806691496 to Mr. Sudip Gautam, who has been playing an important role in promoting the Mardi Route). It has nice basic rooms and can sleep a total of 24 people at once. It also has a wide and beautiful campsite. There is a good dining hall, an Indian sharing toilet and bathroom. They have a menu: available are noodles, macaroni, chapatti, Tibetan bread, soups, daal bhat and vegetable curry, egg items, tea and coffee.
This place itself is a natural viewpoint tower! In all directions you can see breathtaking views, including Machhapuchre, Mardi Himal, Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Baraha Shikhar, Himchuli and the southern slope including Pokhara valley! This place is also very suitable for yak and sheep-you can see many yaks around. Oh, Madhav Gautam, the yak herder, gave us fresh milk! Fantastic Himalayan milk!! There are a couple of yak shelters as well.

High Camp – Upper View Point 4450m – High Camp (7 – 8 hrs)
Today you should start earlier, but do not start in the dark if you don’t know the trail. You still see blue/white signals till Upper View point. After you have hiked 20 to 30 minutes, further on to the trekker’s paradise of High Camp, there is a trail junction at the bottom of a high hill. Though it seems the real trail goes directly up through the dangerous steep hill, (and yes, some crazy trekkers and local people would take it because of the shortcut), I would never recommend you to do so, for then you would put your life at risk!
Immediately from this junction you can turn to the right and you should look for the blue/white marks on the rocks. I hope they will last, even though we were not able to find the most suitable and best rocks. When you have just turned right, as I said above, you will see a flat, wide place, looking like a little dried up pond and you should walk through it. Further along you can see more marks and then continue straight for 15 – 20 minutes. After that, turn left, going steeply upwards. In another 15 – 20 minutes, you will reach a little pasture, then turn towards the left hand side and trek continually and gradually up the grassy slopes. In 15 – 20 minutes, you will join the trail junction coming up through the dangerous path.  Then you follow the blue/white marks, before reaching the Upper View Point; for some hundred meters the path is very narrow.  When it is covered by snow, it will be especially difficult and slippery, because both sides are very steep and you hike just along the ridge. But if the  weather is good, you get a great chance to view the Annapurna I 8091m, Annapurna south 7219m, Himchuli 6441m, Baraha Shikhar (Fang) 7647m, Tent peak 5695m, Singachuli 6501m, Gangapurna 7454m, Gandarvachuli 6248m, little summit of Annapurna III 7555m, both peaks of Machhapuchre (Mt. fishtail) 6993m – 9997m and Mardi Himal 5553m, MBC (Machhapuchre Base Camp), Deurali, Dovan, Sinuwa, Chhomrong, Ghandruk and  the southern slope, including Pokhara valley and
MHBCW (Mardi Himal Base Camp W) 4500m, to go from the upper view point Mardi Himal Base Camp will take about 30 minutes only.
Coming down to High Camp Hotel would take 3 – 4 hrs maximum. Except for some hundred meters of narrow path, it is not that difficult, as long as  there is no snow on the way.
This day trip is quite adventurous, beautiful, joyful and definitely worth it.

Forest Camp (Kokar) – Landruk 1560m (5 – 7 hrs approx)
After 5 – 8 minutes you hiked on the same trail you came up before. There is a trail junction where we marked the big tree’s bark in blue/white color, showing Pathana as straight on and Landruk to the right, going down.
After you descend for about 15 – 20 minutes, there is a steep and narrow path for about four to five hundred meters, and then you still keep descending.
 I felt as though I were walking in the dense forest to take things for animals or felt I was a shepherd. When you go further down, you feel it to be a very quiet and peaceful and nice trail in the forest. Then soon you see the village of Landruk just below you and again there are very steep steps. You drop down the little stream, cross it and continue further on for 3 -5 minutes, turn left and follow the stairs down to enter the village of Landruk, soon you reach at a trail junction between the Annapurna camping ground and the Hotel Peaceful guest house, where we painted with blue/white signs, with arrows showing three directions:  Mardi H. Trek, Pokhara, and Ghandruk.  With this final act, we had finished our Mardi Himal Trek, Chapter: May/2012, of the NATT-trails.

We hope our NATT-signs will help you finding your trail and enjoy it. And please let us (Mr. Andrees de Ruiter www.nepal-dia.de and Prem Rai www.trekwithpremrai.blogspot.com ) know if you would like any further information, on any aspect and we will try our best for you.

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“My special thanks to Mrs. Chris Panks, London/Italy, she who helped to revise my English.”


Itinerary;

Option; (a)

Day 01: Pokhara 820m to Pathana 1950m (3. 25 – 4 hrs approx.)

Day 02: Pathana to Forest Camp (Kokar) 2550m (5 – 6 hrs approx.)

Day 03: Forest Camp (Kokar) to Low Camp (Humal) 3000m (4 – 5 hrs maximum)

Day 04: Low Camp (Humal) to High Camp (Kew) 3900m (4 – 5 hrs).

Day 05: Day trip to Upper View Point 4450m (7 – 8 hrs approx.)

Day 06: High Camp (Kew) to Forest Camp (Kokar) 2550m (5 – 6 hrs)

Day 07: Forest Camp (Kokar) to Landruk 1560m (5 – 7 hrs)

Day 08: Landruk to Jhinudanda (Hotspring) 1750m (3 – 4 hrs maximum).

Day 09: Jhinudanda (Hotspring) to Sewai 1300m (4 hrs approx.). From there you can
drive to Nayapul or directly to Pokhra by jeep (2 – 3 hrs in maximum)

Day 10:  An extra reserved day.


Option; (b)

Day 01: Pokhara 820m to Pathana 1950m (3.25 – 4 hrs approx.)

Day 02: Pathana to Forest Camp (Kokar) 2550m (5 – 6 hrs approx.)

Day 03: Forest Camp (Kokar) to Low Camp (Humal) 3000m (4 – 5 hrs maximum)

Day 04: Low Camp (Humal) to High Camp (Kew) 3900m (4 – 5 hrs).

Day 05: Day trip to Upper View Point 4450m (7 – 8 hrs approx.)

Day 06: High Camp (Kew) to Forest Camp (Kokar) 2550m (5 – 6 hrs)

Day 07: Forest Camp (Kokar) to Pathana 1950m (4 - 5 hrs)

Day 08: Pathana – Kande and get a cab or bus and ride to Pokhara (3 hrs approx.)

Day 09:  An extra reserved day.




Contact:
Prem Rai
At PREMS NEPAL TREK PVT. LTD.
Lakeside - 6, Khahare Chowk Pokhara, Nepal.

New e-mail:
premsnepaltrek@gmail.com

Old e-mails:
premmainarai@hotmail.com
premkulung12@gmail.com

Websites:
www.trekwithpremrai.com
www.facebook.com/prem.rai2 
Cell Phones:
+977  9846306028
+977  9804115956
+977  9807380590

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